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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Megatron, aka: Calvin Johnson Artist Sketch

2010 Topps Calvin Johnson Artist Sketch by Brian Kong 1/1

Everyone says that if you open wax long enough, one day odds are you will pull a 1/1.  Today was my day!!  This is an Artist Sketch card from the 2010 Topps Football release.  These cards are seeded at 1:1710 packs.  I'm not sure if that means hobby packs, HTA packs, or the entire print run of hobby packs.  Either way, we can assume this is a pretty rare card (something in the realm of 1 per 20-30 cases).  Not bad for my first 1/1.  And, I'm now immortalized in my LCS's "Best Pull" book.

I'm still not sure yet what it's intended purpose will be.  I'm not ready to stop basking in it's glory yet.

A Sense of Accomplishment

I finally finished half a set this week.  The 2008-09 Upper Deck Hockey Series I base set is now complete after the final 6 cards fell into my mitts.  How you ask when I wasn't acquiring anything new?  My son and his blooming collection, that's how. 

My wife will occasionally allow my son to pick up some cards when they are at the store.  I guess Target had some 08-09 UD Hockey Series I rack packs on clearance.  He was allowed to get 2 and brought them home, very excited.  After watching him open them, and repeatedly jump up and down after getting a player he "liked", I recognized at least two I needed.  So the gears of the trade machine began turning. 

It's weird trading with your son because you get that feeling that you don't want to rip them off and want to be fair yet deep down you know "his" cards are really "your" cards.  Afterall, you are the one with the job and paycheck.  It was your money that bought the cards.  You should just be able to take the ones you want and he just has to suck it up.  But I digress...He got a good deal.  I get 6 base cards I need and he got a couple dozen cards of players he actually recognizes and can pronounce their names.

I love when I complete sets.  It makes me happy.

Friday, October 1, 2010

2010 Topps Football - - My first packs

Now that the 2010 Topps Football has permeated it's way through all the store shelves and all the blogs, I decided enough was enough and I wasn't about to get left behind.  I finally took a stab at a few packs.

I decided about a year or so ago that since I build sets and I need the most bang for my buck, retail shelf rack packs were always my best bet.  Some argue that these are the worst because the odds are different for the "hits" but you get the most for your money out of these packs because of the sheer number of cards and price per card.

Feel free to disagree as I know many of you will but when you have very little access to a card shop and means out of my own control preventing ordering hobby boxes online, retail is sometimes your only option.  Since I can't bring myself to trust loose packs on the shelf or those nifty gravity boxes because of all the pack searchers, I keep returning to the rack packs.  Sure, blaster boxes can get you some guaranteed hits as well as some increasingly fair collation over the last few years.  But the cost per card is higher than a rack pack and I'm really not interested in anymore of these "hits" that contain plain white swatches of bench players (regardless of sport) or prospect autographs of guys that will never get off their minor league islands.

Did I mention I picked up a few packs?  Well I did.  10 to be exact.  At $4.99 a pop, that was a nice piece of change until I realized all the trading cards were an additional 30% off.  Sweet, $3.50 a pack!!  There were only 10 or else I would have picked up a few more.  At any rate, I'll get this out of the way real quick...there were no autos, no game used, no super short prints, and no rookie variations.  Instead there were tons of base cards that put me well on my way to putting the set together, 10 Gridiron Lineage cards, 10 Topps Attaks/Toppstown cards, 10 Peak Performances, 2 Topps Gold /2010, 3 75th Anniversary Draft cards, 10 '52 Bowman reprints, and 2 55th Anniversary reprints.  Plus, out of 10 packs, I pulled 7 Gridiron Giveaway cards.

These are what I wanted to focus on because everyone out there has already seen the base and the inserts a hundred times.  Not being one to allow anything to sit more than 10 minutes, I immediately logged into the TGG site, surprisingly using my same ID and PW for the TMCG site.  I checked their "transmogrifier" for any recent trends in new vs. old and noticed it was a pretty even mix so I figured why not?  Here they are in no particular order...

