Sunday, October 22, 2017

All Cracked Up, with Crackin' Wax and a Cracked Bat

Hey there, everyone. Things have gone crazy here at Hiatus Central, what with all the traveling I've done in the past month -- yes, more traveling -- and work and all that. My time for hobbies has gotten limited somewhat so I'm way behind on website maintenance here, with sorting in my office, and with blogging.

As with my last post, while I'd prefer to post about all of these great envelopes I've received separately, I'm going to combine some things into one big post.

First up: a Topps Chrome half case break with Crackin' Wax. I had the Brewers and the Twins and got really nothing of interest outside of the base cards and the typical inserts, though I did get one Joe Mauer parallel:

It's been incredibly annoying this year to watch Topps trying to pimp Orlando Arcia as a Rookie of the Year candidate. Normally, of course, I'd be okay with a Brewer getting cards in various sets, but in this case I'm not. Why? Because Topps are run by idiots who don't fact check anyone outside of New York long enough to realize that Arcia was not rookie-eligible this year.

Total morons.

Now, that case break was a total disaster. The other half of the case that CW had was opened as part of a different case break of some sort. Not having unlimited funds to buy into every case break ever, I did not participate in it. As that half-case was opened, I got to watch as three Brett Phillips autographs tumbled out. Perhaps CW and his wife felt bad about this. It seems they talked the guys at Buck City Breaks into sending two of those my way anyway:

I'm hopeful for Brett Phillips's future as a top-notch 4th outfielder/guy not stretched to play every day. He played all three OF positions in AAA this season in preparation for that role. The Brewers have great depth with their outfield prospects and current players -- Keon Broxton had a quiet 20 HR/20 SB season, for example, and he almost certainly should be traded to upgrade the rotation if the right deal can be found. Phillips has an absolute gun from the outfield and registered a through of 104 MPH from centerfield -- the hardest/fastest throw Statcast registered all season.

Thanks, Buck City Breaks, for sharing your largesse with me.

I think I'm done with case breaks, though. For what I get out of them, it simply is a better deal for me to find the team set on eBay and buy that and the inserts instead.

Shortly after that case break, I got a huge package from my pal Julie at A Cracked Bat

Julie sent me the first National Geographic magazine I've ever gotten in a package:

This April 1991 story on "A Season in the Minors" featured the then Double-A affiliate of the Brewers, the El Paso Diablos. As always, NatGeo had great photographs and a well-written article to go with it.

A second magazine was a Beckett Baseball Card Monthly from February 2001 featuring hot prospect Ben Sheets on the cover with his gold medal from the 2000 Olympics:

A third "new one to me" was that Julie found an old postcard of my favorite baseball stadium of my youth: the dank, beer-stained Milwaukee County Stadium.

Finally, Julie also sent me some great cards. Here's a sample:

There are not that many bloggers who are kinder than Julie when it comes to sending great packages out. There are also not that many bloggers who even own any of those Score Summit Edition cards or even those parallel Panini Prizms. And while Jonathan Broxton and Adam Lind hung around Milwaukee for a very short time, it's always much appreciated to get a card serial numbered to TEN!

Many thanks, Julie, for the great cards!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Thanks to Three Big Names in the Baseball Card World

In the interest of picking up the pace on my thanking people a bit, I thought I'd combine a few thanks into one post. It's bad that I have to do this, because the people here getting thanked deserve their own posts. But I also need to do it while I have some time and have the desire to write a bit.

Let's start with a guy whom I'd never heard of before this year. He's burst onto my scene -- though, pretty clearly, there were a ton a people who knew him already -- thanks to his location in Georgia. I'm talking, of course, about Joey a/k/a Dub Mentality on Twitter and on his blog of the same name

I forget what the occasion was for this package. Perhaps it was just, "Stop whining about Topps and take these cards." In any event, he sent some good stuff my way:

What a true olio of cards. There are two of your 2017 Brewers MVP Travis Shaw -- thanks, Red Sox! Glad you guys wanted to give Pablo Sandoval another chance! Have fun storming the castle! 

The two Stadium Club cards are cards of infinite sadness. Villar's season was a huge step backward after last season, and Nelson got hurt on the basepaths and damaged his labrum severely enough that he's likely to miss time next year. If Nelson had stayed healthy, perhaps this season would be winding down with the Brewers looking down on the Rockies, rather than the other way around.

