Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Through The Mail Success - Mike McKenna

For the last couple of weeks I've been kicking around the idea of jumpstarting my through the mail efforts. You may have noticed that along the sidebar I've added a request's over there on the left, nope further down, keep going, there ya go!

However, I wasn't sure how I was going to attack it. Who should I send them to? What should I say? How much is this going to end up costing me? Well I think I've stumbled across a half-baked plan. Why not get an autograph of everyone who has donned a Tampa Bay Lightning uniform? Several folks are doing the same thing with various teams, but as of right now no one has targeted the Lightning.

I also have a bit of a headstart thanks to college. My friend and roommate was a big hockey fan and we thought nothing of skipping a morning class to head down to the Ice Palace and catch the players before the morning skate. We didn't have much competition in those days, maybe 5 other people standing around with the same idea.

Almost every player and coach was more than willing to sign, except for a certain "Great One", but that's a whole different story for another day. So I amassed a nice collection of signatures from the then current Lightning and a surprising number of future Lightning players.

With this in mind I sent out my first Lightning targeted request last week. I sent it to former Tampa netminder Mike McKenna. McKenna is a U.S. born goalie who had a brief run (15 games, 4 wins) with the Lightning last season when the team was decimated by injuries in the net.

I was surprised to see him return the card, signed within a week. It was sitting in my mailbox Monday afternoon. I guess he doesn't get many requests.

McKenna, 27, has bounced around the minor leagues since he turned pro in 2005-06. He is currently playing for Lowell in New Jersey's farm system, but has seen time in the net at Norfolk, Portland, Omaha, Milwaukee and Las Vegas.

He was drafted by Nashville in the 6th round of the 2002 draft (11 picks ahead of Paul Ranger) and has spent the time since trying to crack an NHL roster. His stint with the Bolts remains his only NHL time.

A St. Louis native, McKenna is a man of many interests. He graduated from St Lawerence University with a degree in economics and is a fan of Scandanavian Thrash Metal. He is also an occaisonal "Tweeter" who can be found tweeting about life in the minors at

He signed his name and added his Tampa Bay jersey number (30) in black Sharpie across the 2009-10 UD Victory Rookie card I sent. It was my fault that I didn't prep the glossy card before sending it to him so the signature is a little spotty.

Thank you for signing and returning the card Mike. Here's hoping next season finds you between the pipes in an NHL areana!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Champ is here! The champ is here! The Wasteland Breaks a Box of Cards *Now with Sexy Update!

I haven’t broken box on this site for quite some time. Finances are a major reason for that. After all, it’s hard to justify dropping $75-$100 on a box of cards when there are bills to pay and no money coming in. However, thanks to some shrewd dealing on eBay and people willing to pay top dollar for gimmick cards I was able to pick up one box of 2009-10 UD Champs.

I stayed away from this product last year because of the price point. If I remember correctly my local shop had them for $4.00 a pack. In that pack you get 5 cards, two of them of the mini variety. Collecting the entire set through packs would be next to impossible.

This year I saw a box on Dave and Adams for under $70 and armed with a $5.00 coupon I copied from someone’s Beckett I made my purchase (paypal is a wonderful thing). Five days later the UPS guy dropped it off and I got to rippin’. One box, 20 packs, 5 cards (on average) per pack.

Here are the results along with the odds of pulling according to the back of the wrapper.

Base Cards:

48 cards, no doubles, one Lightning, no Vincent Lecavalier.

As usual I didn’t pull any Vinny cards. I think this makes 5 boxes in a row without a card of the Lightning captain. Regardless of that I do enjoy the base cards. There is a nice mix of the usual veterans and today’s stars.

The faded, blue background frames the action shots nicely giving the cards a portrait-like feeling. I do get a kick out of the “EST. 2008” below the photo. It reminds me of the local sub shop that has been serving the neighborhood since “2002”. I guess you have to start somewhere.

There is 100 cards in the base set and it looks like you get about ½ of that amount in one box. It’s a good start, but still tough for set builders to put this together without spending a lot of money.

Without a glossy front these cards would be perfect for sending through the mail for autographs, something that I will probably do once I move to my new location.

Colored Parallels:

Green 1:4, Red 1:10, Yellow 1:20

I received 5 green parallels, 2 reds, and 2 yellows. So in that sense I beat the odds, woo-hoo!. The colors aren’t too garish and will make a nice, and not too difficult to collect rainbow for player collectors.


Usually they come two to a pack and are not parallels of the base card. They feature a different photo and design.

