Monday, June 30, 2008

Bring Back Topps Major League Debut Sets!!!

So we have the campaign to bring back Topps Stadium Club. And it looks like Topps Stadium Club for baseball is becoming more of a reality, seeing that Topps brought it back for football and basketball.

If there is any set that I want to see brought back into production from the Topps Company, it is the Major League Debut set, not seen since 1992.

We've already seen Topps '52 Rookies product not once, but TWICE!!! It's a nice touch, seeing that the company is including every player that qualifies for that Rookie Card Logo in the sets. But it's getting repetitive, and extremely confusing. The MLBPA rules state that every player that makes his major league debut qualifies for that logo. What could be better than an entire set of players who made their debuts together in the same year? Think of it...Jay Bruce, Kosuke Fukudome, Evan Longoria, John Bowker, Johnny Cueto, together in one set of just guys who debuted in 2008. You won't be seeing guys like J. R. Towles, Radhames Liz, or Luke Hochevar et. al in this set because even though they qualify for that RC logo, they debuted the year before.

I know that the MLBPA has strict rules now (players debuting after September 1 cannot be included in sets in that same year), but even they have broken that rule in the name of marketing and sales. And I know that in 2008 and 2009 the two companies can only create 17 total products each. Please Topps, make room for this one?

And just like that campaign to bring Stadium Club, I am asking to do the following to bring back this beloved set (and don't mind if it looks like I'm stealing the ideas from Trader Crack, because that's exactly what I'm doing!!! Hey, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery right???):
  1. Write a letter to Topps, asking them to bring back the MLB Debut set.
  2. To emphasize the point, include a box score clipping of the game that your favorite team's player made his debut. Or even better, if you still have that copy of Topps Magazine that openly talked about how great a set this is, make a copy and mail that in as well.
  3. Mail your letter to: The Topps Company Inc. One Whitehall Street New York, New York 10004-2109
  4. To my fellow bloggers, please link this page, and tell the world of my cause (because you have a lot more readers than I ever will).

I will try to create a fancy logo this evening or tomorrow to add to your sites if you feel that this is an endeavor truly worth pursuing.

To the Topps Company, (I highly doubt you're reading this, but still, it's worth a shot), bring back the MLB Debut set. Replace the '52 Rookie set with this. For those of us who want to keep track of every player who debuted this season, we want this set back. These guys may never play another MLB game again, but at least allow them to be immortalized forever in an actual MLB product.

Thank you very much.


JayBee Anama

I'm Doing Some Serious Reading...

I just found the book "The Card: Collectors, Con Men, and the True Story of History's Most Desired Baseball Card" by Michael O'Keefe and Teri Thompson at the local library yesterday. I've read many strong opinions about this book so I thought, "why not read it when you have the chance."

I'm only three chapters into the book, and already I'm getting that same stomach turning feeling I did when I read Pete Williams' "Card Sharks: How Upper Deck Turned a Child's Hobby into a High-Stakes, Billion-Dollar Business. Most of the positive feelings I had about the Hobby before reading the Card Sharks book went out the window after reading it. Both books devote a lot of time to the history of the hobby, before hitting hard on the main story, which I like.

A book report, something I have not done since high school, will be written as soon as I'm done reading it (give me at least a month to digest it all).


JayBee Anama

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Am I Less of a Collector Because I Don't Complain About Not Getting the "Hits"?

The only baseball cards I buy are from Topps eponymous products, the flagship Baseball Series I and II, and whatever they call their Update set (whether it's Traded, Traded and Rookies, or Updates and Highlights). I will occasionally splurge on other products like all the Retro sets (Topps 206, 205, Cracker Jack, Turkey Red, Allen & Ginter), or the Archives/ATFF sets, but only if I am able to buy a complete set (with SP's). Heck, when I have the money, I'll even go online and buy the 14-card blister packs of every MLB team (which I've done for the last three years now).

I have never bought a product where the pack SRP was above $10.00. I have never been interested in cards where the inserts are promoted in the product more than the base set. I have never really been into relic cards/patch cards/autograph cards/autograph-relic cards and so forth. I have never bought a product just to see if I got the "hit." And even in boxes of base product that I do buy, it never bothered me if I got a uniform card of Ichiro (which I did twice in 2008 Topps Series II) or a uniform card of Mike Maroth. Heck, I don't care if I don't even get the autos/relics in my boxes at all, it just means that the likelihood of me completing my set is greater because those cards are missing.

Does it make me less of a collector because I don't spend the big bucks on high end product and then fail to justify my purchase when I don't find the card that will get me my money back???

Does it make me less of a collector because I don't complain to the companies that I didn't the superstar autographed or relic card that I never cared for in the first place?

Does it make me less of a collector because the way of how and what I collect has not changed dramatically in 21 years of being in the hobby???

I don't pretend to know or understand why people complain about not getting the "hits" they expect when they buy the big stuff. And I'm pretty sure I don't know a majority of the reasons behind it. They will say that they spent the money on high-end, so they "expect" to get something that made it spending it worthwhile. Not everyone can get the megasuperstar patch/jersey card in their packs. In many cases, they "prize" card they get will be of the player who was just sent down to the minors, or that fourth guy out of the bullpen. They moan about not getting the "value" out of their box. And then when it is announced that someone else got the "biggest hit" in the product, and it doesn't matter if it's one of the big companies (you know who you are), or a regular guy who suddenly has the "won the lottery" feeling, people are up-in-arms because now the product they spent big bucks on is now, or should be, worth less because the hits they want have already been found.

I am not going to tell you how to spend your money. I don't have the answers to your complaints. I am not going to preach about the virtue of just buying complete sets. And it would be completely ignorant of me to say, "just buy the cards you want online after someone else broke the product and move on with your lives." But people come on, do you expect either company (or let's expand it outside the big two), ANY COMPANY, to neglect the average joe player and only focus on getting autographs, uniforms, patches, on the "superstars"? Do you think that these guys don't know how much of a demand there is for anything that has their likeness on it, let alone their signature or a piece of clothing that touched their skin??? Of course they do, and they want compensation for it. The companies sign AND PAY athletes for this stuff. And of course, even with retired players uniforms, just getting them from a major auction house can cost a lot of money. Because the companies try and get as many players, from the best, to the "just happy to be here" players, the costs just to CREATE the products can get expensive. That's why it becomes expensive just to buy the products by the time it leaves the factory's hands and reaches our favorite hobby shop.

I know that we're in tougher times. Money is tight. Gas prices are up. Food prices are up. And our Hobby, for as much as we love it, is not really a "necessity" (I am sorry if I just offended the shop owners). The cards we covet are "demand" items. We can do without it temporarily. Some people stop for a while, and then come back when their situation is better (and are welcomed back with open arms).

To the collectors that do spend the money on higher end products. I do agree that you should get what you pay for. The reason why the companies make the product in the first place is because there are people like you who are willing to buy them. The reasons the companies spend the money on research, and getting the athletes to participate in the creation of their products, is because you are willing to spend the money for higher quality product. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

But do know this, not everyone will sympathize with your complaints, especially those who are outside of our "circle" of collectors. And even those of us within it, those who don't buy the products you do, most likely will not feel sorry for you as well. No matter how much "complaining" there is done, or how many "I will no longer buy these products until they improve the quality" remarks are announced, there will be many people behind you that will want to take your place in line and buy the stuff. And if they don't complain, it doesn't mean that they're ignorant, but they may have either hit the jackpot, or found a "hit" from a journeyman middle infielder.


JayBee Anama

Friday, June 27, 2008

Topps Set of the Week: 1985 Topps Traded

Back in 2002, I noticed something very disturbing in my Beckett Baseball magazine. You see, up until then, every relevant set that Topps produced (base and traded) appeared within its pages, with at least five to ten cards below the set name. On this particular day, I was actually looking up each of the forty-five cards that were reprinted into the 2001 Topps Traded and Rookies set. The 1974 set was there, so was the 76. The 1981 set followed, and obviously the 1982 Traded set had to be there. There was 1983, and then 1984. I saw 1986, and 1987...and then I thought,

"Wait, what happened to the 1985 Topps Traded set???"

