Henderson Alvarez Throws… a Maddux?!?!

Yesterday saw the last few games of the 2013 regular 162-game MLB season! My Cardinals achieved the joint best record in Baseball with the Red Sox, while the Reds and Pirates, along with the Rangers and Rays, will duke it out to see who will make it through to the post-season wild card spot!

Oh yeah, and Henderson Alvarez threw the strangest complete game no-hitter in MLB history. According to STATS and based on the 282 recorded no-hitters, this particular game was the first and only to ever end on a wild pitch, enabling Giancarlo “He’ll always be Mike to me” Stanton to score the winning run.

The Marlins beat the Tigers 1-0 and Alvarez entered the history books!

HendersonAlvarez

And while this feat has been much publicised in the sports pages over the last 24 hours most sports journos have failed to pick up on one important fact, that during his quest to inscribe himself into the annals of Baseball history, Henderson Alvarez also threw one of Baseball’s greatest of unofficial pitching stats – The Maddux!

‘The Maddux’ is a new stat created by fellow blogger Jason Lukehart and you can read all about how it came into being by clicking on the following link –

The Maddux

I can’t urge you enough to give it a read! Jason’s put together a great piece around a statistic that more than deserves it’s place alongside the more well-established of achievements like a ‘Perfect Game’ or ‘Hitting for the Cycle’!!

In a nutshell, to throw a ‘Maddux’ (and I’m using Jason’s words here) “The pitcher must toss a complete game shutout, and throw no more than 99 total pitches”. And that’s it!

He named it after his favourite all-time pitcher who threw 13 throughout his career, six more than his nearest rival!

So let’s all be upstanding for Henderson Alvarez, for carving his own little niche in Baseball history and for being the latest pitcher to achieve that most under-appreciated and little-known of all pitching achievements – The Maddux!

And while you’re at it don’t forget to write to your local MP or lobby Congress, and let’s get The Maddux the recognition it truly deserves!!

Over The Rainbow

A few days ago I wrote a piece lambasting the latest Topps Chrome Baseball release over its worrying and unreasonable amount of redemptions! You can read those particular thoughts here!

Now, while I’m not going to budge on the issue of redemptions in this particular product I do feel that I gave the set a bit of a short shrift, because when you look past the redemptions there is actually a pretty cool set bubbling away under the surface!! In fact, when I previewed the 2013 Topps Baseball base set I even wrote the words “I can’t help but think that these cards will look wicked with a Chrome finish”!

And damn was I right?!?! Along with a selection of some of the best base cards from the main set, Topps Chrome has one of THE best rookie card checklists I’ve seen in absolutely ages, coupled with an outstanding selection of rookie autographs!

But it’s not that aspect of 2013 Topps Chrome that really stands out for me! No sir, for me it’s the huge array of coloured parallel refractors that are littered throughout the boxes! Check some of these babies out –

base

Base Refractor (not serially #’d) 

xfractor

X-Fractor (not serially #’d) 

orange

Orange Refractor (not serially #’d) 

purple

Purple Refractor (Retail Exclusive – not serially #’d) 

blue

Blue Refractor #’d/199 

black

Black Refractor #’d/100 

sepia

Sepia Refractor #’d/75

gold

Gold Refractor #’d/50 

red

Red Refractor #’d/25 

camo

Camo Refractor #’d/15

crackedice

Atomic Refractor #’d/10 

pink

Pink Refractor #’d/5

And last but certainly not least

super

Superfractor #’d 1/1

I know that the above images don’t really do these cards any justice, but personal favourites are the sepia and the blue refractors, especially now that they’ve toned down the blue to a much lighter shade!! Very attractive cards!!

One of the big thrills for a player collector is to try and put together a ‘rainbow’ of a particular player, meaning to get one of each of the coloured refractors available in a set. However, given the rarity of some of these cards (and the accompanying high cost) it’s a pretty big ask to take on such an audacious enterprise and an even bigger challenge to actually complete it!!

But what the hell? Where’s the fun in shying away from a challenge like that?

