Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Reasons to love regionals #3: The thrill of the hunt

When it comes to Jays team sets, nothing takes me back like the Fire Safety and Oh Henry! sets of the 80s and 90s. They are flimsy, they are low quality, and there are often cards cut to different sizes. There's always a healthy dose of guys you've never heard of that will never actually play an official game with the team, and you can always count on a few guys in awkward poses in ballparks you can't possibly recognize.

And despite how awful they sound, I think they are awesome. My guess is that many people agree with the above description, and for that reason, want nothing to do with these cards. I'm guessing for that reason, they weren't kept, and got chucked in the garbage. As a result, some of them are incredibly tough to track down. But the thrill of the hunt is just part of the fun!

Every now and again, I'll hit Google or eBay and search for 'blue jays fire safety' or 'blue jays oh henry'. Other times, I'll slot in a specific year, hoping to find one of the sets I'm missing. Often these searches are fruitless. I get a pile of past auctions, trading card / checklist sites or a random PC wantlist that is after a certain card. There's also a plethora of 5-year-old forum posts saying "I found these cards, what are they worth?" But weeding through that stuff is fun, because it's part of the challenge; not letting all that static interfere with a possible hit.

This past weekend I decided to hit the internet for a bit and just search for some of those sets. My searches turned up a craigslist ad for a 1994 Blue Jays Oh Henry set. The listing was from early August. I've never trusted craiglist, so I didn't bite. And then a few hours later, I changed my mind. This is the first time I've seen this set for sale in its entirety. Only one problem: I couldn't find the listing again! Eventually, I gave up, half annoyed that I didn't bite the first time, and half annoyed that I just couldn't find the ad again.

 Later in the day, I went searching again. I'm sure I was using the same search terms for the third time in a row, and I generally always use Google, so I know it wasn't like I had forgotten which search engine to use. Only this time, luck was on my side. Somehow, I turned up a kijiji ad from earlier in September for a listing right in Ontario. It read almost identically to the craiglist ad, so I'm confident it's the same person. I immediately contacted them, and what'ya know! Cards were still available, we struck a deal, and they are in the mail as we speak.

Now, I hate to mark these cards off of my wantlist before they arrive, but in mind, that's exactly what I've done. This is a big score. It's a tough set to locate, it almost slipped away, and somehow came back. I'll post some scans in a dedicated post when the cards arrive, but I'm pretty jazzed right now, and that seemed like a good reason for a post. Finding these compares to earlier in the year when I tracked down an even more difficult Blue Jays regional from 2002.

Anyway, this story sums up another reason I love regionals. They are available enough to be cheap, but just difficult enough to be a challenge. And I really enjoy the thrill of the hunt!


Thanks for reading,

Richard.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Inaugurals: Alan Ashby

The truth is, when I think of Alan Ashby, I think of the Houston Astros. Not because that's where he spent most of his career, but because one of my first memories of owning a baseball card is his 1988 Topps card. I no longer own that card, but seeing an image of the card instantly brings memories streaming back of a stack of not more than 50 cards securely grouped with just about the fattest rubber band available. Ah, the good ol' days.

It wouldn't be until many years later that I realized Alan Ashby played for the Blue Jays and was, in fact, part of a distinct group known as The Inaugurals. That's right, folks, finally, another installment of the series!

And it wouldn't be until 10 minutes ago that I realized Alan Ashby started his major league career with the Cleveland Indians. That's right. After four years in the minors, Ashby debuted with the Indians on July 3, 1973. In that bout, he entered as a defensive replacement in the ninth and caught a scoreless inning. Alan would start the next day and collect his first major league hit in his first a bat.

Ashby remained with the Indians through the 1976 season. In 1977, he was with Toronto, appearing in 124 games. Offensively, he hit .210 with 2 HRs and 29 RBI. In 1978, Alan split catching duties with Rick Cerone, and ended appearing in only 81 games. Despite the reduced playing time, Ashby matched his RBI total of 1977 while bumping his BA to .261 and his HR count to 9. That off-season (November 27th, 1978 to be exact), his playing days with Toronto were officially numbered as he was traded to the Astros for Joe Cannon, Pedro Hernandez and Mark Lemongello (total aside here, but if you want some interesting reading, search Google for Mark Lemongello).

Mr. Ashby would go on to play 10 seasons with Houston before retiring from baseball. In 2012 he was selected as the starting catcher of the Astros' all time 25-man roster (2012 marked their 50th anniversary as a franchise).

In his post-playing days, Ashby did a little bit of managing various minor league teams, and even held a spot as the bullpen coach with the Astros in 1997. In 1998 he started doing colour commentary in Houston. In 2007 he joined Rogers Communication to do colour commentary and play-by-play for Blue Jays broadcasts. In this bloggers humble opinion, Alan Ashby is among the great Blue Jays play-by-play guys. Unfortunately, he resigned his position in January of 2013 to return to Houston. Clearly he sees himself as much an Astro as I do ;)

Thanks for reading.

Richard.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Vive les Blue Jays!

Well, a five game losing streak has all but sealed the Blue Jays fate in 2014. I will admit that I have all but given up on this season, and haven't been watching many games lately. That hasn't dampened my spirits about watching baseball, though. I'm still very much looking forward to the playoffs.

And that DEFINITELY hasn't dampened my spirits for collecting Blue Jays cards. Today's post is brought to you thanks to some generosity from Montreal. Stephane found my blog and was able to knock a handful of cards off of my wantlist. It should be noted that he completed my 1991 Leaf team set, but the highlight of what he sent was some 1992 Nabisco Jays cards. These cards strike a chord with me -- I clearly remember chasing them as a kid. Thanks to the 3 Stephane sent, I am down to needing only 7 more.

Keeping with French connections, I encourage you to take a moment to head over and check out a new baseball card blog: http://thecardpapoy.blogspot.ca/. Kevin is based in France and just getting back into the hobby after a hiatus. What's also noteworthy is that Kevin is a Blue Jays collector! If you haven't checked out his blog, I encourage you to.

And lastly, if I'm going to plug blogs of Jays collectors, you really need to check out http://30aweekhabit.blogspot.ca/. If you haven't been by Robert's site in a while, you should head there now. Since the Spring, he has been holding a March Madness style elimination bracket to figure out what Topps set to collect next. The entire series has created some interesting matchups and generated a lot of interesting comments and voting. 1959 is pitted against 1974 in the finals. If you hurry there soon, you'll make it in time to help decide the finals!

And to both of you, Kevin and Robert, if you're reading this watch your mailboxes. Went to the PO today and sent you each some Jays cards.

Vive les Blue Jays!

Richard.