Sunday, December 28, 2014

Join the (Stadium) Club Part 2: The Commons

I found so much to like from a hobby box of 2014 Stadium Club that I had to split it up into two posts, a first here at Infield Fly Rule! In case you missed Part 1, I covered many of the parallels, inserts, and autographs that this box yielded, along with a couple classic 1990s Stadium Club cards for good measure.

For Part 2, I'll focus on some of my favorites from the 200-card base set, which is chock-full of awesome photography, as anyone who has seen this product knows.

2014 Stadium Club #117 Don Mattingly
One thing I was only vaguely aware of before I opened this box is that the set contains a mixture of both current and retired players. Current Dodgers manager Don Mattingly looks sharp in those Yankee pinstripes as he prepares to make a catch at first. In fact, this might be the best example of a first-baseman's mitt that exists on a baseball card. As I pointed out in Part 1, that patch on his right sleeve commemorates MLB's 125th anniversary, dating this photograph to sometime in 1994.

More on the retirees later, but for now we'll shift gears into some current baseball stars, starting with Prince Albert.

2014 Stadium Club #60 Albert Pujols
This photo was clearly taken in Angel Stadium of Anaheim, which is the only Major League stadium I've been to besides Coors Field and Mile High Stadium, where the Rockies played their first two seasons in 1993 and 1994 while Coors was under construction.

The unusual perspective of this picture lets an interested fan pinpoint it to the day. The catcher behind the plate is Brayan Pena, who wore #55 for the Detroit Tigers as a backup catcher. He only spent one season as a Tiger, and the only game he started in Anaheim that year was on April 21st, 2013. I find that this kind of detective work is one of the most fun things to do with a baseball card. When the photo allows it, the card gains a certain immortality, like George Brett's 1994 Topps card, which Nick crowned as one of his earliest "Gems of Junk Wax".

1994 Topps #180 George Brett
June 6th, 1993, in case you were wondering.

The great (and often horizontal) photography continues, capturing Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes mid-swing.

2014 Stadium Club #29 Jose Reyes
This is probably pretty early in the game, as the chalk line of the batter's box and first-base line are nearly pristine. When healthy, Reyes is typically the leadoff hitter for Toronto, so I am guessing that this was taken on the first at bat in the bottom of the 1st. I wonder if this is what makes for great photography on a baseball card - being able to figure out at least a little bit of the action.

Something about this top-down shadowy photo reminds me of another of this community's favorite cards, Orel Hershiser's from 1997 Upper Deck.

1997 Upper Deck #53 Orel Hershiser
In addition to a highly memorable card, UD kindly provides us with a date of May 12th, 1996. Many cards from 1997 Upper Deck contained the specific date on which the photograph was taken, another of their innovations I'd love to see more often.

I can't pinpoint this one to the day, but southpaw Jon Singleton is either motioning for the ball...

2014 Stadium Club #4 Jon Singleton (RC)
...or flashing the peace sign. Perhaps he is signaling an apology for the Astros moving to the American League, which confuses me to this day (even as I write this post), though it happened two full seasons ago. Houston always seems to be playing AL teams these days, which makes sense given their current affiliation. But when I steal a quick glance at an out-of-town scoreboard or the ESPN ticker, the baseball area of my limbic system hasn't quite reconciled this shift yet and I inevitably make some comment/exclamation about the frequency of interleague games.

I still long for the days of Houston being an NL club, as was the case when they wore these jerseys:

2014 Stadium Club #94 George Springer (RC)
Fans of throwback uniforms must adore 2014 Stadium Club, as they appear quite frequently. In fact, one of my scans from Part 1 was of Robinson Cano wearing an early Mariners jersey. Not only that, but Rookie-of-the-Year candidate George Springer is even sticking out his tongue during his swing, which is rather more amusing that Don Mattingly sticking his pinky finger out on the card at the top of this post.

Some of the most boring sets in history (read: 1990 Topps) could take a lesson from this. No one would care about that set in the slightest if not for Frank Thomas' "No Name on Front" error card.