Then, there are the Bowman Platinum. Of course there is Ryan Braun. Trent Clark spent his age 20 season in High-A Carolina, where one website named him the 8th best prospect in the league on the strength of a .224/.361/.349 line with 21 doubles, 6 triples, 8 HRs, and 37 SB (on 42 attempts). He'll be in Biloxi next year. The other guy is Brandon Woodruff. Woodruff has found himself in the Brewers starting rotation in September with middling results. He's likely to start next year in the rotation at the age of 25.

Finally, there is Corey Ray. Now, Ray was named as the 4th best prospect in the Carolina League, but that is based on athleticism rather than performance. The club has to hope that he shows enough next year that he can be a good trade chit for pitching/whatever need arises, because it's looking more and more like Ray will not outdo Domingo Santana, Brett Phillips, and Lewis Brinson going forward, and Trent Clark may have passed him too.

Many thanks, Joey -- here's some Deftones for you!

Next up, I have thanks going out to another Twitter friend, RobbyT a/k/a Boobie Maine. Robbie collects Detroit Tigers cards, and he used to blog about them several years ago. He blogged three times this year for the first time in four years. Robby is a bit down on his Tigers these days, and so he changed his avatar on Twitter to the Astros logo. This makes sense, after all, with half the Detroit team that can still walk and does not have herniated discs traded to Houston. 

At any rate, in response to my 1980s Baseball post on the Donruss Action All-Stars sets, Robby sent me complete sets of the Donruss Champions set, the 1984 Action All-Stars, and the 1986 Action All-Stars:

Brewers and Strawberry, baby. I have no idea why I decided to scan Darryl Strawberry instead of either Paul Molitor or Cecil Cooper (who are both in that set), but let's not ask too many questions right now. Maybe I'm just trying to get Peter's attention, even though it's not 1995 Fleer.

Since Robby likes 80s music, here's a little Funky Cold Medina to get him more chicks.

Thanks, Robby, for the great 1980s sets!

As an aside, I had a little fun this summer reliving 1989 by rapping this song with friends. I know the words, still, without any help. 

I miss Spuds MacKenzie, though.

Finally, I got a single card PWE from my good friend Wes a/k/a Jaybarkerfan a/k/a Willinghammer Rising. Wes has decided to go dark on his blog for a while -- a decision that sucks for the rest of us but one I totally understand, what with my seeming inability to blog more than a handful of times per month as of late.

Anyway, Wes is making plans to hit up the National next year, and hopefully I'll be there too. 

It's the first time in three years that I have the summer reasonably open, so it's a good opportunity. You can see the card that Wes sent my way behind the message, but it's in such great shape, you need to see it by itself:

Billy Bruton was always a favorite of my grandfather and my mom. Bruton was born in Panola, Alabama -- a now unincorporated town that sits barely in Alabama and about 20 miles from Scooba, Mississippi -- the home of Last Chance U's featured school the past two years, East Mississippi Community College. 

Bruton got his chance in baseball thanks to scouting from the Negro Leagues. He had joined the Army for 6 months and, rather than returning to Alabama, he moved to Delaware instead. There, he got to play softball and sandlot baseball. It was there that his life changed. 

Specifically, Negro League great Judy Johnson -- who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1975 -- got the Philadelphia Stars to sign Bruton. Johnson heard of Bruton on the recommendation of Johnson's youngest daughter. Bruton caught the eye of both Johnsons -- making Judy's daughter Mrs. Bruton.

Bruton lied about his age to get signed by the Milwaukee Braves, shaving two years off his 23 years to claim being 21. The Braves decided 21 wasn't young enough, so they called him 19. Only on his retirement from baseball did Bruton disclose his real age.

After retiring from baseball after the 1964 season at the age of 38 and after spending his last four years in baseball in Detroit, Bruton became an executive with the Chrysler Corporation. He spent 23 years there, working mainly in Detroit and rising to become a special assistant to Chrysler president, Lee Iacocca. He retired in 1988, and moved back to Delaware to life in his father-in-law's former home (Judy passed away on June 15, 1989). Bruton worked with charities there for several years before he suffered a heart attack while driving and passed away on December 5, 1995.

