Friday, March 30, 2018

Sports Card Tour 2018 - Denver

Good Friday to you! The Collector's Sports Card Tour has reached a Rocky Mountain high. Today we're in Denver.

Denver has four pro sports teams - the Rockies, the Broncos, the Nuggets, and the Avalanche.

The Broncos have hoisted the Vince Lombardi trophy three times. The Avalanche have won the Stanley Cup twice. The Rockies were champions of the National League in 2007, when they were swept by the Red Sox in the World Series. The Nuggets are 0-3 in conference finals as an NBA franchise; they reached the ABA finals in 1976.

John Elway is the Broncos' Vice President/General Manager and the city's greatest athlete. When Elway led Denver to Super Bowl XXXII I invited all my friends over to watch the game. They were all neutral fans so they wanted to see Elway finally win one. I was a huge Packer backer, and after the game ended I was so disappointed that they lost (and upset that my friends were all celebrating) I stormed off to my room. Not sure what hurt more at the time, but it annoys the hell out of me that poor old John Elway has three rings and Brett Favre only has one.

I never liked Elway, even before that Super Bowl, but I have to admit he's got some cool cards. Playoff X's and O's are one of my favorite insert sets of the 1990's. I bought a lot of Prime boxes from K-Mart to chase those.

Is it me, or does it seem like the Broncos could just plug in anyone at running back and watch him gain 1,000 yards? I don't think it's me. Fourteen different Broncos backs have had 1,000-yard rushing seasons. I have ten of them in my collection. 

Terrell Davis wasn't any old back; he rushed for over 2,000 yards in his MVP season of 1998 and won two Super Bowl rings. Injuries limited "TD" to just four full seasons, nevertheless he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last year.

Some strong safeties here. Brian Dawkins is part of this year's Hall of Fame class. Steve Atwater and John Lynch could soon follow him to Canton.

The rest of my Broncos hits. Like Elway, Peyton Manning finished his incredible career on top. I didn't like Shannon Sharpe as much as his brother Sterling, but his trash talk was legendary.

Equally as upsetting to me as Elway's Super Bowl win was Ray Bourque finally raising the Stanley Cup with the Avalanche. The Devils had a 3-2 lead in the 2001 Final, but destiny was not on their side. My wife and in-laws still grumble about that series; I used to tell my father-in-law that if Bourque hadn't won that year he'd still be playing.

It also gave Patrick Roy four Stanley Cup rings and a head-to-head victory over Martin Brodeur, who "only" has three Cups. I liked Roy a lot more when he was in Montreal.

Let's get the rest of the inserts out of the way so that I can show you my all-time favorite Av...

Chris Drury won a Little League World Series, an NCAA hockey championship, and a Stanley Cup. My family and I pulled both the John-Michael Liles base auto and gold parallel #d/10 out of 2005-06 Be A Player. Of all the one-auto-per-pack BAP issues, this was my favorite. Black Diamond Game Gear was the first set I saw that contained pieces of goalie pads.

Nathan MacKinnon is a top contender for the Hart Trophy as league MVP. If history is any indication, he'll beat my guy (Taylor Hall) and win. I'm really starting to dislike Denver...

...then again they've got some solid Connecticut connections, besides Chris Drury.

Here's a small sampling of my Peter Worrell super collection. Pete was a fan favorite in New Haven, when he played two years with the AHL's Beast. After his one season with the Avs, the NHL phased out fourth-line enforcers and Worrell's career was essentially over. Because he's not a big star and only has about 130 NHL cards I surmised that I'd have a much better chance of completing his card run than any of my other favorites like Favre or Brodeur.

The Colorado Rockies had a minor-league affiliate in New Haven for over a decade, starting in 1994. A good chunk of my early Rockies cards are former Ravens, such as slugger Derrick Gibson.

Gibson ended his career in pro ball with another New Haven franchise, the independent (and short-lived) Cutters. I recently told Rockies fan Rosenort of the blog Condition Sensitive that I had more cards of Gibson than Nolan Arenado. Didn't know just how true that was until now...

