Thursday, May 28, 2015

Seven Nation Army of Cards in My Mailbox!

Hey everyone, Drew back here! About a week ago, my best buddy William surprised me with an excellent package of Yankees cards, new and old. I was not aware of this coming in, and needless to say it easily made my day. Let's take a look at what came my way:

We begin with some 2014 and 2015 Bowman; the one set I never seem to buy any of no matter how nice they may be. I must admit, this year's product is the best I've seen in years, and I'm not sure what it is that I love about it. The photo choices are atypical of the average Bowman product, and I particularly like the Michael Pineda card (although this copy is missing the foil "Mi" in Michael). Foil isn't always a plus, but Topps did a good job of making it work with this year's design.

My favorite of the Bowman cards happened to be of recently celebrated center fielder Bernie Williams. Bowman celebrated a 25th anniversary of the 1990 rookie class, which included Williams, Frank Thomas, Moises Alou, among others. There are regular variations, and also autographed versions, which our fellow blogger The Snorting Bull has already fully assembled (Beautiful set, by the way)!

I missed Bernie's best years in pinstripes, but have always had a high level of respect for his career(s). He was one of the more under-appreciated stars of the Steroid Era, and while it may seem off to retire his number with the Yankees, he deserves it thanks in part to others who have also had their numbers retired. It was a nice ceremony, and if you haven't heard his emotional speech, check it out.

2015 Topps Heritage hasn't done too much for me, although I have generally been a fan of the product over the years. I think a lot of it has to do with never being a fan of the 1966 Topps set, especially considering it followed up perhaps the most beautiful years of baseball card history, 1965. I do enjoy manager cards, as you saw recently with my TTM successes from this set of Buck Showalter and Ned Yost. 

I know I recently bashed Gypsy Queen for the random loopy thing on the front of each card, but the more I see of the set, the more it's growing on me. It almost reminds me of a keyhole, which as far as I know hasn't been done yet. As always, Gypsy Queen honors the legends they use, and boy, those Gossage, Parker, Cone, and DiMaggio cards are gorgeous.

... but nothing beats this one. Forever my all time favorite player. I miss you Derek.

There was quite a mixed variety of stuff in this package, as there usually seems to be. I don't know how William ends up with all these Yankees cards, but I'll always be glad to take them off your hands. I know it's hard for Panini to do without logos, but the Thurman Munson Diamond Kings card is flawless. I really hope they get an MLB license within the next few years, because I think a lot of what took me out of buying packs and boxes had to do with Topps receiving exclusive rights; crumpling Upper Deck in the process. A little competition is never a bad thing.

I've been waiting for this card for a loooooong time. The second I knew Jack White was getting a card in this year's Series 1, I wanted it in my collection. The former White Stripes lead singer and guitarist, as well a member of the talented Raconteurs, Dead Weather, and a fantastic soloist; has become one of my all time favorite musicians in a very quick timespan. I saw him perform live this past January at Madison Square Garden, and it was perhaps the greatest performance I've ever seen. White has been seen at many baseball stadiums in the last year, and a meme was even created for his dull expression at a Cubs game. I was even at a Yankee game last year that he (and Kate Upton) were at; and in retrospect I really wished I stalked him down and got a chance to shake his hand. Oh well. At least I finally have one of these beautiful cards, honoring his First Pitch at Comerica Park last summer!

Thank you so much again William! Please go check out foul bunt, but who am I kidding; who hasn't? See Ya!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Ten for Tuesday - Most Iconic Sports Photographs

Hey everyone, Drew back here! After a week off from my new series, Ten for Tuesday, I have returned to bring you something a little different than what we've covered thus far. Over the past month and a half, I have created lists of Hall of Famers who may not deserve to be in, the Best Switch Hitters in Baseball, the players with the best signatures in baseball, among others. But this week, we are slightly shifting gears towards what is featured on the front of the baseball cards most of my readers love: the pictures.

It is safe to say through our love for this hobby we also all share a love for photography, because it is one of the main focal points that makes collecting fun. We complain when we see a set that features the same poses in photos; card after card. We like unique, and with that I decided to highlight the ten most Iconic Photographs in Sports History for you all to feast your eyes on.

