Monday, October 2, 2017

Time To Vote for Card #1 for the 2018 Topps Set


For the third year in a row, Topps is allowing fans and collectors to select the first card in their eponymous set. For the 2016 Topps set, Mike Trout was the subject of card #1, after beating a 34-player field that whittled down to 5 for the final ballot. Last year, Kris Bryant took the honors of being #1 for the 2017 set after besting a pool of 16 players. There are 14 candidates deemed worth by Topps to be the flag-bearer for the 2018 Topps set. And if you go onto the Topps site, prepared to be disappointed. Because instead of showing images of the player's possible 2018 Topps card, we get to see what each player's cards looked like...in 2017 (with some exceptions).

The players for this year's ballot:

  • Jose Altuve, Houston Astros
  • Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies
  • Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers
  • Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs (and last year's #1)
  • Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
  • Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
  • Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
  • Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
  • Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
  • Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians
  • Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
  • Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox
  • Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins
  • Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels (there is no "of Anaheim" anymore...although Topps still insists of still on leaving any city off the team name)
  • Other/Write-In (yes, you can pick anyone else besides the 14 listed above)
Now having fewer players in the pool is fine, and I can see now who would be the favorites (cough...Judge...cough). I voted for Bryant last year (for obvious reasons). This year? I might vote for him again (depending on how far the Cubs get into the postseason), or maybe go with Altuve. Want to vote? Click here. Voting will run through Friday, October 6, 2017, and the winner will be announced a couple of weeks before Series 1 comes out at the end of January, 2018.

To sweeten the pot, Topps will be giving away prizes to random voters. These prizes include a Hobby box of 2017 editions of Triple Threads, Bowman Chrome, A&G, Clearly Authentic, a 2017 Topps factory set, autograph cards from Topps' Hobby Continuity Program (Marcus Stroman), Bowman Platinum (Braxton Garrett), Museum Collection (Alex Gordon dual relic) Clearly Authentic (Ty Blach), or a relic card from Topps Tribute (David Ortiz)

October is usually a busy month for this humble, little blog. I still hope to get my 2015 and 2016 End of Year All-Star Team selections posted before announcing the 2017 squads. Then from there, finish up the comparisons between the 1996 and 2016 MLB debut classes before working on the 1997 and 2017 class comparison.

Sincerely,

JayBee Anama

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Meet the Possible Contenders for the 2017 Topps All-Star Rookie Team

The regular season ends this weekend, and it looks like the 10 teams who will head into the post season have already been determined. It's been a couple of years since I last did this, so now that I have a bit more free-time on my hands, why not bring this up again.

After the regular season ends, I'm going to do my annual comparing MLB Debut classes from 20 years ago and this year. I didn't do one last year, and I'm working on it as part of my new "Project: Catching Up to What I Should Have Posted Last Year." But before I start writing last year's comparison post, and preparing for this year's entry, let's talk about who could be getting that illustrious Topps All-Star Rookie Cup added to their eponymous 2018 Topps Card.

Why?

Because...this is a Topps Blog and I want to do it (Ego...)

Because it's the end of the year, and it's worth talking about the players who burst onto the scene this year and will be making an impact in the MLB going into 2018 and beyond. And there are so many possible candidates. Some who should be slam dunks (cough...Judge...cough), others can and will stir debates long after the final out is played in the World Series.

So who are the contenders. Let's review.

Perusing the MLB website, there is a tab that brings up a section called the Top Rookie Tracker. This section features just a handful of the players MLB believes are contenders for either League's Rookie of the Year. And believe it or not, the players on the list they have provided stats for will represent each of the positions Topps uses for their Rookie All-Star team (1b, 2b, 3b, ss, three outfield, c, rhp, lhp, and relief pitcher...ahem...will explain this in a minute).

I used to say that the 30 MLB managers will be the ones voting for the team. I was told a while back that it is no longer the case. And while the person I talked to about this wasn't sure when the practice of asking the managers to vote stopped, based on the past few years' worth of rosters, I can only speculate when the change occurred.

The stats are as the end of the games on Wednesday, September 27, 2017:

First Basemen:

Jesus Aguilar, MIL (130 G, 0.263, 15 HR, 49 RBI, 0.827 OPS, 0 SB)
Josh Bell, PIT (155 G, 0.256, 25 HR, 87 RBI, 0.801 OPS, 2 SB)
Trey Mancini, BAL (144 G, 0.294, 24 HR, 78 RBI, 0.830 OPS, 1 SB)
Matt Olson, OAK (59 G, 0.259, 24 HR, 45 RBI, 1.003 OPS, 0 SB)
T.J. Rivera, NYM (73 G, 0.29, 5 HR, 27 RBI, 0.760 OPS, 1 SB)