Did Beckett finally run out of room with all the new releases to include this set? I mean, I know that there was an influx of new sets, and that the older sets were becoming less and less relevant, but to completely take a Topps set off the monthly price guide? Now to be fair, they started clearing out the mid 80's efforts of Donruss, Fleer, and Score, and there were not that many regular Upper Deck cards listed within the magazine as well. But to see a Topps set missing? That's when you know that they were beginning to run out of room.

What was it about the 1985 Topps Traded set that made it expendable??? Was it devoid of key rookie cards? Was it because of the design, similar to the 1985 design, but an even brighter green used for the back of the card? Was it because of the lack of star players that were included in the set? Was it because the price of the common cards stabilized? What made this set irrelevant to Beckett? Until Beckett coughs up the answers to this mystery, all we can do is theorize, look back at that 132 card set, and see if we could figure it out for ourselves.

In it's fifth year of true existance as a product sold exclusively at hobby stores, the 1985 set was thrust upon the collecting public at the end of the 1985 baseball season. Dwight Gooden, the twenty-year old fireballer for the Mets won the pitching triple crown. Pete Rose broke Ty Cobb's all-time hits record as a player-manager for the Reds. Nolan Ryan struck out his 4,000 batter. Don Mattingly and Willie McGee won the AL and NL batting titles respectively. The Royals and Cardinals played seven games to decide a World Series Champion, with KC shutting down the fleet-footed Cards 11-0 in that pivotal game 7. If you wanted Rickey Henderson's first Topps Yankees card (after being traded from the A's), or Howard Johnson's first Topps Mets card (traded by the World Champion Tigers in the 1984 off-season), or cards heralding the return of Billy Martin and Earl Weaver to the managerial ranks, then this was the set for you.

And how about the rookie cards that were part of the set. Because Topps at the time continued the practice of keeping new players off the flagship set, both 1985 AL and NL Rookies of the Year, Ozzie Smith of the White Sox and Vince Coleman of the Cardinals, made their Topps debut with rookie cards in this set (or as Beckett calls them, XRC's). So did Tom Browning, Mickey Tettleton, Teddy Higuera, Mariano Duncan, Daryl Boston, and Joe Orsulak among others. Okay, so Duncan, Boston, and Orsulak don't have the hobby love that Bonds, Jackson, and Canseco would get the following year, but that's who the company saved for their update set.

Along with the aforementioned Henderson, and HoJo, Gary Carter's first Topps card as a Met, and Jack Clark's first Topps appearance in a Cardinal's uniform are in this set. Oscar Gamble, who ten years prior showed the world how cool an afro looked under a Yankees cap, looks like he let his hair down with the White Sox. Oddibe McDowell, who did appear in the regular 1985 set as part of the US Olympic team, has a card here with the Rangers, making the jump to the big club without setting foot in the minors.

The pictures used for the cards were your typical 80's fare, a combination of action shots and head shots (although there was a lot more of the latter). There was a lot of picture space, above the rectangle and team logo that filled the bottom of the cards. The logos that appeared in the circle look real nice, and just like those 1987 Topps cards that introduced me to the Hobby, I would have cut them out of each card if I was 8 or 9 years old.

Although there is a lack of star power to this set (okay, that's an understatement), and it has little to no demand (the big book says that a complete set is not even worth the price of shipping it across the country), it was still a shock not to see it included. In recent years, Topps did bring it back (it must have made room it after taking out almost half of the other brands' sets from the price anyone was going to miss them), but only the rookie cards were listed, and even then, it would only be Guillen and Coleman who would have prices next to their names.

So maybe it was a combination of everything I asked earlier that made it easy on Beckett staffers to remove the set from the regular guide at that time. Heck, nobody talks about this set unless they are either missing cards from it, or they're looking for a cheap set on the Bay. I may have typed more words about this set in the last fifteen minutes than the entire Hobby blogosphere put together. But it's still a set, and a much needed supplement to the 1985 Topps set. Complete Factory "sealed" sets of 1985 Topps were being sold for the first time (albeit in limited numbers). And even in 1998, as the price of the McGwire rookie card caused complete sets of 1985 Topps to escalate in value, you'd think that would have rubbed off on it's traded sibling. But alas, it did not.

So here's to you, 1985 Topps Traded. Although you have been forgotten by most in the Hobby world, know that you are still worthy of mention here as the Set of the Week.


JayBee Anama

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Topps Insert Set of the Week: 2001 Topps Through the Years

(All the insert sets I've written about so far have had anywhere between 8 and 15 cards. They were easy sets to write about only because the number of subjects were small. I am now going to attempt to wax poetic about a set that is truly near and dear to my heart. And there are 50 cards in it.)

There are many reasons why the collection that I have has grown leaps and bounds from just complete sets to full master sets. Among them is eBay. I can thank eBayers for allowing me to buy full sets from 1976, 1977, 1979, 1981, and 1982. I have purchased many complete insert sets as well, as almost all of them have been purchased through the Bay. But I would have never considered adding insert sets to my collection until the day I saw our Insert Set of the Week for the first time.

In 2001, Topps celebrated their 50th anniversary in the baseball card Hobby. To celebrate this historic milestone, Topps brought back many special subsets into their eponymous set (Managers for the first time since 1993, the first team cards since 1982) and a number insert sets, bringing together legendary players from the past, present day superstars, and those who would create an impact in the future. Among the insert sets that came out in 2001 Topps Series I that perfectly capture this ideal were the 50-card 2001 Topps Golden Anniversary set which could be split into five different 10-card subsets (Golden Greats, Gold Nuggets, Glistening Gold, Hidden Gold and Going for the Gold), and the Topps Combos set, where each card artistically brought together past and present players in a baseball setting.

Inserted into packs of 2001 Topps Series I baseball (1:8 hobby/retail, 1:1 HTA - Home Team Advantage dealers), 2001 Topps Through the Years was a reprint set that brought back 50 years of Topps designs together. It was nothing new to include reprinted card-insert sets into packs of Topps cards because during the five years prior, Topps reprinted the entire catalog of Mickey Mantle (1996 & 1997), Willie Mays (1997), Roberto Clemente (1998), Nolan Ryan (1999), and Hank Aaron (2000 + a 1985 Mark McGwire) cards. Combined, those five sets reprinted cards from 1952-1993. The 2001 effort included cards of other players from 1952 to 1999. From Jackie Robinson to Mark McGwire, Ted Williams to Wade Boggs, each subject chosen were major stars in the decade they were portrayed (50's through 90's). Each card also included the 50 Year logo that graced all the 2001 Topps cards.

The set itself was numbered by decade, but surprisingly, not by year. For example, card #1 featured Yogi Berra's 1957 Topps card. The 1952 card of Andy Pafko (which by all accounts is the greatest #1 card of all time) was #4 in the set (a possible What??! of the week...okay back to the point). Cards with the 1952 and 1956 designs featured two players each, and all four are Brooklyn Dodgers (Pafko and Jackie Robinson for 1952, Duke Snider and Roy Campanella for 1956). The rest of the 50's set included Ted Williams (1954), Willie Mays (1953), Ed Mathews (1955), Warren Spahn (1958), and Stan Musial (1959).

The 1960's reprints featured 10 players, all Hall of Famers, whose made their impact throughout the decade: Willie McCovey (1960), Frank Robinson (1969), Ernie Banks (1965), Hank Aaron (1965), Sandy Koufax (1961), Bob Gibson (1968), Harmon Killebrew (1967), Whitey Ford (1964), Roberto Clemente (1963), and Juan Marichal (1962).

