Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Dan Uggla: A Push Present

Been awhile - miss you guys.

If you're reading this, thank you for sticking with Ryan's Pitch or deciding to stop by for a quick cardboard cocktail before returning to twitter...

It's been an incredible year for my family so far. We welcomed our third child into the world back in March - hence, my disappearing act. Don't worry, my cardboard and hobby addictions are still going strong. As proof, behold what might be the oddest "push present" of all time - Dan Uggla?

For my oldest child and (what is agreed upon to be!) my only princess, I dropped a nice (Hallmark) card and some artist jewelry in the glove compartment of my car for my wife to enjoy as we made our way to the hospital back in 2007. She loved the jewelry and didn't kill me during the nearly 40 hours of labor that followed. I consider that a success! Not to mention...we ended up having more than one kid.

In 2011, I stepped up my game and added a bit more sparkle to the ride that would ultimately deliver our first boy. You know, the one that scratched that hobby itch after being dormant for twenty years? I talked about my son's arrival back in 2012 here. The sparkles were a bit more expensive that time, but we had been very fortunate and, heck, she earned every last sparkle (and then some) for making us a family of four!

So, what to do for the tie-breaker? #3 was late enough in the month that a birth-stone piece was too risky for my tolerance levels. Not to mention, a birth photographer was on-call and this service was proclaimed to be the push present so "don't get me anything else, babe."

But I had to do something.

So, naturally, I began to consider baseball cards. Makes sense, right? Well, while my wife supports my hobby endeavors, she certainly doesn't collect herself. She does like baseball however and, as an Atlanta native, she shares in my affinity for the Bravos. She even [had] her favorite player - Dan Uggla.

Yep. Dan freaking Uggla.

It became a joke between us over the past few years as Uggs contributed proficiently towards the repeated "close-but-no-cigar" seasons for our beloved Braves. I cursed his performance while she praised his cuteness.

Don't get me wrong - Mrs. Ryans Pitch understands the game and knows that her Dan wasn't the best 2B in the league...or even on the team...but we all have our favorites, and having a wife who is into baseball at any level is a definite blessing.

Just like the blessing that was headed our way a couple months ago (WOW, has time flown!) - so why not combine the two!? So, I did it - for a couple of bucks, I snagged a crisp little Uggla RC auto and dropped it into a snazzy one-touch beside a vase of tulips...right on her bedside table. I set it all up a week or so before the due date to allow for proper appreciation with the long-term goal of it becoming her focus during early stages of labor...hey, all yours, Dan.

She had no it was a complete surprise.

And it worked!

She loved it and shared her little Dan with her world via Facebook within minutes. "Look what my thoughtful husband surprised me with..."

Pretty cool. I had no idea how it would be received and could never have imagined that I'd throw inhibition to the wind and buy my wife an autographed baseball card - to show my love for her during the arrival of our child, no less!? But then again, it does kind of make perfect sense to me.

Long live this glorious hobby.

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!


Friday, January 30, 2015

The Warrior

I was very fortunate to be able to add a great autographed baseball to my collection - Paul O'Neill!

I hated it when O'Neill and the Reds swept the Athletics in 1990. I was a huge fan of the Bash Brothers, Dave Stewart, Henderson and The Eck back then, so the National League's domination wasn't what I was hoping for.

In November of 1992, the Reds sent Paul to the Bombers in exchange for Roberto Kelly. He displaced Donnie Baseball as the #3 hitter and began contributing right away. He was having a fine season (as many of the Yanks were) in '94 when a strike ended the season, batting over .350 with 20+ HRs and 80+ RBI in only 103 games. The Yankees were 6.5 games ahead in the East when it all ended that season...dammit.

He'd go on to be a big part of the Dynasty and their four titles from 1996 through 2000. He went tot he All-Star game four times as a Yank and brought home the batting title during that shortened season in 1994. His send-off in Yankee Stadium at the end of Game 5 of the 2001 Series was something I'll never forget and his hard work in pinstripes over the years earned him the "Warrior" label from 'ol George.

