Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Trading Post #105: I Need New Hobbies (Part 1: Shiny)

I'm a fan of whisky. And a good (but not absolute) rule of thumb is that the longer it's aged, the better it is. That rule held true for a recent trade I did with Scott, who writes at I Need New Hobbies. I first reached out in late 2014, offering up some 1992 Fleer Ultra. We exchanged an email or two, but nothing came to fruition at the time. It wasn't until just a few months ago when he dug up our old email thread and got the gears moving again, something he did with other bloggers as well.

As I'm known to do lately, I split this well-aged trade up into two parts. There was a lot of good stuff in here, and it proves that patience is a virtue. In fact, I've never spent as much time negotiating a trade as I did with this one. Most of my transactions are pretty open-ended. What teams do you like, any sets you're working on, are you building any mini collections, stuff like that. But this time was a different sort of swap. Want lists were carefully reviewed. Images were sent for review and approval. And at the end of the day, we hammered out a deal, even though the 1992 Fleer Ultra I originally offered was long gone.

Put your shades on; it's about to get shiny. Unless you're a flatbed scanner.

1995 Topps Opening Day #2 Dante Bichette
Before Topps Opening Day became the standalone product it is today, it was once an insert set found in factory sets of 1995 Topps. It's as shiny as you'd expect for a mid-'90s insert card, and reminds me a bit of some Topps Stars sets from the same period. Lots of little five-pointed stars in the background, and a bit of texture.

I've told my story about the night I stayed up to listen to the end of the inaugural game at Coors Field, the one where Dante Bichette hit a no-doubter in the 14th inning to win it for the home team. I don't really need a card to remember that, but Topps made one anyway, documenting his 2-for-4 performance, including four very important RBIs.

That opening day occurred a bit later in April 1995, on the 26th to be exact, thanks to some lingering fallout from the strike. I do wonder what the folks running the city of Denver thought at the time about having to open their shiny new baseball stadium a month late, but fast forward to today and it's become a great neighborhood to spend time in. Google Maps can barely keep up with the development around the ballpark and nearby Union Station.

Perhaps that memorable 14th-inning home run had something to do with what Denver is today.

1999 E-X Century #43 Dante Bichette
Clear cards like this present a bit of a dilemma. They're practically their own toploaders, but if you like to keep them in a binder, the card behind it disrupts the theme quite a bit. Still, the parts of this Skybox acetate card that aren't clear are pretty shiny, and even the clear areas have some nice purple coloring in the shadowy areas when you hold it up to the light, or even better, to a white background, like a computer screen or an X-ray illuminator (for example). It's a lot like a Topps Tek card, only without the ridiculous fractured numbering. In other words, it's a set you could actually complete.

There's not much in the way of stats or tidbits on the card back, just his 1998 stats, career totals, and the usual birthdate, height, that sort of stuff. But there's enough to notice that Dante Bichette celebrated a birthday on Saturday, and he wasn't much older when this card was printed than I am now.

Time flies.

2000 Upper Deck Hitter's Club Inserts #HC9 Larry Walker
In fact, quite a bit has happened since my last post. The baseball world experienced a tragic rule of threes, the end-of-season awards have been handed out, and next year's spring training schedule (and hats!) was just announced.

2018's Hall of Fame ballot just hit the newswire, and Larry Walker is still on it. Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Trevor Hoffman, and Vladimir Guerrero are my guesses for this year, but you never know when Barry Bonds will get enough of the vote to make it in. Having steroid-using superstars like Bonds and Clemens clogging up the ballot all these years really makes it difficult on the newcomers, leaving more debatable cases like Hideki Matsui and Omar Vizquel with a tough hill to climb.

And if Walker doesn't make it in, I don't think Helton will, which leaves us looking at guys like Arenado and Blackmon for the first Rockie inductee, assuming they keep up their current pace for another decade or so.

You'd think that an MVP award, three batting titles (one of which is documented on this Upper Deck insert), and darn near a Triple Crown would be sufficient. But Coors Field is about as much a kiss of death as steroids, apparently.

1998 Metal Universe #217 Larry Walker HG
Walker had quite the arm, too. He hit from the left side of the plate, but his right arm was an absolute cannon. The ball didn't quite get up to re-entry speeds during his numerous outfield assists, as pictured on this Metal Universe subset card, but he was dangerous to run against. To quote the card, "baserunners know they are in trouble when they see Walker wind up and a colorful flame trail, otherwise known as the baseball, heads toward the base of their choice."

Fleer laid it on a little thick with the outer space theme of this set as a whole, but 1998 was an odd time in the hobby. And Men In Black had just dominated the previous summer's box office, so I can't really fault them for it. It's a lot like Fleer's Pro-Visions cards, with a bit of added shininess befitting a "metal" set. It's not literally metal like the rust-prone Leaf Steel, but at least it's lighter and won't oxidize, like the surface of Mars does.

2013 Topps Opening Day Blue #219 Troy Tulowitzki /2013
It took a while for the Rockies to actually wear purple jerseys in the field. That happened quite a while ago, but it was a familiar sight by the time 2013 rolled around. This was back when Topps was still putting actual serial numbers on Opening Day Blue parallels, a feature I quite miss. I haven't seen these for a while, but they were showing up left and right a couple years ago. Also note the date of April 1st, 2013, a more proper date to begin a baseball season than April 26th.

Us collectors were chasing things all over the place in 2013, and Troy Tulowitzki was busy chasing down Barry Bonds' all-time Home Run record, about 632 short at the time. He's tacked on about another hundred since then, but all the records featured in the "chase" theme seem safe. It would have been a lot more interesting if Topps picked milestones (see this reddit post) that were reachable for some of these players, rather than Cy Young's 511 Wins, a record that will outlast the pyramids.

2013 Topps Heritage Chrome #HC45 Troy Tulowitzki /999
Out of curiosity, do the scratch-off areas of these 2013 Heritage cards actually work like the 1964s did? I haven't tried, and I'm not about to take a coin to this serial-numbered chrome parallel, numbered to just under a thousand. Neither a nickel nor a dime will come anywhere near this card, and especially not a quarter.

Coin buffs out there are likely to know that 1964 marked the end of the line for silver quarters, changing to the copper-nickel alloy we know today. There's no way kids in 1964 could have known that the silver quarter in their pockets and the cards in wax packs would appreciate so much in value a half-century later. But that's a long time to hold an investment, and in that time, the cards got shinier, and the coins duller.

1998 SPx Finite #269 Darryl Kile /9000
Speaking of copper, how about some Upper Deck? They embossed the SPx cards in 1998 with a copper seal, and serial numbered the most common of three varieties to 9,000 copies. The seal is surprisingly detailed; you can even make out "1998" at the top when looking closely. Further inspection with a magnifying glass lets you spot "USWest Sports Complex" below Kile's gloved left hand, set against a deep blue sky, locating this photo to the Rockies' former spring training facilities in Tucson. USWest was one of the "Baby Bells" created after the breakup of AT&T that has since evolved into CenturyLink, taking a similar corporate path that led the Giants' home park to be renamed so many times.

