Sunday, February 19, 2017

A Mysterious Benefactor

For the second time now, a man that I'll forever refer to as Skokie Tom has surprised me with an unannounced and needed Conlon single for my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection binder.  To be completely honest, I am not even sure how Tom got my address so that he could bestow these mysterious gifts upon me; however, I am certainly not complaining about the situation.

Much like the Vic Keen piece before him, the player depicted here received their first ever baseball card, many years overdue, in the Conlon Collection, despite spending a fairly significant amount of time in the Major Leagues.  I guess that's what playing the bulk of your career during World War II, when most materials and production were diverted to the war effort, will do to ya:

Jim Gleeson was an outfielder who originally cracked the Big Leagues in 1936 for a brief trial with the Indians, as seen on the 1991 Conlon card seen above.  "Gee Gee" failed to break into the Cleveland outfield rotation and was sold to the Yankees after the conclusion of the season.  While with the Big Apple organization. Jimbo was buried even further down the depth chart and stayed trapped in the minors until 1939, when he was sold again, this time to the Cubs.

After blowing into the Windy City, Jim quickly became a semi-regular in the outfield, making his way into 111 games in '39 and 129 games in '40.  Rotating through the three positions, Gleeson had his career year in the latter, posting a .313/.389/.470 batting line, even earning some down-ballot MVP votes.

Jim Gleeson taking practice hacks with the Cubs, circa 1940

Unfortunately for Gleeson, the Cubs of that time were exceptionally mediocre; though, perhaps, that's why he was able to see such regular action.  In December of 1940, "Gee Gee" was swapped to the defending World Series Champion Reds, with Bobby Mattick, for Billy Myers.  Unfortunately for Jim, the glass slipper broke - his batting average slacked. his power absolutely disappeared, and his playing time decreased (.233/.340/.296 in 102 games) as the Reds drifted back to third place.

He got nine more games in 1942 before the Reds gave up on the 30 year old fly-chaser, trading him to the St. Louis Cardinals.  After serving our country for three years in World War II and sticking out six more campaigns in the minors, Jimbo would never again crack a Major League Roster.  However, that said, he would go on to have a long and respected career as a minor league manager, scout and MLB coach, mostly with the Yankees organization.

Now, I know more about Jim Gleeson, one-hit wonder extraordinaire, than I do about the man who forwarded this needed card to me, Skokie Tom.  he picture above is what I imagine this benefactor from the Chicago suburb to look like, all shadowy and mysterious and such.  Although, I do know that Skokie Tom must have a particular interest in the Conlon Collection sets, seeing as both of the cards he gifted upon me hail from those checklists.  So, I can say for certain that he's got excellent, refined cardboard tastes.

With the addition of Jim Gleeson to my CATRC, I currently stand with 1,479 out of 2,055 Chicago Cubs, for a 71.97% completion rate.  Thank you Skokie Tom for your generosity; if there is anything I can send back your way to return the favor, anything you collect, please let me know because I'd love to build you a return package.

In the meantime, I'm left to wonder...

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Free Hockey!

A very happy National Hockey Card Day to you all!  I hope that you went out to your local card shop (or the hockey Hall of Fame, if you're in Canada) to celebrate appropriately. 

If you are unfamiliar with this most hallowed hockey holiday, much like the newly resuscitated National Baseball Card Day, Upper Deck has been offering free packs of an exclusive set to collectors, each February, for three or so years now.  At participating locations, patrons will receive one pack of these festive cards just for walking in the door, no purchase necessary.  That said, I've noticed many a shop offering more to customers who plop down a little cold, hard cash on the counter, as well.  But, I digress...  the most important thing here is FREE CARDS!!!

So, you better believe that I hopped in my car this unseasonably warm and decidedly non-hockey-like morning to claim my cards gratis.  