Next came the 1970's cards featuring reprinted cards of 10 Hall of Fame players: Johnny Bench (1970), Willie Stargell (1973), Joe Morgan (1974), Carl Yastrzemski (1971), Reggie Jackson (1976), Tom Seaver (1978), Steve Carlton (1977), Jim Palmer (1979), Rod Carew (1972), and George Brett (1975).

The 1980's featured players that dominated the headlines in the "ME" decade, featuring several player's key rookie cards. It is of note that eight of the players are now enshrined into Cooperstown: Roger Clemens (1985), Don Mattingly (1984), Ryne Sandberg (1989), Mike Schmidt (1981), Cal Ripken (1982), Tony Gwynn (1983), Ozzie Smith (1987), Wade Boggs (1989), Nolan Ryan (1980), and Robin Yount (1986).

The 1990's reprints featured current day superstars: Mark McGwire (1999), Ken Griffey Jr (1992), Sammy Sosa (1990), Alex Rodriguez (1998), Barry Bonds (1994), Mike Piazza (1995), Chipper Jones (1991), Greg Maddux (1996), Nomar Garciaparra (1997), and Derek Jeter (1993).

There are a few headscratchers within this set, like the Ted Williams card that misspelled his name. The 1989 Topps Ryne Sandberg card looks like the original card was scanned, but the bottom right corner where the team and player's name may have appeared blurred, so Topps tried to put a clearer "nameplate" in, only to still show part of the original corner. The 1982 Ripken card did not include his two co-future stars Bob Bonner & Jeff Schneider, and because the original card was pictured horizontally, seeing a larger, vertical picture of Cal looked strange. And both McCovey's and Jeter's cards, while they do look nice, don't show the actual design of the regular players' cards.

After getting these cards, I thought, why not get the other five reprint sets (Mantle, Mays, Clemente, Ryan, Aaron). When I did acquire and receive the other five on the Bay, the first thing I did was lay all six sets on the carpet and line them up by year. It looked like a timeline in baseball history. That's what this set was. A timeline, a journey into both baseball's and Topps' past. Remembering the players whose images graced these little pieces of cardboard and made an impact in the game. (Did you know there are two Topps sets that all five players appeared within the same set? Can you guess which years they were?)

When Topps introduced their Traded card series at the end of the year, they reprinted 45 cards from the Topps Traded series (1974, 1976, 1981-1995, 1999) and incorporated it as a subset. It would have made a nice supplement to the regular inserts, but it was nice that it was part of the main set. The 2001 Topps Through the Years cards were also the inspiration for the Archives series, which reprinted the first and last cards of more than 200 players and managers. It has been repeated as an insert concept with 2006 Topps Wal-Mart. But that set featured new pictures within the catalog of designs.

Topps did an excellent job creating this set. It became the catalyst for me wanting to collect all the insert sets I could find. I made a goal of it on my eBay About Me page. And since that time, I've just about accomplished that goal. So now when I collect cards during the year, not only do I try to complete the regular set, I go for the insert sets as well. They always make a nice addition to the regular set.


JayBee Anama

P. S. The 2011 Topps set is only three years away. Topps will be celebrating 60 years in the Hobby. Could you imagine them doing another set like this? If Topps created a ten card addition to this set, featuring reprints from 2000-2009, who would be included? Who knows. jba

And the 2008 Topps Red Hot Rookie #5 Card Goes To...

Those holding those Red Hot Rookie Redemption cards better get them logged in to Topps quickly as it has just been announced that card #5 is of Mike Aviles of the Kansas City Royals.

Since his Major League Debut on May 29 against the Twins, the Royals infielder (primarily shortstop) has a .333 batting average, 3 home runs, and 14 runs batted in (as of June 26, 2008).

It is not an autographed card. Royals fans will want to add this card to their collections. So for those of you with Redemption card #4, START REDEEMING!!!

Reviewing the early checklist, we have:


JayBee Anama

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

If You Really Want to See What the Largest Baseball Card Set in History Looks Like

Contrary to what the header of my blog says, I am biased when it comes to Topps vs. Upper Deck. This is a Topps baseball card blog after all. But I read this Wax Heaven post about UD's Yankee Stadium Legacy insert set, and how Upper Deck is claiming it as the largest set ever...then I read Chris Harris' comment on it. And for once, I actually agree with him.

If you really want to see, hear, or know the largest baseball card set in history, all one has to do is contact a certain Carl Tompkins in Texas. He is the first (and only person I know of) who completed the behemoth called 1998 Topps Tek set. This was the set that had 90 players in the set, but had 90 different pattern variations for each card. And if my third grade math is correct, 90 players with 90 cards each comes up to a whopping 8,100 baseball cards!!!

When Topps Tek first hit the shelves in 1998, the concept was that this set could be collected in a myriad of ways:
  • 90 cards, one of each player, regardless of pattern
  • 90 cards, one of each pattern (which would make the extra challenge of finding one player in a pattern you didn't have already)
  • 1 player, 90 patterns
  • 1 pattern, 90 players
  • 8,100 cards, 90 players, 90 patterns.
This was a player collectors dream. But the idea of collecting all 8,100 cards seemed to be a daunting task. And many people who bought the cards where happy to consider 90 cards, regardless of pattern, as a complete set. But Carl Tompkins had other ideas.

For many years on the Topps Message Boards, Carl, known as togatx, would ask the members of the boards if they had any 1998 Topps Tek cards for sale or trade. He would scour the internet sites, go to shows, visit shops, trade online on various message and trading boards, etc, in search of these cards. And he would update us each time he got one card closer to completion. Then, on November 28, 2004, he announced that he had traded for the last card he needed (a Paul O'Neill #37, pattern #56) to reach 8,100 cards. In comparison to that UD set, if these cards were placed end to end, the cards would measure 2,362.5 feet.

He keeps each "set" in 90-card books (you know, those with the 9-card sheets attached to the book), one for each player. They must look really nice on a bookshelf.

If this set was created in 1988, nobody in the world would be able to achieve the completion of a set like this. But thanks to the internet, this has become a more possible feat.

Mr. Tompkins has moved on to bigger and better things, but still has over 1,000 extra cards from this set. And from time to time, he will see if there is any interest from various message boards for them. But when all is said and done, Carl Tompkins completed the Largest Baseball Card Set in History. And even if and when someone completes that Yankee set, it's not going to compare to this amazing accomplishment. My hat is off to you Carl. Congratulations!!!


JayBee Anama

Monday, June 23, 2008

Cards That Makes You Go...What??! of the Week: 2008 Topps Taylor Buchholz #402

2008 Topps Taylor Buchholz #402. I do hope that he was in on the gag when the photographer snapped this picture. What was Topps thinking when they selected this picture for use on his baseball card???

The last time Topps had a fully comprehensive set, where everyone from the all-star outfielders to the third string catcher or the mop up reliever had a card, was in 2001. And prior to that, when Topps stopped the practice of having a 792 card set, was 1994. Since then, the "official" number of cards in the basic set has been (in this order from 1995): 660, 440, 495, 503, 462, 478, 790, 718, 720, 732, 733, 659, 661, 660. So every card has to count.

In the 2008 Topps 660 card set, take out the 64 subset cards (30 manager, 10 league leader, 6 award winners, 10 combo cards, and 8 playoff highlights) and you have 596 cards for players. There are at any given point in time in the majors 750 active players, and that does not count the active players on the disabled list. That means that more than 200 players will not get a card. The 596 players who do get a card are immortalized forever with a 2½ x 3½ picture on cardboard. And, all gimmicks aside, I'm sure every player wants their card to look good. Because years from now, they will be telling their grandchildren about their lives in professional baseball, and the cards will become tools in telling their stories.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, than the card worthy of the What??! of the Week is going to need a few hundred more words. If only to explain what the mindset was of the Topps editors when they let this picture go through the presses for Colorado Rockies pitcher Taylor Buchholz.

