30 August 2017

Buy a Card and Help Houston

There's been a lot of news coverage about the flooding in Houston, as well as reports from a couple of fellow card bloggers who hail from that area of the world. Many folks are looking for a way to help out the victims of this natural disaster. Topps has found a way to combine baseball cardboard with the relief effort through their Topps Now program. 
This card was just listed on the Topps Now site, with proceeds from sales of the card going to the American Red Cross. Although it doesn't specify that the funds will be used specifically for Houston, it's a good bet that a large percentage of the Red Cross' focus right now is on the events in Texas. There are plenty of other ways to help out with the flood relief effort, but this one will get you a free piece of baseball cardboard alongside your donation.

When Topps released their Spring Training sets, one of the bonuses was the promise that if you bought the set of a team that was in first place at the All-Star break, you would get a free card in the mail honoring the achievement. The Astros were in first place at the time, so I got this card in the mail.

Plenty of enthusiastic Astros on this card. I hope the Astros players can overcome all of the craziness associated with the flood and give their city something to cheer about as they close out the season.

29 August 2017

2012 Topps Allen & Ginter Kate Upton Autograph

I have a long and somewhat painful history with this particular card. Shortly after returning to collecting in 2013, I discovered Topps Allen & Ginter. One of the best things about the product line is the non-baseball autographs and relics. While not every signature or swatch is of interest to me, each season there are a handful of subjects that I mark as targets for my collection. My main target for 2012 was Kate Upton, who had an autograph and a relic in the set.

I eventually acquired a relic and an autograph, as well as a mini printing plate, but I ran into money trouble and wound up selling the autograph and the plate, breaking even on the plate and taking a decent loss on the autograph. Yuck. Ever since I sold it, there has been a hole in my collection.

There are usually one or two copies of Upton's autograph card on eBay, but the prices on them are uniformly higher than I want to spend. One popped up earlier this year, though, at a fairly reasonable price. I waited and waited on it, and eventually the price came down to the best price I've seen in a while. I was able to purchase it and add a copy of this card back to my collection. It still probably cost me more than I should be paying for a trading card, but sometimes we do crazy things for the sake of 'completing' our collections.

27 August 2017

Boise Public Library Comic Con

I am working every weekend between now and the end of September to make sure all of my work gets done before the government's fiscal year is over, but I took off a little early yesterday to attend the Boise Public Library's Comic Con. For a library convention, there was a surprisingly large amount of stuff to do and see there.

The local Star Wars cosplay groups were out in Force, with representatives from the 501st Legion's Timberline Garrison for the Imperial cosplayers and the Takodana Base on the Rebel side. One of the Stormtroopers let my 8 year-old hold his blaster rifle. Our 6 year-olds were too intimidated to be in the picture.

Some of the cosplayers had their own trading cards printed up, and I grabbed whichever ones I could. I think I wound up with four of them, but they got tucked away in my wife's purse and I haven't asked her for them yet.

There was a pretty big room set up with LEGO displays and a table with a lot of pieces for kids to build. One of the twins focused his energy on building the tallest tower possible. He also liked the Great Ball Contraption that was set up on one side of the room, basically a LEGO Rube Goldberg device that moves little plastic balls around a loop of different machines.

The other twin built a complicated aircraft, while our eldest spent most of his time looking at the builds on display and asking us to come and look at his most exciting finds.

There was a pretty impressive guest list in the Artist Alley, with local artists as well as artists from around the Northwest and beyond. We were able to obtain a few sketch commissions, with the first being this Nightcrawler sketch by a local artist named Joe Bradshaw.

Steve Lieber was probably the biggest name on the guest list as far as published comic book work is concerned. We got a head sketch of Rogue from him for a very reasonable price. My social anxiety ramps up when I am out with the whole family, so I found it difficult to approach and interact with the artists. Luckily my wife was able to do most of the talking while I hung back and derped around.

Finally, we commissioned two small sketches from artist Ron Chan. We asked for Power Girl and Leia, and these sketches are perfect. I really like the Power Girl sketch. For the Leia sketch we asked for any version except Leia as Jabba's slave, and he surprised us with General Leia. I hadn't even considered that version of the character, but once I saw it I was really happy to have it. I think this might be my first sketch of older Leia.

I wasn't sure what to expect from a local library comic convention, but this one was really a nice surprise. There was plenty of stuff to see and do, and I wish we'd had more time and money to spend on art. There was enough stuff to keep the kids occupied, and there were a lot of panels and exhibitions that we didn't even get to see, like a display by the local wrestling club, some craft activities, belly dancing, a cosplay contest, and discussions for people looking to break into the comics industry. It might be worth checking to see if your local library has a comic convention or similar event.