So this ball is pretty sharp, right? I have a great friend who dated a very nice young lady a couple years back...her family happened to be good friends with the O'Neills. Knowing I was a Yankees fan, my buddy couldn't wait to tell me about the connection. And in return, I couldn't wait to ask him if he thought his girlfriend might be able to get a ROMLB into the Warrior's (or "Uncle Paul" as she knew him) hands on my behalf.

No shame in my game, I suppose. Never hurts to ask, though, and as luck would have it - he was happy to oblige me, she was happy to oblige him and Uncle Paul was happy to oblige her.

Job changes kept us apart for a couple of years and my friend's romance with the young lady from Ohio didn't last either. The timing was precarious but in the end, he left town to begin a new career in Chicago with this O'Neill baseball stuffed somewhere in his belongings. We joked about it from time to time, bantering back and forth in emails, texts and messages through our fantasy baseball league.

"Someday I'll get this baseball to you, my friend."

That day came last fall when the stars aligned for us to rendezvous in South Bend for a Notre Dame football game. Picking me up from O'Hare, we made our way into town for a festive reunion with other friends, old and new.

"Hey man, check out the glove compartment! Got something for you in there."

Good friends and baseball - it doesn't get any better than that! Mr. O'Neill was even kind enough to add the personal inscription, a real treat that I always enjoy.

A big heart-felt thank you to my good friend for going above and beyond the call of duty. Grateful for your time as well, Mr. O'Neill. To the young woman who connected us all - fare thee well, madame. You will always be a part of this story.

Welcome to my Yankees' Collection, Warrior!

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend, everybody -


Friday, January 16, 2015

2013 Topps Archives - Gary Gaetti Certified Autograph

This is a great example of the type of autograph cards that I referred to in my 'State of The Collection' post. Gary Gaetti isn't a particular player that I collect, nor am I a huge Minnesota Twins fan. I do LOVE the 1987 Topps set but I think it's a safe bet that I would have scooped up this card for a couple bucks regardless of the design.
Gaetti was one of those good, solid players that I can remember being aware of as a kid. He was pretty well known after his heroics with the Twins during the '87 post season, or at least known enough by me to be a player that I would set aside when rifling through freshly ripped packs. Gary Gaetti didn't elicit the traditional "YESSSSS!" that accompanied each Mattingly or McGwire that I discovered, but he was certainly treated with care and saved for potential trades with my friends.
"Well, I DO have this Gary Gaetti card..."
A quick review of Gaetti on the interwebs reveals some cool facts:
Nickname(s):          "G-Man", "Rat" and "Zorn"
Feat:                        1st player to hit two home runs in his first two post season at-bats  
Signed w/ Twins:    Two months after I was born
The '2 homers in first 2 ABs' record was tied by Evan Longoria in 2008. ZORN retired as the Home Run King of players who had homered in their first career at-bat. I wonder who holds that title now? Baseball historian/writer/statistician Bill James has cited RAT for two particularly unusual trends over his 19 year career: that his walk-rate never improved and that his rate of productivity decline was exceptionally low. Huh.
At any rate, this card is pretty sweet! As I mentioned, I love the '87 design. The vintage Twins logo looks great along with those wood-grain borders and the (Archives?) foil stamp in the upper right doesn't detract from the card as a whole. This card is in great shape with good centering, terrific edges and sharp corners. The best part in my opinion? Zorn's signature is beautifully slanted, legible and bold.  

I really want to dig out Rat's actual '87 card to compare any differences. I believe Topps has used a different image for this Archive version, but I'm just shooting from the hip with that claim. Here's the back:

His son Joseph would grow up to make a solid run at following in his Dad's footsteps but fell short of making it to the Show. No word on Jacob...notice the denotation of being tied for league leader with his 162 games played in 1984. I wonder how many players he's tied with?

Thanks for reading!