Topps photographers take at hundreds of shots of players during the course of a year. Many are not usable due to the way Topps designs its cards. I can live with that. The eponymous Topps set has its usual combinations of action shots and head shots, along with a few candids mixed within it. Out of the possible hundred or so pictures they snapped of the young Rockies hurler, Topps thought this was the best one to use for the flagship??? If you can't tell, that's not even the Rockies mascot behind him ready to pounce on the pitcher. That would be Parrot Pete, the Pittsburgh Pirates mascot. So at least we can tell that this picture was taken at PNC Park.

Can you imagine the dialogue between the Topps photographer and Taylor when this shot was taken (TP for Topps photographer, TB for Taylor Buchholz):

TP: Okay those were some good pose shots.
TB: Thank you.
TP: I'll try and get some action shots of you if you get in the game today.
TB: Thanks.
TP (seeing Parrot Pete sneaking up behind Buchholz): Uh, oh Taylor. I have a little bit of time left before I go on, can I get a few more shots of you?
TB (as he begins to get into a pitcher's stance): Sure, how's this?
TP: Uh, no. Let's just have you standing up straight.
TB: How about this?
TP: Well, no, how about if you raise both arms.
TB: Like this?
TP: No, like you're just giving a shrug. That's it.
TB: This good? (as his teammates watch what's happening, and see what's about to happen).
TP: Perfect. Now hold that shrug and smile. (Camera clicks to the picture you see now).
TB: What's going on? Why is everyone looking at m...AAAAAHHHHH!!!! (as the Parrot attacks, or does whatever it was going to do to him).

The above dialogue is only a dramatization of what I think happened when this shot was taken. I don't really know what was said, or if the Rockies were watching in amusement as the opposing team mascot was going to make the poor guy do a number one on the field (many parents will know what "number one" is). I really hope that Buchholz was in on the gag, but again, I highly doubt it.

So the season ends, and the 2008 Topps cards don't arrive until February. Taylor, looking for his card, is disappointed that he is not in series one. So series two comes out in June, almost a full year since this shot was taken. One of his teammates, ripping through packs of series two, says, "Hey Taylor, you made it. Lucky you. Ha ha ha ha ha."

"What's so funny?" thinks Taylor as he walks over to the pile of wrappers on the floor. Imagine poor Buchholz's shock that of all the pictures they could have used of him, the above shot with Parrot Pete was what was chosen.

To the Topps Company, please bring back the 792 card sets. Please bring back the cards of the third string catcher and that mop up reliever. Because more players are in the game now, and you're not getting them into the set. And if you are not going to go back to that many cards, please pick some better pictures for the players you do include. Otherwise, we the collectors will be left to ask:

"Topps, what were you thinking??!"


JayBee Anama

If You've Ever Wondered Why Mike Sweeney Does Not Send Your Cards Back TTM...

Please be careful when sending cards through the mail to Mik e Sweeney. Mark Sweeney might be getting them.

For those who are TTM'ers (through the mail), you know the excitement of getting a card back that you had mailed to a player requesting a signature. Knowing that many "active" players do not have enough time in the day during the baseball season to honor these requests, just getting one back is a complete thrill.

Now, imagine if you were a Mike Sweeney fan. You find that one baseball card that you think would look great if he autographed it. You write your little note (I'm a big fan, have a good season...yada yada yada), you insert the note, the card, and a return envelope into a large envelope, and mail it. Then you wait. And wait. And wait. And wait even more. And it never comes back.

Maybe it's lost. Maybe he's too busy and will get to mail later. Maybe he'll wait until after the season is over. Maybe he has not made his almost annual trip to the DL yet. All are good reasons.

Or how about...

Maybe you sent his cards to MARK SWEENEY instead.

It apparently happens. The good news is that both Sweeneys (not related) are friends. So let's hope that Mark remembers to give Mike the cards. And who knows. Maybe Mike has some that Mark needs to sign too.


JayBee Anama

Answering Some Recent Comments. Keep Them Coming.

As more and more people discover my humble little blog, they have been leaving me comments. Instead of responding to comments in the comments field, I will just create a blog post from time to time responding to them. Here goes.

To 1977topps, who commented on my review of 1978 Topps, thank you for your comments, and I'm happy to hear that you look forward to the Set of the Week. I should have been a bit more clearer when I said that the design was plain and bland. While yes, the design is plain, I was trying to compare the set design to Topps' other efforts earlier in the decade, and that compared to those earlier designs, this had a simple design. Someone said when I first started in the blogging game that if I had people disagreeing with me (from time to time), then I'm doing something right.

To tdlindgren, I appreciate the update on the Ruth situation. I could not find anything that showed that the Babe was now or going to be a Topps exclusive. I think the FanFest sneak peek pretty much confirms it now right???

To Chris Harris, the Stale Gum mastermind, heck yes, I still think gimmick cards are a good idea. I have the other five (at least they're coming in the mail), and this was the last one. I don't mind waiting. I mean, I waited patiently until the Poley Walnuts card dropped in price, and hopefully this week my 2007 Topps U&H Jacoby Ellsbury card will be coming too. I am hoping that this shows up as a surprise in the 2008 Topps Factory sets.

Is it bad form to ask now if I could be added to your blogroll???

And finally, to Big Daddy. I actually read a Chicago Tribune article on Father's Day about dads/sons with Chicago connections. The Swishers (Steve/Nick) and the Raines (Tim Sr/Jr) were mentioned and I forgot to put them on my list too. That's what I get when my mind spaces out.

Thank you all for your comments. Please keep them coming. It's nice to know that I have an audience (okay ego, settle down).


JayBee Anama

Sunday, June 22, 2008

One More Update on the Quest for the Series II Six

No, I did not capture the Johan Santana card. And, if history dictates based on this last auction for it, I won't be capturing it any time soon.

Please take a look at the auction that just recently ended for card #661 for $399.99. And please note who the buyer is too. If that eBay screen name does not send shivers down your spine yet, it will when I tell you who it is.

For those of you who don't know, this is the same guy who bid up and won many 2006 Topps Alex Gordon cards. This is the same guy who used to host Sportscenter in the early-mid 90's. This is the same guy who now hosts his own show on MSNBC. Yes, boys and girls, this guy is none other than Keith Olbermann!!!

Thanks Keith, now I won't be able to get that Santana card I need to complete my set.

The quest has been put on hold until further notice. There is another auction up online for the Santana card at the moment, by the same person who sold the first card to Mr. Olbermann. The seller is the same eBayer that has beaten me twice on auctions for this same card, and he thought to put one on the market to see what happens. Guess what. IT happened. Prepare for prices to shoot through the roof. And now, the seller promises that he won't be buying anymore of the Santana cards. Just in time too. Go figure.


JayBee Anama

Friday, June 20, 2008

Topps Set of the Week: 1978 Topps

A few years ago, Brian, the owner of the card shop that I frequented (he closed at the end of 2005, sad day for me...but I digress) called me up and said that one of his other customers decided to give up his set of 1978 Topps cards, and he couldn't think of any other person to sell this to than to me. At the time, I had every Topps card going back to 1980, so after giving it some thought, I said I would take a look at the set.

He showed me the box, and in it were these rather simply designed looking cards. A rather large picture surrounded by a team-colored team name in cursive on the lower left corner, the name on the player on the bottom right, the position of the player in a baseball either on the left or right top corners, and that's it. It was about as plain a design as it could get. And remembering that earlier in the decade, Topps came out with cards that had grey borders (1970), black borders (1971), psychadelic team names (1972), mismatched colored borders (1975), and multi-color boxes (1976), this was about as simple as it gets. I think I paid about 40-50 bucks for the set, which was fair considering the condition, and the fact that after sorting the cards, I was four cards short!!!

This was the first year that Topps increased the number of cards from 660 to 726, which meant that for the next four years, there would be at least 66 cards that would be double printed (at the time, a full sheet of cards would have 132 cards, or 11 cards across x 12 cards down). Among the famous double printed cards were Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Ron Guidry, Earl Weaver, and the Montréal Expos team card.

