Monday, December 30, 2019

A Big Box of Randomness

Back when I started this blog, I didn't want it to turn into a "look what I got" blog where I just showed off my new acquisitions. Then I got active in trading, and it was all I could do to keep up with publicly thanking my trading partners and showing off what they sent me. I've decided recently to try to do less just showing. But this is something that I have to show.

I came across an auction on Sportlots for a Priority box of stuff. The description mentioned vintage cards and stamps, but didn't give too many details. After two days, there were no bids, so I put one in for $.25. Nobody else bid and shipping was $8, so for $8.25, I awaited to see what kinds of things I might get.

It turned out to be an interesting buy.

This is about half of the 1985 Topps USFL set. I'm not sure what to do with these cards. I think they're pretty cool. I've always been interested in leagues like this. The NFL/AFL merger is the sport's most historic event, in my opinion. I really got behind the ill-fated AAF earlier this year. The USFL fascinates me. The upstart league was able to draw Heisman winners like Herschel Walker, Doug Flutie, and Mike Rozier out of college. Future Hall of Famers like Steve Young, Jim Kelly, and Reggie White got started here. If some of those big names were included in this starter set, I might consider building the rest of it. With so many key pieces still missing, I'm undecided. This picture represents the names that I recognized as future NFLers. Kelvin Bryant was the USFL MVP one year.

The stamps were 1972 Sunoco. I already had a few of these. I have to say I'm happy with these additions. There are lots of Hall of Fame names here. This is a really big set, so I'm impressed that with just a sampling, I got some great players. They are shown here two cards to a penny sleeve, so you get an idea of the size.

These are from 1969. They're Four-in-One inserts. I can't say that I know too much about them, but it appears that four mini cards, from different teams, came in one card. Thus, they are exactly 1/4 sized. All the cards I received are Steelers. I'd never heard of any of these players, so I had to do a little research. Some of them, like Dick Hoak, Clendon Thomas, and Bobby Walden were Pro Bowlers in their career. Andy Russell actually made 7 Pro Bowls. Roy Jefferson was coming off a 1st Team All-Pro season this year with Pittsburgh. Earl Gros won a championship in Green Bay with my Packers before heading to the Steelers. Since none of these cards came together originally, I have to wonder what happened to their card mates. Was the seller a Steeler fan?

I really wish the cards were whole. The full 4-in-1s featuring these players also included Hall of Famer Larry Wilson, former Packer Boyd Dowler, and other notable names such as Earl Morrall, Alex Karras, Roman Gabriel, and Don Meredith.

I received the entire 1982 Kellogg's set. I'll be honest; I never even knew that Kellogg's made these cards. This is probably my favorite thing in the box. It's a great pickup with some good names.
Here's my dilemma. All of them came in the original full panels. I'm leaning toward keeping them this way, as opposed to separating the cards. The problem is that they're so old that it seems they might fall apart at the perforation any moment. What do you think?

A graded Vinny Testaverde 1988 Topps rookie! My retirement is set! Seriously though, this thing will be freed and added to my 1988 set. I'm pretty sure it's in better shape that my current Vinny. Yeah, I'm that guy, upgrading the cards in a 1988 set.

These are some real oddballs. If you can't tell from the picture, they're pins. Two are obviously sports related--Chris Miller and Jim Harbaugh from 1994 Action Packed--while the other two don't seem to have any sports connection at all. Either way, I'm not interested in hanging on to any pins. Does anybody want any of these?

This was the most interesting find of the box. This oddball is so odd that it wasn't even listed in TCDB. I've learned they are a Notre Dame issue from 1989. There were three separate sets, divided by eras. This is the complete 22-card set of 1903-1932. The other two sets also contain 22 cards, and run from 1933-1963 and 1964-1987. I don't have any of those. I'm still undecided about what to do with these. My only interest in Notre Dame cards would be adding to my Heisman collection. However, the first Heisman wasn't awarded until 1935, after this era. On the other hand, Knute Rockne and the "Gipper" are characters in one of the greatest football legends and there are few cards to represent them. Since the set is complete in hand, I would hate to break it up, but I have little interest beyond the two cards. More decisions.