2006 Bowman Chrome Refractors #53 Kazuo Matsui
The first infielder from the Japanese leagues to play in the Majors, Kazuo Matsui, more frequently known as "Kaz", was a former pitcher in his native Japan. Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) has been back in the news, with star Shohei Otani looking to make the transition to MLB. The trail has been blazed by now, thanks to numerous players like Hideo Nomo, Hideki Matsui (also on this year's Hall of Fame ballot), Ichiro Suzuki, and many others.

Kaz was a Rockie during their World Series run in 2007, shortly after this ghostly-looking refractor was printed. Bowman always gives us a decent scouting report, and tells us that Matsui (no relation to potential Hall-of-Famer Hideki) used to play for the Seibu Lions. Curiously, just a few days ago, Kazuo re-signed with the Lions as a player/coach, proving his longevity along with fellow countryman Ichiro.

It remains to be seen where Otani will land. Naturally, the Yankees are a favorite, but if it ends up being the Cincinnati Reds, that will mean that every team in the MLB has fielded a Japanese player. The Reds are the lone holdout, something that's sure to be a trivia question someday.

1995 Stadium Club Crystal Ball #CB7 Jason Bates
Jason Bates held the second base position a decade or so before Matsui, performing well as he progressed up the Rockies farm system. That progression earned him a spot in yet another card from 1995 Stadium Club that I've never seen before.

Seriously, was there something wrong with the collation that year? I swear I collected 1995 Stadium Club, and I found heaps of Virtual Reality cards, but it seems like every time I look, there's something else from that set that's escaped my attention for two decades.

Despite the Crystal Ball theme, Topps did about as well as most insert sets of rookie stars, offering up a couple Hall of Famers like Derek Jeter and (soon) Chipper Jones, a few well-known names like Shawn Green, LaTroy Hawkins, and Phil Nevin, plus several others that didn't really amount to much. Prospects are notoriously hard to predict. No one selected first overall besides Ken Griffey, Jr. has made it to the Hall of Fame, but Chipper will likely become the second. A-Rod has a case, and younger players like Bryce Harper are certainly on track. But 2013's first selection, Mark Appel, was DFA'd by the Phillies earlier this week, so it's anyone's guess.

2011 Bowman Chrome Draft Refractors #56 D.J. LeMahieu
Two-time Gold Glover DJ LeMahieu currently holds down the second base position for the Rockies, even though he's pictured here as a Cub. Bowman refractors can always be counted on for a bit of shininess, and every once in a while, they depict a player who has actually made an impact in the Major Leagues. The Rockies were lucky to get him, a player who "plays the game the right way", according to Bowman.

That little green accent on 2011 Bowman prospect cards is a nice touch, especially when it's in the lower part of the card to blend in with the field a bit. Though he's shown in the field where he was recognized with an award this year, his scouting report also tells us that he "usually hits for high average". Little did Bowman know that DJ would one day win a batting title with the Rockies, and award that's become as synonymous with the Rockies as Rookie of the Year is with the Dodgers.

2008 SPx #31 Todd Helton
I've seen cards from this die-cut SPx set before, and while it's not serial-numbered like Kile's, it will fit well with a Matt Holliday card sent by another trader. It's still one of my favorite die-cut designs ever, and this was included in the batch of scans that Scott sent to me for approval that really caught my eye. UD's clever use of shadows really makes this card pop, almost making it look like a secret compartment should slide out from somewhere.

1996 SPx #25 Andres Galarraga
SPx hit the market in 1996 with this design. Their trademark hologram, found on the back of nearly every UD card printed since 1989, inspired them to develop a whole brand around it. They had played around with it in 1994's Holoviews insert set, and they decided to scale it up to occupy most of the card, along with a rounded die-cut design. The only demerit is a practically illegible nameplate on the back, which looks like a rectangle of silver foil unless you look at it just right. We've seen a lot of SPx in this post, but this is the one that got the brand started. And it makes me miss Upper Deck quite a bit.

This is the first card from the '96 SPx base set in my collection, besides the Larry Walker card that Scott also included. I do have Fred McGriff's gold parallel from this color-coded set, which is obviously a lot more red. Coincidentally, those three cards offer a pretty good look at the 1995 NLDS playoff series between the Rockies and the eventual champions, the Atlanta Braves. McGriff whacked two homers in that series, more than both Walker and Galarraga combined.

2000 Bowman's Best Franchise 2000 #F17 Larry Walker
They don't get much shinier than this. Scanners really just don't do it justice. It's a shiny, mesmerising, textured insert card from Bowman's Best, as black on the reverse as it is shiny on the front. The back mentions Walker's home/road splits, a common criticism of Coors Field, and perhaps why he's not been able to make it into the Hall of Fame. But the card is right for the time, "No one puts on a better show for the home folks".

It actually takes a while to notice that the front is actually monochrome. The whole rest of the thing looks like a hundred little prisms, so you don't realize that Walker's image itself doesn't contain any color. That's how shiny it is. And if you ask how much shinier it could be? The answer is none. None more shiny.

Thanks Scott, and I'm glad this trade finally worked out!


Monday, November 6, 2017

Blog bat-around: Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon

The last time I took part in a theme suggested by Collecting Cutch, I went through most of my Todd Helton cards in one late-night marathon. Collecting Cutch recently threw a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon gauntlet out to the Cardsphere, and figured I'd whip up a quick one-card post.

If you're somehow unfamiliar, the game is to think of an actor, any actor, and try to connect him or her to Kevin Bacon in six steps or less. Tom Hanks, for example, has a "Bacon Number" of 1, as they appeared together in Apollo 13. Jeff Goldblum's Bacon Number is 2, as you have to connect them via Steve Martin. Goldblum did a voice in The Prince of Egypt, which also starred Steve Martin, who was in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (adding the Oxford comma on my own) with Kevin Bacon.

So which ballplayers can we connect to Kevin Bacon? A few have appeared in various Hollywood productions, such as Mark Grace and Don Mattingly, two early entrants in the theme. I can think of a few that are good candidates, but the one that immediately springs to mind is Bernard Gilkey.

1995 Score #485 Bernard Gilkey
Thanks to this theme, you've now seen 1995 Score and Bernard Gilkey today, probably not what neither you nor I expected when you woke up.

Yes, though he was a New York Met at the time, outfielder Bernard Gilkey appeared in 1997's summer hit Men in Black. He was the unfortunate outfielder who was mesmerized by the sight of a UFO passing over Shea Stadium, letting a fly ball smack him right on the head. I can't find a clip of the exact scene, but he's right there in the credits as "Baseball Player".

Coincidentally, Gilkey led the National League in sacrifice flies that year.

