Thursday, December 31, 2009

State of the Blog Address 2010

One of my promises for 2010 will be to do better posts. Judging from the response to my Sabathia/McLaughlin Group post, that's the direction I need to take this site in. That's an example of a time where I actually put some thought into something before publishing it. (Actually, I didn't. That took me about five minutes to write, but much longer to find the images.) In fact, before we get too far into today's post, let me put a few New Year's resolutions out there.

1. Better posts. A good rule of thumb is that I have to laugh at least once while writing it.

2. Less bagging on the Cubs. It took me a while, but I finally figured out they are really no threat to anyone. Actually, most of the comments I make are in jest, but it gets taken in a different direction because Cubs fans take it so seriously. I'll be saving the real hate for the Vikings. (God, how I hate those Vikings!) After all, where would I be without Ed Lynch?

3. No boring posts. Pack breaks and box breaks are out. I check out other blogs, and that's good enough for me in terms of gathering information. Ditto with posting normal trades with other collectors. That shit bores me to tears when it pops us on other blogs. No one has anything interesting to say about the cards they receive, and when I see names of posts like "Mailday..." or "Trading With So-and-So" in the update feeds, my eyes almost immediately begin to get droopy and I skip to some other site. I don't want to be one of those guys, so that's out. (Trade Me Anything will return in 2010, however.)

4. NO MORE RETAIL! OK, let me amend that. How about no more single, undiscounted packs? That leaves the door open for blasters and cheapie packs. Let's see how long it takes me to break that promise.

5. Start a phenomenon. This will happen within one week. You will all be given an assignment, and I expect many of you to carry it out. Nothing like this has been done before. That is all I will say for now.

6. Finish more sets. I set a goal of finishing six out of twelve sets, and... shit, I'm sorry to bore you about that. Rule #3. Moving on.

7. Come up with a new name that replaces "blogosphere." I try not to use it, but I'm sure I have. There's got to be a better term we could use. I'm tired of sounding like a moron when referring to this particular community.

8. Start a fight with another blogger.

Honestly, not enough of what we do is transgressive. How is writing about this hobby going to move forward if we aren't at each other's throats? "Crises precipitate change." Watch out... whoever it is that I decide to beef with, you don't want to get caught up in the crossfire. This could be the feud of the new decade.

Any takers?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Group Break... not ready yet. Sorry for the tease. A new one is coming soon, though.

But I would like to let you know that all of the AL teams from the last group break got mailed out today. Thanks for your patience, I just had zero desire to hit the post office the week before Christmas, and I also just got back from Minnesota last night.

I gotta tell you, watching the Monday Night game between the Vikings and Bears with a bunch of Minnesota "fans" was such a fun experience. I just sat there quietly as everyone else got themselves whipped into a frenzy. With so many positive Vikings moments in the later stages of the game, I was just biding my time until the inevitable mistake derailed any and all comeback plans. After the Bears' OT touchdown, I was actually told by an in-law, "I love you, but I hate you right now."

On a related note, I had to listen to the first quarter or so on the car radio, as we were coming back from dinner during the start of the game. There was this really weird commercial for something available for purchase called "Vikings season tickets." The man who was talking was basically pleading for people to buy this commodity, and was throwing in a bunch of extra things to sweeten the deal. In Wisconsin, we have never heard of such a practice. Fill me in here, readers: Do other teams around the league need to advertise season ticket packages? I was thoroughly confused as to why such a practice would ever be necessary in any circumstance. With a Twin Cities metro population of approximately 2.87 million people, you would think the club could manage to sell season tickets by word-of-mouth alone. I think I know why the Vikings have never and will never win a Super Bowl: The "fans" just don't love their team hard enough. For shame.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

CC: Slappa Da Base

While in pursuit of every CC Sabathia card that depicts him as a Milwaukee Brewer, it is not at all uncommon to concentrate all of one's efforts on the somewhat-difficult-to-obtain relic and parallel cards. When this is the case, the common base cards sometimes fall by the wayside. As a result, I have not yet obtained two early-season base cards. Until now.

2009 Upper Deck Goudey #112

2009 Upper Deck Spectrum #54

A short window of availability necessitates this practice. Within the first week or so of a product's release, I found that several copies of low-numbered cards pop up on the secondary market. For a completist, this is a double-edged sword. You have to get these cards as they are available, but you will pay a premium for them. By waiting, the price almost certainly will be lower, but you become unsure if the card will indeed be up for sale. Base cards, however, will be around forever. In fact, The McLaughlin Group covered this topic a few weeks ago. Below is an illustrated transcript, abridged because of rampant profanity.

