Monday, September 10, 2018

2018 Topps Fire Review - How 2018 Topps Fire has ignited the spirits of card collectors

It is time to add 2018 Topps Fire Baseball to the list of things that you need to pick up when making your next Target run. Topps returns its flame-driven baseball issue exclusively to Target stores in 2018 with the intent of igniting the baseball card collecting community’s senses.

2018 Topps Fire Ronald Acuña Jr. / Topps
Driven by artist Tyson Beck’s flair for the dramatic, 2018 Topps Fire Baseball pushes the creative boundaries of set design. The action images are embedded in an energetic background that makes each one thrust off the center of the card. These lively constructions serve to truly separate Topps Fire from the rest of the brand’s more subdued standard releases.

2018 Topps Fire Box / Topps
The 200-card base set is a mixture of today’s stars with those of yesteryear, putting rookie standouts Ronald Acuña Jr., Gleyber Torres, and Miguel Andujar alongside Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Bob Feller, and Pedro Martinez. In an effort to diversify the ranks even further, Topps reached to wider depths of the Hall of Fame roster to include the likes of Lou Boudreau, Eddie Mathews, and Phil Rizzuto.
2018 Topps Fire Retired Stars / Topps
When it comes to the inserts, they are simple and manageable, a step that Topps should follow with its future releases. In addition to the variety of colored parallels that mirror 2018 Topps Fire’s base set, the six inserts sets – Power Producers, Speed Demons, Cannons, Hot Stars, Flame Throwers, and Fired Up, all support the Topps Fire’s temperature producing theme.

2018 Topps Fire Inserts / Topps

2018 Topps Fire Parallels / Topps
Each box promises two hits, one being an autographed card. Due to the dark backgrounds on the cards, it is understandable that Topps uses sticker autographs for this issue. Hits come in the form of relics, autographed relics, and autographed base cards, with the ultra-lucky scoring dual or triple signed cards. The Fire autographs and relic cards also come in low-numbered colored parallel versions akin to the base card set. The box provided for this review uncovered a Joe Musgrove autographed relic, as well as an Austin Hays signed card.

2018 Topps Fire Joe Musgrove Autographed Patch Relic Card / Topps
Sorting through the aftermath of the $70 retail 2018 Topps Fire box, I was halfway to a complete set with two autographs and an exciting selection of inserts and parallels that exceeded the expectations for what I originally believed to be a gimmicky set. Topps took a risk creating Fire in a non-standard design, knowing that traditionalists might take a pass on buying it. However, after experiencing an entire box, I recommend that collectors buy at least a $20 blaster, if not a whole box, as it ranks amongst the most entertaining Topps releases of 2018.





Monday, September 3, 2018

2018 Topps Allen and Ginter Review - How Allen and Ginter pushes forward a diverse collecting tradition

Since the advent of Topps issuing the Allen and Ginter series, the legendary baseball card manufacturer has used Allen and Ginter to push the boundaries of a traditional baseball card set. With the release of 2018 Allen and Ginter, Topps continues in that tradition by highlighting not only top baseball players, but also actors, rappers, writers, and even a card dedicated to Bitcoin cryptocurrency.
2018 Topps Allen and Ginter Box / Topps
The diversity that Topps strives for with Allen and Ginter is what also makes it one of the company’s most annually polarizing issues. If you are of the “hip hop” generation, the inclusion of Biz Markie and Method Man will capture your attention, as well as seeing the cardboard debut of actor Michael Rapaport who cut his teeth in the landmark film Higher Learning alongside Ice Cube. Other non-playing personnel include HQ Trivia host Scott Rogowsky, 2017 J.G Taylor Spink Award winner Claire Smith, and sabermetrics pioneer Bill James.

2018 Topps Allen and Ginter Base Set / Topps
Some collectors will openly welcome the opportunity to land an autograph of one of these luminaries, or a grab a card celebrating the cryptocurrency craze in between the likes of Ronald Acuña Jr., Aaron Judge, and Mike Trout. For other consumers who are diametrically opposed to these trading-card curiosities creeping into their pack ripping adventures, I encourage them to check out the myriad of other Topps releases, many of which have been profiled on this website.

2018 Topps Allen and Ginter Hits / Topps
Putting the merits of the base set contents aside, one will find that each box offers the opportunity to score three hits, which come in the form of autographs, booklets, buybacks, relics, or rip cards. The box provided for this review offered up two framed mini cards, an autograph of Oakland Athletics slugger Khris Davis, and a wood bat mini of San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey. The third hit was a relic card of newly minted Los Angeles Dodger, Manny Machado.