Second Basemen:
Ozzie Albies, ATL (53 G, 0.281, 5 HR, 26 RBI, 0.803 OPS, 7 SB)
Carlos Asuaje, SD (86 G, 0.268, 4 HR, 21 RBI, 0.695 OPS, 0 SB)
Paul DeJong, STL (104 G, 0.282, 24 HR, 62 RBI, 0.846 OPS, 1 SB)
Yoan Moncada, CWS (50 G, 0.232, 8 HR, 22 RBI, 0.761 OPS, 3 SB)
Chad Pinder, OAK (87 G, 0.238, 15 HR, 42 RBI, 0.750 OPS, 2 SB)

Third Basemen:
Matt Chapman, OAK (80 G, 0.229, 13 HR, 36 RBI, 0.769 OPS, 0 SB)
Johan Camargo, ATL (80 G, 0.297, 4 HR, 27 RBI, 0.781 OPS, 0 SB)
Matt Davidson, CWS (115 G, 0.221, 26 HR, 68 RBI, 0.721 OPS, 0 SB)
Rafael Devers, BOS (54 G, 0.291, 10 HR, 26 RBI, 0.839 OPS, 3 SB)
Yuli Gurriel, HOU (135 G, 0.297, 18 HR, 72 RBI, 0.816 OPS, 3 SB)

Shortstops:
Amed Rosario, NYM (43 G, 0.263, 4 HR, 9 RBI, 0.701 OPS, 7 SB)
Dansby Swanson, ATL (140 G, 0.231, 6 HR, 49 RBI, 0.642 OPS, 3 SB)
Pat Valaika, COL (108 G, 0.261, 13 HR, 40 RBI, 0.833 OPS, 0 SB)

Outfielders:
Cody Bellinger, LAD (129 G, 0.269, 39 HR, 96 RBI, 0.942 OPS, 10 SB)
Andrew Benintendi, BOS (148 G, 0.275, 20 HR, 89 RBI, 0.788 OPS, 19 SB)
Jorge Bonifacio, KC (111 G, 0.252, 16 HR, 37 RBI, 0.742 OPS, 1 SB)
Nick Delmonico, CWS (41 G, 0.267, 9 HR, 23 RBI, 0.874 OPS, 2 SB)
Clint Frazier, NYY (38 G, 0.237, 4 HR, 17 RBI, 0.731 OPS, 1 SB)
Ben Gamel, SEA (131 G, 0.28, 11 HR, 59 RBI, 0.747 OPS, 4 SB)
Brian Goodwin, WSH (74 G, 0.251, 13 HR, 30 RBI, 0.811 OPS, 6 SB)
Mitch Haniger, SEA (93 G, 0.276, 16 HR, 47 RBI, 0.831 OPS, 5 SB)
Ian Happ, CHC (111 G, 0.253, 22 HR, 63 RBI, 0.832 OPS, 8 SB)
Guillermo Heredia, SEA (123 G, 0.249, 6 HR, 24 RBI, 0.652 OPS, 1 SB)
Rhys Hoskins, PHI (47 G, 0.266, 18 HR, 47 RBI, 1.056 OPS, 1 SB)
Aaron Judge, NYY (152 G, 0.284, 50 HR, 111 RBI, 1.043 OPS, 9 SB)
Manuel Margot, SD (124 G, 0.267, 13 HR, 39 RBI, 0.733 OPS, 17 SB)
Jose Martinez, STL (102 G, 0.308, 13 HR, 42 RBI, 0.888 OPS, 4 SB)
Brandon Nimmo, NYM (66 G, 0.273, 5 HR, 19 RBI, 0.820 OPS, 2 SB)
Jose Osuna, PIT (102 G, 0.235, 7 HR, 30 RBI, 0.703 OPS, 0 SB)
Hunter Renfroe, SD (119 G, 0.231, 25 HR, 57 RBI, 0.751 OPS, 3 SB)
Nick Williams, PHI (80 G, 0.283, 11 HR, 52 RBI, 0.801 OPS, 1 SB)
Jesse Winker, CIN (44 G, 0.292, 7 HR, 14 RBI, 0.901 OPS, 1 SB)
Bradley Zimmer, CLE (101 G, 0.241, 8 HR, 39 RBI, 0.692 OPS, 18 SB)

Catchers:
Manny Pina, MIL (107 G, 0.279, 9 HR, 43 RBI, 0.751 OPS, 2 SB)