For the record, it's 11-2 Gibson - and that's after I bought the 2018 Topps Arenado at the card show.

You may have heard of this former Raven..

Todd Helton was Colorado's first home-grown superstar, and the first Rockie to have his number retired by the team. I absolutely would have wanted him to with the 2007 World Series - if his Rox weren't facing my Sox. He'll be on next year's Hall of Fame ballot; I wonder if he'll fare better than Larry Walker.

I had a Helton bat relic but I traded it to another Rockies blogger, Adam K. of Infield Fly Rule. Thus, the Tulo patch is the only thing resembling a "hit" in my Rox collection. I'm pessimistic about Walker's HOF chances, though some day the Hall voters will have to get over themselves and enshrine a Rockie

Actually, there is one former Rockies player in the Hall of Fame...

the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Meanwhile the Denver Nuggets have had a handful of HOFers, including Dikembe Mutombo.

I'll never forget that 1994 first-round series when the 8th-seeded Nuggets shocked the top-seeded Sonics. 

I think of Carmelo Anthony more as a Knick than a Nugget, but he had some sensational seasons in the Mile High city. I honestly didn't know Melo led the Nuggets to a Conference finals appearance in 2009. For a guy with an NCAA championship and three Olympic gold medals, I still get this impression that most basketball people don't think he's a winner.

Alex English was nearing the end of his fantastic career when I started collecting basketball cards. I don't think I ever saw him play, but his scoring stats were mind-boggling to me as a ten year-old. And that colorful cityscape jersey was fantastic. 

Here's another look at it because it is awesome and this post isn't long enough:

The rest of my notable Nuggets:

I almost bought an Immaculate Kenneth Faried card on COMC but cheaped out for some dumb reason. The McDyess Black Diamond is my favorite here. Don't Google Evan Fournier. He said not to I didn't.

Rockies card I'd like to own: A Todd Helton auto, or more affordably a 2002 Topps Pristine refractor.
Broncos card I'd like to own: Ten year-old me really wants a Jake Butt card. Huh huh.  
Nuggets card I'd like to own: An early 90's logo card. Or an Allen Iverson card. Or that Immaculate Faried I should have bought for 85 cents when I had the chance.
Avalanche card I'd like to own: Believe it or not, I'm missing the pewter Peter Worrell autograph parallel to complete the Auto-facts rainbow. It's #d to 10 and I doubt I'll ever find one.

Favorite Rockies player: Nolan Arenado or Carlos Gonzalez
Favorite Broncos player: Von Miller
Favorite Nuggets player: Don't have one yet. I hadn't even heard of Gary Harris until about a month ago.
Favorite Avalanche player: It might be MacKinnon. But that doesn't mean I want him to win the MVP.

Next tour stop: Detroit

Thanks for reading this very long post. Have a great weekend!


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Sports Card Tour 2018 - Dallas

Howdy, y'all! The Collector's Sports Card Tour is making its first stop in the Lone Star state. Today we're in Dallas.

Dallas has two pro sports teams - the Mavericks and Stars. The Dallas Cowboys don't actually play in Dallas, and haven't done so since 1970(!) Their stadium is adjacent to the Texas Rangers' Ballpark in Arlington. 

The Mavericks were the last Dallas-based team to win a title, when they beat the Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals. The Rangers were one strike away from winning their first World Series that same year; they are the only area team without a championship.

Dirk Nowitzki is nearing the end of a legendary career. He's played 20 years with only one franchise, matching Kobe Bryant's NBA record. If Dirk returns for a 21st season, he could pass Wilt Chamberlain for 5th on the all-time scoring list.

I have a decent amount of Dirk cards, as he's one of a handful of players I collect. Steve Nash is another.

You'll see some more Vince Carter cards when we get to Toronto. I'm not a fan of the current Mavs logo - whatever it is. I prefer the classic cowboy hat on basketball.

In fact I bought a logo magnet back in the day. Not sure if I showed this last year, when Jon sent me so many of these great hoops cards, but here it is again:

Wish I could remember exactly when I bought it. Must have been after 1990, because I also have an Orlando Magic magnet.