I’d be interested to know if any of you out there who are reading this have ever tried to put a ‘rainbow’ collection together, and how much success did you have with it?

Chrome Dead Redemption

Damn, life’s been a bit hectic recently. Between work, the house and the family there’s not been much time to write in these ‘hallowed’ pages 🙂 In fact the seven days between my last post and this one today has been the my longest absence since I started the blog!

However I couldn’t resist as 2013 Topps Chrome is now upon us – and so are some old friends!

In an effort to prepare for the oncoming storm Topps has already come clean about the number of redemptions that can be found in this year’s Topps Chrome Baseball! And let’s be honest – it’s quite a list!

Aside from an assortment of what appear to be autographed inserts, there are a number of key rookie cards that collectors won’t be finding in their freshly sealed packs, including the following names (many of whom I’d love to be getting my own hands on) –

  • Yasiel Puig
  • Gerritt Cole
  • Manny Machado
  • Jurikson Profar
  • Anthony Rendon
  • Hyun-Jin Ryu
  • Nolan Arenado
  • Nik Franklin
  • Jose Fernandez
  • Adam Eaton
  • Avisail Garcia
  • Paco Rodriguez
  • Tony Cingrani
  • Jedd Gyorko
  • Oswaldo Arcia
  • Tyler Skaggs
  • Shelby Miller
  • Manny Machado
  • Jackie Bradley Jr.
  • Kyle Gibson

Topps have advised that a number of these cards were received back shortly after the rest were sent to the packagers, so certain ‘lucky’ redemption recipients shouldn’t have too long to wait for their cards! And starting with 2013 Topps Chrome, Topps will be keeping their valued collectors up to date with their redemptions through Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr every Friday!

Gotta love the originality of THAT idea! Blazing a trail there Topps!!!! Couldn’t you have come up with another day other than the one that Panini does their redemption updates??

Now I have to confess that I like Topps Chrome! It always comes across as the distant cousin that no-one likes to talk about. Not quite there with the mass appeal of the base set and not quite there with the prestige of Bowman Chrome, Topps Chrome seems to sit uncomfortably between the two!

However this year’s superlative rookie class may well just elevate the product to near classic status, with a great base card design coupled with the allure of the Chrome finish!

Sadly the multitude of redemptions will certainly harm the long time value of this set, especially the appeal of sealed boxes once the redemption expiry date has passed! I mean, who’s going to want to buy a sealed box of ’13 Topps Chrome with a chance of pulling a ‘dead’ redemption card of Manny Machado or Yasiel Puig?

Not me for sure!! So my advice will be get the Chrome autos while you can of those that have already been redeemed, as I imagine that they’ll become pretty scarce in the long term!!

So, does Topps Chrome float your boat? or will you be getting your Chrome rookie fix with Bowman Chrome?

My special thanks to the guys over at Sports Collectors Daily for reporting on this story! Now I’m off to think of some more ‘Redemption’ related puns for blog post titles!!

The Admiral and The Worm

Since the start of August Topps has released previews for six of their 2014 Baseball card products. I spent a few minutes last night looking over the sell sheets and reviewing what I’d written about them, and all I got was an overwhelming feeling of “Meh”!!

Been there, done that!!

There was nothing that really jumped out at me as new or innovative. Nothing that showcased Topps really ‘pushing the boat out’ in terms of new ideas or designs! With the exception of Heritage, each product looks pretty much the same as what we’ve been treated to these past two years, but with a bit of spit and polish and a couple of new inserts thrown in to ‘spice’ things up a bit! I exclude Heritage here because it’s the one product that you can rely on to change it’s base design with each release, although there aren’t often any huge surprises around its other content!

Maybe this is what Topps’ long-term plan is – to solidify their card product lines over the coming years by giving us pretty much the same thing year after year with a few add-ons around the edges to fool us into thinking that it’s different enough from the previous release that we’ll go out and buy it.