Right-Handed Starting Pitchers:
Parker Bridwell, LAA (19 GS, 9-3, 3.87 ERA, 70 SO, 1.237 WHIP)
Luis Castillo, CIN (15 GS, 3-7, 3.12 ERA, 98 SO, 1.075 WHIP)
Jharel Cotton, OAK (24 GS, 9-10, 5.58 ERA, 105 SO, 1.442 WHIP)
Jake Faria, TB (13 GS, 5-4, 3.33 ERA, 82 SO, 1.147 WHIP)
Carson Fulmer, CWS (4 GS, 2-1, 4.42 ERA, 17 SO, 1.309 WHIP)
Sam Gaviglio, KC (13 GS, 4-5, 4.30 ERA, 49 SO, 1.350 WHIP)
Lucas Giolito, CWS (7 GS, 3-3, 2.38 ERA, 34 SO, 0.949 WHIP)
Robert Gsellman, NYM (22 GS, 8-7, 5.19 ERA, 82 SO, 1.504 WHIP)
Jeff Hoffman, COL (16 GS, 6-5, 5.71 ERA, 81 SO, 1.423 WHIP)
Jakob Junis, KC (15 GS, 8-3, 4.39 ERA, 75 SO, 1.289 WHIP)
Dinelson Lamet, SD (21 GS, 7-8, 4.57 ERA, 139 SO, 1.242 WHIP)
Mark Leiter, PHI (11 GS, 3-6, 4.96 ERA, 84 SO, 1.335 WHIP)
German Marquez, COL (28 GS, 11-7, 4.38 ERA, 145 SO, 1.385 WHIP)
Alex Meyer, LAA (13 GS, 4-5, 3.74 ERA, 75 SO, 1.337 WHIP)
Nick Pivetta, PHI (25 GS, 7-10, 6.26 ERA, 133 SO, 1.516 WHIP)
Antonio Senzatela, COL (20 GS, 10-5, 4.65 ERA, 101 SO, 1.287 WHIP)
Trevor Williams, PIT (25 GS, 7-9, 4.07 ERA, 117 SO, 1.310 WHIP)

Left-Handed Starting Pitchers:
Ty Blach, SF (24 GS, 8-12, 4.84 ERA, 72 SO, 1.367 WHIP)
Kyle Freeland, COL (27 GS, 11-10, 4.06 ERA, 107 SO, 1.477 WHIP)
Adalberto Mejia, MIN (21 GS, 4-7, 4.50 ERA, 85 SO, 1.571 WHIP)
Jordan Montgomery, NYY (28 GS, 9-7, 3.96 ERA, 141 SO, 1.253 WHIP)
Sean Newcomb, ATL (19 GS, 4-9, 4.32 ERA, 108 SO, 1.57 WHIP)

Right-Handed Relief Pitchers:
Jarlin Garcia, MIA (66 G, 1-2, 4.85 ERA, 41 SO, 1.173 WHIP, 0 SV)
James Pazos, SEA (57 G, 4-5, 3.54 ERA, 64 SO, 1.350 WHIP, 0 SV)
Wandy Peralta, CIN (67 G, 3-4, 3.88 ERA, 54 SO, 1.197 WHIP, 0 SV)
Jose Torres, SD (61 G, 7-4, 4.28 ERA, 63 SO, 1.144 WHIP, 1 SV)

If you're wondering why I separated the starting pitchers from the relief pitchers, and then if they are right handed or left handed, allow me to explain (conspiracy theory time folks...get something to drink, this may take a while).

As you all know, Topps instituted what I am calling the "Stephen Strasburg" rule in 2010. Somehow, Strasburg was added to the ASRT even though he only pitched in 12 games. Now, Strasburg is a right-handed pitcher. But so was Neftali Feliz, who at the time was the star closer for the Rangers, and a player many people believed should have been named onto the team as the RHP. In past years, it didn't matter if a pitcher was a starter or a reliever, only ONE RHP or ONE LHP was chosen for the team (of course there were exceptions…tie votes came into play).

So what does Topps do? For the 2010 Topps All-Star Rookie Team, they added a relief pitcher spot. This ensured not only Feliz' spot on the team, but gave Topps justification to include their poster boy Strasburg.

Then in 2011, instead of continuing the trend of having three pitchers (a RHP, a LHP, and a RP), Topps went back to the two-pitcher format, but instead of it being a RHP and LHP as in years past, the 2011 Topps All-Star Rookie Team included just one Starting Pitcher and one Relief pitcher. In 2012, Topps went back to a "three-person pitching staff" which included a Starting RHP, a starting LHP, and one reliever. This was done again in 2013, and has been the "norm" ever since.

In past years, this blog has done a contest where the object is to outguess me in choosing the Rookie Teams. The Grand Prize, if a contestant correctly guessed all the members of said team, was a complete 150 card set of 2005 Topps Rookie Cup (appropriate, no?). Anyway, while few have come close, none have won the grand prize. Those who did guess more players correctly than I did would win a pack of that year's Updates and Highlights/Update Series.

Well, why not bring that back as well??! It's the only contest/giveaway attempt I really do around here, and I still have the now eleven year old set in my possession.

So take a look at the list above, send me an e-mail (bdj610@hotmail.com) with your picks by Sunday, October 29, 2017. You can pick the following (11 players total):
  • One player each for 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, C,
  • Three players for OF,
  • One Starting RHP, Starting LHP, Relief RHP.
On Monday, October 30, 2017, I will make my selections and then we will all wait together until the formal announcements have been made. If you out guess me, let's say I guess seven of the 10 or 11 spots correctly, and you guess eight or more, then you automatically win a Hobby pack of 2017 Topps Update Series. If you guess all the players correctly (if there are ten or eleven, who knows), then you will be entered into a drawing to win the 2005 Topps Rookie Card base set (Beckett Value $20.00 - $40.00). It's that easy. While there are certainly going to be some slam dunks (cough...Bellinger...cough), the field for other players are definitely wide open, so anything goes.