Apropos for Bruton, here's a brief video of him hitting a walk-off single in Game 1 of the 1958 World Series. Everything seemed so sedate in the 1950s...

Wes, many thanks for this card and for all the cards you've sent me through the years.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Christmas in July, Celebrated in September

Back nearly two months ago, my Gator loving friend John from Johnny's Trading Spot sent out a ton of packages to people around the card-collecting world to celebrate "Christmas in July." I was one of the recipients of one of those packages, and I now am here to celebrate the autumnal equinox with Christmas. It's just over 90 shopping days until Christmas, after all.

Just proving that it really was Christmas in July. John sent a massive package of cards, so I'm going to share some of them. In the past with cards from John, I've written them up with everything from a comparison to the local cougar lounge (Johnny's Hideaway) to comparisons to old cars to music drawn from John's blog.

How about I just show the cards and talk about them?

Let's start with Orlando Arcia's coin from 2017 Topps Archives. I like the coins from the original issue back in 1987 through 1990, which themselves were throwbacks to the 1971 coins, which themselves were throwbacks to the original 1964 coins. Each and every one of those issues is a great oddball that needs those cardboard and plastic cases to be able to display them properly.

Arcia has improved greatly this year. He might be a cornerstone. His OBP has improved this year, though he has not hit for as much power in the second half as he did in the first half (which was driven by his excellent June). He obviously needs to continue developing, though he seems to have the right attitude and his fielding is already among the best in the league.

Next up, we have some 2003 Fleer Hardball discs. I'm pretty sure this set was created by a Fleer card designer who wondered to himself or herself what those MSA discs would have looked like if MSA issued 200 of them and had licensing and had parallels. The answer: not bad, but oddballs should be kept as oddballs for a reason. Weird shapes and sizes of cards are best kept in small doses for fear of overdose.

Parallels? Really? Come on. I mean, it's cool if it was a "parallel" that was exactly the same except for the fact that, instead of "Fleer Hardball," the disc said, "Donruss Superstars" and another said "Upper Deck Dandies" and another said "Topps Lemons" or something like that.

According to Baseball Card Pedia, 1997 Pinnacle Inside came "inside one of 24 collectible player soup cans."

If that happened today, I'd have the same look on my face as Dave Nilsson has on his face on this card.

I have not paid any attention to what Panini has been doing this year in cards. Should I?

Based on this card, I'm thinking I'm okay with being a collecting version of Joe Barry Carroll a/k/a Joe Barely Cares when it comes to Panini. I'll pick up Diamond Kings and the like at card shows if I see them cheap. Otherwise, I'm not going out of my way to find them.

As for Ray, 2016's #1 pick for the Brewers struggled in the Carolina League this year, hitting just .238/.311/.367 in 503 plate appearances with 7 HR and 24 SB in 34 attempts. He struck out too much too. That said, he still is his toolsy self...we'll see what happens.

Out of these two cards, let's talk about Kevin Barker. He made it to Milwaukee at the age of 23 in 1999 and performed decently in 127 plate appearances -- .282/.331/.385. In 2000, he hit similarly -- .220/.352/.330. But, in their infinite wisdom in 1999, the Brewers played Mark Loretta and Sean Barry instead of Barker and, then, traded for Richie Sexson in 2000. That led to his eventual trade to San Diego in spring training in 2002 (where he got 7 games and 20 plate appearances). From there, he bounced around yearly -- to Detroit, to Florida, to Philadelphia, to Toronto (where he got into 12 games with 18 plate appearances) for two years, to Cincinnati (29 games, 36 plate appearances in 2009). 

I mean, he grinded out 323 plate appearances across 11 years with four teams. There's something to be said for that sticktoitiveness.

These test proof cards that Panini put out last year are just plain awful. Other than photo comparison, I couldn't tell you from this scan that this is Orlando Arcia. Combine a single color with no logos and discolored uniforms, and you have what should otherwise be thrown away except for that serial number and the hint of it showing a baseball player on it.


It wouldn't be Christmas without 1995 Fleer. It really wouldn't. It's like the bow on the present. The star on the tree. The asbestos substituting for snow on the tree.

No, really.

Pure, white, fireproof asbestos snow. 

It's weird packaging for baseball cards, but I'm not surprised that Fleer used it in 1995.

John -- many thanks for the great cards. I hope that your home and your family are all safe after Irma.