Guest Blog: Cardboard Therapy

(Editors Note: Please welcome COMC Member Jason1969 to the COMC Blog! This post comes to us thanks to the Call to Arms we put out earlier this month seeking guest writers. Jason enjoys writing about baseball and baseball cards for the SABR Baseball Cards Committee and on his personal blog. He can be found on twitter as @HeavyJ28.  His main collecting interest is vintage baseball, especially Hank Aaron, but he also boasts (and yes, that’s the right word) over 600 different playing career cards of Dwight Gooden cards, many of which he was able to obtain right here on COMC)

By Jason A. Schwartz

For my guest appearance on the COMC blog I will get personal. My hope is that most readers will never find themselves in my shoes, but I hope my experience can help any of those who someday do.

Just under five years ago I found myself in a near-empty apartment alone. In the basement was my guitar, in the kitchen was a coffee mug, and in my hands was a small cardboard box containing the top hundred or so cards I’d saved from when I was a collector back in the day.

For the first time in a decade I opened the box and flipped through the cards. The rush of memories was incredible. Sometimes it was of the player and how much I loved him (in a fan sort of way, please). Other times it was the recollection of where I was and who I was with when I bought the card. The one constant as I made my way through the stack of top loaders was joy, something I hadn’t felt for a while.

I hadn’t purchased a baseball card for 20 years, and I suspected a lot had changed in that time. Were the Beckett Monthly and the Kit Young mail-order catalog still around? (Yes.) Were there still local card shops in every neighborhood? (No.) Were my Jose Canseco rookie cards worth a lot? (No.) Had the Hobby moved to the internet? (DEFINITELY!)

By evening I had made an online purchase of three of the Hank Aaron cards I needed for his basic Topps run. There were important areas of my life where I felt powerless, but it turned out buying Hank Aaron cards wasn’t one of them. Ditto for completing my 1957 Topps Brooklyn Dodgers team set that had been one card short for more than two decades, and ditto for starting on the 1956 version of the same.

I may have gone a bit overboard at times, but man oh man did I love coming home to a #MailDay! Man oh man was it a thrill to frame my completed Hank Aaron run and hang it on my wall. And man oh man was it fun to become part of an online community of collectors who not only buy, sell, and trade cards but eat, breathe, and sleep cards as obsessively as me! (Okay, don’t take that last part completely literally.)

When we’re at low points in our lives we sometimes hear that “it gets better.” I’m here to bear witness that it does. There was a lot I did to get from there to here, and I won’t kid you that some of it—maybe most of it—completely sucked. However, one little thing I did that made a huge difference was getting back into the hobby I loved so much as a kid. In my case, pairing “cardboard therapy” with “real” therapy proved to be the perfect combination for rebuilding my collection as I rebuilt my life.