So here's to hopefully many entries by October 29 . Good luck.

Sincerely,

JayBee Anama

Monday, September 25, 2017

The 2017 Topps Archives Derek Jeter Retrospective Set...Update

Before going on my long hiatus from card blogging, I wrote about my thoughts regarding the Derek Jeter reprint set that Topps was going to include into its 2017 Topps Archives product.

As we all know, Topps created reprint sets in the past, honoring legendary players such as Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, Nolan Ryan, and Hank Aaron, with reprint sets of their respective baseball cards. Jeter was included in such a set for their 2015 Topps Update Series product. But there were frames, and parallels, and for whatever reason, trying to get a complete set of reprinted Jeter base cards was not something I was planning to do, especially since...well...I have all of his regular cards. Why would I want to spend money on reprints that were being sold for more than the base cards??!

Back to the point.

I was waffling between going after the reprint set that was part of Archives, even if I had no intention of going after the actual Archives set. The Jeter reprint set was to consist of 23 cards (1993-2015), with three cards being short-printed: the 1993 Rookie/Draft Pick card, the 2015 final card, and that infamous 2007 Jeter card with Mantle and President Bush photoshopped into the picture. As it turns out, Topps never did include the 2007 card as part of the base set (there are autograph copies out there somewhere apparently...). And yes, there are parallel cards based on the color of the foil used for the DJ logo. So the most basic set consisted of 22 cards, including the two short-printed bookends.

Well, in my hunt for cards on the Bay, I did find a Jeter set in my price range (anything under a hundred bucks...which some of these sets were going for). And...


It's mine.

The guy I bought this from was nice enough to throw in a 2007 Jeter card anyway to make it feel complete. Even though this is not part of the official Topps set (it is part of Archives, after all), I am adding these cards to the big 2017 Topps binder. I might seriously have to buy a second binder for all of the insert sets before the Update Series comes out later in the year.

Other business:

Now that I am taking a bit more of a proactive role in maintaining the Sports Card Blogroll, it's time once again to remove blogs that haven't been updated after six months of inactivity. While my humble, little blog was almost on the edge of that cliff, I'm happy to be back blogging a bit more frequently.

So this time around, two blogs will be removed from the Sports Card Blogroll:


Removing these two sites from the big blogroll brings the site down to 221 active blogs about the Hobby we all share.

So as always, if you, or someone you know has a blog about sports cards, please send me an email, or drop me a line on Twitter.

Sincerely,

JayBee Anama

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Rest in Peace Steven Hanson 1956-2016.

Think about your first summer job.

Maybe you worked at the local grocery store or another retail location stocking shelves, bagging groceries, or even running the register.

Maybe you worked in an office as part of a business program, learning all of the facets of life in the business world.

Maybe you worked at a fast food restaurant, taking orders from lines of customers, or maybe even running the fry cooker.

Well, for me, my first job was working for a custom carpet artist. That's right. The man I worked for created custom rugs and carpets. He would take multiple cuts of carpets, of all textures and colors, and turning them into masterpieces that were sold to his customers.

Let me give you an example of what I mean:







Six pictures are not enough to display the work he did over the years.

His name was Steve Hanson. Honestly, he was not the easiest man to work for. He smoked...a lot. I have enough second-hand smoke in my lungs to last a lifetime. There were times that he was extremely mean to me when we were working together. He'd insult my taste in music and movies (and as a high school kid...that was ego-deflating). He swore...a lot. He made fun of me because I tried not to curse in public (he'd be proud of me now). If I couldn't do something right, it was in his opinion that I did not and could not do the job at all. My pay depended on how well or how poorly I did that week. This was a lot of pressure for an 17-year-old for his first job ever.

And those were his good qualities...

I'm kidding.

He was also very serious about the business. He worked every day, refused to take vacations, and would work long hours at the shop. I always said that he was married to his work. He was anti-social long before the term was coined. His only past time outside of work was fishing. I remember seeing the tackle box in the back of his truck. But he was also willing to share his passion with others. He even created a workshop where for one week, budding entrepreneurs would learn everything there was to know about carpet carving - from how to make these rugs to all of the business aspects that were required. He would even make sure that if he already had one of his "pupils" in a metropolitan area that he would not teach another person from that same area so that his students would not have any "competition" that he trained. I think I was around for two of these workshops.

Steve was of the (and this is probably the only time...maybe...that I've used this word on this humble, little blog), "Bust Ass-Take Break" philosophy. The idea was that you work full speed ahead for a good amount of time...then take a well deserved (some times extremely long) break. To wit, there would be days that we may have done actual work for about an hour, and spent the rest of the day watching movies (he was an addict and Blockbuster was his favorite place) or playing backgammon. Yes, folks, I got payed to play backgammon. While we wouldn't bet on the outcome of the games, there would be times he'd pay me if I beat him (and that wasn't often). I learned a lot of strategy and can hold my own in games, whether it be in person or online.

