Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Trading Post #119: Collector's Crack

Now that hockey playoffs have started, which the Avalanche barely squeaked into, it's a perfect time to write about some football cards I won from Collector's Crack during his annual Super Bowl contest. The Denver Nuggets also had a chance to make it to the NBA playoffs, but weren't able to seal the deal in overtime on Wednesday. So that just leaves three Denver sports teams to cover, as the Rockies' 25th Anniversary season is still just getting underway.

The Broncos didn't factor into the NFL playoffs in the 2017-18 season, but everyone around here still bleeds orange and blue. My pick in the contest was for the Steelers to beat the Eagles. I did get the correct NFC team, but not the outcome. That disqualified me from the main prize, but I still came out on top when the randomizer spit out its results.

2010 Absolute Memorabilia Star Gazing #5 Demaryius Thomas
This was a football contest, so it's appropriate for me to start off with a few football cards. Specifically, a colorful Panini card from the Absolute Memorabilia set, a name not seen in baseball circles in quite some time. The extra-colorful design reminds me of the Aurora inserts found in last year's Diamond Kings set, perhaps not surprising as this is an insert card itself. It looks like this design is supposed to be an American flag overlaid in front of some type of spacey image from the Hubble Space Telescope.

Demaryius Thomas, one of the Broncos veteran Wide Receivers, was just getting his pro career started after attending Georgia Tech when this card was printed. He and Charlie Blackmon were both Yellow Jackets in the late-2000s, so it's possible that the two Denver sports stars knew each other in their college days, much like Peyton Manning and Todd Helton attended Tennessee together.

2008 Donruss Gridiron Gear Silver Holofoil O's #32 Brandon Marshall /250
Brandon Marshall has had quite a long career, especially by NFL standards. Yet despite playing for a dozen seasons, he's never managed to make it to the playoffs. He has made it to six Pro Bowls, including his first in 2008, the year of this shiny card. I'll take a shiny card like this regardless of the sport, especially when it has a serial number on the back.

Donruss may have had some type of tabletop game in mind, as this card also came in an "X" variety, replacing the O in the upper left of this card. If you wanted to, I suppose you could make your own formations with your shiny Gridiron Gear cards. Traditionally, Os are for the Offense and X is for the Defense, and of course most football players focus on one side or the other. I feel like I have the more "correct" version of this card, but it's as good a way as any to make another parallel.

2011 Topps Prime Veteran #PV-ER Eddie Royal
I know all these names, but I haven't really followed their careers after their departure from Denver. Eddie Royal, yet another wide receiver, later played for the Chargers and Bears, but was cut before the 2017-18 season and remains an unsigned free agent. He's barely older than Charlie Blackmon, but his career may have drawn to a close. It's a punishing sport to play, and long careers are rare. There's tremendous pressure to play through the pain, lest someone younger and healthier take your spot that you might not be able to get back. The rosters are gigantic, there are a tremendous number of young athletes graduating from college every year, and you only have a short while to really make a name for yourself.

There aren't a lot of R.A. Dickeys, Randy Johnsons, or Jose Bautistas in the NFL. Just look at this Topps Prime card itself. Royal was already a "Prime Veteran" at just 25, barely into his fourth NFL season when this set hit the market.

Side note: remember when Topps made NFL cards?

Corey Seager, by the way, is in his fourth MLB season right now, and only a little younger than Royal was in 2011. I think he has a while before anyone starts calling him a "veteran".

They are very different sports.

2003 Bowman's Best Blue #130 Adrian Madise (AU) /499
I don't follow the world of NFL prospects or the annual draft, but I can only imagine that its even deeper than in Major League Baseball. Other than Marcus Mariota, I can pretty much tell you nothing about which college player ended up on which NFL team. Perhaps that's why I've never heard of Adrian Madise, a wide receiver from TCU who played in 11 games for the Broncos in 2003. That was the extent of his NFL career, but he signed cards for Bowman that year, in this case a sticker autograph that also has one of those small, square, numbered hologram stickers on the back that Topps used to provide.

It's also serial numbered to /499, probably the rarest card I own of a player I've never heard of.

2009 Topps Chrome Cheerleaders #TCC2 Amanda
Another aspect of football that makes it quite different from baseball is the presence of cheerleaders. A stack of about ten cheerleader insert cards from 2009 Topps Chrome was the main door prize from Collector's Crack; the rest of these cards were just an added bonus.

These are the first cards of their type in my collection. I've noted before that there is a pretty glaring absence of women in professional sports, as I mentioned in a post about Allen & Ginter. There are a number of women in an on-field reporting role, but more often than not, most women on-field at an NFL game seem to have pom-poms. And let's not forget the Twitter storm that ESPN launched by putting a woman in the booth next to Rex Ryan during Monday Night Football last season.

Interestingly, you might be surprised to learn who has anchored the most episodes of SportsCenter on ESPN. Not Chris Berman, not the late Stuart Scott, not Scott Van Pelt, not Dan Patrick. It's Linda Cohn, and she did an extremely interesting interview recently with Internet celebrity and Jets superfan Gary Vaynerchuk.

Anyway, what can I say about Amanda, cheerleader for the Baltimore Ravens? Well, Topps Chrome cards still seem to have a curl no matter the subject. And cheerleading looks like it would be an especially cold occupation in the winter months. I'll bask in the sunshine and late evening twilight at Coors Field any day of the week, but I've never braved the cold to see an NFL game, which can easily drop into the single digits in a place like Colorado. Finally, I noticed that Amanda went to the University of Delaware, which is my mom's alma mater.

2011 Topps Legends #87 Tim Tebow
I don't expect to see baseball cheerleaders anytime soon, but Tim Tebow has been the one to blur the lines between baseball and football lately. He's spent a couple years in the Mets' farm system after being cut by several NFL teams. The way the injuries have been piling up for the Mets the past few years, Tebow might make it to the Majors purely because of attrition. They're currently without a catcher, as Travis d'Arnaud will undergo Tommy John surgery (yes, as a catcher), and Kevin Plawecki just hit the DL for a month after a hit-by-pitch.

When Tebow was the quarterback for the Broncos, I remember two things. He'd miraculously pull out a win by taking the lead in the 4th quarter (or even overtime, as Steelers fans and Demaryius Thomas will recall), and he'd run the ball a lot. I kept saying he should be a running back. This card confirms my second memory, mentioning that Tebow ran the ball more in his first three starts than any QB since 1970, starting off with the very first "40-30", a completing a 40 yard run and 30-yard pass in the same quarter.

That was enough to earn him a spot in the Topps Legends set, even though his NFL career only lasted sixteen games over three seasons. But perhaps we haven't heard the last of him.

By the way, did Topps ever plan on releasing Legends or Prime as baseball sets? They're beautiful.