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

My Mattingly Collection - 2002 Upper Deck Sweet Spot Bat Relic Card

There's nothing I enjoy more than a relic card for one of my Player Collections. I came across this Mattingly Sweet Spot for a little less than $10 and decided to - not buy it. Yes, in a rare feat of self-control, I recognized that this was probably a little too much to spend on another bat card of Donnie Baseball.
Don't get me wrong, I WANT THEM ALL. But Mattingly, for better and for worse, demands curiously high rates for any/all of his cards due to his loyal and passionate fans. So, often I find myself on the sidelines as I watch so many terrific-looking, higher-end releases go to good homes elsewhere. 
Fortunately, nobody else had their eye on this Hit Man because the card was re-listed at a discounted price of just over $5 - an amount I could happily accept! I like Upper Deck's design on this one, with emphasis evenly divided between the relic and a great follow-through image of Maatingly.

Yep, it's Don and the bat, no more, no less. It's a sharp card in person and is in really good shape. Sometime these relic cards that are listed on the cheap come with hidden dings near the relic or banged up corners and edges. For the most part, it's tough to get too upset over the condition of relic cards in my book. Which does beg the question, why? These are cards too, so why do I care so much less about their condition? Very interesting thought. If I had forked over $5 for a mid-90's Mattingly insert, for example, I would be disappointed if it showed up with dinged corners and crushed edges. Is this a normal double-standard for any you?

The back recycles a zoom-in on the front side's image with a standard accompanying relic card "CONGRATULATIONS!" statement.

I need to total up my Mattingly relic cards. I'm sure it's way less than what it needs to be right now.


At any rate, I'm pumped to add this one to my Mattingly Collection!

Thanks for reading!


Monday, January 12, 2015

My Hall of Fame Collection - Class of 2015

That's IT. I'm done - and I couldn't be happier.
I've let go of my anger surrounding the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.
I love a friendly and logical debate regarding the admittance policies for our game's highest honor. Like most things in life, black and white fades into gray for a great many things - including the comparisons between baseball players throughout history. Statistics can be mixed with memories, feelings and perceptions. Some things can be measured while other aspects are completely subjective. And when you only allow these musings of a select few to determine a very real, quanitifiable and final outcome?
Controversy will always ensue.
Heck, I've even jumped into the ring with my own two cents. My views have changed since then, and I consider myself to be a fairly steady and consistent person when it comes to my beliefs and views on the world around me. This personal shift alone has been enough to slap me in the face and say, 'let it go.'
And let it go, I have.
Now, I look forward to each and every Hall of Fame announcement. I fill in my own fictitious ballot and relish the great conversations and debates on TV and radio while the BBWAA have their votes tallied. I get to relive all of my childhood memories involving each of the players, whether they are elected or not. That's a precious gift that isn't dependent on votes.
In fact, for the first time in 15 years, I get to shrug off some weight and stress that has encumbered me since I first began to hope for something that always seemed a little improbable. I can make peace with that failure of fruition and move on, focusing on the positives instead of the negatives or, worse, the 'could have's' and 'should have's'.
More on that in a later post. For now, I'd like to honor this year's class with a little help from the Ryan's Pitch Collection!
The Unit. Randy Johnson. Man, this guy was larger than life for a young collector and baseball fan like me. Heck, he was larger than life for most of the guys he played with! I had a good buddy when I was growing up that was also a great baseball player. In fact, he ended up playing in college and made a trip to the College World Series. A great guy - and he was HUGE, too! So, for awhile, we all called him the Unit.
I can remember watching John Kruk make us all laugh in the '93 All-Star Game when a fireball from Johnson flew errantly over Kruk's head.

Or who can forget when Johnson's old Expo teammate and lefty, Larry Walker, turned his helmet around backwards and took a pitch as a right-hander in the '97 All-Star Game?


Randy Johnson was a helluva pitcher, one of the finest I was lucky enough to watch pitch as a youngster, and is very deserving of his election. Oddly, Johnson (as well as the rest of this class) never held much power within the hobby and by power, I mean card "value." Yes, a truly relative term in so many ways, but you all know what I mean. His cards were never "hot" or considered the "must have" items among my friends. We knew who he was and how awesome he was...and yet, the cardboard appreciation just never carried over for The Unit.