In his past life (before the carpet business), he worked in theatre. Which is probably why he thought I'd be a good hire. I was in HS Theatre at the time and was focused then on going into Business Management for the Performing Arts. He showed support, in his own way of course. He'd tell me stories about his days in theatre (some too graphic to even talk about here), but he did mention the time that he gained respect for a guy he was working with installing electrical wiring inside a tube and just kept on going, even if his arms were bleeding from the electrical wires and the tools.

When I first met Steve, it was to interview for the job. I had seen a post on the bulletin board at my high school about a job opportunity to work for a packaging company. It was misleading at best as the job wasn't for that, but for the carpet business at the back of the building, but I digress. After talking about the job, and the fact that I was in theatre, he took a shot at hiring me. From that point on, it was a two-plus year emotional roller coaster ride. There were a lot of good days. A lot of hard days too. He could be pleasant some days, arrogant, mean-spirited, and just outright angry the next. Sometimes, the emotions switched back and forth rapidly. We could be working on a border rug, with me brushing and fluffing the carpet seams so he could carve behind me and things would be just fine. Then, he'd stop, and just start berating me about something totally unrelated to the project at hand. I couldn't understand why, and even though he encouraged it, at 17, I had no intentions of arguing back.

Besides the backgammon sessions, he was adamant about trying to get me to create a 401K retirement account, with the idea that I could be a millionaire before the age of 30 if I started at 17-18. I had no money, and certainly my family didn't. And besides, as a teenager heading for college, I had other things in mind regarding on how to spend the money. Yes, looking back, I regret not taking the advice when I had the chance, but a stubborn young adult mentality had set in, and I thought I knew better. Based on what happened in the economy in the last 20 years, it's a toss-up as to whether or not things would have been the way he had described. He also tried to instill a sense of professionalism. Wearing a collared polo shirt to a jobsite was something he insisted, even going to the point of buying me a couple of shirts to keep at the shop. I wore t-shirts and didn't like the short-sleeved polos. Ironically, for the rest of my professional career, I would always wear long-sleeved collared shirts (most of the times with a tie). But I still refuse to wear short-sleeved, collared shirts...unless I'm at home or with family...and that's still sparingly at best.

He claimed to be a ladies man, and insisted that I try to be one myself. I was definitely not that kind of person, and as I was still getting over a breakup, a relationship was not something I was focusing on. He had the printing company next door create business cards for me with the intent of passing out to girls in college. Supposedly the intent was to impress them. Of the 250 cards that I was gifted, I passed out only 5. Three went to my parents and grandmother, one I kept in my wallet, and the other...let's just say that I did give one to a girl at school...and I've been married to her for more than 19 years. Boy was he ticked that I wasn't just handing them out to random strangers.

Thanks to Steve, I have a deep appreciation for the movie Full Metal Jacket. It was probably the movie we watched the most in my two years there. I could probably recite the entire opening scene, with Gunnery Sgt. Hartman introducing himself to his recruits. He had two VCR's, with the sole intent of copying the movies onto a second tape. Pirating at it's best. I don't know if he moved on to DVD's or whatever once VHS tapes were being phased out.

I was there when Steve and the printing company that made my business cards bought the unit between them. Steve would take the front half with intentions of making a showroom. The printer would take the back half to use as an extended workroom. I spent a good year helping Steve create that showroom, complete with three large cabinets (or was it four...) to hold carpet samples. I learned how to install hardwood flooring (as he was trying to expand outside of carpets), track lighting (okay, watched how to install them), and help to create the huge carpet that would run through the room. I just remember having to help haul the behemoth rug from the back end of the workshop, around the full length of the building, and then in through the front of the show room. It was probably the most brutal three minute stretch of my life (at that time). As soon as we dropped the carpet onto the floor, even he had to admit he was spent, and tiredly told me that I could take the rest of the afternoon off.

I mentioned earlier that he smoked...A LOT!!! He would have ashtrays everywhere in the workroom. My job was to clean them off, putting the ash and cigarette butts into the trash. I would clean one of them located in one side of the room, and come back less than thirty minutes later to find at least three or four cigarettes on them...all smoked through. He would have cigarettes working on every corner. Yes, the place reeked of cigarette smoke, but amazingly none of it hit the carpets we were working on. It could have been because of all of the cleaning products he'd make me use on them, or the constant vacuuming. I know I'd come home every night smelling like I smoked a couple of packs myself and would make sure to shower just to get the stuff off me.

He knew I collected baseball cards, and in his youth, he did the same with football cards. He showed me this cigar box, which he kept at the shop for some reason, and inside were NM-MT cards of Mike Ditka and others. I think the Ditka card was from 1968, there were other names too. Regardless, they were all in great condition, no dinged corners, no crumples, no wear, nothing. They literally looked like they just came out of the pack. Not bad for something almost 30 years old (at the time). He asked for help and info about possibly selling them. I gave him the names of a couple of shops in the area that he could check out and see if they'd be interested in buying.


