Monday, May 27, 2019

The Trading Post #130: Chavez Ravining

If I were to ask you who scored the winning run for the Rockies in their 8-7 win Sunday over the Orioles, who would you guess? Charlie Blackmon? No, he last played Thursday and just hit the Injured List with a calf injury. What about their superstars like Nolan Arenado or Trevor Story? Actually no, although they both reached career home run milestones over the weekend, which we'll touch on later. Could it be someone from their crop of homegrown youngsters, such as McMahon, Rodgers, or Tapia? Nope, sorry.

2017 Topps Fire Green #58 Jeff Hoffman /199
Of all people, it was Jeff Hoffman, who was called up on Friday to start against Baltimore. The O's, by the way, were making their first trip to Denver since the 2004 season. Hoffman did make it five innings but took a no decision.

So what the heck was a starting pitcher doing in the 9th inning two days later? I can't be exactly sure, but he pinch-ran for Daniel Murphy in the final inning, and ended up scoring on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Tony Wolters.

Alex from Chavez Ravining included a couple Jeff Hoffman cards as part of a recent trade. Along with Hoffman's yellowish Flame parallel from 2017 Topps Fire, he also sent this Green parallel, numbered to 199. Not only is the Green less common, but longtime readers know that it's basically my favorite color to find on a baseball card.

2017 Topps Fire Golden Grabs Gold Minted #GG-18 George Springer
A few non-Rockies made it into the trade by virtue of their shininess. As usual, Topps Fire printed up a few insert sets for 2017, including this 20-card Golden Grabs set, documenting some of the best catches from across the league. George Springer of the Astros made it in thanks to this snag from May 19th, 2016, which robbed Jose Abreu of a trip around the bases.

This yellowish color signifies it as a Gold Minted parallel, a very appropriate color for an Astros card. It looks a lot like Hoffman's Flame card, though without any refractor action.

2017 Topps Fire Walk It Off Gold Minted #WO-11 Mark Trumbo
We're seeing something pretty similar on Mark Trumbo's Walk It Off card, another Gold Minted variety from a 15-card insert set. Trumbo, who led the Majors in home runs in 2016, has yet to appear in a game this year while recovering from knee surgery. Speaking of the Orioles, he still plays for them, and this card documents his extra-inning heroics on Opening Day 2017.

2018 Topps Chrome Update Pink Refractors #HMT96 Charlie Blackmon
Advancing a year to 2018 Topps Chrome, here's another card with the "HMT" prefix, which I am still trying to figure out. Charlie Blackmon joined Trevor Story in Washington, D.C. on the NL All-Star squad last year. He was mic'd up for a fun inning in center field, but didn't do as well at the plate as Story did, going 0-3.

The All-Star logo is visible on the waterslide, but unlike the card Julie sent, this one is a colored parallel. It's the second time this background color threw me off, as I kept checking Beckett for a Purple parallel. Officially, it's Pink, which is precisely the line of reasoning I went down the last time I saw one of Charlie Blackmon's 2018 Chrome cards.

2018 Topps Chrome Sepia Refractors #141 Starlin Castro
I may not be able to tell the difference between pink and purple, but I know the art of photography well enough to identify this as a Sepia parallel. Topps helpfully labelled this as a Refractor, a bonus not offered to collectors of the Update version of 2018 Chrome. The presence of that label has always varied from year to year, but I can't remember it varying between sets in the same year.

Starlin Castro had his own extra-innings success during 2017, helping the Yankees sink his former team, the Cubs, in 18 innings thanks to a fielder's choice gone awry. The marathon contest on Sunday Night Baseball featured 48 strikeouts between the two clubs, more than Tony Gwynn had in his worst year.

2019 Topps Heritage #242 Ian Desmond
That sepia-toned card is a great segue into some retro Topps Heritage. This one of Ian Desmond will go nicely with the rest of my 2019 Heritage collection. In fact, I saved a spot in the 9-pocket page for this card. The 1970-themed set does a great job at reenacting some of the more famous cards from the original set, but I don't know of any 1970 card that appears to show a small pile of snow at the shadowy base of the outfield wall. It tends to snow well into May here in Colorado, so I know snow when I see it. Desmond looks really bundled up, too, although this is probably a Cactus League shot.

There are walk-offs referenced all over these cards, and before he took over center field duties from Charlie Blackmon this year, he walked off the Padres on August 23rd, 2018, a 2-out, 2-run shot into the left field bleachers.

Desmond's long career, which reached the 10-season mark last year, consisted of precisely 4,999 at bats when the 2018 season ended. Topps noticed that statistical anomaly, and was sure to point out that his next at-bat would be #5,000. That AB came just a couple months ago, obviously on Opening day 2019 in Miami. He grounded out to short.

2017 Topps Heritage #628 Tony Wolters
Another regular fixture in the Rockies lineup this year is Tony Wolters, who hit his first home run of 2019 last week in Pittsburgh. He's often down at the bottom of the order, but has come up with quite a few key hits this season, including that sacrifice fly that allowed Jeff Hoffman to trot home.

His 2017 Topps Heritage card even mentions sacrifices in its trivia question, asking which Rockie led the NL in 2004. The answer is Royce Clayton, who hasn't appeared on this blog as a Rockie except in a cameo. Also on this card is a rare close-up of a catcher's mitt, plus Wolters's goatee. He's changed it up this year, sporting a pretty awesome mustache.

