Friday, March 30, 2018

Opening Day-iversary

I hope everyone can excuse the lack of cardboard related posts lately.  I actually have a backlog of packages and mail to show off, but there have been some other topics that I wanted to knock out first.  

Regardless of what happens in today's game, Opening Day 2018 is a special occasion for me.  It's my Opening Day-iversary.  See, in February of 2008 I met this girl.  Later that month we went on our first date, and things took off from there.  A few months later, baseball season started.  On the scale of "deciding relationship factors," "Going to a Pirates game" ranks ahead of taking her home to meet the parents or introducing her to my friends.  If I'm taking a girl to a baseball game, you know things are getting serious. 

I already had my season ticket package for the 2008 season, and the home opener was always one of my favorite events of otherwise uneventful Pirates seasons.  We were both in college, and a short 15 minute walk from PNC Park.  I'd rather not own up to how many classes I cut to attend day games.  Let's just say it was for the best I was in Pittsburgh and not Chicago.  The Cubbies day schedule would have flunked me out of school.
Our first baseball game.  Please excuse the atrocious late 00's fashion.

The home opener was Monday, April 7th.  I asked her if she wanted to go, and plans were made.  Kate had only gone to a handful of Pirate games before we met.  And by a handful I mean like 2 or 3.  Her family has zero interest in sports, despite their daughter being a D1 athlete at the time.  I still can't totally comprehend the concept to this day.  Heck, there were plenty of home series where I went to more than 2 or 3 games.  So this was going to be a big test in my eyes.  It's impossible to be around me and not have some sort of Pirates related topic or reference slip into casual conversation.  So dating someone who isn't interested in the Pirates?  That would be a deal breaker.

The game went on in typical Pirates fashion, giving up one run in the second before the Cubs put up a 6-spot in the 3rd.  Losing 7-0?   Sounds about right.

I think I spent the better part of the first few innings explaining what was happening.  At the time, she didn't even know the names of any of the other teams.  The Cubs are from Chicago.  No, I don't know why the bear is blue.  Just go with it.  It would be into the next season before she would finally have all the teams down, and probably a while after that before she could finally embrace that yes, there are Giants in both baseball and football, no they are not from the same city, but yes, they used to be.  Oh and the football ones don't actually plan in New York.  Maybe this sports thing is tougher than it looks...

The Bucs put out their best and brightest for the home crowd.  Doug Mientkiewicz was at first.  The Pirates had a lengthy period where they thought any catcher or first basemen who at least one working knee could handle the hot corner.  Luis Rivas was the shortstop, and actually managed two hits on the day.  I think they were the only ones he that entire season.  Pre-IHitaTonofHomers Jose Bautista played third.
The Pirates responded with 5 runs in the 4th, and suddenly we had a game again.  The Pirates knotted it up in the 7th at 8.  We had an Opening Day shootout, and I was in heaven.  If you are going to your first baseball game with a non-baseball fan, a high scoring game definitely helps move things along.  I don't know that things would have gone nearly as well in a 1-0 pitchers duel. 

With all of the scoring, the game had dragged on.   The 1:30 start time had now into dinner time.  As I said, I didn't mind skipping a few classes in the name of baseball.  But Kate had a once a week evening class.  I think it was from 5-8 or 6-9.  Not fun.  The professor had some sort of policy that you could miss one class, and after that your grade dropped.  Or you failed.  Something ominous happened.  And young love be damned, Kate wasn't going to burn her one missed class on a baseball game.

She looked at the time and said she needed to get going so she could walk back to campus and get to class.  Leave?  A baseball game?  Opening Day no less?  The concept was still working its way into my 20 year old brain.  It's a tie game! 

I'm a little ashamed to admit that instead of doing the sweet thing and leaving the game to walk back to campus with her, I stayed and watched the end of the game.  It's a tie game on Opening Day!  The Bucs would go on to lose 10-8 in extra innings.  Neither her clear lack of commitment to the National Pastime nor my less than stellar date etiquette were apparently a deal breaker.

Ten years, three states, a wedding, and a house later, leaving Opening Day is still something I hold over our head during the occasional argument.  I guess we have some real knock down, drag out fights.  But that's love, when the worst thing you can hold against someone is leaving a baseball game of a 95 loss team a decade earlier.

