United We Stood

Three words that meant so much. Today, nineteen years later, they ring hollow. They’re like three other words once spoken by an ex-spouse. Empty words, after a bitter divorce.

Today, our country is enduring the worst civil unrest since the ’60s, in the middle of a pandemic, nonetheless, and we are more divided than at any other time in my lifetime. We’ve let a conman slither his way into the highest office of the United States and destroy what little peace and unity we might have had; we have a House and a Senate whose members refuse to work with one another and accomplish absolutely nothing; and we booed football players standing unified, locked arm-in-arm, as they took a moment of silence prior to the kickoff of the 2020 NFL season. And mind you, it wasn’t even during the national anthem.

United We Stand once meant something. Today, it does not.

Thinking of those who lost their (or a family members) lives on 9/11/2001.

Apocalyptic

I watched the Mariners and Giants game last night and at one point during the broadcast, they showed a photo of the city from earlier in the day. There was a glowing-orange sky that was quite apocalyptic looking. The background of this Buhner card is a little foreboding as well. Perhaps Bone just crushed a fastball.

I’ve never been much of a ‘road warrior.’ My parents were both self-employed and the only time we would travel would be for a one or two week summer vacation up and down the west coast. But it did give me the opportunity to attend games at every ballpark on the ‘Best Coast.’ Jack Murphy Stadium, Dodger Stadium, Angels Stadium, Candlestick Park, Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, and of course, The Kingdome.

As an adult, I would visit Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium in the early ’90s as well as Safeco Field a number of times the past decade. One ballpark I have yet to visit but that is on my ‘must-see’ is Oracle Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. Maybe one of these days.

The back of today’s card tells us Jay’s five favorite out of town parks, based upon his 1995 season. There’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards (7/17 w/ 1 homer), Fenway Park (8/26 w/ 2 homers), Jacobs Field (5/19 w/ 3 homers), H.H.H. Metrodome (7/23 w/ 5 dingers) and the Ballpark in Arlington (6/29 w/ 2 homers).

Unique Resume

While his two seasons with the Mariners were pretty pedestrian, Steve’s time with Toronto, who acquired the righty for Eric Thames on July 30, 2012, was anything but.

Consider the following accomplishments during his time north of the border.

  • August 13, 2012- became the first major league pitcher to strike out 4 hitters in an extra-inning. Pitching in the top of the 10th against the Chicago White Sox, Delabar struck out Dayan Viciedo, Tyler Flowers (who reached 1st on a passed ball), Gordon Beckham, and Alejandro De Aza to end the inning.
  • Voted by fans as the American League “Final Vote” representative for the 2013 All-Star game.
  • July 30, 2013- throws an immaculate inning (8th inning) against the A’s, striking out Adam Rosales, Coco Crisp and Chris Young on 9 pitches.

It Should Be Dated 2020

As I approached the intersection where our property sits, I saw an unfamiliar car idling in front of the house. I pulled in to the driveway and looked to my right, and noticed a man in the drivers seat saying something to someone who, presumably, was walking away from the front door. A woman appeared as I got out and walked around the back side of my car. “Do you live here?” she asked. I told her I did and asked how I could help her. “There must be a new driver on the route,” she said. “They delivered some of your mail to our house. I set a couple of packages near your front door.” I thanked her and her husband immediately spoke up, “that’s why I don’t like the idea of mail-in ballots.”

I went inside and fixed some lunch, prepared some stuff for dinner that night, and remembered the packages. One contained a Seahawks team set I had ordered on eBay and the other package contained a 2015 Topps Birth Year Coin and Stamp- Nickel variation.


The card (numbered to /50) of Randy Johnson had been on my eBay watch list for some time but I was hesitant to pull the trigger on it because of the asking price ($15). And then this showed up on Twitter:

I had not checked email in a couple days and had not seen the message from eBay. In celebration of their 25th anniversary, the marketplace giant was offering a special to users who’ve been with them since their early days. And being that I joined in the late ’90s, I too qualified for a discount. I immediately snagged two ‘higher dollar’ (for me) cards that equalled $25. Needing just 1 more cent to qualify, I added a cheap Topps coin and had to pay only 98 cents and shipping. (I’ll feature the other two additions to my collection at a later date).

