Thursday, November 20, 2014

My Reference Cards #8 - 2000 E-X and Finest

2000 E-X (a Fleer product) and Finest (from Topps) are both higher-end sets that I typically don't buy a lot of. Therefore, my collection is pretty weak in this area.

2000 E-X

Fleer had the E-X brand (with a few name changes) from 1997 (when it was called E-X 2000) until 2004. In the early years the cards were printed on plastic but by 2000, the cards were printed on more conventional white card stock.

The cards feature a hard glossy finish. Although it's hard to tell in the scan, the colored sections on the front are refractive. The center of the card is, I think, meant to be evocative of the days when the cards were printed on plastic. The backs are rather plain featuring a reverse of the front photo, again evocative of the plastic days when you could see the front photo through the back of the card. I have exactly three cards from this 90-card set. This one and another I pulled from repacks. Coincidentally, in 2000, a 3-card pack sold for $3.99. Pretty pricey.  The other card I have is this Biggio card I got in a trade.
There weren't a lot of inserts in this set. Of the 90 cards, the last 30 are prospects, serial numbered to 3,499.

There was a 15-card set called E-Xceptional, which came in three flavors, Blue (numbered to 250), Green (numbered to 999) and Red (numbered to 1999). I don't have any of those.

2000 E-X E-Xciting
This 10-card set was inserted 1:24 packs. The cards are die-cut in roughly the shape of a tee-shirt and have a similar finish to the base cards. The printing on the front is gold foil stamping. I only have this one which I paid $2.50 for in eBay in 2005.

2000 E-X Generation E-X
A 15-card set with a similar finish, only with silver foil on the front. I paid $3.00 for this card in 2004. The set features young, up-coming players. As to the predictions on this card, the closest Burrell came to hitting .300 was in 2002, when he hit .282. He finished his career with a .253 average. He did hit 30 or more home runs in 3 years, finishing with a respectful 292 dingers.

2000 E-X Genuine Coverage
Relic cards were still pretty rare in 2000. This 10-card set was inserted 1:144 packs. It would have been a tough pull, especially at $3.99 a pack. I paid $2.50 for this at a card chow in 2010.

OK, let's shift gears.

2000 Finest

Topps introduced Finest in 1993 and it caused quite a stir in the hobby. A super glossy card with weird backgrounds, the set still exists today with much the same formula. These cards have always been hard to get for me since they usually are only available in hobby shops. In the early days I could always score a pack or two, but I haven't had easy access to a card store in 10 years. Consequently I don't buy much of this product, and most of what I have is stuff I specifically targeted on eBay. Here's what the 2000 version looked like.

Since I have 35 cards from the 286-card set, I probably bought a few packs back in the day. 6-card packs went for $4.99 so they were a little cheaper than the E-X cards.

2000 Finest Refractor
Refractors were also introduced in 1993. In 2000, they were inserted 1:24 packs. I paid $4.99 for the Bagwell on eBay on 2000. 

In 1993, insert cards, in general, were rare and 1993 Finest didn't have any. By 2000, there were 5 inserts, including a autographed card.

2000 Finest Ballpark Bounties
This is a 30-card set inserted 1:24. I don't know where I got this but I probably pulled it from a pack. It's the only one I have. I thought this card was kind of purple because Helton was a Rockie, but looking at some images on Beckett.com I see they're all purple.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Random Cards From My Collection #67

I'm sorry for the lack of posts lately. I've gotten involved in a non-baseball card Project which is taking a lot of my time.  Here are some random cards so people don't think I've gone dark.

Card #23538
1998 Pinnacle #22 Darryl Kile
Comments on the card/player: Kile actually played for the Rockies in 1998. He was a free agent after the 1997 season with the Astros and signed a 2-year, $14MM contract with the Rockies. The thin air at Coors Field didn't agree with him and he had the worst 2 years of his career, going 21-30. He lost a league high 17 games in 1998. This was also the last year for Pinnacle before being revived by Panini.
How/When acquired: Don't know.

Card #31420
2012 Topps Gold Standard #10 Reggie Jackson

Comments on the card/player: This was a 50-card insert set in Topps that I never really much cared for. It's a card that's clearly designed for a relic and/or auto and looks dumb without the relic and/or auto.
How/When acquired: Paid $0.20/card for a hanger box of Topps in February 2012.

