Thursday, February 27, 2020

State of the Set: 1992 Ultra Football

A few years ago, I came across a lot of wax boxes from early 90s Fleer products on eBay. I used these boxes to kick-start some set builds, as I am retroactively trying to complete one set for each year that I have collected cards. When I was a kid, I didn't build sets, so I have had to go back as an adult after I got back into the hobby. One of the boxes I picked up was 1992 Ultra.

I have always liked the "premium" brand of Fleer Ultra. I remember this set from when I was 10 years old and it first came out. The gloss, the full-bleed photography, the gold foil, the marbly design for the nameplate--this was as beautiful as it got for me. As you can see from these cards, the action shots were unparalleled.

The backs are nice, too, with two more pictures and lots of color. There is only one year of stats, but the bigger problem with the back is that the numbers are hard to read, especially for teams like the Jets or Eagles, which use the green team color on top of the green marble background. Overall, though, the design is pretty solid.

When I first opened the box, I was really worried about bricking because these cards feel like more gloss than cardboard. I don't know how other unopened, 28-year-old boxes are, but I didn't have any cards stuck together.

There is just one strange thing about 1992 Fleer products: some of the biggest stars of the game are excluded from the set. So while I am building a couple of sets from 1992, players like Joe Montana, Troy Aikman, Bruce Smith, and Dan Marino are not part of my sets for that year. I don't have any details as to why, but I assume that it was a contract dispute between the players and the card company. Some top names may be missing, but at least I still got both Gary Andersons!

Since I opened this box a couple of years ago, I have been slowly working on the set. A recent TCDB trade brought my set build up to 448 out of the 450 base cards, good for 99.5% completion. The last two cards I'm missing are #54 David Fulcher and #331 Barry Foster.

Prognosis: I aim to have this set crossed off my wantlist before this year is over. Two cards shouldn't be too hard to find, either in trade or through Sportlots.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

I Have the Traveling Reggie

Back in July of last year, a TCDB member decided to start a fun challenge that involves a 1983 Donruss Action All-Stars Reggie Jackson visiting every state in the US. The challenge was to include it as part of a trade package, not just send it along to somebody else. It has been slow going for Reggie since then, but he has done a bit of traveling.

Last week, I received a message from TCDB user cl_kyle asking if I'd be interested in a trade--and in taking the Traveling Reggie in. I was all over it.

We put together a trade, each sending roughly 20 cards, and Utah became the next stop on Reggie's tour.

Some of the cards I received included some BYU alumni, like John Beck and Jeremy Guthrie

Others were some chromed up Rookie of the Year winners. There are several variations of Scott Williamson's Bowman rookie card. Also, an original 1950 Bowman Don Newcombe rookie! Look at those sharp corners! The centering! The shine...wait, what are you saying?! It's not an original 1950 Bowman? This is also a 1998 Bowman Chrome, like Scott Williamson? Oh, okay.

For those among you who are eagle-eyed experts, besides the obvious chrome, what else is a dead giveaway that this is not a 1950 Bowman, from seeing this scan alone?

And here is Reggie! As you can see, this is the seventh state he has visited.

I didn't know before I received this trade that the Traveling Reggie was an oversized card. In fact, this trade brought several different sizes to me, which made it pretty unique, I think.

We have Reggie, and you can see his size here above a 1975 Mini, a standard-sized 2001 Upper Deck Decade, and a 1986 McDonald's Kenny Easley with the original tab. I don't think I've ever received four different sizes of cards at one time.

Sunrise over Mt. Timpanogos, west side of the Wasatch Range. Yes, we're in the Rockies. I know you can't see the card, but the card isn't really the point here, is it?

While Reggie was visiting, I wanted to take him somewhere fun. All of my favorite touristy places in the state are in southern Utah, however, and I don't have any plans to head that way until April. I was thinking about posting a poll in the sidebar and having readers vote on where I should take him, but I don't want to keep him longer than necessary. So I just decided to let him enjoy the view from where he is. Welcome to my neighborhood, Reggie! I hope you enjoy your brief stay in Utah. Now I just need to find the next state to send him on to.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Shining Like Diamond(back)s in the Night

It's not every day I get a package from a legend like Night Owl. In fact, we've never officially traded. I once claimed some Dodgers dupes he was trying to give away, and I think I sent him a PWE one time. So imagine my surprise when I saw his name on a bubble mailer last week. Inside was a team bag of cards and a half-apologetic note for the sudden influx of Diamondbacks. Wait, Diamondbacks?

Now, I don't collect D-backs. But I have mentioned a couple of times that my oldest offspring is a Diamondbacks fan. Am I to assume that the great Night Owl has paid enough attention to my blog to remember that detail? I don't know if that is the case, but I'll flatter myself that it is. Or maybe he is just a Dodger fan wanting to unload some hated D-backs and thought my western address was close enough to Phoenix. Either way, a good part of this stack is going to an 11-year-old who roots for Arizona.

