Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Card of the Week: 2001 Stadium Club Ken Griffey Jr. Play at the Plate Batter's Box Dirt Relic

One of the most unique Ken Griffey Jr. items in my collection, this card was found exclusively in Home Team Advantage (HTA) packs of 2001 Stadium Club. Available as redemptions only it is unclear how many of these exist of each player, but they are extremely difficult to track down.

The "Play at the Plate" relics contain authentic game-used batter's box dirt, although the back of the card doesn't identify where the dirt was used so it could be from a local high school field. Regardless, if a card has Griffey on it I will try and track it down, and this is another step towards owning every piece of Junior memorabilia available (still need: game-worn hat, game-used fielding glove and Mariners patch). A very cool card, and a concept that was never used again (except for Topps American Pie which produced "mud cards" from Woodstock), perhaps blogger Brian of Play at the Plate fame will start to hunt these down. There were also "King of the Hill" inserts from this set that featured authentic dirt from the pitcher's mound, which are even harder to find. What do you think of these cards?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas from First Day Issue!

Merry Christmas from Ken, Felix, Edgar and all the rest of us here at First Day Issue! I appreciate the support I have received from fellow collectors this past year as I have rediscovered the joy of this wonderful hobby. Thanks to everyone who has traded with me, sent me cards out of the blue, or taken the time to comment on my blog. You make card collecting so much better than it could ever be alone. We have created a great community here in the blogosphere and I treasure all the new friendships I have made this year. Enjoy the rest of the holiday season and may everyone pull a relic or auto of their favorite player in 2010!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Oh Where, Oh Where Did Fleer Ultra Go?

I was browsing my insert card binder the other day (just to make sure they were all still there) and was struck by one thought and one thought only: "Fleer Ultra made the coolest cards ever". Sure some other brands have come out with standout insert sets, but year in, year out I was always impressed by what I pulled from packs of Ultra. Whether it was a cool diecut, a card that felt like leather or just the right amount of shine, the brand could do no wrong in my book. Sadly, the company died off with the collapse of Fleer and Upper Deck was never able to restore Ultra to its former glory. It's really unfortunate that companies don't spend much time or effort on insert cards anymore, instead investing all their money into game-used and autos. Truth be told, I would much rather pull one of these beauties than another poorly designed relic card with a white swatch. Here's a sampling of some of my favorite Ultra inserts of all-time:

1999 Fleer Ultra Thunderclap: This card demands your attention with a shine brighter than a thousand suns. How cool of a name is Thunderclap for an insert set? These cards are extremely well designed and at 1:36 packs were obtainable but still fell less than one per box, so you felt a sense of accomplishment when you pulled one. The foil looks phenomenal in person.

1999 Fleer Ultra Damage Inc.: Designed to look like a business card, Damage Inc. inserts highlighted the games best sluggers and were a tough pull at 1:72 packs. The coolest part about this card? It even feels like a business card. How great would this be for a TTM?

2000 Fleer Ultra Diamond Producers: Wow! This might be my favorite insert card of all-time. It's made out of plastic, die-cut, shiny and it features one of the best pure hitters of the last few decades. Almost impossible to track down on the secondary market, these baby's were case hits pack in 2000 (1:288 packs). The scan does not do justice to how amazing this card is, a real gem!

2000 Fleer Ultra Swing Kings: I have already professed my love this insert set before, and it's easy to see why...they look awesome and were not too hard to pull at 1:24 packs. If you store them in toploader it almost looks like the card is floating. Why can't companies make cards like this anymore?

All I want for Christmas is for Ultra to return in 2010...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Box Break: 2009 Upper Deck Icons (Retail)

As mentioned yesterday, Upper Deck was kind enough to include a box of Icons along with the other cards they sent to me. I wasn't expecting a whole lot out of the box but was pleasantly surprised with what I pulled. The base set is extremely small (100 cards) so there was plenty of star power in each pack, and I pulled the requisite Ichiro, Griffey, Pujols, Jeter and Halladay from the box. I thought there was only supposed to be one jersey card per box, but I pulled two along with some rookies and plenty of shiny parallels. Here are the highlights:

Roy Oswalt Icons Jersey Card: A nicely designed card that focuses on the jersey swatch, I seem to be like a magnet to Oswalt insert cards (I pulled an Upper Deck X jersey of him a few weeks ago and my brother pulled a mini #1/1 wood card of Oswalt from A & G). Any Astros collectors out there?