Rich Reminisces: Thurman Munson

By Rich Klein
When I was growing up my two favorite teams were the Houston Astros in the National League, and the New York Yankees in the American League. Let’s face it, you can’t really root for both New York teams unless you like the flip-flop between your allegiances. In my generation, my three favorite players growing up were Jim Wynn and Cesar Cedeno of the Astros, and Thurman Munson of the Yankees. All three of the players had some interesting life stories, but sadly one of them would not even live until the 1980’s. When Thurman Munson’s plane crashed on August 2, 1979 that truly was one of the saddest days of my young life. When you really know a player more for what they do on the field than with any off-field characteristics, it’s easier to admire what they were.
Munson was drafted as the fourth overall amateur draft pick in 1968, and while the scouting in the 1960’s was not as sophisticated as 50 years later, Munson was a wise selection as he was in the majors barely a year later. In fact, he was such as good prospect that Topps placed him on one of those two-player Rookie Stars cards early in 1970 set:
Sy Berger always claimed that Topps had a better idea than most people about whom teams would keep in the majors, and in this case they batted .500 as Munsion had his fine career, but Dave McDonald would never play with the Yankees again and make a cameo with the 1971 Montreal Expos to conclude his major league career.
It’s really not a bad card, but his second year card, now that’s an even better card! His 1971 card, because of the black borders, is even harder to get in great condition than the 1970 rookie stars card. The 1971 card is even more significant because technically this is the first action photo ever on a base Topps card. Yes, we can consider card #5 the first action card in any Topps set EVER.
Because Topps was based out of New York, many of their photographers were also based out of the Metropolitan area.  You can see the backgrounds of either Yankee or Shea Stadium on many of the photos, and in 1971 you can see lots of action photos featuring players from those two team. Here is an example of Munson on the background of a couple of cards:
Vada Pinson was a great player in the 1960’s and was still a very good player in the early 1970’s, which is why he also earned an action photo in the set. Notice the player prone wearing #15. Yep, that’s Thurman!
A couple of years later Terry Crowley‘s card has Munson featured as well:
Munson is featured just as actively as Crowley is on his own card.  There are other cool background players on 1970’s action cards. Especially in basketball where you will see Hall of Famers from other teams on many cards. But for our purposes, we’ll just stick to Munson. Recognize the player Johnny Bench is going to tag out in this 1977 World Series card?  Yep, Thurm is making another guest appearance:
Munson’s career continued to thrive and in 1976 he won the American League Most Valuable Player award. His 1976 cards have always been among my favorite cards. But if you notice both the Topps and SSPC card feature Munson with a full beard. One team rule New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner had was no beards, and these cards help to show Munson’s independent streak over the facial hair issue:
I always wonder if the photo on his 1976 Hostess card was taken as part of the same photo shoot as the Topps card:
As I mentioned in an earlier column, within a few short years Munson would perish in a plane crash, and the last card issued whilst he was living was the 1979 Burger King Yankees set. I believe it is possible to have a signed card, but I have never seen a signed 1979 Burger King card in the past 40 years. Munson was not the easiest person in giving out autographs to fans, yet in a fascinating conundrum, most Yankee team signed balls have legit Munson signatures and not what are called “Clubhouse” signatures.
And if you really want to really know why Thurman was so beloved: Munson had not hit a homer in months. His power was sapped from the 1975-77 era.  He was hurting all over. But in this 1978 playoff game, with his body aching from those hard catching years, and in the pressure packed 1978 American League Championship Series, he hit what was probably the longest homer of his career.

And the night after his plane crash, the Yankees still had a game the next day, and if you want to cry go right ahead: I once asked Jerry Narron, who started as catcher that day, about what it was like trying to catch that game, and he stated that it was the hardest game he ever had to play in.

Would Thurman had made the Hall of Fame? My instinct says his career would have wound down before getting the career stats, but in our memories he was the straw that stirred the drink for the 1970’s Yankees.

10 Baseball Rookies to Watch in 2019

Who doesn’t love rookie speculation? With the start of a new MLB season comes a fresh new crop of rookies who’s potential will spark the imagination of millions of fans. Who will walk away with Rookie of the Year honors? Who will make an immediate impact with their team? Will they be remembered among the greats of the game? Will they jump out of the gate at an unprecedented trajectory that looks to rival the record books?

Cody Bellinger and Aaron Judge put on a spectacle in 2017, crushing nearly every pitch that came there in way. Shohei Ohtani, Ronald Acuna, and Juan Soto carried the rookie torch in 2018, dazzling baseball fans with raw talent that infused much needed youth and excitement to their respective teams. Now we turn to 2019, where the next wave of call ups will have to fill some very big shoes. Without further ado, here is our list of 10 prospects that we believe can live up to that hype and then some!

1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (3b, Toronto Blue Jays) – The number one prospect in all of baseball is expected to make his debut in Toronto in 2019. The son of a Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero (who knew a thing or two about hitting himself), Vlad Jr. has been revered as a generational talent, capable of winning MVP awards as a premier MLB hitter for years to come. He hit .381 in the minors in 2018 split between AA and AAA ball. When he arrives in the majors he will be 20 years old, and is expected to lead a youth movement in a city that is eager to compete with the titans of the AL East.

Three Cards to Consider Owning:

 

2. Eloy Jimenez (OF, Chicago White Sox) – By utilizing his tall 6’4″ frame, Jimenez generates incredible power and bat speed through the zone, drawing comparisons to the likes of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton from a power perspective. This 22 year old also hits for huge average, hitting well north of .300 in the minor league level. The White Sox may have missed out on the Bryce Harper sweepstakes, but they have a superstar waiting in the wings in Jimenez.