2017 Topps Heritage High Number Topps Game Rookies #10 Raimel Tapia
It took me a little while to figure out who was depicted on this Topps Heritage insert card, but eventually I realized it was Raimel Tapia, who has been starting in left field most of this season, and performing quite well defensively. This one is part of a 15-card insert set found in the High Number release, which accompanies another 15 cards just like it in the base set. It's a throwback to 1968 Topps Game insert cards, an early example of an insert set. The original '68 insert set is filled with Hall of Famers, including Rod Carew, Hank Aaron, a late-career Mickey Mantle, and Carl Yastrzemski, whose grandson got his first MLB hit on Sunday, and was then picked off seconds later.

I'm not too familiar with the original version of 1968 Topps Game, so I'm going to assume that the red back with a nondescript playing card pattern is a faithful reproduction.

2017 Stadium Club Members Only #244 Raimel Tapia
The other Tapia card Alex sent actually included the player's name, rather than a mostly illegible signature. Sharp-eyed readers will also notice a "Members Only" seal in the lower right, just my second one from this super-rare variety. There's no serial number, but it's generally thought that there are around seven copies printed.

On top of all that, an extremely rare rookie card of a current Rockie from my favorite annual set, it also happens to be a Coors Field card. Doesn't really get much better than this.

Except of course when Tapia gets a walkoff hit in the bottom of the 11th on Memorial Day to drive in Ian Desmond.

2017 Topps Allen & Ginter Relics #FSRB-TS Trevor Story B (MEM)
Relic cards are always pretty fun, and there were a couple of those, too. Taking a quick jump back to retro-style sets, Topps gave Trevor Story a relic card in 2017 Allen & Ginter, complete with a black pinstripe. The Rockies relics I have usually feature purple pinstripes, but there have been a few minor uniform changes at 20th and Blake in the past few seasons.

I mentioned earlier that Story and Arenado reached home run milestones over the weekend. Story's first home run on Friday night was the 100th of his career, and no shortstop in history has reached that mark so quickly. That homer was a long one to the top of the bleachers. He wasted no time at all hitting his 101st, which was an opposite-field walkoff in his very next at-bat.

This is a walkoff-heavy post, perhaps a record-setting one on the blog.

2018 Topps Walmart Holiday Snowflake Relics #R-NA Nolan Arenado (MEM)
Remember what I was saying earlier about snow hitting Colorado in May? That happened earlier this month, but it didn't faze Nolan Arenado at all. His snowy home runs are quite appropriate for this wintry holiday card, a Wal-Mart exclusive. No pinstripe to be found here; instead its an all-purple swatch. Alex even sent these over in thick toploaders, tailor-made for relic cards. And let's not forget that Nolan just hit a milestone of his own, his 200th career home run on Saturday, which I had the privilege to witness.

The first time Alex sent cards was long ago, way back in 2014 on The Trading Post #3. The names may have changed, but the theme is similar. All that time ago, I was still admiring shiny cards and discussing the presence of the Refractor label on Topps card backs. I'd like to think my writing has improved, at least.

Thanks very much, Alex! And here's to more walk-off wins.


Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Trading Post #129: A Cracked Bat

Spring is moving along, and that means that I have less time for blogging, as is often the case during baseball season. Since we last checked in, I saw another game at Coors Field, nearly witnessing Madison Bumgarner pitch an immaculate inning before Trevor Story flied out to left. Last week, I took a road trip to Great Sand Dunes National Park, and while I'm nursing a nasty sunburn, it was a nice visit and quite a sight to see.

With the Armed Forces weekend series wrapping up, which makes every catcher look like they're playing for the Pirates, let's look at a small batch of cards sent by that most prolific of traders, Julie from A Cracked Bat.

2001 Topps Archives Reserve #20 Dom DiMaggio '52
There are a ton of reprint sets out there, and I wouldn't be surprised if there are reprints of reprints to be found, but of all the sets out there, 2001 Topps Archives Reserve (and its 2002 follow-up) is my all-time favorite. It's one of the few that brought me back into the hobby at an early-2000s card show, along with 2003 Topps Chrome. It does suffer from the curl that's common with this type of finish, but how often do you find a card of the youngest DiMaggio brother?

He played center field, just like his other two brothers, and while he never got an entire set all to himself like big brother Joe, he did have an equally awesome nickname, "The Little Professor". Shown in the 1952 set, Dom never quite reached the lofty career heights that Joe did. He did, however, put together an impressive hitting streak of his own, 34 games in 1949, which remains the Boston Red Sox team record. Jackie Bradley, Jr. challenged it a few years ago, but came up a few games short when the Rockies came to town.

It's an interesting rivalry those two teams have. The 2007 World Series is the most important aspect of it, but there are a few other moments, like that hitting streak coming to an end. Just last week, the teams split a two-game set in which both games went to extras. And in 2013, Todd Helton played his final home game against the Red Sox. There are a lot of important moments between two interleague teams that obviously don't play each other very often.

2002 Topps Archives Reserve #42 Roy Campanella '53
Moving forward a year in both the Archives Reserve set and the Topps base design set (to 1953), we come to Roy Campanella. The Hall-of-Fame catcher had just earned his second of three MVP awards in '53, and his third and final one came in 1955, along with his only World Series ring. He was an All-Star in every season besides his first and last.

Speaking of 1955, I'm reminded of the classic film Back to the Future, in which Marty McFly returns to November 5th, 1955. That was just over a month after the Brooklyn Dodgers finally won the World Series, but no mention of that is made in the movie. Granted, the fictional city of Hill Valley is way out in California, several years before MLB expanded to the West Coast. But with the whole sports almanac thing in Back to the Future II, and Doc Brown's excitement at the prospect of seeing "who wins the next twenty-five World Series", I feel like the first movie in the trilogy missed an opportunity to mention a pretty important year for a storied franchise.

