Friday, January 6, 2017

Steven Stamkos and the rookie card

There is a certain generation of sports fans that are rapidly approaching (or are firmly in the grip of) middle age. One of the shared characteristics of this demographic is that they were raised with the belief that sports cards could be an investment instead of something you flip against the wall, put in your bike spokes or wrap in rubber bands and stuff in a shoe box (oh the horror)...

Read the rest here....

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The State of the Blog 2017

So.  Quick question.  What’s been more active over the winter, this blog or the Baltimore Orioles front office?

The answer.

It’s a tie.

Now that we have the snarky opening out of the way, happy 2017 to all of those readers that I still have left.  Sorry to have left you all. I know you’ve missed the random, grammatically-challenged postings about hockey, trading cards and baseball.  No, really there was at least one baseball post last year (well, kind of about baseball)!

The good news is that there should be more baseball stuff this year.  I’m still writing about hockey over at Raw Charge, and  I don’t see that stopping for at least the next 89 days since I managed to talk myself into a marathon writing project (job security, baby!).  You’ll see an occasional link here when I managed to convince them that hockey cards and memorabilia are interesting to our readers.

As for the overall state of this blog, I am going to try and post at least weekly, more so once I finish binge watching Gilmore Girls (don’t judge me!) and it’s going to be a mix of things sports and randomness.  There may be some politics thrown in there as well.  I’m torn between the feeling that Mr. Trump is the worse person ever elected to be president of this country and the sense that he will be so ineffective once he pisses off everyone in Washington that it’s not worth even worrying about.  Of course, he could also be the one that brings actual nuclear war into being, but if that happens I really don’t have to care about upsetting readers now do I?

Speaking of readers, 2016 was the busiest year for this blog, despite the fact that I posted almost nothing during the last three months.  At the beginning of the year I always like to take a look and see what is garnering traffic.  Lately not much, but that’s on me.  I do love the fact that the leading search for my site is still: “Sidney Crosby shirtless”.  So thank you for that.

He’s also the recipient of the most popular postwhere I wrote about his return from one of his concussions. (Wow, great job by me with Tebow, Baltimore hero Dave Johnson and BizNasty2.0 references).  While it’s the most popular one, my favorite remains the one I wrote about Matt Cooke and Vinny Lecavalier.  Unfortunately, five years later I have to conclude that Vinny was never the same player after the surgery so yeah, I guess Cooke did destroy his career.

Looking back at some of those posts I wonder if I’ve gotten any better as a write.  I’m not sure I have.  I have become better about editing, not perfect but better.  I’ve found that when I write a lot or I write about stuff that I feel I “have” to write about it loses a little umph.  There are dozens of post that I wish I could re-write and erase the original from the digital world.  Even now with the Raw Charge stuff, every time I hit “submit for approval” I’m waiting for my editor to delete everything and curse me out.  (luckily it hasn’t happened yet).

I also notice that I use the phrase “unfortunately” a lot to start sentences.  Maybe it’s because I’ve had to write about a lot of bad teams over the years.  There are other crutches that I notice when I re-read old posts, but, hey I’m lazy and proud of it.

I am thankful for a lot of things that this blog has brought about.  First of all, the fact that it led to writing for Raw Charge, an actual real-life, site that people outside of my immediate family read.  So many thanks to John Fontana for offering me a chance and to Achairya for keeping me aboard after the regime change.

That promotion led me to an actual real life press pass for a professional sports team.  Granted the team is 2 hours away and I don’t get over there enough to truly take advantage of it, but it’s nice to know that this untrained, hack of a blogger was actually accepted into a press box.

Although my work schedule doesn’t allow me to cover it anymore, getting ringside press passes for local boxing events was awesome.  Being an accredited writer was never something I’d thought I’d be even when I was writing for the Saint Leo Monarch (#MonarchForever) back in college.