10 Most Iconic Sports Photographs of All Time

Honorable Mentions - 

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No Kirk Gibson? No Carlton Fisk? Once again, let me remind you that this is my list, and I was on the verge of putting these unforgettable scenes on this list until others surpassed them. Mazeroski set the baseball world ablaze after defeating my all powerful Yankees dynasty in 1960, while Jackie Robinson snuck his foot into home just a few years before past the man in left field who watched Maz's long fly soar over the fence; Yogi Berra (he was out, by the way). Not many were alive to watch the feeble Lou Gehrig deliver one of the most famous speeches in American sports history, but the images we do have of the event showcase just how impactful and sincere "The Iron Horse" was. And to prove that I attempt to be unbiased, the lone moment I had the pleasure of watching first hand did not crack my top ten. Sorry, David Tyree.

10 - Bobby Orr, The Goal, Taken by Ray Lussier, 1970

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If you've followed my writing long enough, you know that I am in no means a hockey connoisseur. I was proud of myself that I managed to watch a majority of the Rangers' Game 7 victory over the Capitals last Wednesday that ended in an overtime victory. But when sorting through all of these iconic sports moments, this picture of hockey legend Bobby Orr stood out. This picture was a personal reminder of how sports truly are kids games performed by adults. Orr is flying through the air like Peter Pan, the boy who famously refused to ever grow up. The photo was taken after he scored a game winning goal that gave his Bruins a Stanley Cup title over the St. Louis Blues. Their opposing defenseman Noel Picard tripped Orr after he scored the goal, which caused him to take flight, however; the photo almost appears as if he didn't need to be tripped to fly. I know I didn't put Carlton Fisk's famous home run on this list, much to many Boston fans' dismay, but I hope I made up for that with this.

9 - Michael Jordan, Winning First Championship, 1991

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There is no sports photo I find more emotionally gripping than this one. Michael Jordan may just be the most dominant athlete in the history of American sports; perhaps worldwide as well. And this Championship series victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in 1991 was his first of 6 titles, and began the first of two three-peats. He was magical throughout the series, and came away with his first of 6 Finals MVP awards. The word that comes to mind every time I see this is dedication, as nobody out worked, out hustled, or out played #23 in his prime. As tears rush down his face, we can see that the journey was most certainly worth striving for. Hint: This may not be the last we see of the greatest to ever grace the court on this list.

8 - Tommie Smith & John Carlos, Black Power Salute, 1968

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The late 1960's were a controversial period of time in American history, as the Civil Rights Movement was becoming ever more impactful nationwide. The fight for African American equal rights extended throughout all facets of culture, including the sports world. During the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, two male African Americans named Tommie Smith and John Carlos placed first and third in the 200 meter race, respectively. But their actual performance was undermined by how they chose to celebrate their achievements. They made a political statement during the Star Spangled Banner while on the winner's podium, raising their fists with black gloves to bring awareness and salute the rise of black power in the country. It was extremely controversial at the time, and will forever go down as one of the biggest political moments in sports history.

7 - US Men's Hockey Team, Miracle on Ice, Taken by Heinz Kluetmeier, 1980

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USA! USA! USA! There is nothing more patriotic than watching an underdog US Men's Hockey team defeat the Soviets in one of the greatest Olympic upsets of all time! If you've never seen the movie based off of this story, I highly recommend it. Sports Illustrated even called the "Miracle on Ice" the greatest sports moment of the 20th century, and if you really think about it, that's quite an accomplishment. The joy expressed in this photo tells the whole story.

6 - Don Larsen & Yogi Berra, World Series Perfect Game, 1956

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Ah, yes, my lone Yankees selection for the list. Baseball has existed for hundreds of years now, and the World Series has since 1903. And there has only been one perfect game thrown in that series, by the hand of relatively unknown hurler Don Larsen. Larsen's name would forever be scratched into Yankees immortality all thanks in part to his heroic performance, and the image of Yogi Berra jumping into his arms following the 27th out is absolutely priceless.

