Tuesday, July 31, 2007

1987 Topps Archive

For me, the value of any trading card lies not in its supposed intrinsic value, but in its sentimental value. While I must have had a few packs of 1986 Topps purchased for me by my parents, it wasn't until the following year when the hobby became a passion. 1987 Topps will forever be my favorite baseball card set of all time. My collection of the complete set came about in many stages. As a youngster I was semi-thrilled to get a John Henry Johnson, a home-town not-quite-hero sporting a meticulously coiffed Afro. Trips to the corner drugstore netted me a few more cards. I was also concurrently collecting the 1987 Topps Yearbook Stickers with Mike Schmidt on the cover, but it was the green packs with red, yellow, and blue writing that got me to part with whatever small amount of money I had saved or was given.

This post will be the first of hopefully many containing musings on this greatest of all baseball card sets. It took me approximately nineteen years to complete (with about twelve years of downtime in the middle of those years). Its corners are sometimes dinged, its manager cards often have their team checklists written on, and Dave Lopes, who, at age 40, looking older than most people's great-grandfathers, somehow stole 25 bases, is still scowling at me.

I would like to start with what I have come to recognize as the Holy Grail of the set, #332, pitcher for the Chicago Cubs...Ed Lynch. This may be the greatest baseball card of all time. I give this card as gifts to loved ones...birthdays, bar mitzvahs, baby showers, there exists no occasion for which this card will not be appreciated

Let's look at what makes this card so great and powerful.

Front: The obvious eye-catching feature on this card is the proliferation of chins that Ed is sporting. When I take this card out to show to guests in my home, everyone automatically makes a deep guttural sound in an attempt to mimic any speaking that Ed would have foolishly tried to do in such an awkward pose. Picture the scene in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" when Cameron is pretending to be Sloane Peterson's father on the phone while talking to Principal Rooney. In this scene, Big Ed Rooney thinks he has just committed a faux pas regarding the treatment of Sloane. Scrambling to make sense of it all, he hands the phone off to his secretary (the woman who played Mrs. Poole on "The Hogan Family," for those of you out there keeping score), who tries to impersonate the principal without using any actual words. The "guuuugggh...bbllluuuuuurrgggh" sounds she makes is the closest thing I can think of to the anthropomorphic folds of Ed Lynch's neck and chin.

Back: "Ed lists reading and sailing among his hobbies." I can picture Ed on an early November Miami day, out on his sloop, passed out, with a hardcover copy of "It" shielding his face from the sun.
Also notable is Lynch's stat line from the 1986 season. Apparently he pitched to five batters while with the Mets, giving up no runs, walking none and striking out one batter. This not being good enough, he was traded to the Cubs, thereby missing the miracle of the World Series and Game 6. Yet, on wikipedia it states that when Ed later attended the University of Miami Law School after retirement that he "was known to let other students try on his 1986 World Series ring, which he proudly wore every day." Why was he given a ring? Did he threaten someone with his folds? I realize that it's customary for a team to award championship rings to players who made an impact on the team's season but were for some reason inactive for the playoffs, but 1.2 innings?

Well, I'll choose not to dwell in this inconsistency. I'll close this post by filling all of you readers in on my lifelong dream. One day I would like to have enough Ed Lynch cards to paper an entire wall with. While the accumulation of that many folds might produce some sort of paralysis and/or epileptic seizure Magic Eye-type phenomenon, I still think it would be cool. If you have any spare 1987 Lynch cards that you would care to donate to this admirable cause, contact me a bill13boehm@yahoo.com Make a dream come true!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Yount Card of the Day #7

2001 Topps American Pie Woodstock #BBWM-RY

Let's talk about what has probably become my favorite Robin Yount card, at least of the post-retirement variety. I had been searching for this card for the better part of a year until I found it on this random card sales site at a price way, way, way below what I was willing to pay for it. The Topps American Pie line of cards is a great idea to begin with, and the Woodstock subset is at the pinnacle of what they offered in that set (perhaps just shy of the Kennedy/Chunk of the Berlin Wall card). This card has everything going for it:
1. Game-used bat. Probably my least favorite of the game-used options out there, but still cool.
2. Colors not usually seen on Yount cards. Man, this card is like a bowl of Trick in two-dimensional form. Never has there been so much purple on a Yount card and, unless he joins the coaching staff of the Colorado Rockies (or the Minnesota Vikings, ugh) , there never will be again. (Oops, I forgot about the Yount/Kevin Mitchell 1990 Star set with completely purple borders, seen here.)
3. Current and retro logos, both on the front of the card.

Now let's discuss the relationship between Robin and Woodstock. First question: Was he there? By my calculations, Robin would have just turned 14, so probably not. But let's imagine he did make the trip to Bethel, NY. What do you think might have happened differently?:

A. All posters and advertising would have read, "3 Days of Peace, Music, and Well-Hit Doubles."
B. A cameo with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band
C. All attendees would have remained clean and dry, as Robin summoned a grounds crew to spread out an infield tarp at the first sign of rain.
D. All of the above.

In any case, it's fun the dream about the course of history being altered. But this card also begs a pertinent question: Why did Yount, still very physically capable of playing big-league ball at a high level, retire from the game at the end of the 1993 season?

Answer: There was no way he was going to miss out on Woodstock '94. (Hint: Slow-motion video playback of MTV's coverage of the event clearly shows a man with the same moustache, build, and blue and white pinstriped pants doing some audio mixing during the Nine Inch Nails' performance.)

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Pack Bust #1

2007 Topps Opening Day Baseball

I bought a Target box of 2007 Topps Opening Day baseball cards. This box contained 20 packs, six cards to a pack. About halfway through I got to a pack that had to be some type of statistical anomaly record. Before we start, however, let me get it out there that this set looks way, way better than the regular 2007 Topps. The white borders make the colors pop and add a sense of depth to the pictures. Topps needs to go with white next year for sure. Anyways, let's review.

First three cards: Mark Redman, Mark Loretta, Mark Buehrle. Let me remind you that this pack was in no way doctored. This is the actual order of the cards from top to bottom. This pull series reminded me of one of the songs from the "Rent" soundtrack, when they go to an AIDS support group meeting: "Mark... Mark... I'm MARK!" Three for three on the name Mark. Not even a Marc or Marcus to change things up. What are the odds of that? Okay, time to turn the page when you hear the chimes ring, like this...Brrrring.

Fourth card: Okay, looks like a Twin...it's...it's...not a guy named Mark. Torii Hunter. Okay, perhaps not all of the Marks in MLB are in this pack. Way to break up the monotony, Toriiiiiiiii(ii)iii...iiii...i...i.

Fifth and sixth cards: Troy Tulowitzki and Troy Glaus. Is it statistically impossible to get two guys named Troy in a pack? Of course not.
What about two Troys after a Torii? The odds are stacked against you, but it's not an impossibility. And isn't Torii just a harisbreadth away from being Troy? Just too weird.
Finally, what about the combination above after three Marks in a row? Has this happened before? Will it happen again? With Topps' notorious poor collation, are there hundreds of thousands of packs just like this floating around out there? Should I play the lottery today (which is, after all, 7/7/07)? Are the baseball card gods messing with me? Will I pull a card of John Stockton and his pasty white thighs out of my next pack of baseball cards? The answers to these, and hundreds of other related questions, may never arrive.

Drop a comment, let me know what you think about this phenomenon.