[Scan not available. That's an $800 card.]

I mentioned earlier that there are a mixture of current players and retired greats to be found here. I'll start with perhaps the most Canadian baseball card ever, of Colorado native Roy Halladay throwing out the first pitch.

2014 Stadium Club #21 Roy Halladay
Halladay, a longtime Blue Jay, was invited to throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the Blue Jays' home opener this year (on April 4th, 2014, to be precise), which explains the Canada-ness of this card. I figure that only an occasion like Opening Day or an exhibition or playoff game would warrant the on-field presence of Canadian Mounties.

Halladay only recently hung up his spikes, but some older legends appear too.

2014 Stadium Club #113 Johnny Bench
Here, we see legendary catcher Johnny Bench taking some time for fan outreach. I see some Mets memorabilia that is being shoved his way, so this was probably taken in Shea Stadium, likely in the mid-1970s, based on the hair styles among his adoring fans.

Something about this set (perhaps the lack of recycled photographs) keeps inspiring me to research each one as though I were some kind of baseball-obsessed art historian. (As though?) Armed with my hypothesis, I found this photo on Getty Images, which confirms my guess of Shea Stadium, though doesn't specify a date. It's probably the same place Topps got it.

The cards of retired players even go back to the black-and-white days, such as a very young-looking Al Kaline.

2014 Stadium Club #77 Al Kaline
His name really makes me want to come up with a chemistry pun, but Mr. Tiger looks ready to belt the first of his 399 career home runs. The back of this card points out that he finished oh-so-close to being the first American Leaguer with both 3,000 hits and 400 home runs. That Kaline finished just short of such a milestone reminds me of Mickey Mantle and his .298 career batting average, though The Mick finished quite a bit higher on the home run list with 536.

While we're on the subject of milestones, I think this is an appropriate time for Roberto Clemente to appear.

2014 Stadium Club #127 Roberto Clemente
As many fans know, Mr. Clemente's career ended with precisely 3,000 hits. Tragically, he died in a plane crash in Nicaragua during the 1972-1973 offseason while providing humanitarian aid after an earthquake.

The Puerto Rican Hall-of-Famer was the first Latino player to make it in to Cooperstown, blazing the trail for the many Latino players and prospects in the game today. The card back tells us that "schools and streets have been named after Roberto", and his memory inspired a conversation my girlfriend and I had a few days ago, when she mentioned the amazing Puerto Rican cuisine (specifically rice and beans) that can be found near Roberto Clemente High School in Chicago.

Another player that put his career aside to serve a greater good was Red Sox great Ted Williams, who flew for the US Marine Corps in training during World War II, returned to baseball, and then saw combat action in Korea several years later.

2014 Stadium Club #133 Ted Williams
This card seems to be universally liked, as I've seen this card appear on numerous blogs by now. For the aviation enthusiasts, Williams is entering the cockpit of a Grumman F9F "Panther", an early fighter jet. Interestingly, Grumman was the company that designed the Apollo Lunar Module for NASA's moon missions.

In addition to being a Marine aviator, "The Splendid Splinter" (how awesome are those old-time nicknames?) was the last player to hit over .400 in a season, and even ran his own baseball card company in the early 1990s.

1994 Ted Williams #79 Bill Mazeroski
Anyway, thanks for sticking around for this long post. There's just more and more to like in 2014 Stadium Club the more I look, and all the opportunities for detective work made this a really fun post to write!

For one last card, I'm going to co-opt all the orange that appears on Adam Jones' card...

2014 Stadium Club #102 Adam Jones
...and wish the Denver Broncos good luck in the upcoming NFL playoffs.


  1. Topps really should make an all-dated set similar to 1997 Upper Deck. I'd love to see something like that one day, as '97 UD is one of my all-time favorite checklists.

    These are all fantastic cards. I think you're right about the Halladay being the most Canadian card ever. The mounties in the background push it over the top.

  2. The old timer cards in this set were great.

  3. So hard to pick favorites in this set. There are just too many.

    And I agree with Nick - timestamps are great.