Anyone else have any good game stories with their significant other?  To everyone else whose game got rained out yesterday, happy Opening Day!  I promise I'll get back to actual card-related content this weekend!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

What Could Have Been: 1972 Topps

I had an Opening Day post scheduled for today, but with the Pirates rainout I'm going to bump that back until tomorrow.  But hopefully this is a fair consolation prize.

Did you ever wonder how a card design becomes THE card design?  What would collecting history look like if the design for 1952 Topps or 1960 Topps had been left on the design room floor?  What would cards from those years look like?  Would they still be the iconic sets we remember and collect today, or would their place in hobby lore be radically different?

The design process behind cards fascinates me.  How many different designs and ideas got kicked around before settling on the design for the year.  When Topps was the only game in town, and there was basically one set each year there was a lot riding on designing a set that would attract kids.  One wrong design choice could spell financial headaches for the company.

Unfortunately not a lot is known about the mockups and design boards that never made it into cardboard form.  But I have been able to find some different mockups and designs online, mainly from the collection of Keith Olberman. 
They're fascinating windows into the bizarro world of collecting and what could have been.  But what stop there?  Why not give these designs a life of their own?

The scan above comes from The Topps Archives blog, and is thought to come from an issue of the Baseball Card News from the 80's.

There are a lot of gems there, but check out the lower left corner.  That's a sight to behold.  I believe it's a mockup for 1972 Topps.  The Pirates started playing at Three Rivers in mid 1970, Clemente died in late '72, and '72 is the first real radical departure from Topps fairly conservative designs of the late '60's and early 70's. 

For comparison, here's what the '72 Clemente ended up looking like:

Though they still used a unique, and pretty trippy, font, the city name is replaced with the team name.  And while the '72 design is certainly iconic, I love the radical departure from the earlier Topps style in the mockup.  The home plate design is great, and I love the counterbalance of the team logo (though the mockup is using a long outdated logo, probably because Topps hadn't included team logos for years) and the name and position.

The font is reminiscent of the wild font Topps used on their 1971 baseball set.

While Topps was willing to take some risks with the designs on their football and basketball sets, the baseball releases played it pretty safe from the mid 60's through early 70's.  The '72 set would mark a pretty radical shift that would result in some incredibly unique designs in '72, '73, and '75.

A design this wild deserves to have a second chance at life.

It's tough to tell from the small black and white photo what these cards might have looked like.  But I think these are pretty close approximations.  The font isn't spot on, but I tried to use color combinations that were pretty common for Topps during this era.
Would they have matched the outline on the plate to the team color or gone with a separate color for the plate border?  Judging by the '72 style, I think the second design is probably more accurate.

Who knows what could have been if this had been the final design.  Maybe the multi-player rookies would have been abandoned for a standalone Fisk rookie card?

Here are a few other stars of the day. 

At the end of the day I think Topps settled on the right design.  But I do love this alternate design, and it's fun to wonder what a full set might have looked like in an alternate universe.  It was a lot of fun bringing this unreleased design back to life, so let me know what you think.  If there's interest, I may unearth some other forgotten designs.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Please Excuse the Mess

Sorry for the lack of activity lately.  Gearing up for Opening Day, I've been working on a new layout for the blog.  The current template is based off of the design I created for my Pirates webpage circa 2010, and was adapted to the blog when I started writing in 2013. 

Quite a bit has changed since then both in terms of technology and my Photoshop skills.  So it's time for a fresh look, but that also has meant dusting off some skills I haven't really put into practice since almost a decade ago.  While the planned launch date was originally Opening Day, I'm going to miss the mark there.

But I'm hard at work behind the scenes to try to upgrade the look of the page from a late 90's Geocities page at least up to a respectable early 00's Freewebs page.  In the mean time, I'll try to get some content up here and there.  I've had a busy mailweek which I'm excited to show off and have a group break with my team collector pals on the calendar for tomorrow, so there should be some new content trickling in soon.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Going, Going, Juan Gone

TTM autographs are great.  TTM autographs of one of your favorite players are better. 
Juan Gonzalez was one of my favorite players throughout the 90's.  He put up monster home run numbers, was a very solid all-around hitter, and played on what I thought were some very cool Rangers teams that never had the pitching to make much noise in the standings.  For a two-time MVP he's sort of become a forgotten player.  His play was overshadowed by more headline-grabbing and charismatic players, and his prime years ended in his early 30's.  But 400+ home runs and a .295 average is a pretty impressive resume in my book.

