Saturday, May 31, 2014

The World's Game

I know what you're thinking.  Off Hiatus is a baseball card blog.  And, for the most part, it is.  I played baseball growing up, I have watched baseball my whole life, I have read about baseball my whole life, and I have collected baseball cards my whole life (with a 20-year lapse, of course).

In that "lapse period" though, I went to college and law school.  I got my own condo and my own dog -- R.I.P., Clea.
Clea was a shepherd/chow mix and watched over me like a hawk -- but she did it with a smile on her face!
Clea was my dog from about 1997 -- when I spent the summer with her training her while my roommates had moved out for the summer -- through 2010.  In January of 2010, the effects of being overweight and having an underactive thyroid, having Cushing's Disease, and tearing an ACL were too much for her to overcome.  The real issues were the thyroid and the Cushing's, and the treatment for either would exacerbate the problems caused by the other.  That was the real strange thing but it was her downfall and made her miserable.

Now, if you have a dog, you know how much into routine they are.  If you get up at 6:30 AM every morning for work and take the dog out first thing, don't expect to make it past about 7:00 AM on the weekends before the dog wakes you up to go outside.  That's what Clea did.  Starting somewhere around 2003, I would take Clea for a morning walk to the Starbucks a couple blocks away and I'd get coffee.  Then, we'd go home and I would flip on the TV.  That spring of 2003, I learned that I had the now-dearly-departed Fox Soccer Channel on my DirecTV that I had at the time, and I started watching the English Premier League. That's when I fell in love with the game of soccer.

That's why in 2004, I traveled to New York and visited a friend in early August -- because my friend and I were going to see the team I had adopted as my team -- Manchester United -- play against AC Milan. United had just bought American goalkeeper and New Jersey native Tim Howard from the MLS, and that helped cement my choice of Man Utd. as my team.

That's also why, in 2006, I took my first "big" trip overseas and spent 10 days at Christmastime in an around London -- to go to football games around London.  I saw Chelsea and Reading draw 2-2 at Stamford Bridge.  I saw Fulham and Charlton draw 2-2 at The Valley on my frozen 35th birthday.  And, I saw Liverpool beat Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 at White Hart Lane in a pouring rain storm.

Reading and Chelsea come onto the pitch before their game at Stamford Bridge in 2006
Action at the Charlton goal box during their match at The Valley in 2006

Tottenham and Liverpool slog through a rain-soaked 1-0 yawner at White Hart Lane
So, for me to go out and buy some 2014 World Cup Panini Prizm World Cup Cards today, it was not a stretch.  I was looking for a Topps Archives blaster or pack or something at a nearby Target, but they did not have any.  I settled for two of those $20 unopened pack repacks and a $20 Prizm blaster.

First off, I have no idea why Panini has to put four packs of 6 cards into a blaster box size.  I guess it is to let people think that they are getting something huge and special.  It probably also helps to avoid the potential pack-searchers, I suppose.  That said, getting 24 cards in a blaster was a little bit of a let down.

Now, on the other hand, because Panini has so dadgum many different variations and inserts and colors and such in these packs, it took the entire blaster box back to list all the possible variants included in the box, and the list was in about a 4-point font.  I like inserts as much as anyone, but I honestly have no idea now as to whether the cards I got were base set, variations, or super rare short prints.  That part is a downer.

On the plus side, the cards are shiny and pretty and everything you'd expect a Prizm card to be.  Because these are FIFA-licensed cards, Panini didn't have to airbrush out any of the national team crests on the uniform tops.  Let's take a look at a few of the cards of guys whose names are recognizable to the average soccer/football fan:

Julio Cesar, Brazil's goalkeeper

Mesut Ozil of Germany and Arsenal

Pique plays for Barcelona and Spain and once played at Man U.

Little Stevie G of Liverpool and England, and no,
this is not a mini.  I just don't like him.

Xavi Hernandez, Pique's teammate at club and country
The first two cards are obviously an insert set of World Cup Stars, and Julio Cesar's looks like it is a red, white, and blue refractor.  The others are base set cards, I believe.  These are great looking cards in many respects, but they do suffer from "Toppszoominitis" other words, could you not zoom in so closely? I'd prefer that these cards actually were simpler -- skip all the textured background garbage and give us the green grass of Wembley or the Santiago Bernabeu or the Maracana.  It would be a better card for it.

I like these cards, but I don't think I'll chase the full set.  My curiosity here was satisfied sufficiently to not sink any more money into these.  If anyone is chasing this set, let me know and we can work something out.

Friday, May 30, 2014

View from the Skybox Contest

The View from the Skybox is coming up Allen & Ginter relics.  Chris has come up with a great idea for an A&G relic exchange program, and to celebrate he is throwing a contest.

If you don't know all the details, go to his blog at THIS POST and check it out.

