Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Leiter side of Topps Tek

Play on words!
I love Topps Tek. Even though it was super wacky, especially in the 1990s, the cards themselves have always looked really nice. I've always been a sucker for clear cut cards.

I enjoy the Topps Tek Yankee autograph issues of the past two years. I love the El Duque, but I keep missing out on them in eBay auctions. However, I did snag this Al Leiter auto, and I though it was cool he was included as a Yankee. I assume this is him from his 2005 stint, as opposed to when he was a rookie.

This is the base version, as I know there are a few parallels out there. I like Al's simple signature, although you can tell he had been signing hundreds of cards. It's usually a bit neater. Still, I'm glad to finally add one of these bad boys to my collection.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Best Binder Page: Tino Martinez

The Junior Junkie had a cool idea, picking his nine best/favorite Ken Griffey Jr cards and putting them together in one binder page. I'm sure he wouldn't normally store these ones in a fact, he already said he keeps them in a Swiss bank overseas. However, for the sake of this exercise, he created a binder page.

I did the same last night with my Tino Martinez cards. I thought about including other players or TTMs, but decided to just keep it strictly to Tino cards. Maybe I'll do a TTM one later because this was fun.

Not all of these are my rarest or "most valuable", but there's a combination. Some are rare, some are not. Some just have a significant meaning to me or were really hard to find. Some, I just really like.

So in no particular order other than how I put them into a binder page, here we go:
This particular Tino is a common card, but I like it for a few different reasons. For starters, when I was a kid, it meant the world to me that Tino won the HR Derby in 1997. He had a career year, and by winning the Derby, to me that put him on the same level of a slugger as Bonds, McGwire, and Griffey. Obviously he wasn't, but I wanted him to have that same respect.

You'll notice the card is signed as well. Tino is a very tough TTM signer, but in September of 1999, on my birthday no less, this card arrived signed. Tino was on the DL at the time, so I figured maybe I'd send him a request, and somehow I got it back. I was a pretty smart kid, eh? Since then I have gotten Tino once more TTM, but this one is super special to me.
I wanted this card since I first saw it in 1998. That year, I spent all of my 8th grade graduation money on a box of Stadium Club, just knowing I'd pull this card. I didn't pull any Co-signers at all.

It would pop up on eBay every now and then, but I could never shell out the cash. Then, about a year ago, it showed up on Listia. I had a decent amount of credits, but I quickly put a bunch of cards up on 3-day auctions to accumulate as many credits as I could. I think I racked up close to 100,000 credits, then won it for 57,552. Nowadays, I don't think you could get it for under 100K as Listia credits keep inflating and inflating. Either way, I was so pumped to win it!

It's also from that same awesome seller who sends me tons of autographed cards. Man, I lucked out with that one.

There are still versions of this card with Sandy Alomar Jr and Andy Pettitte (which I've never seen for sale). This Roberto/Tino combo is from Group C, which is the most common. However, I think I prefer this one since it has a HOFer on it. The Pettitte would be awesome though.

Pacific has been known to do some wacky things, and this "In The Cage" diecut certainly falls in line with that. I think it may be my favorite non-auto/relic card of Tino. It's just so cool. The cage is also laser-cut, so it's a pretty delicate card. Again, Tino being included in this set was a huge sign of respect after his 1997 career year.
Metal Universe Precious Metal Gems in all sports go for mega bucks these days. Just check it out an eBay listing. Common guys go for easily $20, while stars fetch hundreds. I know it's the same across sports too. I was fortunate to get this from the AOL forums back in the '90s (where I did a lot of my initial online buying), and I definitely paid less than what I would now. It's another one of those cards that just doesn't pop up much, as it's limited to 50.

The card itself is really nice, with a refractor-type shine. This design was much less outlandish than some previous Metal designs. These cards chip really easily, and the edges of mine definitely are not pristine.

A freaking Donruss Crusade, in the words of Junior Junkie. This is another one of those late '90s insert sets that is really popular, and the cards are very scarce. They come in green (#'d to 250), purple (/100), and red (/25). They are very, very rare despite the print runs. There is a Tino graded red 10 on ebay right now for $875. Not happening. The most common of greens will run you at least $8. If you see one in a bargain bin at a card show, grab one.

Many of the cards I've seen also have some obnoxious print lines on them. I'm not sure what happened in production. You can see the line in mine right through Tino's name. I know that serious collectors strive for versions without the line.

In person, the cards are spectacular. I knew they were special in 1998, but I feel like their legend has grown a bit. Panini has knocked them off in some recent products, but there is no replicating the original set. It's that perfect. Even the Crusades that followed were nowhere near what 1998 was.

Again, I bought a box of Donruss in 1998 figuring I'd at least pull one Crusade. I didn't. Sadly, I don't remember how I got this card. I'd assume it was the AOL forums, once again. It ranks up there as one one of my favorite all-time cards.
I loved this 1999 UD HoloGRFX A Piece of the Series insert set so much that I completed the set (including Jeter). However, this was the first card in the series that I got.

