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Friday, August 20, 2010

Trade Post (sort of) - - Under the Bridge

If the first thing that came to mind was the Red Hot Chili Peppers song, they you are 100%, absolutely WRONG!!

This is a Troll post.  And not just any Troll post...a package from Troll post. 

Once upon a time in a far away land, there lived the Collective Troll.  At one point sometime ago, he called out for participation in a group break of epic proportions and all you needed to do to get a spot was...well, I don't remember exactly what we had to do.  It had something to do with buying our way in with cards or something of that nature.  At any rate, this all went down sometime last millennium and I think everyone had forgotten about it until a few weeks ago when we were all reminded that there were packages awaiting arrival at our doorsteps. 

I knew I had the Pirates in the break and after jogging my memory by reviewing many old posts on the Troll Blog, I got a pretty good idea of what I was going to expect to see.  What arrived was so much more, though.

There in my mailbox sat a 330 count box of wonder and amazement.  Not only were the cards that came from the break in there, but there were unopened packs, older Pirates cards, some roller derby stuff (which is always awesome!!), and even some Steelers items.  I was blown away by everything that was in there so I thought I would share some of it with the world. I'm not posting everything, nor am I posting much from the actual break.  I am going to post some of what I think are the highlights.

1994 Stadium Club Andy Van Slyke
I post this card, not for its value or scarcity.  No, this one sums up the Pirates existence from the date this card came off the production line until today.  This is exactly how Pirates fans feel.  Exhausted? Tired? Exasperated? Frustrated? Confused? Angry?  The answer to all of these questions is YES!!  This has to be my vote for the greatest modern era Pirates card of all time.

1985 O-Pee-Chee George Hendrick and Lee Mazzilli
These are the first two OPC Pirates cards I have in my collection from the 1980s.  Although, George is still a Cardinal but we will let that slide.  This was a shocking discovery since I have so much 1980s stuff.

2008 UD Baseball Heroes Roberto Clemente and 2008 Stadium Club Honus Wagner
Here are two modern cards with vintage players.  Not just any players but two of the greatest Pirates of all time.  The 1971 World Series MVP and the man with the most famous and recognizable baseball card of all time.  Reprints, tributes, and retro cards are the closest I will ever get to owning a real Honus Wagner.

1978 O-Pee-Chee Dave Parker/Rod Carew Batting Leaders
Another OPC only this time, an oldie.  When I started collecting, I really didn't even know that OPC was had a card set.  In fact, until I started collecting hockey cards back in the late 80s, I didn't know OPC existed at all.  What an awesome duo to have on a card, though.

1976 Topps Duffy Dyer
There really isn't anything all that special about this card.  Dyer didn't have what you would call a stellar career.  He was Manny Sanguillen's backup for most of his tenure with the Pirates until Manny was dealt to the A's for Chuck Tanner (yes, the manager).  He came back the following year but by that time, Dyer and Ed Ott were well entrenched as the 2 catchers.  What I thought was cool about this card is that Dyer is the name of the town directly west of where I currently reside.  I doubt Troll knew that, or maybe he did, but what a coincidence.  I wonder if Duffy's family tree goes back to mid-1800's Northwest Indiana?

1998 Topps Roberto Clemente Commemorative Set #300
This card comes from a 19 card commemorative set issued back in 1998 which was the 25th anniversary of Roberto Clemente's death.  I have seen this set going from anywhere between $50 to $100.  Now I have a card from it.  It looks like the original, it is glossy, and it is foil stamped. 

A variety of Topps Steelers cards from 1977, 1978, 1980, and 1985. 
These were very unexpected since this was a baseball break and these are clearly not baseball.  They are much cooler though.  4 Steeler greats of the past.  Lambert and Blount are both in the HOF.  Larry Brown played on all four Super Bowl teams in the 70s first as a tight end and then as a tackle.  Mike Merriweather played for the Steelers from 1982-1987 and made the Pro Bowl as a linebacker in 84, 85, and 86. 

2009 Allen & Ginter Ryan Doumit Relic
This is my third A&G relic of a Pirate.  It's Ryan Doumit.  While it's a cool card, I don't know how I feel about Doumit.  Is a catcher, first baseman, outfielder?  Who knows?  It could change on a whim.  He did hit a homer tonight in a losing effort to the Mets.