Card #10847
1987 K-mart #15 Steve Carlton

Comments on the card/player: The first Kmart store opened on March 1, 1962 in Garden City Michigan, so this 33-card set commemorates the 25th anniversary of K-Mart. In 1987 I believe that Sears and Kmart were the 1 and 2 largest retail stores in the US. In 2004, Kmart bought Sears and today, the combined company is the 16th largest retailer in the US.
How/When acquired: I actually have two copies of this card, both acquired in trade with fellow bloggers.

Card #10005
2008 Topps #532 Tim Lahey

Comments on the card/player: Lahey was the Twins 20th round draft pick in 2004. He never appeared in the major leagues and his minor league stats shows he spent 7 years in the Twins minor league system. So why is he in a Phillies uniform on this card? After the 2007 season, Lahey was selected by the Rays in the Rule 5 draft and then traded to the Cubs for cash. He was waived by the Cubs in March and picked up by the Phillies. He actually was on the Phillies opening day roster in 2008 but was designated for assignment on April 5 without appearing in a game. He was the offered back to the Twins who took him. Whew!
How/When acquired: I paid $0.15/card for a blaster of Topps in March 2008.

Card #9421
1986 Topps #302 Greg Gross
Comments on the card/player: Gross was in the 14th of his 17-year career in 1986. He'd been with the Phillies since 1979. As an outfielder he had a tough time getting playing time when the Phillies outfield consisted of guys like Greg Luzinski, Bake McBride, Garry Matthews and Lonnie Smith. In 1986 he only appeared in 87 games with 101 at bats, hitting .248
How/When acquired: Don't know.

Card #23316
1996 Fleer #406 Tony Eusebio
Comments on the card/player: The random wheel is turning up a lot of Phillies and Astros this post. 1996 Fleer was an odd card. In an era when all cards were glossy, Fleer went with a very thin white card stock with no gloss, front or back. But they did go with gold foil stamping like everyone else.
How/When acquired: Don't know.

Card# 37980
1990 Upper Deck #558 Mike Fitzgerald

Comments on the card/player: Fitzgerald was mainly a catcher, playing 748 of his 797 games behind the plate. He occasionally played 1st, 2nd and 3rd base and this looks like he's taking infield practice. I like the back photo with him in catching position, with no catching gear, and blowing a bubble.
How/When acquired: Paid $0.04 for 100-card Fairfield repack in January 2013.

Card #2368
1995 Leaf #1 Frank Thomas

Comments on the card/player: The Big Hurt was a formidable ball player in the 1990s. In 1995 he hit .308 with 40 home runs. He walked a league high 136 times while only striking out 76 times.
How/When acquired: Don't know.

Card #17880
2010 Bowman Topps 100 Prospects #90 Anthony Gose

Comments on the card/player: Gose was the Phillies #2 pick in 2008 but never played for them. He was part of the trade with the Astros that brought Roy Oswalt to the Phillies in 2010. The Astros immediately traded him to the Blue Jays for Brett Wallace. After three mediocre years with the Jays, they traded him to the Tigers for a minor league player.
How/When acquired: Paid $0.27/card for 6 20-card rack packs of Bowman in June 2010.

Card #34351
1992 Upper Deck #796 Butch Henry

Comments on the card/player: Henry was the 16th round pick of the Reds in 1987. In 1990 he was part of the deal with the Astros that sent Bill Doran to the Reds. He was 6-9 for the 1992 Astros before being picked by the Rockies in the 1992 Expansion Draft.
How/When acquired: Don't know.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Movie Review - Interstellar

I don't really like to post two movie reviews in a week but we went to see Interstellar Monday and I want to write something while it's still fresh in my mind.
Since the movie just opened last week, I'll try to keep the spoilers at a minimum. I will say that the movie when viewed is not the movie as presented in the trailers.

The story takes place in the near future. The Earth is dying for unspecified reasons. Or maybe it's just that the Earth is tired of us humans messing up the place like ungrateful house guests and is emptying the fridge and refusing to buy anymore beer.  Perhaps it's time to move on.