I had no idea what was coming in this box, but I figured for a quarter plus shipping it was worth it to find out. It totally was. I received
  • a partial USFL set
  • 1972 Sunoco Stamps
  • 1969 4-in-1 minis
  • a graded 1988 Topps
  • some pins
  • the 1982 Kellogg's football set, and
  • the 1989 Notre Dame 1903-1932 set.
Of these offerings, I previously had only a handful of Sunoco Stamps and an ungraded 1988 set. The rest were things I had never seen/heard of/owned. And I daresay that I won't see some of things again.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The Kalani Sitake Show

Tonight my BYU Cougars will face off with the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors in the Hawaii Bowl. Aloha! While I'm hoping for a win, this will cap a somewhat disappointing season either way. It's not all bad, though. If you would have told me that 8-5 was a possibility for this season, I would have taken it. The problem isn't the five losses--it's the teams those losses came against.  First, there was the season-opening loss to arch-rival Utah. For those of you who live outside of the state, it may be easy to overlook how heated this rivalry is. I once saw a Sports Illustrated article that ranked it as the third-most intense college rivalry in the nation, behind only Ohio State-Michigan and Texas-Oklahoma. But the losing streak continued, and it has now been over ten years since BYU emerged victorious in that game. After beating Tennessee in SEC country and USC at home, the Cougars somehow managed to lose to Toledo and South Florida. Then they righted the ship and won games they were supposed to win and some they weren't (see Boise State's only loss of the season). Just when things were rolling, they fell flat against former conference rival San Diego State, whom BYU had historically owned (28-7-1 record before the matchup). If you're counting, the fifth loss was against Washington, which was both expected and acceptable. The problem with this team was the tantalizing show of potential followed by frustrating, inexplicable losses. This has become a hallmark of coach Kalani Sitake's Cougars. The winning percentage isn't too bad, and there have been some marquee wins, but there are also a couple of dreadful losses each year.

I work with a youth group in my church, as an advisor for 14-15 year-old boys. We had the opportunity to take the boys to attend a live taping of the weekly BYU Football with Kalani Sitake show in BYUtv studios. Five years into Sitake's coaching tenure, I'm still not convinced he's the right man for the job. On the other hand, I don't know who else would be. To be the head coach of a BYU athletics program, a coach must live the highest standards of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A head coach must attend church regularly, cannot drink or smoke, and must pay a full 10% tithing on all income. Many members of the Church throughout the world do these things as part of our faith, but not many of them are FBS football head coaches.

On the set, Kalani was charismatic and friendly. He took questions from the audience during commercial breaks and gave guidance to some younger children in attendance. After the taping, we all had a chance to go down and meet the coach.

You can see me because I am a)not blurred out, and b)not Tongan. The rest of the faces are blurred out because most of them are minors and I'm not putting them out on the interwebs.

The funny thing about this bipolar season is that the defense has been not great for a good part of it. But of the departing seniors playing their final game tonight, the two that I think have a legitimate shot of playing on Sundays are both defenders. Go figure. First, safety Austin Lee has received an invite to participate in the East-West Shrine Game, where he'll have a chance to show the coaches his nose for the ball. The other is do-everything DB Dayan Ghanwoloku. Dayan has started just about everywhere in the secondary and has some solid coverage skills. He's not the fastest guy around, so maybe he'll project as a safety. I'll miss those two and their playmaking abilities.