I was intrigued by the possibility of Mavs owner Mark Cuban running for president - until recently. We've already seen one Texas-based team owner become leader of the free world. Perhaps Cuban would be the fiscally responsible/socially progressive centrist this country needs. Or perhaps President Cuban is a concept we should save for Sharknado movies.

Enough political talk..let's stick to sports, shall we?

It always amazed me that Nolan Ryan could still pitch No-Hitters well into his 40's. I remember seeing his Advil commercial a lot as a kid.

What do these players all have in common? Leave your answer in comments. (I should do more trivia questions or contests within these posts.)

The rest of my Rangers round-up. I once had a Nomar Mazara Bowman Chrome prospect auto, but I sold it to fund my '56 Topps set. My collection is dramatically shifting from recent high-value RCs to vintage and lower-priced shiny stuff.

How 'bout 'dem Cowboys?

Personally, I couldn't stand 'em. The Texas-sized swagger of the self-proclaimed "America's Team" always aggravated me. And it didn't help that my Packers couldn't get past them in the playoffs. Back in the 90's, I thought Troy Aikman was overrated, Michael Irvin was an obnoxious coke head, and Emmitt Smith only cared about his own stats.


And yet the best Dallas card in my collection is this Emmitt Smith Score card, which I acquired a few years ago when I was hoarding Hall of Famer rookie cards. I might have bought the Aikman too, but 1989 Score is so boring!

It was a lot more fun watching T.O. spike the ball on the star than anything he did for Dallas. My sister had a Tony Dorsett jersey in the 70's or early 80's. I saw it hanging on a clothesline in my mom's basement a few years ago. Don't know what she did with it.

I pulled a Tony Romo RC out of a 2003 Ultra pack I bought at Toys R Us...but I sold or traded it before he became a big deal in big D.

The Stars will never outshine the Cowboys in the DFW area, but they won the social media battle and a more recent championship.

Mike Modano wasn't captain of the 1999 Stanley Cup champions, but he is the all-time leading scorer among American born players (and he had a cameo in the Mighty Ducks movie.)

Pacific made some of the coolest insert cards ever, including Glove-Side Die Cuts. Brett Hull's controversial goal clinched the Cup for Dallas. Hall of Famer Joe Nieuwendyk won three Cups with three different teams (Flames, Stars, and Devils.) Marty Turco is a Michigan alum; I've sent a few of his cards to Dennis of Too Many Verlanders/Manninghams.

Current and future Stars. Jamie Benn led the NHL in scoring in 2014-15; the Full Force base card above came from a free gift pack at Dave & Adam's. Gurianov was pulled from a pack of MVP my mom bought me as a Christmas gift.

The Stars lost to New Jersey in the 2000 Stanley Cup final. Jason Arnott scored the cup-clinching goal for the Devils..then was traded to Dallas less than two years later.

Of course that was far from the biggest trade in Dallas sports history....

Do you remember where you were when you heard the Cowboys traded Herschel Walker? I was in the back parking lot of my elementary school, waiting for the doors to open on a cold and overcast morning. One of the boys standing in line informed the rest of us about the trade, and it seemed like he was telling a tall tale. "He got traded for five players. No, players. And a draft pick. No...five draft picks!"

He didn't get all the details right, but it was true. The Cowboys built their dynasty on that deal.

Rangers card I'd like to own: This SSPC Ted Williams card is the only issue I've seen from his one year of managing the Rangers. 

Cowboys card I'd like to own: Maybe an Aikman Score rookie card. Maybe.

Mavericks card I'd like to own: I stumbled across this Dennis Smith Jr. Contenders card while doing some COMC challenges. 

Stars card I'd like to own: A Jaromir Jagr card that pictures him in a Dallas sweater.

Favorite Rangers player: Nomar Mazara for now.. until Tim Lincecum makes the team 
Favorite Cowboys player: It's hard not to like a guy named Taco.. but I'll go with Jason Witten
Favorite Mavericks player: Dirk Nowitzki

Favorite Stars player: Uh..I dunno..Radek Faksa

Next tour stop: Denver

Thanks for reading!