Each card features a piece of game-used base from the 1999 World Series. As a gentle reminder, the Yanks sweeped the Braves to win the Series that year. The checklist is great (Maddux, Rivera, Jeter, etc) and the cards really are attractive. The base has a nice, rubbery feel to it.

There are also autographed versions of each card, but they are very hard to find. I do not own the Tino, but am always on the lookout even though it exceeds my collecting budget.
This 1997 Leaf Leagues of the Nation insert set was very sexy at the time. The set celebrated the first year of interleague play. On the back of the card, Scott Rolen represents the NL East. Keep in mind that Rolen was in the middle of his NL Rookie of the Year season, so it made this card a bit tougher to acquire. I know it was running $12-$15 when it came out. Now it can be had for a buck or two.

The banner portion of the card is a felt-like material. It's diecut, and you can see that the bottom of the ribbon has two points, so it's easy for these cards to be damaged.

Its also #'d to 2500, as 1997 was really a year when serially numbered cards started to blow up. 2500 was still considered pretty rare at the time, although now that print number doesn't make you blink twice.
There were a lot of great cards in this Yankees Dynasty set, but something about Tino and Paul O'Neill sharing a card just seems right. To be picky, I wish O'Neill had a nice fat pinstripe. You can sort of see one there if you looks toward the left edge of the logo.

Overall, the card is simple but tastefully done. I like the interlocking NY shape for the jersey placement.
Last but not least, this card is from 1997 Topps Stars '97 All-Stars Insert set. It's not rare or a low print run, but man this thing was tough to find. I think I searched for it for several years before I finally got one. 1997 Topps Stars was a really pretty set. I bought one pack in my entire life at a card show, and remember that I pulled a Vernon Wells RC.

While the base cards have a matte-like finish, the All-Stars insert is more of a foil refractor type. It almost acts as a hologram, but it's not. I chose this card because it reminds me how much fun it is to finally get a card you've searched long and hard for

This was no easy task. I went back and forth on a few different cards, and if you ask me for my top nine tomorrow, my choices might be different. One thing it did do was force me to really look through my Tino collection, and I haven't spent much time admiring it over the past few years. I also realized how much time and effort I've invested into the collection, and I have to assume it's one of the top few in the world. I'm sure there is a person or two out there with a better, bigger collection of his, but there can't be many. No way.

That makes me feel special.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

TTM Success: Mike Ford

It's been a while since I've gotten a TTM success, but that changed today with an awesome return from Yankees prospect Mike Ford. I know I sent it out early in last season because the mail was forward from my old address.

Sadly, I don't have access to my TTM records from the past 5 years or so. I foolishly kept it on my work computer, and forgot to bring it with me when I left for a new company in June. So dumb! I lost the tracking of 400+ TTM success, send dates, return dates, what I sent, etc. I should have kept it in a Google Doc or on Drop Box, but I was stupid and kept it on my personal drive in only one Excel file at my previous employer. Huge regret.

Anyways, I know for a fact that I didn't have a Mike Ford card to send. I am certain I sent either an index card or a generic Yankees card (like of the Stadium or logo).

Well, Mr. Ford was nice enough to send me three signed cards! He added "4 HRs" to one of them, as he hit 4 HRs in a minor league game on May 24, 2014.
He also included a really nice hand-written note. He actually apologized for the delay, which is crazy talk! No athlete should ever apologize for a delayed response. He doesn't owe it to me or anyone else. It just shows what a classy guy Mike Ford is.
Ford is a super interesting player. He was signed as an undrafted free agent after winning Ivy League Hitter AND Pitcher of the Year in 2013. That's nuts! He went on to have a monster 2014 in the Yanks system, spending time in Charleston and Tampa. In all, he hit .292/.383/.458 with 13 HRs. In 2015, he spent the entire season in High-A Tampa, slashing .268/.340/.368. His power was down a bit, but he's universally praised for his focus and work ethic.

I'm really hoping he gets the bump to Trenton in 2016, as he's from NJ and I'm sure would be a thrill for him to play in front of family and friends. I love his story, and I'll be pulling for him to make it with the Yanks. In the mean time, I thank him for his letter and the signed cards.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


Last month, I got a nice little package from my pal Nick aka YanksandBeans over at The Cardboard Dugout.

For those unfamiliar, Nick used to blog quite a bit, posting epic box breaks. They were epic in the sense of how entertaining they were. Usually box breaks are super boring, but I'd watch all of Nick's because they were just that good. If you have 10 spare minutes, check out his blog and watch and old break. I bet you won't stop at just one.

Nick also joined a fantasy baseball league I'm in this past year. He took over a crappy team with a bare cupboard and did a nice job. Most importantly, he played hard. He'll be set up much better next year with some keepers and a high draft choice.

Anyhow, Nick sent one Big Mike that I needed. I didn't think I needed it until I checked my "have" list, and realized that I only had the 2011 Finest Refractor and not the base card. Derrrrp. Glad I checked!
He also sent a nice stack of Yankee legends!
Nick, I appreciate the gesture. Thank you, my friend.

Monday, November 16, 2015

This exists?!

I foolishly thought that I had seen every Tino Martinez certified auto out there. Even if I don't own 'em all, I've certainly seen them while browsing eBay.