(So ends the sports card-related part of the program).

After two years, I had enough. I was tired of the routine of the mood swings, the constant belittlement of my work, the insults about what classes I was taking at school. It was time to move on, even if I didn't know what lay ahead, and even if I didn't have any job prospects in mind. On my last day, I said I felt, "free as a bird" and wished him well. That was 21 years ago.

So since I am still on the hunt for work, I decided to look up my past work history, and check out the carpet place. Steve, keeping up with the times, had a website that showed off his work. I would go on it occasionally, impressed what he had done over the years. But this time...it was gone.

Everything. The images, the information...all gone.

I thought it was a bit weird, so I decided to dig a bit deeper. I went onto his company's Facebook page, and there was a post from someone who said he was his sister. It read:

"My brother Steve Hanson has passed away. I miss him immensely"

I was shocked. I didn't remember having a sister, although he may have mentioned it once or twice. I think I recall seeing a picture of him and his sister when they were much younger. Not sure how or why though. Anyway, I had to check it out for myself.

I drove by the old shop to find that, yes, the carpet store was gone. Thanks to the printing shop next door, I was allowed to go inside what was once Steve's shop. The large table was gone. The vaccuum was gone. Everything that I remembered about the place was gone. Except for the little stubs that he set up to hold the binding ribbons. The guy at the printing shop did not know what those were for, nor why they were built the way they were, but he believed that there was no good reason to take them down. He explained that Steve did indeed die, but the details were sketchy. With so little information, but with the reality of my old boss having died setting in, I wanted to know more.

I reached out to the lady who wrote that Steve had died via Messenger. I just wanted to ask for more details, and wrote that if she didn't want to talk about it, that was fine. Steve was a private guy, and I didn't see any obits about his passing. To my surprise, she responded. She said that Steve had died on November 16, 2016 from congestive heart failure. His father had died the same way, so it may have been a family pattern. He was 60 years old. There was no public funeral, nor an obituary announcing that he had passed. After sending my condolences to her, I asked about her mom, who had worked at the postal store at the front of the shop. She said that her mom is still very much alive, although in her 90's now. The postal place did close for good once she retired, and it was gutted to become part of the showroom.

I started writing this post two weeks ago, shortly after I went to visit the old place. A lot of memories came flooding back to me since I heard that he had died. Many were good, others not so much to be honest. He once said that no matter what I do in life, I will still hear his voice. Boy was he right. Not in a dream. But I would hear things in my head while working. Things like:
  • "Boy I love doing the job twice!" ever so sarcastically
  • "Bust ass, take a break!"
  • "BREAK TIME!!! Get the backgammon board."
  • "You see, this is all part of the master plan..." referring to a quote from one of his other former employees
  • "It's Full Metal Jacket time!!!"
  • "Kool-Aid, Kool-Aid," in a singsong way.
I hope you found peace Steve Hanson. Thank you for the opportunity to work for you. You were truly a pain in the neck to work with, but it was also a pleasure. I will always be grateful for the experience.

Sincerely,

JayBee Anama

Monday, September 11, 2017

Two Thousand Nine Hundred Seventy-Four

It's almost an afterthought.

I say almost because for many, the memories are still fresh in their minds. They're haunting. And I can only imagine that some still do not look forward to this day on the calendar.

I look at it now, sixteen years later, and life has moved on.

It only dawned on me about what today was after listening to the radio and the hosts paused from the middle of talking about yesterday's NFL action to talk about what they were doing on that fateful day. They were just a year into their radio partnership and when the first plane hit at 7:46 AM CST, they thought it was a joke. It was only after the second one struck the World Trade Center minutes later that they knew that something was horribly wrong.

But I think about today. Both of my children are in high school. My daughter is in her final year and is looking forward to college. She was just over a year old when it happened. My son wasn't even born.

In school, they learn about the events of September 11, 2001. It's a history lesson for them. They learn about what happened based on what is written on a page, what they see on a video, what they read online. It is sad yes. The chain of events, the heightened awareness, security at the airport, the news, all of it, is normal to them.

But prior to what happened sixteen years ago, it wasn't.

We weren't always at war. We didn't need to take our shoes off at the airports. We didn't have to worry about our safety to that extreme.

I wrote the words below in 2011. For that article, and when I re-ran the story since, I used the total number of people I had heard to have died due to the events of that day, not including those who heinously perpetrated the attacks. That number was 2,974. Depending on where you read it, it could have been 2,977. Tallies since then have brought the number up to 2,980. But regardless of the number, that's too many lives lost.

Every year, I try to come back and honor the memories of the people for whom this country still mourns, and think how the events on that fateful day changed the course of American history, sixteen years since. By the time this posts goes live, it is nightfall...sixteen years after that the final plane crashed in a field somewhere in Pennsylvania.