McLaughlin: Issue one -- Topps baseball cards is rapidly approaching its sixtieth anniversary, and starting in 2010, the company will be the only kid on the block. No Upper Deck, no Donruss, not even beloved Fleer could take the heat, and now they're all out of the kitchen. In this new landscape, does this spell the certain demise of the base card? Set-builder, Eleanor Clift.

Clift: I don't see any reason that Topps will stop producing a card set that caters to the casual-

McLaughlin: Pat Buchanan! Is the base card dead?

Buchanan: President Obama's policies virtually guarantee that children will no longer be able to afford-

McLaughlin: WRONG!!! Monica Crowley! Children: Backbone of the hobby or merely an excuse trotted out by old-fashioned purists against anything remotely modern?

Crowley: I think it's unfair to label collectors with a bent towards traditional foundations of the hobby as-

McLaughlin: Mort Zuckerman! Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack. Should Topps include a stick of gum in every pack of cards?

Zuckerman: John, I think we've gone completely off-topic here, and I can't believe that you're advocating for the inclusion of-

McLaughlin: On a Doomsday Scale from zero to ten, zero being absolutely chemically, physically, and spiritually impossible, ten being a metaphysical certitude, how likely is it that Topps stops producing base cards within the next five years? Mort.

Zuckerman: Two. Topps will not stray from its bread and butter.

McLaughlin: Eleanor.

Clift: I'm going to say nine. Nobody buys cards for anything anymore other than the autographed cards. Base cards are dead.

McLaughlin: Monica.

Crowley: It's a three, John. Fundamentalist collectors will lobby for-

McLaughlin: Pat Buchanan!

Buchanan: I have no idea, John, so I'll say five. I'd also like to take this opportunity to announce my intent to again run for pr-

McLaughlin: The answer is ten. Jerseys, bats, and buttons will become the de facto base cards once skin relics are introduced late next year. This will hasten the gradual phasing out of all conventional base cards with complete elimination taking place by the start of the 2013 season. Bye-BYYYYYYE!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

I Need Help (The Serious Variety)

Every once in a while, usually around Christmas, I try to pick up a box of junk wax. Not just any box, mind you, but one of a set that I began to collect back when my only funds for collecting came from paper route earnings and any allowance that happened to be thrown my way. While self-destructive, these endeavors take me back to a time when collecting happened at a glacial pace, a pack or two here or there, with a purchase of a box rarely crossing my mind. Judging from the pile of base cards and the few paged-in-plastic inserts I was able to scrounge up, I probably did buy a box of this stuff back in '93. This is a cry for help and a call to arms all rolled into one. Help me finish 1993 Fleer Football.

The needs:
56 Derrick Thomas (Chiefs)
63 Karl Mecklenburg (Broncos)
64 Chris Chandler (Cardinals)
65 Toi Cook (Saints)
72 Lomas Brown (Lions)
74 Mark Rypien (Redskins)
75 LeRoy Butler (Packers)
80 Richard Dent (Bears)
81 Roger Craig (Vikings)
82 Amp Lee (49ers)
83 Eric Green (Steelers)
332 Irving Fryar (Patriots)
333 Tyji Armstrong (Buccaneers)
334 Brad Baxter (Jets)
335 Shane Collins (Redskins)
342 Eric Davis (49ers)
343 Leslie O'Neal (Chargers)
344 Jim Morrissey (Bears)
345 Mike Munchak (Oilers)
346 Ron Hall (Buccaneers)
1 Steve Atwater
2 Rich Camarillo
3 Ray Childress
4 Chris Doleman
5 Barry Foster
6 Henry Jones
8 Nick Lowery
9 Wilber Marshall
11 Randall McDaniel
13 Sam Mills
14 Jay Novacek
15 Jerry Rice
18 Clyde Simmons
22 Richmond Webb
23 Steve Wisniewski
24 Rod Woodson
25 Steve Young

Look at those card numbers for the base set, will you?! Out of a 500-card set, isn't that grouping a little odd? To the lay person, yes, but this is the 1990s we're talking about here. Do you think collation was still a little bit of a problem then? Ya think?

