Sunday, November 14, 2021

Teenage angst has paid off well. Now I'm bored and old.

Nirvana released In Utero in September of 1993. It was their third - and final - studio album.

Unplugged In New York was recorded two months later. The album was released posthumously, as lead singer Kurt Cobain committed suicide in April 1994 - more than six months before Unplugged debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts. 

This card was part of a TCDB trade with Scrubeenie that arrived earlier this week. I sent him six Topps Heritage singles including a Mike Trout league leader card and an Eddie Murray single from 2000 Upper Deck legends in exchange for some 2018 Topps Chrome set fillers, two 1991-92 Upper deck basketball commons, and two cards from 2011 Topps American Pie. It's the only Kurt Cobain trading card aside from the requisite parallels and a couple playing card releases. It's also one of the more expensive American Pie singles on COMC; the cheapest copy is currently listed at nearly $10.

It's easy to look back on a grunge band that lasted five years and call them "overrated'. If you're talking about hype and airplay relative to other bands of the era then, yes, Nirvana were overrated. You can pick apart the substance of the music, but there's no denying the cultural impact of the band and its iconic frontman. Once Kurt Cobain was gone alternative rock slowly faded from the top of the charts, ceding ground to pop and hip-hop. 


While you're unlikely to see a current alternative act bump elbows with Beyonce and Taylor Swift you will see plenty of young adults, teens, and even children wearing Nirvana t-shirts today.


30 years after the release of Nevermind it's become increasingly clear that there will never be another Nirvana. Dave Grohl has carried the legacy of the band (and in some ways rock itself) over to Foo Fighters - a legendary act in their own right. Personally I think Foo Fighters are underrated - though I acknowledge their cultural impact falls far short of Nirvana's. Let me know when "Best of You" or "My Hero" hits 1.3 billion views on YouTube. 


Here's a rough sketch of my essential Nirvana mix CD/playlist
excluding "Smells Like Teen Spirit" as the band did in the Unplugged set list.

  1. "Serve The Servants" (from In Utero)
  2. "Scentless Apprentice" (from In Utero)
  3. "About A Girl"(acoustic) (from Unplugged In New York)
  4. "Come As You Are" (from Nevermind)
  5. "Sappy" (from No Alternative)
  6. "Love Buzz" (From Bleach)
  7. "I Hate Myself And Want To Die" (From The Beavis and Butt-head Experience)
  8. "In Bloom" (from (Nevermind)
  9. "Pennyroyal Tea" (from In Utero)
  10. "Dive" (from Incesticide)
  11. "Breed" (from (Nevermind)
  12. "Lithium" (from (Nevermind)
  13. "You Know You're Right" (from Nirvana greatest hits)
  14. "School" (From Bleach)
  15. "All Apologies" (acoustic) (from Unplugged In New York)
  16. "Radio Friendly Unit Shifter" (from In Utero)
  17. "Aneurysm" (from Incesticide)
  18. "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?(acoustic) (from Unplugged In New York)



By the way, here's the other American Pie single from that TCDB trade with Scrubeenie:


I've always been fascinated with the atomic era and the Cold War. In case you're wondering, the Doomsday Clock is currently set at ... oh shit.





Thanks for reading!




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Thursday, November 4, 2021

Uno.. Dos.. Tres.. Catorce

I've been spending my hobby time attempting to fill sets through TCDB trades - primarily the starter sets Bo sent me in the summer. After several PWE swaps (and a box of series 1) I've got 826 of the 840 cards in the 1993 Upper Deck baseball set. Here's a look at the fourteen cards I'm missing, along with a fact (or opinion) about each player depicted.


#4 Willie Greene

Willie Greene was a first-round pick of the Pirates in 1989. As such, he was included in 1990 Bowman and Score sets - the latter of which misspelled his name on the back. I seemed to recall him having two or three good seasons in the late '90s, but baseball-reference tells me he had one - in 1997.


#70 Derek Lilliquist


Derek Lilliquist was a left-handed reliever for both the AL's Native American-named franchise and the NL's Native American-named team. He is not the only guy named Derek I'm missing from this set. Also, if I'm being precise, he was a starter in Atlanta. And apparently he pitched for the Red Sox in 1995. His only legit trading card that year - and his "sunset card" - was in the 1995 Topps set, before he signed with the Sox.


#102 B.J. Surhoff


B.J. Surhoff was one of the top rookies in 1987 trading card sets. I remember seeing his name pop up in price guides as a kid, long before "prospecting" was a thing. I remember his tenure as an Orioles third baseman - before Cal Ripken moved to the "hot corner". I did not know that he retired as an Oriole in 2005 - at age 41. I also did not know that Surhoff was the 1st overall pick in the 1985 draft because my memory of #1 overall picks starts in '87 with that Griffey kid.