26 August 2017

A Big Batch of Random UFC Cards

There's a pretty big fight today, so I thought I'd post some UFC cards I picked up at some point over the last few months. Technically, today's fight is a boxing match, but it involves arguably the biggest UFC star since Ronda Rousey, Conor McGregor. Topps actually has made a trio of cards available for pre-order under their UFC Now banner, one for each fighter's weigh-in and one for the weigh-in generally. If you buy the individual weigh-in card of the fight winner, you will also get a bonus card of that fighter. I went ahead and ordered a copy of all three cards. As of the time I am posting this, there are still about six hours left on the pre-order window. If that interests you, click here

I don't have any new McGregor cards, and I don't think I've got any Mayweather cards at all, so I'll be showing off some other stuff. It's mostly a grab bag of parallels and hits, with these first couple cards being relic cards of UFC Hall of Famer Urijah Faber. The card above is a Fight Mat Relic card from 2014 Topps UFC Champions.

This one is a Fighter Relic card from 2012 UFC Bloodlines. It looks to be a piece of t-shirt or something similar. This one's serially-numbered # 169 / 188. I wish Topps would bring back a good comprehensive base set to the UFC line, but I can understand that there's probably not much money in that. They are releasing a Chrome set soon, which might be as close as we're going to get to that in 2017. The UFC needs some more big stars to carry the brand, especially maybe some stars who don't pop hot on drug tests.

This Cung Le relic card is another Topps UFC Bloodlines relic card, but it comes from the 2013 version of the product. It also looks like a bit of t-shirt, and is numbered # 011 / 198.

Going back to mat relics, here is a bit of the mat from UFC 76 on a card featuring Mauricio Rua. This card comes from 2010 Topps UFC. At UFC 76 he lost to Forrest Griffin due to a choke submission.

The last relic card in this batch of scans is an Alexis Davis card from 2014 Topps UFC Knockout. The relic swatch looks to be a two-color bit of shirt. She won her last fight, in April of this year.

Jumping ahead to 2015 Topps UFC Knockout, I have an Autograph Relic card of Francisco Rivera. His last fight was in 2016, and the UFC site lists him as a former fighter, so he might be done. That loss marked the end of a stretch where he lost 5 out of six fights over three years, so maybe he just didn't have it anymore.

I may already have a copy or two of this Jessica Penne autograph from 2015 Topps UFC Champions, but she has a cool signature and I am a sucker for cheap UFC hits, so I picked up another. She's lost three fights in a row now, with her latest being a loss by decision to Danielle Taylor in April 2017. Around the same time, she was also the first female UFC fighter to be flagged for a potential doping violation.

This Vitor Belfort card is a parallel of an insert card from 2011 Topps UFC Moment of Truth. This is the Onyx parallel of his Elite Skills insert, numbered # 13 / 88.

I am having a hard time pulling up a decent checklist for 2010 Topps Knockout, but I am assuming this parallel looks Green to me. It is numbered # 19 / 88.

I don't know why I like Gold parallels so much for UFC cards, but I pick them up when I can. This is a Bethe Correia parallel from 2015 Topps UFC Knockout. It is numbered # 55 / 99. Sorry for the lack of real content in parts of this post. There are some days when I am just not feeling it.

The final card in this group is a Gold parallel from 2015 Topps UFC Champions. Gold parallels from this set are some of my favorite cards to pick up, so I will always try to get them if I can. This one is numbered # 07 / 25.

I am not really pulling for McGregor or Mayweather. I guess the most entertaining thing would be for McGregor to win, as that would potentially throw the boxing world into disarray. I don't know much about boxing, but I am guessing that Mayweather's wealth of experience in the sport will make this a one-sided battle in his favor.

25 August 2017

2013 SEGA Card-Gen Extravaganza 17: Atlanta Braves

It's been over a year since I posted a team from the 2013 SEGA Card-Gen set I bought from an eBay seller in Japan. These cards were part of a now-extinct Japanese arcade game that never made it to the United States, although I believe there were plans to give it a try here. Today's team is the Atlanta Braves. They get 13 cards in the checklist, which exactly matches the 13 cards per team average for the set.

Since this set is now a few years old, a lot of players have moved on to other teams or even retirement. Brian McCann spent nine seasons in Atlanta, with 2013 being his last year there. He would go on to spend three seasons with the Evil Empire in New York, and now he's a member of my favorite team, the Houston Astros. I still forget sometimes that he's an Astro, as to me he will kind of always be the super-uptight keeper of the unspoken rulebook in Atlanta.