5 - Dwight Clark, Super Bowl Catch, Taken by Walter Iooss Jr., 1981

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Dwight Clark was a pretty good player for a short period of time, but he picked the right time to shine. The only football moment on this list occurred in the 1981 NFC Championship Game when Clark's 49ers took on the Dallas Cowboys; America's Team. Late in the game, the Niners were down 6 points with minimal time left on the clock, and Hall of Famer Joe Montana led the team down the field. An 83 yard drive led the team to the Cowboys' 6 yard line, where Montana would connect with Clark for a touchdown that would forever be known as simply "The Catch" and would send the 49ers to the Super Bowl; which they would win. Epic catches have been made since then (such as David Tyree and Santonio Holmes' in their Super Bowl triumphs), but this was one of the very first clutch moments in the NFL's illustrious history. And with that, Clark's leap lands 5th on our countdown.

4 - Wilt Chamberlain, 100 Points, 1962

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People often try to rank the records that will be most difficult to break. Hell, I could even write about that in the future. Chances are one of the higher ranked records would be all thanks to this legend, Wilt Chamberlain, who on March 2nd, 1962, scored exactly 100 points in a routing against my New York Knicks. Although the moment was not recognized quite like it should have been (his reward was a piece of paper that said "100" on it), but since only one player has come slightly close to his record in over 50 years (Kobe Bryant, 81 points), a mystique has been given to Chamberlain's achievement. Chamberlain averaged 50.3 points per game in the 1961-1962 season, and topped 70 points twice that season, and twice the next. Talk about domination.

3 - Willie Mays, The Catch, Taken by the Associated Press, 1954

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Many will argue that baseball's version of "The Catch" was not even Willie Mays' finest work. Regardless of how anyone may object, Mays' over the shoulder diving grab in deep right field of the Polo Grounds has been the most recognized defensive play in baseball history. This play came in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series between the then New York Giants and the Cleveland Indians. His catch and quick throw kept Larry Doby from scoring what would have been the go ahead run. Overrated or not, Mays' storied career was personified by this image; showing the effort and perseverance he put into every play for 22 years.

2 - Michael Jordan, The Shot II, Taken by Fernando Medina, 1998

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Guess who's back? Back again; MJ's back. Tell a friend. If any of these legendary players deserved multiple spots on this list, Michael Jordan is as deserving as it gets. Jordan made two particularly remarkable shots that have taken simple names "The Shot 1 & 2" in his career playoff performances. The first came in the 5th game of the Bulls' first round series against the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1989, where his buzzer beater seemed to freeze time. The photograph of Jordan leaping in the air from his 44 point performance is another that was seriously considered for the list, but it was his second "Shot" that took home first prize among all of 23's classic memories. Jordan made this shot against the Utah Jazz to win his 6th and final NBA Finals, and it would go on to be his final shot with the Chicago Bulls. I have always loved this picture because it appears that everyone in Utah's crowd was terrified of the inevitable; that Jordan would crush every chance of them winning a title. Sure enough, he did, and they haven't appeared in the Finals since then.

1 - Muhammad Ali, Defeating Sonny Liston, Taken by Neil Leifer, 1965

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In most cases, I am not sure who will take the top spot on any of my lists until I take some time to calculate, arrange, and rearrange all of the possibilities. This list featured an absolute no brainer. Yesterday was the 50th Anniversary of the day this inspiring photo was taken by Neil Leifer in Miami Beach, Florida. Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) was underestimated the previous year against the ferocious reigning Heavyweight Champion Sonny Liston, and the publicity gained by the fight rivaled our modern day Mayweather-Pacquiao showdown earlier this year. After a six round battle, Ali's moves were too quick for the aging Liston; who failed to answer the bell and was defeated by technical knockout. It was an enormous upset at the time, but Liston wasn't ready to pass the torch just yet. The next year, they were back at it in their second matchup; this time in Lewiston, Maine. This fight was much quicker for the two foes, as Ali made use of a "phantom punch"; knocking Liston onto the floor midway through the first round. This photo above was taken as Ali shouted "Get up and fight, sucka!" at Liston, who rolled in agony and defeat on the ground.

