Thursday, August 28, 2014

From the Binder- Javy Lopez

Seems like some other bloggers are running across this too, but this has been a busy week and as a result I've missed a few days blogging.  I've really enjoyed posting since I've started the blog as it's given me a reason to look through my collection and remember some of my favorite players who have retired.  I've got some insert cards coming in the mail soon that I'm excited to share and some other ideas in the works.  I also need to get my want lists in good shape and put up some kind of trade list.  There's a lot to get done with the blog in the coming weeks!

You might notice a trend in some of the players I am blogging about- quite a few have been a member of the 1995 Braves World Series team.  I'd like to share some cards of the catcher of that team (for everyone except Maddux), a 3-time All-Star and MVP of the 1996 NLCS, another player on my favorite team from the 90s, Javy Lopez.  Javy was another player to come through that AAA Richmond with Chipper Jones, Ryan Klesko, Mark Wohlers and others.

The cards in each row have something in common with each other that is absent in the cards on the other rows... can you tell what each row has in common?

Each card in the first row shows Lopez with a bat in his hands.  His 1993 Topps card tells us that Javy was signed by Jorge Posada, the father of Yankee catcher Jorge Posada.  It also shows stats from his minor league years, although he played 100 games for the Richmond Braves in 1993 and this card shows his stats through 1992.

The 2000 Topps Stars is one of the few in my Lopez collection that actually show his swing.  The back of the card gives his hitting 4 stars, power 4 stars, speed 1 star, defense 3 stars, and arm 4 stars.

I've made it no secret that I appreciate vintage looking cards, and this card from 2001 Upper Deck Vintage is no exception.  Maybe I'll go after some Oriole and Brave team sets here.

This row shows Lopez in his catchers gear.  I like this first card from 1995 Pinnacle Zenith because the back of the card shows you where each hit from the 1994 season went.  Pretty neat idea for the back of a card.  Based on this chart, Javy sent more hits to left field against right handers than any other location and pitcher combination.

As mentioned, I enjoy the transparent cards and one from 1998 Topps Tek is an interesting one.  Apparently there are a bunch of different patterns for the background of these cards.  This could seemingly be a nightmare for player collectors if they decided to go after each pattern.  I don't think I'd have the patience.  This is a cool card nevertheless.

I remember opening several packs of 1996 Pinnacle being excited to pull some of my favorite players.  I'm not as fond of this set design now as I was then, but it still brings back good memories of opening packs when I was younger.

Now... the many faces of Javy.  All three of these show Lopez running the bases.  Not too much to say about these other than speed was not his strong point.  He stole 8 bases during his whole career.

Another reason I appreciate Lopez, not only did he play for the Braves, but he also played for my other favorite team, the Orioles.  I'd like to add a card or two of Lopez in an Orioles uniform to my collection soon!

Monday, August 25, 2014

From the Binder- Smokin' Smoltz

Continuing to share some of my collecting interests by getting card stacks into binders, I'll move onto one of the 'Big Three' in Atlanta during the 90s/early 2000s, John Smoltz.  Although I don't think it was a common nickname of his, I've always called him Smokin' Smoltz.  I won't go over his accolades as I'm sure if you are reading this blog you probably already are familiar with his career as a starter and closer.  I never did see Smoltz pitch in person, unfortunately, as his time in Richmond was when I was too young to know that baseball even existed.  

On his 1990 Donruss card you see a younger Smoltz without all the facial hair. Apparently there is an error card out there that shows a young Tom Glavine with an MVP background and John's name at the top.  If there's another card from 1990 Donruss to add to my collection, I'd say that's it.

The next two are Stadium Club releases from 1999 and 1997.  I thought the 99 version was a nice shot of Smoltz throwing right towards the camera.  The 1997 I added because that was a Stadium Club design I wasn't all that familiar with.

When I was younger I was all about trading for cards from Topps Gold Label, although I couldn't afford to buy packs of them for myself at the time.  Glad to have this version in my collection.

