Thursday, August 30, 2012

2012 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions - First Look

2009 Goodwin Champions was an eagerly waited set which did not disappoint. The set did not return in 2010, which wasn't a surprise as Upper Deck was on the verge of extinction. It came back in 2011 and not knowing what to expect, I bought one blaster. I liked the set and wanted more but didn't see it again. This year I bought 2 blasters, hoping for the best.

As with last year, the set is not really a baseball set, although I think this year they feature more baseball players than last year. Of course, Upper Deck doesn't have a contract with Major League Baseball and is limited in what they can do. They learned in 2010 that MLB would come down on them hard if used MLB trademarks.

This year's set features a 210 card base set with a number of sports represented, retired sports figures, actors, artists and professional eaters (yes!). Cards numbered 151-210 are short-printed but not serial numbered cards.  The short print cards don't seem too hard to get as I pulled 10 of them in the two blasters.

Here's some of the base cards that I thought were interesting.

Mike Schmidt #27

The cards are printed on heavy brown card stock, vs. the grey card stock used in previous years. It's not surprising to see Mike as a golfer. He made a real effort to qualify for the Senior Pro Tour a few years ago, falling just a little short of the qualifications. Notice the blue swirly lines in the upper left corner. I have two cards with this. The other is Nolan Ryan (#108) with the swirly in the upper right. I'm assuming it's some sort of printing defect until I hear different.

John Kruk #109
There is at least one other former Phillie in the set, Steve Carlton. This reminds me of a famous john Kruk quote "Lady, I'm not a athlete, I'm a ball player".

Sonya Thomas #45
Sonya Thomas, all 98 pounds of her, is a professional eater. She was The International Federation of Competitive Eating (IFOCE) Rookie of the Year in 2003.

Bo Jackson #56
Bo knows...archery?

Larry Bird #88
Larry looks to be about 16 years old here.

Sarah Bernhardt #115
This is just a frightening looking getup.

Gale Sayers #117
Perhaps the weirdest card I pulled. Does anyone know the significance of this photo?

Brian Bosworth #132
Another former football player in a strange setting. I didn't know much about The Boz beyond a few lousy movies. He seems to parlayed a 3-year mediocre career and an unpleasant personality into fame.

Doug Flutie #136
Hi there, nice to be with you, glad you could stick around.
Like to introduce Doug Flutie, drums
And Sam Spoons, rhythm pole
And Vernon Dudley Bohay-Nowell, bass guitar
And Neil Innes, piano.
Come in Rodney Slater on the saxophone
With Roger Ruskin Spear on tenor sax.
I, Vivian Stanshall, trumpet.
Say hello to big John Wayne, xylophone
And Robert Morley, guitar.
Billy Butlin, spoons.
And looking very relaxed, Adolf Hitler on vibes.
Princess Anne on sousaphone.

William Sherman #165
 One of the short-print cards. According to Wikipedia, this is a portrait done by acclaimed Civil War photographer, Mathew Brady.

There are several mini parallels. There 150 reproducing the first 150 cards of the base set, then the numbering jumps to 211-231. The cards feature minor league baseball players.  The base minis are a cream color.

Nick Bucci #216
There were 12 packs per box and I pulled 5 minis per box. I got 8 of the regular minis, including the parallels of the Larry Bird and Gale Sayers cards I showed above. I only got one numbered above 210.

Marcell Ozuna #220
I pulled two of the green minis, including one of the minor league players. Upper Deck is not taking any chances with MLB trademarks so the players are in uniforms with the marks photoshopped out.

Blaine Gabbert 
I also pulled on memorabilia card. I don't follow football closely but I see that this guy signed a $12 million 4-year contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars last year.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Roger Clemens debut with the Skeeters

As promised, my write-up of the debut of Roger Clemens with the Sugar Land Skeeters.
First off, it was the first time I've been at Constellation Field, which opened earlier this year. It is a nice looking little ballpark. Attendance was about 7,700, standing room only. They had about a third the number of parking spots needed and we ended up parking in a sea of mud outside the regular parking (it had been raining most of the day).