2017 Topps Chrome '87 Topps #87T-24 David Dahl
Like nearly everyone who trades with me, Collector's Crack included a few Rockies in my envelope. Back to the familiar world of baseball and the 1987 Topps design, here's David Dahl, who might see some playing time in the next few days, thanks to the suspensions MLB handed down following a hit-by-pitch incident.

2017 Topps Chrome '87 Topps #87T-15 Nolan Arenado
Yes, Nolan Arenado got five games for that, as did Padres pitcher Luis Perdomo. He dropped his appeal and did not play in Saturday's loss in Washington. Gerardo Parra is still appealing his four-game suspension related to the incident, so there may be a brief window for David Dahl to appear in his first MLB game since the end of 2016.

Topps has been spoon-feeding us 1987 Topps for a while, but I still enjoy seeing it. The woodgrain border doesn't really come across that well when given the refractor treatment, but the overall design clearly stands up to the MLB expansion that's occurred since its release. Topps even kept the "On This Date" theme on the card back, giving us information from the 1987 season. Nolan's card back tells us about Sachio Kinugasa, a Japanese player who broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive games record in 1987, whose streak ended at 2,215. David Dahl's card mentions Dave Dravecky's outstanding pitching performance in Game 2 of the 1987 NLCS, a series the Giants would lose in 7.

2003 Playoff Portraits #21 Todd Helton
This heavily-textured card of Todd Helton was clearly meant to look like an oil painting. Picture UD Masterpieces with brush strokes and you have the idea. It's pretty well done, right down to the swirls on Helton's ear flap.

This texture doesn't carry to the back, which just gets a glossy finish, standard for cards of this era. It's the second throwback to 2003 in this post, and the card brings yet another sport into this post by telling us that "Helton takes a bad swing about as often as Tiger Woods". In case you don't follow golf, Tiger is back. While he didn't contend at The Masters, he did tie for 2nd place a few tournaments ago with Patrick Reed, this year's winner at Augusta.

2013 Topps Chasing The Dream Relics #CDR-DP Drew Pomeranz (MEM)
I like to save relics for the end. This is from 2013's Chasing The Dream insert set, and I remember admiring the non-relic flavor the first time I saw it. I said back then that I wanted to acquire a few more, and cynicalbuddha at Collector's Crack made sure I did. Not only that, but this relic contains one of the prized purple pinstripes that often pop up on Rockies relic cards. Pomeranz has long since left the Rockies, turning in an excellent 17-6 record for the Red Sox last year, and he'll probably make his 2018 debut next week.

It's been a long time since a Rockie has put up a W-L record like that. But many ex-Rockies find more success on other teams. Jason Hammel had a couple great years with the Cubs, although Tyler Chatwood is 0-2 in his first two games as a Cubbie.

I was lucky to win this shipment from that Super Bowl contest. It's surprising that the contest ended over two months ago, but I'm excited to be able to write this post with a ballgame on in the background. Thanks again to Collector's Crack, and don't miss his annual Super Bowl contest once the 2018-19 NFL playoffs are set!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

The Trading Post #118: Nachos Grande

Shipments from Chris at Nachos Grande have been a common fixture in my mailbox so far in 2018. Here's another, and there's still one more yet to come. The prolific blogger has had his Trade Stack theme going on for many years, and I finally managed to claim one.

To claim his Trade Stack #88, I mailed a few 2018 Topps cards sent to me by Peter at Baseball Every Night, plus a couple more from 2017 Topps Archives that probably came my way in one of Chris' own group breaks. As I wrote in my note, the cards came full circle. Chris, who is much more on top of his blog than I am, already posted a month ago about what Trade Stack #88 earned him in return.

2014 Topps Heritage #2 Michael Cuddyer / Chris Johnson / Freddie Freeman
Trade Stack #88 was mostly retro-themed, starting off with a couple of multi-player cards from 2014 Topps Archives, modeled after the iconic 1965 set. Even on this three-player card, the famous pennant is visible right on top, above Michael Cuddyer. Thanks to Cuddyer's prominent photograph, we know that the now-retired first baseman won the NL batting title in 2013, kicking off a run of four titles for the Rockies in the past five seasons, interrupted only by Dee Gordon in 2015.

Two Braves appear on this card, the first being Chris Johnson, who hasn't played in the Majors since 2016 and is now in Baltimore's farm system. Freddie Freeman, on the other hand, has been extremely hot to start the 2018 season, including an RBI single against the Rockies in yesterday's home opener at Coors Field. He's certainly the best player the Braves have, but they're developing lots of young talent.

The beginning of the baseball season also means the beginning of Fantasy baseball, and Freeman has been the second-most valuable hitter in my league, behind only the even hotter Didi Gregorius. Things on my team are getting of to a bit of a slow start, but I did pick one of Freeman's young teammates, Ozzie Albies, who was the R in Freeman's RBI I mentioned earlier. Ablies also hit one out of a snowy Coors Field as just the second batter of the day, which was about an hour late thanks to the snow. Or as the Rockies put it on Twitter, #SnowpeningDay.

2014 Topps Heritage #7 Anibal Sanchez / Bartolo Colon
Speaking of Fantasy baseball, Anibal Sanchez always reminds me of 2006, the first of two times I ended up as the runner-up in my league. I briefly mentioned that when Sanchez' equivalent card in 2014 Topps arrived (well, a parallel), which he also shared with Bartolo Colon and Hisashi Iwakuma. For whatever reason, Topps chose to just feature two players instead of three, giving lots of room to the ageless Bartolo Colon.

Sanchez, by the way, is pitching out of the bullpen for none other than the Braves this season, but he began his career as a Marlin. And in September 2006 against the Diamondbacks, he threw his only career no-hitter.

No hitters are hugely valuable in my points-based fantasy league, stacking with the Win, the Shutout, the Complete Game, and all the strikeouts. I had Justin Verlander's in 2007 and it was worth 126 points, if memory serves. I don't remember the point value, but Sanchez' in 2006 upended the league's playoffs quite a bit. It advanced a competing team that wouldn't otherwise have won. I met that team in the final, and even though my team scored a whopping 550 points that final week, Andruw Jones went on an absolute tear for my opponent, hitting 5 homers and helping them outscore my team 558-550 in a heavyweight bout.

This was twelve years ago, people.

Anyway, I'd have won the league if not for that no-hitter, so the way I see it, Anibal Sanchez owes me about $600.

1998 Upper Deck Retro #103 Travis Lee FUT
Shifting back to cards, the retro theme carries on, thanks to a set literally called Upper Deck Retro. This Futurama subset has an elongated hexagonal frame that 1999 Starquest borrows from, and the set itself has a nostalgic feel that pretty much everyone else borrowed from, and continues to.