I was more limited to my good friends from Collector's Choice.  I've got a number of these All-Star Connection inserts from the 1997 set.  Again, the scan doesn't do the card justice.

Again, the scan on this 2000 Pacific Prism card just isn't as impressive as how the card looks in hand.  Maybe at some point I'll go after some of the parallel versions of this card.

The current Braves have a good staff of starting pitchers despite some injuries, especially some guys who have unexpectedly had pretty great years for their salaries such as Aaron Harang.  But it would take a group of special players to top the trio of Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

From the Binder- Ryan Klesko

As with Andruw Jones, I saw Ryan Klesko play in AAA Richmond when I was younger, although I don't have a distinct memory of seeing him play like I do with seeing Andruw play.  I guess I was too young at that point, I was 6 or 7.  I was a fan of Klesko for a few reasons- obviously because we share a name, Ryan, he played for the Braves, he was a power hitter, and he is left-handed, which I am also.  

Out of my baseball player collections, my Ryan Klesko collection is the biggest.  Bigger than Cal, bigger than Chipper and Andruw put together, and much bigger than any of my recent collecting interests.  The reasons for this? He was my earliest favorite player, and his cards are generally pretty cheap.  One of these days I will get my collection entered on this site.  Here are some of my favorites...

One of the handful of Klesko rookies I have.  The back of the card gives some stats from his time in the South Atlantic League playing for the Greenville Braves.  The Greenville Drive happen to be my hometown minor league team these days.  It's a shame they are no longer the Braves, but I am enjoying following the Sox prospects come through town as well.

The second, from 1998 Topps Stars, is the only serial #'d card I have of Klesko.  Neat set that blends the stadium and fans into the sky.  I'm sure these cards are pretty common, but anything with a serial # on the back got me excited when I picked this one up.

I enjoy any references on cards to the Braves 1995 World Series victory.  And reading the back of this 2002 Upper Deck card was a nice reminder that Klesko hit 3 home runs during the series.

This 1995 Upper Deck card on the left is a great shot of Klesko making contact on the ball.  You see a lot of cards with players swinging, but you don't often see the bat on the ball.

I do have more Klesko cards in a Padres uniform than in a Braves uniform, and Klesko's only All-Star appearance was with the Padres, so it makes sense that I show a few of those as well.

New goal for September- get my Klesko collection out of stacks and into a binder, and document it along the way!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Mini Stacks

I have a love/hate relationship with minis.  I feel like a should acquire them for my player collections, but generally I would rather just have a full size version of the same card.  

These minis from 2014 Topps fit that description.  I enjoy the design of these die-cut cards, but I would enjoy full size versions of these cards more.  The Kershaw in particular looks great.  The gray text of Dodgers even matches the away jersey Kershaw is wearing and you get Kershaw in his throwing motion. The Glavine is fine but the yellow border is kind of blinding and doesn't fit with the Braves colors.  He's also staring right at the camera.

Speaking of Kershaw, I need to add more cards of the best pitcher in baseball to my collection.  He has been so dominant this year it's almost an automatic win when he goes out there.  I purchased through the end of the season, and a large part of it is just to watch Kershaw pitch every 5th game.  Last night against the Padres Kershaw went into the 6th inning without a hit before giving up a hit to the opposing pitcher, Tyson Ross.  When the crowd comes to the game hoping for a no-hitter, you know something special is happening.  A future post on Kershaw is coming.  Back to minis...

I did a double-take when I received a stack of cards from JustCommons without looking at a picture of the cards before buying.  I purchased a copy of Cal's 2013 Topps Mini and 2014 Topps Archives.  I was a bit confused as at first glance I thought I'd received a mini and full size version of the same card.

Same design used, two separate sets, different photo.  At least they are from different years, and the card from 2013 is an insert set.