I certainly miss high-level quarterback play. In the past decade, we have been having a recurring nightmare: a freshman quarterback comes in, plays really well, gets our hopes up, and then regresses over the next few seasons. Jake Heaps did it. Tanner Mangum did it. Zac Wilson looks like he might be on the same path. After looking great last year, Zac has created some doubt about his decision-making in his sophomore season. Adding to the doubt is the fact that backup Baylor Romney has outplayed Wilson this season. (Wilson missed four games with a broken thumb.) Romney is--you guessed it--a freshman. Ty Detmer was once thrust into the game as a freshman when the starter got hurt. Two years later, Detmer won the Heisman as a junior. We seem to have some promise at QB right now, but I won't be predicting a Heisman any time soon.

The major focus of my last COMC order was to build my BYU collection. I tried to find photos with the college uniform when I could. This is just my second card of Swiss Army Knife Taysom Hill, who was snake-bitten in college. Seriously, who suffers five season-ending injuries during their college career? I'm happy to see him find a niche, or two or three, in the pros. The Max Hall card, by the way, is beautiful in-hand. The scan doesn't come close to doing it justice.

I managed to pick up five autos from COMC. Fred Warner (top right) is playing lights out for the 49ers this year. This is my second auto of him, but my first licensed one. These are my first Brandon Doman and Dennis Pitta signatures.

The Cougs currently have a 5-game win streak over the Rainbow Warriors, but Hawaii always makes me nervous. I think it's a little PTSD from 2001. That year BYU, led by Doman and Doak Walker Winner Luke Staley, was 12-0 and ranked #9, angling for the first BCS bid ever by a mid-major. They went into Honolulu for the season finale and left with a 72-45 beatdown. Let's hope for better results tonight.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

'Tis the Season

Nachos Grande sent out some Season of Giving cards this month. I'm never one to turn down free cards, and I show these off with great gratitude to Chris.

He sent me a stack of Cubs and mentioned in his note that he hoped that I needed some of them. I did indeed, such as this Topps Attax of Wrigley Field. I never bought Attax, so I had no idea that there were stadium cards in there.

It sure looks like Cubs players enjoy signing for fans.

D-Lee makes another appearance, this time as an Ultra Diamond Producers from 2006.

Statistics would say it's likely that if you send me cards from the late 90s to mid-2000s, I probably won't have them. All of these fill spots. I don't have nearly enough Rod Beck in my collection, as TCDB tells me these are cards #2 and #3 for me. Gary Gaetti is my very first card of 1999 Pacific.

There are even junk wax era Cubs that I don't have.

Who can resist the shiny rainbows of a refractor?

Thanks for the Season of Giving, Chris!

To share a little bit of the spirit of the season, I'd like to introduce you to a some beautiful Christmas music. This is an organization called Millennial Choirs and Orchestra. They have branches in LA, Phoenix, Dallas, Boise, and Provo, Utah. My wife and kids are a part of it, and I can say firsthand that they are mind-blowingly good. Most of the music they perform is original compositions and arrangements done by the founding directors.  They have performed in some of the finest concert halls throughout the United States; their most recent tour took them to Carnegie Hall this past summer. Some of you may recall the blackout in Manhattan. You may also recall the impromptu concert that made headlines when the performers were forced out of Carnegie and decided to sing in the street instead. That was them. Their most recent album hit #1 on Billboard's Classical Music chart the week it was released in October.

It seems that I remember that some blogger out there is a member of a choir, but I don't remember who. I hope that person (and all of you) can appreciate this music. It may be kind of long for a single song, but give it a listen.

And Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

A Trio of Seasonal Surprises

I've received three unexpected packages this month from some familiar bloggers. Chris, the Collector; Matt, the Sports Card Collector; and Dennis, from Too Many Verlanders all hit me with a surprise holiday package. These are three collectors with whom I feel I have a pretty strong collection connection because of our similar interests. Chris and I both hoard Packers, while I share an interest in college collecting with Dennis. And Matt and I both love our football, especially 1990s style.

All three of them added to my Packers collection.

Four new Brett Favres here. I had never even heard of Pinnacle Laser View before. Holograms were always pretty cool, as Penny Sleeve for Your Thoughts recently wrote, they probably aren't coming back. This particular card didn't scan well.

