Sunday, June 30, 2013

Song of the Week - About Farewell by Alela Diane

This lovely little song came from a Minnesota Public Radio podcast this past week. You can read about Alela Diane on Wikipedia if you're interested.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Movie Review - Man of Steel

When I was a kid in the 1960s, I was always a DC Comics guy. I liked the occasional Dr. Strange or Fantastic 4, but my comic book budget went mainly for Superman.

I loved the first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies directed by Richard Donner/Lester back in 1978/1980. They were a bit campy for my taste (Lex Luthor in particular), but still very enjoyable.

I didn't like the 2006 "Superman Returns" nearly as much. Really that was way back in 2006? Superman gets Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth?) pregnant and then disappears for 5 years.  Kevin Spacy plays virtually the same Lex Luther as in the 1978 Superman with just as dumb henchman. There was no campiness in this movie and not much humor either.

"Man of Steel" retells the Superman story from the beginning, along very similar lines as the 1978 movie. Jor-El concocts a scheme to save his son from the destruction of Krypton. Russell Crowe is good as Jor-El. We meet General Zod, the principle villain of "Superman II", on Krypton. I think this movie makes Zod a fuller character, with some actual motivation beyond a overwhelming hatred of Jor-El's son. Kevin Costner plays Pa Kent pretty convincingly.

If you've seen the trailers you know we get scenes of Clark growing up and being bullied, learning to control his power. We also see a young adult, and fully bearded, Clark, bumming around the country. The trailers are a bit misleading. Most of the childhood scenes are told in flashback form which I think was very effective. We know the story so not a lot of time needed to be spent on it. The part where he's bumming around was much shorter than you might have thought from the trailers.

Henry Cavill is very good as Superman. He's not quite as goofy as Christopher Reeve could be. When he says "Come on, General, I grew up in Kansas. How American is that?" you believe him without thinking he's corny.

In this retelling, General Zod arrives before anyone but Lois Lane even knows about Superman. General Zod, as I mention, has some motivation. His sole purpose in life is to protect, and now recreate Krypton. Kel-El, human beings and the climate of Earth are just minor inconveniences.

My one real complaint with the movie is that it eventually dissolves into a fistfight between Superman and Zod and his people. Smallville and Metropolis really take it on the chin, with a unseen death toll, I'd guess, in the tens of thousands. I'm not so much disappointed in the fight itself, just that it went on so long. And as my daughter said, "Why can't Superman take this fight outside, instead of trashing Metropolis?"

The movie was produced by Christopher Nolan and it's very much his movie. Maybe not as dark as his Batman movies, but Batman was always a much darker character than Superman. But the fight between Superman and Zod ends in a way I didn't expect and I attribute that to Nolan. Not my favorite director Zach ("Sucker Punch") Snyder is the director. Hans Zimmer does the music and unfortunately seems to have run out of things to say since "Inception".

Monday, June 24, 2013

Random Cards From My Collection #45

Card #11346
2002 Topps #188 Craig Biggio
Comments on the card: I don't care what anyone says I like 2002 Topps. White borders can be so boring.
When acquired: Don't know exactly but probably in 2002.
How acquired: Don't know
Player's season: 2002 saw Biggio at the lowest batting average of his career to date, hitting only .253. He would pick things up again in 2003 and 2004.

Card 2292
1993 Fleer Final Edition #71 Gary Sheffield
Comments on the card: The Update set had the same design as the main set. This was one of the better Fleer sets of the 1990s, featuring a large photo on the front and some bold graphics on the back.
When acquired: The set was only available as a factory set and I'm pretty sure I bought the set when new.
How acquired: Don't know
Player's season: Sheffield came to the Marlins in mid-1993 as part of a trade which sent Trevor Hoffman to the Padres. He hit .293 in 72 games for the Marlins with 10 home runs.

Card #7538
2005 Bowman Draft Picks Chrome #151 Shin-Soo Choo
Comments on the card: As usual, 2005 Bowman Draft Picks featured the same design as the regular Bowman set. In my opinion, one of the worst Bowman designs. I never liked the fake autograph signing area that Bowman used for several years. In 2005, the signing area is almost half the photo.
When acquired: I bought a blaster box from Target in December 2005
How acquired: Paid $0.36/card.
Player's season: Choo had been signed as a free agent by the Mariners in 2000. He made his major league debut in 2005 but only appeared in 10 games, hitting only .056 in 21 at bats.