Here's the deal with the set.  The checklist for the 19 card set features two, distinct sets for each of the United States and Canada, with a focus on players and teams from the respective nations. On the Land of Liberty side, the subsets include American Icons (legendary U.S. born stars), Stars in Stripes (current U.S. native standouts) and America's Rookies (pretty self explanatory).  Additionally, there are some super rare, autograph cards with ridiculously long odds.  However, those definitely are not the focus on this low-end set; this is all about drawing new collectors into the cardboard trap.

The Blackhawks have a handful of names on the State-side checklist, including rookie Tyler Motte, who's card I was most hoping to pull.  Once I got inside my busier than usual LCS, I was immediately offered a coveted pack by a kindly and attentive employee.  As a courtesy, I did my best to check out the store and make a true purchase, but there just wasn't anything to catch my eye, this time around.  Plus, I was anxious to open my free pack and see how I did.  I guess I'll just have to spend a little bit more next time.

So, how'd I do, eh?

As you can see by the picture at the top of the post, taken on the console of my automobile, I wasn't even able to make it home before I tore open the pack.  When I saw this young and spry Eddie Olczyk staring back at me as the first card in the stack, I knew the trip had been worth the gasoline.

Joe Pavelski, center/right wing for the San Jose Sharks, hails from Plover, Wisconsin and, in fact, he won a silver medal as a member of the United States national men's ice hockey team at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.  He is definitely a Star in Stripes.

Matthews might play north of the border, for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but the hot rookie hails from San Ramon, California and does not shy away from pride for his native land.  In fact, Auston got in a bit of hot water with his fan-base due to his openly cheering for Team USA during the World Cup of Hockey, earlier this season.  I guess this means no rookie Motte card for me - c'est la vie.

Here we have another current, U.S. born star in Jonathan Quick, goalie extraordinaire for the L.A. Kings and native of Milford, Connecticut.  Quick has twice been an Olympian for Team USA, in 2010 and 2014, the latter of which he served as the started between the posts.

We're almost done here - one more in this five-card freebie to go:

Blackhawks hot pack!

Looks like I definitely ended up with the right giveaway, with my second American Icon turning out to be Windy City favorite, Jeremy Roenick.   Both Jeremy and the lead-off Eddie will look quick nice in my Blackhawks collection.

There was one more "card" to close out the free fun, a checklist for the American version of the set:

As you can see, I was lucky enough to pull half of the Chicago hockey content in just one pack - I'll take that luck, any day.  But, those are the only two cards that I'm wed to from this pack-ripping experience; if you'd like to claim any of the other four cards that were displayed above, please let me know and I will gladly set them aside for you.

In summation, I would certainly say that Upper Deck's National Hockey Card Day 2017 was an all-around success, at least personally.  Would I have liked to walk away with a rookie card of Tyler Motte?  Without a doubt; however, pulling two Blackhawks cards from a five card pack is a more than pleasant surprise.  I don't normally have that kind of luck when it comes to "ripping wax."

Did anybody else out there on the blogosphere take part in the National Hockey Card Day festivities? If so, how did you do?  Feel free to share you experiences in the comment section below.

Meanwhile, on a related note, hopefully Topps will announce a 2017 date for National Baseball Card Day.  I adore free cards.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Baseball Every Night

Pitchers and catchers have reported, position players are due in by tomorrow, and we are just over a week away from Spring Training games being played in ballparks across Arizona and Florida.  Weather-wise, spring has sprung a touch early here in Chicago, as well, with temperatures in the 60's all throughout the weekend.  Isn't all of this lovely?

Soon, we'll be back to having baseball every night.  In advance of that joyous inevitability, Peter, from the ever-so-properly named blog Baseball Every Night, was kind enough to offer up some Cubbies from the newly-released Flagship set, in return for some goodies that I sent his way a little while ago.  Apparently, Peter had some good luck with the Chicago cards in his dealings with 2017 Topps, so far.  I, of course, am never going to turn down free baseball cards, so I gladly took him up on his generous offer:

We begin with a pair of live-armed, normally reliable relievers who had a bit of a rough second half  in 2016.  Here's hoping that Pedro "Hats to the Left" Strop and Hector Rondon can right the ship and return to their spots as key, late-inning set up men for new closer Wade Davis.  "Stropey" sure looks enthused about his prospects for the upcoming season.