Many thanks to J.B. over at the Sports Card Blogroll for keeping me on the rolls even though I barely posted lately and when I did, most of the posts were not even about Sports Cards.  JB does a yeoman’s job of compiling the best writers about the hobby, please visit the site to find more bloggers that do a better job then a do talking about pieces of cardboard.

Also, for all of the people/readers I’ve met through this blog, thank you for the good times (and free hockey cards).  Y’all have been so kind over the years and I’m in debt to all of you.

Wow, this got to sounding like a farewell somehow.  This blog is not going anywhere.  Hopefully 2017 is as much fun in the sports world as 2016 was (could use a few less deaths, though). See you folks out there on the internets.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Lightning and 2016-17 Upper Deck Hockey Series One

Mid-November is a great time for hockey. The season has settled in and we start to find out what teams are good (Rangers) and what teams are bad (Canucks). Statistics start regressing to the norm (Auston Matthews is not scoring 328 goals) and we start knowing which rookies are going to stay (Jakob Chychrun) and which are going back to their junior team (Mathew Barzal).
It also means that Upper Deck is releasing the first series of its flagship base set. Other hockey card sets have already been released, most notable Upper Deck MVP and Upper Deck O-Pee-Chee (a moment to remind everyone that Upper Deck has the exclusive license to produce NHL-branded cards. Other companies can make cards, but can't feature the team names or logos).

read the rest here.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

From the Back of the Closet - a 1993-94 Tampa Bay Lightning Game Program

From time to time I’ll dig into the back of the closet and find some piece of Lightning memorabilia to feature. Today I’ll look at a program from the 1993-94 Tampa Bay Lightning season (the first season to be played in the Thunderdome). Apologies that some of the photos are cut off, the program was a bit awkward to manipulate in the scanner.

Read the rest here......

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Did You Hear? The Cubs Are in The World Series

So what do you do when the Chicago Cubs are on the verge of clinching their first World Series appearance since World War II and you happen to live a short walk away from Wrigley Field? Why you grab a camera, hope you can figure out the lighting and forget that your alarm is set to go off at 5.30AM the next day.

Last Saturday night the Cubs completed their series comeback and eliminated the Los Angeles Dodgers to advance to the World Series. I, along with apparently 299,999 other people, wandered up to the intersection of Clark and Addison to celebrate the Cubbies first National League Championship since 1945. Here is a bit of what I saw:

The Championship Belt

The games wasn't quite over yet. Sure the Cubs were up 5-0, but nothing is really over until the final out is recorded. Most fans that I ran into seemed nervously confident that the team would hold onto the lead. This guy, outside of the Houndstooth because no one was getting into a bar at this point, was a favorite with the crowd walking by. I didn't have the heart to tell him that he was holding it upside down.

The Waiting

Blockades were up at Clark and Sheffield about two blocks south of the ballpark. I'm not sure what the rickshaw guys were waiting for, no one was leaving that place for a couple of more hours.

The Crowd

Despite the blockade on Clark, Sheffield was open all the way up to Addison. As you can see, groups of people were hanging outside the Wrigleyville bars just trying to get a glimpse of the action on TV.

The Crowd Part II

This is the closest I got to Wrigley. The first picture is looking north at the actual field (you cans see the stadium lights) The second is from the same spot looking south down Sheffield. People were packed in and the only way to move was to jostle them out of the way. Luckily everyone was in a pretty good mood and didn't care. I used my normal strategy of finding a guy bigger than me and following him through the wake. It worked pretty well.

The Win

There was a roar from inside the stadium when the final out was recorded. The crowd outside started celebrating about 1.3 seconds after that roar. Cups of beer were thrown in the air, people hugging, several different rounds of “Go Cubs Go” were being sung by the crowd. Happiness was in the air.

And no, I have idea if that pizza ever made it where it was supposed to go.

Poor Fella

There is a fine line between capturing a moment and intruding on it. I tried to get a better photo but I didn't want to be a dick shoving a camera in his face when his favorite team just did something he probably thought would never happen. I don't think he was drunk, just overwhelmed with emotion. He was mixing in a little laughter, a lot of hugs with his friend, and just a few tears.