This was the year that the Yankees won their second straight World Series of the decade, and Ron Guidry struck out 18 players. Pete Rose was climbing up the all-time leader boards, while Nolan Ryan was inching closer to all-time strikeout crown. Hall of Famers Eddie Murray and Paul Molitor were just starting their careers, while Lou Brock and Willie McCovey were preparing to wind down their historic careers. A good mix of hall-of-fame veterans and rookies abound in this set.

It's been thirty years since this set came out, and comparing them to the 2008 cards, you have to at least admit that the photography at least has improved incredibly. The 1978 Topps set is full of just ugly cards. Truly no offense to the players, but just some of the head-shots used for this set leave a lot to be desired. To wit, check out the glasses and teeth on a young Greg Minton (#312 if you're looking for it), or the curly hair (on his chest) and double necklaces on Steve Stone (#153). And was the sun shining brightly when the Topps photographer snapped the picture that eventually wound up on Mario Mendoza's card (#383)???

I have to admit, the action shots are nice, for 1978 standards (and I mean that in the nicest way possible). Check out Reggie Jackson's swing (#200), or Felix Millan of the Mets turning a double play and avoiding a runner at the same time (#505). You'd think the camera was right in the middle of the infield.

The backs of the cards were in orange, with blue text that was easy to read. Each card (of the players anyway) had a game on the right side called "Play Ball." Meant to be played by two people, the idea was that you'd select some cards, and then flip them over and the play on that card will determine what happens on the field (single, ground out, strikeout). I guess you'd have to use markers to determine baserunners and follow along with the action that way. I'm sure many kids stacked the deck with really good cards so that they could just continually hit without getting an out. I'm sure that the rules were to shuffle the cards prior to playing (the rules appeared on some of the cards).

There were manager cards, with younger pictures of each skipper on the left of his current picture. Cards of all 26 teams featured checklists of the players on each team (and the Cubs had their traditional team headshot photo). Four-player rookie cards are found at the end of the set, including the Paul Molitor/Alan Trammell shortstops card. League leaders, Playoff Highlights, and Record breakers are part of the set and are found grouped together within the set.

The design may be plain, and the pictures could have been better, but still, the 1978 Topps set was a nice change of pace from all the bizarre designs they came out with earlier in the decade. Sets can be bought for reasonable prices depending on the condition of the cards online and at shows. Some of the names don't register for me (again, I was only two when this set went live), but still, just like the yearbook, it brings up quie a lot of memories for those who were around that time. And for as bland as the set design is, it still is a decent looking set. A toast to the 1978 Topps set. Happy 30th.


JayBee Anama

The Statue of Liberty at the Topps Company Building.

The Statue of Liberty representing the Brooklyn Dodgers. This is only a replica. The real one will be put up in front of Topps Headquarters.

In honor of the MLB All-Star Game being held in New York, MLB announced that 41 replicas of the Statue of Liberty will be set up in various places throughout the city. There will be one representing all 30 teams (can't imagine what will happen to the Boston one, although it's going to be up near the Sports Museum of America on 26 Broadway...thanks to Scott for correcting me), along with one representing each league (NL and AL), five for the All Star game (four games held at Yankee Stadium, one at Shea), one each for the final seasons of Yankee and Shea Stadiums, one for the New York Giants, and one for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Why am I even bothering to post this? Because the Brooklyn Dodgers one is to be set up at the Topps Company building on One Whitehall Street. In a tribute to it's Brooklyn roots, it is fitting that they get this one.

Do I see a new gimmick card in the works??? Shhhhh...


JayBee Anama

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Babe Ruth a Topps Exclusive???

Okay, one of the members of the Beckett Message Boards is claiming that Topps has announced that Babe Ruth was the "one more player" that they were trying to sign an exclusive contract with CMG. You remember, it was the big deal where Topps signed the estates of 16 players away from Upper Deck. And then Topps sued UD for putting out cards with six of the guys.

Then the guy over at Sportscards Uncensored is saying the same thing.

Now I've been looking all over the wires, and I have yet to see this news come up yet.

DOES ANYBODY HAVE A SOURCE THAT CAN CONFIRM THIS??? I'm only asking because if that's the case, then Topps pretty much has the market for legendary players to themselves. Now if the MLBPA could allow them to create one retired set, akin to the All-Time Fan Favorites or Topps Retired Signature sets...


JayBee Anama

Topps Insert Set of the Week: 2005 Topps Grudge Match

During the course of a 162 game season, there are plenty of opportunities for two teams to get together, take time out from the game, and just beat each other senseless. And I'm not referring to one team scoring more runs than the other. Nothing beats (literally) fun at the old ball park than watching a knock down, drag out, good old fashioned bench clearing brawl.

Seen at least once in every hockey game across North America, when two baseball teams decide "it's time to play the fued" as Rich Eisen once said to describe a BCB, it makes headlines. From the Michael Barrett/AJ Pierzynski brawl of 2006, to the intense playoff battles between the Yankees and Red Sox, when two individuals from opposing teams decide to take their frustrations out on each other, it makes for great theatre, the game that we call baseball.

Inserted into packs of 2005 Topps Series I baseball (1:24 hobby, 1:18 retail packs) were 10 cards from a set called 2005 Topps Grudge Match. Horizontally formatted, with a red and gray color scheme that could only help establish the mood of the set, each card featured two players from opposing teams that have thrown kerosene into the fire that is known as their rivalries with the word "VERSUS" seperating the two combatants:

  • Jorge Posada vs. Pedro Martinez
  • Mike Piazza vs. Roger Clemens
  • Mariano Rivera vs. Luis Gonzalez
  • Jim Edmonds vs. Carlos Zambrano
  • Aaron Boone vs. Tim Wakefield
  • Manny Ramirez vs. Roger Clemens
  • Michael Tucker vs. Eric Gagne
  • Ivan Rodriguez vs. J. T. Snow
  • Alex Rodriguez vs. Bronson Arroyo
  • Corky Miller vs. Sammy Sosa

If you haven't noticed, most of these "matches" involve the New York Yankees (five cards, with Clemens featured twice) and the Boston Red Sox (three cards, all vs. the Bombers). The backs of each card set up the situation that eventually lead to the "Grudge Match", whether it be the already mentioned 2003 ALCS (Posada vs. Martinez), the 2000 World Series (Piazza vs. Clemens), Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS (A-Rod vs. Arroyo), or even a regular season game (Edmonds vs. Zambrano, Tucker vs. Gagne). And yes, in about half of the cards, a bench clearing brawl is mentioned in the story.

The only card that doesn't belong in this set is probably the last card, featuring Miller and Sosa. Now, we all know what happened to Sammy in that one game in 2003, but did Topps really have to bring up the fact that the nickname of Reds BACKUP CATCHER Abraham Philip Miller is "Corky"??? I don't think that Sosa cared much about that little factoid. Besides, by the time this card was printed, he was already shown the door in Chicago, leading to a lackluster year with the Baltimore Orioles.

Looking back, it's funny to think of what has happened to each pair since the date of infamy described on each card. For example, Zambrano and Edmonds are now teammates. Has anyone on the team brought up that game on July 19, 2004??? And although they tried to put a positive spin on it, I'm sure Piazza had revenge on his mind when he had to catch for Clemens during the 2004 All-Star Game.

At ten cards, it's a fairly easy set to complete if you open two full boxes of packs.

Not at all expensive, but certainly worth the price, no matter how much is spent for it. Four years after its release, they are not seen often online, whether as a full set, or for individual cards. Get your favorite cards and relive the rivalries, or get all 10 cards and add them to your 2005 Topps set. Can't go wrong either way.


JayBee Anama

And the 2008 Topps Red Hot Rookie #4 Card Goes To...

Those holding those Red Hot Rookie Redemption cards better get them logged in to Topps quickly as it has just been announced that card #4 is of Kosuke Fukudome of the Chicago Cubs.