With the exception of whatever plans they have for their Football (Soccer) licenses, Topps really isn’t getting me that excited or invested in the future of their Baseball card lines. There are certain aspects of each new product that do stand out, that I do like the look of, but I find myself interested more and more in seeing what retro-themed release Panini has up its sleeve, like Panini Cooperstown or National Treasures.

So it’s at times like these that I get all retrospective, and start thinking back to the early days of my sports card obsession. As regular readers will know that started with Basketball cards in the very late 80’s and into most of the 90’s! This period in my life was brought home recently when I unearthed these two rookie cards – the last remnants of my old Basketball collecting days –

BK_Robinson BK_Rodman

It’s at times like these, while I’m wallowing under the general malaise and apathy brought on by my waning interest in the immediate future of Baseball card products, that I start to hanker back to those old Basketball card days.

I often think that I’d love to take another stab at building a collection from that era, especially with the resources that are available to us now that weren’t around back then – eBay, COMC, Collector Rev. To this day I still don’t know how I managed to build a 100+ collection of Jason Kidd cards, given how difficult it was to gain access to the cards over here in the UK in the first place!

There are a number of players from back then that I’d jump at the chance to build PCs of – Karl Malone, John Stockton, Dennis Rodman, Grant Hill, Eddie Jones, to name just a few – and now that a veritable ocean of these cards are available from the various online sources I mentioned above, the opportunity is even more enticing!

How does everyone else out there feel about the current state of Topps Baseball products? Does anyone else think that there’s a certain ‘staleness’ to what’s being released at the moment and what’s just around the corner? Or do you think that things are moving along nicely and all is good?

I can appreciate that there’s a tendency for us — ahem — older collectors to take these nostalgia trips every once in awhile, but if the future of collecting isn’t looking that exciting anymore, what other way is there to go?

The Mailman Cometh

Today saw a surprise package turn up on my doorstep from the US of A!

Well, I say surprise, because although I knew it would be arriving at some point I’d completely forgotten about it – which made it’s appearance all the more special!!

This particular package arrived from my Cardinal-loving friend and fellow collector James Ruffin, over in Alabama. James has been good enough to offer to be the middleman in a few of my US-based eBay purchases so that I can avoid paying those pesky high shipping charges that I go on about on what feels like a monthly basis.

I’ve got a few Cardinals autos and an A&G team set sitting here waiting to travel back the other way, so mental note taken to do just that sometime over the next few days!!!

So what did I get then?

Well, firstly there were some minis that James picked up for me that I can add to the Adam Wainwright and Stan Musial minis received in my recent Kidder Cards break –

IMAG0350

And then we have some extra additions to the Bob Gibson PC, including this which was also from James –

IMAG0351

He picked up this next one from a friend of his who had pulled it from a RIP card. And while I don’t usually partake in much profanity in the pages of this family-friendly blog, I just have to say that this is one of the most fucking badass images of Hoot that I’ve ever seen committed to a Baseball card!!

IMAG0352

Damn, I love that!!! Not an image I’ve seen a great deal of before but already one of the favourite cards from my fledgling collection! I don’t know what the odds are on these EXT cards, covering #351 to #400 of the A&G mini set, or how many are produced (5? 10? 15 maybe??) but I feel pretty damn lucky to have this in my possession and my eternal thanks to James for getting hold of it for me!!

And last but not least, this dual-relic is the first that I purchased off eBay and had sent directly to Alabama, costing me $2 in postage to a domestic US location rather than the $12 the seller was charging to ship internationally!

From 2008 UD Legendary Cuts, this is an awesome card as well, not just for the Gibby relic but also for the presence of the one-and-only Chris Carpenter! Take a look at that Gibson jersey piece!! Proper old and worn!!

IMAG0355

That’s a pretty nice lot of cards to keep me going for a while longer, so thanks to James for sending them!

After all, us Cardinals fans have gotta stick together!!!

2014 Bowman Baseball Preview

And the 2014 Baseball previews just keep on comin’!

Here’s the big one for all you rookie and prospect fans with the first look at next year’s Bowman Baseball!