I wonder why that is? Because he was an Expo/Mariner/D-Back, perhaps? Doesn't explain The Kid's place in the Hobby. Of course, pitchers were/are always, in most cases, treated differently than home run hitters. Especially in The Unit's time...

Anyways, I went digging through my old collection and came up with these two beauties. 1989 Donruss was a colorful treat back then and these black/blue/purple bruisers are an EXCELLENT example. The hallowed "Rated Rookie" logo still makes me smile today - I love it. And int his case, it works really well with the Expos' blue. Not a great picture of The Unit by any stretch, but I dig this card. Wouldn't you know, I didn't even find these two (now) HOF RC's in my rows (upon rows) of top-loaded "good" cards from my youth. Nope, no room for one of the fiercest pitchers of the day when you have guys like Chad Mattola, Tim Salmon and Brien Taylor to reserve top-loaders for. Yep, found these two Johnson rookie cards completely raw, in a little 200 or 300-ct box of random cards. No penny sleeve. Nothing.

But not any more.

I'm sorry, Randy. Please forgive me and step out into the light...

Next, we have John Smoltz. Loved Smoltz as a Braves fan, of course. He helped guide us through the early years of nearly-but-not-quite dynasty success after years of mediocrity in the 80's. Part of a rotation for the ages, Smoltzy now joins Glavine, Maddux and Bobby Cox as wonderfully nostalgic reminders of my sports-crazy youth.

It's been just as wonderful to listen to Smoltz call ball games for Fox this past season, too. By all accounts, he is a great human being. Charitable with his time for good causes, he is also an avid golfer - my second favorite sport. While my claim to fame is an ancient high school match-up with Bubba Watson, Smoltz is a very close friend with Tiger Woods. I was watching MLB Netowrk the other day and he stated that he's probably played around fifty rounds with Tiger since they became friends. Tiger has been quoted as saying that he believes Smoltz to be the finest golfer he's played with that is not on the PGA. Powerful compliment, right there.

I could go down the long list of accomplishments from Smoltz's career but I'll leave you with this little factoid: he plays the accordion, just like my grandfather did. Need I say more?

After digging through the archives, I found these two Upper Deck cards - which I find to be very, very nice-looking cards. Man, Upper Deck really blew our minds in 1989, didn't they?! Unlike The Unit, these two HOF RCs were respectfully tucked into weird looking, yellow-tinted top-loaders.


I don't know if I have any Pedro Martinez cards. Seriously, not a clue. I wish I did and I promise to be on the lookout for them when I conduct cardboard expeditions...but I make no promises. I can verify that there are no Pedro's in my rows of "top-loaded good players", but the fact that he's a Red Sox and not named Boggs, Yaz, Clemens, Greenwell, Fisk or Rice means that he very well might be drifting in the abyss of the dreaded COMMONS box!

Don't get me wrong, it would be great to discover some of his cards! I had the privilege of watching Pedro face Pettitte at Fenway back in '03. It was one of the finest pitching match-ups I've ever seen in person and extra special to witness in such a historic setting.

Doesn't hurt that the Yanks won, too.

Now, the Astros' KILLER B? That's a different story. I can vividly recall chasing down Biggio cards with gusto and relishing them in my collection. The Astros weren't my team but boy, were they fun to watch and collect! I can picture several in my head without even looking.

Here they are!

Oh my. Wait a second.....NO Biggio cards in the "top-loaded good players" section? This can't be!? Surely, I picked up some Biggio cards along the way. I remember the name. I remember the team...I remember...well, what exactly DO I remember? I know, let's check my alpabetized "Star Player Album"!

Here we are with Jorge George B-E-L-L..... next should be....Boggs?!

Seriously!? Do I not have ANY Biggio cards, RC or not? Have my memories betrayed me THAT much?