#138 Ken Hill


Ken Hill was the ace of the 1994 Expos team that boasted baseball's best record before the strike ended the season in August. The Cy Young runner-up had 16 wins that season and could have easily reached 20 if the season had been completed. Montreal traded Hill to the Cardinals the following April. He was dealt to the Indians at the '95 trade deadline, and pitched in two World Series contests against Atlanta.



#169 Orel Hershiser


One of my earliest memories as a baseball fan was watching Orel (whose last name was pronounced He-sher-hi-zer by eight-year old me) drag the Dodgers to the World Series and then baffle Oakland's Bash Brothers in the Fall Classic. You probably know all about that, so here's a story from ESPN's Tim Kurkjian:

Many years later, I asked Hershiser about that magical postseason, and wondered if he deviated his schedule or habits from that of the regular season. He said the biggest difference was that in the postseason "I never told anyone publicly where I was going out to dinner because it might end up in the newspaper. I didn't want anyone to know where I might eat. The chef might poison me."

He added that there were times, on the road, where he and his wife would order dinner, but when the meals arrived, they would switch: His wife would eat what he ordered, and he would eat what she ordered. He said he did that just in case the chef had, indeed, tried to poison him.

But that meant your wife would then be poisoned?

Hershiser smiled and said, jokingly, and without malice, "Well, we're divorced now."

#247 John Kruk


The 1993 Phillies were a fun team to watch at the time. It's harder to look back fondly at players like Lenny Dykstra and Curt Schilling, but John Kruk seems to have maintained his affable reputation. The career .300 hitter made his third (and most memorable) All-Star Game appearance in '93 - a moment that Topps featured as a Legends variation 20 years later. This card is actually on its way to me but I'm including it here just in case it doesn't arrive safely from Canada.



#255 Sandy Alomar, Jr.


As someone who collected way too many Topps and Donruss cards in 1989 I certainly remember Sandy's rookie cards. (I was not aware of all the stupid variations at the time.) He kinda-sorta appeared in a Starting Lineup issue before making his big league debut - but his younger brother Roberto was pictured on the card. Sandy was named to six All-Star teams despite playing 100+ games in just four seasons; the fans voted him a starter in 1991 despite non-existent production - even for a catcher.



#260 Joe Orsulak


This is arguably the best photo on a 1993 Upper Deck card I don't have. Joe Orsulak played five seasons in the Orioles' outfield before signing with the Mets in the winter of 1992. He finished his career with the Expos in 1997. I'm assuming Mets fans consider him a free agent bust, though he certainly didn't make Bobby Bonilla money.


#345 George Bell


You might remember George Bell for hitting 47 home runs in his MVP season of 1987, or the 1992 trade that sent him to the south side of Chicago in exchange for some guy named Sosa. I remember George Bell for his 1986 Topps card (which referred to him as Jorge) and the fact that he was the only Blue Jay with his own Starting Lineup figure in 1988 and 1989. Every US-based baseball team had at least four figures.


#352 Roberto Hernandez


Throwback uniform! Roberto Hernandez is pictured wearing the hat (and jersey?) of the Negro League's Chicago American Giants. A first-round pick of the Angels in 1986, he was part of the White Sox' shocking fire sale at the 1997 trade deadline (the Pale Hose were just three games back of Cleveland for the division lead at the time.) Hernandez signed as a free agent with the expansion Devil Rays that winter.



#449 Derek Jeter


This is the only 'top prospect' card I need, though I'd like to upgrade my off-center Derek Wallace card. This Derek didn't quite pan out like Wallace did. The Houston Astros considered drafting Jeter #1 overall in 1992. Hall of Fame pitcher Hal Newhouser scouted the kid from Kalamazoo and campaigned for the club to draft him over Phil Nevin. Imagine an infield with Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, and this guy?


#486 Barry Bonds

I think Barry is smiling here because he'd just signed a record-breaking contract with the Giants. Bonds was an insufferable asshole long before he began mainlining PEDs. His arrogance in the 1992 NLCS probably cost Pittsburgh the pennant - though it didn't cost him any free agent dollars.

According to Sports Illustrated, “Van Slyke told MLB Network that on the Francisco Cabrera game-winning hit, he motioned to Barry Bonds to move in. Bonds responded by giving him the finger, and the ball ended up landing exactly where Van Slyke said to play.”

Here is the actual footage; it is clear that if Bonds had made the adjustment Van Slyke suggested (moving just a few steps to his left) Bream would’ve been out by a few steps.