David Freese RC #529/999: I am actually a big fan of these rookie cards. I prefer this design to that of the base set (even though it's not much different) and there is a fairly strong checklist headlined by Matt Weiters. Freese finished the season strong for St. Louis and looks like the Cardinals third baseman of the future. It's already bound for Cards on Cards (or will be soon).

Joe Mauer Silver Board Parallel: I'll never complain about pulling a shiny card, especially not when it's one of the game's best players. I think there were six of these total in the box and it is impossible not to fingerprint them. Still, a nice card of Mauer.

Brett Anderson RC #422/099: That's no typo, this card is actually numbered 422/099. I'm sure it was just an error in printing, but I still got a good laugh out of it. Does that make it an eBay one-of-one?

Tom Glavine Icons Jersey Card: I pulled this in the second to last pack of the box and it was a complete surprise because I thought there was only one game-used inside. I always liked Glavine. He was a consistent winner and seemed like a great guy.

Thanks Upper Deck! I sure got quite a haul from this box and the other cards.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Comes Early: Upper Deck's Unexpected Generosity (Jerseys! Jerseys! Jerseys!)

As some of you may recall, Upper Deck and the Beckett Blog recently put on a contest to find the face of 2010 SPX Baseball. I entered the promotion and didn't give it a second thought before later discovering that I was one of five finalists for the prize. Unfortunately, I didn't end up winning (a face only a mother could love probably did me in) but Upper Deck was kind enough to send me some cards as consolation prizes (they also sent a retail box of Icons which I will break later). I was really impressed by there generosity and would like to thank Chris Carlin in particular for his excellent communication throughout the process. Without further ado, here's what UD send my way:

2008 Upper Deck Kenji Johjima Game Jersey: I love these throwback jersey cards, this particular one featuring the 2000 Upper Deck design. While Kenji is long gone, he won't soon be forgotten (oh wait, he already has).

2008 Sweetspot Felix Hernandez/Justin Verlander Jerseys: A dual jersey of two of the best young right-handers in baseball, this card has a simple, elegant design that I find quite appealing.

2008 Upper Deck Felix Hernandez Game Jersey: Another cool throwback, this one modeled off the 1998 Upper Deck design. My Felix jersey cupboard was nearly bare before UD sent all these my way; he's probably my second favorite Mariner behind Junior.

2007 Ultimate Collection Felix Hernandez Jersey #75/75: The gem of all the Felix jerseys that UD sent, this beauty has an excellent design, and even though it doesn't mean anything to most collectors, the fact that it is the last serially numbered copy is cool in my book.

2008 Sweet Spot Bobby Richardson Auto #158/250: Admittedly this card seems out of place amidst all the Mariners but I mentioned to Chris how much I like Sweet Spot autos and he was thoughtful enough to include this card in the package. I'm not a Yankees fan, but Richardson was from a different era of the Bronx Bombers, and despite being a poor hitter had a successful career that included 5 Gold Gloves, a World Series MVP award and a place in history as the man who snagged Willy McCovey's screaming line drive to end the 1962 Fall Classic against the Giants.

2005 Ultimate Collection Ken Griffey Jr/Miguel Cabrera Dual Jersey #14/15: SHAMWOW! I was utterly flabbergasted when I saw this card, a dual jersey featuring my favorite player, a skinny Cabrera, and numbered to only 15! This is easily one of the best Griffeys in my collection and a wonderful surprise.

Thanks again Upper Deck. These cards certainly helped ease the sting of a bitter defeat. I will highlight what I pulled from the Icons box in the next few days. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cardboard Oddity: 2006 Topps '52 Hanley Ramirez Chrome RC #1305/1952

A few weeks I was browsing my local Shopko and found some 2006 Topps '52 in the power packs bin. I always liked the design of the cards and figured that for $1.59 I might as well take the plunge. I got six packs total and pulled some decent rookies (Melky Cabrera, Nelson Cruz, etc.) and three chrome parallels numbered to 1952 (Tom Gorzelanny RC, Albert Pujols, and the card shown on the left). At first I simply dismissed the card as some rookie that never panned out because I didn't recognize the image, but on my second go-round I realized that the card was supposed to be a rookie of the Marlins sensational shortstop Hanley Ramirez. The back of the card states the following:

"This spectacular rookie batted and ran opponents into submission in 2006, finishing with a .292 batting average, 46 doubles, 11 triples, 17 home runs and 51 stolen bases. The Marlins leadoff whiz reached base in 36 consecutive games at one point, and was better in September--.352 AVG and .623 slugging percentage--than any other month."