Yet, I came across one that I luckily did a double-take on:
When I first saw it, I thought it was just a regular 1999 Stadium Club card that was signed. I figured it was an in-person autograph. Then I noticed the red text. 1999 Stadium Club has gold embossed text. See?
Hold up! The batting pose is slightly different (but definitely same game/at bat). Then I noticed it. In the upper left, there is that lovely "Topps Cerified Autograph Issue" stamp. Could it be?

I headed to and pulled up 1999 Stadium Club. It appears that there were 10 retail-only autos (imagine that!). Series One autos fell 1:1107, while Series Two were 1:877. Tough pull! I wonder how many there are of each. Here is the checklist:

SCA1 Alex Rodriguez
SCA2 Chipper Jones
SCA3 Barry Bonds
SCA4 Tino Martinez
SCA5 Ben Grieve
SCA6 Juan Gonzalez
SCA7 Vladimir Guerrero
SCA8 Albert Belle
SCA9 Kerry Wood
SCA10 Todd Helton

I needed it, knowing I probably wouldn't see this card again anytime soon. I put in a max bid of $15, but was willing to go to $20. That is way more than I spend on single cards. Sale price? $4.25! Wow. I was shocked. I was ready for it to shoot up at the end, and it just never did. I didn't even mind the $3 shipping.

This definitely has to be one of the rarest Tino autos I now own. It arrived this afternoon, and I'm thrilled to add it to my collection.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Random Listia Autos - Part 11

I'm not even close to being done with these, so let's pick up the pace, shall we? As a refresher, I won a couple high-end cards on Listia, and the seller included a ton of autos for no charge. It was super cool of him, and I've been showing these off little by little. Here are five more.

If you missed any of the previous posts, feel free to go back and check them out. There are some great autos in there.

Part 8
Part 9 
Part 10

This guy is part of the MLB All-Name know, with guys like Dick Pole, Rusty Kuntz, etc. This guy was one of the most reliable relievers of the 80s and 90s. He pitched in 884 games with five teams, mostly with the Cubs and Indians. He also recorded an appearance in 36 post-season games, mostly with the Indians teams of the mid to late 90s. I remember him best for serving up a HR to Paul O'Neill in Game 1 of the ALDS, as the Yanks went back-to-back-to-back. O'Neill's was the third HR in that sequence. He spent a few games with the Yanks in 1993. I vaguely remember that.
Turk Lown was a closer before closers were closers. He was a reliever that often "finished" a game for his team. He led the AL in saves in 1959 with 15! Times change, eh? He also pitched in the World Series that year with the White Sox. According to Wikipedia, Turk got his name as a boy because he loved eating turkey. He must've been a huge fan of Thanksgiving.
Former Pirates pitcher Cal Hogue makes an appearance next. He had a pretty uninspiring career, pitching from 1952-1954, appearing in 25 games total. He had a career record of 2-10 in 113.2 innings pitched. Still, he was a major leaguer, and because of that, I admire him.
I wish this guy was in a Yankees jersey, but alas, Al Leiter is a solid auto. He was one of best lefty starting pitchers in the game in the late 90s and early 00s, albeit very underrated. Over a seven-year period with the Mets, he went 95-67 with a 3.42 ERA. That's really good. He was a key cog in the bullpen for the World Champion Blue Jays in 1993 and then started two games in the World Series for the 1997 Marlins. He threw a no-hitter in 1996 for Florida as well. In a fun twist of fate, he ended his career with the Yankees, the same team he started with. It was a cool bookend, even though the Yanks never got his best playing years. He now is an announcer for the Yanks, and he does a very good job in my opinion. Side note - I like his signature.
Ray Knight. He's most well-known for scoring the game-winning run in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series aka The Buckner Game! He actually won the MVP of that World Series, which I admit I didn't know. He played for five teams in 13 years, spending 6 of them with the Reds, where he was an All-Star in 1980. He also appeared in the 1982 All-Star Game as an Astro...again, something I did not know. That's a common theme with Ray Knight. I knew little about him outside of Game 6, but he had a very solid career. He currently does broadcasting work for the Nationals.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Who needs The Fugees when we've got Fuji?

There have been rumors for the last few years that The Fugees will get back together. Frankly, I don't care if it ever happens. As long as we still have our San Jose Fuji, I'm good.

Recently, Fuji posted like 30 bubble mailers that were heading out. Luckily, my name was one on of them. I emailed Fuji about my new address, which made me feel a little bad. "Yo Fuji, thanks for the free cards, just send them to the right place." It wasn't quite like that, I just knew we hadn't traded since I moved.

His package did not disappoint. It was quite spectacular, actually. Check out these Tinos!
The Ticket Masters is one from 1998 Leaf Rookies and Stars. It has Chuck Knoblauch on the other side. I've know it has existed, I just never snagged it.

I was after that 2002 Upper Deck Reverse Negative Gold Jersey forever too.

And that wasn't it! He also included a brand new CC relic, and a sweet Mark Melancon 1/1 printing plate!
Great, great package. Thank you, my friend.