April 05, 2006

Here's to you, Mr. Blankenship

Okay, so what could possibly be better than sorting baseball cards? Huh? And don’t say ‘having sex’, because that is really cliché, no matter how true. Also, don’t say ‘watching the Red Sox DVD where they win the World Series’ because I would also agree with you. Finally, don’t say ‘watching the Wrestlemania DVD box set, the one where Hulk Hogan miraculously comes back to beat Andre the Giant’, because that one match is at the very top of my favorite scripts of all time: unbelievable characters, a great plot, a great crowd, a great scene—just one of the best-written, most dramatic (if fake) scenes in sports history. Actually, all of these things could be made even better by sorting baseball cards while you did them…well, maybe not ‘having sex’…unless…

But seriously, neat little piles, divided by team or by make and year, not to mention the fun of seeing who you got doubles of (or even triples, quadruples, quintuples, the multiples go on until you reach Bordersuples and Chris Brownuples), there really isn’t anything better than sorting cards. Especially when you’re sorting after just breaking a box of Topps, and there’s just a hint of the fine white gum powder (that mean’s it’s fresh) or sugar from the gum sprinkled over the cards that makes your hands smell kind of good and makes you feel kind of good, the same feeling as lying in the yard on a summer morning and breathing in, just smelling the wet grass smell and running your fingers across the grass and feeling the dew (not to mention feeling around for dog poop, and if not feeling around, because that’s gross, then smelling around, just to make sure you didn’t lay down in it in your overzealous attempt to connect with nature (when you could’ve spent that time indoors sorting baseball cards, where there’s no rogue dog poop).

Sorting cards is exhilarating (because you’re not entirely sure what you’ll find), monotonous (because you have a pretty good idea of exactly what you’ll find) and sometimes dangerous. I bought a whole bunch of cards at a yard sale when I was a teenager and they all came in a big shoebox and when I got them home I noticed that there was a fine powder all over them and when I went to smell it on my fingers, it was definitely not the gum sugar you get on Topps cards before they outlawed gum. It was definitely foot powder.

Going through the rest of the box of 1989 Donruss got me thinking about all kinds of stuff, like how I got six Willie Frasers and only four Orioles total (Rick Schu, Jeff Ballard, Eddie Murray and the Unknown Comic (I really can’t remember the fourth guy)). I got triples of Kirby Puckett and Chris Brownuples of Pat Borders and Bordersuples of Chris Brown. But perhaps the biggest surprise of all is that I only got one checklist. That, in and of itself, is the major score of the box. Everybody hates getting checklists. Unless we’re talking about the 1969 Topps set or the 1994 Collector’s Choice set or one of those sets from the Fifties when they didn’t number the checklists, or the sets where the lists were on the Team Cards and those Team Cards also happened to be in French and English (thank you 1973 O Pee Chee team cards…the ones with the signatures, right? Or was that 1972…), name me one person who enjoyed, in fact took pleasure in, finding a checklist in their pack. And I only got one. (Secretly, part of me wanted to get all of the checklists, you know, as part of an anthropological study, just to see what cards made up the population of 1989 Donruss. The fun-loving, pack-buying collector in me just shuddered after reading that last sentence.)

But by far the Best of Box Award goes to Lance Blankenship. Wow. I remember him, though I’m not entirely sure why, and the fact that I only got one of him (I got two McGwires and three Bo Jacksons) means that he must’ve been some kind of hot shit back in ’89 (the kind you wish you could find out in the yard on a cool summer morning, because you could probably trade it for a Jose Canseco or Roger Clemens).

My New Favorite Card Set: 2005 Bowman Heritage

Yes, it’s official: after surveying the new 2006 Topps and Topps Heritage sets, I’ve decided my new favorite set is 2005 Bowman Heritage. I don’t think Topps got the new 2006 Heritage set right at all, but I’ll go into this in later posts. But they really did a great thing with 05 Bowman Heritage. Actually, it kicks ass. The only part of the set I don’t get is the darker, more cardboardy looking cards. Are they a parallel set? I’m guessing this is what they are, though sometimes you never know. Also, the fact that they made a parallel set of smaller cards is utterly fantastic. I really hope they didn’t make a Chrome parallel because I happen to think that Chrome blows (always has). The only way Topps could have made this Bowman Heritage set any better is if they had commissioned artists to paint from photos of players, instead of the weird (though effective) blurry Photoshop thing the set has got goin’ on now.

So hat’s off to you, 2005 Bowman Heritage. Way to go.


Mike said...

Let me be the first to confirm that having sex is better than opening a box of baseball cards, but only slightly.

However, I might trade the sex for opening box of sixties Topps.

Anonymous said...

I think I would trade sex and an '89 Upper Deck Jerome Walton rookie card to be able to crack a box of 1960s Topps. I think I would go for 1963 or 1967. Loved those designs.

Anonymous said...

you had to have gotten more orioles cards because you claimed a shilling pull on an earlier entry

Middletown said...

I'm looking forward to what you have to say about the 2006 Topps Heritage cards. My initial reaction is that there are two things they got very wrong.

(1) The photos for the original 1957 cards were taken at real major league ballparks - Polo Grounds, Yankee Stadium, Connie Mack Stadium - which made the shots really compelling. But what of these 2006 Heritage cards? Where were these photos taken? Cow pastures in the middle of south central Kansas. The nothingness of the backgrounds is brutal.

(2) The player poses in the 1957 set were just that - poses. They weren't pseudo action shots like we've got this year. You could do quite a study of the differences in how the players posed back in 1957 and how they appear today.

I'm sure there other things they got wrong but those two jumped out at me.

Ben Henry said...

Thanks for the reminder about Schilling...he was the fourth Oriole. I completely forgot about him (and I'm not including the Rated Rookies, of which I got Pete Harnisch and Gregg Olson).