I remember him as a Cardinal, coming up in the second half of the overproduction era. He was a decent base stealer, and apparently has a Bobby Bonilla-like arrangement with the Arizona Diamondbacks. I did see him play at least once; he was the leadoff hitter for the Cards in the first game I attended at Coors Field in August 1995. His buddy Jose Oquendo took over at second base later in that game, who he's seen high-fiving here. It's one of those cameo cards where you're not quite sure whose card it is. It's flanked by 1995 Score's distinctive green dot pattern on a sort of sand background, maybe slightly inspiring what we saw in 2015 Topps.

So how does he connect to Kevin Bacon? You might be interested to know that, like movie star Jeff Goldblum, Gilkey's Bacon Number is also just two. Linda Fiorentino, the female lead in Men in Black, had a role in 1991's Queens Logic with Kevin Bacon.

Pretty much any Hollywood actor you've heard of has a Bacon Number of two or less. Perhaps unsurprisingly, mathematicians have a similar concept in their field called the Erdős Number, representing how far removed various scientists are from being published with a particular prolific mathematician. Naturally, you can combine that with the Bacon Number to get the Erdős–Bacon number, on which you can find a few genius actresses like Natalie Portman and Danica McKellar.

There's a surprising level of interconnection in social networks, and I'd wager that the average American citizen could be connected to Kevin Bacon in the requisite six steps. Perhaps not as a movie star, but at least along the paths of their acquaintances.

Me? I'm a 4. I met Niles Southern at a restaurant in Boulder some years ago, the son of Terry Southern, who co-wrote Dr. Strangelove. Southern and astronaut Jim Lovell both had cameos in a mid-'70s sci-fi flick called The Man Who Fell To Earth. Lovell, who was on the real Apollo 13, had a brief cameo in its namesake 1995 film, and we've already established that Kevin Bacon appeared in that.

So now you're all a 5.


Thursday, November 2, 2017

It's all over NOW

Now that we're a few days into November, the annual (except 1994, of course) World Series has drawn to a close. And what an amazing series it was! The Houston Astros had luck on their side this year, winning Games 2 and 5 in extra innings, doing so in absolute nail-biter fashion. Dodgers fans are no doubt heartbroken, as this series could very easily have gone the other way. Just a handful of different outcomes in a few key spots may have led to an entirely different champion this year.

It might have been the most evenly-matched World Series I've ever seen, with two championship-worthy teams slugging it out over seven games like a pair of heavyweight boxers. If a split decision existed in baseball, this would no doubt have been one. The Dodgers and Astros even managed to score 34 runs each throughout the series. If that's not an even matchup, I don't know what is.

2017 Topps Now #678 Colorado Rockies Clinch NL Wild Card /345
And as much as I love my Rockies, I don't think they could have held up against teams like this even if they had won the Wild Card game. Playoff baseball is a different animal, and while I fully believe Bud Black would have managed as best he could, I don't think the Rockies had all the pieces in place to stay standing in the ring this long.

I've been doing kickboxing for the past several months. Sorry for all the boxing metaphors.

On the penultimate day of the regular season, the Brewers lost to the Cardinals, ensuring the Rockies would occupy the second NL Wild Card spot. I used that opportunity to buy my third and final Topps Now card of 2017, commemorating the Rockies' celebration of making the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

That would be as far as they'd get. I didn't buy a card for the Wild Card game itself; as we all know, these things run $10 a pop, and that adds up. This could have gotten pricey if the Rockies made it further. Not to mention the $100 pair of NLDS tickets I had lined up for Game 3.

On the card, Nolan Arenado is front and center, with teammates Charlie Blackmon and Gerardo Parra also visible. Unfortunately, the Rockies would end up losing the final two games of the season to the Dodgers, and it has to be a little strange popping champagne in the clubhouse on the same day you lose. But Nolan doesn't seem to mind, nor did anyone in Denver.

And even though the Rockies dug too big a hole too early, each league's Wild Card game set the stage for an unpredictable and thrilling postseason.

Unpredictable, that is, unless you're Sports Illustrated.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Trading Post #104: Dime Boxes (Part 2: Random Goodies)

Last time I posted, the League Championship Series were just getting underway. Today, the World Series started, featuring an old NL West matchup between the Astros and Dodgers. It's shaping up to be an interesting series already, as the temperature at gametime was 103°F. That's a scorcher, and much, much warmer than Game 3 of the 2007 World Series, where it was so cold the vendors were selling hot chocolate in the aisles of Coors Field.

My Rockies are long since out of it, and I'm not sure how far they would have made it even if they won the Wild Card game. But I have plenty of cards to write about, such as the team bag of "Random Goodies" that Dime Box Nick included in a recent trade. Unlike the long part 1 post, there are no Rockies to be found in this one, but it's a quintessential Nick trade package.

2017 Donruss #173b Daniel Murphy SP ("Murph" Black and White)
As luck would have it, I commented first on one of his frankenset posts, voting for a Wilson Alvarez card, who was a member of the White Sox in 1993, the first Postseason I ever watched. Or at least the first one I remember watching. That comment earned me a "little something special", starting off with a short print from 2017 Donruss featuring Daniel Murphy. The runner-up for the NL batting title in two straight years is referred to by his nickname "Murph" in a classic Donruss script font.

That nickname reminds me more of Matthew McConaughey's daughter in Interstellar, but I don't regularly listen to Nationals broadcasts, so maybe they really do call him that. Still, it doesn't quite have the same ring as "The Duke of Flatbush" or "Charlie Hustle", players who also got a short-printed variation in 2017 Donruss.

2015 Topps Update Chrome #US377 Taijuan Walker
Like Daniel Murphy, Taijuan Walker exited the postseason in the NLDS, of course earlier than he intended. The former Mariner had a disastrous outing in Game 1 of the NLDS, giving up four runs in the first inning. He got through the first, if you can call it that, but the bullpen took over to start the second inning, and the Diamondbacks didn't muster much of an offense against the Dodgers.

I've been hearing hype about Taijuan Walker for a long time, even picking him for my fantasy team a few years ago. He does have a .500 winning percentage in his five seasons, but I think he's past the "Future Stars" stage of his career. Star or not, I'll add a sparkly card like this from Topps Chrome any day of the week. It's not even a parallel; all the Chrome Update cards that year looked like this. And judging by the cold reception that 2017 Update has received, Topps might want to do something similar to jazz up the set.

Or put Chris Taylor in the set. The guy did just hit Dallas Keuchel's first World Series pitch for a long home run in Dodger Stadium.

2017 Stadium Club Black Foil #18 Fernando Rodney
This Stadium Club card tears at me in two directions. It is a Stadium Club card, and it's a black parallel, which goes quite well with the Diamondbacks uniform colors. But on the other hand, it's no secret that I'm not a big fan of the D-Backs, and Fernando Rodney might be my least-favorite player in all of baseball. There's never a dull moment when he's on the mound, which is fine when you're a Rockies fan, but it's nerve wracking to watch. And this sideways thing he and Pedro Strop do with their caps makes me cringe a bit.