Next, the team card for your 2016 World Series Champions, the Chicago Cubs.  This photo appears to show the club walking back to the dugout after one of their 103 regular season wins; as such, you get a great view of a handful of players' and coaches' backs.  As annoying as that is for a card that is supposed to showcase the whole team, at least we get a great look at one of those ubiquitous "W" flags, as it's proudly displayed by an enthused North Side fan.

Moving right along, here we have a pair of stars from the League Leaders subset.  Hate it or love it, the traditional, three-player cards are gone, in favor of singular cards for the top three in each category.  I, a team collector who would prefer not to have other, random teams infiltrate my collection, am entirely in favor of this.  However, I would like it if these individual cards showcased the player's ranking in their respective category on the front side; that's my only gripe.

Lastly, to close the PWE out, here's a lovely piece from the 2016 World Series Highlights subset, a set which I still have trouble believing that the Cubs are a part of.  This particular gem, showcases Addison Russell's stadium-shaking grand salami from Game Six of the World Series, a game in which the blossoming, young shortstop knocked in six total runs in a do-or die situation.  This is how stars are born.

Thank you, Peter for sending these gems my way - your kindness is greatly appreciated.  I know you said that I didn't have to send anything back to you; that said, if I were you, I wouldn't be surprised if a return envelope hit your mailbox in the next few weeks.  Anyway, between Peter, Dimebox Nick, and my own ripping experiences, I have to be getting close to the full 2017 team set by now.  Perhaps I should actually sit down and do some listing and compiling this weekend?

Maybe.  It depends on if this 60 degree weather actually holds out.  Hurry up, baseball season!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Resistance is Futile

I should never, ever go to Las Vegas.

This past weekend, I learned a little something about myself from my most recent trip to Dave and Busters.  Have you ever played those coin pusher games at a DB, Chuck E. Cheese's, county fair, etc.?  Well, they can be quite addicting in any form; however, when I discovered that the adult arcade had a new spin on the game, which featured trading cards as a reward, I was absolutely hooked.  The new-ish (it's been around since mid-summer) pusher is branded with the ever popular Star Trek franchise and, along with coins, pushes character cards as prizes.

Now, I'm not even a big fan of Star Trek.  I've seen maybe three or four episodes of the original television series, never seen a single movie (including the remakes), nor have I watched a single episode of the follow up series.  Personally, I was always more of a Star Wars guy and I only had room in my heart for one sci-fi universe.  Meanwhile, growing up, my better half was the exact opposite.

The wife is a minor Trekkie, as is a good portion of her family, as well.  So, when we were out celebrating her new job this past weekend, as we moseyed past the Starship Enterprise emblazoned coin pushers, she turned to me and said, "you better win me a Captain Piccard."  Okay then, I'd better "make it so!"

Then, forty-five minutes or so later, I still hadn't pushed a single, darn card down and I'd pumped more money into the machine than I care to admit.  I did get a whole bunch of points/tickets for use in the D&B store though, so there was that.  That said, I think my wife was even getting embarrassed at that point; but, I'll be damned if I'm not leaving there without a Captain Picard on her big night.  Resistance was futile.

Thus, why I should never go to Las Vegas, I'd come back destitute, wearing a barrel like in the old Loony Toons gags.

The image above was taken just as I was about to finally call it a loss and you can see just how tantalizingly close to the edge all of those cards are.  Even after all of that time wasted, I just couldn't help but allow myself one more attempt before I went on to play skee ball...