Since his Major League Debut on March 31 against the Brewers, the Cubs right fielder has a .296 batting average, 5 home runs, and 30 runs batted in (as of June 19, 2008) and has helped the team learn patience at the plate.

It is not an autographed card. Cubs fans, Japanese player fans, and many baseball fans in general will want to add this card to their collections. So for those of you with Redemption card #4, START REDEEMING!!!

Reviewing the early checklist, we have:


JayBee Anama

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Deviating from the Schedule...

Okay, so I've kinda fallen behind the schedule that I set for myself for the last week or so. I am sorry for that, and will try to get back on track before the end of the week. In the mean time, Wednesday will be "Anything Goes" day. On Thursday, I'll bring back our Insert Set of the Week. All leading up to our big "Topps Set of the Week" on Friday.

The timing could not be better for the set I am going to feature on Thursday. With interleague play in full swing, both Chicago teams in first place, and the trash talking that has been going on at my work for the past month, the set is appropriate for the mood around here.

And here's a hint, it's not the 1997 Topps Inter-League Series set.


JayBee Anama

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

If You Have Some Time and Want Something to Read...

I posted earlier last week about Topps and CMG suing Upper Deck regarding UD's use of the images and signatures of some of the players that they had recently signed deals through the players' estates. With UD coming out with SP Legendary Cuts product, along with their ongoing Yankee Legacy insert bonanza, players who are now exclusive to Topps are appearing in these products.

If you have a few minutes...okay, a half hour-an hour tops (ha ha ha, he said tops) is the document detailing the lawsuit and the restraining order.

In a prepared statement, UD is stating "that the lawsuit is factually and legally inaccurate. Upper Deck will vigorously defend itself, and pursue all remedies available to it pursuant to the law, in this matter.

Makes one wonder what will happen to that 6000 + card insert set that UD had planned for this year. I'm sure they can't change anything immediately. It my take a while before this gets settled.

Let the battle begin.


JayBee Anama

Yet Another Update on the Quest for the Series II Six.


2008 Topps Yasuhiko Yabuta Japan WBC for $44.40.

That's five down, and one Santana card to go. The thing is that one person has been succeeding in cornering the market for the #661 Santana card. Claims to "need them for his sets." How many sets does the guy do that he needs to get every card that comes out so that no one else can get them? In a sense, it's selfish, but then again, maybe he's trying to beat Keith Olbermann to the punch before the Santana cards go for thousands of dollars.

Topps, I am really, really hoping that you plan on including this card in the factory sets.


JayBee Anama

And the 2008 Topps Red Hot Rookie #3 Card Goes To...

Those holding those Red Hot Rookie Redemption cards better get them logged in to Topps quickly as it has just been announced that card #3 is of John Bowker of the San Francisco Giants.

Since his Major League Debut on April 12 against the Cardinals, the Giants first baseman/right fielder has a .273, 7 home runs, and 28 runs batted in (as of June 17, 2008).

It is not an autographed card. Giants fans will want to add this card to their collections. So for those of you with Redemption card #3, START REDEEMING!!!

Reviewing the early checklist, we have:


JayBee Anama

Meet the Family...

ToppsTown Avatars. Bringing the family together. Now if we could only get Mommy to join...

It's been a couple of weeks since I moved in to ToppsTown, and I'm getting used to the place. I finally helped my kids moved in as well. Now, we're dividing the ToppsTown cards so we all have codes to enter for the cards and points.

The kids like it. But we need more codes. If anyone who has not signed up nor care to sign up and want to pass along the codes, please send me an e-mail. Daddy needs a new aquarium!!!

Let us know who you are in ToppsTown, and add us to your friends pile. The more friends you get, the higher your ranking.


JayBee Anama

Monday, June 16, 2008

Father's Day Afterthoughts...

Okay, Father's Day has come and gone, and after going over a couple of Father's day blogs, it seems the number one dad-son combo used in every instance was the Ken Griffeys (Sr. and Jr.). I even used their 1991 cards to honor them (they were teammates the year before). There really is nothing wrong with that as it does not get any classier than the Griffeys.

Then it hits me that Topps did a subset, not once, but twice, about fathers and sons who played in the majors. In 1976, Topps included a five card subset honoring the Bells (Gus/Buddy), the Boones (Ray/Bob), the Joe Colemans (Sr/Jr), the Hegans (Jim/Mike), and the Roy Smalleys (Sr/Jr).

1976 Topps Father And Sons Subsets. The backs of the cards were written by each of the sons.

In 1985, they brought back the Dad/Son theme, this time with a thirteen-card subset, bringing back the Bells and the Boones, and adding the Berras, the Franconas, the Schofields, the Laws, the Kennedys, the Kunkels, the Smalleys, the Trouts, the Virgils, the Stenhouses, and the Skinners. Heck, even 1989 Bowman had a subset, pairing the aformentioned Griffeys with the Cal Ripkens (Sr/Jr), the Stottlemyers (Mel Sr/Jr & Todd), and the Alomars (Sandy Sr/Jr, and Roberto).

1985 Topps Father & Son Subset Cards. The Bells and the Boones are back, and they brought friends!!!

If Topps were to do a subset today with a Father & Son theme (and why not), they could add the Fielders (Cecil/Prince), the Bonds (Bobby/Barry), more Boones (Bob/Bret & Aaron), more Bells (Buddy/David), the Alous (Felipe/Moises), the Hundleys (Randy/Todd), the Gwynns (Tony Sr/Jr), Matthews (Gary Sr/Jr), and so forth to the growing list.

Scans will be forthcoming. I'm starting to get the hang of this blogging thing, and I have a lot of ideas. I just wish I thought of this sooner.


JayBee Anama

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Some Wishes to All Dads on Father's Day...

I've been a father for a little more than eight years now. I have seen both my children grow up from these little tiny babies to toddlers to full grown grade schoolers. Both my children are now showing interest in their own little hobbies, whether it be books, dolls, toy cars, Littlest Pet Shop animals, etc. I'd like to think that I've had something to do with their desire to collect things.

Both of my kids have been exposed to my little hobby since they came home from the hospital. I don't know how many of my commons have been torn to shreds by the both of them when they were each just a few months old. They've both been to many different card shops and shows, waiting ever so patiently as daddy had to get that one card to complete a set or had to buy supplies. The store owners or the people at the shows always smiled when they saw me bring my children, and they have received tons of free cards from them over the years.

My daughter, the eight-year old, has taken an interest in baseball herself. She loves the Cubs, and she's become a big fan of Derrek Lee. She asked me if I had his cards, because she was doing a school report on him (one of the last assignments of the year). I said I did, but she couldn't bring them to school. I offered to make her a photo scrapbook with the cards so she had something to display (and probably to show her classmates that her dad was a geek...but whatever) with her report. She did rather well I'd say, got an A and everything.

My son is only five, still oblivious to his dad's hobby, even though he's been exposed to it as well. He does show some of his dad's collecting habits. Has a good collection of books that are spread everywhere in his room (everywhere except his bookshelves...). He is still learning how to read, but at least shows keen interest in reading.

I look at my kids, and worry about how best to provide for them. And I think back to how my dad raised me and my siblings. He did so much when it came to raising us, even though he worked long hours at whatever job he had (everything from a gas station attendant to owning a bakery). He was strict, but not a total disciplinarian. He understood that each of his kids were unique, and needed to be raised differently from each other, because what might have worked for me, may not have necessarily worked for my brother and sisters, and vice versa. And somehow he made it look easy, even though to us kids he had no idea what he was doing half the time (typical teen angst opinion I guess). My dad truly did a lot for me personally, and I'd like to think that my parenting abilities are similar to his. And I thank him for that. I will admit that I am not a perfect dad, but I will never stop trying to be one.