 It's awesome to see a player who had an accomplished career signing through the mail, especially when I get stone-walled by AA players who never sniff the majors.  When I started sending out TTM requests in 2004, legends like Duke Snider, Sparky Anderson, Bobby Doerr, and Andre Dawson signed happily for no fee.  Obviously the hobby has changed quite a bit since then.  But it's great to see a fairly recent star taking the time to go through his fan mail.
While I already had a couple certified Juan Gone cards in my collection, I'm thrilled to add these.  The Collector's Choice insert is one of my favorite insert sets, and looks fantastic with a signature on the hologram.

I've started sending out requests over the past few weeks, so it should be fun to see what else pops up in the mailbox.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Sunday Leaderboard

As far back as I can remember, I loved pouring over sports stats.  My dad worked in the newspaper industry, and having a paper in front of me was commonplace before I could actually read anything it said.  I remember being very young, 5 or 6 probably, and going through the box scores and stats sheets in the sports section each day and writing down which players were hot.  I always loved the numbers aspect of the game, and nothing more than watching league leaderboards change throughout the season.
 I did a mini-rip of some Opening Day packs during a Target run for some cat food last night (the underwhelming contents will be posted tomorrow), and as I was flipping through the cards noticed something.  Many of the old "counting" stats are gone, or at the very least shrunken down to make way for some of the more modern stats.
 And I guess it just sort of struck me as funny.  I was an easy convert to Bill James' way of thinking, pouring over his Baseball Abstract as a pre-teen in the early 00's.  I've loved having new and more complex ways of thinking about and measuring the game.

But I guess I draw the line when it comes to my baseball cards.  I knew having WAR on cards isn't a brand new development, but last night was the first good look that I've taken at a card back in a good while.  It just felt hollow to read a Billy Hamilton card and not see a SB stat.  Hell, it made one of my favorite players to watch look thoroughly pedestrian to see his defining skill cut from the cardboard.
And as much as I had been interested and intrigued to see the game wholeheartedly embracing new stats, I guess I'm not the old man yelling "keep them off my baseball cards!"  That childhood spark that loved watching the leaderboards and seeing the year end result immortalized on cardboard still loves the old fashioned counting numbers.  I am, after all, a child of the Summer of '98.  There's something definitive and unquestionable about "this guy hit more home runs than that guy."

And while it's been nice to see League Leader make a return in recent years, you might see me in the streets burning cardboard if/when we see a WAR Leaders card.

Monday, March 12, 2018

A Supersized Mail Day

Most of the wide ranging baseball facts, tidbits, and anecdotes that I've committed to memory over the years don't have much practical value.  Nobody really cares why Carmen "Bunker" Hill got his nickname, or the distance of the longest home run in Three Rivers stadium.  But every once in a while it pays off.

I won a little contest over at Remember the Astrodome by id'ing the a photo of the first night game at Forbes Field.  The sad part?  It wasn't the ballpark that gave it away.  It was the angle of the photo, shot from Pitt's Cathedral of Learning, and the layout of the parking lot.  And you know you spend too much time thinking about baseball when you know the parking layout of a ballpark *demolished* almost 20 years before you were born.

Bru came through with an amazing prize pack that added some never before seen items to my collection.  Not an easy feat, to say the least.

The stars of the package were these awesome 1989 T&M oversized 8x10 cards.  T&M released some great sets of MLB umpires, but I don't remember seeing anything from them with an MLB license. 
Searching online hasn't yielded much info.  So if anyone knows anything about these, I'd love to know more.  The 4 Bru sent are the Van Slyke and Bonds, Sid Bream, and Jose Lind.  I assume there might be more, since Bobby Bonilla and Doug Drabek would have been bigger names at the time.  But who knows.

Bru also sent along some great (and slightly smaller) team postcards, including one of former Bucs pitching coach Pete Vuckovich. 
Looking at these great 8X10's got me thinking about all the posters I used to have up in my room as a kid.  These would have fit right in, held up with that green sticky tack like everything else. 

