29 April 2018

Leaf Live Shohei Ohtani

I finally tracked down some Bowman at Walmart, but I'm not going to talk about that today. I haven't taken pictures of the cards I pulled yet. There weren't any Ohtani Superfractors in my packs, that's for sure.

Every so often, Leaf puts out a card in their Leaf Live line. I think they are sold exclusively through the official Leaf eBay account. I think the only other Leaf Live card I've purchased was when Tim Tebow signed a baseball contract with the Mets. This time the card highlighted Shohei Ohtani's AL Player of the Week award win for his pitching and hitting performances. I bought the first couple of Topps Now Ohtani cards, but I've stopped that for now. I figured I might as well get this one from Leaf, too.

28 April 2018

Doug Riggsby Red Sonja Artist Proof

I like a little silliness from time to time, so I will occasionally buy a sketch that strikes me as funny. Doug Riggsby is an artist known for his cartoony art style and his jokes, some more off-color than others.

I got this Red Sonja Artist Proof from Riggsby's eBay shop. It's from the Women of Dynamite set that was released by Breygent a few years back. I swear I've seen that guard/soldier somewhere before, but I have no idea where. Anytime I see a, "That's what she said," joke, it reminds me of The Office. I like Doug Riggsby's work a lot. I think I've also got a couple of sketch comic covers done by him that I haven't shown off here yet. I'll have to dig them out one of these days.

Dynamite Comics are the folks who own the license for Red Sonja comics, and they just recently completed a Kickstarter for a premium card product celebrating the 45th Anniversary of Red Sonja. Each pack of the cards has two sketches in it, and I supported the Kickstarter for two packs, so I've got four sketches coming to me at some point. The artist list has some pretty big names on it, so I am hoping to get some good stuff.

27 April 2018

No Bowman, and Spring Cleaning

Today was my scheduled off day from work, so I took some time to look for 2018 Bowman cards at the local retail stores. I hit three different stores, and wasn't able to find any of the product. There weren't display boxes out or anything, so it probably hasn't been stocked locally yet. I finally decided on a hanger box of 2018 Heritage and a bag of Skittles, and I headed for home, picking up an order of Super Nachos from the local taqueria. They taste so good, but the serving size is huge and I am paying the price now for eating them all. I don't have the iron stomach I did fifteen years ago. After I got home, I decided to clear out the center console of my car. That's where a lot of my retail breaks end up if I don't pull anything particularly noteworthy.

There was a variety of stuff in there from three different sports. I decided that I wouldn't let these pack breaks go to waste, so let's take a look and see if I pulled anything of note.

Here are the most interesting (to me) cards from the Heritage stuff. Marwin Gonzalez was the only short print. It's surprising that I am showing off two Brewers, but I like Eric Sogard and Josh Hader is on three of my fantasy baseball teams this year. He's got 31 strikeouts in 15.1 innings so far this year, and 3 saves to boot! The Stanton and Lindor inserts are pretty cool, too. Gerrit Cole is an Astro now.

You know the Donruss Optic break was bad if the only card I have to show is a base card from one of my team's Divisional rivals. The Broncos were a train wreck last year. I hope they can find a few more wins in the coming season.

The WWE Women's Division packs are always fun, although I probably have about ten base sets by now. I've busted a lot of this product.

What I don't have a full set of is these rivalry inserts, which are exclusive to the rack packs. I picked a couple of the better ones I pulled to show off.

Road to WrestleMania isn't one of my favorite products, although I should like it more. The WWE is all about the story, and Road to WrestleMania tells the story of the promotion for each year. Maybe I should give the set another try. That Macho Man card is pretty sweet, with cameos by Jake 'The Snake' Roberts and Ricky 'The Dragon' Steamboat. 

Most of my favorite cards from the Rookies & Stars pack were inserts featuring retired players. In this case, it was Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson. I pulled a punter card, so I had to show that off, too. Kickers and punters don't get enough cardboard love.

I didn't find any new Bowman today, so I'll have to show off some old Bowman. Alex Bregman is manning 3rd base for the Astros, and Daz Cameron went to the Tigers in the Justin Verlander trade. Max Kepler is playing every day for the Twins. Half of his 20 hits on the year have gone for extra bases. Fernando Tatis Jr. is one of the value pack-exclusive parallels. He's only 19 years old right now, and is featured on most Top 10 Prospect lists.