1987 Fleer Johnny Ray Autograph
I have no idea how he got this autograph, all I know is it is now in my collection.  Johnny Ray, one of the all time best Pirates 2nd baseman, was a personal favorite of mine (in the pre-Bonds era).  The other great thing about this card...look what he is swinging there.  Here's a hint...It's not a bat.

Thanks again Troll.  You are a gentleman and a scholar and a real class act in this hobby.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

After Careful Deliberation

I have decided that one of the card frames is now going to contain the Pittsburgh Penguins All Time Team.  Trib Total Media announced a week or so ago the All Time Team as voted by both fans and local media people and for the most part, with possibly one exception I think it is dead on. 

One of the criterion was that it contain players from all eras of the team's history with the exception that current roster players are not eligible.  That was one of the sticking points for me since a public opinion vote on all time players was bound to include players of today like Crosby, Malkin, Fleury, Staal, etc.  Since these are the guys that won the latest championship, they are the ones that many younger fans and "bandwagoners" remember.  For me though, I was concerned with the guys that built the franchise and made it what it is today.  Granted, the bulk of the players involved are from the late 80s/early 90s back-to-back Stanley Cup teams but that was a pivotal time in franchise history.  However, they didn't forget many of the players of the past that kept this team viable for the pre-Mario years and struggled with the team along the way.

This awesome group will be honored in an interactive display at the Trib Total Media entrance of CONSOL Energy Center. The Trib Total Media Penguins All-Time Team Zone, as it will officially be known, (or "hey, you know that section with all the cool digital stuff about the players") will also include displays honoring other Penguin players, builders and fans.  So in honor of that, and since it will probably be a long time before I get to see the real thing in person, I am creating my own All Time Team display with one of the card frames.

The list is comprised of 15 players and 5 honorable mentions...perfect for a 20 card display, including:

Mario Lemieux
Ron Francis
Jaromir Jagr
Rick Kehoe
Kevin Stevens
Jean Pronovost
Paul Coffey
Larry Murphy
Ulf Samuelsson
Tom Barrasso
Syl Apps
Joe Mullen
Dave Burrows
Les Binkley
Pierre Larouche
Randy Carlyle
Rick Tocchet
Martin Straka
Ron Stackhouse
Lowell MacDonald

Not a bad lineup.  I'm not focusing on a certain card either.  I couldn't fill this thing with rookie cards even if I tried.  Instead, I am picking out a variety of cards that feature the players in their Pens uniforms that are eye catching and can tell a story.  Each card is going to be of a separate year and brand.  I am trying for no duplication of cards designs.  The last qualification is that it has to be a vertical picture.  Horizontal won't work since the display has to be mounted upright because of the case tracks.

So far it is looking pretty good.  Right now, I am two cards short as I can't seem to find any Randy Carlyle cards in my collection sporting a Penguins uniform (which is really strange).  I am also without a Les Binkley in a Pens uniform.  Les could be a harder pull since he played so long ago.  His 68-69 rookie card is a horizontal shot instead of vertical (although I do still want that for my team collection).  My only shots are his 69-70, 70-71 (probably my best option since it shows him in full gear minus a mask which he didn't wear), or 71-72 (which I am already using for Syl Apps spot).  If I can find the 04-05 ITG card, he is featured as a Penguin but most of the various reprint/retro sets have him as an Ottawa National. There are a few on the Bay so we will see what happens. 

I will try and post the final project when it is finished and in the meantime, figure out what I am using the other one for.  I'm guessing Steelers but I can't figure out which yet.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Football Makes Me Happy, Plus...Random Steeler Monday

The first pre-season game was played on Saturday between the Pittsburgh Football Steelers and the Detroit Football Lions.  I got a chance to watch the game live "streamed" online.  Obviously, this was an un-televised game but was carried in replay through the weekend on the NFL Network because of their committment to show every pre-season game 17 times over.  In fact, this would most likely have been an un-televised game if it was a regular season matchup because, let's face it, it was a team that missed the playoffs last year playing a team that has missed the playoffs for 11 years.  Say what you want about them but the Lions are still well below the threshold of a contender.  They are, however, in a position to make some noise.  Pittsburgh, on the other hand, is now stuck in the middle of one of the toughest divisions in the NFL, with stacked Ravens and Bengals teams that have been designed to do one thing...beat the Steelers.  Even Cleveland could make a splash, especially with all their pent up agression over "the Decision" spilling over onto the football field.