Three Cards to Consider Owning:

 

3. Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS, San Diego Padres) – While all eyes might be on San Diego’s newest Megastar Manny Machado, who inked a 10-year $300 million dollar deal with the club last month, Tatis should also be arriving to the team in 2019. Tatis is a player more than capable of posting a 20-20 stat line while hitting for high average.He’s touted as above-average in the field, bringing a blend of speed and athleticism to his game. With the revival of competitive baseball in San Diego, Tatis Jr. will not fly under the radar on a team that is expected to contend for a playoff spot in 2019 and beyond.

Three Cards to Consider Owning:

 

4. Kyle Tucker (OF, Houston Astros) – Even though Tucker struggled mightily during his ‘cup of coffee’ with the Astros in 2018, failing to impress in his 72 plate appearances, the Astros have high hopes for this 2015 first round draft pick. Praised for his hand-eye coordination and strong plate discipline, it’s only a matter of time before Tucker puts it all together at the major league level. Kyle has the luxury of playing for a World Series contender, which has allowed him more time to develop in the minors before cracking the big league starting lineup. The Astros expect Tucker to bring that progression to the major league level at 2019, and he should fit in nicely to an already stacked batting order once he gets acquainted to major league pitching.

Three Cards to Consider Owning:

 

5. Austin Riley (3b, Atlanta Braves) – The hot corner in Atlanta belongs to Austin Riley once the time is right, and it appears that time will be 2019. His raw power combined with an above average arm and athleticism makes him a dual threat at the plate and in the field. Riley is not afraid to strike out at the plate, as his contact rate could use some work. With a little refinement, he should slot in nicely to an already power-packed Braves lineup. With so much protection around him, Riley could find himself in contention to deliver the same Rookie of the Year crown that Ronald Acuna Jr. brought to Atlanta in 2018.

Three Cards to Consider Owning:

 

6. Victor Robles (OF, Washington Nationals) – Suffering an injury that took him down for much last season, this rare five-tool talent is expected to return to form in 2019. All was not lost for the Nats however, as Robles injury opened the door for the emergence of Juan Soto. Robles is expected to be the rookie to watch in Washington in 2019, possessing a blend of power, speed, and athleticism that make him a dynamic player. He should have no trouble getting on base often, and keeping opposing hitters off the base pace with his defense in center field.

Three Cards to Consider Owning:

 

7. Nick Senzel (3b/2b/OF,  Cincinatti Reds) – Drafted second overall in the 2016 draft, Senzel should help boost the Reds infield in 2019. While the team will appreciate his versatility in the field, fans will love Senzel for his pure hitting ability, as he is a contact hitter who doesn’t strike out often and earns plenty of walks as well. The Reds have a good track record of developing similar players (see: Scooter Gennett), and with the Reds adding Sonny Gray and Yasiel Puig in the off season, Senzel could be the missing piece to help spark a wild card push in Cincinnati.

Three Cards to Consider Owning:

 

8. Brendan Rodgers (infield, Colorado Rockies) – Great bat speed? Check. Mammoth home run power? Check. Playing all his home games in Coors Field? Check! All signs point to Rodgers being a shot in the arm to the Rockies offense in 2019, joining the likes of Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, and Charlie Blackmon with his 30+ home run per season potential. Rodgers has improved his K:BB ratio over his minor league career, and is touted as an above average defender capable of playing multiple infield positions. He could be a late season call-up depending on how competitive (or lack there of) the Rockies are in 2019.

Three Cards to Consider Owning:

 

9. Forrest Whitley (SP, Houston Astros) – The second Astro featured on our list, Whitley’s arrival at the major league level will bring much needed depth to a thin pitching rotation. Beyond Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, the ‘Stros will need to find consistency, and could turn to Whitley early in the season. He posted a ridiculous 143 strike outs over 92 innings in 2017, but found his 2018 season shortened due to a drug violation suspension. Although his command could use a bit more work, he has multiple plus pitches, including a 12-6 curve and slider with late movement to compliment a 98 MPH fastball.