No word if the ambulance was there in case Roger blew out his arm. My company had a group outing in the Mazda Performance Picnic Plaza. Here's our view of home plate.
Not really great but the food was good (and free since my company paid for it). Above the right and left field bleachers are luxury boxes. Practically everything in the stadium has a corporate name on it.
As you may have guessed the team mascot is a giant mosquito. It probably has a name but I missed it.
Roger was announced and all the camera people ran over and then had to wait for several minutes before he actually appeared.
 Note all the people in the stands with the blue Skeeters shirts. These all had "Clemens" on the back.
We were too far away to get many photos of Roger. This was taken on 10x zoom with my Nikon digital. And the light was getting poor. But I'll say that Roger looked in shape.  He pitched 3 1/3 innings and according to the paper the next day, hit 88 mph on hos fastball. Not quite sure why he was pulled. I'm guessing they had him on a pitch count. Or maybe Roger suddenly thought, "What am I doing out here? I'm a millionaire, I don't need this".

He struck out 3, didn't walk anybody and gave up a single. I can well imagine Roger would be effective against the collection of former weres and never will bes making up this league. The Skeeters when on to win the game 1-0.  One of the Skeeters outfielders had a .111 average after getting a hit in the game. I'm not sure how much further you can fall if you're hitting .111 in the Atlantic League.

As befitting a minor league park there was all kinds of promotions, mostly involving kids, between innings. There was this weird looking collection of cartoon animals that came out between innings. They may be from a Saturday morning cartoon series.
The short thing was named Snail Earnhardt and the tall thing had a name that was a pun on Yao Ming's name. The inning before, a giant clam with legs, named Roger Clamons (get it?) came out and ate somebody. It spit out various items of the guy's clothing and then the guy himself, near naked, who ran off the field.   The promotion for the night was supposed to be a stuntman who was going to set himself on fire and run around the bases after the game. He got scratched.

The game was pretty dull. We left in the 7th because I was afraid it would be a nightmare getting out of the mud. Here are the current standings in the Atlantic League.
Note where all the other teams in the league are. The league's travel budget must have increased substantially to account for the Skeeters. The Skeeters have 23 games to play.

Monday, August 27, 2012

2012 Topps Chrome - First Look

I am completely swamped with baseball cards as a result of the great 2012 Summer Clearance Trade. So I said to myself that I wouldn't buy any new cards until I got what I have cataloged and put away. Then I made the mistake of stopping in Target and found 2012 Topps Chrome and 2012 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions. Since this stuff doesn't stay on the shelf long I bought one blaster of the Topps Chrome and 2 of the Goodwin. The Goodwin blasters had some weird stuff, enough for 2 posts. But first the Topps Chrome.

Typical blaster box with 7 packs and the 1 EXTRA PACK! to make you think you're getting something special, like they decided at the last minute to throw in an extra pack.

The 'extra' pack was in a plain silver wrapper saying "Contains 4 Purple Refractors". OK, that's cool. I started with one of the regular packs first.
Hey, look, a purple refractor. In fact, every card in the pack was a purple refractor. How strange. On to the second pack.
OK, what gives, another pack with four purple refractors.

By the time I'd opened all 8 packs I had 28 purple refractors, 2 regular refractors and 2 X-Fractors.
Was this some sort of colossal production error by Topps? Perhaps not. According to, one box in every 3 hobby cases contains all refractors.  Perhaps they are doing something similar with the blaster boxes as well. I wonder what the odds are of getting a blaster like this.

So I didn't get any base chrome cards and no Phillies either. I think I'll stop at Walmart and try my luck there.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Song of the Week - I'm The Ocean by Neil Young

This song if from Neil's 1995 album Mirrorball. It's one of my favorite Neil tunes. There were a couple of live performances on YouTube but they were of poor quality. So here's just the audio from the album. I threw in the words as a bonus.

I'm an accident, I was driving way too fast
Couldn't stop though so I let the moment last
I'm for rollin', I'm for tossin' in my sleep
It's not guilt though, it's not the company I keep

People my age, they don't do the things I do
They go somewhere while I run away with you
I got my friends and I got my children too
I got her love, she's got my love too

I can't hear you but I feel the things you say
I can't see you but I see what's in my way
Now I'm floatin' 'cause I'm not tied to the ground
Words I've spoken seem to leave a hollow sound

On the long plain see the rider in the night
See the chieftain, see the braves in cool moonlight
Who will love them when they take another life?
Who will hold them when they tremble from the knife?