Card #10738
2008 Upper Deck Timeline #133 Greg Maddux
Comments on the card: Just as Topps has done for years, this Upper Deck mined their own past for card designs. The set featured several designs from past Upper Deck sets. This design was from the 1994 Upper Deck All-Time Heroes set.
When acquired: I bought a blaster box in November 2008.
How acquired: Paid $0.28/card.
Player's season: Maddux finished his career in 2008 as a Dodger, having been traded by the Padres in August for several minor league players. He was 2-4 for the Dodgers in 7 starts with an ERA of 5.09.

Card #25035
2011 Topps #237 Jason Vargas
Comments on the card: Dull design.
When acquired: I bought a Series 1 blaster in February 2011.
How acquired: Paid $0.25/card.
Player's season: Vargas was 10-13 with the Mariners in 2011 with a 4.25 ERA and 131 strikeouts.

Card #14263
2000 E-X Genuine Coverage Mike Mussina
Comments on the card: Nice. I like the uniform label design. Kine of dull jersy swatch however.
When acquired: I bought this with a bunch of other relic cards at the TriStar Baseball Card Show in Houston in January 2010.
How acquired: Paid $2.50. Can't beat the price.
Player's season: Mussina was 11-14 for the Orioles with a 3.79 ERA. He appeared in a league-leading 237.2 innings. It was his first, and only, losing season.

Card #21240
1992 Studio #19 Gary Scott
Comments on the card: Studio's second year of production. I like the superposition of the color studio portrait on the b/w action photo. I don't much card for the border color.
When acquired: Probably acquired when new.
How acquired: Don't know.
Player's season: There's not much to say about Gary Scott. Although he was the Cub's 2nd round draft pick in 1989, his career consisted of 67 games over 2 seasons (36 in 1992) and a career batting average of .162.

Card #7734
1992 Pinnacle #202 Cal Ripken Jr.
Comments on the card: Pinnacle's first year of production. This was a pretty nice set with a number of innovative subset cards.
When acquired: Probably acquired when new.
How acquired: Don't know.
Player's season: The streak was still going, Camden Yards opened and maybe Cal was getting a bit tired. He only hit .251 in 1992, the lowest BA of his career except for his final year.

Card #35969
2010 Upper Deck #479 Gabe Gross
Comments on the card: Upper Deck's last set. They'd lost their MLB license and tried to get by with out showing team logos or team names. MLB sued them after Series 1 was issued and there never was a Series 2. Just as well.
When acquired: Acquired in a Fairfield Extreme Value repack in October 2012.
How acquired: Paid $0.07/per card for the repack.
Player's season: In his 7th (and last) season, Gross hit .239 (his career average) in 105 games with the A's.

Card #9933
2008 Topps Allen & Ginter US State Cards #11 Shane Victorino
Comments on the card: This was the 2008 Allen & Ginter one-card per pack insert. Not a bad idea.
When acquired: August 2008 from a blaster box
How acquired: Paid $0.25/card
Player's season: The Flyin' Hawaiian hit .293 and stole 36 bags for the Phillies in 2008. And, of course, the Phillies won the World Series.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Bunting on Baseball Cards

Bunting is an important, if often unheralded, part of baseball. Being able to move that runner from first to second with less than one out can be the deciding edge in a close game. Some players, those with good legs, can bunt for hits, catching the infielders off guard. Bunting is an important skill for pitchers in the National League.

1992 Pinnacle #619 Brett Butler

 A blueprint for bunting. Brett Butler was well know for bunting for base hits so naturally he'd be on a card like this.

2001 Fleer Premium #18 Bobby Abreu
Sometimes you have to bunt at a ball that may be less than ideally placed. Of course, if the situation calls for a bunt, the pitcher is well aware of that and doesn't have to throw the ball where the batter wants it.

1995 Donruss #49 Roberto Alomar
Alomar was also know for bunting for hit. It looks like he may have popped this one up.

2002 Stadium Club #4 Roberto Alomar
 Here, the ball is down where it's supposed to be.

2000 Skybox Dominion #134 Craig Biggio
Biggio was also a great bunter. This looks more like a sacrifice situation since he's really reacing for the ball.

2006 Upper Deck #935 Taylor Buchholz
Pitcher Buchholz is displaying good from, but it looks like he's in the practice cage, not a real game situation.

1992 Upper Deck #131 Vince Coleman
In his younger days, Coleman was a speedster. Here he is racing the ball down the 1st base line.

2005 Ultra #28 Greg Maddux
I couldn't find any specific stats on bunting, but Maddux did have 180 sacrifice hits in his career.