Travis Lee was one of the top rookie prospects of the day, and let's not forget that 1998 marked the inaugural year for the Arizona Diamondbacks. This card just has his 1997 minor league statistics on the back, but the paragraph mentions his home runs as a full-fledged member of the Diamondbacks, with 17 by the time the All-Star Break happened. He finished his rookie year with 22, a high water mark he wouldn't pass. Lee finished third in Rookie of the Year voting in '98, trailing Todd Helton and winner Kerry Wood.

1998 Upper Deck Retro #106 Mike Caruso FUT
Mike Caruso, another prospect for the much more established Chicago White Sox, only played three seasons in the big leagues, despite finishing third in his own league's Rookie of the Year voting. 1998 and 1999 were decent seasons for him, but he had a gap until he briefly returned in 2002 for a handful of games as a Royal. That's all she wrote for Mike Caruso, one of the least-recognizable names in the entire 30-card subset.

This was an early attempt at a retro set. The design is about right, but the card is a little too smooth, the photo a little too sharp despite the sepia filter, and the jewel-like Upper Deck hologram diamond on the back always looks out of place on these retro cards.

2000 Fleer Tradition #352 Barry Larkin
2000 Fleer Tradition was fully on board with the retro craze, and they gave us a set that is pretty close to 1954 Topps, at least on the front. Topps seemed not to really care, nor did they with 2002 Upper Deck Vintage, so I bet UD was pretty surprised when Topps' legal team came knocking in 2009 after the release of O-Pee-Chee.

Regardless, the card back of 2000 Fleer Tradition is nothing like 1954 Topps, but it is a bit hard to read. The color scheme is sort of like an inverted 1989 Topps. Barry Larkin, the topic of Chris' top player collection, had a few more seasons left in his Hall of Fame career by the turn of the millennium, and it is nice to see a single team listed next to each year.

Perhaps Charlie Blackmon will be a lifetime Rockie, as he just signed a contract that will keep him in Denver for a few more years, possibly through 2023. That seems like a long time away, but it will be here pretty quickly. I was sure that Verlander's no-hitter I mentioned earlier was his second, in 2011, but it was over a decade ago, back in 2007.

2012 Bowman Draft Draft Picks #BDPP109 Johendi Jiminian
There was an extra spot in the PWE, so Chris tossed in a Rockie that wasn't part of the trade stack, one I've never heard of. The longer the Bowman card number, the longer the player's shot seems to be at making it to the big leagues. Indeed, Johendi Jiminian has been toiling away in the minors since 2010. Although he did make it as high as Triple-A last season, he still hasn't cracked the code, and is now part of the Mariners farm system.

It broke the retro card theme, but that's fine. It's part of an even twelve-card trade, and I think it worked out just fine for both sides!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Blog Bat Around: What I Collect (inspired by Night Owl Cards)

To follow up my rather late review of 2018 Topps, I've got a post that's reasonably on time. All throughout the Cardsphere this month, collectors have been sharing the specifics of "What I Collect", a theme started by none other than Night Owl Cards. It's been unbelievably busy at work this month, and next week will be no exception, but I wanted to carve out some weekend time to join in the Blog Bat-Around fun. I previously hopped on the Kevin Bacon train, but this one's a lot more involved, and I got to pick and choose cards from all over my collection.

We'll lead off with a subject that will surprise absolutely no one.

1. Rockies

2007 Topps #150 Todd Helton
I wasn't always a team collector. I still don't really fully identify as one, as you'll see by the remaining content of this post. It's just so easy to be one in this community. Everyone wants a place to send their unwanted cards, and since there are just 29 teams besides yours, you don't have to look too hard to find a home for them. Unless, of course, we're talking about the Marlins.

Whoever eventually proclaims themselves as a Marlins collector will no doubt be buried in an avalanche of cardboard the likes of which even Wes couldn't match. I have my stack of Marlins extras safely tucked away like the rest of you, waiting for the day they'll have a home. I also have a few spare Royals cards nearby, if anyone wants to claim those.

So I collect Rockies. For better or worse, they are my team. They are my team in the #SuperTraders group, if that's still a thing. They are my team in pretty much every group break I buy into. They are my team when most of you trade with me. They are my team when I go to the ballpark. They were my team a decade ago when my sister and I went to Spring Training in Tucson. They are especially my team during the rare occasion when they make the playoffs. And they're very often my team when I write about baseball cards, as you can see from over four years of this blog's existence.

And who better to represent the Rockies than the face of the franchise, Todd Helton? The only Rockie with a retired number was my entry in a previous Blog Bat Around started by Collecting Cutch. That 2007 Topps card above was #11, the final reject that didn't make my Top Ten list. It hits one of my mini-collections, which we'll get to, but that card has been patiently waiting its turn on this blog since last year. To my knowledge, no better card exists that shows Helton's Mantle-esque post-swing pose, and the black borders and facsimile signature give the Filmstrip Set a retro feel.

2. Sets

2016 Stadium Club #105 Bryce Harper
They're less of a focus these days (see section 1), but if there's a set I like, I still go after it. I usually don't have the patience to build sets by hand (1993 Fleer being one exception), so when I do end up with a full set, it's usually because I just bought the factory set. It's easy, less expensive, and I like the pretty boxes. I've been doing that with Topps for quite some time, and my collection of complete Topps base sets goes back to 1986. I even have a whole blog tab dedicated to the sets I've completed, which is a helpful reference when visiting the discount table of a LCS.

Of course, I realize that not all sets come factory-sealed. In fact, most don't, something that bugs Heritage collectors year after year. But even if not, like Stadium Club, I'll still get a blaster or two, or at least some value packs. And I'll be sure to keep my eyes peeled at card shows.

It's hard to quantify exactly what makes me like a set. A sense of nostalgia goes a long way, like with 2011 Topps Heritage (based on the '62 set). Once in a while I stumble across an old gem like a box of 1993 Leaf and I'll have one of the series done in one fell swoop. Anything on that blog tab that's a single series was probably done that way. Sometimes I just like a set, period. 2011 Topps Lineage is an example of that. But generally, design and photography will seal the deal, which is why I've been such a fan of Stadium Club since its resurgence in 2014.

Topps has been raiding the Getty Images archives for some time now, and they've come up with lots of memorable shots. Bryce Harper under the lights at his home park results in a great night card from a favorite brand of mine. Not only that, but this is one where we're given enough detail in the scoreboard to date this to July 7th, 2015. The Nats lost that day, facing the Reds and Johnny Cueto, who ended up with a complete game shutout. But as Harper waited his turn on deck in the bottom of the 6th, there was still plenty of time to stage a comeback.

He struck out, but that's just one at-bat out of many. He's had many successful at-bats, so many that the "34" in his uniform number just might be the first two digits of a nine-figure contract he's expected to sign when he reaches free agency.