2016 Topps Amazing Milestones #AM-05 Nolan Ryan
Despite his long and storied career, Nolan Ryan played in just nine postseason games. Some of those were in 1969, when he won the World Series with the Miracle Mets, but he never won another Postseason series. He has ties to the Astros organization right now, but he suffered some hard luck when he was CEO of the Rangers franchise earlier this decade.

Of course, he's well known for his eye-popping total of 5,714 strikeouts, which is the subject of this Amazing Milestones insert card. It's a staggering number, but I won't necessarily call it unbreakable. Randy Johnson fell short by close to a thousand when he retired, but the way strikeouts are piling up more and more in today's game, it's not inconceivable that someone might beat that. On the other hand, Rickey Henderson's stolen base record is probably safe, and coincidentally, Rickey was Nolan's 5,000th strikeout victim in 1989, as this card tells us.

2016 Topps Pink #237 Carlos Ruiz /50
The smoke effect of 2016 Topps is replaced by a pattern of small hexagons and "2016 Topps" lettering on colored parallels, just like you might have seen in Opening Day. When it's pink, that means it's pretty rare, and if you flip this foilboard card over, you'll see a silver serial number to just 50 copies! This one is rare enough that I'll probably put it in a toploader rather than a binder.

Horizontal cards are always welcome, and I particularly like that we're staring directly down the barrel of a TV camera in the background. And it's always a bonus when the parallel color matches the team colors reasonably well. The shades are rarely exactly perfect, but close enough, I say.

1991 Stadium Club #388 Jeff Bagwell (RC)
A very young-looking Jeff Bagwell was a highlight of 1991's inaugural Stadium Club set, marking the year when Topps starting taking their upstart competition seriously. Full bleed, gold foil, a colorful back. Put yourself in your 1991 shoes and remember how amazing (and expensive) this card once was. It was cutting edge, and let's not forget that we're looking at 1991's NL Rookie of the Year, back when the Astros were still in the NL West. Or in the National League at all, for that matter.

The Hall of Famer wasn't always a big-leaguer. Once upon a time, even future MVPs had to take practice next to the metal bleachers behind the school. 1991 wasn't that long ago, and while Heritage still gives us images like this, it's hard to picture a current flagship card showing us such humble beginnings. Let's be honest, this doesn't look too different from our Little League team photos, does it?

2016 Topps Archives Bull Durham #BD-T Tony / Tom Silardi
Nick finds oddballs better than just about anyone. I realize this is an official Topps insert set from Archives, but it's just whimsical enough to qualify as an oddball in my book. Topps accurately used the 1988 design for their Bull Durham insert set, starring none other than Kevin Costner, the king of baseball movies. The '88 film has plenty of memorable scenes, including the rainout scene, where Tony, the subject of this card, wants a day off in the middle of a dry spell. Crash Davis sabotages the sprinkler system, and minor league antics ensure.

There's already been a Major League insert set, and with the number of baseball movies out there, Topps could milk this idea for years to come. You can bet that I'd chase a Terence Mann card from Field of Dreams. Or maybe a Danny Hemmerling card from Angels in the Outfield, featuring a young Adrien Brody.

2017 Topps MLB Network #MLBN-10 Dan Plesac
So I guess the question before us is this: can Topps make an oddball? They're the only licensed brand left, and they're practically synonymous with the hobby, at least from a postwar standpoint. But this is the second guy in a suit and tie to make it onto the blog this month, and both have been Topps cards. Most of my Dan Plesac cards show him in a Brewers uniform, where he's the career leader for Milwaukee in ERA, saves, and a few other categories. But now he's part of the MLB Network crew, with a card that somehow looks less like a TV graphic than some recent Topps sets.

The photo is rather fuzzy, just like Tony's card from Bull Durham. Topps might be using some inferior screen captures for these cards, and it's conspicuous considering how sharp Topps Bunt cards look to my eye. So yes, even though they're the juggernaut of the industry, my vote is that there can be oddball Topps cards.

Discuss.

2006 Greats of the Game Nickname Greats Autographs #NG-JM John Montefusco The Count (AU)
It's been all Topps so far, but Fleer got in on the action, too. Here's a beautiful autograph from Giants pitcher John Montefusco, a player I must admit I'd never heard of. "The Count" was 1975's NL Rookie of the Year, but had somehow escaped my baseball knowledge until now. I forget where, but I just saw another card from this set on another blog recently, and judging by today's nicknames, I doubt we'll see a set like this anytime soon featuring current players. As much as Donruss insists, I just don't see "Murph" showing up on a sticker autograph.

Bonus points to this card for giving us just a tiny bit of gold foil on the back, in the form of a Fleer logo.

1994 Upper Deck All-Time Heroes #179 Don Baylor
There's an error on this card. It's not that Don Baylor is pictured with a Rockies hat, as he was managing the young club when this card was printed. It's not a flipped negative or anything like that. The error can be unearthed in the paragraph on the back, where Baylor is said to have been hit by 244 pitches in his career. That number happens to be incorrect.

It's just one of those statistics etched into the baseball area of my brain, but Don Baylor was hit by 267 pitches. This was mentioned rather frequently in early Rockies TV broadcasts, and is rather difficult to forget once you hear it. I also remember when Craig Biggio took over this record, and these guys must have nerves of steel. My career HBP in little league was about two. Once on the helmet, once on the elbow. That was about enough for me. And I was not facing Major League pitching. I imagine that would look something like an old Western, where a single shotgun blast sends a bad guy tumbling backwards through a wooden wall and into a trough.

1980 Kellogg's #56 Don Baylor
That familiar-looking UD card highlights Baylor's MVP 1979 season. Kellogg's gave him a card in their 1980 set, and the fragile plastic has only picked up a single crack in over 35 years. No Angel had won the MVP award before Baylor, and only Vladimir Guerrero and of course Mike Trout have picked up the award since. The back has the old California Angels logo, which is just the outline of California with "Angels" written vertically down the state, a little halo up at the Oregon coastal border, and a tiny star right in Anaheim.

Kellogg's was giving us middle names of players before Donruss was around to educate us, and I'm glad to have a couple new cards of Donald Edward Baylor, who passed away just a few months ago.

1964 Beatles Black and White #145 John, Paul, George, Ringo
Further to my point that Topps can make oddballs, Nick found a card of The Fab Four from 1964, the year The Beatles became a worldwide sensation. Nick is a huge Beatles fan, so I'm not surprised that he sent me something like this. The back is plain, containing little more than the card number and copyright date, and this particular example has a bit of adhesive tape residue on both sides, and a little conveniently-located paper loss on the front.

Not to mention a facsimile signature of John Lennon.

I'm sure a rock-and-roll buff could pinpoint this photograph quite accurately, the way we baseball nuts can find out which game George Brett's sunset card is from. I'm not that expert, but I'm happy to add a card from the most influential rock band in history to my collection.