#487 Dennis Eckersley


Mariano Rivera is regarded as the greatest closer of all-time - but he never won a Cy Young or MVP Award. Dennis Eckersley won both awards in the same season. He also won more games than Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw have (to date), struck out more batters than Sandy Koufax, and had a higher WAR than CC Sabathia and Juan Marichal. Oh, and he was the subject of a Mike Birbiglia joke. Eck >>> Mo.


#648 Jim Deshaies


No one started more games in the abbreviated 1994 season than Jim Deshaies, who took the mound for the Twins 25 times. This is interesting to me because he also led the league in earned runs (107) and home runs allowed (30). Oh, and his ERA was a whopping 7.39 that season. Why did Tom Kelly keep sending him out there? Also, I never got Chris Berman's "two silhouettes on.." reference. What song is that from?




I'm running out of stamps to ship PWEs and running out of trade matches on TCDB, so I might have to purchase these cards from Baseballcardstore.ca or Sportlots. Unless anyone reading this has any of these?



Thanks for reading!


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Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Blog Anniversary Box Break

1993 was twenty eight years ago, but The 1993 began one year ago today. And to celebrate, I saved my box break of 1993 Upper Deck baseball for the occasion. This was purchased a couple weeks ago and arrived at the end of August. After Bo sent me a big chunk of series 2 I decided to go for the whole set.

I found a sealed box on eBay for $24.99 + $10 shipping, for a total price of about $1 per pack. My 9 year old daughter helped me open these. She grabbed a stack without even asking and eventually ripped open more than half the packs. After nearly three decades I was expecting to see some bricking or 'snow.' That wasn't really an issue; the main problem with these cards was collation.


170 of the 540 cards were duplicates, including four extra cards (or more) of Bernie Williams, John Smoltz, Travis Fryman, Jose Canseco, and David Justice. Paul Molitor appeared ten times, including seven copies of his base card and three copies of the Brewers combo card.

My daughter ripped open the packs so fast that I didn't get to explain which cards were inserts (or "special") and which cards were merely subset singles (or "not special") such as these:


Dave Stewart is pictured with Oakland here but not long after this card was released he helped the Blue Jays win The 1993 World Series. My ex-girlfriend was a reporter in Toronto at the time and told me a story about Stewart frequently appearing at food banks and soup kitchens in the area. He told the press that if they reported on his appearances he would stop donating because he wasn't doing it for publicity.

These sure look special among all the white-bordered base cards. Once she finished opening her half of the box I showed my daughter the actual insert cards. Nearly all of them were in my stack:

The best pull was this Then & Now Nolan Ryan hologram, which popped out of the second pack.


I even got a duplicate insert! Kind of a bummer that one of the three Iooss inserts was the header card. Even more of a bummer: my daughter was afraid that she didn't pull a single "special" card, until I found Delino DeShields hidden in her stack.

Among the collation quirks in this box was the absence of any card from #61 to 72 and #95 to 110. (I'd already acquired this Tim Wakefield.) I'm missing 97 Series 1 cards and 105 overall.

These series 2 singles arrived today after some TCDB trading. More 1993 Upper Deck cards are on the way, mostly from series 1.

NBA Week inspired me to pick up more Gheorghe Muresan and Reggie Lewis cards. The All-Division insert cost 18 cents (plus shipping) on Sportlots. I now have 15 of the 20 cards in the set.

Before I wrap this up, I was looking through some of the Angels cards in The 1993 Upper Deck set (for a potential blog post) and the back of Gary DiSarcina's card jumped out at me. Does anyone know what this is referring to?

The '90s were weird, man.





Thanks for reading!


 

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Sunday, August 15, 2021

1993 Starting Lineups

When Kenner released their Starting Lineup action figures in 1988 I was perfectly positioned in their target demographic: 7 to 8 year old boy, just getting into sports, enthusiastically collecting baseball cards and toys.

I continued collecting Starting Lineup figures well into the '90s. As I entered my teen years I had more money, more knowledge of collecting, and more access to figures I had never seen. Long before 1993 I knew that certain baseball cards were valuable, while others had the potential to be valuable years into the future - if they were kept in mint condition. Part of the reason why all of those vintage Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson, and Ted Williams cards are so valuable today is because kids in the 1950s played with them as if they were toys.

And so, sometime in 1993, a light bulb went off in my head. If these Starting Lineup figures are taken out of the box, played with, dropped, chipped, faded, etc. etc... they won't be worth spit. However - if I can find a 'rookie' figure, or a superstar player, and resist the urge to open the package.. I might have a valuable figure in a few years.

