Tuesday, April 2, 2013

AND SO IT BEGINS………




Tonight, in front of what is sure to be a loud, raucous and joyfully expectant crowd, the Toronto Blue Jays officially begin their quest to fulfill the expectations that have been heaped on them since pitchers and catchers reported to Florida back in February. Tonight, a guaranteed sell-out crowd will welcome with open arms the team that has ignited a buzz not felt north of the border since the spring of 1993. All the preparation, all the speculation and all the expectation comes to a head in a mere few hours. Tonight, “it” begins.



In a trade that many compared to the ground-breaking reformation of the Toronto Blue Jays back in December of 1990, when a young kid named Alomar and a guy who had worn out his welcome in San Diego named Carter were brought in, the face of a franchise was altered again back in November. A 12-player deal that seemingly came out of nowhere catching everyone off-guard (including the commissioner of Major League Baseball, Bud Selig) turned what was considered another bridesmaid in the American League East Division into a serious, odds-on early World Series favourite.

At the heartbreaking core of the deal, if you were to ask Florida Marlin fans, was the 29 year-old, 4 time All-Star and clear-cut anchor up the middle at shortstop, Jose Reyes.



The immediate addition to the offensive speed of the Blue Jays is what should be the biggest upside to Reyes. Being a fan of watching teams win games on the base-paths I look forward to the season-long excitement of a team that knows how and when to run.

While Reyes was the spotlight of the deal, there were a couple other guys who came along for the ride that had a significant impact on their chosen positions within the ranks of the Blue Jays. In 2012 the Blue Jays starting pitching staff was a work in progress and looked like it would be a few years before anyone needed to consider them even slightly threatening. If nothing else, the stability brought to the 2013 starting line-up would make any Jays fan breathe a little easier.

Josh Johnson has played his entire career for the Florida Marlins, he has attended a couple All-Star games and has gone about his business rather unassumingly, with a K to BB ratio that would make any manager happy.



When you look at your number 3 or 4 starter you want someone you can count on to deliver consistency and reign in the walks. Johnson has delivered that in the past and should continue to do so.

The other arm that Toronto acquired was a player I have admired for quite some time, mostly what I have admired about Mark Buehrle was his ability to eat up innings as a starter. Which, when it comes to pitching in Toronto, is not such a bad trait to have.



A 4-time All-Star and 4-time Golden Glove winner, who still has a few years left to give, brings 13 years of experience and a veteran leadership quality to a pitching staff that was clearly in way over its head last year.

For most teams, such a blockbuster deal would have been enough to bring optimism and chatter of contention to their fan base. However, when it comes to Alex Anthopoulos there never seems to be a point where there is “enough”. Roughly 1 month later the Toronto Blue Jays made headlines again when they announced the acquisition of a reigning Cy Young champion. A player whose career had been one of the best feel-good stories of 2012. A player whose chosen pitch is guaranteed to make him and the Toronto Blue Jays a much talked about entity in 2013.

On December 18th, the Toronto Blue Jays broke more hearts (this time Mets fans) when they traded for knuckleballer R.A.Dickey.



When it comes to pitchers who throw the knuckleball it is definitely a career lengthening pitch. However, as the story goes, it is a pitch that can leave you as quickly as it found you. According to those more well versed in speculation than I, R.A. Dickey has a different ability with the knuckleball than most, which will make being a fan of the Blue Jays an enjoyable watch for 2013.

With all the good that has transpired this spring for the Toronto Blue Jays this post would not be complete without a mention of one of the more upsetting stories, personally. In the second half of 2012, everyone witnessed the complete and utter breakdown of Ricky Romero, my favourite Blue Jay by far. After starting the season 9-1 and looking like 2012 would be another step towards true pitching Ace status, EVERYTHING went wrong. Ricky finished the season 0-13. Speculation that he should have been shut down, that he could not handle the weight of being the “staff ace” and that he simply “lost his stuff” continued throughout the off-season.



Rightly so, Ricky Romero failed to make the trek north with the 2013 version of a team that inspired hope and speculation among fans. Rightly so, Ricky Romero will be tasked with altering his mechanics and finding the pitcher that he was from 2009 through the first half of 2012. I’m convinced enough of this that I drafted Ricky Romero to my Fantasy Baseball roster. I’m confident he will come back physically, mentally and emotionally stronger than ever. I’m also confident he will come back to a team that will be contenders all year long for the American League Championship.