Two thousand nine hundred seventy-four.

2,974.

That's the number of people who lost their lives when everything was finally taken into account. Countless lives were affected by this national tragedy. Even if you didn't know anybody on those planes, at the World Trade Center, or the Pentagon, you grieved along with those who did. You stood there in shock, in a daze, just glued to the television or radio.

Our lives have not been the same since. My daughter, now eleven, asks what we (her parents) were doing that morning. "We were just going about our lives," was my reply. "We watched the morning news, getting ready for work, and couldn't believe what we were seeing on the screen." She was just over a year old. She couldn't have understood what was going on then. But she will learn that what she sees as "normal" now, really wasn't before that Tuesday morning.

Two thousand nine hundred seventy-four. It is the number of reasons why we never forget what happened sixteen years ago today.

On this day, the sixteenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, my family and I send our prayers to those who lost loved ones that Tuesday morning. We pray, and will continue to pray for:

the children who lost their parents that day.

the children who would never meet their fathers because of the events of that day.

the firefighters and policemen and women who risk their lives doing their jobs, running into the face of dangers as many are running in the opposite direction.

those servicemen and women fighting for our freedoms away from home, whether or not we agree with the conflicts they battle.

for our leaders, regardless of their affiliation, that they make the right choices to keep the citizens of our country, and others, safe.

And finally, we pray for peace. Peace amongst ourselves as family, as a community, as a nation.

Sincerely,

JayBee Anama

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Fascination with Topps Card #666

When Topps Total was part of Topps' active catalog of baseball card products, I remember reading somewhere that there was a bit of notoriety when it came to card #666. To wit, the rumor was that someone at the Topps Company was a Yankees fan and would assign the "devilish" number to the pitcher that helped to knock his (or her...let's not assume gender here) favorite team out of the playoffs. To wit, the following players were included in that "elite" #666 club:

  • Byung-Hyun Kim, Arizona Diamondbacks (2002 Topps Total)
  • Troy Percival, Anaheim Angels (2003 Topps Total)
  • Josh Beckett, Florida Marlins (2004 Topps Total)
  • Keith Foulke, Boston Red Sox (2005 Topps Total)

In the case of Kim and Foulke, neither actually did end the Yankees' postseason dreams. Kim had blown saves in both games 4 and 5 for the Diamondbacks, taking the loss in game 4. Foulke pitched in five games against New York during the 2004 AL Championship Series, earning a save in Game 6. But Percival was the last pitcher the Yankees saw during the AL Division Series in 2002, and Josh Beckett pitched a complete game shutout in Game 6 of the 2003 World Series (the final game of the series).

So where am I going with this?

With a lot more free time on my hands, I've finally gotten around to putting my cards in binders and taking a closer look at the cards that comprise the 2017 Topps set. Since 2015, Topps has added more cards to the base set giving collectors 700 cards to chase for a complete set. For a good nine-year stretch prior, there were 660 cards in the each eponymous set. This year, card #666 was given to Rougned Odor, the second baseman of the Texas Rangers.


If there is any possible reason why he was slotted with this number, it's most likely because he had that brief spat with Jose Bautista. Recall that during Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS between Texas and Toronto, Bautista hit a seventh-inning home run to give the Jays the lead for good. But while the home run did get the Blue Jays into the next round of the playoffs, everyone remembers what Joey Bats did when he hit the homer...right???


Yeah...that.

So enter the 2016 rematch between the Jays and Rangers on Sunday, May 15, 2016. This would be the last time both teams would meet in the regular season. Rangers pitcher Matt Bush hits Bautista, putting him at first. One batter later, new pitcher Jake Diekman induces a double play. But Bautista tries to break up Odor's relay throw to stop the double play. So Odor shows his displeasure by hitting Bats with a right hook. At that point...it was time to play the feud.

(Please note that I actually thought to put an image of the Odor hitting Bautista, but changed my mind...this is a family blog after all).

So that is the short version of why I think Odor is card #666 this year.

But why do I find card #666 fascinating? It is because back in 1989, Topps assigned card #666 to Reds pitcher Randy St. Claire:


It struck me in a funny, yet ironic way, that the guy pictured on a card that had a number usually associated with evil had a last name with the word Saint (St.) in it.