My test subject was this Ken Griffey, Jr. figure. It was not his first piece, but it was the best one I could find at Toys 'R Us at the time. I fought the impulse to open it - and was proud of myself for doing so.

Let's say the retail price of this Griffey was $5.99. I know the original SRP was about $3.99 in 1988 and by the end of the 1990s toy stores were charging $7.99, or more. How much does this sell for 28 years later?

About the same price. There's a nice one on eBay right now for under $10 shipped. That seller also has a 1992 Frank Thomas for $7.50 shipped - I know I paid more than that for my 'Big Hurt" figure.

Clearly I wasn't the only one who had the idea to keep these figures sealed. The Griffey figure above isn't going to pay for my kids' college but it is a very important part of my collection. Every subsequent SLU figure I purchased would remain sealed, with few exceptions.


I still have one of the two Andy Van Slyke cards that came with his 1993 Starting Lineup figure. The second card and the actual figure is long gone from my collection.

If I ever decide to stop collecting sports cards (and tbh, I'm getting there) SLUs would be my next hobby. Nearly all of the 1993-issued figures could be purchased for under $20, and most could be found at flea markets and shows for $5 or less - assuming sellers would bother to bring them.

Let's take a look at the full four-sport checklist of Kenner's 1993 Starting Lineup line:


Baseball - 45 figures


Figures I'd buy for $5
: Cal Ripken, Roger Clemens, maybe Mike Mussina

Random players included
: Juan Guzman, Roberto Kelly, Shane Mack, Bip Roberts

Kelly and Roberts were All-Stars in 1992. I can see why each were included, though both the Yankees and Reds had bigger names at the time. (Barry Larkin was included in '93 SLU, Don Mattingly was not.)

Mack batted .310 or better in 1990, '91, and '92 so perhaps Kenner thought he'd earned his stripes. But by this point the checklist had just 40 figures in the main set; was Mack really one of the top 40 players in baseball? If he was, why don't I remember this at all?


Guzman was a Cy Young contender and co-ace of the two-time World Series Champion Blue Jays. His inclusion made sense at the time. That said, the 1992 AL Cy Young Winner and MVP (Dennis Eckersley) was not part of the set. 1992 and 1993 NL Cy Young winner Greg Maddux was included in the "Extended Series" along with a second Barry Bonds figure - after he signed with the Giants - and a second Nolan Ryan figure - after he announced his retirement.

The Extended series also includes a figure each for the expansion Marlins (Benito Santiago) and Rockies (David Nied) and two White Sox stars - Carlton Fisk and Bo Jackson. Including the three Pale Hose in the regular series, Chicago has five figures in the 45-piece set, tied with Texas for the most of any team.


The Angels, Royals, and Brewers were not represented in the 1993 set - and the Mets were only partially represented on the David Cone cards.

One more thing: Giants pitcher Bill Swift and Mariners pitcher Dave Fleming are listed on the back of each 1993 Starting Lineup figure as part of the "New 1993 Edition" - but neither piece was produced. I'm sure no one else cares about details like these but I've noted non-existent figures ever since I started chasing a phantom Steve Largent figure from the 1988 SLU set.


Speaking of football, let's take a look at Kenner's 1993 NFL line:

Football - 27 figures


Figures I'd buy for $5: Joe Montana, Randall Cunningham, Warren Moon, maybe Deion Sanders

Random players included: Barry Foster, David Klingler, Russell Maryland, Anthony Miller, Chris Miller

Foster had a monster year in 1992, crashed back down to earth in 1993 and didn't play again after 1994. Klingler was the only true rookie in the set; he's listed as a "Young Sensation" along with Cortez Kennedy and Ricky Watters. Maryland made his only Pro Bowl in 1993. He finished his career with the Packers in 2000 and I don't remember that at all, either. I'm getting forgetful in my old age.


Anthony Miller was one of the NFL's top receivers in the early '90s and a Pro Bowler in 1992 and 1993. He's probably not "random" in the strictest definition but I've not heard or seen him mentioned in years. Chris Miller was a Pro Bowl QB in 1991 and should have been included in the 1992 NFL set. Kenner was a year too late.

One more thing: Defensive players comprised one-third of the 1993 series and kickers Pete Stoyanovich and Chip Lohmiller were also part of the set.

I remember being very excited to see the first kicker figures - even though Morten Andersen should have received that honor ahead of them.


Basketball - 29 figures


Figures I'd buy for $5
: Christian Laettner, Clyde Drexler, Shawn Kemp, maybe Kenny Anderson

I've said that most 1993-issued figures can be found for under $20 today. Once exception is the Shaquille O'Neal 'rookie' piece, which recently sold for over $50. Michael Jordan's figure ain't cheap, either.