Three Cards to Consider Owning:

 

10. Peter Alonso (1b, New York Mets) –  A power hitting first basemen who will play his rookie season in New York. That should be all the convincing that you need that Alonso could be the real deal. The Mets top prospect mashed 36 minor league long balls in 2018, while hitting .285 and drawing nearly triple the amount of walks he did the previous season. As long as he can improve and show consistency at the plate, he will be given a pass for his below average speed and average at best defense. At 6’3″ and 245 lbs, this 24 year old should be the talk of the town if he can live up to the hype.

Three Cards to Consider Owning:

 

**Bonus** : Justus Sheffield (SP, Seattle Mariners) – A little home town bias before we wrap up, shall we? The Mariners acquired Sheffield as part of the deal that sent ace James Paxton to New York. The M’s believe they have their ace of the future in ‘Shef. He posted a 2.48 era over 116 innings between AA and AAA in 2018, while striking out 123 batters. With a wipe out slider and above average sinking fastball, Sheffield will play a pivotal role in the youth movement in Seattle and will find himself in the starting rotation in 2019 and beyond.

Three Cards to Consider Owning:

What do you think of our list? Did we snub someone who you’ve got your eye on? Let us know in the comments below who you think will be a rookie force to be reckoned with in 2019!

Rich Reminisces: The 1967 ‘Impossible Dream’ Boston Red Sox

By Rich Klein
I have been a life-long New York Yankees fan for all but one summer when I just starting to discover baseball. You see myself, like many other baseball fans, were enthralled by the 1967 “Impossible Dream” Boston Red Sox.  As an impressionable very young person whose family had a place in far Northeastern corner of Maine where the sun arrives during the summer at 4:00 AM, the Red Sox were the local team, so how could you not love following them?
I was not aware of the past 15 years of so prior for the Red Sox, but they had barely been competitive since about 1950, and even had to deal with the tragedy of the death of local hero Harry Agganis, who died shortly after turning 26 in 1955. We know when Agannis passed, but there are still some third party authenticated autographed cards of his out there. The card is pretty difficult to find, and the autograph on the card is even scarcer:
But the 1967 Red Sox had a new manager and some new players. Their best player was 27 years old and had just done intense off-season training for the first time.  Those new and improved players, as well as a little luck, turned out to be the key to the Red Sox success.
To begin, 1967 was the summer of Yaz. Carl Yastrzemski would win the triple crown that season and be the last player to lead the league in all three categories until Miguel Cabrera accomplished that feat a few seasons ago. This card pictured was issued a few years ago but gives us the 1967 flavor:
Some of the young players on that team included George Scott and Joe Foy, who had been rookies in 1966. Mike Andrews and Reggie Smith were the rookies in 1967, and a player turning just 22 during the season would finish the season season with over 100 career homers. That player was Tony Conigliaro:
Conigliaro would sadly almost lose the sight in his eye after being struck by a Jack Hamilton fast ball, and never was the same player again. Along with Yaz and Rico Petrocelli, they were the three Red Sox who also played for their 1975 team, which would be the next time the Red Sox won the Pennant.
Anytime I can mention Rico Petrocelli, it helps the hobby. You see, Rico and Tom Zappala host a weekly hobby radio show which feature many leading dealers and hobbyists. Their show can be found here if you’d like to give it a listen:
Rico is a beloved figure in Boston and does many appearances around the area. He has also co-authored many books with the Zappalas, and you can usually see him at the National Sports Collectors Convention each year. I heartily recommend meeting both Tom and Ellen Zappala along with Rico during the National. I promise you will enjoy chatting with them.
The other cool thing was both Mike Andrews and Reggie Smith shared a 1967 Topps rookie card:
One of the oldest known color television broadcasts of a baseball game feature the 1967 Red Sox!  The fact that this is a crucial game in September makes it an even more memorable game. If you have time, I do recommend watching this or having this as background during a game