My friends, a serious excavation into the cardboard tar pits is in order after this deficient HOF post. No Pedro and no Biggio is both unbelievable and unacceptable. I'm not sure what I'm most upset with- my memory or my adolescent baseball card judgment calls.

This is an OUTRAGE!

I take it back - my anger is NOT gone when it comes to the MLB HOF. It is back with a fervor! This will not stand! This injustice will not STAND! I want Pedro and I want Biggio and I want...I want....I want to step back and smile and enjoy this moment. This is the kind of faux-anger I can handle. Cardboard anger will trump current-event anger every time, and in so many ways. I can actually DO SOMETHING about my lack of Biggio's and Pedro's.

I can't, on the other hand, do a darn thing about the BBWAA!

And you know what? I'm finally okay with that. Congratulations to this year's inductees! I look forward to the induction ceremony in July and what looks like some fun pursuit of (affordable, for once) HOF cardboard to plug holes in my collection in the coming months.

Let the hunt begin!

Thanks for reading -


Friday, January 9, 2015

1954 Bowman - #147 Joe DeMaestri and #19 Bobby Shantz

Joe DeMaestri and Bobby Shantz will always hold a special place in my collection. They were both very kind in their respective responses to my autograph requests, sending additional photographs and answering some of the questions I posed in my letters. I will forever be grateful for their generosity.
My interest in both players stems mostly from their time as Yankees, of course. But just as with most of these characters from the golden age, they each have some amazing stories. Whenever I have the chance to pick up cards for either of these guys, it becomes a very easy decision. I had just such an opportunity when these two '54 Bowman cards came up on a sales list.
DeMaestri found himself on the field for Mazeroski's home run in Game 7 of the 1960 Series. This was an epic moment lamented by Yankees fans but I find myself fascinated with the event itself. Joe only found his way into the game after Tony Kubek was struck in the head by a line drive in the 8th inning. Timing is everything, as they say.
"Froggy" began his career in '51 with the White Sox but had found his way to the Philadelphia in time for this '54 issue. The A's would venture west to Kansas City for the following season, where they would remain until the late 60's. Joe would leave in 1960 for the Yankees, a fateful trade that not only led to his view of Maz's shot from the field but facilitated the delivery of Roger Maris to New York.
1954 Bowman is a simple design and this particular card is playfully off-centered, but the coloring is really fantastic!    

Interestingly, the write-up on the back of the card cites a nickname of "Oats" for DeMaestri. He was a little tall for those days at six feet, so perhaps there was some kind of horse comparison? Bowman also cites a 'big player deal' that sent Oats from the Sox to the St. Louis Browns. A quick review of this trade shows:

Browns received: DeMaestri, Gordon Goldsberry, Dick Littlefield, Gus Niarhos, Jim Rivera

White Sox received: Sherm Lollar, Tim Upton, Al Widmar

Boy, if that batch of ballplayers doesn't scream for an internet research session, I don't know what does! I'm pretty sure I've seen a few of those guys in my collection before. In fact, I know I have! Yes, I recall blogging about Sherm after I picked up his '60 All-Star card for my Dad's set. I'll have to dig through some cards to see if I can connect some more cardboard dots - always a fun time!

In the meantime, here is the back of the card. A very logical layout that flows easily and provides a lot of solid information:

Check out that Presidential trivia question, folks! Now for Mr. Shantz...

Bobby Shantz had a fantastic career that spanned fifteen seasons of major league ball with seven clubs. He had his finest season with the A's in '52 when he claimed the AL MVP by going 24-7 with nearly 280 innings pitched. The Athletics finished in 4th place that season, enjoying their final winning season in Philadelphia. Shantz participated in the All-Star game at Shibe Park that year and notched a terrific line in the history books by striking out three NL sluggers in a row in the 5th inning: Whitey Lockman, Jackie Robinson and Stan Musial. His duel with Jackie plays a part in one of the items Mr. Shantz sent back to me in response to my TTM request. Have I shared that with you guys, yet? Definitely one of my favorite pieces.