Voicemail numbers on an old computer screen
Rows of lovers parked forever in a dream
Screaming sirens echoing across the bay
To the old boats from the city far away

Homeless heroes walk the streets of their hometown
Rows of zeros on a field that's turning brown
They play baseball, they play football under lights
They play card games and we watch them every night

Need distraction, need romance and candlelight
Need random violence, need entertainment tonight
Need the evidence, want the testimony of
Expert witnesses on the brutal crimes of love

I was too tired to see the news when I got home
Pulled the curtain, fell into bed alone
Started dreaming, saw the rider once again
In the doorway where she stood and watched for him

I'm not present, I'm a drug that makes you dream
I'm an aerostar, I'm a cutlass supreme
In the wrong lane trying to turn against the flow
I'm the ocean, I'm the giant undertow

I'm the ocean
I'm the ocean
I'm the giant undertow
I'm the ocean
I'm the giant undertow
I'm the ocean
I'm the ocean
I'm the ocean
I'm the ocean
I'm the ocean
I'm the ocean

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sugar Land Skeeters Roster Besides Roger Clemens

As I mentioned the other day, we're going to see Roger Clemens pitch for the independent minor league team, the Sugar Land Skeeters. Besides Roger Clemens, who is on this team? Here's some former major league players who are playing for the Skeeters. The Skeeters website lists the roster but doesn't give stats. These are all the guys on the team that I have scanned cards for.

2006 Upper Deck #211 Jason Lane
Jason Lane was a major league outfielder with a lifetime .241 average. He spent 6 years in the majors,  most of them with the Astros. He is now pitching for the Skeeters.

2010 Topps Heritage #384 Scott Kazmir
Kazmir was a 1st-round draft pick for the Mets and had a 66-61 record in 8 years with the Rays and the Angels. He was released by the Angels in June of 2011. The best former major league player (not counting Clemens) on the team.

2005 Donruss Team Heroes #145 Tim Redding

Another former Astro, he had a 21-28 record in 4 years. He last played in the majors in 2005.

2004 Donruss Team Heroes Autographs #230 Pedro Liriano
Threw 23.3 innings over two years for the Brewers and Phillies in 2004 and 2005. He's been in the minors ever since and pitched in Mexico last year.

2010 Topps Allen & Ginter #284 Dustin Richardson
 A rookie with the Red Sox in 2009 and washed out of the majors in 2010. At least he got a nice baseball card out of his major league career.

2009 Topps Update #261 Aaron Bates
Had a cup of coffee with the Red Sox in 2009 and has been in the minors ever since.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Roger Clemens signs with Sugar Land Skeeters

The Sugar Land Skeeters are the newest members of the independent Atlantic League. The started operation this summer in a brand new stadium located in suburban Houston. My son and I were planning to go to a game sometime this summer and when my company offered two free tickets for this Saturday's game, I jumped on them. Yesterday, it was announced that Roger Clemens had signed with the team and would be pitching the game.

2005 Fleer Authentix Hot Ticket Die Cuts #2

 I will admit to being a Clemens fan, even after, or maybe especially after, his acquittal on perjury charges. As lousy as the Astros are today, they did go to the 2005 World Series with Clemens on the mound.

2005 Leaf Sportscasters 25 #42

I was already planning to take lots of photos at the game for a possible blog post early next week. So keep tuned.

2005 Topps Total #230
Clemens has apparently not committed to anything more than this one game. 50 years old, it was reported that his fast ball was clocked at 87 mph in practice. He'll be facing the Bridgeport Bluefish featuring former major league powerhouses such as Luis Figueroa, Shae Hillenbrand, and Joey Gathright.

1994 Pinnacle The Naturals

The Naturals was a 25-card boxed set produced by Pinnacle. The set feature the biggest names in the game at that time. The cards were produced using Pinnacle's Dufex finish giving the cards a metallic look and feel. The cards have a similar finish to the Artist's Proof parallels in the regular Pinnacle set.