2014 Bowman Baseball Sell Sheet

Now I don’t know about you but is that base card design looking more and more “too much”? That’s the only way I can describe it! I absolutely loved the stripped back 2012 design, thought the 2013 design was OK, but the 2014 base card design??? Too much!!

The same goes for the Prospect card design as well. And while I understand a need for card design to evolve, usually with a tendency to build upon the look of the previous year’s release, I can’t help but think that Topps have gone a bit OTT this year!

I get the impression that Topps are designing their Bowman cards with a view to them looking good for their future Chrome release!

For me a good-looking Bowman base should be a good solid player image on a strong but basic card. Bowman is all about the Rookie Card, and now obviously the Prospect card as well, but too many over-stylised touches just detract from that. Topps have other products where style rules over substance, lets not see it happen to Bowman as well!

Another item of note is the return of the ‘1st Bowman’ stamp, but come on – what’s with that blue baseball with the blue ‘1’ protruding from it? Damn, that’s one fugly logo!!

— Sigh —

And what about the inserts? Once more, for me Bowman isn’t really about the inserts. It’s never been the right fit for me. But now we get minis, die-cuts, and all other sorts of seeded oddities.

And then there’s the parallels, of which there are plenty –

  • Blue Bordered numbered to 500
  • Orange Bordered numbered to 250
  • Green Bordered numbered to 150
  • Yellow Bordered numbered to 99
  • Silver Bordered numbered to 75
  • Gold Bordered Numbered to 50
  • Black Bordered numbered to 25
  • Purple Bordered numbered to 10
  • Red Bordered numbered 1/1 (Hobby only)
  • Printing Plates numbered 1/1 (Jumbo box only)

I’m not the first one who’s said this, and I certainly won’t be the last, but do we really need THAT many parallels?? Will there ever be an end to the avalanche of coloured parallel cards that are inflicted on us these days?? Where do you go from here?

Now, I’ve just read back over the preceding few paragraphs and realise I’ve come across a tad negative so far. Unfortunately the only part of this release that really stands out for me is the 1989 “Bowman is Back” refractor autograph parallel, celebrating the return of the Bowman brand to the sports card market!

What does this say about me that, as per usual, the only thing I can get excited about in a new card product is the retro themed insert?

When I first got into collecting sports cards I started out as a Rookie Card collector and it saddens me to see how little importance collector’s seem to attach to the once-mighty Rookie Card! Sure, we all know that prospect cards are in vogue these days but surely there’s still a place in our hearts (and collections) for the humble rookie?

Overall I can’t help but feel that the Bowman brand is losing its way a little, and the look of these new cards does nothing to dissuade me from that opinion! I just feel that there are too many gimmicks in the product, gimmicks that would work better in another set! They just don’t really belong in Bowman Baseball!!!

Naturally it will sell by the barrel load and will no doubt make prospectors incredibly happy, but I’ll happily pass this one up when it arrives around the middle of next year!

Let me know what you think! Is Bowman the set for you? Or, like me, are you saddened by the apparent demise of the Rookie Card?

The Baseball Hall of Fame ‘Franken-Set’ – FAIL!!!

The story goes that in 1786, while ploughing a field, the poet Robert Burns upturned a mouse’s nest. He then went on to write his famous poem To a Mouse as an apology to the homeless rodent!

There’s a well known line from that poem that reads –

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft a-gley [often go awry] 

Basically, what Burns is getting at with this piece is that even the most carefully prepared plans may often go wrong. And it’s the first thing that sprung to mind when I started to research what cards were available for my Hall of Fame ‘Franken-Set’!

You see, it didn’t take too long to realise that there are a fair few HOF’ers that don’t actually appear on Baseball cards as of yet! The vast majority of these are from the Negro and Cuban Leagues (including Pete Hill, José Méndez and ‘Turkey’ Stearnes) and a few players from the pre-1900 era!

It’s not to say that collectible items don’t appear of these players, including postcards and over-sized portraits, just not anything that will easily fit in a 9-pocket page!