This picture represents exactly who Ali would become: a champion. He may not have been America's hero all throughout his career, but he was always must-see TV. While the two bouts ruined Liston's troubled career, they kickstarted the career of who truly was "The Greatest".

I have often said (to myself, because usually not too many people care) that if I were to own any signed picture (within reason); this would be the one. It is the epiphany of what I love about sports; dominance. I have always been infatuated with larger than life athletes who transcended their individual sports, and Ali became boxing after his career was over. No matter how "undefeated" Floyd Mayweather may be, he would never stand a chance against the man who floated like a butterfly, and stung like a be. This may forever sit atop my wish list, but as long as I continue to get the satisfaction it provides me now, I'll be okay with that.

Happy 50th Anniversary to a moment in sports we will never forget. And hats off to the rest of the moments that have created amazing fans worldwide; on this list, just short, or even just the slightest imprint of talent that may have popped off the screen one day. 

See Ya!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Store Credit Flips at COMC!

Hey everyone, Drew back here! Over the past few months, I've been occasionally selling a card or three on my Check Out My Collectibles store. I've been using the site for several years now for buying and selling, and have recently put all the money I earned in sales towards cards I preferred for my personal collection. Lately, the money has been going towards autographs of rising stars in baseball that I enjoy watching, and I was able to add four to my Autograph PC in the process.

2013 Topps Allen & Ginter Starling Marte Autograph

First up, I picked up a 2013 Allen & Ginter framed autograph of Pirates young 5 tool outfielder Starling Marte. Marte swings a streaky bat, but when he's on, there aren't many more dangerous hitters. At 26, he's only entering his prime, and he's already built up two very solid statistical campaigns and is on pace for his best yet in 2015. I originally drafted him in my 8 team friends fantasy baseball league, but traded him along with Pedro Alvarez for Gerrit Cole and Jayson Werth. Werth has since hit the DL, but I've been pleased with what Cole has given me. I've always liked Marte's sharp signature, and had been looking forward to getting my own copy. 

2014 Topps Stadium Club Julio Teheran Autograph

The remaining three pickups are all of current pitchers, two of the three currently struggling thus far in 2015. First, I was able to complement ranking Julio Teheran as having the second best signature in baseball today by purchasing a certified autograph out of 2014 Topps Stadium Club. Teheran had a breakout season in 2014, going 14-13 with a 2.89 ERA and 186 strikeouts, however this season has been a different ballgame for the Columbian hurler. He has a 4.33 ERA through his first eight starts, and has produced inconsistent results. Despite this, I knew it was a good time to look into his autograph, and sure enough for just over $5, it was mine.

2014 Topps Finest Yordano Ventura Autograph Refractor

Perhaps the most controversial star in baseball (outside of A-Rod) in 2015 has been the Royals' Vordano Ventura. Clearly, the sky is the limit for this kid potential wise, as fans have seen in his spectacular 2014 playoff performances. The problem has been his attitude, which may have possibly affected his delivery on the field. After placing 6th in Rookie of the Year voting, he has come out the gate rather ineffectively in 2015. His ERA currently sits at a whopping 4.56, and advanced metrics don't appear to be cutting him much slack at all. This 2014 Topps Finest rookie autograph was too nice for me to pass up, but I know there is much more to be discovered about this kid before we can judge if he's an annoying, Delmon Young-esque fluke, or something much more memorable.

2013 Topps Tier One Andrew Cashner Autograph

My final autograph pickup was of Padres's young righty Andrew Cashner. Cashner was on my fantasy team last year, and I took a liking to him after he dominated in the early goings. Unfortunately, he only made 19 starts over the course of the season, and I may have put too much trust in him. How could I not though; when he pitched to a 2.55 ERA with 93 strikeouts when he was on the hill? This year, I shied away from him in my drafts, but despite a currently league leading 7 losses he only has a 3.24 ERA. It hasn't been an overly successful season for the 28 year old, but I can easily see his potential being all too high to keep things that way. This 2013 Tier One autograph only cost me a little over $3.00 in store credit, so it was worth every penny. On a side note, the new Tier One product looks amazing in all of the pictures I've seen so far.