1996 Metal Universe #86 Joe Girardi
Most cards in this stack formed into surprisingly well-related doublets. This group is courtesy of Skybox Metal Universe, the etched foil set that got off to a very weird start in 1996. Julie has sent cards from this set before, including one where Vinny Castilla shared a card with a giant stinging insect. This one appears to show Joe Girardi cartoonishly bursting through a stone wall.

And somehow, we just accept this.

If you look closely, which I didn't, you'll notice that this is actually a New York Yankees card, despite showing Joe in home Rockies gear. That honestly escaped my attention until I flipped the card over and noticed a Yankees logo.

2000 Metal Emerald #245 Juan Sosa PROS
Metal dialed it down by its final year of 2000, even dropping the "Universe" from its official name. The final 50 cards of the set consisted of Prospects (note the logo in the lower right), and appearing in that set was Juan Sosa. Sosa appeared in eleven Major League games for the Rockies in 1999, plus two more for the Diamondbacks in 2001. His career at the plate consisted of two hits in ten at-bats, and that was all she wrote.

I'm learning a lot about these cards by flipping them over. Next to the card number is a captial letter E inside a black circle, signifying that this is an Emerald parallel. I didn't really think this was anything unusual at first. The green of the outfield grass is a pretty similar shade to the green at the top of the card, so I just thought it was part of the normal design. But the more I look at it, it does have a little extra of that color I love.

2018 Topps Chrome Update #HMT95 Trevor Story
Trevor Story has had a much more successful career at shortstop than Juan Sosa. It's been so successful, in fact, that he earned his first All-Star selection last season. This photo is from that exact game in Washington, D.C. I'm not sure which play, as Story fielded a pair of grounders in the top of the 9th. More importantly, although it was insufficient for the NL to get a win, Story hit a game-tying home run in the 7th inning.

Topps Update loves to give us All-Star Game cards, and they even included the game logo going down the waterslide on this chrome card. Unlike Metal Universe, I think I have a pretty good handle on Topps base and Topps Update, but I can't come up with anything that fits the "HMT" card number prefix. Any help?

2015 Topps Update Chrome #US170 Mike Foltynewicz (RC)
As sparkly as they are, there are far too few cards from 2015 Topps Update Chrome in my collection. I'll jump at any chance to find more, especially on the 2015 design that has been holding up pretty well.

Mike Foltynewicz was just a rookie back then, breaking into the league with the Braves after a trade with the Astros for Evan Gattis. He's established himself as a star pitcher, even joining Trevor Story on 2018's NL All-Star team, but he's gotten off to a rough start in an injury-delayed 2019, putting up an 0-3 record so far.

That does it for the Topps Chrome pair, so let's move on to...Stadium Club!

2016 Stadium Club ISOmetrics Gold #I-20 Dee Gordon
Specifically, one of the ISOmetrics inserts from 2016, my second. The insert set has some elements of 1995 Fleer, mainly thanks to the assorted statistics displayed on the card front. 58 stolen bases definitely stands out in this era of the game. There are a few names scattered among the league leaders the past few seasons, but Dee Gordon, José Altuve, and Whit Merrifield are some of the last to keep this once-crucial stat alive. Even Gordon is cultivating his power stroke, having hit three homers partway through May. He's never hit more than four in a season, and the only one he hit in 2016, the year of this card, was an emotionally-charged shot in the Marlins' first game back after José Fernández' untimely death.

1994 Stadium Club Dugout Dirt #12 Darren Daulton
Moving back to Stadium Club's first generation, Darren Daulton has shown up in two consecutive posts. This looks like a tight play at the plate with a Tim Wallach cameo, taken at some point during the 1994 season.

That brownish patch on both players' right sleeves marked the 125th anniversary of professional baseball. Technically, MLB hasn't existed quite that long, but 1869 is recognized as the first year of the Cincinnati Red Stockings. Daulton's and Wallach's playing days don't seem like they were 25 years ago, but it's true. Players across the league in 2019 are wearing "MLB 150" patches in just the same spot.

There were gold foil parallels in 1994 Stadium Club, but this is actually another insert, from the 12-card Dugout Dirt set. There's a rather frightening caricature of Daulton in "Daulton's Gym" on the card back, complete with a little heart tattoo on his massive bicep containing a couple of his stats.

I like the front better.

1994 Ultra Award Winners #10 Kirt Manwaring
Our final grouping consists of Giants catcher Kirt Manwaring. First up is another 1994 insert, this one from Fleer Ultra's very yellow Award Winners set. It's not the same shade of yellow as 1991 Fleer, but to my eye, it's unmistakably Fleer. There are actually quite a few Giants in this 25-card insert set, no doubt due to their 103-win season in 1993, just one short of the Braves' 104. Manwaring won a Gold Glove in 1993 for his stellar .998 fielding percentage, and he threw out 42.3% of base-stealers, something we used to track more carefully back when players actually stole bases.

1992 Leaf Black Gold #208 Kirt Manwaring
Manwaring concluded his career as a Rockie, but when I first got into collecting, he was a Giant. The hobby was certainly going in the direction of gold parallels in 1992, and Leaf wasn't about to be left out. Their Black Gold parallels, not to be confused with the Topps inserts of the same name, included a striking black border with a very appropriate amount of gold foil, and also used a gold background on the card back instead of the usual grayish-silver. There's even a Leaf watermark which also appears on normal cards.

It's taken me quite a while to notice, but the little baseball in the lower right corner of '92 Leaf looks a lot like the baseball and its related motion lines in the Rockies team logo. I noticed that shortly after noticing that Manwaring isn't wearing batting gloves in this shot.