I know I've read some posts on other blogs about minis recently.  How do you feel about minis from recent sets?  Do you collect them because you feel obligated to fit them into your collection, or do you collect them because you really like them?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

From the Binder- Andruw Jones

I first saw Andruw Jones play for the AAA Richmond Braves in 1996 when I was 10 years old.  His first at-bat he hit a long foul ball to the left of the foul pole, just missing a home run.  His next at-bat he crushed a homer out of The Diamond.  If I remember correctly Jones only played one more game after that one in Richmond and was called up to Atlanta.  Andruw was in the World Series lineup against the Yankees that October, hitting home runs in his first two at-bats. He finished his career a 10-time gold glover and 5-time all-star.  Let's get to the cards.

The 1997 Metal Universe card was the first Andruw Jones card in my collection. 11 year old me thought this card was just too cool, and I don't disagree with him.  Andruw is tracking a fly ball on another planet, it appears.

The 1999 Ultra in the center shows Jones' athleticism and how he won all those gold gloves.  My favorite action shot of Jones.  What a leap!

This 2003 Authentix set has a great design with Jones sporting a retro Braves jersey.  I put together a complete set in the basketball version.

I wish the Stadium Club Chrome brand was produced longer than it was. The color on these cards make them look great in person.

It's nice to see players signing autographs for fans on cards, as Jones is in this 1999 Fleer Tradition.

Does Jones catch the ball on the 1999 Stadium Club card on the right?

Seeing Andruw Jones play in AAA is one of my favorite memories as a baseball fan.  It's awesome to see a player in the minors and then see them have success in the majors.  Who have you seen play in the minors that has gone on to be a star in the majors?  Did you suspect how good they would be at the time?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Well Designed Inserts- What Have I Missed?

Part of not being engaged in the baseball card part of the hobby for so long is that I don't know where to start.  One of my favorite parts of collecting is finding unique looking inserts that I know I'll enjoy coming back to look at again and again.

That is why I am asking for your help.  What insert sets from the 90s that might include players from my wantlist have I missed, or even ones that don't, particularly from the mid-late 90s?

I am more likely to put together an insert set than a full base set.  The last baseball insert I worked on was 2006 Bazooka Stamps, which obviously isn't from the 90s, but I associate the coolest insert sets with the mid-late 90s.  I have 24 out of 30 cards from this set.  I collected postage stamps when I was younger and so to me this was a unique, interesting insert set to put together.

Here we have some Braves.  The Braves starting pitching for the most part has been solid, but with several guys out for the year (Beachy, Medlen) and another struggling (Minor), how nice it would be to have Hudson back in the rotation.

Looking back on it now I find these cards less appealing than I did at the time.  The backs are essentially blank and the cards have no color.  I would appreciate these more if they had a variety of colors, even if keeping the same design on each card.  Even so, this is a pretty unique idea for an insert set.  Plus since there's nothing of significance on the back, I can put these into pages on the front and back sides.

An example of a set I am likely to acquire a few cards from is 1996 Studio Stained Glass Stars.  The cards up on ebay look awesome and I imagine there aren't any other insert sets that try to mimic the look of stained glass on a card.

This post wouldn't be complete without me showing some of my favorite inserts from my Orioles and Braves collections.

I've always viewed Flair Hot Numbers as an iconic insert set from the 90s, a set that all other insert sets are measured against.  Maybe there's another that fits that category for you?  

This Rawhide insert from Fleer Ultra is my favorite Ripken in my collection.  The texture on the card which is hard to see in the scan is made to look like the surface of a glove.

Send me all your transparent inserts!  I think the Stadium Club Chrome set deserved more years in production and the inserts from SCC are great.  

Shiny inserts from late 90s/early 00s Topps!  Can't get enough of them.  

