Monday, October 20, 2014

Nostalgic Box Break: 1995 Upper Deck Collector's Choice (Part 2)

We're nine packs into the box, and already I'm enjoying the set. Makes you remember how much effort they put into card sets back then. I couldn't imagine anything like this showing up nowadays.

Anyway, on with the break.

Pack 10- The two front-of-pack inserts include a silver sig of Mike MacFarlane, in a cool catcher's shot. Also, this pack has a rookie card of Joe Randa, one of the better fringe players of the early 2000's.

Cards of two sluggers who would both be on the decline after this season. Joe Carter's the better of the two, and his card has a very cool feel to it, especially with the stadium in the background. Meanwhile, Dante Bichette just has a powerful-looking pose.

Here are a few cool looking sideways cards, featuring Brian Hunter fielding a catch, Kirk McCaskill pitching, and Rich Becker waiting in the dugout.

Pack 11- Three cards that were worth a lot more in 1995. Listach basically stopped functioning after this season, Grieve never went on to be as big as the hype was in 1995, and Bonds...well, you know.

A few really cool shots, including a sliding Spike Owen and Eddie Taubansee picking up his catcher's mask.

Pack 12- Two cards of two very well known Hall of Famers. Brett must have been due to the late news of the slugger's retirement after the 1993 season, and it's meant as a tribute card. Puckett was still leading the leagues two years before his departure from the game, this time in RBI.

A nicely posed shot of Pete Schourek, and a shot of still-technically-a-star-era Jose Canseco. Man, if it weren't for Liar, Liar and that episode of the Simpsons, nobody would remember him.

Two cards of some 80's stars still in the game. Sutcliffe's on the bottom signing autographs, and that's a great shot. However, the standout is Orel Hershiser, who is one of my favorites, as he went to my high school.

Our Crash the Game card is of Manny Ramirez, back then still the slender, likable home run hitter for Cleveland. As per the rules, if Manny hit a home run on the printed date, August 13th 1995, this would be sent and redeemed for some prize of some sort. Unfortunately, Manny hit no such homer- the Indians' only homer against the 2nd-place-Yankees would be from Albert Belle.

Yet not even Manny was the best card in the pack...

Yep. That'd have to be Andre Dawson, in a really cool pre-game shot in Boston. Even with a season or two left in the tank, he still looks awesome, and he still has that commanding presence he had in his younger years.

Pack 13- Two full-bleed shots start the pack. One is a 'final tribute' shot of Ryne Sandberg, who bowed out halfway through the 1994 season due to injuries. Thankfully, he'd be back in 1996 for two more seasons in Cubbie blue. Meanwhile, Bob Hamelin won the Rookie of the Year back in 1994, and UD rewarded him by giving him a nice shot.

Three really nice back-of-the-card sets, which remind me how much I love Upper Deck products.

A bunch of cool front-of-the-card-shots, including Jose Valentin in action, and Mark Whiten hitting one out.

This is sort of a final tribute for Charlie Hough, the somewhat-legendary knuckleballer who was the first huge star in Miami, and was a part of some great rotations in Los Angeles and Arlington. Wish they would have given it the full-bleed treatment, but not complaining.

Pack 14- Meh inserts, save for the really cool drawn one of Mike Piazza.

Left to right- An overpaid, still being overpaid outfielder, a nice shot of a Dodger that nobody remembers, Beavis and/or Butthead.

Hey, what's goin' on Raul? Another You Crash the Game insert. So, did Raul Mondesi hit a home run on July 27th 1995? YES! YES HE DID! In a 9-4 win against Atlanta, Raul hit a home run, as well as essentially batter down Kent Mercker for the majority of the afternoon. Wow. Some kid in 1995 must have gotten something cool.

To follow that victory, here are two guys that will be on the Hall of Fame ballot this January. The guy on the left is likely getting in. The guy on the right is likely going to have to wait a while.

Prior to opening this box, I had no real idea that Jack Morris was a Cincinnati Red. Well, now I have proof, and now I have another great player in an unfamiliar uniform to add to my binder. Plus, on the offside chance that he makes the Hall of Fame soon, this could be worth something.

Pack 15- Base card highlights, including a Colorado Rockie with a name tag, and a sliding Roberto Kelly.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Larry Walker was traded to the Rockies in the offseason. So did Upper Deck evidently, so they made Walker one of the trade-in update set cards.