So why do I say this card should be dated 2020?

Well, the stamp reminds us of the financial woes the United States Postal Service is enduring- and the political battle taking place over its funding. 

The coin tells the story of businesses having to close during the pandemic and once opened again, seeing a decline in business, leading to a “shortage” of coins due to them not being circulated. 

And of course that it was delivered to the wrong address and the message the neighbor implied- that the USPS is a mess and cannot be trusted- points to a) the political battles over mail-in voting for the upcoming election and b) the mail delays we’ve heard about all over the country (in fairness, I do quite a bit of business with the USPS and have had one delay- a package shipped via Media Mail, a service which is traditionally slower and one that, for the time being, has been put on the lower-end of priorities for the USPS).

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After the Thrill Is Gone

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“Same dances in the same old shoes; some habits that you just can’t lose. There’s no telling what a man might lose, after the thrill is gone.” ~ from Eagles’ 1975 album, One of These Nights

Written and recorded less than four years after the band’s founding, “After the Thrill is Gone” tells not the story of a marriage that has gone bad (as is the popular opinion), but of the relationships within the band souring.

On the liner notes of their Very Best of the Eagles album, Don Henley, who co-wrote the song with Glenn Frey, commented on the lyrics:

“As exciting as the whole Eagles thing was at times, some of the luster was beginning to wear off.”

“The flame rises but it soon descends, empty pages and a frozen pen. You’re not quite lovers and you’re not quite friends, after the thrill is gone.”

Collectors seem to know that (not so peaceful, easy) feeling when it comes to their relationship with relic cards. The cardboard treasures no longer have the same appeal as they did when manufacturers introduced the first memorabilia cards into the hobby back in the ’90s. They’ve become weary after the authenticity of certain pieces has come in to question; after seeing base cards tossed out like trash as pack/box breakers look for the ‘hit’; of card doctors pulling out swatches and putting in something more visually appealing, thus increasing the profitability of the card on an unsuspecting victim. But perhaps what collectors have tired of the most are the plain, single colored swatch. Sure, some of the more premium products have beautiful patches- but even those products have been guilty of using the plain swatch (albeit, usually much larger pieces).

“Time passes and you must move on; half the distance takes you twice as long. So you keep on singing for the sake of the song”

Being a team set collector who pursues Topps’ flagship, Heritage and Archives master team sets, I have plenty of mem cards to choose from for the collection. While I don’t consider them necessary pieces, I do try to add them if the price is right. This often means being willing to wait for a sale, an eBay code, trade opportunity on TCDB or making an offer on COMC.

The pieces of cloth (or bats, or whatever) might be plain, but for me, these things are all about the card designs. And Clubhouse Collection is a song I still enjoy singing.

Filler

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It seems that Topps rolls out an insert set or two each year where they completely mail it in with the design. If I had more time to commit to the blog a more comprehensive list could be made, but here are a few that come to mind: 2017 Topps Memorable Moments; 2019 Topps Franchise Feats; 2015 Topps Highlight of the Year and Stepping Up, also from twenty-fifteen. I guess this is what happens when you decide to go with quantity and not quality. Simply put, it’s filler.

It’s highly unlikely, but I’d like nothing more than to see a return to the mid-late ’90s when only a handful of inserts sets were included in the flagship release and creativity wasn’t an issue. And having competition from other licensed manufacturers certainly didn’t hurt, as Topps was forced to put forth its best effort.

Pause. Listen. Empathize.

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Chasing ’em Down

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There was a time (2015, to be exact) where I thought I’d attempt to do a Topps baseball master set. If you’ve ever decided to take on this type of endeavor then you know it doesn’t take long before you’re asking yourself, “what constitutes a master set?” Does it include low, serial-numbered cards? How about relic insert cards? Should autographed cards be included? While there is no easy answer to this dilemma, the good news is that you, as the collector, get to define your master set.

