Saturday, March 28, 2009

But I'm Not Dead Yet...

... but my laptop is.

It didn't even make the trip to Clearwater.

Hopefully, I'll have the replacement part in hand in a few days. In the meantime, watch this...

Friday, March 20, 2009

Cardola: 2009 Topps Heritage Hobby

Editors note: Stale Gum will be on vacation in Florida for the next week. So, here's something to tide you over.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Fear and Loathing in Valley Forge

We began our Sunday in Toms River, at The Backstop of course, ripping boxes of the new Topps Heritage. And when the call came, I was ready.



"OK, I put him on."


Dr. Wax approached the table cautiously, and when he handed me the telephone I said nothing, merely listened. "That was headquarters," I said. "They want me to go to Valley Forge at once."

My attorney said nothing for a moment, then he suddenly came alive in his chair. "God hell!" he exclaimed. "I think I see the pattern. This one sounds like real trouble! You're going to need plenty of legal advice before this thing is over," he said. "As your attorney I advise you to gas up the car. And then you need the junk wax. Some of those Rated Rookie T-Shirts, music for the road, and get the hell out of New Jersey for the afternoon." He shook his head sadly. "This blows my Sunday, because naturally I'll have to go with you -- and we'll have to arm ourselves, to the teeth."

"Why not?" I said. "If a thing like this is worth doing at all, it's worth doing right."

"What kind of card show is this?" he asked.

"The Philly Show," I said. "It's the oldest, most continuously operated sports memorabilia show in the country... at least that's what the press release says."

"Well," he said, "as your attorney I advise you to buy a case of 1991 Donruss. How else can you cover a thing like this righteously?"

"No way," I said. "Where can we get a hold of an entire case of 1991 Donruss?"

Getting hold of the Rated Rookie T-Shirts was no problem. But an entire case of 1991 Donruss Baseball was not an easy thing to round up on a Sunday morning in South Jersey. We went to a bar, where my attorney made seventeen calls before locating a card shop with an unopened case of '91 Donruss.

"Hang on to it," I heard him say into the phone. "We'll be over in thirty minutes." Then after a pause, he began shouting: "What? Of course the gentleman has a major credit card! Do you realize who the fuck you're talking to?"

"Don't take any guff from these swine," I said as he slammed the phone down.

We spent the rest of the morning rounding up the junk wax and packing the car. Then we ripped a jumbo box of '92 Fleer, pulling a Frank Thomas Rookie Sensation. Sometime around Noon we had lunch at a diner, then drove very carefully across Toms River and plunged onto the pine-covered New Jersey State Route 70, heading West.

This assignment was different. It was a classic affirmation of everything right and true and decent in The Hobby. It was a gross, physical salute to the fantastic possibilities of this great Hobby -- but only for those with true grit. And we were chock full of that.

But what was the story? Nobody had bothered to say. So we would have to drum it up on our own. Free Enterprise. The American Dream. Jefferson Burdick gone mad on junk wax in the Philadelphia suburbs. Do it now: fake Gonzo journalism!

We finally arrived early in the afternoon. We were forced to stand in line with all the others -- which proved to be very difficult under the circumstances. There was a gun show happening simultaneously at the Convention Center, and the atmosphere was very tense. And that's where the trouble started.

A boney, middle-aged hoodlum wearing an Orioles jersey yelled: "God damn! What day is this -- Saturday?"

"More like Sunday," somebody replied.

"Hah! That's a bitch, ain't it?" the hoodlum in the Brian Roberts O's jersey shouted to nobody in particular. "Last night I was out home in Ball-Tee-More and somebody said they were having the Philly Show today, so I says to my old lady, `Man, I'm goin'." He laughed. "So she gives me a lot of crap about it, you know... so I started slappin' her around and the next thing I knew two guys I never even seen before got me out on the sidewalk workin' me over. Jesus! They beat me stupid."

He laughed again, talking to the crowd and not seeming to care who listened. "Hell yes!" he continued. "Then one of 'em says, `Where you going?' And I says, `Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, to the baseball card show.' So they gave me twenty bucks and drove me down to the bus station..." He paused. "At least I think it was them..."

"Well, anyway, here I am. And I tell you that was one hell of a long night, man! Seven hours on those goddamn buses and trains! But when I woke up it was dawn here and I was outside the Valley Forge Convention Center and for a minute I didn't know what the hell I was doin' here. All I could think was, `O Jesus, here we go again: Who's divorced me this time?'"

He accepted a pack of '91 Upper Deck from from somebody in the crowd, still grinning as he tore it open. "But then I remembered, by God! I was here for the Philly Show... and man, that's all I needed to know. I tell you it's wonderful to be here, man, I don't give a damn what you collect. It's just wonderful to be here with you people...."

Nobody argued with him, we all understood. This, after all, was the 101st edition of the World's Greatest Card Show; the Philly Show -- now under new management and a new venue: The Valley Forge Convention Center. No more driving to that shit town Reading! This card show attracts a very special breed, and our man in the Orioles shirt was clearly one of them.