Sunday, March 25, 2018

Four for Four: A Card Show Sunday

I attended a card show this morning, for the first time in over eight years. In fact it's been four years since I've been able to shop for cards in any brick and mortar establishment other than Target. But before I get to that, I want to share a bit about my Saturday. 

For the past year or so I've told myself that if something good ever happens I will blog about it immediately because it feels like all I do is complain. So here's the story of my weekend in Connecticut. It wont be long, but if you're not interested you can skip ahead to the cards.

My best friend John e-mailed me at the end of February, because we hadn't touched base in the new year and I hadn't seen him since last summer. When I'm really struggling I don't want to see anyone (or rather, I don't want anyone to see me.) And I used to give him a heads up every time I visited my mom in CT but lately I haven't been doing that because my mom wont be around much longer and I want to spend as much time with her as I can while she's still in relatively okay health.

But with all the stress and anxiety I've had lately, missing out on that job I interviewed for, and generally feeling like I'm on the edge of a breakdown.. I really needed to chill out with someone who's going through similar things. So my wife and kids stayed at my mom's and I drove to New Haven with John.

New Haven on a Saturday night is quite an adventure. It was after 8pm and we drove around the same six blocks looking for a place to eat. There were dozens of restaurants - but no parking. Finally we found a place to park and walked around the city. All the places we passed were packed, or pricey. Some of them had menus posted on the outside, and as we approached one I noticed a striking blonde woman in a black dress approaching. Her face looked very familiar to me and I could swear it was my high school girl friend. It shook me for a second Was that her? It sure looked like her. I hope she didn't recognize me. 

We walked the same blocks we had drove around (and around, and around...) There was a long line of people outside of Toad's Place, a popular dive that used to attract some great bands. I wondered aloud who was playing; scores of people were lined up down the block waiting to get in. John informed me that it was club night, which explains why a lot of the college girls were dressed in tight, skimpy miniskirts and halters. One such girl complained that she was sooo cold. Um..sweetie, it's New England. In March. 

Right in front of the door, where the bouncers were deciding which under dressed hotties to allow inside, there was a girl slumped down on a bench. It looked like she was near death; a paramedic knelt in front of her and eventually loaded her into the back of an ambulance. John saw a guy in a similar state but I only saw the girl. "Man, it's too early to be that bombed." He said. I've seen my share of alcoholics. That girl wasn't drunk, she OD'd.

Finally we settled on an artisan pizza place, semi-hidden from the main roads. It was small but there were seats available by the back. I ordered a small Hawaiian pizza, and while we waited John allowed me to vent about work. I really needed that release. Eventually we got to our favorite topics like movies, music, and women. Both of us are in committed, long-term relationships, but we still have our favorites.

Back in the day we used to list them and discuss them, but in the past few years I had to release all of those thoughts on my blog. And so I told him that I'm all about gingers and Jennifer Lawrence these days. Even with my celebrity crushes I prefer the hot but attainable types; probably explains why I never had a thing for Charlize Theron. Then he lamented that real-life girls still get to him even though he's got a girlfriend..and as if on cue I noticed a hot but attainable woman sitting at the bar with a female friend.

I whispered as inconspicuously as possible,
"There's one behind you..over your left shoulder."  
"Your shoulder or my shoulder?"
"Your shoulder. She's sitting at the bar."

"Well..just so happens I have to pull my phone out.."

I didn't know if he was going to use his phone as a mirror, or take a pic, or what..but it was just a cover to glance her way,
"Oh, wow!"
"I know, right?"

We both glanced her way one more time our way out. I imagined what it would be like to be the type of guy who doesn't think twice about approaching a woman like that. And then I nearly tripped down the step.

After dinner, John led me through some back alleys until we ended up on the Yale quad. The campus was perfectly silent, a stark contrast from the insanity down the street. I gazed up at the incredible architecture of the library, the orchestra hall, the dorms. Really wish I had my camera. 