...and it finally worked out!  On my last attempt, I finally managed to dislodge a card and it just so happened to be the one and only Captain Picard, as expertly played by Sir Patrick Stewart during the Next Generation era.  Hot damn!  In the end, I think I ended up being happier about the triumph than my wife.

The first set of cards featured Trek legends from the 1960's TV series including Kirk, Spock, Scotty, and even the Tribbles.  Sometime, post-October, Next Gen cards were added, but I can't find how many there are in this second series.  Furthermore, each card is also available in a limited, foil-enhanced version, because the parallel scourge just cannot be stopped.

The cards themselves, aren't quite standard size - they're on a thicker than usual card stock (gotta be able to handle the fall, after all) and are about business card-sized.  Additionally, they are apparently redeemable for extra D&B tickets/points, as the bar-code on the back would indicate; however, after fighting with that machine more desperately then Captain Kirk battled the Gorn, I wasn't about to turn the Captain over for such frivolities.

As an added bonus, the Next Generation Captain wasn't the only card that bounced out on that last attempt.  While my wife got her favorite Star Trek character card, I was ecstatic to find that I was able to land mine as well - Sulu.  Again, I don't have much familiarity with the franchise, George Takei happens to be a personal favorite.  His cameos in shows like Psych, the Simpsons and American Dad are always hilarious and he's quite the amusing and outspoken follow on Twitter and Facebook too. 

Not to mention, his rise from a Japanese internment camp during WWII and his staunch advocacy for gay rights make him all the more fascinating and a-ok in my book.  Also, I had no idea that Sulu eventually went on to be the captain of the Enterprise.  See?  I really don't know much about Star Trek, at all.

In summation, it took me forty-five minutes and who knows how many swipes to win a pair of trading cards that are probably only worth a quarter a pop - this is why I should probably steer clear of those tempting slot machines in Las Vegas.  Nevertheless, I'm a happy camper with my George Takei oddball card.

Now - can we get a coin pusher with a baseball theme?  Please?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Dime Boxin' On My Turf

This past Saturday, like many a time before, I made my way to the local "Sports Cards and More" card show in nearby Orland Park, IL.  It's, by far, the closest, regular card show to my current residence and, as such, I have going there semi-regularly for about a year now.

The experience is usually a productive one, affording me the opportunity to pick up a few odds and ends for my various all-time roster collections.

For instance, some discount boxes uncovered a few new Bears cards to add to my Bears All-Time Roster Collection.  Here we have a shiny, Chrome Gabe Carimi (doing his best Superman impression), one of my favorite names in Chicago football history in Marc Colombo, my first card of super short-termer Kordell Stewart as a Bear and a retro-inspired Upper Deck single featuring running back Anthony Thomas.

The pickin's for my Blackhawks All-Time Roster Collection weren't so slim either.  In fact, these vintage O-Pee-Chee finds didn't cost me a cent, as the vendor was feeling particularly generous that unseasonably warm, weekend afternoon.  Sacrebleau!

Reg Kerr might be the only one depicted wearing an indian-head sweater; however, the other three guys did skate with the Chicago hockey franchise, as well, for brief periods of time.

There were even some ten-cent ballers to be found for my Bulls All-Time Roster Collection, the binder of mine which receives the least attention.  Demonstrative of that point is the fact that the Derrick Rose seen above is my first "traditional" card of the guy.  Also, I was uber-happy to come across my first card of D-Wade in his hometown colors, seeing as I work for the same school he attended.

Of course, the main focus of my collecting habit is my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection and I was able to make a couple of small additions to that tome, as well.  I have a weird prejudice against horizontal cards, like Chapman's '16 Update card; so, when I came across this World Series Highlight subset single of the former Cubs closer, I pounced.  Also, I have to say, I'm not sorry to see him go back to New York and that has nothing to do with his pitching skills.

