Saturday, May 19, 2018

1998 Pinnacle Indians Team Snapshots

In the 90's, two companies that experimented with all kinds of ways to get folks into collecting were Pacific and Pinnacle (Score). One example presents itself in this set of "Team Snapshots." These items were sold in packs of 8 photos. There are 18 total images per team. Not every team had a set, though. Only 15 of the MLB teams were represented in the "Snapshot" sets. I'm glad the Indians was one of those teams!

I am posting a break of one pack over on A Pack To Be Named Later, which covers more of the design aesthetics, etc. But, I will tell you that it took me 7 packs to get the whole set. The main reason it took so many? #15 (John Smiley) kept eluding me.

The set comes with a checklist on top of all the packs in the box (these were sold in boxes of 25 packs). The snapshots themselves are 5x7 photos taken during Spring Training, or so it appears anyway.

Here is the full set of Tribers:

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Thome in The Hall!

When Jim Thome first showed up on the Indians roster, I felt it. I knew that no matter what he did with his career, he would always be one of my all-time favorites. He was likeable. He was a Triber. And, in very short order, he showed he was also a player.

Over his years in Cleveland, I loved watching him on TV when the Indians were on where I could see them. Throughout his career, he remained one of the “good guys.” I don’t mean in playability. He was way more than “good” in that regard. But, he was the guy who came to work and put in the effort when several other players were growing big heads, fighting drug use accusations and causing many fans to turn away from America’s pastime.

When he left Cleveland, many fans turned their anger toward Thome. Sure, he played a part in his $89mil contract with the Phillies, but I was angry with the Cleveland office who had once again turned the Tribe into the farm team to the rest of the league. The Indians continued their notoriety for dumping star players and perpetually existing in a state of “starting over” after having a great season.

From the beginning, I maintained he was one of the most underrated and unappreciated players in the league. He hit 300, 400, 500 homers and it went largely unreported, unnoticed. When he cracked 600, people finally started paying attention and heaping accolades on the “good guy of baseball” that were long, long overdue.

When talk of the Hall started before his retirement, I was convinced that he would probably never make it simply because he was so underrated. Fortunately, he had put is head down and gone to work throughout his career. As it turns out, a lot of folks in the BBWAA knew this work deserved to be recognized and rewarded. Thome entered the Hall with 89.9 percent of the vote, placing him between two other former Tribers: Roberto Alomar and Frank Robinson.

Mighty fine company.

Note: This post was supposed to go out on Thursday after the HOF announcement. I was in Orlando on business and forgot to push publish. D'oh!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Approaching the End of the Topps Monopoly

It's almost here! No, not Christmas, though that is also coming. What I am referring to is the end of the Topps monopoly of MLB-licensed baseball cards. The "exclusive contract" (read, monopoly) with the MLB runs out in 2020, and I, for one, cannot wait.

Way back in 2009, Topps and the MLB signed the paperwork that brought Topps back into the monopoly it held over baseball cards. I say "back into" because before 1980, Topps had a monopoly on producing MLB-licensed cards. That was challenged and we collectors were blessed with some of the worst competitors we have ever seen. The Fleer and Donruss sets were awful, wrought with horrible photos and errors galore. But, we didn't care. We FINALLY had something other than Topps to collect! Sure, there were other brands and off-shoots before that, but they were not "official" and often featured very bad airbrushing to get rid of the team logos. But, starting in 1980, we finally had REAL cards with REAL teams that were NOT Topps.

Competition bred furious innovations: crazy die-cuts, foils, Christmas ornaments, autographs, game-used swatches, bats, etc. It also, admittedly, bred a bizarre spiral into horrid product quality control. Some cards were made of cheap paper, some would fall apart, some had fuzzy, awful photos. Print runs were out of control. Though, the 90's were the heyday of so-called "junk wax" runs in which so many cards were produced at such low quality, they are often sold for less than 1 penny per card.