Some cards he sent were 21st-century cards masquerading as something older. Mark Grace is still my favorite player, and I'm glad he got a ring with Arizona, but I wish it would have been Chicago. I think I'll keep the Gracie for myself. Maybe the card of Greinke homering will stay with me, too. But the rest of these cards are going to my boy.

Night Owl sure sent a lot of shiny, like Black Diamond, Certified, Fire, and Rainbow Foil. AJ Pollock was my son's favorite D-back until he departed last year.

Now he tends to root for David Peralta. Well, my boy, Night Owl has you covered. More shiny here, in the form of a Jarrod Parker auto. Parker made only one appearance for Arizona before being traded to Oakland. He was a pretty good pitcher for a couple of years before two Tommy Johns did him in after his second full season in the Majors.

I've now received 2 packages from Greg. Interestingly, the contents of both packages went to kids--one to an aspiring Dodgers fan in my nephew, the other to a young D-backs fan in my son. Yes, Night Owl is part of the effort to build a rising generation of collectors. I'll get a return package put together sometime in the near future, Greg. Thanks for the surprise!

Saturday, February 15, 2020

An Eclectic Sportlots Lot Brings Me Cards, Trade Bait

There is a seller on Sportlots who goes by the handle AAAVINTA. He often has lots of random cards for sale, usually about 40 cards large with titles that only mention a couple of the big-name players who are to be found in the lot. I took a chance on a couple of these lots a year or two ago and was quite pleased with what came my way. So I decided to do it one more time. Apparently, more people have picked up that this is a pretty good seller because I had other people bidding against me this time. So I didn't get all of the lots I wanted because I don't like to get into bidding wars. But once again the cards I did receive were a fun pick-up and interesting to add to my collection.

Let's start with a pair of inserts and a couple of really cool brands of Kirby Puckett. Not only is Puckett an all-time great, but he is also always welcome in my collection due to his being an All-Star MVP.

Here we have another Hall of Famer that I like to collect. The thing I like about these cards is that they are all from his playing days, even if they are from the later years. I find it interesting that the 1982 Fleer and the 1982 Topps In Action cards feature the same photo. In the days when not all cards used action shots and there weren't 30 different products out there, I just didn't expect to see the same image twice.

Now here's somebody who very well could be in the Hall of Fame, if not for his connection to PEDs. I'm not a huge Rocket fan, but he did win an All-Star MVP early in his career, so all of these cards will have a place in my collection. These are mostly pretty cool inserts, so that's a plus. The 1992 Donruss in the middle is a set issued by McDonald's.

Speaking of guys linked to PEDs...I present Jose Canseco! Bash Brother #1 probably wasn't going to make the Hall of Fame anyway, but the specter of steroid use has most definitely killed off any hope he might have had. Once again, we have a player that fits my collection (AL ROY 1986) with some pretty cool cards in the lot. I don't know which of the top row cards I like most, though. I think the Pro Visions card has the edge, even though it is the only one of these four I had seen before.

A couple more Rookie of the Year players from the Steroid Era, but two that already have busts in Canton. And once more, the seller included only inserts. I like Piazza and Bagwell much more than Clemens and Canseco, too. I don't know how much I care for Piazza's "Game Face," though.

To cap off the baseball lot, I have some trade bait. The Gold Rush Score and Upper Deck Special Edition Gold are very shiny and very cool, but I don't need them. I don't remember ever seeing the Upper Deck Special Edition Gold ever before, but apparently, they commanding a much higher price on COMC than I would have expected. The cheapest one is $.99, which surprised me to learn. Nevertheless, I'm not too interested in holding onto Mike Greenwell or Chuck Carr, so all you see here is available for trading.

The football lot I picked up from the same seller had some pretty big names, too, albeit fewer keepers. These four are all players that I collect and new to me. I received this package and scanned these cards the day before Chris Doleman passed.

More inserts, all from 2006 Ultra, and all players from the All-2000s Team. I wasn't collecting in 2006, but one thing I've noticed from the middle part of this century's first decade is a trend to design cards with the memorabilia swatch in mind. There is far too much empty space with an odd shape in the middle, obviously meant to look good when there is a jersey swatch filling it.

More inserts from 2006 Ultra, obviously designed for a memorabilia card. All of the cards above are trade bait.

Along with these . . .

and these. I like the Award Winners cards best, and I briefly thought about chasing down the rest of the set, but I'm really trying to stay focused on the myriad goals I already have at hand.

From these Campus Classics cards, I'm keeping Heisman winner Charles White, but the other two former Jets are up for grabs.

The impetus behind the two random lot purchases was one that wasn't so random. I first bid on an auction for 200 2010 Topps 206 cards and added the other lots for discounted shipping. This wasn't really a need, but, for the price, I thought it was a good opportunity to get a good number of cards I didn't have without breaking the bank.