Furthermore, I was even able to dig up an entirely new name to add to my CATRC binder, a feat that's getting more and more difficult.  This isn't the real deal, it's a latter day, CCC reprint of the original T205 tobacco card featuring Dave Shean, but it definitely gets the job done.  Shean was a well-traveled, utility infielder, who spent time with seven clubs during his nine-year career, including a scant 54-game stint with the Cubs in 1911.

These barely-there types from over a century ago are always tough to track down, I was thrilled to cross Shean's name off of my "need" list.

Shean in 1911, with the Boston Doves.  Image courtesy of The Library of Congress

So, all in all, a few scattered needs for my various side-projects and a new name for my main collecting focus, all for just a few bucks - that's a pretty standard wrap up for a trip to the Orland Park show, for me.  With all that said, this particular day wasn't exactly business as usual.  You see, I had some notable company with me that day.

The man, the myth, the legend, Dime Box Nick, made his way down from the North Side to dig through the discount boxes at the very same show. It was honor to rifle through the dime boxes with the master behind one of the first blogs I discovered and to watch him work his magic.  He came across several awesome finds that he covered here, last night.  Additionally, being the kind, gentleman that he is, Nick also brought along a team-baggy full of Cubs cards, just for me.

This kind offering covered many bases, including a hefty sampling of the very latest baseball product to hit the shelves and last year's version of the next set to hit the market, Topps Heritage.  I've got to be close to completing the 2017 Flagship team set by now and any Kris Bryant insert is welcome in my collection.  I don't know if you know this, but Cubs stuff is hot right now (especially Sparkles here), especially in Chicago.

Speaking of Heritage, there was also this older incarnation to be found within the bag, featuring injury stop-gap Kenny Lofton, from the 2004 edition.  Lofton was acquired at the trade deadline to replace the DL'ed Corey Patterson for the stretch run in 2003 and immediately became one of my favorite players.  Thus, any Cubs card of Kenny from his all-to-brief tenure is always a plus.

These two cards have Dime Box Nick written all over them, featuring wonderful, photographic examples of a couple of his ample mini-collections.  I must admit, Ismael Valdez (with a Z, not an S) looks fairly comfortable at the plate for a pitcher and he did post a .286 batting average during his brief stint in the Windy City.  Meanwhile, the photographer behind the lens of this Stadium Club play at the plate should get an award - perfectly timed and perfectly framed!  I wonder if Rick Wilkins was able to hold onto the ball?

From here, the baggy got a little playful, as in, cards that one would typically use to play a game.  That mound conference shot hails from the old MLB Showdown game that was put out by Wizards of the Coast during the early aughts and makes for a neat oddity.  At the right, we have a card from one of my favorite games of all-time, UNO, featuring Cubs legend Sammy Sosa blowing one of his famous kisses.  Much like Sammy's tenure ended poorly, anyone who saw this card had their turn end poorly, in that they would be forced to draw four more cards.

Pretty sweet cards, huh?  Well, there was one more that stole the spotlight, in my humble opinion:

This 1964 Topps single of Ron Santo has seen better days - it's creased, folded, rounded, faded, ripped, water-logged and just holding it in your hands, one might expect it to disintegrate just from touching it.  Obviously, whoever owned this card, in it's previous life, was none too careful with it.  This begs the question, why?  Was this vintage HOF'er owned by a kid, who kept it in rubber-banded in his back pocket, flipped it against walls and carried it with him wherever he went?  Or, perhaps this kid was a South Sider who didn't care too much for the Cubbies and took his distaste out on poor Ronnie?  Or, was it just forgotten and lost to the elements.  Inquiring minds wish to know.

If cards could talk, right?