Nonetheless, football is back!!  I can't wait for the season to start because the tiresome and mind-numbingly vapid baseball season has sucked the life out of my daily sports viewing.  When the hockey season ended, including the draft and free agency period, I thought baseball would satisfy my sports fix.  I'm sorry baseball.  I gave you an opportunity this year to Wow! me and bring me back into the fold.  I tried to get excited over spring training, the All Star game, the great pitching so far, the Stephen Stras"mania", etc.  I really tried.  I went crazy buying Upper Deck, Topps, and Bowman releases that looked great and got my attention for a short while.  I even went as far as stocking up on some of the last 5 years that I have missed.  But, I'm just not feeling it. 

With the exception of two, probably three plays a game or less, there just doesn't seem to be a very marketable product on the field.  Maybe I'm not watching the right games.  Maybe I have just abandoned my once favorite sport for so long that there is no turning back.  Come playoff time, I will tune back in and see if that level of excitement can help me find a pulse.  But until then baseball, you have been demoted back to the minors alongside Indy car racing, sport fishing, and Major League Soccer.

All anyone has talked about thus far in the preseason is how the Steelers are going to handle the quarterback "situation".  With Ben serving his minimum, four game suspension during the regular season, it is going to be one of two guys, either veteran Byron Leftwich or third year quarterback Dennis Dixon.  As much as I'd like to throw Charlie Batch into that mix, his role has become much more of the mentor/tutor/coach.  I'm not saying his days are numbered, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him take on a role as an advisor or coach.

Whichever way it turns out, I think the issue being overlooked is that there were bigger problems at running back.  Parker is gone to the Redskins (and has been relegated to 4th on their depth chart) while Mewelde Moore is great on special teams and the occasional situation but is far from a feature or anchor back.  Mendenhall is a more than capable workhorse but can't be expected to be an every down back for an entire season.  Frank Summers could be a number two back on at least 9 other teams in the league but has yet to break into a starting role and is still lower on the depth chart.  Jonathan Dwyer, the highly touted 2010 draft pick has had a horrible camp and has fallen victim to injuries already.  I was excited about him as a pick but if preseason is any indication of what's to come, he may be a bust.  Enter, the "Red Zone". 

Isaac Redman is my choice for filling in that position.  The second year back proved, once again, that he is a more than deserving of a shot after Saturday's performance.  If the Steeler's are ever going to get back to what the franchise was built on, I think the Mendenhall/Redman combination (with an occasional sprinkling of Summers or Moore mixed in for good measure) is what is going to get them there.  He has already shown he can be part of that tandem, leading the Steelers in preseason rushing last year and showing promise this year.  The faster paced game of today has caused the two back system to become an almost necessity in the NFL of today.  The workload has to be spread out to keep the backs from burning out. 

Isaac had a pretty decent game against mostly a second team defense of the Lions, gaining 60 yards on 15 carries and one TD.  He broke a 31 yard draw play, spinning like a whirling durbish, and running over another defender which set up a field goal.  He then scored after a 51 yard pass from Double D to Arnaz Battle set him up at the 1.  He did have a fumble that was overturned by a challenge but the conditions were less than desireable with a soaked field due to torential downpours all evening in Pittsburgh (I know, excuses, excuses).

As for cards featuring the stable of Steeler running backs, thus far Redman has no cards that I know of so there aren't any that I can post here.  I'm sure that will change this year with some football releases, hopefully in Topps.  In comparison, Frank "the Tank" Summers has 38 cards listed on Beckett's checklist.  Moore has well over 500 total cards but only about 10 that feature him as a Steeler and four of those are printing plates from 2009 Topps.  Dwyer already has 142 cards despite being drafted less than 6 months ago.  This is a prime example of the perception of scarcity the card companies manufacture.  I will expound on that more in another post.  Mendenhall?...he has over 1,500 cards, over 600 of them are memorabilia cards and almost another 600 are autographs. 

Regardless of what the end results are come Week 1, I think it's safe to say that Pittsburgh's running game will be back.