My wish to all fathers out there is to continue showing the love and caring that you do to your kids. They truly need you in their lives, even though they won't admit it. Show an interest in what they like and what they don't like. Teach them to love themselves and others around them. Teach them to behave like adults, but remember to let them still be kids. Be there for them, regardless if they want to share their problems with you or not. Because they eventually will, you will never have to force them to do it. And even if they don't, at least be a good listener, and show that you truly are concerned. Learn from your kids. They will teach you just as much as you want to teach them.

And finally, to Dads Everywhere:

Your children love you, even more than you love them. Why??? Because you've loved them for only a little while. Your children have loved you all their lives.

So be a good dad. Go out there and spend some time with your kids. You don't need to be reading anything else I have to say today. This is your time to be with them. So turn off the computer, and have fun with the kids. I'll be here on Monday when you get back.

And Happy Father's Day.


JayBee Anama

P.S. Okay, I know that this is a baseball card blog. And it's Father's Day. So what better way to end the post than to include the first father & son to become teammates in Major League History. jba

Friday, June 13, 2008

Another Update on the Quest for the Series II Six.


2008 Topps Alexei Ramirez Cuba WBC for $43.50.

Four down, two to go. I've been outbid twice by the same guy for the Johan Santana card. Hopefully he won't be buying any more. The Yabuta card has been just as hard to win. I've bid on two auctions, and lost both. Hopefully the price has lowered even more.


JayBee Anama

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Topps Insert Sets found Exclusively at Walmart, Target, and KMart

Since 2006, Topps has been adding insert cards that are specifically exclusive to Walmart, Target, and Kmart. Blaster boxes (those boxes with ten or twenty packs in them) come with a bonus pack (three or six cards per pack, depending on the number of packs in the box) of insert cards that could only be found in one of the above three stores. There was never really any mention of these in the hobby guides, other than maybe an incomplete checklist.

2006 Topps Wal-Mart insert cards. Topps first attempt at store exclusive insert cards.

In 2006, Walmart boxes included insert cards for a "Topps Through the Years" set, featuring current and legendary players within the previous 54 years of Topps baseball card designs (1952-2005). The active players were featured with their current teams, so you had Ivan Rodriguez as a Tiger representing the 1999 Topps design, or Alex Rodriguez (who along with Topps Exclusives Barry Bonds and Mickey Mantle appeared in three cards within the set) as a Yankee in a card with the 2003 design. This was a nice looking set, if they had tried to do it similarly to the 2001 Topps Through the Years effort and used players from those decades with the matching designs. I mean seeing Ted Williams in a 1987 Topps design and Tom Seaver in a 1995 card just looked ugly. And because the cards were sold out of sequence, meaning you get card #'s 1, 2, 35, 52, and so on instead of 1-18, it looked weird seeing blank pockets when placing a complete series in nine-pocket pages.

To make completing the set more challenging, probably because it was a first time effort, the way they were distributed was different every time. Six specific cards from series I were found only in the 3 card packs (10 pack blasters), six others could only be found in the 20 pack blasters, and the final six were seeded in the retail packs not even in the blasters. There were no cards included in series II blasters, so that meant all 18 cards could only be found in packs!!! The Updates and Highlights blasters saw the return of exclusive inserts, but this time, all 18 cards were seeded evenly within the boxes, whether they were 10 or 20 pack blasters.

The following year, Topps gave Target their own exclusive insert set to include in blaster boxes. In boxes of 2007 Topps Series I and II boxes, Topps included cards of Ted Williams and the "Road to .406" with each card recounting Teddy Ballgame's run in hitting above .400 in a season. The fact that nobody has hit that mark since (although many have come close) shows how difficult it is to keep that high an average. There were only 36 cards in the set. So Topps inserted cards from a ten card set called "Mickey Mantle, A Life in Baseball" in packs and boxes of the Updates and Highlights set.

2007 Topps Target Ted Williams Road to .406 cards and from the 2007 Topps U & H set, Mickey Mantle "A Life in Baseball"

Walmart, in their 2007 blasters, did another 54 card set, featuring current players in past designs again, but this time expanded beyond their catalog of designs, and incorporated card designs from their Topps 205, Topps 206, Allen & Ginter products, older card designs, as well as designs from classic Japanese baseball cards. This became the precursor to this year's 2008 effort "Topps Trading Card History."

2007 Topps Wal-Mart cards. The precursor to 2008 Topps' Baseball Card History insert set.

Kmart was also given an exclusive insert set within their blaster boxes. In 2007, Topps biggest theme was "Generation Now" featuring the young stars of MLB and their preparedness for big league superstardom. In all three series (I, II, and U&H), 18 card segments of a set called "Generation Now Arrives," featuring the young stars of today, were included in Kmart boxes. Confusingly numbered GNV (possibly for Generation Now Variation...Beckett erroneously calls them Vintage), each card featured a player and a certain statistic, whether it was from one game, or a series of games, where that particular person excelled.

2007 Topps K-Mart Generation Now Arrives, a wonderful complement the 2007 Topps Generation Now insert set.

In every case, each store did very well selling blaster boxes and packs that contained these cards. The concept became such a huge success that they repeated the concept in 2008.

This year, Walmart is selling blaster boxes and packs of Topps Baseball Cards with insert cards based on the paintings of renowned sports artist Dick Perez. Each series will include 10 cards.

2008 Topps Wal-mart Dick Perez Art Cards, this should be a very beautiful set to collect.

Target is selling boxes and packs with cards based on the famous T205 design (Target 205???). Fifteen cards come in each series.

2008 Topps Target 205 cards. Get it??? T205???

Kmart, within their blasters and packs, have cards called "Rookie Card Variations" which as the title describes, features players who qualify for MLBPA's rookie card designation, utilizing the 2008 Topps design, but with gold colored borders and different pictures than what appears in the regular set. There will be 15 cards per series.

2008 Topps KMart Rookie Card Variations. Love the gold borders. Very hard to find. If your area does not have a KMart, then good luck finding these babies.

Topps is also expanding the store exclusive inserts outside the eponymous brand. Topps Heritage blasters sold at Target featured the mini versions of the cards found in the regular set, while those sold at Walmart got 1959 Topps Heritage versions of the Dick Perez cards (same pictures, but with the 1959 Topps design). No word yet on if Kmart has an exclusive insert set with Heritage.

These cards rarely, if ever, have their prices included in the guides because they are not seen by the Hobby shops. And the only places you can find these cards on sale as completed sets are on auction sites. Since they are not often included within the checklists of the regular sets, they are overlooked by the Hobby, which is a shame. Because they are really nice looking cards to add to your collection, whether you are a player or set collector.

Currently, there is an effort to complete a checklist for the three store exclusive insert sets. For those who plan on searching for these cards, you can find an updated checklist here. And if you do find these cards but don't want them, contact the members who are updating the checklists. They want them and are helping the effort to compile the checklists for others who may want to start or complete their sets. If there was ever a time to get into online trading, this is it. Thanks.


JayBee Anama

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

And the 2008 Topps Red Hot Rookie #2 Card Goes To...

Those holding those Red Hot Rookie Redemption cards better get them logged in to Topps quickly as it has just been announced that card #2 is of Justin Masterson of the Boston Red Sox.

Since his Major League Debut on April 24 against the Angels, the kid is 3-0 with an ERA of 2.59 and 18 strikeouts in 24.1 innings of work (as of June 11, 2008).

Although it's not an autographed card, Red Sox fans will want to add this card to their collections. So for those of you with Redemption card #2, START REDEEMING!!!


JayBee Anama

Quotes of the Week: Cal Ripken, Jr. and Roberto Hernandez

(The quotes of the week come from the New York Times, from an article written by Murray Chase, the Chicago Sun-Times, from an article written by Dave Van Dyck, and the Los Angeles Times, from an article written by Ross Newhan.)

Would Roberto Hernandez be the man that ends Cal Ripken's historic consecutive games played streak??? At the All-Star Game???