Sure enough, those are the numbers from Hanley Ramirez's rookie season in Florida; so I had pulled a numbered rookie of one of the NL's best players. But then who is the player actually featured on the front of the card? How could Topps make the mistake of putting the wrong picture on a card of such a highly touted player as Ramirez? It's not the first time such a thing has happened to Topps (see: Carlos Beltran's RC), and while Florida isn't the biggest baseball market in America, this player doesn't look even remotely like Ramirez. An otherwise great card is ruined by a lazy mistake, but I suppose it did give me a story to tell.

Does anyone know who the player featured on this card is?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Card of the Week: 2003 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection Ken Griffey Jr. Jersey Patch #93/99

The first game-used patch in my Ken Griffey Jr. collection, this beauty comes from 2003 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection and features a nice three-color swatch. In my opinion, '03 Ultimate Collection has some of the best memorabilia card designs of the decade, with large swatches and a clean format that accentuates the game-used jersey or patch. This three-color patch likely comes from Griffey's nameplate or possibly the Reds logo but looks great either way and is numbered just #93/99. One of the centerpieces of my Griffey collection, I hope to be able to add a Mariners patch card to display alongside this someday, but they aren't cheap or easy to find. I'll keep you updated as the hunt to collect every piece of Junior's memorabilia continues...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Trade with Ryan's Memorabilia (Griffey's Galore!)

A few weeks ago Mike from Ryan's Memorabilia contacted me about a trade. We both have one player and team that we actively pursue (I collect Griffey and Mariners, he collects Ripken and Orioles), so we figured a swap of Ripkens for Griffeys was perfect for both parties. I browsed through is Zistle Ripken Collection (550+ cards) and sent him some Ripkens he didn't have along with some various Orioles. He responded with a very generous package of Mariners and Juniors, the highlights of which can be seen below:

1996 Leaf Limited Lumberjacks Ken Griffey Jr. #3337/5000: A great mid-90's insert of the greatest player of the decade, this card is made out of what feels like wood and is serially numbered to only 5000 copies (which for the time, was quite scarce). Leaf was really cutting edge in some of the inserts they released and this card is no different; it's awesome.
2001 Fleer Focus Bat Company Ken Griffey Jr: The back of this card accurately describes Griffey's bat as "a lightning bolt, striking fear in every pitcher who takes the mound." Truer words have never been spoken, the Kid was the cat's pajamas. This card has a raised surface that adds some depth to Griffey and the big bat behind him.
1998 Skybox Dugout Access Gronks Ken Griffey Jr: My favorite card from the entire trade, this die-cut Griffey is from an insert set named "Gronks", a name which apparently came from Greg Gagne who described home run hitters as "Gronks". If you say so Greg, if you say so. Mike even included a screwdown holder for this card, which I haven't been able to crack open yet. Got to find a smaller screwdriver.

2007 Ultimate Collection Felix Hernandez Jersey: A classy looking relic card of one of the game's rising stars, this is my first King Felix jersey swatch. I sure hope the M's are able to hold onto him once his contract runs out, he is going to be a historically great player.

1998 Topps Finest Randy Johnson Refractor: This card takes the concept of a refractor to the next level, as both the front and back of the card are as shiny as Lil' John's teeth. Admittely the shininess makes the back of the card difficult to read, but it is so worth it.

2009 Topps Finest Ichiro Refractor: Tough call on which of these refractors I like better, 2009 Topps Finest is certainly a set I wouldn't mind acquiring some more of. I'm not sure how I feel about the back of this card though, it has a trivia question about Dustin Pedroia.