Cooper, usually called Coop (Mathew McConaughey), seems to be a poor dirt farmer somewhere where they grow corn and all the roads are dirt roads. It's damn dusty all the time. Could be the 1930's Dust Bowl, but he's got satellite guided tractors.  And he's a former NASA pilot.

By means that are too complicated to explain, Coop finds a secret NASA base within driving distance of his house. NASA is housed in a secret base because with all the other problems going on (like nobody's got enough to eat), flying space missions isn't a high priority anymore. But this base seems to have plenty of funding. In fact they are planning to fly a mission through a worm hole that's appeared near Saturn. They've already flown several missions through it and know that there are planets on the other side (in another galaxy) which may hold promise as the future home of humanity. The purpose of the mission is to confirm the earlier findings. And since Coop used to be the best pilot NASA had, would he please pilot the ship. This much you can figure out from the trailers.

The rest of the movie is a pretty good science fiction spectacle which doesn't rely on energy beam weapons and planets blowing up. Black holes, relativity, gravity, giant tidal waves and lengthy speculations on the meaning of it all are involved. And as McConaughey and Anne Hathaway have pointed out on numerous talk shows the movie is also about the love of a father for his daughter (although that is not at all apparent from the trailers).

My daughter and I enjoyed it immensely even though there are certainly problems with it. But most of the problems are of a science fictional universe type of problem. There are some characterization problems as well. For example, Coop's 10-year-old daughter, Murphy (who names their daughter Murphy?), who wouldn't say good-bye to Daddy when he left, seems to nurse a hatred for her father against all that she should have learned about his mission as she grows to adulthood.

One of the science fiction problems is a time-loop which would involve too many spoilers to explain. Read some of the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes if you want more info. If you get too bent out of shape by such things you probably shouldn't be watching science fiction movies. Neil Degrasse Tyson didn't have too much trouble with it. When confronted with a problem like this I remember what Old Joe told Young Joe in the movie "Looper". "I don't want to talk about time travel because if we start talking about it then we're going to be here all day talking about it, making diagrams with straws."

As to the acting. I don't much like McConaughey as an actor, although I guess he's alright in this. Anne Hathaway, who plays a mission scientist named Brand, spends too much time acting like a woman in a Christopher Nolan movie that a scientist, does the best she can with some pretty dopey lines. Michael Caine, who plays her father, Professor Brand, pretty much plays a straight Michale Caine. John Lithgow is Coop's father-in-law, has only aphorism to add to the movie. But the movie isn't really (no matter what they said on the talk shows) about acting, it's about flying a giant spinning space ship through a worm hole, although the second half of the movie had my daughter in tears, so what do I know?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

My Reference Cards #7 - 2000 Crown Royale

2000 saw the third and last issue of Crown Royale. This 144-card set was produced by Pacific Trading Cards. Like just about every other card producer at the time, Pacific kept busy churning out an ever changing line-up of sets. But this was pretty much their last gasp. There would only be 2 baseball sets in 2001, and then Pacific will disappear from the baseball card market.

All three years of Crown Royale were pretty much the same. The card was elaborately die-cut into the shape of a crown and pretty much covered in gold foil. There were no sub-set cards with the exception of rookie cards.

2000 Crown Royale #22 Nomar Garciaparra
I have very few of these cards. This one I got in a Fairfield repack in 2009 for about $0.07/card.

2000 Crown Royale #58 Brad Penny
As you can see, the Rookie cards have silver foil stamping. The 25 rookie cards are short-printed but not serial numbered. This card also came out of a Fairfield repack for about $0.06/card in 2007.

There are 4 parallel sets: Limited (serial numbered to 144); Platinum Blue (serial numbered to 35); Premiere Date (serial numbered to 121) and Red. The Red cards are the retail version of the gold-foiled hobby set.

2000 Crown Royale Red #93 Roger Clemens
The crown is just red, not foil stamped. This card I paid $1.16 for on eBay in 2005.

2000 Crown Royale Card-Supials

This may be the oddest idea for an insert set ever.

What's so odd about this you ask? On the front, the portion of the card that says "Card-Supial" is actually a little pouch. You know, like how kangaroos (classified as marsupials) have pouches. In the pouch was this postage-sized card.