1969 Topps #285 Don Mincher
Many of my Seattle Pilots cards are really hastily rebranded Brewers cards. And the others probably came from Nick. I have a half page worth of 1970 cards, but the expansion draft took place in late 1968. That gave Topps enough time to get an actual Pilots team set together for the 1969 set, but not with new jerseys. Rockies and Marlins collectors in 1993 ran into that a lot. Don Mincher (another player I'd never heard of) is an airbrushed California Angel, selected in the 1968 draft just a few years after the Angels themselves came into existence.

That led me to wonder how the Rockies and Marlins fared in the 1997 Expansion Draft to stock the newly-created Diamondbacks and Devil Rays, and it turns out that two of the first four picks came from the Marlins and Rockies. Tony Saunders was taken first overall from Florida, then the Rockies lost Quinton McCracken in fourth. Both teams had playoff appearances under their belt by then, and the Marlins were fresh off a World Series championship.

I wasn't really collecting in 1998, nor did I have much geographic proximity to either of the new teams, but I remember the card industry being a lot more focused on the Rockies and Marlins than on the Diamondbacks and Devil Rays.

Of course, I obviously wasn't collecting in 1969, either. Although I did find it interesting to see that the Padres, Expos, Pilots, and Royals all had to stay in their respective leagues for the '68 draft, and Mincher went second overall on the AL side of things.

And it was a much safer draft than some other drafts that took place in the late 1960s, if you get my meaning.

1962 Topps #133 Felipe Alou
I'll never know why a past owner of this 1962 Topps card decided to mark it with a large "W" in ballpoint pen, but it's a prominent feature. Felipe Alou would later go on to manage the team he used to play for, as well as one of those '68 expansion teams, and also presided over one of the worst baserunning blunders in baseball history.

I notice that these older sets were more likely to talk about a player's minor league performance. This was Alou's fifth Major League season, but the card back mentions his 1958 Pacific Coast League season, and his cartoon calls out his league-leading.380 batting average from his time in the Class-D Florida State League in 1956. .380 is great and all, but wasn't there anything he did on the 1958-1961 Giants besides have a brother on the same team?

Even Mickey Mantle's 1962 card was not immune. Despite Mantle winning six World Series rings by then, numerous consecutive All-Star appearances, a Triple Crown (which the paragraph at least mentions), and leading the league in pretty much everything for a decade, the cartoon could do no better than to feature Mantle's .383 average in the Western Association with Class-C Joplin in 1950.

Suddenly some design gripes here and there on modern cards don't seem so bad.

By the way, I also checked Al Kaline's 1962 card. Kaline never played in the Minors, according to the back, so Topps had no choice but to make the cartoon about his 10 All-Star appearances.

Regardless of any, um, customization that was done to this card, and despite some less-than-relevant statistics, it's my favorite vintage Topps set ever. I'll forgive a lot for a woodgrain design, apparently.

You never know where these vintage cards will take you. I hadn't even heard of two of these guys before. As well as you think you know this sport, or this hobby, there's always more to learn. And Nick is a great guide.


Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Trading Post #103: Dime Boxes (Part 1: Rockies)

Nick sent me cards again. Buckle up.

As you can see by the title, this one's another two-parter. Maybe I'm losing my edge when it comes to editing myself, but I'd rather chalk it up to all the amazing denizens of the Cardsphere sending piles and piles of amazing cardboard my way. And anyone that trades with Nick from Dime Boxes knows that he basically represents you by proxy at all the card shows and flea markets he attends. And that includes The National, which is where a lot of these came from, according to his handwritten note.

Honestly, sometimes I wonder if he does a better job at finding cards for my own collection than I do.

2017 Topps Five Tool #5T-29 Trevor Story
Lots of bloggers have been writing about the new Topps Fire product this week. I'll probably wait for that to hit the discount boxes, but this insert from 2017 Topps seems like it would fit right in. It's one of the busiest designs I can recall, with five action shots (take that, 1993 Flair!) against a background that looks like an illustration of the big bang.

1995 Fleer would be proud.

Story, and forty-nine other players in this insert set, is billed as a five-tool player, a well-rounded individual with power, contact, speed, fielding, and an arm. The selected photos seem to represent those five tools well, and the back mentions his amazing 10-homer start in his first month in the Big Leagues. He only stole eight bases in 2016, so in a lot of eras, that would be considered rather weak, but in this ever-changing game, swiping eight bags in a season out of thirteen tries is, well, decent. It's a very different game from when Rickey Henderson and Vince Coleman were lighting up the basepaths on a regular basis.

Just due to how the game has changed, Rickey Henderson's career stolen base record of 1,406 might prove to be as unbreakable as Cy Young's 511 wins and 749 complete games.

1998 Circa Thunder #295 Darryl Kile
We move from the big bang into the Dr. Who wormhole, where the late Darryl Kile is preparing to field a comebacker. I was very much out of the collecting scene in 1998, and have never paid much attention to the budget-priced Skybox brands. 1998 was right around when I discovered the soon-to-be-defunct AOL Instant Messenger (and consequently, girls), so chasing wacky sets like this was just not on my radar.

The blue scribbles on the right somehow detract from the overall design, but I do like the bold foil of Kile's last name in the upper left. This card gives me a grand total of three from this set in my entire collection. I managed to break the mesmerizing spell of the card front and flip it over, finding a bar graph of Kile's ERA throughout his career. There were some alarming spikes in the mid-1990s during his career in Houston, but that was nothing compared to what this newly-acquired Rockie would endure for his two seasons in Denver. The annual data points before he took the mound in a pre-humidor Coors Field look a lot better than if this card were printed in 2000.

1993 Fun Pack #175 Jerald Clark
This is a familiar photograph of outfielder Jerald Clark climbing the wall at Mile High Stadium, a slightly different angle of the play found on his 1994 Pinnacle card. Instead of a full-bleed shot, UD put the kid-friendly Fun Pack frame around it. It's a distinctive set, yes, but I opened packs of this as a kid, making it one of the longest-tenured sets in my collection.

Of course a set like this will have a cartoon on the back, along with a trivia question. The Q&A tells us that Clark's first career grand slam came on September 7th, 1992, off of none other than current Rockies manager Bud Black. The cartoon features Clark facing a field full of very Roald Dahl-esque ogres, clearly meant to represent the Giants.

Black is still in baseball, managing a young team to the postseason, but thanks to Bo's 1993 Studio series, I recently learned that Jerald Clark is now a realtor in the San Diego area, the city where he began his career.

1995 Pinnacle #54 Ellis Burks
Pinnacle managed to snap a very similar shot of Ellis Burks for their 1995 set, even including the ball in the frame, though I'm not sure Burks' leap had the height to snag it. It's clearly in a different stadium than Mile High, one with that infernal Astroturf stuff. And if you look very, very closely, you can even see the right hand of the left fielder running over to assist.

It's not easy to spot that among all the gold foil and the giant Cubs logo. Depending on how well the card is cut, it might not be visible at all.