1988 Jim Covert

2006 Doug Gabriel

1979 Lenvil Elliott

1979 Raymond Clayborn

1959 Joe Fortunato (R)

1984 Garry Cobb

1999 Travis Hall

This was a pretty interesting mix.  Better variety than the over-abundance of 1985-1989 on it's baseball counterpart.  I unlocked 2 cards from the 70s, 2 from the 80s, 1 from the 90s, 1 from the 2000s, and my one and only card from the 50s that I own that isn't a Pittsburgh Steeler.  Joe Fortunado's rookie card, as it appears to be, is probably still a common by all other standards but since I live in the Chicago area, he's at least a guy I have heard of.  Playing 12 seasons for the Bears, he made the Pro Bowl 5 times and is considered one of the top 300 players of all time.  He was named to the All Decade team of the 50s.  

I have already sorted my base cards but I haven't made a list of what I need yet.  That will go to my set needs page as soon as I have an opportunity.  I also pulled a small pile of doubles and a few triples surprisingly so if anyone else is putting this together, let me know.

I know, I know.  I said I wasn't picking up anything new for awhile a few posts ago but the urge to bust wax overcame me and I caved.  It won't happen

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Pirates Futility Never Ceases To Amaze

[UPDATE:  In the aftermath of this ridiculous firing and the huge backlash from what fan base is left after constant alienation by the franchise, the Pirates are taking the stance that it was for Walbeck's own good because if his talents were going to be utilized to their fullest, there were no positions higher up available with the Bucs organization.  Basically, they were letting him spread his wings and fly away for a better opportunity.  I still call BS but what do I know.]

After posting my elation over securing the #1 pick in next years draft (with a win, nonetheless), it was revealed yesterday that Pirates management has lost their freakin' minds.  It's always two steps forward, a hundred steps back with this club and I don't know why I am surprised.  I also don't know why I bother paying attention anymore when all it does is anger me.

The announcement was that the Pirates club won't be renewing the contract of Altoona manager Matt Walbeck.  Now most of you might be saying, "So what. He's only a Class AA manager."  Well this guy has one of the best reputations as a manager in AA ball and is considered by many to be a candidate for a future job with the MLB team.  Plus, there's the little thing of, oh, winning the Eastern League championship this year.  Or, maybe his fate was sealed by being named the Eastern League Manager Of The Year.

Walbeck's resume now includes 3 league titles and 4 manager of the year awards in the last six seasons, including this last championship which was the first for the Altoona Curve.  That is an accomplishment worth celebrating isn't it?  Do you fire a guy that wins titles?  Do you fire the guy deemed as the best coach in the league?  You do if you are the Pirates.  No one knows the reason for his dismissal and nothing but speculation is available at this point.  Pirates farm team director, Kyle Stark, wouldn't return phone calls from the press asking for an explanation but would only comment over text message that, "We do not comment on internal personnel decisions.  We appreciate Matt's efforts and wish him the best, but felt like it was best to allow him to pursue other opportunities." 

Walbeck has said in the past that he had aspirations to move up and felt he was ready for a job in a higher league.  I'm sure he would welcome the opportunity to go to another league or even, dare I say, a bench job in MLB?  Either way I think his successes will carry along with him. 

So here's my take...The Pirates just made themselves look even worse, if that was humanly possible.  Your franchise has been losing for 18 years straight.  It was just recently revealed that despite the lack of a committment to win you are still profitting.  Your reputation in MLB is that of the leagues "farm" system where they can go and at any time, pick the players they need that you have spent the time and money to develop. 

Walbeck is an asset to an organization committed to winning because that is what he does.  He is also an excellent manager for a minor league team because he understands the process involved in player development better than most.  He has been in the business for almost 20 years and that experience has paid off with championships and individual accolades beyond what most managers dream of. 