Thanks for all the great cards Mike! I was really blown away by what you sent my way, and I will make sure to find some more Ripkens to add to your collection soon.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Give a Hoot: Trade with Night Owl

What can you say about Greg from Night Owl Cards that hasn't already been said? The man is omnipresent in the baseball card blogosphere, a larger than life figure who transcends collecting yet still interacts with mere mortals such as myself. The driving force behind the creation of this very blog, the humble Night Owl refuses too take any credit (who can blame him, have you seen my grammar?) for his influence in the baseball card world, but has been behind every major innovation since the 1980's (the game-used jersey? His idea. Topps Ticket to Stardom? Not his idea). Anyway, Greg took a break from balancing the Earth on his shoulders, and sent me some Mariners, Griffeys and miscellaneous other cards I collect. He mentioned that a recent box of his contained a couple of hits I would enjoy, and as soon as I saw an envelope in the mailbox with a NY address I knew something good was in store. Check it out!

1992 Pinnacle Shades Jay Buhner: A cool subset of one of the coolest Mariners ever, this card really makes me miss the 1990's. What would have made this card absolutely bananas is if the picture of him in the sunglasses, would have been the picture of him in sunglasses. It hurts me to even think about it. Can anyone explain the process to me? Time travel?

2007 Bowman's Best Ichiro Suzuki: If I held a contest to see which one of my base cards was the thickest, this card would win, and it wouldn't even be close. A shiny Ichiro is always appreciated, especially from a product that I have never opened.

1978 Topps Mariners Team Card: Greg sent me a bunch of '78 Topps M's, and I am sad to say that I didn't recognize any of the players (although I did enjoy a hearty laugh at the expense of Dick Pole). This card however, features the unmistakeable Kingdome in the background. I went to quite a few games there when I was a kid and was really sad to see it go, a lot of good memories in that building (see: 1995 Mariners).

2008 UD Masterpieces Kenji Johjima Jersey: This is the first of the hits from Greg's box that was actually destined for me. UD Masterpieces are absolutely beautiful cards, and it would be tough to find a better designed relic than this one. Sadly, Kenji took off for Japan after four years in the States (I'm not so sure he wasn't forced back) during which he had mixed results with the Mariners. He looks like a turtle, but I liked him anyway.

2008 UD Masterpieces Ken Griffey Jr. Brown Border #27/100: Wow! This is easily my favorite card from the trade, a sweet numbered parallel of Junior with a great painting of the sweetest swing in the sport. I really wish UD would bring back Masterpieces, it was one of my favorite sets of the past few years.

Thanks for the tremendous trade Greg! Sorry you ended up with my box, but thanks for sharing the M's goodness with me. Expect some Dodgers in the mail soon!

Beckett's Free Stuff Friday Winnings

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to win one of the Free Stuff Friday contests that the Beckett Blog always puts on and got a pretty sweet card out of the deal. Shown on the left is that card, a 2007 Press Pass Legends Red Autograph Insert #16/25 of Hall-of-Famer Elgin Baylor. Due to the fact that my main collecting focus is baseball, I haven't opened many packs of Press Pass, but I've got to say that I am fairly impressed with this card. No stickers and a big, clean signatures; sure looks a lot better than most autographed cards put out by the major brands. Best of all, Baylor is even from my neck of the woods (the Pacific Northwest); where he attended tiny Seattle University and led the Chieftans all the way to the 1958 NCAA Title Game (they lost to Kentucky). Thanks again to Beckett, this is one of my new favorites!

Prize Package II from Play at the Plate

Another contest over at Play at the Plate and yet another great (or more accurately, lucky) guess netted me four packs of 1991 Topps Stadium Club plus some randoms of my favorite players and teams from Brian. The packs were a ton of fun to bust, vintage wax is always a treat, and they really live up to their billing with some great photography (they seem like prime candidates for TTM's). Here are my favorite cards from each pack:

Andrew Dawson: "The Hawk" on the fly between first and second.

Mark Whiten: Hard-Hittin' Mark Whiten was one of my favorite M's during his short stay in Seattle. I remember he hit a ball so hard it got stuck in an outfield wall. He also had four HR's and 12 RBI's in one game. That's a season for most Pirates players.

Cal Ripken Jr: The best player to pull in Series II packs, this was definitely a case hit (for 1991 at least). Love the old Baltimore orange, sure would make great jersey cards.

Sam Horn: Don't know much about him, but his sons sure do seem to be causing a ruckus these days.