As I was going through the box, I didn't love the look of the cards, so I was thinking that I would have a lot of good trade bait. Now seeing a 3x3 scan, I'm thinking that this set could look pretty good in a binder. Now I'm seriously considering building this set. I'm about 2/3 done with the base set, not counting the SPs, which I wouldn't chase anyway. The biggest challenges will probably be Strasburg and Posey rookies. I have already traded a couple of cards away, so what will probably happen is that I decide to build the set and Nate McLouth will haunt my wantlist forever after I once had it. For now, I'm going to sit on the cards while I consider if I want to add another older set to my waitlist.

For any of the other cards I posted as traders, let me know if you want to swing an exchange for them. Thanks for looking!

Saturday, February 8, 2020

The Franchise 9: Chicago Bears

What do you think of when you think of the Chicago Bears? If you thought of defense and the Monsters of the Midway, you probably weren't alone. The Bears ended up as one of only three teams with no quarterback among their Franchise 9. In fact, they were missing a representative from all offensive positions except for running back. Just as it has for so many games at Soldier Field, the Bears' defense dominated here as well.

1. Matt Forte, RB (2012 Topps)

This was probably the most surprising player to make the cut, at least to me. Throughout his entire career, I always felt that Forte was underrated. I didn't expect it to play out that he was one of the top nine players for Chicago in the Super Bowl Era. But after eight years in Chicago, Forte left the Windy City as the franchise's 2nd-leading rusher. Rushing was only half of his value, however, as he is also 7th on the receiving yard list. In all, Forte gained 12,718 yards from scrimmage and scored 64 times. He also has two Pro Bowls to his name. He may not have put together a Hall of Fame career, but he was productive for nearly a decade.

2. Walter Payton, RB (1985 Topps)

All Walter Payton did was act as the heart and soul of the Bears' offense for 13 years, becoming the NFL's all-time leading rusher and touchdown scorer in the process. His touchdown record has since been broken, but the rushing record stands. Like Forte, Sweetness was also good out of the backfield, and ranks fourth on the club's all-time receiving yardage list. Sweetness was a nine-time Pro Bowler, five-time All Pro, and NFL MVP. His name should be on everybody's short list for best running back ever.

3. Gale Sayers, RB (2015 Topps Heritage)

Of all the people I wish I could have seen play, Gale Sayers is near the top of the list. He had a remarkably short career, but befitting his nickname, it was like a comet--shining brightly and over in a flash. The Kansas Comet played only seven seasons, but was named 1st Team All Pro in five of them. An outstanding runner and returner, Sayers led the league in all-purpose yardage three times and rushing twice. He scored 54 touchdowns, including 6 on returns. He became a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1977.

 4. Lance Briggs, LB (2009 SP Authentic)

Any time a guy spends 12 years with the same team, he is probably going to get consideration as a franchise great. Briggs did just that, from 2003-2014. During his career, he registered 1,174 tackles and 97 tackles for a loss. Both rank as the second-highest mark in franchise history (keeping in mind that tackles have only been counting since 1994). His greatest strength was his playmaking, though. He scored 7 defensive touchdowns, good for third on the franchise's list, and the most by a linebacker. From 2005-2011, Briggs made 7 straight Pro Bowls.

5. Richard Dent, DE (1990 Score)

With 124.5 sacks, Richard Dent is far and away the franchise leader in sacks. His best season was 1985, when he was a one-man wrecking crew. That year, he recorded 17 sacks, 7 forced fumbles, and the only pick-six of his career. Not surprisingly, the Bears boasted arguably the best defense this planet has ever seen that same year. They won the Super Bowl on the strength of that defense. And Richard Dent was named Super Bowl MVP.  He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2011.

6. Dan Hampton, DT (1990 Topps)

Dent's linemate, Hampton, was no slouch himself. Although he played fewer games in his career, Hampton's Pro Football Reference Approximate Value is higher than Dent's. He ranks 3rd on the Bears' all-time list with 57 sacks from his defensive tackle position. Hampton was a four-time Pro Bowler and an All-Pro. He was also named to the All-Decade team for the 1980s and was a member of the 2002 Hall of Fame class.

 7. Dick Butkus, LB (1989 Swell Football Greats)

I don't think there's anyone I would like to face in a dark alley less than I would like to see Dick Butkus. The man brought the "monster" to "Monsters of the Midway." His Hall of Fame career was 9 seasons long, resulting in 8 Pro Bowl and 5 All Pro nods. When Butkus was in the middle of the field, the Bears' defense was considerably better. During his career, the Bears finished with a top 10 defense 4 times. In his last season, Butkus played in only 9 games. For the first time in his career, the Bears finished outside of the top 20 that year. They would finish outside the top 20 in 2 of the next 3 years. He was a true difference-maker.