2017 Topps Bunt Blue #132 Carlos Gonzalez
We'll cool things down a bit with a blue parallel from Topps Bunt, the regular version of which I got in a recent group break.

Not much else to say about this card, but I can see why the Rockies wanted to change their shade of purple. The blue tint makes CarGo's jersey look like it used to a few years ago, when the team's uniforms were a bit more bluish than they are now. Mainly the card is here to act like a stick of wintermint gum to offset the crazy colors and designs we just saw.

2017 Topps '87 Topps #87-122 Raimel Tapia
It's hard to believe we're 30 years removed from the famous 1987 Topps set. I've seen a card from this anniversary set before, but that one was from the All-Star subset. Raimel Tapia has yet to play in the Midsummer Classic, so he just gets the base card treatment. Unlike some other sets, the Rockies colors and logo fit quite well into the classic design. It's quite pleasing to see the "CR" logo and a nice shade of purple with the 1987 woodgrain design, unlike, say, watching Topps try to awkwardly squeeze "Diamondbacks" into the bottom banner of 1989 Topps.

The silver foil seal and Rookie Card logo notwithstanding, it's a familiar reuse of the design, right down to the greenish-yellow cardboard backs. Topps even continued the "On This Date" theme on the back, giving us actual events from 1987. Tapia's card references Greg Swindell's 15-strikeout complete game on May 10th, exactly thirty years before the birth of my nephew.

It's a coincidentally personal use of the 30th Anniversary seal, although it does remind me that fans of recent expansion clubs have largely been left out when it comes to the recent Topps Buyback sets. I've never seen one in person from any team, and fans like me, Daniel, Tim, and the mythical Marlins blogger might feel a bit abandoned by this buyback craze.

2017 Topps Archives #107 Carlos Gonzalez
1982 Topps also accepts the Rockies colors quite well, even if just a few fans in the seats behind the screen are there to see it. 2017 Archives did a very nice job, and I appreciate that Topps made the older sets actually feel like cardboard instead of the odd half-glossy feel they used to have.

Like Tapia's card above, the back is properly green and cardboard-y, and points out that Cargo hit several milestones in the 2016 season. He got to 200 homers, 200 doubles, 1,000 hits, and 2,000 total bases, all in the same year. If he sticks around Colorado he has a chance to challenge a career player like Todd Helton on the team leaderboards.

Except for doubles. Helton's keeping that one for a long time.

2016 Stadium Club #164 DJ LeMahieu
DJ LeMahieu and Todd Helton are tied with one batting title each, two of a gaggle of Rockies that have brought that award home, including Charlie Blackmon this year.

It used to be that Wrigley was the only park with brick behind the plate. Quite a few stadiums now do, or at least a faux brick, making it harder to pinpoint the stadium than it used to be. Even Minute Maid park in Houston, one of the two ALCS sites this year, has brick underneath the screen. However, theirs is done in a perfect grid rather than the usual overlap, which might be aesthetically pleasing but is structurally, well, deficient.

2017 Stadium Club Sepia #194 Andres Galarraga
The Stadium Club fun continues, this time with a lonely-looking Andres Galarraga on one of 2017's Sepia parallels. If you didn't know which position he played, you might think he was in the middle of a perfect game bid.

But he was not a pitcher, as we all know. He was a great slugger, and arguably the first real Rockies fan favorite. He was, after all, the first Rockie to appear in the All-Star Game. You could get him with a low-and-away slider with ease, but when he connected, "echoes of this slugger's hits can still be heard amid the Rocky Mountains". A wonderful bit of hyperbole from Topps, and one that plays to the embellished remnants of the Wild West you can still find in Denver.

2016 Topps Walmart Holiday Snowflake #HMW181 Nolan Arenado
October in Colorado usually means one thing. The first snow of the season. Sometimes it's a little earlier, occasionally (and more commonly, in recent years) it's later. But Monday brought a few inches to the Denver area. A lot of the trees weren't ready for it, and a lot of branches met a gruesome end. The tree out by the mailbox building collapsed entirely. It reminds you why deciduous trees are a bit less common here than evergreens, at least when not artificially planted.

Fitting, then, that one of last year's Holiday Snowflake cards made its way to me. The last time I saw one of these, I couldn't help but tie it into the crazy weather patterns we see in Colorado. And all that snow I mentioned earlier, which would have caused scheduling issues if the NLDS had taken place in Denver? It pretty much all melted days ago.

I appreciate when bloggers send me these Wal-Mart exclusives. It keeps me from having to enter one, but I'm still on the hunt for a Marketside pizza card.

Nolan Arenado looked just a bit more fallible playing third base this year, but there's still a chance he'll earn his fifth straight Gold Glove. We'll probably find out when one of the next snowstorms hits.

1996 Fleer #366 Curt Leskanic
Bruce Ruffin held onto the closer role in 1996, going against Fleer's prediction that it might be taken over by Curt Leskanic. Curt appeared in a league-leading 76 games during the strike-shortened 1995 season, and he had an ERA befitting a Rockies pitcher of the time.

All that can be found on the back of this matte-finish card, which Fleer became known for during the two years following the infamous 1995 set. One thing I noticed is that they actually gave us fractions for the number of innings pitched, as in "130 ⅓", as opposed to the "130.1" that Topps and most others use. On the decimal side of that number, that's a base-three counting system, a real-world look into math that's a bit more advanced.

I would have found math class infinitely more interesting if it were centered around baseball. One of the few moments I remember from 9th grade algebra is when we used some basic trigonometry to determine if the pitcher's mound is in the exact center of a baseball diamond (it's not). I did finally start grasping math pretty well in 12th grade, but there were some tough years in middle school.

"If two pitchers earn a decision in 25 games a season, and one wins 33% more games than the other, what will their final records be?

Tell me that's not a better way to teach math.

1998 Pacific Online #237 Pedro Astacio
Just a couple posts after Pedro Astacio made his first appearance on this blog, here's his second, this time from Pacific Online, perhaps the most cult-classic set of the late 1990s. You might be happy to know that bigleaguers.com now redirects to the current MLBPA site, but I can't find individual player pages.

The card back mentions Pedro's first start of 1998, in which he earned a win against Arizona. Many of you might recall that 1998 was the Diamondbacks' inaugural season, so that particular game was actually just the third-ever for the young franchise. It took the Diamondbacks six games to get their first win. They didn't get to enjoy the very early success the Rockies had in their home opener. I'll tip my hat to this card for informing me that the Diamondbacks lost their first-ever game and series sweep to the Rockies, a fact that had escaped my attention until now.

2017 Topps Allen & Ginter Hot Box Foil #65 Kyle Freeland (RC)
The story for much of the Rockies' 2017 season was their stellar young starters, like Antonio Senzatela, German Marquez, and Kyle Freeland, a Denver native that nearly pitched a no-hitter the day before the All-Star Break.