SCC sent a pair of Turkey Red Packers. I never bought any of these, so I don't have many. These are both new to me. Poor Jared Abbrederis and Rajion Neal look like they the sole survivors of a nuclear holocaust.

Dennis sent some Packers, as well. 2007 Topps is far from my favorite design, but the plus side here is that I haven't ever bothered to pick up a lot of it, so all of these cards are new to me.

Chris and Dennis also helped me build my All-Decade teams. These cards came from Chris, and I especially appreciate the Dave Butz Redskins team card. Butz just doesn't have too many cards out there, so any I find are welcomed.

Dennis helped out my All-2000s team. The 2012 Absolute Gates was one of those cards I was shocked to find that I didn't already own. I have so much of that stuff; how was I missing this card?

Dennis also hit my Heisman collection hard. This has been a side project for me more than anything. I've never had it on my wantlist until this month. Mostly, I was just holding onto the Heisman winner cards I came across rather than actively pursuing them. But not that the list of winners is on my wantlist, I suppose it's fair game for people to start sending them. My original thought was to begin in earnest after I had completed my All-Decade binders, but the list is so much shorter that I may finish my Heisman project first. And congrats to newly anointed Heisman winner, Joe Burrows.

 In his note, Dennis said that he had some BYU players for, along with some other pieces of my collection. These two cards make up a part of Dennis's BYU offerings. The cards he sent were packed in the Steve Young Pinnacle Inside can that you see at the top of the page. The cards-in-can were shipped in a bubble mailer, so I was a bit confused when I picked up the mail and felt what seemed to be a Coke can in an envelope.

He also sent along my 3rd auto each "Le"Bronson Kaufusi and John Beck. I've never heard of Topps Performance, but that's a nice-looking card.

Of the three senders, only primarily-football guy Matt sent any baseball cards. Last year's 1st-round pick Ryan Jensen appears in Refractor form. Javy Baez comes in a Blue Chips Hot Start. Derrek Lee is a nice serial-numbered to 149 card.

Thanks to three great bloggers and trading partners for the holiday surprise!

Friday, December 13, 2019

Why Are There So Many Songs About Rainbows?

I've gotten in the habit of doing a yearly recap of my Brad Sorensen additions. As of now, I own at least one copy of 80 different Brad Sorensen cards, good for roughly 27% of the total number of cards he has, per Trading Card Database. This is where my collection ranks:

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I'm probably the only person in the world building a Brad Sorensen collection.

My most recent COMC order added to my collection.

The challenge with collecting someone like Brad Sorensen in this era is that only a couple of companies made base cards of him. His cardboard footprint is mostly autographs. I was able to pick up a couple of really nice auto cards this time around, with the Leaf Trinity Pure being awesome and one of my favorite cards. It's acetate and thick, about 1/8" thick. Plus, it's hand-numbered, which is cool. Where the ink looks smeared, it's not. That's the refraction through the thick plastic causing that effect.

The highlight of my new Brad Sorensen pick-ups was the Topps Chrome Red Refractor. With that card, I've just completed my first rainbow!*

*Well, as complete as it will probably get. I'm still missing the Superfractor and the Gold Refractor, numbered to 50. The Red has a lower print run (25) than the Gold, but I've never seen the Gold version anywhere. It has never been on COMC and eBay shows no current listings and no past sales. So I'll hold a spot in the binder for it, but I'm not holding my breath. The Red was hard enough to track down; this was the first copy I've seen in four years and I snatched it up.