Bobby was injured during the '53 campaign and endured a slow return to form, hurling only eight innings in 1954. That might account for the peaceful but tired look in Bobby's eyes on this Bowman card. Another simple portrait here and the centering is off top-to-bottom, but the edges/corners are AMAZING and the color is even better. There are no hints of a stadium to be had in this card as there was in DeMaestri's, but I kind of dig the field and wooded background. Looks like a warm spring day to me.

The back of the card describes everyone's hope for Bobby in 1954 and adds a curious "great little fielder" comment at the end. The reference to his stature was well deserved, as Mr. Shantz was only five and a half feet tall - but I view the great fielder portion of the comment with much curiosity and awe because it is quite prophetic. Shantz would go on to win eight CONSECUTIVE gold gloves in his career, an amazing feat! It's just incredible to me that he didn't win his first award until three seasons AFTER this Bowman card was issued.

Nice job, Bowman!

I'm excited to add these two cards to my collection. As I mentioned above, it's always a treat to add cards of players I've been able to interact with personally. I don't have very many 1954 Bowman cards but I might very well be approaching a full page now! Does this constitute an official set-build declaration? Hmmm...

Thanks for reading!


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Year in Review / State of the Collection

It was a challenging and enjoyable year for the Ryan's Pitch Collection. Challenging because I found myself with very limited time for cardboard appreciation. I had a tremendous flurry of posts in the late spring/early summer time frame, but that quickly ended when the fall semester rolled around. I had some tough classes on the docket and, when combined with my day job, it created an environment of severe time management demands where my hobbies found the proverbial back-burners.

But that's okay. And I know I'm not alone - all of you probably know exactly what I'm talking about! And that's a big reason why I admire my fellow bloggers so much. They find a way to make the time for regularly scheduled posting, despite everything else they have going on in their lives. I salute you all and will try to find my blogging 'sweet spot' in 2015.

Speaking of goals, I established a few in 2014. I even came darn near accomplishing one as well.


But let's keep things linear! First, what did I accomplish in 2014? I managed to acquire a healthy amount of cardboard. For the first time since rejoining the hobby in 2011, these acquisitions were comprised of more single-card purchases than packs and/or sets. In fact, I haven't purchased a blaster/pack since...well, I guess it would have to be Gypsy Queen. Did that diminish the chaos?


As that cute girl from Texas once said, THAT is a Beautiful Disaster. But I digress...

I will always crave the satisfaction of buying packs of cards and ripping them open. But the level of financial commitment I needed to make in order to collect by this method just doesn't work for me right now. I picked up a 2014 Topps Factory Set for my son's collection this Christmas just as I normally do, but that was enough for me after trying out Series 1, some Heritage and GQ.

The flagship is in pretty good form right now, overall. I'm not here to hate! The photography seems to really be on top of its game - a huge bonus in my book. I Just can't get on board with all of the inserts and parallels. I like them - I just can't collect them all.

Heritage was a real treat. The return of substantial card stock made those rack packs a real joy for me to open. I kicked off my set-build in solid form, with minimal duplicates among the packs that I did purchase. That was a lot of fun and a great example of why I probably won't be able to ever fully give up new-releases.

So what did I buy this year? Singles. Vintage singles and small lots. Junk wax singles. Hobby Ice Age singles. Even modern release singles! Some were graded and some were raw. I picked up a bunch of cheap autograph cards, too. I love autographed cards. They look great in cases and display well for non-collector friends and family to reminisce about and enjoy. That makes me happy!

It wasn't just baseball and even better - these cost me some stamps, envelopes and some paper!

What kind of singles did I buy? A lot of them were for my Player Collections. Just to refresh, here is the list as of today (wink) with a quick example for each:

Don Mattingly

Freddie Freeman

Anthony Rizzo

Craig Kimbrel

David Robertson

Dellin Betances

Eric Jagielo

Jagielo and Betances are new additions to the list this year. It's an interesting list, isn't it? I have some questions to answer in 2015 - will I continue to collect David Robertson now that he has left the Yanks? I'm thinking probably. Is it lame that it's even a question for me? I don't think so...collecting players from my favorite teams will always be a major component of my collecting ways. All you have to do is look at the two new additions for evidence of this trait.

