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.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pack Attack: 2009 Topps Mayo (Hot Pack)

I don't often stray from buying baseball cards (though this post and the last one don't bear that out), but when I saw some 2009 Topps Mayo Football singles selling on Ebay, I knew I had to grab a few packs. After all, the base cards are absolutely stunning and they feature the same framed relics that make Allen & Ginter such a hit. Topps Mayo is basically the A & G of football (except for the sticker autos), and who in the collecting world doesn't love Allen & Ginter?

I already bought a few loose packs of Mayo at Target and had some pretty good luck (a Steve Smith jersey and a Vince Young Harvard back #2/25), but I couldn't believe what happened when I picked up a "fat pack" for $4.99. I turned over the pack to take a look at the odds and was amazed when a big red H was staring back at me through the pack. That's right, a Harvard back numbered to 25 (odds 1 in 80 packs) was clearly right inside the fat pack. So, like any good collector, I raced to the nearest cash register, paid for it, and sprinted out to my car to open it up. As I ripped the pack open I was utterly amazed when not one but two, red Harvard back cards fell out, a B.J. Raji RC #10/25 and a Fred Taylor #9/25! Wow, if my simple math skills serve me correctly, the odds of pulling two Harvard backs in one pack are 1 in 6400! Granted these cards don't sell as well as their Bazooka back counterparts from A & G, but I was thrilled nonetheless. As a Packers fan the Raji RC was a great pull and Fred Taylor is a borderline Hall-of-Fame running back. Two awesome cards numbered to 25 from the same 5-dollar pack...I'll take that any day of the week.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Surprise Visit from the Doctor

Anyone who has collected cards for a while knows the wonderful phenomenon that is "power packs". Crammed together in a tiny box these packs are usually a couple of years old and generally priced at just a $1.59. For collectors they are a great, inexpensive way to fill their needs for a set, or maybe just a chance to pick up some packs they wouldn't consider paying full price for. Personally, I used power packs as an opportunity to grab some football or basketball cards in order to avoid getting burned out on baseball (not possible, but there's no harm in being cautious). So, while at Target the other day, I picked up a few power packs, including one 2006-07 Upper Deck Basketball.

Not expecting anything from the pack, I opened it quickly and was dismayed when I saw what I believed to be a cardboard dummy. Upon closer inspection, it turned out the thick slab was actually a jersey card...and a very good one at that. Staring back at me was none other than the greatest dunker to ever grace the face of this earth, Julius "Dr. J" Erving. Needless to say, I was speechless. Most jersey cards I have pulled were of average to below-average players that left me with a "meh" feeling. Even though I don't have as much exposure to the history of basketball as I do baseball, you would have to be living under a rock to not see Dr. J's influence in today's NBA; the man is a true living legend and thanks to one very powerful little pack, I've got a piece of his jersey. How cool is that?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Trade with Kerry from Cards on Cards

This is a long overdue trade post from a swap I completed weeks ago with Kerry from Cards on Cards. In my defense, I was trying to purchase a scanner so I could improve the quality of my posts, but had trouble finding a model priced right. Eventually I just caved and got an HP All-in-One, and these cards were the inaugural scans. Kerry lives in my neck of the woods (Pacific Northwest), but is a Cardinals fan, and I've got plenty to spare. In return for some St. Lunatics, Kerry sent over some Mariners, Griffeys and Roy Halladays. Here are some of my favorite from the trade:

2002 Upper Deck Jeff Cirillo Game Jersey #263/350: Despite having a successful career with the Colorado Rockies and Milwaukee Brewers, Jeff Cirillo never cut it as a third baseman for the Mariners, failing miserably at the plate in his two seasons in Seattle. I still like the card though, because it came from a time when jerseys were still difficult to obtain, and it features a nice large swatch of jersey (even if it does have a Rockies' pinstripe).

2006 Topps Hit Parade Ken Griffey Jr: Kerry actually sent over two Griffeys from this insert set, this card in a grey reds jersey which showed Junior second on the active career HR's list, and another which showed the Kid second the active career RBI's list (both second to Bonds). I always liked these inserts and was a little disappointed that Topps discontinued them. Shiny Griffey always = success!

Ken Griffey Jr. San Bernardino Spirit Oddball Card: Kerry also sent over a bunch of unlicensed, oddball Griffeys from his early days with the Mariners, and in this case, the Spirit of San Bernardino. There was a glut of oddball Griffeys back in the early 1990s when his popularity was at its apex, and I always enjoy cards of him from his short stint in the minor leagues.

Thanks for all the great cards Kerry and sorry it took so long for me to get them up (and sorry about the NL Cy Young debacle). I will be sending some more Cardinals your way soon!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Prize Package from Play at the Plate

Recently, Brian from the phenomenal Play at the Plate blog held a contest for his readers to guess the total number of runs that would be scored in the World Series. As luck would have it, my guess of 59 runs was exactly right, and today's mail included the prize package promised by Brian. This is the first contest I've won since joining the blogosphere, and I couldn't wait to see what Brian had in store for me. Inside were 5 packs of 2009 baseball cards, a team set bag, and a "hot pack"...let's see what's inside!