The 1967 American League pennant race was legendary as four teams actually all lead the league in one confusing September day. As a young fan, I thought every season would be like 1967 season. Well not so much, but if you like to read about a very different time with one team going to the World Series and no one else in the post-season, than 1967 is for you. Just two seasons later there would be the first year of divisional play.
And if you wanted to know if the New York Yankees were doing something that year, they moved the great Elston Howard to Boston, which helped shore up the Red Sox catching situation. Howard solidified the catching position and had his last good season in 1967. I still wish there was a 1969 Topps card of him, but this 1968 serves well:
Oh, and even in the next year these Red Sox would continue to affect baseball history. Jim Lonborg,who had been 22-9 and the 1967 Cy Young award winner, hurt himself in a skiing accident and was never quite the same pitcher again. He was good, but never great. After his accident, many contracts were updated to not let the players do off-season activities which could hurt them. Note the text on his 1968 Topps card:

And lastly, the player mentioned in the quiz is Sparky Lyle, would become a superstar Yankees receiver after being traded for Danny Cater just before the 1972 season. This trade would torment the Red Sox for many years following. Unrelated to Lyle, Cater actually lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and his son-in-law and I attend the same Torah (Bible) Study class.  Hey, anytime you can name drop a major league play is worth a shot!

This card is the 1967 Red Sox team card and a scarce high number. Yes, you can use this card to talk about the stories of the famed “Impossible Dream” team. They were called the Impossible Dream because of the then recent popular song from the Man of La Macha musical. This powerful version by Jack Jones was #1 on the Adult Contemporary charts of the time and the best known of the versions.  But everything coalesced in 1967, and I will still not forgive the St. Louis Cardinals, who were a better team, for winning the World Series that year.

Retail Therapy – 2019 Topps Series 1 Baseball

Welcome to our first ever ‘Snowed In’ edition of Retail Therapy! With snow blanketing much of the Pacific Northwest and expected to continue for some time, we’re ripping away from the office this time around. While some people might prefer to stay inside under a blanket and watch their favorite series on Netflix, not us! We picked up a couple of blaster boxes of this year’s flagship Topps set before #Snowmaggedon hit the PNW, so we could bring this blog to you regardless of the conditions outside!

2019 Topps Series 1 was released on January 30th and features the standard 350 card base set and plenty of parallels, short prints, super short prints, inserts, autographs and memorabilia! While you might have to rely on Cardboard Connection’s short print variation guide for regular short prints, super short prints are a bit easier to spot as they all feature Hall of Fame players. Topps also celebrates their 1984 set with plenty of insert sets stylized after the 84′ design.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, it’s time for the big reveal! How does the flagship Topps design look this year?

Pretty good, actually!  Topps opted for a half-bordered design this year, with the player’s first name found within the color that wraps from the left edge of the card to the upper right. Our one complaint is that the gray last name on top of the color is prominent in the design, and does occasionally get lost in the mix between the white space and player’s photograph. The cards actually look much more sharp in person than they do in photographs or scans. On the other hand, the 1984 inserts are extremely sharp on the modern card stock. This is not the first time Topps has brought this design back. It was most recently included as part of the 2012 Topps Archives base set cards #151-200, and has been used many times over in Topps On-Demand products as well.

In addition to the 1984 inserts, the Grapefruit League Greats set really stands out for it’s absolutely gorgeous set design. Home Run Challenge cards return as well, and we were fortunate enough to hit two: Juan Soto and Gary Sanchez. We’ve polled our twitter followers to choose a date, and even though the odds are astronomical, if we’re lucky to win the trip to the 2020 Home Run Derby, we’ll be sure to take plenty of photographs and share!

Ballpark Evolution is another really fun insert set this year, which shows how far some of the game’s most legendary cathedrals have come over time:

For $19.99, Topps flagship series blasters almost never disappoint. The Topps flagship series are sets that appeals to a wide array of collectors. Sure, the amazing hits and chase cards can be found in hobby and Jumbo HTA boxes, but Series 1, 2 & Update are products that should be opened and collected to celebrate a time when the hobby was simple, and the rookie card was king.

With that being said, our only gripe with our two blasters was the inadequate collation of base cards, as each blaster yielded 6 RC’s and 3 future stars featuring all of the same players!