We entered the basement of the Valley Forge Convention Center and started -- as we always do at these gatherings -- roaming the aisles. Ah yes. This is what it's all about. Total control now. Tooling along the center aisle on a Sunday afternoon at the Philly Show, two card collectors ... stoned, ripped, twisted ... Good People.

We walked over to a table that had about a dozen Hobby boxes of the new Topps Heritage for $70 each. "I don't know about you," I told my attorney, "but in my line of business it's important to be Hep."

"Mine too," he said. "But as your attorney I advise you to pick up a box of Upper Deck Spectrum. There's a couple of boxes over there for $73."

"Why?" I asked.

"Why what?"

"Why should I pay out my hard-earned dollars to rip shitty wax?"

"Look," he said. "Why are we out here? To entertain ourselves, or to do the job?"

"The job, of course," I replied. We were walking around in circles, weaving through the table-enclosed walkways.

My attorney was scanning the hall, looking for hints of action. "How about `2008 Topps Moments & Milestones, $50?'" he said. "`ADDDED VALUE IN EVERY PACK: DO IT NOW!' that sounds heavy... Twenty-nine cent packs of '91 Fleer..."

Why were we here? What did it all mean? All these cards. All these collectors. All these tables. Why?

I could have bought that box of '09 Heritage, or I could have spent it all picking out singles out of a 50%-off box. All throughout, I kept saying to myself: "What would Jefferson Burdick do?"

I snuck into the gun show and picked up a spray can of Bear Mace for $44.98 and suddenly, in the midst of that last thought, I was struck by the hideous possibilities of using it, here in the hall. Macing Joe Collectors left-and-right as they sit at the snack bar ripping their over-priced Triple Threads waxboxes, then slipping away and firing a huge load of Mace into the JSA and BGS booths. Or Macing those in line for Jennie Finch and Jim Rice at the autograph tables, for their own good of course.

"Oh, I'm sorry Ms. Finch. I apologize for that deranged man who just sprayed you in the face with Bear Mace. I promise you, it will never, ever, happen again."

As I think these terrible thoughts, one thing kept coming up in my mind: What would Jefferson Burdick think of all this? I'm sure if Ol' Jeff were here to see this awful spectacle, and to see how his once-great Hobby had degenerated into this, he'd do what I'd do. Bear Mace every pathetic soul in Valley Forge.

In the end, my attorney and I picked up a retail box of '09 Heritage for only $55. "As your attorney, I advise you not to pay an extra $15 for cards you don't want. Go with the retail box," my attorney said. My attorney is a wise man. He's not some dingbat I picked up on The Strip. I also picked up the entire set of 25 Hobby Store cards from last year's Topps Trading Card History set for only $10. "Why not? It's a good deal, and it's Hobby only," I said. I spent $11 on a handful of inserts from last year's Goudey and Allen & Ginter, and $6 on six packs of top-loaders.

Just as we were about to exit, we were spotted. I guess the "Rated Rookie" t-shirts gave it away, but we were caught and apprehended by some cardgeek on the way out the door.

"Hey, you're that guy!" he said.

I pretended to ignore the remark, but my attorney nudged me. "He's speaking to you."

"Your that guy from the website, aren't you? Stinky Gum, or something like that? SHIT! Jimmy, GET YOUR ASS OVER HERE! It's him!"

I politely extended my right hand to the poor bugger. And then I noticed the awful smell. In his haste to extend his hand, my attorney accidentally discharged the Bear Mace onto his shirt. Panic ensues. Collectors, still clutching their afternoon's purchases, bum rush the exits. Me and my attorney barely made it out the door before security clamped down, slipping the noose once again.

Black Chevy blowing through traffic on the Schuylkill Expressway. The fake journalist is driving, ignoring his passenger who is now nearly naked after taking off most of his clothing, which he holds out the window, trying to wind-wash the Mace out of it. His eyes are bright red and his face and chest are soaked with beer he’s been using to rinse the awful chemical off his flesh. The front of his woolen trousers is soaked with vomit; his body is racked with fits of coughing and wild chocking sobs. The fake journalist rams the car through traffic and into a spot in front of the train station, then he reaches over to open the door on the passenger’s side and shoves his attorney, snarling: "Bug off, you worthless faggot! You twisted pigfucker! If I weren’t sick I’d kick your ass all the way back to Toms River -– you scum sucking geek. Mace is too good for you! We can do without your kind in Philadelphia!"

Total Spent on Cards: $82
Admission: $6
Tolls: $4
Can of Bear Mace: $44.98
GRAND TOTAL: $136.98

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The $1,000,005 Arm

Readers have already asked me when the first cards of Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel (a.k.a. The Indian Pirates) will be issued, and who will issue them. I'm kind of curious myself, if only to observe the inevitable bidding war between Topps, UD, Pani-Russ, and Razor for their exclusive rights.

Then I saw this on Deadspin this afternoon. Someone from Topps offered Rinku and Dinesh the traditional $5 "Steak Dinner" checks they give to (literally) every Minor League prospect. For those of you that don't know, for decades Topps has doled out the token $5 contracts to as many minor leaguers as they can possibly sign. While the original idea was to keep as many players away from their 1950s competitor Bowman, they've keep the practice alive as it allows Topps to include minor leaguers and top prospects in "Major League" sets. The Steak Dinner Check is the reason why for years, Topps was able to load up its Bowman brands with scores of minor league players.