Nick was kind enough to give me my first look at 2017 Allen & Ginter, which has a distinctive antique photo frame design, with the usual splashes of watercolor as a background. The backs look about the same as always, but this card is a Foil parallel, found only in what Topps calls "Hot Boxes". Apparently, if you find a hot box, all the base cards inside it have this vaguely shiny finish, which Nick found three of for me.

I'm not sure how I feel about having such a modern touch on a set that is supposed to be so retro. It's 19th-century retro, not 1965 retro. But it's understated enough, and gives collectors something else to chase. We need more of those, right? At least it will not be confused for a late-1990s card.

2017 Topps Allen & Ginter Mini A&G Back #234 Charlie Blackmon
Batting champion Charlie Blackmon appears on this mini card, a parallel type that is more familiar to longtime collectors of A&G. I never focused much on card back variations, but this has one, and it's termed the A&G Back. It doesn't have any of his stats, but rather an A&G logo that would not be out of place on the back of a dollar bill. Back to the front, his beard looks a bit more well-managed than usual, but the overall design looks a bit more squished when translated to the mini size than in past years.

I'm happy to report that I recently found some Ultra-Pro pages designed for these tobacco-sized cards. And by "found", I mean "ordered on Amazon Prime". They're 15 cards to a page, so the next time I do a complete run through my binders, I'll be able to store these better, rather than using pages designed to fit 1975 Topps minis, whose pockets are still too big.

2017 Topps Allen & Ginter What a Day #WAD52 David Dahl
I didn't realize it at the time, but the day I saw Ichiro get his 3,000th hit, David Dahl had a record-tying rookie hitting streak in the works. Nor did I realize it the next day, when I was at Coors Field again to see the Texas Rangers play. Dahl had hits in both those games, on his way to a 17-game hitting streak, tying the record for the most to begin an MLB career.

This Allen & Ginter insert card picked August 6th, 2016 to profile, a day on which he had three hits, one of which was a triple, and he scored each time he got on base. Not only that, but the Rockies won that day, unlike the following two days in which I was in attendance. That win got the 2016 Rockies to 55-55, the last time they would be at .500 all season. Like this year, they still finished in third place in the NL West, but had several teams above them in the Wild Card race.

2016 Donruss Optic #56 Tom Murphy RR (RC)
As usual, objects in scanner may be shinier than they appear.

Donruss Optic is Panini's entry into the Topps Chrome market segment. It finds its way to me once in a while, and while I don't normally associate Donruss with shiny cards, that Rated Rookie logo feels right at home. It shows up on the back too, underneath Tom Murphy's paragraph, which calls him simultaneously "superb behind the dish" and can "pack a powerful swing".

Tom Murphy hasn't turned out quite like the Rockies have liked. He has three seasons of September call-ups under his belt, but hasn't really made much of a splash. If the Rockies re-sign Jonathan Lucroy as their primary catcher, Murphy's days in the Rockies organization may be numbered.

2016 Bowman Chrome AFL Fall Stars #AFL-RT Raimel Tapia
An insert set about the Arizona Fall League is perfect for Bowman. The 2017 campaign is underway right now, in case the Postseason isn't enough to keep an eye on, or if you're not interested in the remaining teams. Tapia would be a worthy inclusion in the 5-Tool insert set, as this card tells us he led the 2015 Salt River Rafters in hits, tied for the team lead in runs, and even swiped a few bases.

He's only 23, but he may present some tough questions for the Rockies, like what to do with another star outfielder. Obviously Blackmon patrols the expansive prairie in center field at Coors, CarGo gets on the highlight reel regularly in right, and Gerardo Parra is a talented player in left when he's not splitting time with Ian Desmond, who's already learning a new position since Story and Reynolds have their respective positions locked up. And with Greg Holland hitting the free agent market, there's more of a need in the bullpen than in the outfield.

2014 Bowman Platinum Chrome Prospects Purple Refractors #BPCP12 Jonathan Gray
But the starting rotation seems pretty good by now, led by Jon Gray, even if his pitching performance in the Wild Card game dug too big a hole for the Rockies to climb out of. This purple masterpiece was printed when Gray was very much just a prospect. Bowman Platinum does purple refractors particularly well, a colored parallel that is practically tailor-made for the Rockies.

Gray wears a slightly different uniform number as a regular member of the Rockies, #55, and has let his hair grow much longer, as is so clearly the trend in MLB right now.

I wonder if collectors in thirty or forty years will look back on today's cards of guys like Gray, or Blackmon, or Justin Turner, or Dallas Keuchel, or Jayson Werth, and stare back in amazement the way we do now at Oscar Gamble's and Jose Cardenal's cards.

Either way, I'm sure Nick will still be unearthing gems far into the future, regardless of future hairstyles. And don't forget, there's a part two to all this.

Thanks Nick!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Last Minute Group Break (Part 2: Diamondbacks)

That did not turn out the way I'd hoped.

Here it is, Saturday night, and I'm watching the Diamondbacks in Game 2 of the NLDS at Dodger Stadium, a game the Rockies could be playing in if Wednesday's wild Wild Card game went just a bit differently.

2017 Topps Bunt #109 Zack Greinke
Of the four Wild Card starters across both leagues, only Zack Greinke held it together in the first inning, and that ended up being the difference. Greinke joined Arizona for the 2016 season, and had a much better year in 2017, helping the Diamondbacks sink the Rockies and get their revenge for the 2007 NLCS. He's a bit removed from his near-Cy Young 2015 season with the Dodgers, but he stayed in the NL West and remained a thorn in the Rockies' side.

His card from 2017 Bunt came my way as part of Chris's late-spring Ultimate Group Break. You saw the Rockies in Part 1, way back when they were still part of the 2017 Postseason picture. The random luck of the draw netted me the Rockies' chief rivals, the Arizona Diamondbacks, as my second team. They're, let's just say, not my favorite team. They weren't going into Wednesday, so you can imagine how I feel now.

2017 Topps Archives #287 Paul Goldschmidt
That's partly thanks to this mischievous-looking fellow at the bat rack, Paul Goldschmidt. Goldy launched a three-run shot off of Jon Gray in the first inning of the Wild Card game before an out had even been recorded, and the D-Backs kept the Rockies in the rear-view mirror the rest of the way. There were four home runs, four triples, including a demoralizing one by reliever Archie Bradley in the 8th that really put it away, and a slew of hits, making for the offensive battle we all expected.

And ex-Rockie Daniel Descalso had one of those homers. I thought something like that might happen.

Anyway, here we are, and I'm watching the rest of the Postseason on the sidelines, as is usually the case.

Goldschmidt's card from 2017 Topps Archives obviously uses the 1992 design, one that I think is better color-coded than the Rockies cards in that set. The blue borders here aren't quite right, but the Rockies got yellow, light blue, and red. Chase Field also makes a rare appearance on the back, but doesn't quite capture the park as well as Ian Desmond's card did. This one has little more than the infield and dugout areas, but it does show the unusual dirt path between the mound and the plate, something found only there and in Detroit's Comerica Park.