Who wouldn't want more of this set?

3. Inserts

2015 Topps Opening Day Hit the Dirt #HTD-03 Billy Hamilton
I'll get more specific, I promise. This isn't just a review of what types of cards exist in the baseball card hobby. The super-high end autograph sets aren't going to have a place here. But interesting insert sets from the basic brands you can buy at Target have a place in my collection. There are so many insert sets year after year that it's hard not to find a few to like. Stadium Club of course gives us great ones, and Topps Opening Day is usually good for a few too, like this one of Reds speedster Billy Hamilton. I'll be buying my annual blaster of Opening Day soon, and I expect to see a few more like this.

Which insert sets I chase are often determined in the same way as which main sets I chase. Sometimes they just catch my eye at a card show and I'm hooked. 2013 Topps Chasing History comes to mind, as does 2011 Topps 60. And we mustn't forget the Mascots set that Opening Day gives us every year.

I seem to have a knack for pulling NL Central inserts from my Opening Day blasters. There were Pirates galore last year. The NL Central is well-represented on this 2015 card, offering a rare shot of someone stealing third base.

I hope base stealing doesn't become an oddity like knuckleballs. As it is, Dee Gordon is basically a lock to lead the league in the statistic. I just don't want him to be one of just three or four guys still doing it, like the Niekro brothers and Charlie Hough.

4. Parallels

1994 Topps Gold #287 Mike Lansing
I'm a little bit pickier when it comes to parallels. I don't chase every color in the rainbow that Topps is doing these days, especially now that they got rid of borders. Purple borders are nice, especially on Rockies cards, but with the demise of Toys 'R' Us, the exclusive retailer of purple parallels, those won't be around anymore. Other coincidental color-coding is pleasing to look at, but they're more of a curiosity. What really interests me is when there are just one or two parallels to be found. Stadium Club First Day Issues, for example, 1994 Upper Deck Electric Diamond, and Opening Day Blue cards.

But what first comes to mind when I think of parallels is Topps Gold. These were the first ones I chased, and I still enjoy running across these. I'll never pass one up at a card show. I also jumped at the chance to get a bunch from Matt at Summer of '74 recently. The above Mike Lansing card has been in my collection for longer, and there's no parallel set better represented in my collection than 1994 Topps Gold.

The horizontal layout makes this example stand out, as does the oddly-placed Topps Rookie Cup logo. It's partially obscuring the Giants catcher, possibly Kirt Manwaring, who had another cameo in 1994 Topps on Dante Bichette's card. On the other hand, that could be Jeff Reed, the Giants' backup catcher, because his black mitt is different than the tan one Manwaring wore on both Bichette's and Darrell Whitmore's 1994 cards.

Either way, they'd all end up being teammates on the 1998 Rockies. Well, except for Darrell Whitmore.

5. Overproduction

1992 Fleer Ultra #383 Darryl Hamilton
I came of age during the tail end of the baseball card bubble, and the earlier parts of my collection reflect that. Many of my overproduction cards are simply there because of pure abundance. I'm sure that is true for many of us. My first-ever packs were of 1987 Topps and 1990 Fleer. When I got a little older, the local Wal-Mart had a great supply of 1991 Topps, 1993 Fleer, and more. Even Toys 'R' Us was a good source for cheap cards like 1991 Score. 1988 Donruss still seems to sneak its way in whenever you're not looking, and 1991 Fleer can practically be seen from space.

It's everywhere.

I collected so many of these sets at so young an age that they're seared into my memory for the rest of time. There is no time period of cards, not even cards released mere months ago, that I remember as well as some of these sets. Case in point: I can tell the difference between 1992 Ultra and 1993 Ultra in a split-second glance.

Darryl Hamilton, the late ex-Rockie, got a great bunting shot in 1992 Ultra as a member of the then-AL Brewers. The bat itself has an interesting woodgrain pattern, and we can see the hollowed out top of the bat as we stare down the barrel.

Yes, I am completely certain this is 1992 Ultra as compared to '93. The team and position banner extends all the way to the border, the team's city is present, there is less gold foil, and most obviously, the marbled area at the bottom is a jade color, compared to the tan color in '93. That's about all there is to go on, but it's enough.

Just don't ask me to place a Bowman set any more accurately than plus or minus five years.

1990 Fleer #363 Larry Walker (RC)
Overproduction cards are so abundant that they've earned a second card in this section, this one from the aforementioned 1990 Fleer.

As a Rockies collector, I don't see a whole lot of this era via trade. Other than two or three cards from 1992, it took most brands until Series 2 of 1993 to give us any Rockies cards. So most of these that I don't already have tend to come my way in various 5,000 count boxes that dealers unload for peanuts as card shows wrap up.

But they're often a source of conversation, because that was when everyone else collected. Once someone knows I collect, the question about what their '80s cards are worth isn't far behind. Nick wrote all about this last month. One recent day at work, our regional VP asked me about his complete '82 Topps Football set and some late-'70s Pete Rose cards. I told him those are old enough that there might be a little value if they're in good shape, a few bucks. But earlier this week, Larry Walker's rookie card came up.

We were beginning a week-long training series for an upcoming system change. The trainer wanted us to go around the room for introductions and share a fun fact about ourselves. When it got to me, what else could I say besides, "I'm Adam K, <various info about my career>, and I write a blog about baseball cards." The next day when I sit down, a coworker sat down across from me who had a slight gleam in his eye. The conversation went something like this:
"So I have Larry Walker's rookie card."
"Oh? What was that, 1989 Fleer?" [my mistake, off by a year]
"Yeah, what's that worth?"
"About ten cents."
[hangs his head in disappointment] "What about like Randy Johnson..."
"Yeah, cards from that era aren't really worth they paper they're printed on, other than Griffey's rookie. That might go for about $25."
It's tough bursting people's bubbles, but I'm sure we've all had to do it. Anyway, I have Walker's rookie card too. And it's not even centered all that well.

I did have a friend who asked me about a 1948 Leaf Jackie Robinson once, and I referred him right to SGC. But that is definitely the exception.

6. Coors Field

2014 Topps #379 Gerardo Parra
So far, my collection probably isn't terribly different from yours. But there are a few things that make it mine. Primarily, that would be my Frankenset of Coors Field cards. I've attended nearly seventy games at the ballpark, I've sat in every area, I've seen many wins, many losses, a few Hall of Famers, and many, many home runs. I know the park like the back of my hand, and I can pretty easily spot it when it's on a baseball card. This Frankenset currently stands at 143 cards, with about 60 more on the wish list (discovered thanks to many of your blogs), and another 25 or so that I rejected due to card number overlap.