As it turns out, Rinku and Dinesh both thought Topps was trying to pull a fast one. Both players has already spoken to (and may have already signed contracts with) representatives of Upper Deck and Playoff and had no clue of the practice. But, this being 2009, they wrote about their escapade on their blog.

I cannot paraphrase their post and do it justice. So, for your entertainment, I reprint it in its entirety.

Yesterday locker room man coming to us from company Topps. He saying we sign contract. We telling him we not reading this english. we say he have talking JB (Jeff Bernstein, the players' agent) sir. He saying he talking JB sir and JB sir say OK signing.

So we signing this thing and he give me and Dinesh $5.00. Then we finding out JB sir not knowing this. Man from company Topps lying to us. he very bad man. This very bad company. We having good deals with upper Deck and Playoff. We not liking Topps. We never be Topps if they ask us signing again. They bad man and say lying to us.

We hoping no people buying Topps cards. Peoples who liking us only buying Upper Deck and Playoff.

But wait. It turns out it was all just a big misunderstanding.

Topps man sir. We sorry. JB explaining that he knowing this man and he not believe man doing these things. he say we not understanding right. Dinesh and i all things new being to us. we wishing many time we just being pitcher, but we also knowing all other things too needed.

This big mistake by me and dinesh. we always sending JB first so no more mistakes. We sorry if we causing any problem. We wanting everyone forget this thing please.

... And everything worked out in the end.

No word on when we'll be seeing The Indian Pirates on cardboard, yet.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Rand-dumb Thoughts on the Pani-Russ Deal.

So Panini is about to buy-out and takeover Donruss. I guess I have to write something, huh? Alright. Here it goes...

Unlike basketball, I still believe that baseball is a sport that can support more than one licensee -- albeit 34 product releases is still about a dozen too many. With the MLB/PA contracts set to expire at the end of this year, will Pani-Russ outbid Upper Deck for yet another license?

And if Pani-Russ does get a baseball license, then what? I know I'm in the minority when I say this, but I was happy to see Donruss go at the end of '05. I may be jumping the gun here, but I hope Pani-Russ gets a license. But with that said, I hope it's the Donruss of the mid-to-late-90s and not the Donruss-Playoff of the early-00s.

If only to satisfy the 10-year-old in me, I hope Pani-Russ brings back the stickers.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Yeah, But Is It Real?

Steve Mendez has got to be the luckiest SOB in the world. Over the past three years, he's pulled autographed ones-of-one of LeBron James, President John Adams and Robert Treat Paine.

Now, this same guy pulls a one-of-one Babe Ruth cut "signature" out of a pack of 2009 Topps. That's four ones-of-one in three years. Pretty lucky, huh?

With what went down yesterday, the question must be asked. Is that even a real Babe Ruth autograph?

Well? Whaddya think?

(h/t Beckett Blog)

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Stick a Fork in 'em.

Now, call me crazy. But if I were in charge of a trading card company, and if my company issued a product that cost $2500 a pack; I'd make damn sure the cut signatures are 100% authentic!

But then again, that's just me.

The New and Improved Philly Show. Be there!

Come meet Stale Gum's Chris Harris and a slew of your favorite cardbloggers and collectors at the first ever Philly Show at its new location.

Where and When:
The Valley Forge Convention Center
Sunday, March 15
Admission: $7 (free parking!)

Over 350 tables, and a crapload of autograph guests! Oh, what fun we'll have!

For more information on the show, and autograph guests go to the website.


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Cardola: 2008-09 Topps T-51 Murad Basketball

And now a Public Service Announcement

If you've opened up as much 2009 Upper Deck Series One as I have, you've noticed that the collation sucks. How much so? Well...

About a month ago, I bought a Series One Blaster at the local Wal-Mart. You can find that video here. In that particular Blaster I pulled a "Historic Firsts" insert of Mariners manager Dan Wakamatsu and a "USA 18U National Team" insert of Jeff Malm.

The next week, I went to the same Wal-Mart and bought another Blaster. In that box I pulled a Gary Sheffield Gold parallel numbered to 99 and another Jeff Malm USA insert.

For the next few weeks, this Wal-Mart was out of UD Blasters. But today, I noticed that they had put a few more out, so I bought another. Take a guess as to what I pulled.

Another Dan Wakamatsu "Historic First," another Jeff Malm USA, and another Gary Sheffield Gold parallel numbered to 99.

Combine that with the Hobby box I ripped at Dr. Wax Battle's and I've pulled three Dan Wakamatsu's, four Jeff Malm's and two Gary Sheffield Gold parallels.

OBTW, I've yet to pull a David Price rookie card.

2009 Upper Deck Baseball Blasters: buyer beware!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Insulting Our Collective Intelligence, One Gimmick at a Time.

The sad thing is, someone at Topps has convinced himself that collectors actually want these gimmicks.