Mini Rookies:

Again I hit the box average as I pulled 5 rookies with the best being Atlanta’s Evander Kane. Nice close-ups and solid gold borders make these attractive cards to collect.

Mini different color packs

Red 1:20, Blue 1:80, Green 1:160, Parkhurst 1:320

Because even the mini’s need parallel versions I guess. This is an example of where card companies have gone a little too far with a concept. Is there any need for having 4 different variations of a subset? I think not. I had one red back (which actually looks more orange than red).

Mini Subsets

1:2 Wonders of the World/ Natural History/ Historical Figures

I pulled 10 of these cards, so again I was right on the box odds. To break it down further I received 2 wonders of the word (Lighthouse of Alexandria, Aurora), 4 Natural History Collection (Gros Morne National Park, Dinosaur Provincial Park, Richardoestesia, Western Red Lilly) and 4 Historical Figures (Sir Mackenzie Bowell, James K Polk, Harry Truman, Franklin Delano Roosevelt).

Nice cards, but nothing that I would feel the need to chase.


Each box boasts 4 hits (on card autos or relics), but the back of the pack lists the odds at 1:7 which means there are probably boxes out there with only three hits. Luckily for me I did get the four hits.


Tim Kennedy

Mini Relics

Daniel Alfredsson, Dion Phaneuf, Derick Brassard

Apparently, my box fell in the “d” line of relic sorting. At least they are three different colors, if I had gotten three plain white relics I would have been a little disappointed. They do make a nice red, white and blue theme. Go America!

Final thoughts

The fact that you get four hits per box is the saving grace, anything less and this would be drastically overpriced. It will be interesting to see if the price goes up or down as time goes by. It would be nice if Upper Deck dropped one of the minis in the pack and added another base card.

I would recommend that set collectors wait till the collated sets start showing up on the secondary market, collecting pack by pack will kill your budget. Player collectors should enjoy the chase of completing the rainbow, and while the hits aren’t big budget multi swatches, at least you get the joy of seeing something every 5 packs or so.

On card autos are always appreciated and the card design features is nicely. The base cards lend themselves nicely to getting in person autos or through the mail autos. The rookies look nice, but I wonder how they’ll sell since they are mini’s and not full size cards.

All inserts are for trade, if you’re collecting the mini’s let me know which ones you need and I’ll see if I can send some your way.

Overall I rate this product a second line center. It scores well, but has room for improvement.

* Update!

So upon further review I didn't beat the odds on the yellow parallel borders. In fact, I only received one. The other yellow card was a Yellow ANIMAL ICON parallel seeded 1:80 packs.

See it has animals on it! Ain't they the cutest? So that means I did just a tad bit better on the box than I intially thought. This card is going up on eBay (hey I gots to make money!)

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Blog is Dead, Long Live the Blog!

A couple of posts ago I teased that there was big news coming down the pike. Now, while I might have exaggerated the effect it has on your day-to-day life, it will definitely change the things I’m doing (and not doing).

For the second time in a year I’m going back to work after having a period of unemployment, or as my family liked to call it “funemployment”. The big difference this time is that my new job isn’t going to be in my second bedroom/office. It is, in fact, not even in this town, or even in this state.

As of April 9th, 2010 I will leave the fun and sun of Florida for the wind and thrills of the big city. Or as they like to call it – “The City of the Big Shoulders” – Chicago.

My better half and I have talked about leaving Florida for along time. She’s lived here her entire life and I’ve spent the better part of the last decade and a half in the Sunshine State. Whenever we’ve talked about moving certain cities have always come up. Honolulu, Seattle, Portland and Chicago were what we called “type A” cities – the ones we focused on.

Thanks to the recent downturn in the economy I was given an involuntary sabbatical and used that time to figure out what I wanted to be when I got older. Alas, I didn’t find the answer that question - probably because I spent a large amount of that free time at the pool. I did eventually find a job in the industry in which I’ve been working for the past decade.

So what does this mean for you my loyal readers (hi mom and dad!)

It means that I’ll no longer be continuing this web site (I’ll give you a moment to recover). Since I’ll no longer be living in the area I won’t be able to report on the trials and tribulations of being a sports fan in a sports wasteland.

I’ll also be crashing on friends couch so that means I won’t have access to my vast collection of mostly useless pieces of cardboard. So my trading will be down. I think I’ll take a shoebox of cards with me to sell on the Bay, or to finish up some trades that I have pending.