Pack 16- How's this for a mid-box pull? A semi-rookie card of one of the greatest shortstops ever to play the game. This is pretty nice, especially for a junk-wax era box. Plus, it's a great-looking card. It's like they knew.

A mixture of nice shots, including a double-play ready Chuck Knoblauch, and a ball-bobbling Don Slaught.

A couple of really nice back shots, including William Van Landingham trotting around the base paths in a jacket.

Two borderline Hall of Famers, who would be in opposite uniforms in five years' time. Baines had his shot on the ballot. Raines has been on the ballot for a while, and probably won't get in.

Pack 17- A couple of nice inserts. Larkin's is the silver sig. Yount's is a really nice final tribute. Mondesi's is is NY ROY card.

Some card back shots, including Greg Colbrunn wielding a bat sitting down, and a Primetime Bunt.

Our two highlights include an aging reliever and an up-and-coming Dodgers rookie, who would be the ROY in two years' time.

Pack 18- A nicely drawn fun shot of Griffey.

Photo highlights including Jose Rijo doing his impression of the guy from Raiders of the Lost Ark, John Wetteland, whom John Rocker briefly disguised himself during his three-episode-long stint on Survivor, and Manny Lee charging a slide.

BO! Any card of Bo Jackson is awesome, even if he's at the end of his career.

Well, those are another nine, so we're halfway through. I might get to post some more tomorrow.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Favre Letters

In an interview with NFL Network, former Packers/Jets/Vikings QB Brett Favre, whose record of touchdown passes may be broken today by Peyton Manning, revealed that last season, he was still getting calls from NFL teams that wanted him to play QB for them. Favre, at 44, turned down these offers. However, one might imagine what some of these requests might have looked like had they been in letter form...

Dear Brett,

It's been a few years, but I might as well check in on you. How has retirement been going for you? Still bathing in money?

Nevertheless, I wanted to see about an offer you made back when you were with the team. It was after we'd made it to the NFC Championship against New Orleans, back in 2010. You were on your second or third bottle of champagne, and you were celebrating hard. I'll never forget what you said to me, slumped over one of our middle linebackers. You said, 'Dammit, Rick, I wanna play quarterback 'til I die'.

Well, I wanted to see if that offers still stands. See, we're about to start our first season without Percy Harvin, or anybody with any discernible talent, with the exception of Adrian Peterson. Our two quarterback choices include a rookie who's not reliable, and Matt Cassel.

I want you to be my third option, Brett. Everybody knows you've still got it. Now's your chance to prove it.

Let me know what you think,

Rick Spielman
GM, Minnesota Vikings


Dear Brett,

Mike McCarthy gave me your address. Nice guy, too. Seemed to be intent on bragging about how much my team sucked, and asking if Charles Woodson still had it in him.

Anyway, I know you said you wouldn't come back, and I appreciate that- for someone to be in the league as long as you takes a lot of stamina, will-power, and guts. Unfortunately, ever since Carson Palmer left, we don't have a whole lot of passers who have that. Just nervousness, inexperience, and hatred for me.

I doubt Terrelle Pryor's the answer, and I don't think McGloin can be much better. But I bet you can come off the bench and throw like you did in '95, today. And I want to be the guy that signs you.

The only downside is that, being that it's Oakland, there is a very strong chance that you might end up sucking. But I doubt it'll be anything to worry about.

Think it over, and get back to me.

Reggie McKenzie
GM, Oakland Raiders


Dear Brett,

How the f--k are ya?

It's been too f--kin' long. Seriously. Whenever we hit hard times out here, I always think of you, sitting' in your f--kin' Barca Lounger, thinking 'what's that f--ker up to these days?'

Anyway, my f--kin' GM wanted to send this letter, but I figured, if you wanna do something right, f--kin' do it yourself. So I'd like to personally ask if you'd like to be my Quarterback again this season.

Again, it worked so f--kin' well the last time. We almost made the f--kin' Super Bowl, too. It would have been so much fun, doing all that sh-- with you on my team. Think of the sh-- we can do with you back with us. Besides, I'm f--kin' done with Sanchez. He's a pain in the ass. I might think about dumping him in the f--kin' Delaware River or something. And Geno's not much better.

So, please, Brett. What do you say you come back, and we go eat a goddamn snack?