Either way, this is has been a great spring to be a Toronto Blue Jays fan, and this will be an even better season to be one as well.

Thanks for stopping by.

Cheers,
  

Friday, March 29, 2013

402 Days


402 days.

I am appalled.

402 days.

Sickening.

402 days since I have posted anything remotely interesting or worthwhile to this blog.

Embarrassing.

Suffice it to say that today I pledge to resurrect this forum of expression and share with you, valued visitor, my thoughts on this great world we call the card collecting hobby.

Where have I been? What have I been doing? What is next for LFB2B?

All these questions will be answered in the coming days and months.

Until then, I will leave you with an image of a card that was graciously acquired for me by Russ Cohen (aka @sportsology on Twitter) at the 2012 National Sports Collectors Convention in Baltimore.

For me, the inscription on this card will serve as a reminder and inspiration to never again let it come to 402 days.



Cheers, 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mail Day (aka Forgotten Spoils of The NPN)

Today @UpperDeckSports surprised me by hiding out in my mailbox. I came home from work to find a brown padded envelope. The stamped return address on the envelope threw me off for a second because I have zero outstanding redemptions right now. However, once I tore into the package I pulled out this congratulatory letter;


Now, admittedly I rarely take advantage of most "no purchase necessary" offers when it comes to contests. I tend to find them too much of a hassle. I seem to recall being spurred on to try an NPN entry into a card company's release by reading another blogger's success story. As usual I threw in an entry and never gave it another thought until today.

Quite frankly, I had completely forgotten I had done it. In all fairness it WAS in 2010.

After reading the above letter I was a bit excited to see what card I had lucked into.

Autograph cards have become a bit more of an interest to me lately, much more so than relic cards. Every time I hit a show I thumb through the $1.00 boxes looking for interesting signatures or unique cards featuring unique subjects and their signatures. This card fits perfectly into that role.


I believe this is actually the second autograph I have of a figure skater. I never bought any of the 'World of Sports' release but the uniqueness of the autograph subjects in the product definitely sets it apart. The signature on this card is clean and legible and the little heart gives it a nice personal touch.

2012 'World of Sports' releases soon and I doubt it will get any of my hard earned dollars. However, I will definitely look over the autograph list and see what is available.

UD also included a base card of Dustin Coleman in my prize package.

I guess the lesson here is that for the actual amount of time an NPN entry takes it may not be such a bad thing when it pays off. Thanks again to Upper Deck for the cards and rest assured I will do just as the letter suggests, I will continue to check out your NPN's.

Cheers,

Monday, February 20, 2012

Family Day/Presidents Day Goes Well With PIE!!!

Here we are chasing down the remaining days of February and I have yet to post anything. Suffice it to say I have been busy but that hardly excuses me from negligence. In the coming days I do hope to have a few product review box breaks as I have been told they are on their way. I also plan on beginning to chronicle my collecting adventure for 2012.

More on that at a later date.

What brings us all here today is another installment of my quest to complete my patchwork collection of Topps 'American Pie'. When we last left I had received a generous helping from Cardboard Connection Radio listener, Lou. What I did not share with you was the stack of 'Hollywood Walk of Fame' cards that Lou sent that put a big dent in my AP Wantlist. I got wayyyy too excited about "Shiny Zappa" and all focus was lost.

The 'Hollywood Walk of Fame' set is a 50-card set featuring an impressive checklist of Hollywood's greatest celebrities who are also featured in the base set. There is also a manufactured patch version of this set which has the star replaced with a stitched version of the star stuck into a cutout recess in the card. The manufactured cards are numbered out of 50. For ease of completion I simply chose to go with the regular cards.

One of the nicest features on the back of the cards, besides the write-ups on the individuals, is that the date of the dedication ceremony and the address location in Hollywood of the star itself are printed as part of the "stats" under the name of the card subject. Nothing like making a trading card purposeful.

The design of the front of the card is simple and effective. The star, as it appears on the 'Walk of Fame' is featured on the right half while a photo of the card subject takes of the left. My only issue with the card set is the lack of consistency in the photos. The use of black and white pictures makes the cards look much better than the photos featuring colour. I wish Topps had made every photo black and white. Other than that, 'Hollywood Walk of Fame' is a set that looks great paged in a binder.