1996 Topps Laser #115 Kevin Brown
That does it for the pairs, but there's one last card all on its own, perhaps just the way Kevin Brown would like it. Julie has sent Topps Laser before, and this set always impresses me. There are a few designs to be found in the set, and this flaming baseball is reserved for some of the game's best pitchers. 1996 ended up being one of Brown's better years, as he finished second in Cy Young Award voting, made the All-Star team, and went 17-11. He also led the league in hit batsmen, which doesn't terribly surprise me given his volatile reputation.

I always expect these laser-cut cards to be more fragile than they are, which is a welcome surprise. I also enjoy running across the Marlins' original turquoise color, which is ever so slightly present in their redesigned logo.

Thanks, as always, to Julie for these five happy pairs of cards and Kevin Brown.


Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Pinnacle of Affordable Group Breaks (Part 2: Phillies)

The teams I got in Colbey's Pinnacle group break were basically a preview of this past weekend's series at 20th and Blake. Part 1 contained the hosting Rockies, and Part 2 will be the visiting Phillies, who dropped three out of four to Colorado, allowing the Rockies to climb out of last place.

Of course, all the names since 1995 have changed, but they should be pretty familiar to anyone who followed the Phillies and their playoff-caliber team in the early 1990s.

1995 Score Summit #34 Lenny Dykstra
Lenny Dykstra was one of the key members of that Phillies era, covering center field and putting together a near-MVP season in 1993. He retired rather early, at 34, so this 1995 card is one of the later ones of his career, which spanned from 1985 to 1996. He got his start with the Mets, but post-career (and even during), he has been in and out of lots of legal trouble.

Fraud, embezzlement, and much worse than that notwithstanding, he did get a solid horizontal card in 1995 Score Summit, showing a full extension and some allegedly steroid-enhanced muscles.

1995 Sportflix #133 Gregg Jefferies
I got cards from all three of the boxes Colbey opened, so there won't be any new designs to see until a bonus card at the very end. Still, this Sportflix card is different than most. Rather than containing two action shots, this lenticular card of Gregg Jefferies alternates between a headshot and the Phillies team logo.

The switch-hitter was reunited with Dykstra, his old Mets teammate, after signing as a free agent with the Phillies in the 1994 offseason. That shows one way the game has been changing in recent years. There's been plenty of talk about a slow free-agent market; in fact Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel are still watching the 2019 season unfold from the comfort of their homes. But back in 1994, even during the dark days of the strike, there were free agent signings happening during the Hot Stove season.

1995 Sportflix #27 Darren Daulton
Darren Daulton was another famous member of that 1990s Phillies squad, serving as their longtime backstop. His talent was rewarded with half of an entire insert set in 1994 Fleer Ultra, splitting the checklist with John Kruk.

Like Dykstra, Daulton was nearing the end of his career at this point too. He almost spent his whole career as a Phillie, but was traded to the Marlins for his final 52 games. Sadly, he passed away in 2017 at the young age of 55.

His Sportflix card is a lot more representative of the brand, as Pinnacle found a pair of action shots. They actually did an awesome job with photo selection, showing Daulton in very similar lunge positions, one wearing his catcher's gear and another as a batter. It's really a shame this brand didn't last, because these lenticular cards are mesmerizing. On the back, Pinnacle did their best to sweep the strike under the rug, telling us that "he missed the last six weeks of the '94 season with a broken clavicle". It's not wrong, but really he missed the last twelve-plus weeks of the '94 season, the second part of that for obvious, non-injury reasons.

1995 Zenith #96 Rusty Greer
For Zenith, there was a Texas Rangers stowaway in the Phillies team bag. It's an easy mistake to make, as the Rangers' colors around that time contained barely any blue. And like the Phillies, their road uniforms didn't have pinstripes. Rusty Greer was the player who managed to sneak in, a left fielder who spent his whole career with the Rangers. He wasn't a power hitter like Dante Bichette, and didn't manage to hit any opposite-field home runs in his rookie 1994 season.

Even though he was a rookie, Pinnacle chose to give his card the normal gold brick design, deciding that his 80 games of experience no longer warranted inclusion in the Rookie subset.

1995 Zenith #68 Lenny Dykstra
Len(ny) Dykstra makes another appearance in Zenith, this time with the only Phillies home uniform of the post. He was much more of a contact hitter, only hitting five homers in a "full" 1994 season. There was no way the Phillies would have made another run at defending the NL Pennant if the season was completed, but there will always be question marks. Who knows, maybe he'd have gone "oppo taco" given the rest of August and all of September.

I find it unusual that Pinnacle decided to be a bit more formal with Dykstra's first name on this card. I don't remember announcers of the day calling him Len, and anyway, Lenny seems to fit someone better whose nickname was "Nails".

1987 Topps #684 Kent Tekulve
Colbey was nice enough to throw in a couple bonus cards to close out the break. Kent Tekulve seems to have something of a cult following in this community, so here's one of his cards. Like most players in this post, his career was nearing its end, as he retired in 1989 with the Reds. The reliever's career overlapped with the emergence of the closer role, and he put up a pair of 31-save seasons in the late 1970s. He never had the name recognition of a Rollie Fingers or Dennis Eckersley, but he was a reliever through and through. In 1,050 appearances, he never once started a game.

I always look forward to these inexpensive breaks, especially when they include sets from my early collecting career. I get to add Blake Street Bombers to my binders quite regularly, but seeing a stack of cards of players who appeared in the first World Series I ever watched is a rare treat.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Pinnacle of Affordable Group Breaks (Part 1: Rockies)

They might not be a chance to add the latest and greatest to your collection, but any time Colbey at Cardboard Collections runs one of his affordable group breaks, you know they're an opportunity to take a walk down memory lane for just a few dollars. In late January, he decided to order up some 1995 Pinnacle products, and I bought the usual two-team slot. As usual, part one includes the Rockies, who are on a three-game winning streak, and the randomizer decreed this time that part two will consist of Philadelphia Phillies.