The cards came packaged in a 5x6 inch hinged box. I found an unopened box on eBay for $6.98 (including shipping). I had bought one of the cards at the card show in June. I like the set because 23 of the 25 players are Players I Collect.  The checklist is on the back of the box.

The print run was limited to 100,000 sets. Although the cards aren't serial numbered, each box comes with a numbered COA.

Here is a sampling of the cards:

The fronts are bright with some texture to the foil. The backs are also foil, featuring a photo of the player, some personal data and 1993 stats.

Only two pitchers are featured, Johnson and Greg Maddox.

And only one Phillie. Since the Phillies were in the World Series in 1993, I guess Pinnacle thought they should include someone from the team. There were three Blue Jays (the 1993 World Series winners). Besides Alomar, Fred McGriff and John Olerud are in the set.

Piazza appears to be kneeling on someone's head as he gets ready to make a throw.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Problems of being a team collector

I have several collecting goals, but chief among them is Phillies and post-1994 Astros cards. Phillies cards because I'm from Philadelphia and am still a huge phan. Post-1994 Astros because I moved to Houston in 1995 and, although it's been tough the past few years, I'm an Astros fan as well.

I thought I list what I think are the main challenges to being a team collector. This is in any particular order, just the order in which I thought of them.

Leave a comment if there is some particular difficulty in making a team collection that I missed. I'm sure this list isn't exhaustive.  If I get enough comments, I'll use them to make a similar post .

1. Minor league players who never make it to the big leagues.

Should I consider minor league players who appear in mainstream sets as part of the team set?  Of course I do.

2004 Bazooka #298 Anthony Acevedo
Nothing against Anthony Acevedo of course. He was in the Astros minor leagues from 2000 through 2004. According to, there are 29 Acededo cards, counting parallels, all issued in 2004. I have 4 of them. The base set cards aren't that much of a problem, the parallels are.

2003 Stadium Club Royal Gold Il Kim
If one of these minor league players made it into a mainstream set, they also are in the parallel sets. 2003 Stadium Club only had 2 parallel sets, this Royal Gold and a "Photographer's Proof" numbered to 299. Many sets in the past 10 years have come with multiple parallel sets (a virtual rainbow in some cases), each one harder to get than the next.

2. Minor League Sets
I see this as a different problem than #1. Minor league sets may have limited distribution. Generally, I don't consider minor league sets to be part of the team collection, but I don't shun them. If I can get them, I'll take them.  I don't know for sure but I think there are a lot fewer minor league sets than there used to be.

1991 Reading Phillies ProCards #1382 Tony Longmire
Sometimes you can find whole team sets on eBay. I've acquired a few of these Phillies ProCard sets that were available in the late 1980s and early 1990s. They aren't usually very fancy but I always liked this 1991 set.

3. Printing plates
I do not consider printing plates to be part of the team collection. They are just too hard to find. I've pulled exactly one printing plate in all my years of collecting.

2006 Fleer Tradition Threads Printing Plate David Ortiz
I don't mind having one of these but I'm not sure I even consider these baseball cards.

4. 1 of 1 cards
These are pretty hard to get as well, but they are real baseball cards so I consider them part of the team collection.

2005 Flair Row 2 #29 Roger Clemens
This is the only 1 of 1 card (besides that Ortiz printing plate) I've ever pulled. And it was an Astro!

5. Odd-ball cards
Odd-ball cards are ones that come in some thing else than a regular baseball card pack. They might be packaged in a food product or be given away at a gas station. They may be issued as experiment cards by a major card manufacturer. There are a lot fewer of this sort of thing around. I generally love to get odd-ball Phillies and Astros cards but not consider them a part of the team collection.

1986 Topps Quaker Oats #14 Mike Schmidt
I got this in trade with a fellow blogger in 2009. Although I don't consider this an official part of my 1986 Phillies team collection, it is an official part of my Mike Schmidt collection.

6. Relic/Patch/Autographed Cards
I do consider these a part of the team collection. Often hard to pull from a pack, many are pretty easily available on eBay. The rarer cards, especially of front line players, may be expensive and hard to find.

2007 Upper Deck Premier Patches Triple Gold Roy Oswald
Even this triple patch, numbered to 50 only cost me about $12. Of course you can go broke trying to buy all the relic, patch and autograph cards of your favorite team that are available.