I'll be back this weekend with some more substantive posts, but this is a contest you should not miss.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Autographed Cards College World Series Contest

Thanks to Play at the Plate for the introduction via a post to Autographed Cards.  Zman is running a College World Series contest there, and you're invited.

Click here for details.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Care Packages

In the week before I left for the beaches of the Florida Panhandle -- Miramar Beach, to be exact -- I received four care packages from fellow bloggers and/or commenters that I scanned in but never got around to talking about.  I didn't get to talk about them because of that "work beckons" post.  That work was looking at some contracts related to a little move that you might have heard about some.  Since those contracts had to be done ASAP (obviously), my alter ego life as a baseball card blogger took a back seat.

That's not to diminish what I got from the four gentlemen I am thanking tonight, however, since their contributions to my well being run pretty high on the scale of importance to me.  Frankly, I enjoy this blogging stuff more than work.  I wish it paid as well.

Anyway, let's get this rolling.

The song above is called "There She Goes" by Pete Doherty's pseudo-swing band, Babyshambles.  At one point, the lyrics are:
Oh There she goes / A little Heartache
There she goes / A little Pain
Make no mistake / she sheds her skin like a snake
You're going to walk the plank again,
Walk the plank again my lord now
Of course, that means in baseball card blogger land that I got a package from Matt at Bob Walk the Plank. Matt comments here nearly every time I write something, and to me the comments are nearly as good as making trades -- I love feedback.  So I almost feel bad when I get something in the mail from him because I feel like I already owe him!  Despite that, he sent me a great package of cards:

Jeromy Burnitz SP Authentic Fabric

Jean Segura Topps Heritage Relic 

Wily Peralta Topps Tier One On the Rise Autograph SN 317/399
This includes my first Jeromy Burnitz relic, my first Topps Tier One card, and a Jean Segura relic card that is just super cool and goes to my team collection.  Matt and his buddies take part in a monthly box break, so they always seem to have great hits to share with their fellow collectors -- and these are no exception.

Thank you very much, Matt!

Next up to introduce a care package is a great song called "Home Is Where the Heart Is" by seminal English "post-punk" band from Manchester called The Chameleons (we here in the US would add "UK" after their name).  If you like New Order or The Smiths, you probably like The Chameleons UK.  Anyway, the relevant lyrics here are:
According to Hoyle
All cards on the table
Reactions cool
The world unstable
Now, it's unfair to Mark Hoyle to say that my reaction was cool to the cards that he sent me, whether they are all on the table or not.  Indeed, I've already moved them to my Brewers collection binder so they are not on the table.  They were on my scanner for a minute though:

As I have put together my Topps team sets, I'm noticing a few of things.  First, I treated my Brewers cards pretty badly.  I lugged them to games in hopes of getting autographs.  I did that by taking them in stacks that either I put in my pocket or kept in my hands and shuffled through them constantly to find the next guy signing.  In any case, that means that I do not have as many cards of the Brewers as I do of other teams in decent condition -- or that I have gotten them autographed and need a clean version for my team sets.  

Thanks to Mark, though, I am closing in quickly on these team sets from the 1970s.  You have been a major help, and I hope that you don't mind yet another reference to "according to Hoyle" to use as a way to introduce these cards.

Thank you very much, Mark!

Going with classic Zeppelin -- "Communication Breakdown" -- to introduce a couple of cards from Gavin at Baseball Card Breakdown is a no-brainer.  He ripped a pack of 2014 Bowman and picked up a Brewers prospect mini, and of course I wanted it.  He also threw in a couple of other cards:

I thought I was getting a wedding invitation from Gavin too, considering the card he sent with these cards:

Alas, it's only an invitation to his blog:

Thank you very much, Gavin, as always!

Okay, this last one is a bit different of an intro:

That's the school fight song for Auburn University, imaginatively named "War Eagle." If you aren't familiar with Auburn, they have an eagle named Nova for a live mascot, they call themselves the Plainsmen, and their official nickname is "Tigers."  They have an identity crisis.

That said, why would I put that up?  Because Auburn University is where the immortal Coot Veal apparently attended college, where he played basketball (seriously?) with Vince Dooley.  I know it was the early 1950s, but that's a strange combination -- the football quarterback and the baseball pitcher playing basketball together.  

Anyway, that's a long introduction to a huge package of cards that I got from Coot Veal and the Vealtones a/k/a Dhoff.  Here's as much as I scanned (and there were more!):

WOW.  It's as if Dustin has been hoarding Brewers cards waiting for someone like me to come along and take them off his hands.  It's an impressive stash, seriously.  I even left out the Paul Molitor on other teams cards that still go into the player was truly a haul.

Dustin, seriously, thank you very much!
And thank you to all of you who read this and comment.