Sorry I’m late with the Quotes of the Week. I knew what I wanted to write about, I just had to find the right quotes and reference the sources.

The QOTW flashes back to the 1996 All-Star Game, and features Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. and the infamous American League Team Photo Shoot that took place before the game in Pittsburgh. Now this has been covered many times over the years, especially after Cal ended his historic consecutive games streak. But most of the stories covered Cal’s side of the story. Few mentioned how the other guy felt about what happened on that fateful day.

So the story goes that after the group photo was taken, and the players began to depart, Roberto Hernandez, closer for the Chicago White Sox, began to slip off the platform. If you’ve ever tried to stop yourself from slipping, whether it’s on ice or on a banana peel, you’d flail your arms around trying to regain your balance right? Well, that’s exactly what Mr. Hernandez did, and in the process slammed his forearm right into the Iron Man’s face, breaking his nose.

Although bloody and broken, Ripken somehow was able to get his nose reset (it had been broken before apparently). And after taking batting practice the day of the game, declared himself able to play. He started the game, playing seven innings in an AL defeat.

Looking forward to the game, realizing what could have happened had he NOT been able to play, Ripken told reporters,

"The last thing you want to do is go down in the history of All-Star Game competition as the only injury sustained during the team picture."

Seeing Ripken on the field was a huge relief to “Boom Boom Bobby.” As he recalled after the shoot,

"I hope it doesn't end his streak or I'm dead."

Ripken is now happily retired and in the Hall of Fame. Hernandez last played in the majors in 2007, splitting time with the Indians and Dodgers. But for one moment that both played as teammates that fateful week in 1996, even though the AL did lose the game, the happiest man at the game was Roberto Hernandez.

"I knew that if it ended the streak, I'd be dead."


JayBee Anama

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Card That Makes You Go...What??! of the Week: 2003 Topps FS Brandon Puffer & Jung Bong #331

2003 Topps Future Stars Brandon Puffer / Jung Bong...Future Stars or something more?!!

The 2003 design of Topps Baseball is known for those bold blue borders during Topps "different-colored borders" phase. Don't get me wrong, the blue borders were nice, and when paired with the right team (ie. Cubs, Blue Jays, Royals, Dodgers), the cards were absolutely perfect. As in previous years, they included a subset of future stars, players who were to make an impact if not in 2003, but later.

And in almost all cases, teammates were paired together. In Series I, teammates Marlon Byrd and Jorge Padilla (Phillies), Chris Snelling and Shin-Soo Choo (Mariners), Hank Blalock and Mark Teixeira (Rangers), Josh Hamilton and Carl Crawford (Devil Rays), Orlando Hudson and Josh Phelps (Blue Jays), Jack Cust and Rene Reyes (Rockies), Angel Berroa and Alexis Gomez (Royals), Michael Cuddyer and Michael Restovich (Twins), and Juan Rivera and Marcus Thames (Yankees) were paired together as Future Stars. In a few cases, some players did become stars (Teixeira, Crawford, Hudson, Berroa). Some are now playing for different teams and have had relative success. But the last card in this subset, #331, has bothered me for quite some time.

In what I'm sure was done on purpose (the biggest understatment ever) was the pairing of Houston Astros pitcher Brandon Puffer and Atlanta Braves pitcher Jung Bong on a card. Topps must have been very high on ensuring that these two guys end up on a card together, literally. They're not teammates, and their stats (as of 2002) do not stand out as "future star worthy." So what was Topps thinking when they created this card???

Here are the stats on each player (as of 2002, found on the back of the card). Click on his name to see how he did in the majors:

Brandon Puffer: Nine years in the minors, 259 games pitched, started 8 of them. 17-20 W-L record, ERA 3.26, 373 K's, 62 saves.

Jung Bong: Five years in the minors, 119 games pitched, started 100 of them. 37-31 W-L record, ERA 3.28, 535 K's, 3 saves.

Neither man is currently in the majors. Bong lasted three years in the majors, and was last in the minors in 2006. Puffer was in the majors for four years, and is currently with the Frisco Roughriders in the Texas League. This would be Puffer's only card in the eponymous set. Bong would have one other card in 2004.

I know many adults in the Hobby who've had a good laugh at the expense of this card. But can you imagine what it had to be like for kids just finishing up the D.A.R.E. program who needed this card? How would they ask for it?

Over the years, Topps has been known for including pictures of ball players with their zippers down (not once, but Claude Raymond had this happen to him TWICE!!!), or including pictures of pitchers pretending to throw only to have the ball secured in his glove, or even airbrushing people out of the way so the focus of the card would solely be on the player (1957 Mantle is a good example of this). But never in recent history has the Topps Company purposely paired up a couple of players for a laugh. Even Keith Olbermann, collector extraordinaire, said of the efforts in making this card,

"You got it - - it's the 'Bong-Puffer' card. Unclear if its publication will cause Topps' reputation to take a hit."

Maybe it was a just an inside prank that was in the original design stage but then they forgot to delete it before making the sheets. Maybe the copy editors said it was too late to remove after discovering the card from the final run. Who really knows? But in late 2002 - early 2003, the question on every collector's mind when seeing this card was:

"Topps, what were you thinking??!"


JayBee Anama

Monday, June 9, 2008

What Happens When Two Companies Really Don't Like Each Other...

Let's go back to last year shall we? If you recall, Topps was busy trying to sell itself to Michael Eisner's Tornante Group and Madison Dearborn Partners. Upper Deck decided to throw itself into the ring saying that they wanted to buy the Topps Company with an offer higher than Eisner's. When Topps wanted to proceed with the sale to the Tornante Group, UD sued to prevent the sale of Topps to Eisner's investment groups. In the end, UD cancelled the deal, citing difficulties working with the board. The stockholders, after months and months of bickering within Topps' own Board of Directors, agreed their shares to Eisner. The whole story is really intriguing and will make up another blog post for another day.

Then came UD's Michael "Buysner" card debacle. Then the Sweet Spot "Asterisk" autograph. Then UD inserts actual O-Pee-Chee (a brand that UD bought from Cadbury Schweppes a few years ago, the reason why they have the OPC line in hockey) cards into their baseball packs, as well as the creation of an insert set honoring legendary players using the 1969 OPC design. The last thing would not have been so bad, except that in every case, UD knowingly took stabs at their competition (Topps). Put it this way, the "buyback" cards, although they have the OPC design on them, are all Topps designs. And the "insert" set mocked the classic 1969 Topps set. And this was not the first time that UD took shots at incorporating Topps' designs into their products (see 2001-2003 UD Vintage, with their mockups of the 1963, 1971, and 1965 Topps designs).

Recently, Topps came to an agreement with CMG Worldwide, a company that represents the families and estates of deceased celebrities , acquiring the rights to create trading cards of 16 legendary players, most of whom where exclusive to Upper Deck, including:
  • Jackie Robinson
  • Walter Johnson
  • Ty Cobb
  • Tris Speaker
  • Honus Wagner
  • Johnny Mize
  • Pee Wee Reese
  • Jimmy Foxx
  • Thurman Munson
  • Rogers Hornsby
  • Lou Gehrig
  • Mel Ott
  • George Sisler
  • Christy Mathewson
  • Cy Young
  • Roy Campanella

Topps will be distributing products with these players beginning with Triple Threads and Allen & Ginter.

Although UD lost the rights to these stars, the company will still go forward with a set that somehow is still including Mel Ott, Jimmie Foxx, Rogers Hornsby, Thurman Munson, George Sisler, and Johnny Mize in one of its future products. And that has now caught Topps' attention.

Topps is now suing Upper Deck for trademark infringement because UD plans on using the names, images, and statistics of six of the players listed above. For more information, Elisabeth Butler Cordova of Crain's NY Business broke the story. Or you can click here for the Boston Globe's story.

More to the story as it becomes available. And you thought two companies were enough for the baseball card industry...


JayBee Anama