1995 Sportflix #9 Charlie Hayes
Pinnacle Brands put out quite a few products in 1995, including the penultimate year of the lenticular Sportflix set. This set has quite a bit going on. Not only are there two photos of third baseman Charlie Hayes to be found when you tilt the card, but also his last name appears to rush out at you on the right side. Even more than that, the logo on the right side alternates between the Sportflix '95 logo and the Rockies team logo.

These never come across that well in scans, but I don't really expect them to. What you can see anyway is Charlie Hayes' special face guard, which was such a curiosity that it appeared all over his 1995 cards. It pre-dated the C-flap by over twenty years.

There aren't too many stats on the back, but Pinnacle did highlight a few career totals in the Triple Crown categories. Seeing a .267 average isn't too jarring, but above that are his 367 career RBIs, an oddly huge and in-progress number that isn't usually featured on a card, which tend to focus on single-season accomplishments. He finished his career in 2001 with 740 RBIs and a surprisingly consistent .262 average.

1995 Sportflix #10 David Nied
So many pitcher cards show them mid-delivery, with their elbows, arms, and faces contorted into frightful positions. The ghostly half of this lenticular card is no different, but the alternate image shows a rarely-seen shot of this Rockies ace calling a popup. Pitchers seem to do this less often these days, but it's still surprisingly rare to see on a baseball card of any era.

On the back, Pinnacle kept the same theme of including full career statistics through 1995. There's also a small mention of Nied's "first full Major League season" in 1994, blatantly disregarding the strike that shortened both the '94 and '95 seasons. The career stats selected for these card backs mirror the Pitching Triple Crown, the lesser-known cousin of position player greatness. Those stats are wins, strikeouts, and ERA. It's a bit more common for pitchers to lead all three categories than batters to hit for average and power, but it's still quite rare. It hasn't been done since 2011, when both Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw pulled it off.

Anyway, looking at the back of Nied's card shows what would pass for a fairly decent single-season performance: a 17-6 record, 139 Ks, and an alarmingly high but Rockies-esque 4.58 ERA. Unfortunately, those are his stats from 1992-1994, and while his win-loss record looks quite impressive, Pinnacle made a significant error. His career record to that point was actually 17-16, meaning they dropped a full ten losses from his career count. When you feature a number that prominently, you really should get it right.

Sadly for David Nied, he'd never win another game, wrapping up his career in 1996 with a 17-18 record.

1995 Score Summit #45 Larry Walker
The next set is one you've seen a lot of around here, 1995 Score Summit. It's arrived in a few trades and even a Nachos Grande group break. I don't believe I've shown the Larry Walker card from this year, though. These cards always surprise me in how thick they are, and the photo reproduction is really quite sharp. The gold medallion team logo is a bit hard to discern, but it catches the light well enough.

1995 Score Summit Nth Degree #105 Dante Bichette
The primary hit I got in this break was Dante Bichette's Nth Degree parallel, which is one of the most sparkly parallels out there. It's not new to my collection, arriving once upon a time from everyone's favorite French trader, to whom I send my condolences for the destruction suffered by the Notre Dame cathedral this week.

I've shown the card before, but wanted to give my scanner another shot at it to have it turn out less blue than before. Success.

1995 Zenith #20 Dante Bichette
Unlike Summit, 1995 Zenith is a rarity in my collection, occupying only two 9-pocket page slots in my vast collection. Dante Bichette got a card in this set too, and given the small size of all three of these sets (200 cards or less), there is quite a bit of player repetition. They might all even be from the same photo shoot, as Dante is shown in a black spring training jersey with an away uniform on both his Summit and Zenith cards. Summit and Zenith pretty much mean the same thing anyway, as does Pinnacle. The set names in 1995 probably came from a thesaurus. There was no Acme, but that would have worked as well.

Gold foil was the name of the game in 1995, even hitting Topps flagship base cards for the first time. Pinnacle used the normal shade of gold for the various foil elements in this set, but I quite like the shade they used for the brick pyramid element in the background. It's a lot darker of a shade, more like honey, which manages to stand out among all the other gold sets of the era.

1995 Zenith #129 Juan Acevedo (RC)
The Rookie subset in Zenith didn't use the same shade, giving us lots more gold to look at, as well as a duplicated image as a backdrop for the main photo. The card back gives us a nice write-up of Juan Acevedo's prospects on a baseball stadium-themed design, complete with an artificial shadow of the player's head being cast over the outfield. There's even a cute scoreboard with his statistics.

1995 Zenith #129 Juan Acevedo (RC) (Reverse)
It's more cartoony than 1993 Fleer Ultra, which had a similar theme, but Bichette's main set card makes great use of this layout, showing his spray chart to the various fields against both lefties and righties. Bichette managed one opposite-field home run in 1994, long before the phrase "oppo taco" came into use.

1995 Zenith #NNO Chase Programs Checklist
Colbey even included one of the checklists for 1995 Zenith, showing the full breakdown of the three insert sets. Looking over these names reminds you of a few you haven't heard in a while, like Carlos Baerga and Raul Mondesi. Plenty of others are now in the Hall of Fame.

One of the three sets is "Rookie Roll Call". As usual with a set like that, it's peppered with now-legends like Derek Jeter and Chipper Jones, a few minor stars of the day like Todd Hollandsworth and LaTroy Hawkins, plus a few prospects that didn't especially pan out, such as Benji Gil and Bill Pulsipher. Only one Rockie made it into any of these insert sets, and that was Larry Walker.