While I may not be looking to complete all of these types of sets, I do enjoy picking up cards of my favorite players and teams that fall into these sets.  Maybe I'll go back and try to complete the Bazooka Stamps set, especially since I am 5/6 of the way there.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

From the Binder- Cesar Izturis

Yes, you saw right- I collect Cesar Izturis cards.  Izturis, the one-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner at shortstop for the Dodgers.  Watching Izturis and Alex Cora team up in the middle of the infield for the mid-2000 Dodgers was a thing of beauty.  

I took a trip out west with my parents and sister to visit some family in 2003, and on that trip my dad and I saw the Dodgers and Cardinals at Dodger Stadium.  It is one of my favorite baseball memories.  Ricky Henderson hit a home run for the Dodgers in his last major league season and a young Albert Pujols homered for the Cardinals.  Here is the boxscore if you are interested.  It is my favorite MLB game I've been to short of the Red Sox game I attended on my honeymoon, with great players on both sides.  I followed that group of Dodgers pretty closely for a few years and still follow them to a lesser extent now that all the players from that team are elsewhere or retired.  Izturis batted 8th for the Dodgers that night but I enjoyed rooting for him and watching his glovework.  In the following years I acquired a little more than a page worth of Izturis cards (and cards of others from that team, Shawn Green, Paul Lo Duca, etc...).  Below are some of my favorites.

The first is the only rookie card I have of Izturis, his 2000 Topps card.  In the center is his Rookie Crusade insert from 2002 Donruss, the only serial #'d card I have of Izturis.  10 years ago getting a serial #'d card of anyone was a pretty big deal.  On the right you can see Cesar avoiding a sliding Marcus Giles, maybe after having thrown to first.

I would count several Fleer Ultra sets among my favorites over the years.   The 2005 iteration would rank high among them, with their great action shots.  Speaking of, I miss Fleer.  Cesar's 2004 Topps Chrome Gold Refractor isn't serial #'d but it is one of the few gold refractors I have of any player.  And finally, I enjoy any year of Topps Heritage.  I could do without the white border but it's an attractive card. The back of this one describes Cesar using his speed and quickness at shortstop to shore up the infield that had been plagued with errors in seasons prior.

I'll always appreciate the role Izturis played on those Dodger teams in the early-mid 2000s.  I'd like to add an autograph of Izturis to my (small) collection soon.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Cut to the Chase

I'm always on the lookout for insert sets that catch my eye, especially ones that contain cards of my favorite players, and insert sets that remind me of set designs from the late 90s and early 2000s. Cut to the Chase from 2013 Topps is one of those sets.  

In general I am not a fan of die-cut cards, but in this case I'll overlook it for the blend of colors in the background.  When I first saw a card from this set on another card blog (I'm sorry I can't remember which), I thought it would have been an insert from a Chrome or Finest product.  These type of insert sets are a big draw for me to open packs from the base Topps set.  I'm a sucker for pretty inserts and I would even take a nice insert over a ho-hum relic out of a pack in a lot of cases.  The written description on the back of this Machado card starts with the title 'Thrill of the chase', and is how many get enjoyment out of our great hobby.

Now that I have the Machado in my possession... must find the Ripken!  And why isn't Clayton Kershaw in this set? Would love to have an insert from this set in Dodger blue.  He could be chasing... I dunno... either of his CY Young awards? Pick one! Somebody please tell me I missed his name on the checklist.

While I go grumble some more about Kershaw being omitted from this set, please feel free to enjoy 'Cut to the Chase' from one of my favorite bands, Rush.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

From the Binder- 90s Cal

As mentioned in an earlier post, while unpacking after a move a few months ago I came across a binder of Orioles and Braves cards from my childhood.  Much to my delight, one page was full of Ripken cards, which I will share with you now.  

I have always been a sucker for shiny, glossy, and chrome cards, so I was excited to see Cal's card from  1999 Topps Chrome.  It's currently my only Chrome Ripken, something that needs to be fixed.