2009 Bowman Chrome Pack 1:
1) Tae Kyun Kim World Baseball Classic
2) George Kottaras
3) Torii Hunter Refractor

2009 Bowman Chrome Pack 2:
1) Brad Harman WBC
2) Hanley Ramirez Refractor
3) ICHIRO!!!!

2009 Goodwin Champions:
1) Adrian Gonzalez
2) Ben Roethlisberger
3) Franciso Liriano mini

2009 Topps Updates and Highlights:
1) Wilkin Ramirez RC
2) Brayan Pena
3) Xavier Paul RC
4) Nelson Cruz All-Star
5) Freddy Sanchez All-Star
6) Carlos Pena HR Derby
7) Nolan Ryan Legends of the Game (Gold)
9) Randy Wells
10) Cesar Izturis
11) Sean West
12) Ryan Langerhans

2009 Topps Ticket to Stardom:
1) Jason Varitek
2) Conor Jackson
3) Ian Kinsler
4) Ryan Howard Deckle
5) Hideki Matsui
6) Javier Vazquez
7) Derek Jeter
8) Carlos Zambrano

2009 Topps Updates and Highlights "Hot Pack":
1) 1990 Leaf Jay Buhner
2) 2002 Pacific Atomic Maurice Morris RC #307/465
3) 1999 Donruss Freddy Garcia Stat Line #367/397
4) 1990 Topps Ken Griffey Jr.
5) 2002 Fleer EX John Olerud Game Used Bat!!

Brian also included a team set bag that included some sweet Griffey's, Olerud's and Edgar's, as well as a Carlos Guillen RC (#524/2000), a few Titans and Packers..and best of all, a 2008 Topps Roy Halladay Game Used Jersey! Wow, I was blown away by everything I got from Brian. His generosity is almost unmatched in the blogosphere and he is a great trade partner.

Thanks again Brian, you've made my day yet again!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Card of the Week: 2001 Fleer Futures Ken Griffey Jr. Bases Loaded Game Used Base

With today's thrilling news that Ken Griffey Jr. is returning to Seattle for at least one more season, how could the card of the week not feature Junior? As a Mariners' fan I am ecstatic to have another go-round with the Kid, and equally excited that 2010 baseball card sets will have Griffey in them (earth to Allen & Ginter). I'm not sure how well he will perform in the field, but his presence in the clubhouse can't be overlooked, and he deserves to be with the M's as long as he wants to (he's like Bobby Bowden, except he doesn't seem like Bengay and Poligrip). Hopefully Seattle will surround him with some talent for one last shot at a World Series.

As for the card, this comes from 2001 Fleer Futures and features a piece of a base that was used in a game in which Griffey played (we think). I really like the design on this card, and that it's not just a smooth white piece of the base. Game-used base cards came and went in a hurry, and were mainly used by companies who couldn't gain access to jerseys or bats of players like Griffey, Jeter and Ichiro, due to their exclusive contracts with other manufacturers. This card brings me one step closer to collecting all the different types of Griffey memorabilia cards available, though I am still on the lookout for a piece of game-used fielding glove and hat. A great day for Mariners' fans, the Kids is back in town!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Spoils of the Spoiled: 2007 Ultimate Collection

I just received my cards yesterday from the group break of 2007 Ultimate Collection over at Saints of the Cheap Seats, and I have got to say, they are some darn good looking cards. I was pretty fortunate with my break to pull an autograph and a patch from a product I couldn't otherwise afford. The whole experience was equal parts nerve wracking and fun, and I hope to join another one soon. Thanks again to Dan at SotCS for putting the whole thing together, I'm sure it took a substantial amount of work. Now, let's get to the goodies:

Matt Cain "America's Pastime" Autograph: This is a beautiful card of one of the game's rising pitching stars. Believe it or not, Cain is actually younger than teammate Tim Lincecum, and as of now, has not been caught with any "grass" on/in his uniform/car. While the autograph is on a sticker, the card is well designed around it, something I wish would be done with all sticker autos.

Jim Thome "America's Pastime" Game-Used Patch #30/50: In the words of that incredibly annoying guy from those Pizza Hut commercials, JACKPOT! I don't have many patch cards in my collection so I was thrilled to pull one of a future Hall-of-Famer. Thome has always been a class act, and is one of a few sluggers from this era that I consider to be legitimate. Although he is featured in his White Sox uniform, it looks like the swatch comes from a Cleveland Indians uniform. Regardless, this is one sweet card and certainly made the group break experience a winning one for me.

As much as I like both of these cards, I don't love them, and would be thrilled if they found a happy home. I will entertain trade offers for both cards, just send me an email to and we will try and work out a swap. Thanks again to Dan for putting this together, it was a blast.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Cardboard Oddity: 2002 Donruss Cliff Lee & 2005 Donruss Cliff Lee

Although the Phillies may have lost the World Series two of their marquee players, Cliff Lee and Chase Utley, grabbed the national spotlight with their brilliant performances on baseball's biggest stage. Utley was simply superb with his record-tying 5 World Series homeruns (and greased hair) as was Lee in his Game 1 and 5 starts. Both players will probably see a substantial boost in sales on eBay, which of course got me digging through my cards of both players.

While sorting through my Cliff Lee's, I noticed something quite strange. His photo from 2002 Donruss and 2005 Donruss looked strikingly similar, and under closer inspection, it turns out that they were the same picture. Now, I know it's not kosher to pick on Donruss because they went out of business, but c'mon! The same photo of a player used in two different sets three years apart! Maybe that's why they went bankrupt, because this is an example of utter laziness, and if that wasn't bad enough, this same photo was used on 2005 Donruss Team Heroes (and 2002 Donruss Originals, but at least that's the same year). Was Cliff Lee really that hard to track down? Does his image not show up in pictures like vampires? Or is this simply just the best picture of Cliff Lee ever taken and Donruss wanted to showcase it by featuring the photo on four different cards? One thing is for sure, Donruss will never have the pleasure of my business ever again...