The wantlist will be transferred to the new site, so if you see something on there that you want to get rid of, contact me and we’ll work something out. I have a healthy balance in my Paypal account (thanks “Pie in the Face” gimmicks!) so I’ll keep adding to my personal collection.

That’s right I mentioned a new website. The new website will be called The Hopeful Chase, a phrase I borrowed from an interview with Dick Perez that was posted on The Hall of Very Good (and reposted on Magic Carpet Ride Mojo and Beardy’s or whatever they call their blog).

To me the phrase pretty much sums up the way I collect cards, always chasing the perfect card, hoping it’s in the next pack I bust or envelope that’s in the mail. It also sums up the way I live life, much to the chagrin of my better half and my parents. The move to Chicago is a hopeful chase of the joy of living somewhere else. Traveling to foreign countries is a hopeful chase of seeing the world through other people’s eyes. Drinking a new beer is the hopeful chase of finding the greatest liquid refreshment in the world.

All of those things will be discussed on the new site along with whatever cards I happen to pick up and the adventures of the teams I follow. I will be diminishing my focus on the Rays, even more than I have recently. It’s almost like I’m divorcing myself from the team to contain the heartbreak of that day next winter when Carl Crawford is no longer with the team. I will continue to focus on him in my personal collection, up to the moment he puts on pinstripes or Boston gray. If he signs with any other team I’ll still get his cards, but if he goes to either one of those teams look for a sale on Crawford cards.

Besides, I was never that good with writing about the Rays, The Collective Troll always did it better – and more often. Check out his contest while you're at it. Even the ever reclusive Dave over at Fielders Choicehas written more about the Rays in the last few months.

It will be a big change, the hardest part being apart from my better half for the next year or so. So, hopefully, the blog will be therapeutic as well as informational.

I’ll probably post a few more times here before moving over to the new site next month. So feel free to update your sites and all that jazz. Thank you to all of those who have added this site to their weblogs and have read my often rambling, unedited, pointless posts.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hope is a Waking Dream

As the season winds to a close the sense of dissillusionment and meloncoly percolates among Lightning fans. Just a month ago the playoffs were a distinct possibility and excitment was building in the cool Tampa air.

Fast forward to the present day where the losses are piling up on a nightly basis and the faintest of hopes are fading into the night. I'll save a few review of the season for a future columnm, for now I'll just post some reminders of why there is a reason to have hope.

1.Steven Stamkos from the left circle.

2. Victor Hedman skating effortlessly through the neutral zone with puck

3. Vincent Lecavalier injury free and contract-worry free

4. An owner with cash, not like these two.

5. It’s not 1998-99. I give you these notable names from the roster a decade ago:
Colin Forbes, Sergey Gusev, David Wilkie, Mike McBain, Steve Kelly, Drew Bannister, Karel Betik, Corey Spring, Xavier Delisle, Mario Larocque, Jason Bonsignore and Zac Bierk.


Dustin Tokarski in the net.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Beauty of Florida Afternoons in the Spring

It’s time to dust off the keyboard and get back on track. After a two week break I feel like posting again. With the weather finally warming in the TBA, thoughts are turning away from the ice rinks and towards the ball fields. The recent, dismal play of the Lightning also leads ones attention to the hope eternal that Spring Training provides.

In that vein I took a little trip to Sarasota last week. Being unemployed does tend to give one time to take little excursions like this. So into the Mini Cooper I hopped and drove across the Big Bridge. Guided by Mapquest (and delayed momentarily by my inability to discern left from right) I found myself at the new home of the Baltimore Orioles – Ed Smith Stadium.

I joined as assorted band of retirees, vacationers, young kids and work-dodgers for a 1.05pm tilt between the O’s and the Rays. Despite it being an official home game for the Baltimore nine, the crowd was decidedly pulling for the boys in blue.

The O’s fielded a team of minor leaguers and on the bubble veterans while the Rays went with what should evolve into their starting nine. Young Chris Tillman took the mound against Jeff Neimann in a battle of future aces for the two second tier American League East clubs.

I lasted until the 6th inning, having to leave early to beat traffic at the home front. However, I did stay long enough to snap a few pictures.

Hey Tom Foley – How goes it?

The Once and Future Shortstop?

Jim Palmer, the Hall of Fame PITCHER, discusses the finer parts of HITTING with Papa Joe Maddon and Dave Martinez.

"Cakes" still has it. Actually, I think he bounced this one in.

Evan Longoria awaits a pitch. He would rip the next one into the gap for a run scoring double.

