Sunday, January 31, 2016

Antique Mall Mystery Pack: Marlins

That trip to the antique mall last year keeps on providing fresh material, and I haven't even opened two of the Mystery Packs yet, though I know they're for the Twins and the Expos. But for this round, we'll be taking a look at the Rockies' expansion counterpart, the Florida Marlins.

Yes, they're now called the Miami Marlins, partially because they haven't been the only team in Florida for close to twenty seasons, and partially because marketing got involved and decided they were in need of a re-brand. But all these cards are from the "Florida" era, and most from when their primary color was turquoise.

1994 Donruss Special Edition #5 Gary Sheffield
We see that color a little bit in their road uniforms, but there's more gold than turquoise on this card, thanks to baseball card trends of the time. Donruss wasn't quite fully on board with gold parallels, so this Special Edition set only had a hundred cards, fifty from each of the two series. Which is just as well, since the card number on the back is also done up in gold foil, making the it pretty tough to read. Hand-collating 660 of these would involve plenty of squinting.

It depends on the light, but sometimes these Special Edition cards look a little more copper than gold. But the giant Donruss logo provides plenty of area for the gold to look shiny and rainbowy. But more on copper later.

1994 Topps #20 Bryan Harvey
A common theme of these packs has been lots of 1994 Topps, and while this isn't quite the glamour shot we saw for a Giant, it's definitely a posed studio photo, along with some cartoony motion blur. Most of the card brands got into double or triple exposures and motion blur, but the flame thing that's happening here doesn't really reflect what it would actually look like if they did a long exposure.

1994 Topps #370 Benito Santiago
But there were plenty of great action photos in 1994 Topps, like this card of Benito Santiago, listed here as "Benny". I do recall various announcers referring to him by that nickname, but I heard his given name of "Benito" much more frequently. Maybe it's just one of those cases of Topps deciding what they wanted his name to be, sort of like their 1960s "Bob" Clemente cards.

Don't forget that cameo of current Mets coach Tim Teufel. You can't quite tell what the outcome of this play was, but thankfully we can date this card! The Marlins visited San Diego (Santiago's previous team) twice in 1993, and a quick look through the box scores leads us to June 6th, 1993, about a week before I attended my first-ever Major League game. The Marlins won that one, helped out by an outfield assist from Jeff Conine on this exact play. So though it doesn't quite look it, Santiago got his guy!

1994 Topps Gold #161 Darrell Whitmore
Darrell Whitmore had a short, three-season career with the Marlins, and I don't really recognize his name other than from his various inaugural Marlins cards. But this is the Topps Gold parallel, which I'll be able to add to a sizable stack of these one-per-pack cards, a good chunk of which I got on eBay several years ago.

1993 Leaf #384 Charlie Hough
Charlie Hough was definitely past his prime by the time the Marlins signed him, as he built just a 14-25 record in his final two seasons. The Marlins employed a strategy similar to the Rockies, as Colorado signed Bryn Smith in 1993 to wrap up his long career. Smith in purple and Hough in turquoise must look extremely odd to most collectors, but since I found so many of their cards in my first year of collecting, they don't look that unfamiliar to me.

Flip this card over and you'll see the same gold rainbow foil on the team logo that Leaf/Donruss used the following year on those Donruss Special Edition cards. The premium brands always get the cool stuff a little earlier. Sometimes decades earlier, as 2016 Topps is finally losing the borders and going with full-bleed printing.

25 years coming on that one.

1993 Pinnacle #562 Cris Carpenter
This is probably our best look yet at the retina-searing colors of the early Florida Marlins, especially against the black borders of 1993 Pinnacle. It even has the Expansion Draft logo, just like the Rockies cards you've seen before. And that means this Marlins card has a tiny bonus Rockies logo, which more than makes up for a little bit of damage on the left side of the card.

Cris Carpenter might sound like a familiar name, but this is not the same Chris Carpenter who won the Cy Young Award for the Cardinals in 2005. Different guy entirely, although both played for the Cardinals, confusingly.

2002 Upper Deck MVP #226 Brad Penny
As in the Mets pack, this black-and-copper 2002 Upper Deck MVP remains one of my favorites. It's always nice to see some specialty sets like this in a 50-cent pack filled mostly with overproduction cards. I guess that's the magic of antiquing.

The color coding works really well with this design, and I've found that the black background is pretty sturdy, unlike say, 1994 Score, or 1993 Pinnacle. Or 1971 Topps, for that matter.

1996 Upper Deck #339 Al Leiter
Upper Deck was still pushing the copper envelope in 1996, and it's in a bold bar at the bottom of every base card in this and the following year's set (other than the numerous subset cards, of course). They hadn't quite thought to tone it down until a few years had gone by for that 2002 MVP design. This is a fairly boring photo of Al Leiter, but 1996 was the year he pitched the first-ever no-hitter for the young Florida Marlins, which happened to be the first no-hitter pitched against the Colorado Rockies. Interesting and unlikely trivia fact, isn't it? Both expansion teams had their first taste of a no-hitter while facing each other.