10 more cards were knocked off my HWoF wantlist thanks to Lou. I scanned them as two separate groups to attempt to show you what I mean by the B&W v. Colour photo use. As far as I am concerned every single one of these guys is light-years beyond in the "coolness" department than any celebrity walking the face of the earth today.

HWF-7 Dean Martin, HWF-18 Jimi Hendrix, HWF-21 John Wayne
HWF-30 Walt Disney, HWF-33 Orson Welles, HWF-39 Clark Gable


Now, compare those with the colour photo used on the following four. I get that colour makes the picture more life-like but the classic black-and-white makes the cards look more "Hollywood" somehow. Maybe, I'm just weird.

HWF-4 Cary Grant, HWF-5 Christopher Reeve, HEF-9 Elizabeth Taylor, HWF-13 Gene Roddenberry

Minor issues aside this set fit perfectly with the whole "pop culture" aspect of 'American Pie' and it looks great paged into a binder. Thanks to Lou my AP binder looks alot less empty now.

Another donation of Pie came to me via the command center in Fairfax, Virginia otherwise known as the domain of the curator of 'Stale Gum', Chris Harris. Any time you get a package from Chris you have to open it with care as the potential to be "bipped" always exists. Thankfully, this Canadian was spared. However, what was inside really made my day.

I'm winding down in the number of base cards I need and besides the Frank Zappa/MTV card there is only one other card from this set that I truly MUST have, and wouldn't you know it Chris sent it my way....


GABBA GABBA WE ACCEPT YOU, WE ACCEPT YOU, ONE OF US!!


Perhaps someday we might even see a Topps product that incorporates a Joey Ramone cut signature into it. If that were to happen it would cause a serious dent in my bank account, just saying.

One of my other enjoyments in the sporting world is horse racing. I grew up with my father enjoying horse racing and it is one of the enjoyments he has passed along to me. When I saw that Secretariate had a card in American Pie I new it was going to be part of my patchwork set. This is a beautiful card of a beautiful and amazing horse.


In an effort to make my completion of my 'American Pie' collection a bit of a challenge I have decided to tray and collect both parallels of each of the base cards I am seeking. Chris was kind enough to send along a handful of shiny goodness to help the cause.

Dr.Seuss, Jack Kerouac and Pong

Miracle on Ice, Mr. Rogers and Genomes

Perhaps the most challenging part of this collection will be the "spotlight" parallels which are serial numbered to a relatively meager 76 copies. The first one in my collection accompanied its shiny partner in this package. Card #99 features the godfather of 'The Godfather', Mario Puzo.


Chris also saw fit to knock another card off of my 'Hollywood Walk of Fame' wantlist as well. As the host of one of the greatest television shows of all time his place in pop culture was set. To go on and host an even more interesting yet less popular show in the 60's, Rod Serling was a part of my growing up and will always define "hip", for me.


'Night Gallery' was one of the first shows that I "discovered" as a young television watcher and I can remember sneaking into the basement to watch episodes on an old black and white television we liberated from my grandmother.



In a rather short period the generosity of fellow collectors has helped me eliminate a majority of my Topps 'American Pie' wantlist. If you have any of the cards listed in my original post that I still need, and you have no use for them, please send them north and I will gladly change them into something you want.

Thanks for taking the time to check out yet another post devoted to PIE and stay tuned for several box breaks coming soon to the blog.

Cheers,

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mail Day (aka MOAR PYE!!!!)

Now, I realize that the entire collecting collective is collectively collecting Topps Series 1 flagship baseball, At this very moment the world is looking for Albert as an Angel and some rodent.

I am here to sober you all up.


I am here to slap you in the face and wake you the hell up!!!!


HEY!!!!!!


Let us not forget that not too long ago the darling of the hobby world was a little release known as......


Yeah!! Remember her?!?!

Remember how we were all hanging out together and saying how cool she was?!?

Remember!!??!!

Well, I do!! And you know what? She's STILL cool!! She's STILL awesome!!! She's STILL my friend!!

Thanks to Lou who is a regular listener to Wednesday Night Card Talk show that I am a part of on Cardboard Connection Radio, I am now the proud owner of the one card I knew I had to have when I first saw it. The one card that has been on my mind since I ripped my first of 4 blasters of this stuff. Now, as I said, thanks to Lou I can proudly proclaim.......