This proves that he is obviously not a good fit for the Pirates.  He is a scourge to their mindframe.  He is a positive disease in thier negative environment.  The boat the Pirates have been sailing for years is being rocked by a man devoted to winning and their ingrained expectations of flying under the radar, residing in the basement of baseball and keeping money in the organization and not on the payroll are contrary to his philosophy.  To them, it would seem that Walbeck is a bad fit because he isn't towing the company line and committment to misery.  Maybe he should have been like John Russell.  A 56-102 record gets you a contract extension. 

This move is just another in a long line of losing moments.  There has to be a lot of hard work and effort that goes into it because it can't be easy losing over 100 games in a season.  But, that's what the Pirates do best.  People wonder why I don't freely admit to being a Pirates fan.  I go out of my way sometimes just to not watch them when they are on TV because I know I will just be disappointed.  At least Cubs fans can cling to the "maybe next year" mantra they have become linked with.  A better creed for the Pirates should be "not in my lifetime".

Commence response to Epic Failure!!


Future Hall of Fame Inductee? Jack Butler

There is a new movement/petition circulating the interwebs that I am finally in agreement with.  I was tipped off to this over on One For The Other Thumb, a Steelers blog that I'm sure all of you out there read on a regular basis.  This year, Dick LeBeau finally got his day to shine in Canton followed by many years of petitioning the hall to open their doors to the creator of the Zone Blitz (although his playing career is what earned him this honor).  So maybe this time it will work too.


"Jack Butler was one of the Steelers corners from 1951-1959. In only nine seasons, he made four pro bowls, averaging just under 6 picks a season (grabbing 10 in 1957 alone) at a time when seasons were only 12 games long. So, it's really no surprise that when the Steelers voted their All-Time team for the franchise's 75th Anniversary a few years back, Butler was among the 33 selected (he was also selected to the All-Time team when the Steelers voted at their 50th Anniversary).

He was second on the list in terms of total interceptions when he retired (and is still 24th on the list - with one less INT than Ty Law, who played 15 16-game seasons, and only 10 less than Dick LeBeau - who played 14 mostly 14-game seasons - with 52 total), and was both an NFL Player of the Decade for the 50's as well as one of the Top 300 of all time. He's still #1 in forced turnover percentage per games played, and 42 years ago today(yesterday), the great Johnny Unitas told Jack's son John (right before dropping 41 points on the Steelers) that Jack was the best defensive back he had ever played against.

In addition to his playing career, he then spent the next 46 years scouting NFL players, 44 of those as the Director of BLESTO (Bears, Lions, Eagles, Steelers Talent Organziation) - one of the organizations that supported what we know today as simply the NFL combine...

...As you surely know, a lot of the older NFL alumni have gotten overlooked by the hall voters as the years have gone on. Players are eligible five years after the date they retire, but if they aren't elected then or shortly thereafter, they can unfortunately start to slip the minds of the selection committee. Which is, of course, why they need people to remind them of hall-worthy candidates.

And so Jack's children have started a movement to get the voting committee to elect Jack as at the very least a Contributor for his 56-year involvement in professional football. They have set up the site (as well as a Facebook page), which has information on Jack's career, along with a guestbook that they are using as an online petition of sorts to show the voters that fans think Jack should be in the Hall along side all of the other legends." 

Because he played for a bad team, and the Steelers were awful back then, he gets snubbed year after year.  His 827 return yards off INTs tops all other Steelers, including pick machines Mel Blount and Rod Woodson. Plus, he's the only defensive back of the NFL's 1950s All-Decade Team not in Canton. 

It makes you wonder if he had played for a different team, like the Lions, Packers, or Bears if he wouldn't already be in there.  I wonder if this is another example of the "too many Steelers" mentality that has caused many of the Pittsburgh greats to be ignored for so many years.  Just look at the numbers, though.  His stats are very similar to Jack Christiansen if you break them all down and JC was inducted into the Hall in 1970 as a Lion. Now Dick LeBeau is in and he was drafted a year after Christiansen retired, as a Lion.

Jack is considered by many to be one of the greatest defensive backs of all time, but has taken a backseat to many players that cite him as an influence.  So if you feel the same way, help support the cause or at the very least, sign the guestbook and show your support.