He was one of three grown men that I personally saw with tears in their eyes.  I guess when you go 108 years without a World Series things can get emotional.

“Hey man is this for the Chicago Trib?”

Apparently, when you walk around with a decent camera and a backpack people assume you work for a newspaper. I didn't lie, but was a little vague with my answer.

One of the most popular questions I've been asked at this week is,  "So what's up with all the "W" flags?"


Lot's and lots and lots of selfies. Although this might be the only one that didn't have a "W" flag in it.

Idiot on the Lamppost

Not as big of an idiot as these guys, but still a bit of an idiot.

This Suit is Everything

Cubs suit and tie - check
Harry Carey glasses - check
Hulk Hogan "let me hear you" gesture - check.

This is by far my favorite photo of the night.

Wait till...this Year?

He wanted me to take his picture, but Photoshop out the “2015” part. He was not sober.

Who Ya Gonna Call

Inflatable Stay Puft monster with a “W” painted on him. Sure why not.

I did bail out before things got too crazy (again 5:30AM alarm). If winning the NLCS drew a spontaneous crowd of 300,000 people I can only imagine whats going to happen if the impossible does happen.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Zistle Trade 92- Picked up Some O's

I fear this is turning into a “Look at Justin's trades” blog. Well, so be it. There will be more content in the future (promises, promises). For now, enjoy my quest to 100 (trades, don't thing I'm going to live that long). Here is trade number 92. Yup, skipped one, don't worry about it, we'll get there at some point.

Once again we go to Zistle. I reached out to user bdlehman18 for a quick PWE trade. For those who don't trade cards on the internet with strangers PWE stands for Plain White Envelope. When you're only trading a small amount of cards (usually 6 and under) it doesn't make sense to put them in a padded envelope and waste a bunch of money on shipping. Instead you use a regular envelope, some creative protection (usually cardboard) and hope for the best.

PWE can be frowned upon if you don't let the other guy know ahead of time. Or if you're shipping expensive cards. Luckily I don't any of those and Brian was ok with it. I dropped him a few extras I had (including a Goodwin Champions from a box that I had no valid reason for buying).

In return he sent the following:

2013 Topps Trevor Bauer

When you are putting a set together, not every card is going to be sexy. Sometimes you have to grind out the collecting and pick up cards that elicit exactly zero emotional response. Thus you end up trading for Trevor Bauer base cards.

2010 Topps Nolan Reimold

A double needed card! An Oriole card I didn't have and a card I need for the world's most annoying set – 2010 Topps. This is also, without a doubt, the most tentative fist bump of all time. Anything harder than a gentle whisper of a touch would land Reimold on the DL with a broken wrist.

1994 Topps Cal Ripken

I'm sure I have multiple copies of this card in the Florida vault (i.e. my in-laws house) but I do enjoy this piece of junk era cardboard. It's the perfect use of horizontal framing as it captures Ripken's follow through completely without cutting off an arm or a bat. Well done Topps.

1997 Collectors Choice The BIG Show Eddie Murray

God bless you mid-to-late 90s cards. Foil – check. Random use of sports celebrities to drive an unnecessary insert – check. Random multicolor text on the back of the card – check. Really, look at the back of this thing:

 It took me a few seconds to realize that Upper Deck had mashed two different thoughts together and alternated lines. Why? Why would you do this Upper Deck?

Also, if you look you see that Eddie Murray is rocking the top hand batting glove in this photo. I'm sure this is only interesting to me, but it is the first thing I check out on any Murray card I add to my collection. I am so intrigued I think I'm ready to write him a fan-boy (well fan-middle aged man) letter asking him why the hell he would do that.