Granted, this is an ugly, ugly set. Taking its design from Fleer baseball, it's clear that once Ultra came out, that's where almost all of Fleer's effort went. The only saving grace of this set is the All-Pro insert set. Clean design, reasonably solid checklist, and a tasteful use of gold foil stamping. (The weird nicknames on the back are a little contrived, however.) I was fortunate enough to have pulled the Emmitt Smith out of my box this time around, so I won't have to spend the few bucks to pick it up later.

There was also a Steve Young Performance Highlights insert set (inserted 1:27 packs). Also classy looking, but I think I'll try to snatch up the whole thing at once. The final insert I was able to get some of was the 1993 Prospects. These are junk, free of logos, and not a good collection of players. O.J. McDuffie, anyone?

So, if you've got any of these lying around that you need to get rid of, let me know.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Lynch-mas, Collectors!!!

Continuing a timeless tradition...
1987 Topps #697 Ed Lynch

Every Who Down in Whoville Liked Christmas a lot...
But the Lynch, who lived just north of Whoville, Did NOT!
The Lynch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be his head wasn't screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his chins were too slight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all,
May have been that his jersey was two sizes too small.

All of the hard workers at Thorzul Will Rule wish you the merriest of all possible Christmases.

And don't forget to go visit Beardy's Baseball Blog and vote for one of the custom Christmas cards. Don't even vote for mine, there are way better ones out there.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

2009 Card-vent Calendar: December 24

December 24, 2009:
2005 Upper Deck Reflections Cut From the Same Cloth Paul Molitor/Robin Yount Dual Game-Worn Stripe #CC-MY (137/225)

Every Christmas, my brother and sister and I got to open one present on December 24th. It was usually after we got home from church, the one night of the year when we wanted so badly to go to bed so the next morning would finally arrive. I was always a little happy to get one of the less-desirable presents on these Christmas Eves, since it meant a bigger build-up to tomorrow's main event. Perhaps a small Legos kit, maybe a book, just anything that I didn't have to devote two hours to in order to fully enjoy.

Today's card fits right in with that tradition. A great card by any objective measure, but something that won't keep me up at night. I may listen for those reindeer hooves for a few minutes tonight, but I'll soon drift off and somberly slide into December 25th.

Merry Christmas, and tomorrow... a savior.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

2009 Card-vent Calendar: December 23

December 23, 2009:
1990 Score #566 Bo Jackson All-Star MVP

The 1989 All-Star Game in Anaheim, California, was one of the first I can remember watching. I was in Fargo, North Dakota on a family vacation where we were staying a few nights with friends of the parents. The days were spent at a local water slide park that had exactly one water slide, and one of the nights was spent watching Bo Jackson hammer a ball thrown by Rick Reuschel into the centerfield seats. I wish I had gotten to see more of Bo Jackson playing baseball, or been old enough to truly appreciate his skill.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

2009 Card-vent Calendar: December 22

December 22, 2009:
2007 Kellogg NA Co. #NNO Pop Tarts Cinnamon Roll

What's been going on this year? First a Kool-Aid on-package premium card, and now one from Pop Tarts?!?! Might this signal the imminent return of unlicensed baseball cards on food packaging in the year 2010? I hope so. Put them shits on a package of canned pickled beets mixed with liverwurst paste and herring detritus and I'm buying it for that sweet Luke Hochevar card in a plain blue cap.

Now I have a new phrase to use for the new year at school: "What'cha got cinnamon for brains or something?" (Invalid for current use because today is the last day of school until January 4, 2010. Sweet to the power of awesome!)

Monday, December 21, 2009

2009 Card-vent Calendar: December 21

December 21, 2009:
1987 Buffalo Bisons Pucko #28 Donald Palmer (BUTCHer)

There does not exist in heaven or on Earth a greater baseball card. No card will ever top this one, so no company should even keep trying. I don't even know why I'm going to bother opening the three remaining doors on this calendar, I'm just going to be let down.

The back reads:
"Donald Palmer has become a folk hero at the War Memorial Stadium as the BUTCHer. In real life, he is Donald Palmer, age 20. He's been with the Bisons for seven years. His specialty is catching baseballs off the screen. Additionally, Donald is the visiting stick boy for the Buffalo Sabres and is a rink guard for the city. Ambitions include being an athletic trainer."