Others that shared the infamous number include:

  • 1970: Adolpho Phillips, Expos
  • 1971: Gene Brabender, Angels
  • 1972: Hector Torres, Cubs
  • 1978: Billy Smith, Orioles
  • 1979: Rich Dauer, Orioles
  • 1980: Mike Chris/Al Greene/Bruce Robbins, Tigers
  • 1981: Sparky Anderson, Tigers Team Card
  • 1982: Steve Kemp/Dan Petry Tigers Team Leaders
  • 1983: Sparky Anderson, Tigers, (What the heck did the Tigers, let alone Sparky, do to deserve this??!)
  • 1984: Jack Morris/Lou Whitaker, Tigers Team Leaders (I'm sensing a pattern here, don't you think?)
  • 1985: Mike LaCoss, Astros
  • 1986: Charlie Hough, Rangers Team Leaders
  • 1987: Von Hayes, Phillies (When you're traded for five guys and you've only had two major league seasons, do you really deserve this number?)
  • 1988: Mario Soto, Reds
  • 1990: Brian Fisher, Pirates
  • 1991: Danny Darwin, Astros
  • 1992: Tom Foley, Expos
  • 1993: Glenallen Hill, Indians
  • 1994: Steve Buechele, Cubs
  • 2001: Glenallen Hill, Yankees (What did Glenallen Hill do to get this card number twice??!)
  • 2002: Seattle Mariners Team card (When you have the best record in baseball and don't make it to the World Series, wait...didn't they lose to the Yankees??!)
  • 2003: Jeff Francis, Rockies Draft Pick
  • 2004: Texas Rangers Team Card
  • 2005: Texas Rangers Team Card (again??!)
  • 2015: Jonathan Broxton, Brewers
  • 2016: J. T. Realmuto, Marlins

Based on what happened in yesterday's game between the Yankees and the Tigers, don't be surprised if someone from either team will get this number. My money is on Miggy. Who knows?

Cleansing time.

Please keep in mind that I do not have a morbid interest in the number 666 nor am I trying to wish physical, mental, or spiritual harm on myself or anyone else by continually mentioning this number. Some people truly are afraid of the number 666, so apparently hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia is a real thing. This was just something that came to mind after putting cards to sheets.

I think I'll head to church and pray...now.

Sincerely,

JayBee Anama

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Did Anybody Watch American Greed featuring Bill Mastro (and Doug Allen)?

Image courtesy of eBay. A Mastro Auctions catalog. Yes, I actually have this one.

I'll be honest. As soon as I saw that there would be a one-hour documentary regarding Bill Mastro on CNBC, I was intrigued and wanted to watch it when it first came out. Unfortunately, we had other tv-viewing plans as Escaping Polygamy (guilty pleasure show...don't judge me) was on at the same time. So I caught the repeat of the show that came on after midnight. Needless to say, it was a good episode, even if it did bring a light onto the shady side of the Hobby.

American Greed is a show that features stories (one hour episodes) profiling people that were caught up in their own personal issues getting as much money as they can, mostly through acts that are considered criminal, and were caught and punished for said crimes (or in some cases, allowed their families to suffer the consequences after taking themselves to the afterlife).

The episode did also dwell into the biggest controversy involving Mastro, The Card. The T206 Honus Wagner that he acquired and then trimmed, had graded, and sold, acquired, and sold again, with each new final price reaching astronomical values. The card today is in a private collection. And if you read the book, The Card, you know exactly what happened.

In any event. Mastro, and his COO Doug Allen, were sent to prison for committing acts of auction fraud (shill bidding, misrepresenting product, not disclosing information regarding authenticity on items that came back as fraudulent). Mastro is now out of jail, while Allen will be out some time in the coming months. I'm pretty sure neither will be allowed to take part in the collectibles industry ever again. There are a lot of info on the interwebs regarding the case, and you have time, look up Mastro Auctions on your favorite search engine.

Now let me tell you, thanks to a former co-worker and card shows I attended at the big convention center, I have a number of Mastro Auctions catalogs in my possession. Short of the fraud and taken at face value, these catalogs were produced very well. With full bleed images and well written descriptions for each item in the book, for me, these catalogs were as good as any reference book I've acquired over the years. If you've ever read any of these, you have to appreciate the work that was put into the making of these catalogs. After working for an office supplies company in their visual content department, I have a good understanding on the processes that goes into making one of these books.

I actually have the catalog that features the Elvis hair. The auction description, with pictures of the King and the container holding the locks of hair, took up at least more than two pages of the book. It made me wonder, how someone would have come across this in the first place, and of all the auction companies to give it to, why Mastro? Of course, the episode went on to show that not only was the hair faked, but that the money was "refunded" and the hair separated and put into subsequent auctions (and I think I have one of those catalogs as well).

What wasn't reported on the show was that after Mastro shut down his auction company, Allen started his own called Legendary Auctions. The catalogs that were published for Legendary were of the same quality as the ones created by Mastro Auctions. This makes sense as Allen looks to have retained many of Mastro's employees (and most likely...depending on who you ask...many of Mastro's assets and inventory). I have a couple of those catalogs too.

Yes, what Mastro, Allen, and others, did was horribly, horribly wrong, and has put a cloud over the Hobby that will not dissipate any time soon. Nor am I condoning or trying to justify what they did (what they did was wrong, and personally I feel that they should have been given harsher punishment). But the catalogs remain as a part of the history of the Hobby. And I'm happy to have them in my collection.

What did you think of the show (if you watched it)? If you have any of these auction catalogs, what do you think of them? Let me know in the comments.

Sincerely,

JayBee Anama