I've developed my first theory. Murray was one of the best switch hitters to ever play the game. You could argue that Mickey Mantle is the only one that was better. Even though he was dangerous from both sides it wouldn't be out of the ordinary for a manager to call a reliever in to switch him from left to right or right to left. So if Murray went to hit right-handed he only brought a batting glove for his left hand (most hitters if they wear only one batting glove wear it on their bottom “power”hand). If a manager called a right-handed reliever in to switch Murray around, maybe the slugger didn't like going back to switch batting gloves so he just rolled with it.

Seriously, I thought about this for about five minutes straight. I might have even ignored some things my wife told me while I thought about this. Women, this is why you should never ask us what we're thinking about. This is what we think about.

2015 Topps Stadium Club Bo Jackson

Aww yeah. Bo knows Stadium Club. Not the most action-packed shot, but it did make me wonder – Is this the same fence from Bo's slightly more famous 1987 Topps card? 

I will argue that Jackson's rookie card is one of the ten best cards from the mid-to-late 80s. Not quite the Griffey 1989 Upper Deck, but close. Damn close.

That wraps up another trade, just a few more to get to that magical 100 mark.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

We're Back With A Trade Post

Alright, time to dust off this piece of the internet with a trade post.  As you, my faithful readers, might remember I gave myself a half-ass goal of getting to 100 Zistle trades by the end of the year.  I knocked out about 3 trades and then stopped.  There was no good reason to stopping other than laziness.  God knows it’s not like I’m buying more cards (because JustinG. Is extra broke now. If you’re interested in a nice two-bedroom condo in lovely Florida drop me a line).

But now, like Slim Shady and the Terminator, I’m back and ready to hit that goal.  Last week I completed a small trade a gentleman who goes by the name halos17, a Marty St. Louis fan living in Indiana of all places.  There aren’t many Lightning collectors circulating on the web so it’s always nice to unload some doubles on a fellow fan.

In return he dropped off a handful of cards that I was looking for.

2010 Topps - John Smoltz and Tim Hudson.

Both pitchers in uniforms that they normally aren’t associated with.  Hudson had a pretty good run with his hometown Braves winning 113 games for Atlanta before injuries set him back. Smoltz - not so much in St. Louis. The Hall of Famer signed with the Cardinals after being released by the Red Sox in 2009. At 42 he didn’t have much left in the tank as he went 1-3 in his 7 starts.

It’s just really, really weird seeing him in a St. Louis uniform.  Like Frank Thomas as an Athletic weird.  Or Andy Van Slyke as an Oriole weird. Stadium Club should show their retired stars in oddball uniforms next year.  I wouldn’t mind pulling a Sammy Sosa as a Ranger or Gary Sheffield as a Met card.

Two cards closer to completing that set (only a couple hundred more to go). I really don’t know why I picked this set to complete.  I’m not really a fan of the design and didn’t collect it when it came out (I was in the process of moving to Chicago).  I guess it doesn’t really matter because I’ve started down the road.

1989 Upper Deck - Team Card and Larry Sheets

Speaking of Orioles uniforms, two cards from Upper Deck’s inaugural set. One of these days I’m going to put this whole thing together, I’ve cobbled probably a third of it through random means.  Of course, that Griffey rookie got a little more expensive with his induction.

Did you know that Larry Sheets hit 31 home runs in 1987? That’s more than Eddie Murray (30) and Cal Ripken, Jr (27). He also only walked 31 times in 508 plate appearances, which may be more impressive than the home runs.

2015 Stadium Club - 8 cards

Once I’m financially solvent again (no really, if you want to move to Florida, Largo is a great place to live) I’m buying another box.  This really is my favorite product from the last two years. I thought I was a lot closer to completing it then I actually am (just over 50%), but it’s fun chasing down the missing cards because they all look so good.

Thank you Rob, and here’s to getting 10 more trades done over the next couple of months.

Also, I’ll get this site up and running again. There won’t be much in the way of Lightning content as you can see everything I write over at Raw Charge so expect more card stuff, some baseball (I swear I have thoughts about this O’s team) and some Chicago stuff.

Thank you, as always, for reading.