Clearly, they don't even have to be Rockies to make it in. Many teams are represented, including the Expos, who had quite a few of their photos taken in Denver. I guess the photographers didn't want to schlep all the way up into Canada to get their images for 1997. For obvious reasons, the other NL West teams appear frequently, most commonly the Diamondbacks.

Gerardo Parra is now a Rockie, but he was a divisional rival from 2009-2014, and that puts him in the third-base dugout sometime in 2013. The press box and retro architecture behind the plate are visible in the background, but the purple "Coors Field" banner on the front edge of the dugout roof is one of the key telltale signs I use to locate a card to 20th and Blake. That banner used to be green (see Helton's card in section 1), and in the early days, it wasn't there at all.

A clear but rare shot of the stadium's architecture itself is a dead giveaway. Sometimes you have nothing more to go on besides a Rockie who is wearing pinstripes, but even that can be deceptive, as their road jerseys also had pinstripes in the early 2000s. Other notable features are the right field out-of-town scoreboard, the forest in front of the batter's eye (but don't confuse this with Cleveland or Anaheim), segments of chain link fence under the yellow line in various spots along the outfield wall, and of course Dinger.

If there's anything that makes my collection mine, it's this.

7. Shiny

2011 Topps Lineage Platinum Diamond #76 Roberto Alomar
I'm a sucker for shiny cards, whether it's gold foil, chrome, dufex, or just lots and lots of sparkly facets, like this Roberto Alomar card from 2011 Topps Lineage, a set I mentioned in section 2. I tend to prefer the obvious ones like Topps Finest or maybe Pinnacle Certified over something like Stadium Club Rainbow cards, which you have to hold up to the light just right to see what's going on.

Topps went a little overboard with this in 2011 for their Diamond Anniversary, and the Hall of Famer Alomar looks a bit fuzzy in this photograph. But shiny is shiny, and the large blue area of the outfield wall takes on a striking deep sapphire color when given the sparkle treatment.

Shiny cards tend to scan quite terribly, but in person they're always a sight to see. Once in a while the scanner gets it right (like this time), but more often than not, they look a lot darker and flatter than they really are.

There's a holy grail set out there in the land of shiny cards, which are the ultra-rare 1993 Finest Refractors. That's something missing from my collection, and a gap I'd like to remedy one day. Even the common cards are not cheap, probably $20 minimum, and for a name like Griffey, you'll be looking at a couple grand.

8. Serial Numbers

2003 Topps Chrome Gold Refractors #84 Derrek Lee /449
The first time I saw serial numbers on a card was at a card show in 2003. This card itself may have been purchased at that exact show, since I remember the 2003 Topps Chrome set quite specifically. I was astonished that I was holding something so rare in my hands, especially as someone who wasn't too far removed from buying packs of 1991 Score at Toys 'R' Us. To this day, these are one of my favorite types of cards to collect, and I even have the extra rare ones (less than about 50 copies) in toploaders kept in a two-row box along with my autographs, relics, and a handful of special favorites.

This particular Derrek Lee card is a Gold Refractor, noted as such in tiny print next to the card number on the back. Topps has gone back and forth on that many, many times, but in 2003 they were happy to specify what we were holding. The serial number is 042/449, not exceedingly rare but still worth mentioning. Like many of my favorite cards, it falls into a few of these categories. No one will question a Gold Refractor's shininess.

I'm a bit ticked at Topps for removing serial numbers from Opening Day Blue parallels, even though they're supposedly given a print run equal to the calendar year. Hopefully that returns someday, if it hasn't already in 2018.

9. Green

1994 Finest #185 Paul Sorrento
Finally, the last thing I'll mention are green cards. There's something about the color that just works when it's on a card. Maybe it approximates the field of play so well, reminding us that baseball is a summer sport, when the trees are in bloom, the sunlight lasts forever, the birds are singing, and the ballpark smells like fresh-cut grass if you sit close enough. It's one of my favorite colors anyway, but when it's on a card, it really stands out and compels me to linger just a little longer.

1994 Topps Finest was my first exposure to green cards, particularly a preproduction version of Andres Galarraga's card. I was hooked ever since. And even though they're not really my team, I've considered collecting Oakland Athletics cards to increase this portion of my collection, at least the cards from color-coded sets.

Paul Sorrento, the subject of the common card I pulled from a large stack of 1994 Finest, has the claim to fame of getting the first hit at Camden Yards, and just a couple days later hitting the first home run there. And that's appropriate, because Camden Yards was the first retro classic ballpark, the one that so many others emulated and brought a dark green color back into the setting of Major League Baseball games.

Picking this card was basically at random, and Topps could have given us any number of Finest Moments in Sorrento's career. But one about a brick-and-green ballpark is oddly coincidental. I'm not necessarily the type to believe in coincidences, but my dad would point that out as "a signpost that you're on the right path."

Of course, there are other parts to my collection, including a handful of vintage cards, some minis, the occasional relic or autograph, a couple dozen pins, and a complete run of Rockies pocket schedules. But I could fit all that into a pretty small space, and it's not where my focus tends to lie. If money were no object, I'm sure I'd chase some of the 1950s classics, and Nolan Ryan's rookie card is one of the first things I'd buy if I were to win the lottery. But what you see above is where I tend to spend my time and money when it comes to card collecting.

It's a diverse hobby, and I'm sure many answers will be different. Some will be very different. I hear there are even other sports. I'm one of only a couple Rockies guys in the community, so my chosen team sets me apart from the bloggers who follow the major market teams like the Dodgers, Cubs, and Yankees. But my niche is just right for me, and I'm glad you're along for the ride.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Trading Post #117: Baseball Every Night

Sometimes it feels like if I blog about a six-week old product, I might as well be blogging about a repack or even vintage. The Cardsphere has largely moved on from the release of 2018 Topps, now focusing on Gold Label and Opening Day, with a brief stop at Heritage.

And here I am, just a couple weeks before the start of the 2018 MLB season, with an NCAA bracket that's busting worse by the hour, posting a 2018 card for the first time.

2018 Topps #230 Trevor Story
Trevor Story's card from 2018 Topps Series 1 is about as purple as a card can get, thanks to his jersey that barely stands out from the Yahoo! banner on the outfield wall at AT&T Park, not to mention the purple "waterslide", the key design element of another borderless Topps base set.

The card backs are pretty similar to last year's, and the waterslide and banner with tiny dots makes another appearance, although with a bit less color. Trevor's a solid defender, which is the subject of the photo, but he's also talented at the plate, sophomore slump notwithstanding. The card tells us that Story is the first Rockie shortstop to exceed 20 homers in each of his first two seasons, and longtime fans will notice that not even Troy Tulowtizki did that.

Instagram and Twitter handles return for another year, leaving room for just five years of stats once again. They're certainly of the moment, but I can't help but agree with some of my fellow bloggers who think this could eventually make the cards look severely dated. I've been online long enough to see my share of social networks come and go, like the early AOL properties, and more recently Digg and MySpace.