In the late 80's and early 90's it seemed like sports posters were everywhere.  I would get them monthly in SI for Kids and in wrestling magazines, the oversized foldout kinds that felt like they were always on the verge of tearing. 
I remember buying up tons of larger posters, printed on sturdy cardstock, at the semi-regular book fairs that would come to school.  I still have a lot of those posters, though it seemed like they never had any of any of the local teams.  My bedroom walls were covered with posters of all the stars of the era.  Even as I got older, those posters of Griffey and Ripken got replaced with concert posters, a huge Bob Dylan poster, and a couple of framed uncut sheets of cards on my walls.
And I guess that has carried into adulthood.  Kate and I both love wall art.  We have a bunch of different prints and pen and ink drawings depicting different parts of Pittsburgh throughout the house.  Each year at the annual arts festival we usually tend to pick up one or two other unique pieces for the house.  And my basement man cave is still covered in posters.  Just slightly upgraded to some sweet lithography or prints instead of book fair posters.
Maybe I'm just looking in the wrong places, but it doesn't seem like posters are as common these days.  I've seen some of the mini Fatheads stickers in stores, and some general team posters.  But the big, player-centric posters seem to be a thing of the past. 

But maybe that's not a terrible thing.  After all, I am running out of wall space.

Thanks to Bru for the great trip down memory lane.  Did anybody else have wall to wall posters in their bedroom?  Any favorite posters that stick out?

Saturday, March 10, 2018

A Mailday 17 Years in the Making

When you're young, time takes on a different shape.  Periods that fly by as an adult - weeks, months, sometimes even years - seem endless epochs as a child.  Time wanders on and on, seemingly taking forever and taking no time at all.  

I still clearly remember walking into MG's Cards and Collectibles, the local card store, with my mom in the spring of 2001.  When I saw the box of 2001 Donruss on the shelf, it felt special, different.  I can't remember if I had just stumbled on the product or if I had read one of the teaser articles in Beckett previewing the product.  Probably the latter.  But something about the set just jumped.  The box was brightly colored with vibrant red and blues and featuring new Rangers $25 million dollar man Alex Rodriguez.  And probably more importantly, Donruss was returning to baseball.

When you're a kid, two years feels like a long time.  Donruss' absence from baseball felt like a lifetime.  Its return a long lost friend returning.

The set just oozed cool, in my pre-teen world.  A pack within a pack.  In an age when just ripping open packs - any packs - was exciting, the chance to open two packs in one was mind blowing.  The numbered rookie cards, serial numbered parallels.  For $2, no other pack on the market could offer that with such regularity.

On that first encounter, I think my mom probably bought me 3 or 4 packs.  Nothing crazy, and we rarely spent more than $10. 

I remember that first bunch of packs.  I hit my first redemption card.  A redemption for a Ben Sheets Rated Rookie.  It turns out that Sheets was inserted as a last minute replacement, likely for CC Sabathia.  Sheets and some Pujols kid from St. Louis were the only two redemptions in the base set, and were short printed to 500 instead of the normal 2001.  Unbeknownst to me, I had landed one of the toughest cards in the set.

I spent much of that summer chasing Donruss packs across retail and hobby stores, even stopping on our family vacation in hopes of finding more packs.

Over the last couple years, I decided to start seriously buying all the cards 2001 Donruss cards I could.  With the high dollar cards and all the serial numbered parallels, a chance of completing one of the Stat Line parallel sets is out of reach.  But I'll hoard as many cards from the set as I can, recapturing that joy.

I was browsing ebay earlier in the week when I decided to search for 2001 Donruss cards and came across a card I had been thinking about since 2001.

There's a lot of special things about this card, and not just because of my crush on 2001 Donruss.  It's the first instance of the now infamous shiny silver Donruss sticker autos.  Donruss overprinted redemption cards for the Stat Line parallels for Sheets and Pujols.  So while some were filled with the serial numbered Stat Line cards, the rest were sent an unnumbered autograph in its place.  When I saw it, I couldn't hit the BIN fast enough.  At $10 shipped, it was well worth the price to me.

Seventeen years later, my Ben Sheets Rated Rookie has a friend.  And I think I have a new favorite card in my 2001 Donruss collection.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Unsolved Cardboard Mysteries: Episode 2

Welcome back for another episode of Unsolved Cardboard Mysteries.  In today's episode, we have a case that hits close to home.  Perhaps too close.