Then, Topps and the MLB inked a deal to "save card collecting." The deal (in 2009, extended to 2020 in 2013) allowed Topps to once again grab hold of the business and serve as the monopoly of officially licensed baseball cards. For a while, things really sucked. We had horrible products, rehashed versions of old Topps designs, and even the photography looked like a thumbnail image your grandfather enlarged with Paint in order to make it fit onto a card (fuzzy and pixelated crap). Collectors revolted, buying non-licensed cards from Upper Deck, Panini, etc.

Topps got better.

Enter the digital age. Topps developed several card-collecting apps (everything from baseball to Star Wars to soccer, football, and more) - digital versions of baseball cards, acquired through online trading and a VERY lucrative micro-transaction mechanism (where users buy virtual coins and diamonds with real money in order to buy digital cards that do not exist physically - it's genius, really). Topps also came up with "Topps Now" cards, which depict players from the previous day's "hot list of achievements (my own phrase)." These might include Ichiro's 3000th hit or the Indians crazy 20+ game winning streak. Again, Topps has managed to do some things right. Of course, there were the epic failures like 3d baseball cards (which used an app and augmented reality to show a 3d version of the player when you pointed your phone at a card) and whatever that online card collecting site they had was called - sorry, I blocked it out of my memory and don't even want to Google it.

Would those things have developed in the same manner had Topps not inked the deal? Did Topps and the MLB really save baseball card collecting? It's hard to say. How can anyone say for sure, given there was no competition. For all we know, other brands may have popped up that might have developed better apps, better cards, better experiences. Then again, maybe not.

As for the future? I can only hope and pray that 2020 marks the END of the Topps monopoly once and for all. I can only hope that new card companies will rise up and offer worthwhile competitive products. Exclusive contracts are meant to provide one supplier and one manufacturer the opportunity to help spark competition once the contract is over. Please, please, for the love of The Hobby, let's hope that is the fruit of this stranglehold we collectors have been subjected to for all these years.

Here's hoping 2020 provides a clear vision for competition in MLB-Licensed baseball card collecting.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Off-Topic: Short Story to be Published!

I am so excited and honored to have "A Game of Tag" included in this collection coming out SOON!!

The story centers around a boy who is essentially confined to his room a decade after World War III. He watches his friends play a game of tag. Not all is as it seems.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Cards From Co-Workers

When you collect baseball cards, word gets around the workplace pretty quickly. Soon, colleagues ask about your collection, how long you've been collecting, what keeps you collecting, etc. And, yes, many give you the sideways glance of a disapproving parent.

Often, at least in my experience, they are quick to come to your for advice about cards they still have or cards their kids are collecting. "How much do you think this is worth?" "What do you think of these?" and other similar questions.

Sometimes, co-workers bring you a stack of cards and say, "I've had these for a long time and I don't collect. Would you like them?" I always take them. Always. It doesn't matter to me if the cards are worth $1 or $100. It doesn't matter if they are players I collect or players of whom I have never heard before. What matters is that this person thought enough of me and my hobby to offer something to help the cause or to find a new home for cardboard bits that were collecting dust. The cards in this post are just that: cards given to me by co-workers. Most of these will find their way into trades/giveaways, off to find a more permanent home.

The "Pudge" card came from my organization's Director. I'll keep that one, mainly because she understands what my hobby means to me and this was a very cool gesture. The other cards came from one co-worker, cleaning out her closets one day. They are all from 1987.

There are some very well-known folks in here: Jim Rice and Tony Gwynn jump off the scan from this first group. Am I the only one that thinks of the song "Come on Eileen" when coming across a Johnny Ray card? "Poor old Johnny Ray..." We also have Otis Nixon, Triber!

 The next scan finishes out the 87 Fleer with players like Oil Can Boyd, Cecil Cooper, Ron Guidry and more. These are the players of my youth - er, okay, I graduated High School in 87...

Next up, we have a stack (most likely a single pack) of 1987 Donruss. Dale Murphy, Tim Wallach, and Jorge Orta (former Triber) stand out for me. Which ones grab your memory?

Finally, we end things with some 1987 Topps. Again, probably from one pack. Roger Clemens, Dave Kingman, and Leon Durham jump out for me, along with several others.