 8. Mike Singletary, LB (1988 Topps)

Six All Pro seasons in row, and seven in eight years. That's a long time to be considered the best at one's position. That's the kind of dominance that Mike Singletary displayed. Singletary ranks second in Bears' history in AV, trailing only Walter Payton. After spending his entire career as the elite of his position in NFL, he was a first ballot Hall of Fame inductee.

9. Brian Urlacher, LB (2011 Prestige)

Singletary is 2nd in AV. Another middle linebacker, Brian Urlacher, is 3rd. His 1,354 tackles are the most in team history. Like Singletary, Urlacher dominated his position in his career. He made 10 Pro Bowls and 4 1st Team All Pro teams in 13 seasons. If you're counting, in the 48 seasons from 1965 to 2012, the Bears had the league's top middle linebacker 15 times. In 34 of those 48 years, and in all of the 15 All Pro years, Butkus, Singletary, and Urlacher were manning the middle.

This is certainly one of the more interesting teams. With only 9 spots to fill, running backs took 3 and middle linebackers took 3. Thats 2/3 coming from 2 positions! It's incredible to me that through 50+ years of history, this franchise has maintained an identity and strength so consistently. When I think of the Chicago Bears, I think of hard-fought football between the hash marks. Three RBs, three MLBs, and a trio of DL certainly seem to bear that notion out, no pun intended.

Some notes on this series:
  1. This includes Super Bowl Era players only.
  2. The "nine" in Franchise 9 is to fill a page in a binder. There is no intent to fill a roster or even a starting lineup.
  3. A player can represent multiple teams.
  4. I tried to find a balance between steady producers with longevity and explosive players with shorter careers. Time with the team does count for something, as does impact with the team.
  5. For a link to Franchise 9 lists that I have already posted, click here.
  6. This is all subjective, so I'd love to hear whom you would choose!

Monday, February 3, 2020

My Second Oldest Card is Suddenly a Hall of Famer

In commemoration of the league's 100th anniversary, the NFL had a special expanded Hall of Fame class for this year's induction. Twenty individuals, including coaches, players, executives, and contributors, have gotten the call to Canton in the past month.

The inductions were kicked off as Bill Cowher and Jimmy Johnson received the news on live TV as they worked the playoff games in January. The rest of the class consists of three contributors: Steve Sabol, Paul Tagliabue, and George Young; ten senior selection committee players: Harold Carmichael, Jimbo Covert, Bobby Dillon, Cliff Harris, Winston Hill, Alex Karras, Donnie Shell, Duke Slater, Mac Speedie, and Ed Sprinkle; and five modern-day players: Isaac Bruce, Steve Atwater, Edgerrin James, Steve Hutchinson, and Troy Polamalu.

Honestly, there were some players I had never heard of before, like Slater or Sprinkle. A couple like Hill and Harris, I had heard of, but I was surprised to hear they were elected. Speaking without actually having seen them play, I maybe would like to have seen Cliff Branch or Drew Pearson in at receiver over Harold Carmichael. But I can't claim to know as much about football's history than those voters who put them in.

The most interesting name to me was Bobby Dillon. Dillon spent the breadth of his 1952-1959 career with the Packers. I had heard of him, but I didn't know much about him. So I looked him up. It turns out, he was a really good player on some pretty bad teams. During his first seven seasons, the Pack went 26-56-2, good for a win percentage of .317. In today's terms, that equates to an average record of 5-11, almost certainly good enough for a top 10 pick in the draft. Dillon can hardly be blamed for these horrendous records, though. In those 84 games, Dillon picked off 51 passes and took five of them back for touchdowns. That's a rate of .621 interceptions per game! For reference, here is the interception rate of the top five DBs in the Hall of Fame before him (Source).

PlayerCareer Interception PercentageINT/GPPositionsYears Active
Jack Christiansen.51746/89S1951-1958
Jack Butler.50552/103CB/S1951-1959
Emlen Tunnell.47379/167S1948-1961
Dick Lane.43368/157CB1952-1965
Lem Barney.40056/140CB1967-1977

Bobby Dillon is now at the top of that list--and by a pretty wide margin, too.

Besides the fact that previously unheralded, but apparently deserving, Packer got a call to the Hall, I have another interest in Bobby Dillon. It has to do with this 1959 Topps card.

This is the last card made of his playing days, as Dillon hung up his cleats at the end of the 1959 season. But this card is the second-oldest card in my collection, and one of only 3 football cards I own from the decade my parents were born.

It was exciting to hear of another Packer's induction into the Hall of Fame. It's even more exciting to have one of my oldest cards suddenly become a Hall of Famer. Building a Hall of Fame collection of vintage cardboard by collecting cards and waiting for the player to become a Hall of Famer may not be the most efficient way to do it, but it certainly was a fun surprise.