I guess this little project just wasn’t meant to be. Of course I could go ahead and just grab the players who are depicted on cards, but the completist in me dies a little inside whenever I consider that as an alternative. I am still thinking of doing something related to the Hall of Fame so it’s back to the drawing board!

If you have any great ideas then feel free to pop them on a postcard and send them to the usual address!

2014 Topps Gypsy Queen Baseball Preview

Another day, another product preview from Topps!

I’ve probably said this before but it always amazes me how far in advance this design and product information gets released. It’s as if for each set that gets produced, work on the following years set appears to start almost immediately. Crazy turnaround from those busy design teams!!

Anyway, the information for next years ever-popular Gypsy Queen set is now available, so click on the link below to take a look!

2014 Gypsy Queen Sell Sheet

So – what are we getting next year?

14_GQ_base

Here’s the base card and I’ve got to admit it’s the strongest design since the inaugural release. I would have gone so far to say that it was the best of all the base card designs until Ryan of Cardboard Connection and Craig of My Baseball Card Blog both pointed out the ‘floating’ name box towards the bottom of the card. Now it sticks out like a bloody sore thumb and it does something to the overall aesthetic that doesn’t quite sit right!

That said, it’s still a nice looking base card and sets the product up nicely!

In terms of the set content it’s pretty much the same as the last couple of years, except with more buttons, more coins and more flags! Flags?!?!

Interestingly Topps have introduced parallel autographs this year to sit alongside the base autographs. As always the autos look as if they’re all on-card, but why do we need parallel autographs?? I’ve never been a big fan of the ones in Tribute and I’m not really loving these either!

14_GQ_auto 14_GQ_ltdauto

I just can’t understand why we really need them. The beauty and value of an autographed card is the signature itself, not the colour of the card it comes on! The “limitedness” of parallel autographs only acts as a catalyst to drive up prices on the secondary market and make life more difficult for player and autograph hunters.

C’mon Topps!!! We haven’t needed these in GQ for the past three years so why do you think we need them now! Just the autograph on the card – that’ll do nicely thank you very much!

Autograph moaning aside there is one particular standout insert from the 2014 product that I’ll definitely be chasing down – the N174, based on the original 1887 Gypsy Queen cards!

14_GQ_insert

That’s going to be one lovely looking set!!

Overall the 2014 product looks as if it will be another winner!! Plenty of content and plenty of inserts – a boxbreakers dream!!

Now, if they can just do something about those bloody ‘floating’ name bars!!

One Year On – A Blogger’s Retrospective

The 10th of September!!

On this day in 1897, a 25-year-old London taxi driver named George Smith becomes the first person ever arrested (in the UK at least) for drunk driving, after slamming his cab into a building. Smith later pled guilty and was fined 25 shillings.

I just love stuff like that! Little fact-lets of useless information that will normally only see the light of day in a pub quiz! Oscar winning actor Colin Firth was also born on this day in 1960! There’s another one for you!!

Coincidentally, on the 10th September 2012 I published my first post on this very blog and The Wax Fantastic was officially born! The one you’re reading now is my 250th!! It goes without saying that the modest success that it’s enjoyed over the last 12 months has come as somewhat of a surprise and I feel truly blessed by the way in which the blog has been received by other collectors and Hobby fans alike!

I was never really sure what to expect when I first set things up. I knew my original mission was the somewhat lofty goal of trying to bring together the fragmented sports card collecting base here in the UK, and I’d like to think that we’re definitely in a better position 12 months on. A number of collectors have come out of the woodwork in response to some of what’s been written here, but there are others amongst us who have pushed the cause even further, and it’s no coincidence that we’re up to 27 members in the UK Cards Yahoo Group that my good friend Glenn Codere set up last October!

And yes, while 27 is a pretty modest number in the grand scheme of things, in the context of the UK-based collecting community it’s a pretty decent crowd!!