Just look at 1998 Pacific Online cards, and even some early screenshots of Topps Bunt.

2018 Topps #269 Greg Holland
These cards came to me from everyone's favorite Darryl Strawberry collector, Peter of Baseball Every Night. He sent quite a few Rockies from 2018 Topps, about half of which I promptly flipped to Nachos Grande for one of his trade stacks. More to come on that in a future post, and I'm sure I'll see more examples of the waterslide set. You should see how many 2016s I have left over.

An airborne Greg Holland, who will not be returning to the Rockies in 2018, piled up a league-lead-tying 41 saves last year, and this action shot may be from one of them. It's one of the more unusual shots to appear on a card, and Topps is certainly getting better at making the most of their full-bleed design. This one in particular wouldn't work so well in the 2008 set, the one where the Topps logo occupies a "notch" in the top center, a term familiar to all iPhone X users.

I have not upgraded to the iPhone X, but I think it's clear that the chief Apple designers didn't collect '08 Topps.

2018 Topps #92 Charlie Blackmon LL
Holland was worthy of a League Leader card in this set, and here's hoping that Wade Davis can perform as well this year. Charlie Blackmon, on the other hand, will continue to patrol the, um, spacious outfield at Coors Field, and even if he's pulled out of the leadoff spot, the winner of yet another NL batting title for the Rockies will remain a fan favorite. Daniel Murphy is sure to be hot on the heels of whichever Rockie comes forward next year to collect that award, perhaps Nolan Arenado or 2016's winner, DJ LeMahieu, both found in the top-ten list on this card back.

2018 Topps #192 Nolan Arenado LL
Speaking of Nolan Arenado, he was awarded with a league leader card of his own, thanks to his 130 RBIs, runner up to now-Yankee Giancarlo Stanton. I didn't even buy a value pack of '18 Topps, and I haven't seen much of it recently now that Topps is cranking out other products, so I don't know whether Stanton's 132 earned a separate card, or just top billing on the back of this one.

As usual with the league leader cards, the front does not use color-coding or the team logo on the waterslide or banners, but the familiar purple does appear on the back, carrying the National League logo down for some watery summer fun.

To my post-Olympics eye, it could also be equated to a ski jump, but the waterslide really fits better with baseball's summer theme. Meanwhile, some surprisingly large snowflakes are falling outside, making summer all the more welcome when it finally gets here.

2018 Topps #273 Charlie Blackmon LL
Switching back to Charlie Blackmon, this time on the road, he tied for third in NL home runs, matching Nolan and ex-Marlin Marcell Ozuna with 37. Dodgers rookie sensation Cody Bellinger tacked on two more, winning the NL Rookie of the Year, an award the Dodgers hoard much like the Rockies do with batting titles. It's even named for a Dodger, technically titled the Jackie Robinson Award, though no one really seems to call it that.

Standing heads and shoulders above any of those guys in the standings was previously-mentioned ex-Marlin Stanton with 59. He and Aaron Judge could seriously become the new M&M boys. Be prepared for lots of free souvenirs at Yankee Stadium this year.

I wonder if it gets old for them. If you hit 59 home runs in a year, do you still get the same rush as that first time you connect in little league? I can remember a few of those, including one high and outside pitch in high school gym class that went opposite field. I usually liked them low, but I'm sure I surprised a few people that day including myself.

But even a pro like Stanton has to enjoy it when the crack of the bat resonates throughout the whole zip code.

2018 Topps Salute #TS-46 Nolan Arenado
Finally, one last cycle back to Arenado, pun not intended. Topps brought back the giant Salute insert set for another year, which is still a bit underwhelming. There's a "Memorial Day" marquee all over this card, but the photo in question was taken on July 9th, a day on which active military members got free admission to Coors Field. That's nice, but what Topps neglects to tell us about that 10-0 win the day before the All-Star Break is that Kyle Freeland took a no-hitter into the 9th inning at the hitter-friendly ballpark. It was so impressive that I even bought the Topps Now card to commemorate it.

Military Appreciation Day at Coors Field must be a regularly-scheduled event the Sunday before the All-Star Break, as I remember seeing the Phillies the day before the break in 2016, complete with a parachutist landing on the field before the game. If that tradition continues, then don't miss the Rockies hosting the Mariners on July 15th.

Topps might even tell us more than just the score if this insert set returns another year.

Thanks for the cards, Peter! I'm dropping a PWE in the mail for you tomorrow with a '92 Topps need.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Olympic Daughters

As the 23rd Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea draw to a close, I thought it would be a good time to write a single-card post I've had in mind for a while. I'm quite an avid Olympics fan, and certainly enjoyed many of this year's events. The USA came up short in a few events where they've historically been strong, but managed to win first-ever gold medals in women's cross-country skiing and men's curling, as well as plenty of the X Games-type sports that the USA has dominated since they were added to the Olympic menu.

Spring Training is just getting underway by the time the Winter Olympics wrap up, so baseball isn't far off. But even in the dead of winter, there are glimmers of baseball here and there. Katie Uhlaender, a four-time Olympian in the headfirst sliding sport of skeleton, is the daughter of the late Ted Uhlaender, who played in the Majors for eight seasons in the '60s and '70s, mostly for the Minnesota Twins. Katie just barely missed the podium in 2014, and finished in 13th place this time around.

I don't have a card of her father, but I'm sure many of the vintage collectors have him in their late-'60s stacks. However, the story doesn't end there.

1993 Topps Gold #270 Frank Viola
What better set to use in an Olympics-themed post than Topps Gold? There are thousands of athletes in Korea chasing the precious medal (pun intended), training for years, even decades, to edge out their other competitors by the slimmest of margins. Not only can the blink of an eye separate the winner from the loser, sometimes the blink of an eye isn't enough to cover the top four or five places.

So why Frank Viola, also once a Twin, but pictured here as a Boston Red Sock? He, too, has an Olympian in the family. His daughter Brittany competed in the 2012 London Summer Olympics in the sport of diving. She finished a respectable 15th in the 10-meter platform event, and NBC gave us plenty of shots of her dad and family in the stands while she was competing.

I had thought that may have been during 2016's Games in Rio, but apparently this post has been kicking around in my head for over half a decade.

It's great to see these athletic traditions carry on, regardless of the sport. And while Katie and Brittany may not have a career's worth of trading cards to their names, their achievements and sports(wo)manship continue to inspire the next generation of athletes.