There was also a value pack of Topps Chrome among the packs in my car. The Youth Impact insert of Blake Snell was the most colorful thing in the break. Carlos Gomez isn't my favorite player, but he was the only Astro among the cards. The other Pink value pack parallel of note was Wade Davis.

There were basketball cards in there, too. I tried a rack pack of 2017-18 Panini Status. It's a shiny and colorful product that picks up fingerprints easily. This pack should have gone to Cards on Cards, as both the inserts I pulled feature Trail Blazers. I guess I'll have to set them aside for the next package that goes his way.

That does it for the packs in my car's center console. There wasn't anything world-shattering in them, but I guess they weren't too awful. Hopefully I'll be able to find some 2018 Bowman in the next couple of weeks.

25 April 2018

The Start of a Big Box of Wrestling Cards from Japan

Shortly after the 2018 BBM True Heart wrestling set came out, I went searching on Yahoo! Auctions Japan to find some of the cards I hadn't been able to pull from boxes. Along the way, I found quite a few things from other years that I had to have. After all of the envelopes arrived at the Buyee warehouse, I paid the shipping and packing fees and waited. A rather large box arrived in the mail a couple of days ago, and I thought I'd share one of the cooler things I found while shopping.

This is a 2002 BBM dual autograph Dream Match card, featuring the signatures of Meiko Satomura (left) and Ayako Hamada (right). True Heart sets didn't come onto the market until 2003, so I am not sure which BBM wrestling product contained this card. It's a double-sized card, so it's got a crease in the middle where it folds. It's also hand-numbered  11 / 50. Pretty cool stuff, and even better that it's signed by two of the bigger names in women's wrestling out of Japan. Both wrestlers have had long careers in Japan, as well as plenty of other work around the world.

The back of the booklet features a certificate of authenticity and the facsimile signature of BBM President Tetsuo Ikeda.

I took pictures of the card outside of the top loader, too, so the details can be seen more easily. I didn't know this card existed, but as soon as I saw it, I knew I wanted it. That's a topic that Ryan G discussed a little while ago. How do you know you want something until you know it exists?

Here's the back without a top loader, just for fun. There was plenty of good stuff in that big box from Japan, but this was really one of the coolest things in it.

21 April 2018

Blog Bat Around: My All Autograph Team

Zippy Zappy came up with the most recent Blog Bat Around idea, trying to build the best autograph roster possible using cards from your collection. His rules require you to trim your list down to a starting roster full of position players, a designated hitter, a starting pitcher, two relievers, and a closer. I looked at that and decided that instead I would try to build a full 25-man roster. I ran into a little trouble with filling out my pitching spots, but in the end I was able to build a full 25-man roster. It's made up of a mixture of my favorite players as well as the best guys I could find for a given position. If you just want to see which players I picked to match Zippy Zappy's format, you can skip past all the pictures and go to the bottom of the post.

Catcher - Craig Biggio

Craig Biggio played most of his career as a second baseman, but he played a few hundred games at catcher. That's good enough for me to justify placing him here in my roster. This beautiful autograph relic card came to me as a prize in a contest over at Collecting Cutch.

First Base - Wally Moon

Here's another guy who I'm playing out of position a little bit. He played 136 games at first base and his 1963 Topps cards lists his position as OF - 1B, so I'm putting him here. I just had a lot of outfielders on my list, and not a lot of good autographs featuring first basemen.

Second Base - Jose Altuve

I'm lucky I got this card recently, as it is my first autograph of the Astros' star second baseman, Jose Altuve. It's a nice-looking card, and it hasn't been featured here on my blog yet. He fits right in on an all-time roster, as the defending AL MVP.

Shortstop - Omar Vizquel

I think this card is still in my collection. I pulled it from a box of Topps High Tek. Vizquel may not quite be a Hall of Famer, but he'll be a solid defensive presence for my team. I kind of wish I had a Carlos Correa autograph for this spot, but I don't.

Third Base - Yangervis Solarte

Third base was kind of a black hole in my collection when it comes to autographs, so Yangervis Solarte is my guy here. So far this year, he's the 32nd-best hitter in fantasy baseball, although I imagine that ranking will fall a bit as time goes on.

Left Field - Frank Robinson

Frank Robinson was primarily a right fielder, but he made 834 appearances in left field. He won the 1958 NL Gold Glove award for his play in left field, so I think he'll do all right there for my team. I waited three years for Topps to send this Topps Archives redemption for a framed mini autograph, and by the time they sent it they couldn't be bothered to put the frame on it.