How Pacific came up with this paring is beyond me. I also have the Scott Rolen card from this set. The mini card is Ruben Mateo. Why? Why? Why? This card and it's little buddy came in a repack in 2009.

2000 Crown Royale Feature Attractions #21 Alex Rodriguez
This 25-card set was inserted into every hobby pack and every other retail pack. Individual cards would not have been hard to come by. I was deliberately search for this insert set on eBay and came up with this card in July 2005 for $3.99. The card is graded at 9.0 and is slabbed.

There are several other inserts including a bunch of cards labeled "Cramer's Choice". The Cramer's Choice cards are oversized box toppers. I have some from an earlier year of Crown Royale but not any for 2000.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Movie Review - Gone Girl

I haven't done a movie review in awhile.

We saw the trailers for this movie and I wanted to see it but neither my wife nor my daughter were interested. Finally, I said to myself, "Remember you're a retired guy now, you can go to the movies whenever you want". "That's right!" I replied. So last Tuesday at 11:25 AM I was at the local Cinemark showing of "Gone Girl". Two advantages of going to the movies at 11:25 in the morning is that the price is lower, $5.25 for a ticket, and the theater isn't crowded.

I'm a bit late with this review. "Gone Girl" has been out for a few weeks so you've probably already seen it. But in case you haven't, there is a massive spoiler near the end of my review.

The central plot is easy to state. Man finds his wife missing from their home. There appears to have been a destructive struggle in the house. Man calls police. Police detective immediately starts noticing little clues in the house. What looks like trace blood splatter in the kitchen. Signs of a struggle that look staged. An envelope in the husband's office, labeled "Clue One".

Eventually, Detective Boney (Kim Dickens) begins to suspect murder with husband Nick (Ben Afflect) as the prime suspect. As the story moves forward, punctuated with on-screen lettering laying out the time line (Gone 1 Day), we get flashbacks of early days of their courtship and married life, using the technique of showing wife Amy (Rosemund Pike) writing in her journal.

Since Amy was a beautiful woman (in fact, a beautiful blond white woman), a media craze starts almost immediately. News trucks and reporters are staked out in front of Nick's house at all hours. The case soon attracts the attention of a Nancy Grace-like television show, where Nick is castigated every day. Nick turns to hot-shot attorney Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry) for help. Blot has the reputation of successfully defending white wife killers.  Things start to spiral out of Nick's control.

On one level, this seems like a simple murder mystery. On the other hand, too many things don't add up for Detective Boney. Which is why, even though urged by her partner, she puts off arresting Nick. Nick starts looking at some past boyfriends of Amy's and finds a disturbing pattern of Amy ending these past relationships because of some violent event. She accused one guy of rape and the only way he avoided prison was to plead to a lesser charge of sexual assault. 

I liked all the actors in this. Ben Afflect, at first appearing to just be a regular guy who is worried about his missing wife, is slowly revealed to have is own hidden misdeeds, like a much younger than himself mistress he's kept secret for over a year. I'm not too familiar with Rosemund Pike, in fact the only movie I've ever seen her in is the wretched "Wrath of the Titans" in which she played Andromeda, a performance I don't remember at all. In the revelations from Amy's diary we see her as a sweet lovely woman, doing all she can to make her husband happy.

It's time for the MASSIVE SPOILER.

As Amy's diary gets closer to current time, we learn that, not only isn't she dead, she'd spent about a year preparing to frame Nick for her murder. We see her making 7 years worth of diary entries, showing how wonderful the early years were with Nick but gradually changing to show Nick as a alcoholic abuser. Reading mystery books and taking notes. Befriending a woman down the street, a woman who eventually describes herself as Amy's best friend to the police. A woman who Nick only knew as some woman down the street. When Amy is on the run she appears to be more and more psychotic, at one point, hitting herself in the face with a hammer to support her claim to people that she met that her husband abused her. Pike was quite effective, and a bit scary, as the mild-mannered sweet woman from her diary and the crazy woman who wants her husband put away for a murder that didn't even occur. In the end she becomes a stone-cold killer who can still project a sweet exterior to others.

I don't have any idea of how the movie compares to the book but I intend to read the book.