Cla Merideth delivers one from the side.

Longo had a good day in the field as well, making a nice play on an attempted bunt by rookie (and recently demoted) outfielder Matt Angle.

BJ Upton dives back into the bag on an attempted pick off.

The Orioles were unsuccessful in their quest for victory. I, however, was successful in my quest to enjoy the weather and a little bit of baseball.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Blog Note

You may have noticed that it's been almost two weeks since I posted. Or you may not have noticed. There is no real reason why, just pure and unabashed laziness on part of the proprietor of this blog.

I will have something up tomorrow (hopefully a mention of the Lightning defeating the hated Capitals). Then later in the week I will have a post that could affect the very way you LIVE YOUR LIFE!

Monday, March 8, 2010

It is Just Another Mailday Monday

It’s Monday so it must be time to post some mail. Lot’s of yellow packages showed up last week so despite not having a job and crappy weather which played havoc with my allergies it was still a good week.

We start off with a couple of purchases.

Vincent Lecavalier Ice Medallion. It’s such a nice shade of blue, and it’s serial numbered. I’m a sucker for cards with stamped numbers on them.

Vincent Lecavalier OPC Blue Parallel. Again blue and serial numbered.

Carl Crawford Topps Co-Signer. It’s serial numbered, but not as blue. It is, however, quite shiny. So very shiny.

Now onto some trades

Cards on Cards was so good to remind me of those great days when Sammy Sosa donned the orange and white. Today the word “great” means horrible. Yes that is a fancy Joel Skinner 1990 Donruss. Thanks to CoC and Captain Canuck my long, national nightmare is over. I have completed the set. Team collectors live in fear, ‘cause I still have a bunch of doubles to send to you!

Condition Poor sent a ton of cards, due to laziness I’m only posting three. Two new Crawfords for the collection and a 1991 Fleer Ultra Leo Gomez. Leo was almost the selection for my new player collection. Back in my younger and much more athletic days I wore number 10 and sported glasses on the field for a few weeks before I got contacts. That happened to coincide with Leo’s brief run as the O’s third-baseman so my teammates dubbed me Leo.

Thanks for the cards guys. Thank you to Capt. Canuck over at Waxaholic as well. He sent over some Donruss and Upper Deck Hockey that I integrated into my sets before I could scan them.

No game used merchandise this week, but that’s ok. I added to my player collections, knocked off one set and almost knocked out two others.

I’m heading down to Sarasota tomorrow for some Rays vs. O’s action (weather permitting). Hopefully, I’ll have some photos posted in the next day or so.

A Glimmer of Playoff Hope in Tampa

For at least one night there was a heart beat. For at least one night they looked like a playoff team. The five game losing streak was forgotten as was the five game streak of surrendering five or more goals. The embattled captain scored a goal and the emerging superstar scored two. The fans cheered and even broke into a spontaneous “DOWN-IE! DOWN-IE!” chant after the Lightning’s Little Ball of Fury decimated a Thrashers defensemen.


I wrote off the Lightning’s playoff hopes before the Olympic break and their lackluster play over the last five games drove my points home. Yet I was surprised to look at the standings on Saturday night to see that they were only three points out of a playoff spot. Sure, half of the Eastern Conference was between them and that last treasured spot in the postseason dance, but there was a glimmer of hope.

New owner, Jeff Vinik, was on hand to see his team (and his team alone) live up to the new marketing slogan that was instituted over the past week. BRING IT BACK. The “it” referred to is the Stanley Cup although it’s never mentioned in the video ads. The ads in stead stress the passion that swept through the TBA for 3 months in 2004 when the Lightning went on their improbably triumphant Stanley Cup run.

The crowd was announced as a sellout and while it wasn’t necessarily an intelligent hockey crowd (prompting this writer to begin crafting his Lightning Fan Manifesto) it was at least boisterous. They were witness to one of the most inspired efforts put forth by the club in the last three seasons.

Despite surrendering the fist goal, the crowd was ignited by Marty St Louis’ wonderful effort on the first goal. Vincent Lecavalier, survivor of another trade deadline, scored for the second game in the row and showed glimpses of his former glory by muscling to the front of the net several times. Steven Stamkos (a.k.a. Spicolli) scored his patented power play goal on a one-timer from the circle.

Section 323 also had a delightful 10 minute span that saw Steve Downie’s hit, a Matt Walker fight, and one of the greatest drunken fan performances in the history of sports. As time was ticking away and I was talking with some fans behind me a sudden motion caught my eye. I spun around to see a woman in a Lightning jersey making her way down towards the exit aisle.