The All-Star Connection card in the center looks much better in person than in the scan.  At first I assumed this was a regular Upper Deck insert, but then realized it was from Collector's Choice.  I opened a lot of Collector's Choice in second half of the 90s mainly due to affordability.  Upper Deck definitely put some inserts in there that I appreciate today. The base set design not as much, but at the time I was pleased to open any kind of packs.

At first I thought the 1999 Topps card on the right was a gold parallel, but it appears the base 99 set has a gold border and the gold parallels that we see today didn't start for a few more years, which I'm sure you readers already know. How obvious is it that I was paying more attention to basketball cards than baseball around this time in my life?

The first card in this row from 1996 Pinnacle is one of my favorites.  The back of the card notes that Cal won MVP awards in 1983 (sadly before I was born), and 1991.  Being awarded MVP eight years apart (and not missing a game in-between) is an impressive feat that certainly makes him worthy of being in a subset called 'Hardball Heroes'.

The only comment I have on the middle card,  is I've always appreciated the cursive font in combination with it being shiny, like an Electric Diamond card from 1995 Upper Deck, or Electric Court as I remember it from collecting Hoops.  Also, the card back says that Cal's hobby is basketball and his favorite show is Seinfeld.  It's like we're the same person!

Rounding out this row is a card that at first glance I recognized as from a Z-Force set, but is actually listed as Skybox Circa Thunder.  I always appreciated the inserts from Z-Force sets and I imagine there's some good ones from this Thunder product as well.

That's all for now- more Cal's to talk about soon!

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Cal That Started It All

When I was 7 or 8 years old I received a few cards as a gift from my cousin Rusty.  Rusty is the most passionate baseball fan I know and has a goal to make a trip to each MLB stadium, an awesome goal and great way to see the country.  What he probably doesn't know is that he got me started in the card collecting hobby, and helped me become an Orioles fan.

1992 Fleer Ultra Award Winners #5
My mom's side of our family is split between being Orioles and Yankees fans, it's about half and half.  My great-great grandmother who lived to be 105, was an Orioles fan and followed the team pretty regularly in her later years, even taking a trip to Camden Yards with my cousin Rusty.  In addition to generally favoring the underdog in most matchups, when I received the Cal card pictured above (along with a Michael Jordan), it solidified my Orioles fandom.

This was the start of my card collection, and I've collected on and off over the years since. In the years following I opened a bunch of 1993-94 Upper Deck basketball and a TON of 1994-95 Fleer basketball products.  I revisited this time period on my basketball blog  by opening 1994-95 Fleer Series 1 basketball and my favorite from that time, 1994-95 Flair basketball. I also started a baseball card binder of Orioles and Braves cards, which I'll continue to share with you in future posts.  

But there you have it, the first card in my baseball card collection, and luckily I've managed to hang onto it over the years, and came across it the other day. So thank you Rusty for getting me started in a hobby that I still get joy out of over 20 years later!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

More Bobbles More Problems

After a move several months ago, I am still in the process of going through all the boxes in a seemingly never ending process. This week I uncovered a binder of baseball cards from my childhood, many of which are Orioles and Braves cards.  More on that binder for future posts, but for now I want to share a few of my favorite cards from my collecting in the 90s, 1998 Collector's Choice Bobbing Head cards.

The issue for me with these as well as Starting Lineup figures, bobbleheads, etc... do I punch them out and get fun out of them, or is keeping them intact the fun part?  Don't you want to know what's on the baseball quiz inside Cal's head?

Even Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory couldn't resist playing with his Star Trek transporter toy.

I opened the occasional Starting Lineup figure, but for the most part I kept them in original packaging, in the card frame, bobbleless.  I guess there's always this option: open one, get another non-bobbing copy.

Not sure if a more recent insert set exists, but it might attract the younger collector, who might face the same struggle I did as a kid. To bob, or not to bob.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Braves Aren't Rockin' but I Won't Stop Choppin'

The Braves are in trouble.  They aren't producing runs and their strong pitching from earlier in the season is starting to slip. The current Braves are clearly a step below the best teams in baseball and without a turnaround in the near future, making the playoffs would be difficult.  With some tough teams coming up with the league's best A's and the Pirates on the road after that, the Braves need to figure things out quickly.

