Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Man in the (Nickel) Box

My pre-programmed posts from before my trip to Chicago have run out, but the cards I picked up at the beginning of the month at my local card show have at least a few more posts in them. I pre-wrote enough posts last week to carry me through watching the Georgia v. Arkansas game yesterday, and that was a good idea. After that game, I could not have typed up anything coherent. 

I mean, gin and tonic and Arkansas turnovers conspired to make me into a very happy Georgia fan. But they don't make for a very good typist.

Now, back to the card show.

As I mentioned when I was talking about Ben Sheets, one of the guys whose tables I visit a fair amount -- a guy named Ryan -- had nickel boxes at the show. I like visiting Ryan's table because Ryan is an Auburn fan (as is my wife) so a visit to his table is always accompanied by a college football discussion. Thanks to my wife being an Auburn fan, I don't troll him or hate him as a lot of Georgia fans might do.

So, at the show last time, we talked about the ass-kicking that Auburn laid on LSU the previous day -- a 41-7 annihilation that made clear both that Auburn is a very good football team and that LSU had some work to do.  

While we talked, I flipped through cards that could be best described as "grungy." That's not because the cards are in bad shape, but rather because the cards are all from the time from the mid-1990s through the early 2000s. With those cards being my focus, I tied music to it and, voila! -- I get the title of my post from Alice in Chains.

Who were the men in this box?

Let's start with Jeff Cirillo. I hadn't finished cataloguing my Cirillo cards before I went to the show, but I knew generally what I needed. Thankfully, I didn't get too many duplicates out of the deal. But, here are a few that I did pick up.

With names like "Victory," "Revolution," and "Black Diamond," it was a weird time in baseball cards. Weird to me, at least, especially in retrospect.  That said, I like the design on the Upper Deck Victory card and I would like it more if the inset photo was different than blowing up his main photo.  And, while that card says he is on the Rockies, I'm including it with my Cirillo collection since it does picture him as a member of the Brewers. 

B.J. Surhoff made an appearance in the box as an "Electric Diamond" parallel from Upper Deck. Yet another of those mid-1990s parallels that sound a lot cooler than being a "Wal-Mart" parallel a la 2013 Topps. 

In this photo on the "Home Field Advantage" Electric Diamond parallel, it appears Greg Vaughn may hit a ball. Considering that this card photo was taken during spring training, I'm not sure how much of a home field advantage really applies.

Sometimes, it's hard to believe that these cards all came from the same decade. This Score Select card -- other than that Brewers home uniform on Bill Wegman -- could easily have come straight out of a Fleer boxed set from about 1986 rather being from 1993. It's a basic design for the photo, but it's a busy border. In other words, it's pretty much an early 1990s card in a nutshell.

Then, there's Jeromy Burnitz. It looks like you could use his jaw to break concrete, or to drive nails if you lose your nail gun and hammers.

And the less said about that star-studded Donruss 2001 card, the better. "Baseball in front of a green screen, FTW!"

My 1990s nickel-box closes with three Cal Eldred cards. In some respects, Cal Eldred was a 1990s poor man's version of Ben Sheets. But,Eldred never reached the heights that Sheets did. Whereas Sheets struck out hitters in bunches, Eldred was around league average in strikeouts.  Where Sheets barely walked anyone, Eldred struggled to get his BB/9 to stay under 4. 

Both, though, were top Brewers pitching draft picks out of college whose arms were put into a meat grinder before they reached their respective 30th birthdays -- Eldred, for instance, threw 258 innings in 1993 for a Phil Garner-managed team that finished 69-93 and dead last in the American League East a full 7 games behind 6th place Cleveland in celebration of the end of the old AL East from my childhood. 

And both could have been much more with a bit more care put into their early careers.

That's why I collect both of them -- because they were shining examples of those bad years when elbow tendons and shoulders were ground up and spit out in the interest of getting to 65 wins.

After all, these guys were the men in the box


  1. The electric diamonds are the best parallel ever (ok, along with the Collector's choice silver signatures) !

  2. Love the song selection. Nothing like some Alice In Chains and nickel box cardboard.

  3. I love Alice in Chains! I had a bunch of those old Black Diamond cards. Nice pickups

  4. Love me some AIC as well, though "Man in the Box" sure has been played to death by Classic/Alt Rock radio. That said, I definitely approve of the pun!

    1. If it makes you feel any better, I was sitting in my Angry Chair when I wrote this post.

  5. I second what Fuji ,Gav and Matt wrote