All the f--kin' best,

Rex F--kin Ryan
Head Coach, New York F--kin Jets


Dear Brett,



Michael Lombardi,
GM, Cleveland Browns

(attached to this letter was a $100 bill)


Dear Brett,



Mike McCarthy
Head Coach, Green Bay Packers.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Nostalgic Box Break: 1995 Upper Deck Collector's Choice (Part 1)

My gosh, how I love the 1990's. Especially in terms of cardboard. I think that some of the most unique card sets came out during the 90's. I've already broken enough Stadium Club boxes to reaffirm that point, but I feel like I should draw attention to some other products, especially non-Stadium Club.

1995 Collector's Choice, or the Collector's Choice brand on the whole, is a prime example of how awesome 90's products were. Keep in mind, this brand was partially geared towards kids, which is an area Topps had a lot of problems, and still does have problems, relating to. The reason CC succeeds, is that not only does this set work as a kid-centric, but it works as a collectable, fun, rippable set. I enjoyed ripping this box, and I enjoyed the degree of photography. Plus, since it's Upper Deck, there are awesome photos on the front AND back.

Unlike the last few breaks, I'm not going to post every card from every pack. I'll be focusing on inserts, star cards, cards that would have been important in 1995, and really awesome photography.

So what are we waiting for? Let's begin.

Pack 1- Okay, just so you all know what to expect here, every pack has 12 cards, and starts out with three inserts. The first insert is printed with a silver/gold signature. The rookies also pop up in the first three cards, as well as the Best of the 90's ones, featuring Cecil Fielder, who would not be the best of the late 90's.

Also included in the first three cards are a full-bleed Award-Winner card, celebrating All Stars, MVP, ROY, Cy Young, etc. Frank Thomas is the one we pulled here, fresh off his 1994 MVP win.

The other nine cards are base cards, with a very sleek, and very 90's design. Our highlights include a card of Jim Abbott, who would be traded to the White Sox soon after this, an awesome photo of Marquis Grissom sliding, Brian Jordan gutting a hug, Tony Fernandez on a cool slide card, and an awesome-looking Mo Vaughn.

Pack 2- Our silver sig is of a very casual looking Brian Williams, who you can see on NBC Nightly News every monday-thursday. Meanwhile, reaffirming the hidden fact that this is a Padres hot-pack, Raul Casanova is our Future Foundation insert, which is a very cool design with a sharper photo.

Meanwhile, this is something pretty damn close to a Ray Durham rookie, which is nice, because he would end up being a decent enough player.

Here are the best photos of the pack. They include a shot of Darren Oliver, a full 1/16th of the way through his career, a nice sideways shot of Steve Avery, the dreaded fourth man in the Atlanta rotation, and a cool congratulatory shot of Tim Salmon.

To give you an idea of what the backs look like, this is Tim Wallach's card. Yes, the card backs vary by length of career. So Bob Hamelin's back photo is larger than, say, Ozzie Smith's, because Smith has been playing longer, and needs more room for stats. I wish more sets would do that, giving full stats.

I feel like they knew that Pedro Martinez was going to be a star, because this is a great card of him. Also, he was coming off a really nice 1994 season, which, if there wasn't a strike, may have ended in a Cy Young bid for Pedro. This shot is really nice, but on the back...

You have a shot of him batting, which is a rarity on a pitcher's card. Really cool.

However, I heard, before I ripped this box, that there was one particular card that I should be looking for. A card so cool, so pricey, and so monumental that I would know it when I'd see it.

...what's this?


('I believe I can fly' starts playing in the background')

My gosh. A card so...epic, so grand, that it totally erases the fact that Michael Jordan was a sucky baseball player. Jeez, that may be one of the greatest shots I've seen in a while, especially out of Collector's Choice. I mean...WOW.

I mean, can this box get any better?

"...only one way to find out..."

Pack 3- Our two underwhelming inserts- Yorkis Perez and Dave Stevens.

Four really, really nice shots. Joe Girardi's is a shot of a Cubs player caught in a rundown. Stottlemeyer's is a cool pitcher shot. Pat Mahomes looks really cool in full 90's BP mode. And Jeffrey Hammonds' has a nice swing shot.

Our two highlights. Sammy Sosa's is a really nice shot, even as he hadn't become a huge, mega-star yet. Biggio's is a really nice shot of the impact. I still think Craig Biggio is a Hall of Famer.