Given these small set sizes, it looks like I did pretty well as far as pulling full team sets. Summit was pretty far along already, but Zenith is going to need a few more pockets in the 1995 binder.


Monday, April 15, 2019

I didn't pull the Pat Neshek card

This year's Topps Heritage begins a new decade, opening up the '70s with the gray-bordered 1970 set. I found a value pack at Target not long ago, and while I didn't pull the famed Pat Neshek card, where the sunglasses-wearing Phillies reliever pays homage to Lowell Palmer's card in '70 Topps, I did find one of the other cards from this set I had my eyes on.

2019 Topps Heritage #214 Todd Frazier
Todd Frazier, now on the Mets, got a fantastic card this year, showing him signing autographs in none other than Coors Field. It's rare for a card to show the upper portions of its distinctive architecture, but this wide-angle shot did it well. I'm pretty sure this is the first card out there that shows a glimpse of The Rooftop deck, which replaced a few thousand seats in upper right field in 2014. Even without knowing the look of the stadium, that fan with a Rockies cap just to Frazier's left is a dead giveaway.

Pat Neshek wasn't the only one to give us a throwback to the 1970 set. Topps pointed out on Twitter that this one is reminiscent of Bud Harrelson's card, though that photo was taken in Shea Stadium, long before Coors Field was a figment of anyone's imagination.

Coincidentally, the first-ever Rockies game occurred in Shea Stadium, on April 5th, 1993, though they'd need to wait for their first home game later that week to get their first win.

2019 Topps Heritage New Age Performers #NAP-23 Trevor Story
I didn't pull anything earth-shattering in this pack, but I was pretty happy with the lone insert. Luckily, a Rockie found its way to me, and it's Trevor Story, one of the few bright spots in this year's season. Things have not been going well for them, as they are way down in last place already with a 5-12 record. Sunday's game was a gem, a one-hit shutout that also saw Nolan Arenado hit his first home run of the season, followed up by another one tonight. Story, on the other hand, has been flashing plenty of power since the beginning, already with four on the year.

The New Age Performers insert set carries on for another year, and looks even more early-'70s than before. Topps compares the power-hitting shortstop to Rico Petrocelli, "an anomaly as a fence-busting shortstop" for the Red Sox, who hit 29 homers in his '70 campaign. That was actually a significant drop from 40 in 1969, his second of three All-Star years.

Plenty of shortstops have proven to be power hitters since then, and Fernando Tatis, Jr, the hot-hitting rookie Padre squaring off against the Rockies this week, is rapidly adding his name to that list.

2019 Topps Heritage #165 Jorge Soler
Most Americans know April 15th as Tax Day, but those of us who are baseball fans take the day to celebrate Jackie Robinson Day. Everyone wears #42 on the field, forcing you to really know your team to know what's going on out there. They're also wearing a commemorative patch on the right sleeve today, a diamond with crossed bats surrounding the number 42.

Jorge Soler has a team-specific patch on his uniform, worn during the 2018 season to commemorate the 50th season of Royals baseball. I know him better as a Cub, when he was a member of the team that finally broke the curse. His time on the Royals hasn't been as successful, but he's been healthy so far this season.

2019 Topps Heritage #97 Rich Hill
Rich Hill also wore a special patch last year with the Dodgers, marking their 60th anniversary of moving to Los Angeles. The veteran has statistics on the card back dating back to 2005, leaving no room for a cartoon or paragraph. He'll be adding another line to that resume shortly, but he still has a rehab start to make before he returns to both the Dodgers and my Fantasy team, the Lucky Numbers.

2019 Topps Heritage #59 Mike Clevinger
The 2019 season is still quite young, but plenty has happened already. The Rockies have dug themselves quite a hole, the Mariners have an amazing home run streak going (which may end shortly), and Mike Clevinger has been bitten by the injury bug. He's expected to miss at least two months, which opens up a spot for Carlos González on the Indians' 40-man roster.

The set might be using a 49-year old design, and Topps is definitely going for a certain look with the photos, but there are a few things that show unmistakable progress. Major League Baseball in Denver, for one thing, and more Cuban players like Soler in the league. There may have been a handful of players with long-ish hair in the carefree days of 1970, but tattoos like Clevinger has are a much more recent development.

There are Topps Heritage collectors that examine every aspect of the set in minute detail. Font size and placement, color shades, whether certain words are abbreviated or spelled out, and so on. The only thing I really noticed is that some cards have a little vertical white bar (a "pipe" in techno-speak) between the name and position, and others, like both these pitchers, don't.

2019 Topps Heritage #372 Kevin Newman (RC) / Kevin Kramer (RC)
The two-player Rookie Stars cards are faithfully reproduced in this year's Heritage. Vida Blue's and Thurman Munson's rookie cards both appeared on this design. Kevin Newman, on the other hand, might not be mentioned with names like that given his early defensive performance. He committed three errors in a single inning against the Cubs a week or so ago. He's had a bright spot in his young career though, an extra-innings walk off a few days before.

Newman shares a card with another Kevin, Kevin Kramer. His fellow middle infielder hasn't appeared yet in 2019, but did play a few September games with the Pirates last season.

2019 Topps Heritage #368 Nick Markakis AS
Nick Markakis, who surprisingly didn't have an All-Star selection until 2018, appears on the properly-named The Sporting News subset. None of that "The Topps News" knockoff anymore. He's certainly been worthy of a selection before, but it took him this long before fans recognized his talent, giving him the opportunity to appear on this All-Stars-only subset.

There are no stats on the card back, just a large drawing of Markakis, his name, a small cartoon, and a mention that he has the all-time highest fielding percentage for right fielders, at .994.