In fact, this was unknowingly featured right on this blog.  In my first post back after a long layoff I wrote about a hot pack that got my collecting juices flowing.
I grabbed a single pack of Update while at the store at the end of last year, and was pleasantly shocked to hit a numbered Willie Stargell insert and a Josh Bell SP.  It seemed like a pretty odd coincidence and a hot pack, but nothing out of the usual.  I've had packs with two inserts before, though it seemed like some great luck that both were Pirates.

I remember it clearly and unmistakable.  The cards were back to back, the Bell then the Stargell.  Some fine luck, but as my collecting kicked into gear I hadn't thought any more of it.

Until the other night.  I was on the couch getting caught up on entering recent additions into my Pirates master spreadsheet and watching The Magicians on Netflix (which you should check out if you haven't seen it). 

I'm pretty out of touch with all of the recent releases and like to keep my spreadsheet largely in line with Beckett's naming conventions.  So I had a tab of Beckett up in Chrome, looking up the "formal" name of any parallel or insert that I wasn't 100% sure on.  As I got to the Bell card, I typed in a quick keyword search - something like Josh Bell 2017 update to make sure I had the right variation tagged.

No results.

Beckett can be a little finicky, but usually pretty consistent.

So I tried searching for Josh Bell 2017 sp.  Boom, results.  But the cards said Topps, not Topps Update, and were number 30 rather than the usual UH-XXX numbering.

Again, I'm out of the loop, so maybe they dropped the UH numbering on Update.

And then I took a look at the actual card, and saw that the back very clearly, plainly said Series 1.

But there's no doubt that the cards were pulled from the same pack, back to back.  One pack, two hits.  One from Series 1, one from Update.  The pack didn't look tampered with, and I certainly can't see someone *adding* hits to a pack.  But how do two cards, released in sets months apart, from the same team end up in one pack?

How these two cards ended up together remains a mystery.  Was it Jobu calling me back to the hobby?  A strange twist of fate?  Or a simple factory error?  Perhaps we'll never know.  Has anyone else ever seen a Cardboard Bermuda Triangle like this in a pack?

Join us next time when we look into a sticky situation on one card.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

My Lonely Mailbox

Have you ever noticed that this hobby can snowball on you pretty easily?  Never all at once, but slowly, steadily.  I still remember the first time I decided to try my hand at TTM autographs.  It was right in the middle of Spring Training 2004.  I had been following a thread on the Beckett Message Board, and it blew my teenage mind that collectors were getting all these autographs from real, live baseball players for the cost of a stamp.  This was right in the prime of the game-used explosion, and most boxes now guaranteed at least one "hit."  But autographs were still tough to come by, and pulling even the most obscure of players was a huge deal.  I still remember jumping for joy at the sight of a Andy Morales auto from 2002 Topps Traded.  So getting autographs for the cost of two stamps? 

Pure heaven.

At the peak of my free time to things to do ratio, probably mid-high school, I think I sent something like 200 letters out.  Each hand written, each genuinely sharing why I enjoyed watching that player or following their career or learning about what they accomplished.  Each researched and thoughtfully composed in my terribly illegible chicken scratch.

Coming home each day was like opening a pack of high end product.  There was almost always one autograph waiting in the mailbox.  On a good day, maybe even two or three.  I remember once there were five envelopes waiting for me, and I nearly lost my mind.

At the time, quite a few Hall of Famers signed regularly and for free.  Times have changed, players have changed. 

I've continued my collecting habits, but the number of requests have trailed downward for years as the pesky realities of being an adult get in the way.  Fewer players sign, and many of the consistent signers I already sent to over the years.  And of course certified autos have trended down as well, and can now be had for a fraction of what they used to cost.

But as I've started finding my "new normal" in my return to the hobby, it's a part that I find myself missing the most.  My favorite parts of collecting are the simplest.  Evolving simple base cards into autographs.  I just recently reactivated my subscription to, and I'm excited to jump back into things.  There's nothing more exciting than having a reason to check the mailbox after work. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Capt'n Crunch

Shiver me timbers.  For those not keeping score at home, today is National Cereal Day.  Like it or not, baseball cards have a long history of being paired with some consumer product.  Whether it's tobacco, gum, or cereal, today's hobby is a far cry from the days of trying to use cards to sell something else.