The Buffalo NBC affiliate ran a story on him about a year-and-a-half ago. (425 pounds, holy shit!)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Five-Fiddy Group Break: AL West

It's time to finish up this campaign, so it's on to the AL West. One of the teams in the West truly was the best.

Team: A's
Buyer: Motherscratcher
Favorite Card: 2006 Fleer Tradition #28 Rich Harden

Thoughts: Ummmm, pretty colors? I loved that Tradition set and built the whole thing, but those A's always seem to strike out in these breaks. I couldn't even scan the card straight. Good grief.

Team: Rangers
Buyer: Play at the Plate
Favorite Card: 2002 Upper Deck Piece of History #21 Rafael Palmeiro

Thoughts: This set had the potential to be better than it was. The fronts of the cards are great, if only a little busy. Flip the card over... BAM... exactly the same. You really would need Raffy's Viagra to get very excited about this set. Some decent Rangers were found.

Team: Angels
Buyer: RWH
Favorite Card: 1995 Pinnacle #286 Tim Salmon Swing Men

Thoughts: It was hard for be to get a beat on whether this was a good lot or not. The Angels are always right there at the top, but they don't really have any hobby superstars. Sure, there were a few Guerreros, but starting off in Montreal really seemed to hurt his collectability. Thus, you get the acid freak-out Tim Salmon.

Team: Mariners
Buyer: SpastikMooss
Favorite Card: (Tie) 1999 Upper Deck MVP ProSign #SM Shane Monahan AUTO and 1999 Topps Stadium Club Chrome #SCC20 Ken Griffey, Jr.

Thoughts: The Mariners were truly the star team of this break, as might be expected considering the era. The single autograph that got pulled was not a star, but was the toughest pull of the set (1:216 according to the wrappers). The last stuff I opened was the Stadium Club, and I have to admit I felt a little bad that the single Chrome that came out of that box was a Griffey. I had hoped I could spread the wealth around a little, but that's how it goes. There were also plenty of A-Rod and Griffey inserts and base cards, less than half of which are shown below. Best team by a mile.

Keep an eye out for a new cheapo group break coming very soon. I am going to tinker with the format a little, so hopefully I can get rid of all of the cards. I have a feeling it might be a race to get the Mariners. (No calling shotgun unless the car is within sight, if you know what I mean.)

2009 Card-vent Calendar: December 20

December 20, 2009:
1993 Upper Deck #472 Mark Kelso

I wonder what it was like to have been in the stands that fateful day. Sitting on your hands for warmth, anticipating the non-stop action of the no-huddle offense, praying the Buffalo temperatures remain just high enough keep your cup of hot chocolate from freezing the next time you set it down.

What was it like to see Mark Kelso emerge from the locker room, sprint down the hallway, and when he reached the mouth of that exit, pick up the ornamental Buffalo Bills helmet tunnel and claim it as his own for that game? How many got to witness this watershed event in American, nay, world history?

And how would it have felt to be a wide receiver that happened to wander into Kelso's zone of coverage? What are you thinking when a guy is coming at you with a full size Weber grill on his head? Do you have flashbacks to the first time you saw Spaceballs?

These things should keep you up at night, kids.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Five-Fiddy Group Break: AL Central

Back to the group break. We're down to the last two divisions. In the AL Central, the White Sox and Royals got no love from the readership here. Let's see what else was pulled.

Team: Twins
Buyer: Zpop
Favorite Card: 1995 Pinnacle #340 Kirby Puckett

Thoughts: I think the Kirby came out of the tin in a random stack of cards. Kind of a no-brainer to pick him, although there was also a nice early-years card of David Ortiz.

Team: Indians
Buyer: Saints of the Cheap Seats
Favorite Card: (Tie) 1998 Upper Deck Collector's Choice #352 Omar Vizquel and #358 Chad Ogea

Thoughts: The Collector's Choice box was very good to the Indians. There were no less than four one-per-pack gray parallels that were Indians, but the base cards are the real stars of the show. First there's the polite, genteel Omar dutifully trying to return a pen to an autograph hound. It's a beautiful day outside, and Omar has a look on his face that suggests that he would be pleased by nothing more than that pen getting back to its rightful owner. This is only a guess, but I'd imagine that he's using nothing louder than his "indoor voice."
Then there's Chad Ogea. He has clearly forgotten the lesson learned by Omar Olivares five years previous. To reiterate: "SAVING SEATS IS NOT ALLOWED." If necessary, I will create a hand-drawn poster to remind everyone, complete with an incorrectly apostrophe-laden "SEAT'S."