Rather then use the stairs like a normal person she decided to fall down the steps. By the time I saw the commotion she had already completed one full flip and was on her way to another full flip and crash into the rail that separated her from the concrete floor. She landed headfirst in an empty seat between two shocked couples.

As the stunned crowd watched, she stood up, fixed her beer-doused, stringy blond hair and then stared back at us before turning around and bolting through the entryway out of the section. If she had stayed longer I’m sure we would have given her a standing ovation because there is no way a human being should have survived her tumble from Row M to Row A.

Drunk Fans + Steep Stairs = Good times

Now back to the Lightning. If they can continue the play that they showed on Saturday night then I might have to rethink my prediction of them missing the playoffs. Their biggest problem this season has been inconsistency. Several times they’ve followed well played games with listless performances. At this point in the season they can’t afford to do that. But for at least one night the passion, the euphoria was back.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Another Player For the Collection

Quick question. Who did Cal Ripken replace in the lineup before he embarked on his record setting consecutive games played streak? Give up? How about this question? Who did the Orioles trade to Saint Louis for the immortal (at least to O’s fans) Tito Landrum in 1983? The answer to both those questions is the same person. He’s also the focus of my new player collection.

If you are an O’s fan over the age of 30 you’ll remember Floyd Rayford. You probably don’t remember him for his on the field accomplishments (although he did hit 18 home runs in 1985), or his athletic build (he was generously listed at 5’10 and 190 lbs during his playing days), most likely you do remember his nickname – “Sugar Bear!”

Does this

have a resemblence to this?

Or was the nickname “Honey Bear”? There seems to be some discrepancy that is only partially cleared up by the man himself. In an interview with The Evening Sun’s Travis Lau, Rayford cops to the Sugar Bear nickname, but does acknowledge that for one year, 1979, he was known as Honey Bear. A reason for the change isn’t given, but has provided confusion amongst fans for years.

As a young fan in the Baltimore area I remember him as Sugar Bear, and as a good natured role player who’s less than athletic body proved you didn’t have to be in shape to be a professional athlete. Rayford’s career was closing as the dawn of the steroid era approached. While he didn’t possess the sculpted body fans expect of today’s athlete he did play hard and could field several positions.

During his 7 year major league career he played four different infield positions, logging most of his time, 237 games, at third base. He enjoyed catching more, saying that he was “too busy back there to be nervous…There’s no time to get butterflies when you’re catching”.

His willingness to play anywhere and his hard work endeared him to the blue collar fans of Baltimore. The mid-to-late ‘80’s were a time of decline for the O’s. He missed their last pennant winning season of 1983, the aforementioned trade for playoff hero Landrum sent Rayford to Saint Louis for a season, and would play for a franchise that hovered around .500 for the next few years.

His last game in the majors was on September 16th, 1987 (my 11th birthday!). In that game he would collect his 255th and final hit as he went 1-3 in a 7-0 loss to Jimmy Key and the Toronto Blue Jays. Rayford would play a few more seasons with Scranton Wilkes Barre before retiring in 1991.

Now 52 he is the hitting coach for the Rochester Red Wings, a team that he played for in parts of 7 different seasons while he was with the O’s.

Why did I decide to collect Sugar Bear? Well he was one of the first professional players that I got an autograph from. As a rather shy kid I didn’t collect many autographs during my childhood as I couldn’t muster up the courage to ask these idols of mine for their signature. I remember having a signed program from ’85 or ’86 that I wanted to scan for this post, but after searching in vain this afternoon I fear I’ve lost it.

Another reason I want to collect him, is well, it shouldn’t be overly difficult. As a role player in the late ‘80’s there weren’t too many different cards of him produced. According to the Card Collector program there was only about 36 different Rayford cards produced.

The most difficult ones to obtain will be the Tiffany versions of his Topps base cards, but since he is listed as a common, they shouldn’t be obscenely expensive. Currently, I only have one card in hand (1988 Topps base), and I’ve completed a Topps Million card trade for another. I swapped a 1993 Mark Gardner for a 1985 Rayford. I have three more trades pending for his other Topps base cards that I hope pay off within a week.

I’ve included his complete card roster in my “Wanted” section, so if you have some mid-80’s commons laying around give a quick look for Sugar Bear and I’ll send ya something nice in return.

Image is property of the Baltimore Sun