However, I guess the biggest surprise for me has come from over in the US and Canada! Thanks to this blog and the power of Twitter I’ve managed to reach out to, and communicate with, a multitude of collectors and industry types across the sports card collecting spectrum! And the best outcome of this is that I’ve made some great new friends along the way, which is something I’ll never take lightly and will be eternally grateful for!

Over the last year I’ve had an absolute blast putting this blog together and feel incredibly fortunate in seeing it welcomed into the wider blogging community! We all do this simply because it’s something we love to do, becoming part of a Hobby that we’ve all taken to our hearts!!

Sure there are plenty of frustrations along the way, plenty of times when we all like to scream, moan and/or bang our heads against a brick wall, but we keep coming back for more, time after time after time! Who knew that these small pieces of cardboard could have such hold over us?

Anyway, I’ve said my bit for now!

Thank you again for all of the comments, feedback, love and support that you’ve given to myself and The Wax Fantastic over the last year! Without you guys out there reading I’d have probably given up a long time ago! A can’t quite believe we’ve made it this far – but here we are regardless!!

I’ll continue this retrospective soon with a look back at some of my favourite posts of the last year, but in the meantime here’s to the next 12 months! Cheers!!

Andy

Introducing – The Baseball Hall of Fame ‘Franken-Set’

Last year my collecting ‘comrade’ from up in Redcar, Mr Mark Pidgeon, threw a couple of ideas in my general direction.

The first was to put a collection together featuring ALL the inductees in the Baseball Hall of Fame, the second was to start up a blog based upon my experiences as a UK-based Baseball card collector! Well, almost a year on from the very first post, you all pretty much know how the second of those two suggestions panned out, but I never even considered the first one – until now!

Given my love of old-school Baseball this idea seemed a perfect fit, so I’ve decided to make it my next collecting project! And to achieve this end I’m going to put together a Hall of Fame ‘FrankenSet’!

“A what set?!?!?” I hear you all cry!!! “C’mon Andy, have you taken leave of your frickin’ senses???”

I first came across the notion of a FrankenSet several months ago and didn’t really get the idea until my buddy James over in Alabama started his own FrankenSet up based on serially numbered cards of Cardinals players!

Rather than try to explain the premise of a FrankenSet to you myself, and no doubt fail miserably in the process, I’ll hand you to dayf, The Cardboard Junkie, over at Card Junk who has his very own FrankenSet based on a Topps Heritage theme. Click on the link below to see what he’s been up to!

Heritage FrankenSet – Introduction and Page 1

Glad to have you back! Hopefully dayf’s explanation of what a FrankenSet is has helped clear things up a bit!

The increased presence of retro-themed sets over the last decade or so will help considerably with the building of a HOF FrankenSet. Rather than using an ordering system dictated by card number, I’m going to do things a bit differently and order by the year that the individual was inducted into Cooperstown, going all the way back to the first inductee class in 1936!

As of 2013 there are 300 members of Baseball’s Hall of Fame – 237 players, 20 managers, 10 umpires and 33 pioneers/executives, elected by the Baseball Writer’s Association of America (BBWAA) and the Veteran’s Committee (VC).

In order to put my FrankenSet together I’ve set myself some ground rules that I’ll (do my level best to) adhere to!

  1. The set will be made up of positional players and managers only, as voted for by either the BBWAA or the VC. No umpires or execs will be included as it’s less likely I’ll be able to find cards of the majority of these individuals.
  2. The set will consist of base cards and non-relic/non-autograph inserts ONLY. Parallels of base cards will be accepted where applicable.
  3. Each card will be taken from a different set or product. I’ve not fully researched the logistics of whether this will even be possible given the numbers of individuals to sets involved, so if this proves to be a problem then I’ll also use inserts from the same sets. The plan is to avoid using base cards of different players from the same set, although I acknowledge that ultimately this may be unavoidable.
  4. The set will be ordered from 1936 to the present, and will be expanded year on year as more players are inducted into Cooperstown.

I think that this just about covers things as they stand and if I stick to the above I should have a fighting chance of putting the set together!

I’m quite excited about this and imagine that COMC will be my friend over the coming months!!