But my favorite pairing has to be cereal and cards.

There's just something about the two that feels right.  And when paired together, cereal cards pushed the envelope into new hobby territory. 

Whether it's the 50's Post cards or Kellogg's 3-D cards, the designs and style provided a fresh take on cardboard.  Topps' designs are iconic because they had a monopoly through the Golden Age of collecting, and their cards were the most widely and easily attainable.  A kid could save his nickel and go buy a pack of cards.  If you wanted a cereal card, you were probably going to have to wait for mom to go buy another box.

But the cards?  Absolutely amazing.

But it's not just the cards themselves.  Cereal cards touched territory that Topps never made it to, and for a specialty set had a surprisingly deep checklist. 

Want a Goose Gossage Pirates card?  Kellogg's was (and is) your only option.

Want a card of Vinegar Bend Mizell card?  Check Post.  Despite winning 13 games for the World Champ Bucs in 1960 and playing for the team through the '62 season, he never made the cut for Topps.  And with a nickname like Vinegar Bend, you know you want that in your collection.

 Even though I wasn't around for the prime years of cereal cards as Kellogg's pumped out amazing set after amazing set, to me they represent all that was once great about the hobby.  Baseball, and baseball cards, used to be everywhere.  Food issues.  Denny's Grand Slam cards.  Heck, you could even get you own baseball cereal.

The profile of baseball has fallen off the map.  The Commissioner can cite pace of play, commercial breaks, extra-inning games, or anything else he likes.  But in my mind, it comes down to the fact that the average family has been priced out of the game.  Want to go to a game?  Ticket prices are likely to be 100-150% higher than they were at the beginning of the century.  Hell, Pirate tickets are 100% higher than what I was paying at the beginning of the *decade*  Want to watch your team?  You'll need a premium cable package.  Want to watch a game on prime time TV on a major network?  Good luck.

I was discussing the changes to the game on twitter (@battlinbucs, if you don't already follow me), and thought about how often I was able to watch the Cubs on WGN and Braves on TBS as a kid.  I didn't love either team, and outright hated the Braves because of what that one-legged Sid Bream did to my childhood.  But watching games day in and day out was what made me fall in love with the game.  And being able to collect cards just doubled down that excitement.

The last cereal cards I remember were in 2002.  Food issues as a whole barely exist, thanks in large part due to the exclusive licensing that Topps has.  But don't blame Topps.  MLB started the exclusive licensing plague that has run rampant over the hobby.  Again, I'm putting this all at their feet.

While other leagues have taken cross promotion and leveraged it to make their game boom (I'm overlooking the NFL's recent struggles because their  absurd growth over the previous decade couldn't be sustained, and some slideback was inevitable).  MLB has grown their revenue, but the game's overall profile has been lapped by basketball and football. 
I don't know that we'll ever see cereal cards make a true comeback that isn't a one-off mini promotion with 15 or 20 cards.  I doubt it, even though it makes sense.  But for today we celebrate the great cards that used to fall out of our cereal boxes.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Mini Mailday

I've written on here a few different times about the Team Collectors group that I've been a part of for over a decade.  The group was formed on the Beckett message boards what feels like ages ago with a pretty simple concept - send cards of all the teams you don't collect to collectors of those teams, and get back cards of your team.  Over the years it's evolved from a trading circle to a group of true, wonderful friends.  We even have an annual meet up that jumps from city to city for as many as can make it.

After so many years, the group is more about people than cards at this point.  But it's always nice to have a package hit your mailbox.
Lately some members have started trading PWE's back and forth.  It's convenient and quick, and most of us are already stuffed to the gills with base cards for our respective teams.  So just the hits is fine with me.
These goodies came in from our D'backs collector.  I was a big fan of Bunt its first year, but I'm not sure how I feel about this all blue everything parallel.  It just feels a little lazy to me, but might be a nice pull for some of the teams that have blue as a primary color. 

And Gift?  This might be my favorite 2017 card I own.  I followed his career since he was initially signed, and it's one of the best feel good stories in baseball.  It's a shame he isn't still with the Pirates, but I hope his glove will be able to carry him to a decent career in the majors.

There you have it, short, sweet, and easy to sort!  Just the way I like it.