Thank you Nick for kindly gifting me with such a stellar brick of cardboard and for joining me in a collective cardboard quest at the "Sports Cards and More" show; it was a phenomenal experience, all the way around.  We must do this again some time!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Bullish on Valentines Day

My first Valentines Day as a married man - wow, that's weird to think about.  Now that this poor woman is stuck with me for the rest of her life, I hope that she's okay with receiving the following as her February 14th gift:

Just kidding, of course.  Our proper V-Day celebration took place at the Chicago Auto Show, this past Sunday, as per our annual tradition.  Furthermore, tonight we'll be sure to honor the occasion with dinner out on the town (hooray for gift cards!), a bottle of wine, and a late-night showing of the Lego Batman Movie, which looks absolutely hilarious.  It's bound to be a good night.

Anyway, I wasn't kidding about purchasing those NBA valentines, though.  Every year, I pick up a box of these little cards from Walmart because I'm a child and can't help myself.  They make for fun, oddball additions to my tiny basketball card collection and, this year, I've taken to using the extras (32 cards, 8 players... you do the math) as note cards for my outgoing trade packages... again, I'm a giant man-child.

Each year, there's usually a Bull that finds their way into these products.  In years past, it was the once-popular, now-enigma Derrick Rose.  Now that he's a Knick, "Jimmy Buckets" steps up as the Chicago representation.  Butler is a budding superstar and is, by far away, the best player on the purgatory-doomed Bulls' roster.

Oddly enough, since I don't pursue my Bulls All-Time Roster Collection with the same fervor as my other similar Windy City accumulations, this is my very first card of #21, so this Valentine now rests comfortably in that binder, at least until I come across a standard-sized trading card.

These "cards" are slightly longer and wider than your normal, 2.5 x 3.5 baseball card and come in rolled-up, perforated strips that are stuffed within the cardboard box that you see at the top of this post.  This leads to a great deal of warping and ripping.  If these had any collector's value, at all, you certainly wouldn't be seeing any PSA 10's out of this product; of course, they are designed to be folded at the mid-section, by grubby little kid fingers anyway.

Meanwhile, the product features major stars from across the NBA, superimposed in front of a brightly-colored background, with some sort of light or motion pattern.  They definitely catch your attention.

Additionally, they have a pair of slits in the bottom right corner of each card so that little kids can affix little heart-shaped tattoos to their messages.  The tattoos are actually just little stickers, which, upon opening, I proceeded to plaster all over the back of my wife's shirt.  I don't know that she was nearly as amused as I was, but I still think it was totally worth it.  Remember - man-child.

It's hard to argue with the player selection.  These men represent a pretty decent cross-section of the game's biggest and most marketable hardwood stars, with the above two gents being the cream of the crop.  No matter how you feel about LeBron or Steph personally, you cannot argue their star power in today's game.  Nevertheless, it was still the underappreciated-outside-of-Chicago Jimmy Butler that was the biggest draw to me.

The strip concludes with one more player; however, his Valentine is a touch different:

For whatever reason, Damian Lillard of the Portland Trailblazers is considerably wider than the rest of the bunch; it's just short of twice as wide.  My best guess is that the manufacturers (The Paper Magic Group) were left with an odd amount of space left over on each strip and, thus, decided to simply expand Lillard's card, since there wasn't enough room to add another player.  But, that's just a guess.

So, there you have it - the comprehensive look at a box of basketball Valentines that you didn't know you wanted.

The NBA has been pumping these out into the market for several years now; it looks like they've been around in some form or another since the late 90's.  Last year, their offering was lenticular (think Sportflics), smaller in size and square.  I, for one, welcome the return to more "normal" printing methods; although, the cardstock suffers in the exchange.  That said, again, these are meant for little kids to pass around, folded, doodled on and sticker affixed, to their classmates.  I'm the only weirdo who buys these for their trading card collection.

The 2016 edition of NBA's Valentine line

I truly wish that Major League Baseball did a set of these every year, as I would totally plop down my hard-earned money on a box of those every St. Valentines day; however, we all know how stingy they are with their licensing.  *Sigh*...maybe someday.

In the meantime, my wife makes up for this shortcoming and truly gets me and my inner man-child.  Just look at what she tagged me in on Facebook:

She's definitely a keeper.