It's not the most exciting photo to make up a rainbow. Essentially, it's a balding guy throwing a pass at the Combine. But he's my T-Birds' quarterback, a Walter Payton Award finalist in 2012. Now that I've finished my Rainbow Connection, I can say what's on the other side. Mostly, it's serial-numbers! In this case, ranging from 499 down to 25.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

2019 Baseball Card Yearbook (AKA My First Blog Bat Around Post)

This is my first time participating in a Blog Bat Around. I always find them interesting, but at the same time, I always feel too overwhelmed with my own blog content to participate. During this short blogging break, I decided to step back and reevaluate my blogging habits. When I first started blogging, I never intended my blog to a "look what I got" blog. I wanted to use cards to tell a story or share my thoughts on the larger (mostly sports) world. So I'm going to put a little less pressure on myself to show everything that I add to my collection and try to focus on other thoughts. With that aim in mind, I thought Matt at Diamond Jesters had a great idea for a Blog Bat Around. 

The concept here is a 9-card page to act as a yearbook for the 2019 baseball year. The challenge was to use a Flagship card, five other base cards (without repeating designs), two inserts/parallels, and one wild card to be used as you please. Matt is allowing us to use cards we don't own, which made this possible, because, frankly, I'm not sure I would be able to do it with my limited 2019 purchases.

  1. 2019 Topps #159 Minute Maid Park: This card was chosen because this was the site of every World Series victory this year. In a historical turn of fate, it was the visiting Nationals who won each of those games. Meanwhile, the Astros took every game at Nationals Park. It was the first time in history that the road team won every World Series game and the first championship in Washington Nationals history.
  2. 2019 Topps Archives #200 Bryce Harper: The big storyline to start the season was the offseason stove going frigid. Even the biggest-name free agents remained unsigned until very late in the game. Harper represents the entire group here. He didn't sign his megadeal with the Phillies until after players had reported for Spring Training.
  3. 2019 Stadium Club #72 Shane Bieber: I feel like this is a waste of Stadium Club representation, spurning the glorious photography of the set in favor of the back. But it was the back of this card that held significance. Not only did Shane Bieber earn a spot in my PC as this year's ASG MVP, but this card thrust baseball cards briefly into the limelight. Topps's error, referring to Shane Bieber as "Justin," made headlines in the media.
  4. 2019 Topps Gold Label #31 Pete Alonso: The young guys made a lot of noise this year, but none more than Pete Alonso. He set the rookie record for home runs, finishing with 53 and surpassing recent phenom Aaron Judge. 
  5. 2019 Topps Total #293 Nelson Cruz: This card was chosen for a few reasons. First, it was the return of Topps Total, which is a favorite among collectors. Second, Topps made Total an on-demand set, and I find it hard to talk about the current trends in the hobby without mentioning those kinds of products. Third, Nelson Cruz was chosen as a representation of the juiced ball storyline from this year. Balls were leaving the park at a record pace--especially in Minnesota, where the Twins set the Major League record for most home runs by a single team in a season.
  6. 2019 Topps Allen & Ginter #57 Edgar Martinez: We can't talk about the year in baseball without mentioning the newest Hall of Fame inductees. This year, the voters opened their hearts (and the doors of the Hall) to the DH, electing Edgar Martinez and Harold Baines. Congratulations also to Lee Smith, Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, and Mike Mussina.
  7. 2019 Topps Opening Day 150 Years of Fun #YOF-9 Ernie Banks: This year, MLB celebrated the 150th anniversary of pro baseball. Topps produced several insert sets to commemorate the anniversary, but I wanted to get back to the roots of the game. Namely, it's a game. So I chose the 150 Years of fun set. Let's have some fun! Ernie Banks famously had fun playing, and I'm a Cubs fan, so he gets to represent the set here.
  8. 2019 Donruss Dominators #D1 Mike Trout: Another season, another year that Mike Trout proves he's the best out there. He dominates. He gets a Dominators card. And a pretty card it is.
  9. 2019 Topps Fire Fired Up Blue #FIU-3 Javier Baez: I reserved my wild card for my favorite 2019 card added to my collection. "El Mago" is my favorite current player. The blue parallel looks marvelous with the Cubs. This card, along with Baez's style of play, has me fired up!

So there is my attempt to capture a year of baseball, both on the field in the card collecting hobby, in nine cards. Thanks for the great blog idea, Matt!