Center Field - Fred Lynn

Fred Lynn gets my center field spot. A lot of the autographs in my collection come from Topps Archives products, and this one is no different. This is probably one of the first autographs I pulled when I got back into collecting in the middle of 2013, and it even came out of a retail blaster. I have typically had terrible luck with retail breaks of Archives, but not this time.

Right Field - George Springer

Going back to the home team for The Raz Card Blog, we've got George Springer in right field. That's where he's made the majority of his appearances so far, so I didn't have to push him out of position to get him onto the roster.

Designated Hitter - Aaron Judge

I have a nice power bat in my DH spot, with Aaron Judge looking to follow up his monster rookie year with another great season. I pulled this autograph from a blaster of Gypsy Queen before Judge-mania really set in and baseball cards disappeared from store shelves.

Catcher - Evan Gattis

My back-up catcher is Evan Gattis. I had to find an excuse to get this card into this post, as it's one of my favorites from my collection. I went crazy on 2014 Topps Stadium Club, and this was a card I pulled from the product.

Bench - Bo Jackson

The potential of Bo Jackson was undoubtedly greater than the reality turned out to be, but I was at a very impressionable age when Bo Knows was everywhere. If there was a Hall of Hype, he could be one of the first guys inducted.

Bench - Josh Reddick

I couldn't get all of my main player collection guys onto this list, but I think Reddick will fit in just fine on this roster. I watched him hit a grand slam tonight to go along with another home run, so he's got power in his bat. He is better known for his glove, though, making acrobatic catches at the wall. I have autographed cards featuring him as an Astro, but I like the way this one from his time on the A's looks.

Bench - Francisco Lindor

I probably should have picked an infielder who plays more positions for this bench spot, but Lindor has been about as good as it gets at the shortstop position over the last couple of years. I guess my manager will have to work out those playing time issues.

Starting Pitcher 1 - Randy Johnson

I've got a pretty decent staff ace here in Randy Johnson. This is the other card in this post that hasn't been featured here on the blog yet. I got it a couple of months ago, but just haven't found the right moment to post it. He put up a lot of numbers, and was probably one of the most intimidating guys to ever step foot on the mound.

Starting Pitcher 2 - Phil Niekro

My second starting pitcher is another Hall of Famer, knuckleballer Phil Niekro. Batters should be suitably bamboozled by his offerings the day after facing Johnson's flamethrower stuff. 

Starting Pitcher 3 - Luis Tiant

I went with Luis Tiant as my next starter. I considered a couple of other guys for his spot, but I couldn't deny his career numbers and kept him in the rotation.

Starting Pitcher 4 - Roy Oswalt

Oswalt was one of the key pitchers during the Astros' last run to the world series, and for several years he was a perennial Cy Young contender. He never quite got there, with a large part of that thanks going to Randy Johnson. Not a bad guy to have as your fourth starter. 

Starting Pitcher 5 - R.A. Dickey

He might be the one guy who doesn't quite fit in here, but I can't keep R.A. Dickey off of this team. He does have a Cy Young to his name, although the rest of his career hasn't quite lived up to that. I still like collecting his cards, though, and I want him on my team. Maybe he and Niekro can share knuckleball tips with each other.

Relief Pitcher - Michael Fulmer

I had to bump a couple of starters down to my bullpen. Hopefully their egos can handle it. I'll start off here with the 2016 AL Rookie of the Year. He should be able to handle long relief duties for this team.

Relief Pitcher - Jim Abbott

Jim Abbott may not have had the greatest career on paper, but I couldn't leave this fan favorite off of this roster. He was a career starter, so hopefully he'll be able to eat up some innings out of the bullpen.

Relief Pitcher - Kent Tekulve

Kent Tekulve is the first lifetime reliever in my bullpen, and he was a pretty good one. He spent a couple of years in the Cy Young conversation, made an All-Star appearance, and was a key part of the Pirates' 1979 World Series team. But the real reason he's on this roster is that he always looked awesome on his baseball cards.

Relief Pitcher - Rollie Fingers

Here's another Cardboard All-Star, Rollie Fingers. He's got a great baseball name and the mustache of a silent film villain. He had a Cy Youg award and some World Series rings, but if he gets into the Hall of Fame, there are probably a lot of other relief pitchers who should be in ahead of him. This Blog Bat Around isn't about who should and shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame. I'll still collect his cards and put him on my autograph team.