Pack 4- Three odd inserts. Juan Acevedo never really made it, but the card is so cool that he should have. Bagwell's silver sig is on a checklist, which is odd, because you wouldn't think of a checklist having a signature on it. Juan Gonzalez just looks like a badass here, in his Rangers graphic tee, Freddie Mercury mustache, and bat in the shot.

Two really nice shots. One is of Greg Vaughn, one of the oddest ever inclusions in any Backyard Baseball installment, adjusting his eye-black, which is nice. Meanwhile, Luis Polonia, on his second stint with the Yankees, and his first stint to not infuriate Yankees fans, has a cool post-slide shot.

Greg Vaughn's card-back has a nice shot too, of Vaughn in full on Catcher's gear, warming up a pitcher, which is pretty nice.

Thankfully, this pack has a hall of famed in it, and a really cool shot of one at that. Barry Larkin is seen here impressively sliding home, which is cool. I like how wide they zoomed this one out. Today, Topps would zoom this in too much, and it wouldn't be as cool.

Pack 5- With the exception of Jeff Blauser, this pack's inserts are pretty awesome. First of all, they made a card to commemorate the Hall of Fame induction of Mike Schmidt, one of my all-time favorite Phillies. Also, they made it a point to give Jeff Bagwell a nice casual shot for his MVP card.

Our lone photographical highlights. Jeff Brantley is sitting down in the dugout, looking cool. Very poignant shot, maybe even emotional. Additionally, we have a shot of Frank Viola, a few seasons gone from his awesome years, pitching for the Red Sox.

Pack 6- Some pretty sucky inserts. Thankfully, I've heard of Armando Benitez, and at least think that's an okay hit.

This is a cool shot of Alex Fernandez, congratulating people upon want I presume is a win, though you never know, as it looks like they're giving some Yankees.

A couple cards where the back photo is better than the front one. Delino DeShields is high-fiving some fans, and signing autographs, probably in Spring Training. Meanwhile, Kenny Rogers is pitching in a wider, cooler shot.

This was my favorite card-back photo, though. Not only is because he's Andres Galarraga, but it's because he's got a huge-lensed camera, and looks like he's having a lot of fun with it. That's what I love about Collector's Choice- a lot of shots of players having fun.

Pack 7- FOUR HALL OF FAMERS, TWO CARDS! The first one has Cal Ripken, showing a consecutive games record that would likely be topped by the end of the season. Any sideways Cal shot is a good one, because he's awesome. Right below him as Yount, Brett and Winfield in a little inset. Plus, that card has Yount's and Brett's silver sig.

Two people in opposite directions. Carl Everett is just getting good, while Jack McDowell is done being an elite pitcher. Thankfully, both these shots are pretty good. I forgot McDowell was a Yankee.

I love this shot, because it's a really, really nice throwback, and also it's a simple posed shot. And this may be the first time I've enjoyed a Reggie Sanders card.

This is an interesting concept. You see, in the offseason David Cone had been traded to Toronto, which UD knew about. So they took a Royals photo of him, and teased their Update set, saying 'hey, if you want to see this guy in a Blue Jays or Yankees jersey, send this card in, and collect the other three and send them in too.' Interesting idea, not sure if it paid off or not.

Pack 8- Slightly better inserts, including a Garrett Anderson rookie, and a nice shot of Pete Harnisch signing something.

A smattering of different shots, including a reminder that Luis Gonzalez was not only thin once, but with the Astros. Alex Cole is being interviewed. Wonder if the interviewer wants to know how bad the Twins are sucking. Robby Thompson is trying his hardest to prevent a Phillies player from advancing.

This was Dave Stewart's last season, and he'd spend it back in Oakland, though not as hot as he was in the late 80's. Still, you always had this awesome shot of him to remember him by. Dave Stewart- professional badass.

Pack 9- STEROID BREAK! That is all.

A couple of nice shots, featuring Rick Helling and Chuck Finley in some sweet throwbacks, the manager of the White Sox, and Tony Tarasco...doing something at the dugout.

This shot of Mike Kingery is probably the coolest in the pack.

FINALLY! Nine Packs in and we FINALLY get a You Crash the Game insert. And it's of should-be Hall of Famer Fred McGriff. If you don't know how this works, they give you a date on the card (in this case, August 25th 1995), and show McGriff. Now, if McGriff hit a home run on August 25th, 1995, then people would send this card in and get some sort of prize or something. According to Baseball, McGriff did not hit a homer that day, though the Braves won.

I will continue the break throughout the week, as this is such a fun set.