Random players included
: Stacey Augmon, Todd Day

Augmon had just completed his second NBA season in 1993, and I understand Kenner's decision to immortalize the "Plastic Man".. in plastic. Day was one of five 1992 draft picks included in the 1993 SLU set - and the least successful by far. Note the two Topps cards packaged with the figure.

Two of my favorite 1990s greats - Hakeem Olajuwon and Reggie Miller - are not included in the 1993 series. There are no Celtics(!) or Lakers(!!) figures in the set, either. I'm not very familiar with NBA SLUs and I don't recall seeing any in stores that year, but it appears that the 1993 series was the first to include basketball players not holding a basketball:


One more thing
: In 1989 Kenner produced over 120 NFL figures - and five NBA figures. Just three years later the NBA checklist was larger than the NFL set. 



This is already a long post so let's take a quick look at the smallest set Kenner produced in 1993:

Hockey - 12 Figures


Figures I'd buy for $5
: Steve Yzerman, maybe Eric Lindros

I took home a large portion of this set around 1999-2000 when I worked at my LCS. The shop owner paid me in inventory - mostly cards but occasionally I took home some Sports Illustrated back issues and Starting Lineup figures.

Grant Fuhr was the tough to find piece two decades ago. Fuhr figures still sell for well over $5 unless you buy in bulk.

Random players included: None. The only non-Hall of Famer in the inaugural NHL set is Jeremy Roenick. Technically Jaromir Jagr isn't a Hall of Famer but that's only because he's still playing.

There are no Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1993 set. Kenner probably planned on Fuhr representing the Leafs but he was traded to Buffalo in February of that year. Wayne Gretzky was not included, likely because of an exclusivity deal with Upper Deck. The "Great One" didn't appear on an SLU figure until 1997.

One more thing: If you're wondering what a NHL Starting Lineup set might looked like prior to 1993 I've got you covered at The Collector with my SLU Lost Years series, accompanied by Gavin's custom cards.


Thanks for reading!



 

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Saturday, August 7, 2021

Informer

Snow.. in August? Yeah, I thought it would be too 'on the nose' if I wrote about the Canadian reggae-rapper in February.

My musical interests were more wide-ranging in 1993 - much of that was based on watching a lot of MTV. And in the wake of that channel's 40th anniversary i was tempted to explore how narrow our listening habits have become without it.

1993 was the year I really caught on to the alternative rock or "grunge" scene, though I still dabbled in hard rock like Guns N' Roses, Metallica, and even Megadeth. My friends and I would watch Yo! MTV Raps now and then, and while I like very few hip-hop tracks overall I'm partial to the 'mainstream' rap from this era. Songs like "O.P.P.", "Nuthin' But a G Thang" and "Summertime" remind me of the crazy days of adolescence.

We were a diverse group of lower-middle class boys: one Korean, one African-American, one Portugese, and three very uncool white kids, myself included. How do I know we were uncool?

This was our jam:



I kind of though that we were done with white rappers after Vanilla Ice had been forever banished as "played out" or "corny" or whatever labels we used to use back in the day. And yet we had Mark Wahlberg (yes, that Mark Wahlberg) rapping and dancing in his Calvins. Good thing we didn't destroy that guy.


Anyone remember 3rd Bass? Their take on "Pop Goes The Weasel" got a lot of airplay. I think the one guy had a sports memorabilia shop in Cooperstown for a while.

My friend Ed used to ad-lib a lot of these songs. He'd say "Pop Goes the Weasel because the Weasel Goes Pop". Why do I remember that? Because I remember his ad-lib lyrics for "Informer" like it was yesterday.


The actual lyric was:
Informer, ya' no say daddy me Snow me I go blame
A licky boom boom down



Ed's improvised lyric was:
I'm a farmer, I live in Idaho and grow potatoes
A there's a moo-moo cow

 
He was 10. 

 
 
 
I hadn't thought of this song in forever, until I started working at my current job. My manager has her Pandora on all day - mostly country music, though I did hear Salt N' Pepa's "Push It" yesterday, which was kinda random and enjoyable. When I started working there we had a girl in our collections department who was in her late twenties and she'd play newer hip hop stuff that my white co-workers and I weren't really familiar with.
 
Except.. one day Mercedes had her music on and a Daddy Yankee track played. Our estimator Brian (who's in his early forties) and I instantly recognized the sample. "Hey! That's Informer!" We soon played the Snow single for Mercedes - prefacing it by explaining that he's a white reggae-rapper from Canada - and she chuckled.
 
I guess it was kind of a funny song. Maybe.. I still don't know what Snow was saying. Something about farming?



 
 
Thanks for reading!




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