Friday, December 28, 2012

Slightly Dinged Pack Break: 1998 Donruss Preferred


Monday, December 24, 2012

My Christmas Gift to You

The Baseball Project is a supergroup of 1980s alt-rock all-stars: R.E.M.'s Peter Buck; Scott McCaughey of The Young Fresh Fellows; Steve Wynn, most notably of Dream Syndicate; and his wife Linda Pitmon.

Last April, as a celebration of the over 300,000+ card Jefferson R. Burdick collection, the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art held "An Evening of Baseball History and Music," with The Baseball Project giving a performance.

Here now, through the magic of YouTube is The Baseball Project with their musical tribute to The Greatest Card Collector of All Time: Jefferson Burdick.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Bipped by "S. Claws."

Of all people to get Bipped by, I get Bipped by a cut-rate Santa impersonator. Do this mean Bip Wars is back on?

Sunday, December 02, 2012

David Beckham: An Appreciation

Blogger's Note: I wrote this a couple of weeks ago and sent it, unsolicited, to a certain website.  It was rejected -- I was told it didn't "fit our core audience's needs."  

Apparently, stories on Star Trek cards and dating advice columns, somehow, fit the needs of a "sports" card website; but not a retrospective of one of the five most famous people on Planet Earth who spent the last five and-a-half playing his SPORT in America.

With a week and a half in retrospect, I now know why it wasn't published.  It sucks.  That simple.  I'm actually embarrassed that I submitted this in the first place.  

I guess I was just too eager to send it in that I didn't take the time to actually edit it. Oh well.

Anyway, listed below is what I submitted -- unedited, warts and all. 

With David Beckham’s surprise announcement that he will be leaving the Los Angeles Galaxy and Major League Soccer, one must wonder what his legacy after five-and-a-half tumultuous and triumphant years now is.  While there have been many peaks (three Conference titles and an MLS Cup with the chance for a second) and valleys (drama with the Galaxy’s other star Landon Donovan, the disastrous loan spell at A.C. Milan, lack of success in the Champions League), the Beckham Era not necessarily “saved” soccer in the United States – it didn’t need to be “saved” -- but had a hand in pushing it to levels not seen in North America.

It seems hard to believe now, but the MLS Beckham joined in January 2007 was much, much, different than the league he leaves.  While not yet a “Major” league, MLS had firmly established itself alongside the WNBA and Arena Football in the second-tier of professional sports leagues.  There were only 12 clubs; seven of which were playing in cavernous stadiums designed for American football, of which the soccer teams paid rent and had no control over ancillary revenues (i.e. parking fees, luxury boxes, concessions et al).  Earlier in the decade the league was forced to contract both of their Florida clubs.  No player earned more than $1,000,000 and some developmental players made barely minimum wage.  TV coverage was non-existent, with the exception of the occasional Saturday afternoon when ESPN2 had nothing better to put on.

Today, there are now 19 clubs, 15 playing in stadiums designed specifically for the game of soccer.  The level of play has dramatically improved with the league serving as an apprenticeship for the ever-improving US National Team.  Other over-30 (but still world-class) players like Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez, Freddy Ljungberg, and CuauhtĂ©moc Blanco have been attracted.  Sponsorship money has flowed in as clubs were allowed (as is common in Europe) to sell advertising space on their uniforms.  (The Philadelphia Union raked in $3,000,000 last year to put the logo of Bimbo Bakeries on the fronts of their shirts.)  Broadcast fees, once given away for nothing just for the sake of getting the league on national TV, now command tens of millions.  Attendance has surpassed both the NBA and the NHL, bringing with it a unique “only-in-soccer” supporter’s culture that skews toward the young, hip, urbanized crowd potential sponsors crave.  

In a way, that may be David Beckham’s lasting legacy to soccer in the US.  When he came, nobody outside the hardcore football supporter gave a damn about the MLS.  Even American-born football snobs turned their nose at the domestic league, preferring to follow the many European clubs whose matches were becoming increasing available on US satellite TV.  Now, it can truly call itself “Major League Soccer.”  Soccer is now the fifth major sport, and for that, and for that David Beckham deserves some of the credit.

As for his cardboard legacy, most of Beckham’s pre-MLS cards (from his Manchester United, Real Madrid, and England National Team days) were distributed almost exclusively in Europe and are of the sticker and collectible card game variety – mostly produced by Panini and Merlin, Topps’ UK division.  In the early-2000s Upper Deck had a license with Manchester United and produced American-style trading card sets, complete with parallels, inserts, +autographs and game-used cards.  UD has also held MLS’s exclusive trading cards right since the league’s 1996 beginning and have issued simple, no-nonsense, sets with the occasional hit thrown-in.  Beckham’s first Galaxy cards were from the 2007 Upper Deck MLS set – just a base card, a Pitch Perfect insert, and two serial-numbered autographs, one a dual AU with Landon Donovan. Curiously, these would be the only autographs Beckham would sign for Upper Deck.  Unfortunately, perhaps sensing a similar situation with Tiger Woods and 2001 Upper Deck Golf, the product was grossly overproduced.  You can pick up a leftover box for under $20.  

Over the last couple of years, UD has increased the “hit” content in their MLS sets – especially in Hobby packs which typically yield four jersey cards (one of which is usually a dual or a “patch”) and a low-numbered (usually serial-numbered to 35 copies) autograph.  Some of these autographs (especially of former US National Team players) command over $100.  One can only imagine what a David Beckham autograph serial-numbered to 35 could go for.

Perhaps the most bizarre David Beckham card is from a truly bizarre set.  In 2003, Upper Deck released 2002-03 UD Superstars a set that was fully licensed by all four major US sports leagues.  Imagine getting Barry Bonds, Jaromir Jagr, Kobe Bryant, and Brett Favre all in the same pack?  That was the idea behind Superstars.  Beckham himself does not appear in the 300-card base set, but Becks is on two different
“Spokesmen” inserts and on a “Legendary Leaders” dual game jersey with Ichiro.  The Legendary Leaders were supposed to pair-up two players from different sports from the same city.  (In case you’re wondering Manchester is about 4600 miles away from Seattle.)  Ichiro and Becks also appear on two Legendary Leaders triple jerseys: One with Kobe Bryant, the other with Kevin Garnett.