........AHEM.........


I HAZ DEH SHYNEE ZAPPA CAHD!!!!!!!


Very rarely have I ever acquired a parallel version of a card before I have acquired the base version. Thanks Lou, you have no idea how much this card means to me.

After some research I have found the source of this photo. It is from the live MTV simulcast of the Frank Zappa Halloween Concert at the Palladium in 1981. Nina Blackwood (pictured on the card) and Sam Copper hosted. Even better a search of YouTube turned up the concert (was there any doubt??) and Frank being Frank.

Enjoy!!




Lou also sent me a bucketload of 'Hollywood Walk of Fame' cards that fit perfectly into the empty spaces of my 'American Pie' binder pages.

Thanks Lou!!

I am glad you shared this opportunity with me to revisit a sorely and rather abruptly neglected beauty in Topps 'American Pie'. If you have a chance please check out my original AP wantlist post and see if there is anything you are not using that perhaps I might be able to. I can also do the same with my spares.

See??

This trading stuff works!!

Of course, like all of you I am now off to tear into some 2012 Topps Series 1 baseball that miraculously made it to Canada on "opening day".

Happy squirrel hunting!!

Cheers,

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Joy Of The Completed Page - Ginter Style

As part of the lot I received recently from 'Check Out My Cards' there was one card whose purpose served that which all collectors strive towards and also allowed me to move on to other pursuits. Nothing feeds the completest in me more than having a binder page without a blank space between the cards. Also, there is no better feeling than putting a set to bed and marking it complete on your checklist.

This card......


completed both tasks.

The 2010 Topps Allen & Ginter 'World's Wordsmiths' insert set is a 15-card set highlighting the most influential and famous writers throughout history. From Homer to Victor Hugo collectors are exposed to some definite literary heavyweights. My favorite card from this set features one of my favorite authors whose museum will be a definite agenda item during my visit to the 2012 National in Baltimore this summer.

Any time you can combine culture and cards I am in favor of it. Hopefully, in some subsequent release of A&G Topps will see fit to honor some of the greatest Science Fiction writers in a similar set.

Until then, enjoy the 'World's Wordsmiths' set in all its completed page glory.


Cheers,

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Another Helping of Pie




When I first posted my wantlist for Topps American Pie there were two rather quick respondents to my request. The second of which showed up in the mail this week from my fellow host of Wednesday Night Cardboard Connection Radio, Rob Bertrand, better known to all as The Voice of The Collector. Rob absolutely killed my wantlist as I am now down to needing/wanting only 5 base cards. However, one card that is proving to be far too elusive is the one that features Francesco Vincent Zappa.

I NEEDZ ME SUM ZAPPA!!!

Most of the images from American Pie have been seen several times over so I will not bore you with scan after scan of the cards I received. But, I will show you two of the cards I am happiest to have in my possession.

Card #8 - Jackie Robinson

Card #109 - George Carlin

My main focus of collection for 'American Pie' is the Hollywood Walk of Fame 50-card insert set. Rob sent along 8 cards to help shrink my wantlist for those cards as well. The coolest part of this set is that the street location of the star in Hollywood is printed on the back along with a short but concise biography of the subject on the front. A nice touch.

#HWF-47 Leslie Nielsen, #HWF-42 Fred Astaire
#HWF-44 Harry Houdini, #HWF-40 Douglas Fairbanks


The black and white photos really work on these cards and give them the old time look that fits the historic nature of the set. Harry Houdini is one of 9 Walk of Fame stars to have their one-word stage name grace their star. I love trivial facts like that.

#HWF-34 Spencer Tracy, #HWF-26 Marlon Brando
#HWF-33 Orson Welles, #HWF-16 Humphrey Bogart


If you have not picked up a blaster of 'American Pie' yet I would suggest you do so. Not just to enjoy the product and the cards you get but also you may be able to help me finish up my set as well. That would not be such a bad thing, would it?

Thanks Rob for the trade and getting me closer to the finish line.

Follow Rob on Twitter @VOTC and give little old me a follow too @LongFlyBall

If anyone else is trying to complete 'American Pie' hit me up with your wantlist and I might be able to help you out. Thanks for stopping by.

Cheers,