2002 Flair #12 Mark Grace
When Mark Grace played there, it was still called the Bank One Ballpark, colloquially known as "The Bob", which is why the Diamondbacks' mascot is a bobcat rather than a snake. Bank mergers have made D. Baxter the Bobcat (get it?) a bit of anachronism, though Grace's teammate Jay Bell's son Brantley was the brains behind all this. Jay Bell, of course, scored the winning run in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, in which Mark Grace singled to lead off that fateful 9th inning.

The background photo of Mark Grace on this upscale Flair card has the look of a man who just won a World Series, and he's even sporting an alternate Diamondbacks logo to go along with his previous-year action shot. I haven't seen many 2002 Flair cards, and I particularly like the color of the foil. It's not copper, like we've see on so many Upper Deck cards, but more of a rose gold.

2008 Upper Deck #406 Eric Byrnes
Here's one for Nick's Short Term Stops theme. Not as a Diamondback. Everyone in Denver knows him as a Diamondback, as he didn't make many friends during the 2007 NLCS around here. But when I flipped this 2008 UD card over, apparently Byrnes spent part of 2005 in Denver, his second of three teams that year, forcing Upper Deck to abbreviate that to "ATH/RCK/ORI" on the vertical-backed card. He played just 15 games here, which was apparently something that we all just decided to forget.

2008 Upper Deck X #2 Conor Jackson
Yes, I'm a bit salty, but again, it's not something that just began on Wednesday. This goes way back. And I'm completely fine with the hitting clinic the Dodgers put on in the bottom of the 5th in Game 2 on their way to a 2-0 series lead.

But I guess it's good to have a rival. Who would the Yankees be without the Red Sox? Or vice versa? Who would Tom Brady be without air?

I kid, I kid.

Other than Greinke and Goldschmidt, these are all bonus cards that Chris included in my shipment, and I found quite a few cards to like, even of a division rival. Conor Jackson was swinging a decent bat for a few years, and the back of this Upper Deck X card documents his four home runs in September 2007. One of those homers helped beat the Rockies as the season was winding down, marking the Rockies' only loss between September 16th, 2007 and the end of the NLCS.

If the Rockies somehow won that game, they would have had a 22-game win streak heading into the World Series. That makes the Indians' accomplishment this year all the more impressive, but underscores just how amazing Rocktober was back in 2007.

2012 Triple Play #300 Real Feel Jersey (MEM)
In addition to this stack of hand-selected cards, Chris also threw in an unopened pack of 2012 Triple Play. I don't see a lot of love for Triple Play sets, especially recently, but I was lucky enough to pull this relic card out of that pack. The card doesn't depict any particular player or team, and thus has no need to disclaim that the relic "is not from any particular game" etc... like most relic cards do.

The coloring on this card happens to make it fit quite well with a bunch of Diamondbacks cards, and it might actually be a real D-Backs road jersey. The back gives us a lengthy history of the baseball jersey that would not be out of place on an early Score card, and it's one of six relic types you could pull, a few of the others being the base, batting glove, and bat. This is card #300, the final one in the Triple Play set that year. It's not officially listed as a short print, but the "short set" runs only to card #90. Even jerseys of no particular player must be relatively scarce.

Munnatawket Custom #1 Paul Goldschmidt
If the Real Feel jersey capped off the 2012 Triple Play set, then Paul Goldschmidt opened up the magnificent Munnatawket Mini custom set with card #1. I recently lamented that this set hadn't made an appearance around the blogs in quite a while. It's amazing that these have been kicking around for almost ten years, and I'm happy to add another to the small quantity I've managed to collect.

2008 Topps Update #UH293 Adam Dunn
Obviously, the Rockies are heavily represented in my Coors Field frankenset, but the ones that aren't are typically NL West teams. Dee Gordon's card from 2011 Topps Update is a prime example, as he's shown acrobatically turning two over Ty Wigginton with the left field bleachers in view. The Diamondbacks seem to have all sorts of Coors Field cards, including this one of strikeout king Adam Dunn.

And when you're a strikeout king without being a pitcher, that's a bad thing. At this point in his career, he was good for about 40 home runs a season, but he'd put up darn near 200 strikeouts doing it. This Update card points out that no player before Dunn was ever traded during the season when he was leading the league in home runs.

He's either striking out or hitting a home run here, and because you can spot the Coors Field signage on the dugout roof behind him, it's a fair bet that he might be hitting one of those 40-ish home runs instead of striking out. Dunn did hit one home run at Coors Field as a Diamondback, even though that was just a 44-game stretch before he became a free agent and signed with the Nationals.

2008 Upper Deck Spectrum #1 Chris B. Young
This Upper Deck Spectrum card (another card #1) caught my eye with this striking turquoise color, not really a Diamondbacks color anymore, but a pretty card nonetheless. It's not a color-coded set to begin with, but it came in a few colored parallel variations.

This gentleman is Chris B. Young, currently playing in the Postseason for the Red Sox, not to be confused with Chris R. Young, a pitcher for the Royals. They both have quite a bit of Postseason experience. Chris B. played in the 2007 NLCS against the Rockies with a few of these other guys, but Chris R. earned his ring with Kansas City in 2015. Both are still in the league, and it's still a touch confusing.

But that's nothing compared to Khris Davis of the Athletics and Chris Davis of the Orioles. Both are noted power hitters. They've never played together, but somehow they both managed to strike out exactly 195 times this season, tying for third in the American League.

I can't mention 200-strikeout hitters like the Davises and Adam Dunn without mentioning Tony Gwynn at the other end of the spectrum (pun not intended), who only had slightly more strikeouts in the final twelve years of his career.

Of course, that was a Strike-shortened period. I'm sure his total of 203 would be two or three higher if 1994 and 1995 were full seasons.

2003 Ultra #129 Junior Spivey
I don't especially remember much about Junior Spivey. I know he was on the Diamondbacks, and I probably saw him play once or twice, but I don't recall any specific plays. I just like this acrobatic card of him playing the infield, which is cropped perfectly to fit the card and even the little dip in the bottom banner.

The old Diamondbacks uniforms and colors are on display quite vividly on this Fleer Ultra card, as is their large snake patch on the left sleeve. In the days before HDTV, I never really got a good look at that patch, and it always looked like a hot air balloon or a parachutist to me. In reality, has the state, team name, and a large snake head.

I like seeing their occasional retro jersey, but I think there's only room for one purple team in the NL West, and we were there first.

2012 Topps Update #US22 Chris Nelson
I just couldn't do a whole post of Diamondbacks. I had to get this Update card of third baseman Chris Nelson in here to wrap it up. Even if the Rockies lost the Wild Card game, they're still my team. And they're even more fun to watch when they have a four-time Gold Glover covering the hot corner, who makes plays like this look effortless.

I talk a big game about not liking the Diamondbacks, but really, I'd like nothing more than to see our rivalry expand over the next few seasons.

Perhaps a rematch next year? This time at Coors Field.

Unless, of course, the Rockies finally win the division for once.