2018 Topps Allen and Ginter Mini Cards / Topps
When it comes to inserts, here is where Allen and Ginter gets creative. The mini cards celebrate baseball superstitions, such as the “No Talking About a No-Hitter,” card pulled in this box, as well as a Crazy Horse Indigenous Heroes tribute card. The standard sized inserts show off the evolution of baseball equipment over time with the "Baseball Equipment of the Ages" subset, highlight the heavens with a “Magnificent Moons” series, and spotlight all-time leaders in their respective statistical categories through the "Fantasy Goldmine" cards. The entire release is designed with an artistic flair that should put to rest whatever qualms one has about the makeup of the base set.

2018 Topps Allen and Ginter Inserts / Topps
With a well-established legacy amongst collectors, Topps Allen and Ginter continues to drive forward the reach of card collecting through its intriguing design and subject selection. If you are on the fence about Allen and Ginter because of the non-sport cards within in the set, after seeing your favorite baseball players in the crisp 2018 Topps Allen and Ginter design, you will remember just why you proudly keep your baseball cards on display for all to admire.




Friday, August 31, 2018

A teammate recalls how Frank Robinson's star growing up in Oakland was overshadowed by a big time bonus prospect

Oakland Tech's J.W. Porter was the Bay Area's most heavily recruited high school baseball player since Joe DiMaggio. Earning California State Player of the Year honors in 1950 after batting .558 as a senior while leading Oakland's Bill Erwin Post 337 to consecutive national American Legion championships, his performance sent all of the 16 major league teams into a bidding frenzy for his services.

When the dust finally settled, the phenom catching prospect scored a $70,000 bonus from the Chicago White Sox. Helping Porter's American Legion team to victory was a remarkable freshman from neighboring McClymonds High School, Frank Robinson.

J.W. Porter Photo / Author's Collection

Sharing written correspondence with Porter on Robinson's 83rd birthday, the six-year major league veteran was proud to recall his time playing with the Hall of Famer during their youth.

"It brought back some fond memories," Porter wrote in a recent letter to the author. "Frank Robinson played on our American Legion team as we won back to back world championships when he was only in the 9th grade."

Bobby Mattick, a former major leaguer turned scout, was responsible for signing not only Porter to the White Sox, but later Robinson to the Cincinnati Reds. While Robinson record-setting Hall of Fame career was well documented, it was Porter, the big-league journeyman, who was the center of attention on a team where Robinson was in his own words, "just another player."


August 2018 Letter from J.W. Porter to the Author / Author's Collection

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

2018 Topps Clearly Authentic Review - How Topps made the right choice with Ronald Acuña Jr.

Join us as we dig into one of Topps' highly anticipated guaranteed hit products, 2018 Topps Clearly Authentic Baseball. Topps takes the traditional autographed card one step farther with their custom made acetate cards, which sets each signature distinctly apart from their traditional counterparts.

2018 Topps Clearly Authentic Baseball / Topps
Atlanta Braves rookie phenom Ronald Acuña Jr. is prominently featured on the box, as Topps looks to capitalize on his new fame. With Acuña leading the charge for National League Rookie of the Year, it looks like Topps made the right choice for him to be the face of this product.

The video below reveals the autographed acetate card for the 2018 Topps Clearly Authentic box provided for this review. (Hint - It is an Atlanta Braves rookie superstar.) To find out which one it is, check out the box break video.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Dean Stone, controversial winner of the 1954 All-Star Game, dies at 88

Dean Stone, a former major league pitcher who gained notoriety for his 1954 All-Star Game victory without throwing an official pitch, died August 21, 2018. He was 88.

Stone had his best MLB season in 1954, going 12-10 with a 3.22 ERA for the Washington Senators, his efforts earning a selection to the 1954 American League All-Star team. Few, if any experts predicted that he would figure heavily in the game’s outcome.

Dean Stone / 1955 Topps
With Casey Stengel's team down a run in the eighth inning, he called upon the left-handed Stone to face Duke Snider with two men on base and two outs.

As Stone toed the rubber after taking his warm-up pitches, the National League manager Leo Durocher was cueing Red Schoendienst to be ready to break for home. On the third pitch, Schoendienst took off, and Stone calmly delivered a strike to Yogi Berra who tagged Schoendienst for the third out. In the video below, you will see National League manager Leo Durocher vigorously arguing that Stone had balked; however, his antics were fruitless. The umpire stood by his call and the American League scored three runs in the bottom of the inning to emerge with an 11-9 victory.



“I saw him go, just threw home and Yogi Berra jumped outside and slapped the tag on him,” Stone said to the Washington Times in 2011. “But you know how Durocher was; I guess he had to say something.”

To this day, Stone remains the only pitcher to win an All-Star Game without delivering an official pitch. He lasted eight seasons in the big leagues and one more in Japan, unable to recapture his 1954 touch. He retired in 1964 with a 29-39 record.

* Updated - August 22, 2018.
- Ed. Note - Due to the fact that Schoendienst was caught stealing during Snider's at-bat, Stone's official amount of pitches are registered as zero.