The card front shows him appearing to burst out of the newspaper in the background, and just to give you an idea of how I think, this reminds me of how the label looks on bags of Krunchers potato chips. They're so good. I haven't found them around here more than once or twice since I was a kid, though.

2019 Topps Heritage #386 Willians Astudillo (RC) / Stephen Gonsalves (RC) / Kohl Stewart (RC)
Some teams have enough promising rookies to warrant a three-player card. I haven't heard of Stephen Gonsalves or Kohl Stewart, but Willians Astudillo is a 27-year-old utility player that's fast becoming a fan favorite. "La Tortuga" (the turtle) hit his first home run of the year in Philadelphia, but he's not really a power hitter. He's just that lovable guy who plays with a tremendous amount of heart. Even better, he pretty much never strikes out. He has exactly as many big league home runs as strikeouts. Four.

Just look at that grin.

This is a bit of a late post, but that's how the schedule tends to go for us fans out west. Both the Colorado Avalanche and Rockies had games starting at 8:00 pm Mountain tonight, and it'll probably be around 11 by the time I finish scanning and proofreading. The West Coast games are late for nearly everyone, but when I was in South Carolina for work last September, some of those Dodger games didn't wrap up until well after midnight.

If you can tolerate that surprisingly few people on Eastern time have any idea how time zones work, Mountain time is really a nice compromise, even for a night person like myself.


Sunday, April 7, 2019

The Trading Post #128: Cards My Mom Didn't Throw Out

It's a beautiful Sunday afternoon, a great spring day with a full slate of baseball games on the schedule. So was yesterday, and while I did spend some time in the great outdoors, I'm sore and sunburned. Even though the weather looks great, I'm spending some time inside today to catch up on trade posts before I catch my first game of the season. The Rockies will be playing at Coors Field this evening, trying to avoid being swept by the Dodgers in their first Sunday Night Baseball home game since 2001.

Win or lose, at least I won't have to listen to Alex Rodriguez announce the game or mispronounce Tony Wolters' name.

There's plenty of time before gametime to get this post up, a small card stack sent by Jared of Cards My Mom Didn't Throw Out. In addition to these cards, Jared also included a sentimental handwritten note, mentioning that he thinks of me anytime he sees Rockies cards, as I was the first person he traded with, way back in late 2015. His blog is still going strong, and I'm flattered to know that I have enough influence in this community to inspire others.

With that, let's see what shiny goodness Jared unearthed.

1998 Finest No-Protectors Refractors #69 Jamey Wright
1998 Topps Finest returned to something resembling normalcy after the fractured set insanity we got in 1997. Jamey Wright's card #69 is just that, card #69. I'm still rather confused about what's happening with this card, though. I'm confident in stating that this is a Refractor card, as it has that unmistakable rainbow look, on both sides in fact. Beckett has a few varieties listed, including some as "No-Protectors". Presumably, these are cards which ship without that clear plastic peel-off coating. I always peel those anyway [insert sunburn joke here], but that doesn't just convert it into the other variety. From what I can tell, the protector cards have a normal back, and the No-Protector cards have the same shiny chrome finish on the back as on the front.

How does that apply to refractors? Similar to the base cards, there are normal refractors, which have a refractor front and a normal back, differentiated only by a tiny "R" next to the card number. What I think Jared found for me is a No-Protector Refractor, as both sides have that glorious shiny rainbow finish.

But here's where this keeps confusing me. Unlike the two normal refractors already in my collection, there's no "R" label on this one. Maybe Topps trusts that you'll be able to figure it out because both sides have the same finish, but then that calls into question two other cards in my collection. Those two have the "R" label, but don't look like refractors at all. If not for that "R" label, I'd group them with the base No-Protectors, because that's what they look like. But that "R" has to mean something, right? For now, I have them separate. Then again, they're clearly different than this Wright card, which lacks the label.

In short, I have all four varieties to be found, but either the labeling is inconsistent, or Topps messed up the card stock somewhere along the line, or both.

Even when it's not a fractured set, these late-'90s cards can really require some investigation to figure out what you have on your hands.

2002 Donruss Best of Fan Club Spotlight #76 Todd Helton /100
The confusion continues with this shiny Todd Helton card from 2002. First and foremost, I've always been a Topps guy. And given the above situation, as well as all that mid-'90s Stadium Club that regularly makes me question my reality, even they can be tough to decipher. So when Donruss parallels of parallels show up from a time when I wasn't collecting, I just admire the color coding and look it up on Beckett again.

Donruss made a set called Fan Club in 2002 for a single year. It has a faint graph paper pattern in the upper right and lower left, as well as some excellent color-coding. There's also a "Best Of" parallel set, which is more or less similar to Topps Chrome in appearance. Both the base and Best Of varieties have their own parallels with a /100 print run. The base parallels are called "Credits", and the Best Of "meta-parallels", for lack of a better word, are called "Spotlight". They don't look any different than regular Best Of cards other than that Spotlight lettering at the top.

With those parallel names, I think they're going for some kind of movie theme, but there's not much else about the set that indicates it. Seeing 074/100 in red foil on the back is certainly cool, though.

Like 1998 Finest, I've found enough of these over the years to have something to compare incoming cards to and see where the differences lie. Checking Beckett is a good first step, but if you don't have a few on hand already to compare and contrast, it might not be much help.

2016 Topps Limited #93 Charlie Blackmon /1000
Jumping way ahead to the current Rockies era, Charlie Blackmon allows me to show the 2016 design again, something some bloggers won't mind and others will quite dislike. What makes this special, obviously, is the "Limited Edition" gold lettering on the right side of the card, plus a much thicker card stock than usual. This is something I had no idea existed, and I told Jared as much in my thank-you email.