While I came close to getting everything that I thought would make up that master set, it was the first and only time I took on such a highly ambitious project. Try doing that today- in 2020. Forget it.

Even looking at all of the inserts in 2019 Topps makes one’s head spin. Not only are the number of inserts insane, but consider the size of those insert sets. Want to collect all of the 150 Years of Professional Baseball inserts? Well, be prepared to chase ’em down. Series 1 had 150 cards (no surprise there) and Series 2 had another 100 cards- broken down into three separate subjects (Greatest Moments, Greatest Players, Greatest Seasons). And then, just for shits and giggles, Topps Update comes along and throws another 100 cards into the goulash. The results are a less than satisfying meal.

I was able to chase down this Ichiro from the Great Players subset of the 150 Years of Professional Baseball set. And it’s one of only 14 Mariners found in 150 Years. But being a master team-set collector, they are something that I’ve got to have. Sometimes I think that instead of chasing down cards, I’m just chasing my own tail.

Past, Present & Future

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This year marks the 35th anniversary of the Michael J. Fox classic, Back to the Future. And while I don’t recall hearing of any plans to bring it back to theaters nationwide for the occasion, I do know that it has made an appearance here locally once our theaters opened back up.

One thing the pandemic didn’t stop was the return of one-time Mariners top prospect Taijuan Walker, who signed with the team as a free agent this offseason.

The former first-round pick had only one healthy season in Arizona after being involved in the November 2016 trade that brought Mitch Haniger over from the Diamondbacks. Tai injured his arm following his successful debut season in the desert and underwent Tommy John surgery after just three starts in the 2018 season. Returning from the surgery last fall, Walker made one appearance before the 2019 season ended, pitching just one inning.

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Enchantment Under the Seattle Home Opener

Tai was roughed up by the Astroles in his 2020 debut but was enchanting in the Mariners home opener. Pitching against the A’s, Taijuan went 7 innings and allowed but a single hit, while striking out 8 and walking just two batters. And while he wasn’t very sharp the next start, Walker has impressed the last two times taking the bump.

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The Future is Almost the Past. Again

With the trade deadline just a week away, Taijuan’s start tonight in San Diego is expected to be his final one for the Mariners.

Ever since Tai returned back to the organization that drafted him, the prevailing thought has been that he would be a chip in the hands of trader Jerry. And with the success that he’s had in his first five starts, the interest has been legit. He’s back up to sitting at 93 on his fastball (topping out as high as 95), with his cutter and splitter being equally effective. His curveball and sinker have been hit at a .333 clip by opponents. And, with being owed less than $400,000 for the rest of the year, he is an affordable option for a team fighting for a playoff spot.

 

Challenges

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I may be in my early fifties, but I haven’t forgotten some of the dumb things I did as a teenager. And as tempted as I am to think it’s a different kind of dumb today, dumb is still dumb. Today’s teen does the Tide-Pod challenge; I put cocaine in my system as a teen. Today’s teen crashes her car while blindfolded, doing the bird box challenge; I totaled my car at the age of 17 while drunk and stoned. Knowing the stupid things teens do, I can honestly say that parenting three kids through their teenage years wasn’t nearly as challenging as I thought it would be. Yes, our oldest gave me some gray hairs but our other two were relatively smooth sailing.

About a year ago, a fellow collector sent me this 2018 Topps Home Run Challenge card of a player whom I hated to see leave Seattle. I had sent Rob a trade proposal on the Trading Card Database and received a message upon his acceptance: “Glad to knock Idaho off my list of states to where I’ve traded.” Curious, I asked Rob if he was keeping track of the states from which he received trade envelops/packages- to which he replied, “yes” and then sent me a link to a google tracker that tracks all of them.

I haven’t tracked the states where my trades have come from, but I’m guessing it would be somewhere over 80%. Perhaps I’ll go through my list of completed trades on the TCDB and add the other collectors I’ve traded with through the blogs and Twitter (those which I remember, anyway) to try to get a more accurate count. It might even be an interesting challenge to throw out there on Twitter.