As always, we’ve saved the best for last! If you read our blog last month, you’ll know that a certain COMC employee (who may or may not also be ghostwriting this blog) enjoys manufactured patch cards. In commemoration of 150 years of professional baseball, this year’s retail manufactured patch cards feature a vinyl logo. The top card is numbered to /50 :

But if manufactured patch cards aren’t your thing, don’t worry! While there are a bevy of different ‘fake’ patches, there are several real ones to be found in the nosebleed of the stated odds section. Our resident Mitch Haniger collection was able to pick up this spectacular one-of-one Letter Patch card shortly after the product release:

RECAP:

All-in-all, in our 14 total packs (2 blasters) we hit two gold /2019 parallels, one foil parallel, and two unnumbered 150th anniversary stamped base cards. For inserts we hit four 1984 throwbacks, two home run challenges, six Grapefruit League Greats, two Greatest Moments, and one Ballpark Evolution. We also received both of our guaranteed patch cards. If you’ve been following along with this series, you’ll remember we’ve been snubbed on guarantees more than once!

That’s going to do it for this installment of Retail Therapy. We expect to start seeing 2019 Topps Series 1 cards find their way onto the COMC marketplace in mid-February, and in a few weeks, we’ll have plenty of base and insert cards in stock to help you complete your sets!

As always, any cards featured in our Retail Therapy series will be available for sale on the COMC_Breakhits account shortly! How much Topps Series 1 will you be breaking? Leave us a message in the comments below letting us know what you’ve hit so far, or what you think of the set this year!

Rich Reminisces – The 1959 ‘Go Go’ White Sox

By Rich Klein
I’ve been a life-long Yankees fan, but despite what I like to write, am not enough to actually remember the real glory days of the post -war Yankees dynasty. Between 1947 and 1964 the Yankees won 16 pennants in 18 seasons, which is just astounding. Heck, the only player from the 1947 team who was still active in 1964 was Yogi Berra. Yogi actually missed the 1964 season as he managed the Yankees, but did return for a cameo with the cross-town Mets in 1965. That cameo was for all of nine at-bats before Yogi finally retired.

But just think about that, only three teams won pennants between 1947 and 1966, which is a number that would be surpassed in the 1965-68 time frame. To me, One of those two teams is a perfect case of one team coming, one team going and one team remaining. That team was the 1959 Chicago White Sox, who were known at the time as the “Go Go Sox” because they had the best base stealer in Luis Aparicio, and a bunch of other fast guys playing for them.

Topps got a photo right from the 1959 World Series of Luis Aparicio doing what he did best in those days on his way to a Hall of Fame career.  If you look carefully at the photo you will see Maury Wills awaiting the ball so he can place a tag on Aparicio. That is important because Wills was actually in a long-running feud with Topps, and would not have an official Topps card until the last series in 1967:

The other Hall of Famer on the team was his double play partner Nellie Fox, who would win the 1959 MVP award. Fox was a consistently great player and also deserved his enshrinement into Cooperstown.

There were, of course, other good players on the team, but the real interesting part was that the team was a mix of yesterday’s legends, today’s stars and tomorrow’s heroes

There were ten players on the team who were age 34 or older. While some of them were very important to the team, others were just role players for a cameo appearance. Many of the older pitchers were important to the team, which was led by Early Wynn, who won the 1959 Cy Young award. In those days the Cy Young was only given to one pitcher for the majors and not one per league as has been done since 1967. Other good players for that team in the older brigade included Turk Lown and Gerry Staley, who were a dominant bullpen pair.

But here were some of the players who made cameo appearances for the 1959 White Sox:

Ray Boone, Del Ennis, Don Mueller (he was only 32, but nearing the end of his career) and Hall of Famer Larry Doby. Yes, they were the best players that the White Sox tried and failed to get one last memorable season from.

But the real fun for this team and the players who created the “what might have been” sequence (if Bill Veeck had not realized he needed to win now because his ownership time would be limited) included several players with interesting future stories.

Before the 1960 season even began, Norm Cash would be traded twice, and his 1960 Topps card would depict the Detroit Tigers Cap on the side photo, but a Cleveland Indians cap as the main photo. Cash would win the 1961 Batting title, hitting .361 and stayed in the majors long enough to play in the 1972 post-season.  He is one of only three players who participated in post-season play in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. (The other two were Don McMahon and Willie Mays).

As the White Sox were going for a repeat and loading up on veteran players such as Minnie Minoso and Roy Sievers, the young prospects were being sent away. Among the prospects leaving included Claude Raymond. Not that Raymond was one of the better players who left the White Sox, but he has one of the best card stories as his zipper is undone on both his 1966 and 1967 Topps cards. Thankfully nothing was showing, but how did Topps miss that two straight years?