What do you all think of these players, as well as the current state of youth in baseball today? Also, before I go I wanted to apologize for missing this week's Ten for Tuesday, especially considering that the king of Top Ten's is having his final show tonight. The series will be resumed around the same time next week.

See Ya!

Monday, May 18, 2015

TTM Mailbag: Angel in the Outfield

Hey everyone, Drew back here! Slowly but surely, I am beginning to receive some more TTM successes in the mail. I can't say I've been even the slightest bit impressed with how few MLB players have been consistently signing this year. The outlook seems worse than ever before. Or maybe it's just me. Anyway, I got one success in on Saturday that I didn't see until Sunday. Here it is:

Kole Calhoun: 1/1 in 19 Days (Received May 16th)

Angels up and coming outfielder Kole Calhoun signed a 2014 Topps card for my collection in a little over half a month! Calhoun is extremely underrated in the Angels lineup all thanks to that Trout character, but has became one of the better run scorers in the game. Last year, he scored 90 runs while smashing 17 home runs and driving in 58 runs, and keep in mind he is just entering the prime of his career. In 2015, he's batted .302 with 3 home runs batting leadoff mostly for an underwhelming Angels offense. While he will more than likely never go toe to toe with his teammate and fellow outfielder, I think Calhoun can be a productive player for five or six more seasons. Hopefully by that point more people will actually know who he is.

Unfortunately, his signature did not come out good at all. It could be my fault, as I forget if I properly prepared this card or not. I'm going to assume that his sharpie was beginning to dry out, and that of the recent bunch of people he signed for I just happened to get the short end of the stick. But, an autograph is an autograph, and I'll take what I can get! 

Thanks so much Mr. Calhoun, and keep up the good work this season! See Ya!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Yes We McCann!

Hey guys, Drew back here! My first official year as a college student is now complete, and I have to say there isn't a better feeling in the world than to be done. A lot has taken place in my life in that time, and I'm really fortunate for the way everything ended up. I definitely made the right decision by switching schools mid-way through the year, as being away (especially where I was) really brought me down in a number of ways. But, the past is the past, and every experience led up to where I am right now, and I'm very lucky to be where I am.

With all that said, here was my gift to myself for completing the school year; something I snatched up on eBay last week for a better price than what the remaining 24 copies were selling for.

Out of this year's stunning Topps Museum Collection product, I purchased my first autograph of the Yankees new gritty backstop, Brian McCann! McCann hasn't delivered as well as a lot of Yankee fans had hoped in his one plus year in the Bronx, but I feel like he deserves a lot more credit than he's been given. Being able to have a dependable catcher in this day of age who can also come up with clutch hits is really an asset only a select few teams can say they have. The Yankees pitching staff has come a long way, surpassing expectations thus far in the 2015 season, and I feel like some of that can be attributed to McCann's veteran leadership. He may not be the threat he was during his prime, but I would gladly take him over any of the options they threw out there after Posada left.

McCann didn't have many autographs in a Yankee uniform last year, but this year he's been featured in several products. This one is on a sticker, but it is pretty hard to tell unless you see it in person. It is rare to find quality Yankees patches in any product, so to be able to find one of one of the team's leaders, autographed and numbered to only 25 copies for under $30; I couldn't be happier.

He may not be our best player, but I have grown quite fond of Brian McCann as a person and leader. That is something many Yankee fans seem to overlook since we've had the pleasure of having the best team leader possible for the past twenty years. This year, other players have had to step up, such as CC Sabathia, McCann, and Brett Gardner; and I think they've clearly done a great job considering the Bombers have been in 1st place of the crowded AL East for a majority of the season! And if you haven't seen his Oscar nominated performance as Ham Porter of "The Sandlot" (totally kidding about the Oscar thing), you should definitely go do that.

Happy Sunday everyone! See Ya!