Before leaving New Haven we stopped for donuts at this crazy donut place called Donut Crazy. By the time we got back to my mom's it was about 11pm. My wife was still awake, so the three of us chatted in the kitchen. I tried not to look at the clock but I was getting tired and I needed my sleep. John didn't leave until 2am. The card show started at 9am.

Even though I was exhausted last night, I couldn't sleep. My mom's guest room was so stuffy, and there were so many thoughts filling my head:

Sports card show!, Gretchen looks great...was that even Gretchen? ...and that woman at the bar, good lord...I need to come home more often...sports cards! 

It was like Christmas morning.

The card show was at the Elks club in nearby Milford. I had planned to visit a card shop while I was back home, but the shop (which I do plan to visit one day) was about a half hour northwest. Milford is ten minutes away, and I've been dying to hit some dime boxes ever since I started reading baseball card blogs.

The room seemed small, but it fit about 40 tables. I used to go to shows all the time back in the day, but I was rusty. I had forgotten how much things cost. I had forgotten how to browse and haggle and make small talk with dealers.

I started on the left side of the room and planned to work my way around. There was a table loaded up with sealed boxes of high-end products (and one box of 2018 Opening Day for $29) With less than $100 in my pocket I couldn't afford to gamble. The first table I stopped at was a kid with loose basketball and football cards. Nothing brand new. I spotted some basketball cards I liked, and plucked them out.

The box was not marked. Never a good sign.

Because it was my first purchase and the prices were a mystery, I stopped at three cards. The young man behind the table tried to convince me the Reggie Miller was a refractor (I told him it would say so on the back) and then said "How about four bucks?" 

I did not like this price, but I wasn't going to haggle over them. Plus, I don't really know what basketball cards should cost. So I agreed. Don't do that again. I told myself.

Ahead of that table and to the left, I spotted an older gentleman with boxes and boxes of vintage singles. I couldn't get at the 1956 Topps singles (and I'm picky about condition on those) but I found what I was looking for - gifts for fellow bloggers. As I was searching through the commons, the dealer told me the star players were in binders. There I found one for my own collection: this 1969 Topps Tony Conigliaro:

The man had stickers on each binder pocket. Tony C was marked at four bucks. I didn't haggle here, either.

I'm going to tell the fourth part third, and you'll see why in a second. I turned right and found the dime box kid at the back of the room. After that I found a woman who had boxes of newer Topps singles. She didn't have any 2017 Topps Heritage but she had lots of 2016 Topps. I was able to cross 46 cards off my need list, including these...for four bucks.

I had no problem with that deal. The cards all seemed fine at the time. However when I got home, I noticed that they weren't lying flat. All of them seem to be curved - which could have happened while they were sitting in my hoodie pouch..but I doubt it.

Still, 46 cards for $4 is a great deal. But the dime box kid gave me an even better deal. His box was marked 10 for $1. But the instant I started looking through his cards he said I could have 12 for $1..possibly because he was also a Red Sox fan. That helped out a lot - though he cautioned there weren't many Sox in his box. 

I spent at least a half hour on his box (and I was there for just under an hour.) His cards were sorted by team, and I made my way through the whole league. By the end I had 62 cards picked out. I counted them into piles of 12. I expected to pay $5 and maybe a quarter for the extras. "Four bucks." He said. How much for the whole box? I thought to myself.

Now I'm no Dimebox Nick, but I think that this was the best four dollar purchase I made today by far:

Only four Red Sox I needed, but at least I got the "Flavor Flav" Papi.

I just completed a trade with P-Town Tom.. perhaps some of these will be included in our next swap.

Stupid scanner line. Got to cross some inserts off my Heritage list...

..and a couple high number base cards off my 'backup' set. This was the only Trout I could find.

But there were plenty of other baseball legends.

Including a Babe Ruth. The Gyorko camo was the only numbered parallel I found.

This dealer had a lot of Bryce Harper cards. I'm not exactly a Harper fan, but I couldn't pass 'em up.

Even if they're dupes. I already had the Heritage Harper, but a short print for less than 7 cents is a deal I'll never see again. 

I did purchase some higher-end singles but I'll save those for future posts. 

Hope you all had a great weekend. I know I did :-)