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Trading Post #116: ARPSmith’s Sportscard Obsession

Other than a Mike Piazza Ultra Pro oddball, which had a stated print run of a whopping 100,000, the first time I saw a reference to a limited print run on an actual card was when I pulled Matt Williams' 1995 Donruss Press Proof. There's no serial number per se, but there's a gold-colored (not foil) banner at the top on the back that states "1st 2,000 Printed". Donruss followed what Topps was doing with Stadium Club First Day Issues, though Donruss actually put that 2,000 limit on the card itself rather than just the sell sheets.

1995 Donruss Press Proofs #533 Curt Leskanic /2000
This Press Proof of Curt Leskanic is just the second one to find its way into my collection after that Matt Williams card I pulled long ago, thanks to the one of the other Adams in the Cardsphere (or am I the other Adam?), the one of ARPSmith’s Sportscard Obsession. Many of you have been receiving similar shipments from him, and his is the last trade package before I'm caught up! Well, other than some old, old card shows. But that's a different story, and one I may save until after the Winter Olympics.

Curt Leskanic has proven to be quite a character, but sometimes he's just a normal pitcher. When these 2,000 copies were printed (as well as the rest of the silver-foiled base cards), he had a 2-6 record and 5.45 ERA in his first two years as a Rockie. He'd start turning that around once Coors Field opened, appearing in a league-leading 76 games in 1995 and even earning 10 saves.

I never saw this mentioned on a card, but apparently his cousin is Katrina Leskanich, lead singer of Katrina and the Waves, whose 1985 hit "Walking on Sunshine" might go down as the most infectious, upbeat pop song of all time.

1999 SkyBox Premium #44 Darryl Kile
It's actually a bit tough to mention the late Darryl Kile while listening to that song, but carry on we must. The rainbow gold foil certainly caught my eye, but Skybox overdid it a bit with the vignette border and what looks like an apparition of Dinger behind him. The card back is a bit strange too, listing his last name on top, as in "Kile Darryl". Also, his uniform number of 57 is directly above the card number, meaning if you don't know who he was and what number he wore, there are plenty of things that could confuse you, especially if it's a guy who had two first names.

Design gripes aside, if you glance at his pitching hand, you'll find about the best look at a circle changeup grip I can ever remember seeing on a baseball card. Picture the A-OK sign (which has taken on some unfortunate cultural meanings in recent years) with three fingers wrapped around the baseball, and you have a tough pitch to hit. Perhaps it's not great that we can see the pitch grip from the batter's perspective, but it's still one with a lot of movement.

2000 Upper Deck HoloGrFX Longball Legacy #LL15 Larry Walker
Like we saw in the previous post, Larry Walker was known for hitting tape-measure home runs, and I'm sure at least a few of his 383 came on the circle change. Upper Deck HoloGrFX (alphabet soup of a name worse than a lettered card number) gave him and fourteen other players a card in the Longball Legacy insert set. Those three innocent little baseballs on the left were sent quite a long distance, as the card back documents Walker's three longest home runs of 1999. It's basically a bar graph (and perhaps educational for someone studying math and statistics in school), but it confusingly looks a bit like the trajectory they could have taken. Walker's three longest in 1999 were 470', 465', and 460', and the longest of those got a small write-up.

It came on June 22nd, 1999 off of Scott Sanders in the sixth inning. Darryl Kile started that game against the Cubbies, and Sammy Sosa even hit a home run in the 13-12 slugfest. There's just one teensy problem with this Upper Deck card.

Contrary to what this card tells us, it most definitely did not take place at Wrigley Field. Rather, it was at Coors Field, and I'll fight UD on that one if I have to, since I was there. Unfortunately, the Rockies came out on the losing end of this one, but my dad and I did move down to the lower deck to see the last couple innings.

It seems as though I'm developing a reputation for Chief Fact Checker in this community. There are a lot of errors out there.

1998 Pinnacle #190 Larry Walker GJ
Still, Larry Walker did hit homers all around the league, including at Wrigley, and also at Jacobs Field, home of the Cleveland Indians, where the 1997 All Star Game was held. During that MVP season of his, Walker reached the final round of the Home Run Derby, losing to Tino Martinez of the Yankees. He's also remembered (and mentioned on the card) for some on-field antics during the exhibition game itself while facing Randy Johnson.

Now, I'm no Indians expert, but "Goin' Jake" is not a term I have ever heard anyone use to describe a home run hit at Jacobs Field. I guess if you're on the verge of bankruptcy, as Pinnacle was in 1998, then you can just invent all the terms you want. But I have a feeling I'd get some pretty weird looks if I were to shout that in downtown Cleveland, especially since it's not even called that anymore. I do wonder if Indians fans still colloquially call it Jacobs Field, even though it's now officially known as Progressive Field.

I can assure you we do that in Denver, where the home of the Broncos is still generally known as "Mile High", regardless of whichever bankrupt sporting goods company currently owns the naming rights.

2003 Upper Deck Standing O #S-26 Larry Walker
Look, there goes one of those baseballs now!

Surprisingly, despite its odd appearance and insert-esque card number, what you see above is not actually an insert card. Upper Deck released a full, 126-card main set in this mini-baseball style, complete with raised laces and a subtle leather-like texture. It's rather small, about as big around as a racquetball, leaving room for just three seasons of statistics on the back.

It would make a suitable Frisbee in a pinch, or perhaps a shot glass coaster. And the best part is that there are no corners to ding, thanks to it's circular nature, which is good, because it does have a tendency to fall out of card stacks, much like minis.

2004 Bazooka Red Chunks #89 Shawn Chacon
Cards got pretty thick for a while in this shipment, starting with red parallels from 2004 Bazooka. Tom sent cards from this set once, as have a few others, but I'm always surprised at how thick they are. The red and white rounded banners at the bottom remind me of a rail logo, perhaps a blend of the London Underground and the old Amtrak logo.

I remember Shawn Chacon being one of the Rockies' better pitchers in the mid-2000s, even earning a spot on the 2003 All-Star roster, just the second Rockies pitcher to do so, after Mike Hampton. He moved to the bullpen in 2004, amassing a dismal 1-9 record with an ERA over 7.00, but still managed to earn 35 saves. The Alaska native is probably tossing a few warm-up pitches in [checking telecom merger history] Pacific Bell Park, because I really hope the outfielder isn't paying that little attention during a live at-bat.

2000 Topps HD #9 Vinny Castilla
Back home at 20th & Blake, we can see Vinny Castilla, with a Lou Brock Speed rating of three baseballs, rounding second and holding on for dear life to his batting gloves. It's not quite as thick as the Bazooka card above, but it is noticeably heavier, thanks to the two layers of plastic that make up the front and back.

Topps HD is a new-to-me set released in 2000, and it definitely does have a sharpness and smoothness advantage over its paper counterparts. It's one of those rare cards where the card number matches the player's uniform number (frankenset idea?). As early as 1999, Vinny Castilla already held the career home run record for Mexican-born players, a record he tacked onto for another several seasons. His final career total of 320 is more than double Jorge Orta's count in second place. As this card relates, the Rockies began their 1999 season in Monterrey, Mexico, beating the Padres by a score of 8-2. Castilla had four hits in that game, though none of them left the yard.