Freddie Freeman, though, has emerged from a slump and has been hitting well as of late.  With 2 All-Star appearances under his belt already and an 8 year contract, Freeman should be a mainstay at first base for many years and someone the Braves can continue to build their lineup around.

And just because the Braves are slumping doesn't mean the Braves cards stop coming.  In fact, this card from 2014 Topps Archives is the first Freddie Freeman card in my collection.

I am a fan of this simple design, modeled after 1971-72 Topps Hockey.  I've always liked this type of card, the Heritage/Archive/Retro type sets, and picking up this card of one of my favorite current players is a great start. One thing I always envied about baseball yearly releases when I was collecting basketball was the mainstay of Topps Heritage, only released by Topps for basketball in 2000-01 and 2001-02.  I look forward to picking up Braves and Orioles from these releases.

I picked this up off ebay from an auction that let me select a card I wanted from a dropdown for a particular set.  This type of ebay purchase was new to me- I ended up spending a bit of time browsing the seller's other insert sets for singles.

You might be thinking- Ryan, it looks like a lot of Orioles cards should be showing up on your blog! What's with the Braves posts?  Well, I am an Orioles fan, but a Braves fan as well.  Growing up I had the Richmond Braves (AAA) close by, and saw some great players pass through on their way to Atlanta.  Some of my favorite players are current and former Braves and so a good number of posts will show up on this blog that relate to Atlanta players.  

Check out my What I Collect page for a list players I collect.  I'll also be chasing some team sets of the Orioles and Braves and will compile a list of some cards I have for trade.  A big part of this blog will hopefully be interacting with other card bloggers and helping each other out with our collections.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How Baseball's Reeled me in

Hello baseball card blogosphere and welcome to Card Stacks Blog! My name is Ryan, and my first post will give a little introduction about me and why I created this blog, and how I've become a baseball fan once again this summer.

Anyone who knows me would say that basketball is my favorite sport and a passion of mine, and the NBA my favorite league to follow.  While this is true, there are certain parts of baseball that draw me in every summer in a way that no other sport can.  Baseball is the only sport where I can go to a game, and it doesn't even matter what two teams are playing, I will have a great time just the same.  Nothing beats a trip to the ballpark on a warm summer night.  

My wife and I took an awesome trip to Boston for our honeymoon, and made a trip to Fenway Park to see the Red Sox play the Twins. Here is 'Pedroia the Destroia' from our seats, as we saw written on a t-shirt at Fenway. My wife does some great photography work.

We are also close enough to Atlanta that we took a family trip to see the Braves on Hall-of-Fame weekend.  I've been a Braves fan since I was young (the Orioles are my AL team).  Being in Atlanta that weekend was special.

My best and easiest subject in school was always math and I work with data and excel spreadsheets and calculations every day.  I play fantasy basketball, football, and baseball.  In the basketball head-to-head league I am in, the weekly results usually come down to which side has players with more games that week.  Football the games only happen (usually) one day per week.  Fantasy baseball is where I can really dive into the daily stats, most players play the same amount of games per week, and there's greater opportunity for finding gems out of the free agent pool.  What I am getting at is- baseball is the perfect fantasy sport for me.

I've collected basketball cards on and off over the years, and in the last two years I really stopped collecting, the main reasons being 1) the online basketball card community seems to be focused on high-end cards 2) Panini has an exclusive license on creating NBA cards 3) There is no blogging community focused on basketball cards. I tried a basketball card blog- Hoops Hobby. Readership and reader activity were low.  Not the sole reason for the blog, but community is a big part of it.  

And so I plan to make fairly regular posts as I build up collections of some of my favorite players and teams, while hopefully making some trades with the card blogging community!