This is from a premium factory set which Topps printed less than 1,000 of. It even came in a fancy silver box. Full sets on eBay are going for just under $100, which honestly seems like a bit of a deal with that small of a print run. And since I have just this one Blackmon, I know there is one fewer complete set out there.

I'm not sure where my seats are tonight, but if they're along the first base line, I'll get a good view of Charlie, who is covering right this year following the departure of Carlos González.

2014 Bowman Draft Top Prospects #TP-74 Trevor Story
Elsewhere on the playing field is shortstop Trevor Story, who accepted his Silver Slugger award before yesterday's game, along with teammates Nolan Arenado and Germán Márquez. Of those three, only Story has yet to ink a long-term deal with the Rockies. It's hard to believe that it's been three years since Story was tearing up the league as a rookie, mashing seven homers in his first six big-league games. Once upon a time, his cards weren't found outside Bowman, and the power-hitting righty had to make do with a batting helmet with ear flaps on both sides.

2007 Topps Heritage #263 Troy Tulowitzki (RC)
Story has certainly grown into the shortstop role, filling the shoes of Troy Tulowitzki. Back when this card was printed, Topps said, "The Rockies are keyed up about Troy's potential at shortstop." He became a fan favorite in Denver, but had injury problems and was eventually traded to Toronto. The Yankees took a chance on him, and he showed promise in spring training, but he only played in five games before straining his calf and landing on the Injured List. FYI, it's not called the "Disabled List" anymore.

I've always liked Tulowitzki, but he's got to be wondering how much longer he can keep this up. He's an elite athlete, and it must be extremely frustrating for him not to be able to practice his craft the way he'd like. Even though he was the third-youngest player in Rockies history according to this 1958-themed Topps Heritage rookie card, he's starting to get up there in years. He's seven months younger than I am, and I'm learning that the body just doesn't bounce back the way it once did.

It's not impossible that we'll see him back in purple pinstripes someday. The Rockies do like to sign past players once a few years pass. Mark Reynolds is back, Matt Holliday stopped by last year, Chris Iannetta is regularly starting behind the plate, and Jorge de la Rosa just inked a minor-league deal.

2013 Topps Chrome Chrome Connections Die Cuts #CC-TT Troy Tulowitzki
Long after his Rookie Card days, Tulo was established enough to warrant inclusion in small die-cut insert sets for brands like Topps Chrome. This completes my team set of 2013 Topps Chrome Connections, after CarGo's card that I received via trade from Alex long ago. I've seen the González die-cut a bunch of times (I even have two in the duplicates box if you want one), but Tulo's seems to be a bit more scarce, yet just as angular.

When he's healthy, Tulowitzki is quite consistent. By the time this set came out, he had already had three seasons in which he hit .290 with 25 home runs and 90 RBIs. Topps tantalized us on the card back with the possibility of a fourth, which would tie him with Vinny Castilla in the Rockies encyclopedia. In 2013, sharing the left side of the diamond with rookie Nolan Arenado, he hit .312 and exactly matched that count of 25 homers, but fell eight short in the RBI column. 2016 was a decent year, but he hasn't been able to eclipse his 2013 numbers yet.

1997 Donruss Gold Press Proofs #264 Neifi Perez /500
We'll wrap up with another die-cut, this one from 1997 Donruss. Rather than a multitude of corners and edges as in Chrome Connections, Donruss' die cut pattern is just a couple of right trapezoids, allowing for much easier handling and storage. As noted in a few places on this card, it's a Press Proof parallel, which had a print run of 2,000 in prior years. Those are still out there, and were called Silver Press Proofs in 1997. I don't have any in my collection, but there doesn't appear to be a die-cut involved. This shiny one is a new-for-1997 variety, the Gold Press Proof, which includes the aforementioned die cut and a print run of just 500.

As far as Rockies shortstop prospects, Neifi Pérez blazed the way for guys like Tulo and Story. The card back called him "Colorado's addition to the list of top shortstop prospects who have reached the majors the past couple of seasons." Implicitly included in that list would be Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Nomar Garciaparra.

Also on the card back is a lesson in Postseason roster rules. We're told that the Rockies called up Pérez in time for him to be on the team's Postseason roster. That requires a player to be on the 25-man roster by August 31st. September call-ups are not eligible, but that's less important this season, as the expansion of September rosters has been greatly limited.

Fortunately for Pérez, his debut was on August 31st, 1996. Unfortunately for Pérez, the Rockies didn't make the Postseason in 1996, so it was a moot point.

Normally, a card like this would be a good candidate to find the specific date of the photo, but there's barely any clear information on the out-of-town scoreboard to go on, and worse, it's not clear who the cameo is diving back to second base. He's wearing uniform #29, but I really can't tell which team this is. The colors point to a couple possible American League candidates, most likely the White Sox or maybe the Yankees, but as this photo is from 1996 (confirmed by the "MDM" patch on Neifi's right sleeve), interleague play had not yet started.

My best guess, but not with a high level of confidence, is that the cameo is a very young Bobby Abreu, then on the Houston Astros. The uniform number matches, the colors are maybe, possibly, consistent with the dark blue and gold the Astros wore in the mid-'90s, and Pérez did pinch-run and finish the game defensively against Houston on September 15, 1996. The Rockies issued two walks in the top of the 8th, forcing Abreu to second base. Shortly after that, the next batter lined out to the pitcher, and this play does have the look of the defense trying to double up the runner.

Jared included a couple other cards as well, which were already in the collection. There was an even more purple Helton card from 2004 SP Prospects, and a Leaf Steel card of Larry Walker, which is a slight upgrade since the metal in that set is surprisingly fragile.

Thanks for the cards, Jared!