Team: Tigers
Buyer: Grand Cards
Favorite Card: 1996 Score #424 John Flaherty

Thoughts: Since this set isn't really held in very high esteem, I haven't shown off many of these. This card takes a break from the lackluster photography of 1996 Score. There's just something so primal, almost arising from the reptilian part of our brain, that emerges when a high pop foul is hit close to the plate. It's ninety percent physical and reactionary, but the other ten percent in the interesting part. While the penalty for missing a pop foul is minimal, it's still a catch the player is expected to make, despite its high degree of difficulty. There's a mad scramble to shed oneself of the protective shell, locate what might be a very hard-to-see object, and then maneuver oneself into a position to make the play. Tough stuff.

2009 Card-vent Calendar: December 19

December 19, 2009:
1989 Collegiate Collection #194 N.C. State Cheerleaders

It's really hard to get that into college basketball during the month of December, but perhaps this card will inspire someone to hunker down today and watch six or seven hours of basketball that they really have no rooting interest in at all. Not me, of course, but maybe somebody out there.

Whatever you decide to do today, make sure you have cold, refreshing Coca-Cola Classic by your side. I don't exactly know what compelled me to make that statement, it's just a feeling I have.

North Carolina State cheerleading, according to the back of this card, placed in the top four at the National Championships each year between 1983 and 1989, taking first in 1986. Believe it or not, Dereck Whittenburg is one of the male cheerleaders on this card. The miracle of photography makes it look as if that girl has been suspended in mid-air for the past twenty years, but she is actually safely on her way to the waiting arms of Lorenzo Charles, who will catch and dunk her.

Friday, December 18, 2009

2009 Card-vent Calendar: December 18

December 18, 2009:
1983 Fleer #206 Steve Garvey

Steve Garvey has a motel room reserved under the name "Garve Stevey," and you are invited. If you choose to accept, you will be encouraged to stroke his arm hair. See you at 10:30.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

On-Location Reporting: Baseball and Burgers

Yes, I am still doing the Five-Fiddy Group Break... the AL Central and West will be posted this weekend, and all of the NL stuff has been mailed. On a related note, I have to share with you the unusual request and the subsequent fulfillment of this request that involved loads of delicious, not-so-greasy fast food.

If you are fortunate enough to live in an area that has a Culver's restaurant nearby, I don't have to tell you how good the food is. Their Butter Burgers are the best ones available in this area (well, maybe second after Kopp's), and the custard is heavenly. As chance would have it, dayf wanted in on the group break, and he also had a favor to ask. Apparently his workplace has some dealings with the Culver's chain, even though there are none to be found the the metro Atlanta area. In an effort to be seen as a team player, he requested that I, resident of the state where Culver's can trace its origins, send him some memorabilia that he could proudly display at his desk whenever the stuffed suits should happen to walk by. Fast food is still considered a treat at the Thorzul household, so I had no problem trying to fulfill this request.

The franchise nearest to me is actually a half mile or so south of Miller Park, and being locally owned, it is decked out with some great baseball gear, including several mounted and framed original 1960s and 1970s cards. The problem with this, however, is that during this holiday season, these frames have been covered with wrapping paper in order to create a more festive atmosphere in the restaurant. It looks like big, half-inch deep presents are hanging on the walls. I get it, but I am not exactly thrilled with the choice. Thankfully, a couple of year-round decoratons were left untouched. Here is a shot of two of the pennants Milwaukee has been able to display, the 1957 World Series title and the 1982 AL Championship.

Just past the drink dispenser sits an even cooler piece of memorabilia. How many hamburger joints in this world can boast a signed Warren Spahn jersey and photograph on its wall? How awesome is that?

Once the holidays are behind us, I'm sure the interior decoration scheme will return to normal. A proper post will surely be made.

As for dayf, I got him a whole bunch of swag for his cubicle. He's getting a genuine fries wrapper...

...and a flyer for Culver's Late Night Specials. I had no idea they even had tacos and nachos on their menu. I'm usually in my pajamas by 9 p.m., so I might not make it often, but I'll put forth the effort some night.

These are actually the two worst things I sent to dayf, so I'll let him show off the real treasures of the package once he receives them. If there's a Culver's near you, go get a Snack Pack. If not, write your congressman.