But Robertson will always hold a special place for me. I became a huge fan of his during my first season "back" as a big time, loyal baseball fan. I was rooting for him as we were waiting for my son to be born. David was also kind enough to respond back during "Spring TTM 2012" with an autographed ball and several cards. I'll always be grateful and always be a fan. I can see this becoming a long-term relationship, even if he's wearing some different colored pinstripes.

A lot of my collecting friends from the Blogosphere and on Twitter are responsible for the majority of my PC additions this year. I am so grateful to all of you for that. Words can't describe how much fun it is to pull a plain white envelope out of the mailbox with a nice note and a few fabulous cards inside. That experience really encapsulates baseball card collecting in its purest form - a true organic experience that can be really difficult to find these days and (ahem) at this age.

Thank you for that, you guys!

So, the Rizzo and the Freddie and the Kimbrel collection are going strong! Unfortunately, these PCs are un-ceremonioulsy stacked on the Card Cave table. Is it because I don't care? Absolutely not. Whenever I get tasked by Mrs. Ryan's Pitch to retrieve something from the other end of the Card Cave (i.e. the storage room in our basement), I usually dilly-dally and wander over to my table and flip through my beloved PC stacks - just because. Can you really have fun flipping through cards that you've seen a hundred times?

Damn right you can.

But my PCs deserve more, so a major goal for 2015 will be to binder-ize these stacks of goodness. For one thing, safety of the cards is paramount. I like to keep my cards in as good a condition as when I receive them. I consider this an element of my responsibilities as their Collector-Owner. I foresee a sizable order from Ultra Pro in my future - along with a trial order from UniKeep binders. These binders aren't built for beauty - but I think they may be the utilitarian and hobby solution I've been looking for.

What else is going into a binder? My Mattingly PC. I received dozens of glorious Donnie cards from the same collecting friends that I mentioned above - THANK YOU, guys! I also tried to adhere to a goal for 2014 by adding Mattingly to my singles/lots purchases throughout the year. A couple of "lots" later, and my Hit Man collection has now reached amazing new heights! How many unique cards do I have? No idea - but taking the time to organize and binderize them should assist in making my statistical analysis much easier. I can't wait to see where I stand and to share some REALLY cool cards with you guys!

I'd be lying if I said that the majority of my collecting passion hasn't consistently focused on vintage cards. The history of the sport has always been a huge draw for me and collecting older cards is a great way to create my own personal baseball museum. Vintage for me is anything before I was born (1979). While many of you will probably get a chuckle out of that, it seems to be where the demarcation falls for me. I am getting closer and closer to completing all Topps sets between 1979 and the beginning of my Hobby Ice Age. This will be a major milestone for me as a collector and this goal will remain as a focus for my collecting in 2015.


Prior to 1979 is wide open. In a perfect world, I would say that I am actually collecting/building every set - from bubble gum cards... Trammel RCs...

...and everything, EVERYTHING in between. There's some well-loved 52's and a few slabbed T-205's...

I now have dozens of BEAUTIFUL dog-eared 71's...

...stacked right next to my (in progress) N.Y. Highlanders team set...

There are some old-school Bowmans, each of which deserve their very own post for appreciation...

...and a NEARLY complete '78 set. I also have a beloved stack of 1960 "commons" that will one day be presented to my Dad so that he can complete his main childhood set!

There's a bunch of Virgil Trucks that I treasure just as much as my one-and-only Ted Williams and the two Mantle base cards mixed in among the Bowman trove. All kinds of good stuff, right? But the king for me just continues to be vintage.

God, I love vintage.