As mentioned, Brian isn't content with just being generous. He's like Mother Teresa; he gives until it hurts. Here are my favorite Mariners that he also included in the prize pack:

2002 UD Originals Kaz Sazaki Jersey: Kaz and his splitter had a great run as Seattle's closer, finally bringing some stability to a Mariners' bullpen that always seemed to be in chaos. The front of this card features his 2000 UD Rookie Card whereas the backs of the 1991 Stadium Club featured the respective players rookie cards.

2001 SP Game Bat Ken Griffey Jr Trophy Room: A cool insert from a product I never busted, the sight of Griffey in Mariners' blue never fails to bring a smile to my face. And he's back for 2010! Hazaa!

Thanks for all the great cards and another fun contest Bryan!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Trade Bait: Get 'Em While They're Hot!

Alright fellow bloggers, here's a few cards I am willing to part with for the right trade. Take a look at my favorite players list (and note that anything with Ken Griffey Jr involved is given preference) and make me an offer by sending an email to: budbareither@gmail.com. Normally I am looking to trade a jersey card for another jersey/auto, but feel free to offer anything you think I might like. First come first serve. I will try to get back to you as quick as I can with whether I approve the trade or not, but I can't check my email at work, so I will do the best I can. All cards are in good condition and looking for a caring owner. Thanks for looking!
2006 Upper Deck Willy McCovey Jersey #139/145-CLAIMED

2006 Upper Deck Epic Kirby Puckett Jersey w/pinstripe #108/155-CLAIMED

2008 Upper Deck Heroes Ryan Braun Jersey w/pinstripe #118/200

2008 UD Piece of History Joe Mauer/Victor Martinez Dual-Jersey #45/99-CLAIMED

2009 Topps Chrome Jake Peavy Red Refractor #3/25-CLAIMED

2009 UD Eric Chavez Game-Used Jersey

2009 UD Goodwin Champions Cal Ripken Jersey (slightly off-center)-CLAIMED

2007 Ultimate Collection Jim Thome 3-Color Patch #30/50

2005 UD Classics Carlton Fisk Jersey w/seam-CLAIMED

2003 Fleer Focus Alfonso Soriano 2-color jersey patch #15/200

Monday, November 30, 2009

Tracking Down Zorilla: My Favorite Ben Zobrists

Besides Ken Griffey Jr, my favorite current baseball player is easily Tampa Bay's superlative shortstop/second baseman/outfielder Ben Zobrist, due in no small part to the fact that he carried my fantasy team to a third place finish. The "Zorilla" had a breakout season at the plate, hitting .297 with 27 HR's, 91 RBI's and 17 SB's. His versatility makes him invaluable to the Rays, and his keen batting eye led to a robust .405 OBP. There's nothing this scat cat can't do, and hopefully card manufacturers will recognize this and start featuring him in some more of their products. He doesn't have that many cards to date, but here are my favorites so far:
2007 Topps Triple Threads Bat/Auto #55/99: This card, just like Zobrist, is a dual threat, combining both game-used bat pieces and an autograph. This is my first card from Triple Threads, and while I am impressed with this particular card, I don't think I could ever stomach buying a whole box of it. Still, a cool early issue of this budding superstar.

2008 Topps Updates and Highlights Black Parallel #57/57: I've never pulled a black parallel from a pack, but I was more than happy to pick this up for a song on eBay, especially considering it was numbered #57/57 (A true one-of-one! Please know I am being sarcastic). I like the black border but it has some issues with chipping and certainly wouldn't grade out very well.

2007 Topps Chrome Red Refractor #9/99: You can never go wrong with refractor technology, especially when combined with a low serial number. I wasn't aware that there were red refractors in 2007 Topps Chrome...they definitely look better in this year's set (which for some strange reason, Zobrist wasn't a part of).

2008 Topps Heritage Black Chrome Refractor #3/59: This is probably my favorite Zobrist to date, as it combines a vintage card with modern technology. This card is the most I have spent on a Zobrist ($15), more than twice what I paid for the Triple Threads, which is a real testament to collectors love for Heritage. Who can blame them, it's a beauty?

Well, those are my favorites so far, hopefully 2010 will bring a bevy of new Zobrists to collect.