Other players who left included Joe Stanka, who went to Japan and became a legend there. Our local SABR chapter had breakfast with him about 13 years ago and the stories he told were quite fascinating. He never had a Topps card and all his cards on COMC are currently sold out but I wanted to mention him.

And some of the other future players the White Sox disposed of after 1960 included Earl Battey and Johnny Callison. There were others as wel,l but if all the players the White Sox traded away were allowed to develop, they might have been the backbone of another pennant winner around 1963 or so.

Now I suppose you could say this is true of any team, but if you happened to get all their players to have their best season at the same time you would usually win a pennant. But if you had gotten the 1959 White Sox players to all have their career best seasons that year they might have been a team which won 100 or more games.

After this brief interlude, the Yankees would win their next five pennants and they were smart enough to keep their younger players during that period. I’m showing Jim Bouton as an example because I’ll be talking about him and his famous Ball Four tome in a future article

If Bill Veeck did not feel the need to panic, and let his young players develop, would the White Sox have won more than just that one pennant between 1919 and 2005?

Rich Klein can be reached at RichKlein@Comc.com

The Good Word: It’s in the Game!

One of the best parts about my job at COMC is the amount of collectors I get to talk with about the hobby on the weekly basis. Whether it’s at The National talking to our members in person, or retweeting personal collection pick ups on twitter, it’s fascinating to see what collectors enjoy collecting and how they build their personal collections. I was recently talking with one of the members of our Developmental Team who didn’t collect cards prior to joining the COMC Team, but is slowly carving out his niche in the hobby – collecting trading cards featuring dogs!

That conversation led me to the discovery of a set that I had never seen or heard of before – The 2006 Enterplay Nintendo Nintendogs set. Nintendogs is a real-time pet simulation video game that was released on the handheld Nintendo DS console almost 15 years ago. This would fall somewhere in the timeline after the rise-and-fall of Tamagotchi toys, but before social media and mobile games such as Farmville gained massive popularity. The game spurned a whole slew of spin-offs and imitation games that can be had for a buck or two at any used gaming store.

Furthering down that rabbit hole, I wondering what other video game themed trading card sets were out there that I didn’t know about. To my surprise, the answer is shockingly not that many. Before we go any further, for the sake of this blog post, I’m removing all Pokemon related cards from the discussion, as that is a video game that has transcended beyond gaming to pop culture status. My Grandmother can name far more Pokemon than just Pikachu, and she hasn’t played a single video game since the days of Atari in the early 1980’s.

The origin of video game related trading cards can be traced to the 1980 Fleer Pac-Man Stickers set. Each $0.30 pack contained 3 stickers, 3 trading cards, and 1 piece of gum, with each box consisting of 36 packs. The cards themselves even feature a cleverly designed rub-off game that is essentially the Pac-Man game built into a card. The price point is interesting at $0.30, considering a game of Pac-Man at the arcade would cost you $0.25 (or your whole pocket of quarters, because who only plays one game of Pac-Man?)

Nintendo appears to have initially been hot on trading cards as they began to make a name for themselves in the United States. In the late 1980’s, they released stickers and several trading cards sets that featured similar scratch-off games themed after popular video games such as Double Dragon, Punch Out!!!, Super Mario Bros, and the Legend of Zelda.

Perhaps the lack of retail success of these sets could be the attributed to the reason why Nintendo branded trading cards all but dropped off the face of the earth in the 1990’s. While there were a handful of food issue cards and promo cards included with video games, there are very few Nintendo trading cards from the 90’s. In fact, the only real video game set with any hobby relevance appears to be the 1993 Topps Sonic the Hedgehog set, a Sega-brand character, and even that is a set that COMC has seen very few cards from over our existence.

It strikes me as odd that the 16-bit and 64-bit eras of gaming in the 90’s are incredibly underrepresented in the trading card world. The Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64 produced so many great series that would have translated well into  trading card sets, such as Kirby, Yoshi’s Island, Donkey Kong Country, Mortal Kombat, and Street Fighter just to name a few. Even Sony didn’t venture too far into the world of trading cards, with only a couple of sets released highlighting Final Fantasy, one of their flagship series at the time.