1991 Ultra #26 Craig Worthington
Sometime you just miss the ball altogether. They call that a strike.

1993 Upper Deck #194 Omar Olivares
The worst looking bunt attempt I have on a card. It's probably not good when the ball just knocks the bat right out of your hands.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

2013 Topps Archives - First Look

I liked this product last year and I like this year's version as well. Not enough to buy a whole lot of it but enough to buy a blaster and a few packs.

Like last year, the set consists of past Topps designs. The first 50 cards are from Topps 1972. I was pretty happy to pull Mike Schmidt from the box. The players are a mixed lot of current players, rookies and past players.

 The next 50 cards feature the 1982 "hockey stick" card design.

Cards 100-150 feature the 1985 design. 1985 was the first year as a adult that I collected cards so I always have a soft spot (in my head probably) for 1985 Topps.

And this is what they did for cards 150-200. I'm on record as saying that 1990 Topps is the ugliest Topps design. I didn't think we'd see cards featuring this design until 2039 Topps Heritage. But here we are. At least I pulled another Phillie.

 Cards 201-245 are the All-Time Fan Favorites subset. The cards are short-printed and feature multiple Topps years. The backs are from the original card of the player but the front photos are different (at least on this card). I pulled two of these. A curious thing is that their copyright date is 2012.

Again like last year, the insert sets feature different years or past insert sets.

This insert is based on the 1983 Topps All-Star subset. I got 4 of these.

I got one of these, four stamps on a card based on some 1969 insert I'm not familiar with. The card is perforated so you can separate it into four pieces without removing the stamps.

There is a parallel gold set, numbered to 199.

Then there is this weird thing based on a 1970's football design. This is the first Denny McLain card of any sort I own. I knew something about his career (last pitcher to win 30 games in a season) but not anything about his personal life (2 stints in prison!). Maybe it's that personal history that's kept him off other Topps retro issues but if so, why now?

And finally, the card that made the whole purchase worth it.

It was in the last pack I opened. Don't you love it when something like that happens?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

100-Card Fairfield Repack

I picked up this package back in January but just got around to cataloging the cards. I'll keep buying these things as long as they keep producing cards I want. Recently I've seen a trend toward more recent cards and away from late 1980's junk. Which is fine with me.

1981 Topps #291 Aurelio Lopez
The oldest card in the pack. Early 1980s cards are always welcome. Whatever possessed Topps to put pink borders on baseball cards?

1991 Topps #675 Tom Brunansky
If memory serves me, 1991 was the first year that Topps had a mixture of horizontal and vertical oriented cards. This is a good example of a horizontal card.

1991 Upper Deck #783 Devon White
There is almost always a selection of early 1990s Upper Deck cards in these packs. Someday I will have an entire set of 1990, 1991, and 1992 Upper Decks simply by buying repacks. Good running bunt photo.

1992 Pinnacle #367 Brian McRae
Another good bunt photo. This looks like it ended up as a pop-up.

1992 Topps Gold Winner #120 Alan Trammel
In 1992, the base Topps set had two parallels, Topps Gold and Topps Gold Winner. Topps Gold came randomly inserted in packs. Gold Winner was obtained by a mail-in redemption. These were the first regular Topps cards to feature gold foil.

1993 Fleer ProCards #203 Glenn Hubbard
I've never seen a card from this set. That's another thing I like about the repacks, getting stuff I don't have that would otherwise be hard to find. This goes right into the Reference Album.

1997 Sports Illustrated #176 Hideo Nomo
This is only the 3rd card I've gotten from this set and the other two I bought on eBay. This is a nice card for 4 cents.

2004 Just Prospects #2 Josh Anderson
Another minor league set I didn't have any cards from. And as I bonus, Anderson was in the Astro's farm system.

2005 Bowman Heritage #164 Rodrigo Lopez
I completely missed out on 2005 Bowman Heritage and only have a handful of cards from the set. Lopez was one of the top players in The Matrix.

2005 SP Authentic #1 A. J. Burnett
A main-stream set I didn't have any cards from. Another for the Reference Album. I actually have a Ryan Howard relic card from this set but no base cards.

2010 Topps #305 Juan Francisco
Another good example of a horizontally oriented card. I like the way the card design accommodates the photo.

2011 Topps Team Sets #ATL8 Nate McLouth
As far as I could tell, Topps did not produce these team sets in 2012. I used to always get the Astros and Phillies sets. You could always count on 1 or 2 players in the team set who weren't in the regular set. And sometimes, you'd get a different photo. This is the same photo as the base set.