They need to be organized, though. Enter more binders and cases. I may only have eleven 1959 Topps cards, but they need to be brought together with two pages and plenty of room to grow. Will I ever obtain a Hoot rookie card and complete this glorious set? I sure hope so but the least I can do is make it as easy as possible for me to access the cards, enjoy them, share them, know which ones I need, etc.

Organize, organize, organize.

I also need to get rid of what I just don't want anymore. I don't need to keep them all - I simply can't. There's not enough space and my storage bins are busting at their plastic seams. Let me know if you are interested. There will be team lots and "Set starter kits". Do you love a team and desire any/all cards for that team? Perhaps I can help. I don't need them in my collection anymore but I want them to go to a good home if possible. Don't worry, they would never be thrown away...I'm thinking grab-bag goodies at Little League parks is a great way to go? So much to reduce, but it has to be done.

I really "got into" graded cards this year. My first foray was a two-slab auction victory that netted two "9" copies of my favorite baseball card - 1984 Topps Mattingly. But even with that first graded purchase came my first lesson. Not all slabs are created equal, and it can become just as confusing and cluttered as raw cards if you don't set up some parameters. So I studied and researched and talked a lot about it with a lot of you over the months (thank you again!). I think I cam up with a system that works for me...

There are certain player and teams and sets that I will always welcome in graded form. Iconic rookie cards from my youth and key cards for certain players from today (PC's and maybe a few others) will be the primary focus. The Highlanders. The first Yankees. The 1951 Bowman set. Foolishly ambitious? Definitely! But I can't help it - I'm all in and I have loved every single inbound slab. They store well. They present well to others. They make it easy to know exactly what you have should a time ever come to redistribute....yes, graded cards are here to stay for the Ryan's Pitch Collection!

So, a quick summary of collecting focus and goals for 2015:

ORGANIZE - binderize PC's and favorite sets, both complete and in progress

TRACK - make lists of "have's" and "need's" for PC's and sets

REDUCE - give away or sell cards, etc. that I truly don't need or want

COLLECT - PC's, sets, autographs and key graded cards (rookies, favorites, etc.)

ENJOY - blog when possible, share with friends, pour a beer and flip through

Uh, "RECTO"? "CERTO"? Whatever the subliminal anagram might be, I feel like I have a very general plan for the coming year and I am really looking forward to it. While I didn't blog as much as I wanted to, I was very fortunate to have the time and resources that I did in order to enjoy when I could. Make no mistake, not all of the cards above were obtained in 2014. Most have been scooped up over the past four years and some more than 25 years ago. The key is seeing a pattern emerge and gaining a vision of what I really want my collection to be and mean to me - and I feel like that is really coming into focus, slowly but surely.

There's a whole other component of my collection that I'd like to dive into more in a future post - my memorabilia. Autographed balls, pictures and tickets. I have  managed to add a few of these to my collection as well and many of them factor into my card acquisition decisions. I'll have to save this topic for 2015, though.

If you have stuck with me this long, I am eternally grateful. It brings me a lot of joy to think that at least one other soul out there is gaining some joy from the pieces of cardboard and baseball history that I squirrel away in my own humble collection. Coming up on this blog's 3rd Anniversary, I'm impressed I've hung on this long. I don't know if this website will ever truly reach the lofty ideals of organization & perfection that I originally had in mind, but it works for now and serves as a nice place for me to call home out here in the cyber ether.

It will be a busy year for me next year - The Ryan's Pitch clan will welcome our third child into the world (in time for its first baseball season!) and I should wrap up my MBA! My daughter will start 2nd grade and my son may very well watch his first Star Wars movie (wink) in addition to preparing for kindergarten. My wife will hit the gas pedal on her photography business after the baby break....and off we'll go. If I disappear from time to time on here - at least you'll know why! Just remember that you can always find me on Twitter via @ryanspitch - I foresee some late night tweeting this spring.

Have a very safe New Year's Eve with the people important to you! I hope that 2015 is a wonderful year for us all and I can't wait to join you for a part of that journey - the State of the Collection is STRONG.

As always, thanks for reading!