Relief Pitcher - Charlie Morton

Charlie Morton is another lifetime starting pitcher, but he pitched four innings of relief to close out Game 7 of the World Series last year, so you know he can handle the pressure. His career has been a bit bumpy, but he seems to have found himself in Houston, with a 17-7 record so far as an Astro.

Relief Pitcher - Billy Wagner

Billy Wagner is one of just six players with over 400 career saves, so he gets a spot in this bullpen. I probably should have made him the closer on the team, but he didn't quite make the cut, and instead will play the role of set-up man in my bullpen. He's a 7-time All-Star and a great Astro, so I had to include him on the roster.

Closer - Goose Gossage

Goose Gossage doesn't have as many saves as Billy Wagner, but he's in the Hall of Fame, he has 9 All-Star appearances, he's got a World Series ring, and he threw the ball really hard. He's pretty opinionated, but the eccentric closer is kind of a stereotype in baseball. You've got to be a little off to thrive in the pressure cooker of finishing off baseball games.

So that's the best 25-man roster I could come up with from my autograph collection. I'll type it all out here, and bold my choices if I stuck to Zippy Zappy's restrictions.

C - Craig Biggio
C - Evan Gattis
1B - Wally Moon
2B - Jose Altuve
SS - Omar Vizquel
3B - Yangervis Solarte
IF - Francisco Lindor
LF - Frank Robinson
CF - Fred Lynn
RF - George Springer
DH - Aaron Judge
OF - Bo Jackson
OF - Josh Reddick

SP - Randy Johnson
SP - Roy Oswalt
SP - Phil Niekro
SP - Luis Tiant
SP - R.A. Dickey
RP - Michael Fulmer
RP - Jim Abbott
RP - Kent Tekulve
RP - Rollie Fingers
RP - Charlie Morton
RP - Billy Wagner
CL - Goose Gossage

edit: I was so focused on the relative merits of baseball players that I forgot to include a card featuring the signature of a baseball player's relative! In the celebrity baseball fan spot of my roster, I am selecting Kate Upton, spouse of Justin Verlander, one of Houston's current ace pitchers.

Now my roster is complete. You can't have a good baseball game without some fans in the stands.

19 April 2018

Stan Sakai Book and Sketch

Someone in one of the art groups I follow on Facebook posted about a good way to get an autograph and quick sketch from artist Stan Sakai, creator of the long-running Usagi Yojimbo comic series. Sakai is selling copies of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles / Usagi Yojimbo crossover hardcover on his website, and each book ordered is signed and has a quick sketch inside. I don't know how long the deal will last, but here is the link if that's something you're interested in.

My book arrived today. Along with the book was this signed print featuring the cover art from Glimpses of Death, the 20th (of 32 so far) collected volumes of the comic.

Here is the cover of the book. The one Sakai is offering on his site is different from the regular cover. I am not sure how exclusive it is, but it is a variant cover. It's a nice hardback book. I was impressed by the quality of it.

Here is the sketch and the signature. Pretty cool stuff, and really cool as a free add-on for buying his book. He is a pretty big name in comics, and a lot of the bigger names will charge a significant amount of money for something like this.

I took a picture of a page from the interior where the Ninja Turtles and Miyamoto Usagi encounter each other. Pretty cool stuff. Just based on flipping through the book and looking at the art, I am looking forward to giving the book a read.

17 April 2018

Bat-Mite by Dave "Pops" Tata

I haven't shown a sketch card for a while, so here's a fun one I picked up last year.

The character is Bat-Mite, a seldom-seen character in the Batman universe. He has reality-altering powers similar to Mister Mxyzptlk, a Superman character who Bat-Mite is a manifestation of. I don't follow Batman too closely, so my description may be lacking some. The card comes from the Cryptozoic DC Comics Batman: The Legend set. The artist is Dave "Pops" Tata. I can't find a lot about Tata online, but he's got a page here for commissions. There's nothing on there newer than 2015, though, so I don't know anything about his current status. Most of his art pages seem to be a little outdated, but he does have a little bit of newer stuff on his Instagram page.

I was happy to land this sketch. It's well-done, and I didn't have any of Tata's art in my collection yet.