It wasn’t until Enterplay acquired the licensing rights to several of Nintendo’s most popular franchises in the late 2000’s that video game related trading cards would see any sort of consistency with products and releases. Along with the aforementioned Nintendogs set, they also released sets for Nintendo Wii games such as Mario Kart , Super Mario Galaxy, and the Legend of Zelda. While it appears that Enterplay still has a partnership in place with Nintendo, they’ve since shifted their focus almost entirely to the My Little Pony Collectible Card Game, which now has over a dozen different sets since it’s debut in 2012.

My biggest issue with the Enterplay cards is that they’re emotionless, featuring very uninspired designs and characters ripped straight out the video games. These cards do a very poor job celebrating these beloved franchises, which have been well represented elsewhere through time by big named artists and fan-created artwork that put the Enterplay cards to shame. I understand that Enterplay is a relatively small player in the trading world, and probably needed to keep production costs down on these products, but even fan submitted artwork om these sets would have drastically increased the overall production quality. Give me an insert featuring painted landscapes of all of the locations in a Zelda game, or the tracks in Mario Kart. But don’t expect me to get excited over cards that come across as second-rate marketing material.

Arthur Morgan from Red Dead Redemption. An incredibly complex character who struggles with morality and social stature of the life of turn of the century cowboy.

So where do we go from here? Video game sales topped $43 billion dollars in 2018, an 18% increase of 2017. We’ve come along way from the days of 8-bit side-scrollers and top-down racers. Gaming franchises are only becoming more beloved as their creators tell deeper and more complex stories, with characters displaying stunningly human-like ranges of emotions, motivations, desires, flaws and traits. I would argue that most story-driven video games do a better job with their narratives than even the very best Hollywood movies can accomplish. So why do we have so many non-sports card sets for  movies such as Doctor Strange, Aliens, and James Bond, but none of Final Fantasy 10-15, Red Dead Redemption, or Assassin’s Creed?  Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a knock on movie cards , but rather a call to action for the gaming industry

Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins made nearly $10 million dollars in 2018 as Fortnite’s most popular streamer and gaming personality. He appeared on the cover ESPN Magazine, sparking a transition into full blown celebrity status.

Fortnite is the biggest video game on the planet right now. Children, teenagers, and even (or, especially) adults spend literally hundreds of dollars on a game that is free to play by purchasing cosmetic items that allow them to customize their character. These items have zero effect on competitive game play. With Fortnite’s publisher Epic Games making money hand over fist with their product (the company has an estimated value of $8 billion dollars), why aren’t card companies like Topps, Upper Deck, and Panini eagerly trying to acquire the licensing rights? There HAS to be a multi-million dollar market for these products just waiting to be capitalized on.

Imagine if a card manufacturer was able to sign some of Fornite’s top competitive players and popular streamers, offering chase cards that granted those who pulled a card the opportunity to play with some of these players? It doesn’t even matter what the quality of the product was at that point, that concept alone would sell insane amounts of product. Those unfamiliar with the concept of eSports and video game streaming culture may not understand why this would be a big deal. So imagine if you busted a pack of trading cards, and inside you won a trip that involved taking batting practice with Kris Bryant, or running routes and receiving passes from Patrick Mahomes II, or learning how to shoot threes with Steph Curry. For those ingrained in the video game world, who watch these players on a daily basis the same way we watch sports athletes, it’s the exact same concept.

Perhaps I’m just angling too hard for the cross-over potential of two things that I love and am passionate about. The history of video game related trading cards over the years paints a picture of repeatedly missed opportunities. There have been a lot of clever innovations over the years in the video game industry. Nintendo is among the those at the forefront of that effort, from utilizing NFC-technology in their Amiibo figurines to creating Nintendo Labo DIY kits that are functional robotics with just the technology of a Nintendo Switch controller. But aside from Pokemon cards, they don’t seem to have a desire or clue how to take their franchises, their most powerful asset, and capitalize on the beloved characters and stories they’ve created over the last 40 years. Maybe it’s time to pause and hit the reset button, because they’ve been playing the trading card game wrong for a really long time.