Freddie Freeman's third full year in Atlanta was 2013, and here in 2017 he's kind of the face of the franchise. If not for an injury that took a full 1-1/2 months away, he'd be leading the club by a large margin in nearly every counting stat. As it is, he's still among the leaders on the team in most things, although Nick Markakis is still holding onto a few categories for the time being.

Dan Uggla was a useful player for several years for the Marlins and Braves. The 2013 season is when the wheels started to fall off a bit, and after 2015 he hung it up for good.

Chris Johnson's best season was 2013, but his play was kind of bumpy and he struck out a lot without enough power to justify the strikeouts. Luckily, he had Dan Uggla and the Uptons on his team to strike out more than he did. Uggla, Justin Upton, and Melvin/B.J. Upton were #3-5 in NL strikouts for 2013, and in 2014 the Uptons were #4 and #5, Johnson was #8, and Freddie Freeman was tied for #10 in the NL with Matt Kemp. Chris Johnson is currently in the Orioles' minor league system.

Andrelton Simmons is currently a star, but he plays for the Angels now. He does his damage mostly with his glove, with Baseball Reference crediting him with leading the NL in Defensive WAR for 2013-2015, and the AL so far in 2017 (he was 4th in the NL in 2012 and 5th in the AL for 2016).

I mentioned B.J./Melvin Upton above in my blurb on Chris Johnson. He showed huge potential for several years, but never quite lived up to the massive hype. He signed with the Braves for 2013, and his numbers really took a dive from his time with Tampa Bay. He moved to the Padres alongside Craig Kimbrel in a trade that involved Carlos Quentin and Cameron Maybin going the other way. He picked things up a bit in San Diego, and they moved him to Toronto for the last part of 2016. Toronto released him and he signed with the Giants. They released him at his request just a couple of days ago, and he hopes that a contending team will pick him up for a playoff run.

Jason Heyward was an All-Star for the Braves in 2010 and produced several great seasons for them. He was traded to St. Louis prior to 2015 for Shelby Miller (oops!) and produced for St. Louis, too. In 2016 he signed for big money with the Cubs and was rewarded with a World Series ring. He just barely turned 28 years old, so it would appear that he's still got some productive years ahead of him. 

Justin Upton came up in Arizona, and was traded by the Diamondbacks to the Braves for 2013 in the same deal that brought Chris Johnson to Atlanta. He kept right on producing, and after the 2014 season the Braves moved him to the Padres. After an All-Star 2015 for the Padres, he signed with the Tigers for 2016. He is playing lights-out for Detroit this year, earning his 4th All-Star nod.

Tim Hudson was nearing the end of his career in 2013, but he still had some accolades to accumulate. The 2013 season was the last of his 9 seasons in Atlanta, which were preceded by 6 seasons in Oakland. He signed for the Giants in 2014, and made the All-Star game. He also won a World Series ring with them that year, although it took an epic relief appearance by Madison Bumgarner in a game that Hudson started to get it done in Game 7 of the World Series. After 2015 he was released by the Giants.

Brandon Beachy played with the Braves for a few seasons and the Dodgers for a while, but couldn't get over the injury bug. He had two Tommy John surgeries and left the Dodgers after a struggle with tendinitis in Spring Training 2016. 

Eric O'Flaherty was coming off of his two best years in 2013, but a third consecutive excellent season was sidelined by an injury requiring Tommy John surgery. He wound up on the A's roster and then the Mets before making his way back to Atlanta in 2016. They released him about a month ago, as he's never really found his pre-injury form again. At the time this card set was published, though, it was hard to find a more dominant bullpen than this Braves group.

Jonny Venters wouldn't play at all in 2013, as he started the year on the Disabled List with an elbow injury that would lead to his second Tommy John surgery. During his attempt to come back from that surgery, he again sustained an injury that led to a third Tommy John surgery. He signed a minor league deal with Tampa Bay and injured his arm again in 2016, leading to a fourth Tommy John surgery. He signed with them again on a minor league deal and has been pitching in their minor league system for a couple of months now, making 20 appearances across several levels so far.

Craig Kimbrel is about as dominant a reliever as you'll find in baseball. He led the NL in saves for four years in Atlanta from 2011-2014. He was traded to the Padres for 2015 and had a down year for him, if you can call a 2.58 ERA and 1.05 WHIP over 59.1 pressure-packed innings a down year. For 2016 he was traded to Boston, where he's earned two All-Star nods and continued to put up good numbers, especially so far in 2017.

That's it for the Atlanta Braves in 2013 SEGA Card-Gen. It's interesting to write these posts, especially now that a few years have passed and players have moved around. I'll put up installment #18 some day.