This brand has eluded my collection, and even my knowledge, for close to two decades, so thanks to Adam for sending it my way.

2001 Topps HD Game Defined #GD5 Todd Helton
He even threw in an insert card from the following (and final) year of Topps HD. The Game Defined (HD, High Definition, get it?) was a 10-card set containing lots of Hall of Famers, such as recent inductees Vladimir Guerrero and Chipper Jones. Like many early Helton cards, this one mentions his football career at the University of Tennessee. It also calls him a "dependable, at times dominant, offensive player". He was no slouch in the field, either.

The design is a bit interesting. On the left, the photo is grainy and pixelated, but then on the right, it becomes colorized and sharper. I guess what they're going for is that the player pictured in the center is literally bringing the game into sharper definition.

I didn't have an HDTV until 2008, so this may have been lost on me at the time.

2002 Stadium Club Reel Time #RT11 Todd Helton
Topps kept the moving picture theme going in Stadium Club the following year. We're back on paper and away from plastic, but the card hasn't gotten any thinner. The filmstrip theme Topps used on both the front and back reminds me of the Contact Sheet insert set from more recent Stadium Club releases.

Topps certainly recognized Helton's greatness on the card back. He was called out as a "batting title favorite" and potential .400 hitter. Todd only won the batting title once, with a .372 average in 2000. He came very close in 2003, hitting an impressive .358, but Albert Pujols edged him out by a point. They also compared him to a pair of baseball legends, George Brett and Stan Musial, the latter being the only player besides Helton with at least 2500 hits, 350 homers, 550 doubles, and a .315 average.

He's one of the best combinations of power hitting and contact hitting to ever play the game.

2001 Upper Deck e-Card #E4 Todd Helton
We'll continue the Todd Helton love fest with a similarly pixelated Upper Deck insert, an e-Card insert that is forever destined to remain in the physical world. Upper Deck's digital site is no more, so this special code is just a jumble of random letters, and isn't even long enough to be a useful password in this day and age. Nine characters with only one letter would be cakewalk for a talented hacker to break.

You know the story by now. "He can hit for both power and average and is also a fine defensive player."

2005 Reflections #3 Todd Helton
By 2005, Helton had the beginnings of his trademark goatee, something that would endure much longer than the single-year Upper Deck Reflections set. Nothing besides the Reflections logo in particular looks quote like a reflection to me, but UD did use an oddly squarish font on the back.

Shiny and Rainbowy with gold foil just wasn't enough to firmly establish a set by 2005, even with Donruss and Fleer about to exit the market.

2001 Donruss Class of 2001 Yearbook #YB-7 Todd Helton
Speaking of Donruss, yet another Todd Helton insert card was packed into this envelope. Helton supercollectors have their work cut out for them. I honestly haven't seen any of these.

You might think Donruss Class of 2001 was an insert set all its own, but no, it was a 301-card main set (there are two card #252s, apparently), of course with its own group of short prints and inserts. Now, I was a high school junior in 2001, and I only have the official yearbook from my senior year. This is a tiny bit too early to coincide with my own yearbook, but it didn't really have this scrapbook look anyway.

However, I did check this one for texture, as the layering and framing of each component did look like it could have been raised. It even reminded me of Pacific's highly underrated Card-Supials inserts, which are just the cleverest things.

2003 Playoff Prestige #138 Jose Hernandez
Adam had an eagle eye on this one, sorting a 2003 Playoff Prestige card into my pile. Jose Hernandez certainly looks like he's on Milwaukee here, and the way the lettering lines up, it almost appears like the "Colorado Brewers" is the team. Not that such a team would be inaccurate by any stretch.

Happy Stout Month, by the way.

Anyway, now that we've concluded the Todd Helton portion of this post, Hernandez was signed to cover the other side of the infield over at shortstop. Hernandez, whom both Fleer and Topps managed to picture in a Rockies uniform on their 2003 cards, spent just a half-season in Denver before being traded to the Cubs for Mark Bellhorn.

1996 Topps #428 Bartolo Colon / Doug Million / Rafael Orellano / Ray Ricken
We'll wrap up with a couple horizontal Topps cards. A few posts ago, I mentioned the quandary I often found myself in with multi-player cards. In my 1996 Topps set, I have this one filed as a Rockie, under the late Doug Million, though normally the player on the far left would decide where this one would be filed. As you can see, that player is none other than Bartolo Colon, who, at 44, is still getting minor league contracts. Sadly, none of the other players on this card ever made it to the Major Leagues, but Colon has had one of the longest careers in recent memory.

Million, by the way, really did earn the Gatorade National Player of the Year award in 1994, something that Bowman said Michael Cuddyer won, when it was actually the State award in Virginia. That makes Million's passing at the age of 21 even more tragic.

Prospects will always be a guessing game. Three other Rockies had prospect cards in '96 Topps, Angel Echevarria, Derrick Gibson, and the most successful, Neifi Perez. Some of their cardmates include Shane Spencer, Rey OrdoƱez, interleague Rockie-slayer and 1998 AL Rookie of the Year Ben Grieve, and 2005 World Series MVP Jermaine Dye.

1999 Topps Opening Day #105 Vinny Castilla
The late 1990s marked the rare period where you had Blake Street Bombers playing alongside then-newcomer Todd Helton. Here, he's congratulating Vinny Castilla via high-five, while Dante Bichette looks on in appreciation of whatever Vinny just did. It's an unbroken chain right back to the inaugural days. Castilla played with Helton, Helton played with Nolan Arenado in his final season (though I can't recall any cards of them together), and here we are 25 years later.

On the card back, Topps tells us about Vinny's walk-off homer on June 3rd, 1998 against the Diamondbacks. At the time, that shot ended the shortest game in Coors Field history, at just two hours and eleven minutes. Amazingly, that record only lasted about a decade, as Aaron Cook twirled a masterful gem on July 1st, 2008, shutting out the Padres in just an hour and fifty-eight minutes.

That's way less time than it took me to write this post.

I wouldn't be quite sure what to do with myself if Coors Field emptied out just after 9:00 pm, but I'm sure I'd be dazzled.

By the way, Cook only needed 79 pitches to do that, easily earning himself a "Maddux", a complete game shutout with less than 100 pitches. Out of curiosity, I did learn that one of Greg Maddux's own "Maddux" performances came in at an even shorter game time, just one hour and fifty minutes. A lot of that depends on what your offense does, but that is one quick game.

Thanks again to Adam for this great stack of cards and all the Todd Helton inserts!