1996 Upper Deck #338 Pat Rapp
Pat Rapp never threw a no-hitter; in fact he only had one winning season his whole career. But we can all appreciate a card of a pitcher at the plate, right? As with most pitchers, it looks like unfamiliar territory for him. His uniform number is 48, but the bat he is using is marked #11, the number of fellow pitcher Chris Hammond. Maybe he was just trying to break out of a slump by switching out the lumber.

1998 Ultra #295 Todd Zeile
But copper is Upper Deck's color, not the Marlins'. Fortunately, the raised green lettering found on other 1998 Ultra cards happens to match well with the Marlins' colors. even if it is obscuring the catcher in this photo, Tom Pagnozzi of the Cardinals. Though Walt Weiss beat him to it, Zeile was one of dozens of players to play for both the Marlins and the Rockies, but that was still a few years off when this card was printed, as was his two-inning pitching career.

2000 Upper Deck Hitter's Club #77 Julio Ramirez HS
I have never heard of Julio Ramirez, who "Hit The Show" in 1999, but didn't play in 2000. Nor have I heard of Upper Deck Hitter's Club, a small 90-card set entirely devoid of pitchers. It has a little bit of mint green foil, an unusual but pleasing color for a card. But that's what cards were like around the turn of the millennium. You can spend a couple decades building a collection and never know of the existence of a set like this.

Who knows what I'll unearth in the next Mystery Pack?

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Antique Mall Mystery Pack: Giants

The holidays are a busy time. I've been keeping up with the blog, but thanks to all the trade posts, holiday gifts, group breaks, and milestones, the Mystery Packs from a not-that-recent trip to the antique mall have taken a back seat. I still have several of those, two of which I haven't even opened yet. And the San Francisco Giants have been sitting at the top of that stack since before the World Series started.

1994 Topps #574 Willie McGee
Which means this glamour shot of Willie McGee has been pretty conspicuous on my side table for some time now. There are actually quite a few photos like this in 1994 Topps; as they seem to have tried mimicking the Studio brand (and the especially odd 1992 Studio that Mint Condition wrote about a couple weeks ago). At least he has a bat barely visible under his left hand. Otherwise this photo would hardly have anything to do with the sport.

1994 Topps #240 Will Clark
Will the Thrill's card looks a lot more like an actual baseball card, as he's definitely got a little "Just Hit a Home Run" swagger. Or at least a long fly ball. Interestingly, the back of this card has plenty to say about Will Clark's home runs. His first swing as a professional resulted in a home run, as did his first Major League swing, a pitch from Nolan Ryan himself. There is actually a surprisingly large list of players who performed that feat in their first at-bat, though not necessarily against The Ryan Express. There are even a few pitchers on there, including some, like Hoyt Wilhelm, who never hit another.

1994 Topps #550 Matt Williams
This card really doesn't seem that old, but looking at the men behind the plate, you can see that it's from the days before hockey helmets migrated over to baseball. It's a really well-framed shot, though Williams looks a bit early on this swing, as I can't see the ball anywhere, unless he already made contact and sent it rocketing off to the outfield. That is probably Don Slaught catching, who was toward the end of his career. Both these players have long since retired, and even the windy Candlestick Park, the setting for this photo, was torn down a few years ago.

So I guess a lot can happen in 22 years.

1994 Finest Pre-Production #169 Rod Beck
Then, as now, I really like green cards, though sadly reliever Rod Beck is no longer with us. He was a fierce competitor, racking up close to 300 saves before hanging them up. And his intensity clearly comes across on this card, a preproduction example of Topps Finest, noted by the red lettering on the back. Beck had a few postseason appearances for the Giants, Cubs, and Red Sox, playing his last postseason game against the Yankees, who would go on to win the World Series that year.

1993 Ultra #134 Darren Lewis
I don't recall much about Darren Lewis, but I vividly remember 1993 Ultra. Despite its similarity to 1992 Ultra, I'm one of those people that can tell those two apart at a split-second glance. The color schemes and some of the design elements are just different enough to stick out in my mind. Plus, it was one of only a couple sets from my original 1993 collection that came in foil packs, the other being the legendary 1993 Upper Deck. So I had to save up for those. And I still have relatively few cards from that set, compared to others from that era.

1994 Score #641 Salomon Torres
These Mystery packs have added quite a bit to my 1994 Score collection, as I've been finding three or four in each one of them, though they don't always make it to the blog. Though the dark borders chip like crazy, the photography is pretty darn good for such an under-the-radar brand like Score. Torres looks like he's about to do some one-handed juggling.

I remember quite a bit of hype around Torres early in his career; in fact he might be the first pitching prospect I ever paid attention to. But a lot of that went out the window in the last game of 1993, when he had a pretty bad performance in a loss to the Dodgers, allowing the Atlanta Braves to win the NL West by a game. Say what you want about the current wild card system, but winning 103 games and missing the playoffs like the Giants did that year is just wrong. Although the fact that the Rockies didn't win a single game against the Braves that entire season definitely spoiled things for the Giants a bit, which is about the only thing the Rockies have consistently done throughout their history.

1994 Score #596 Steve Scarsone
Steve Scarsone isn't a legend in Giants lore, but I like this action shot of the long-time Minor League veteran who finally broke into the Majors for a few years. This double play shot features a cameo of #25 on the Dodgers, who happens to be none other than Tim Wallach.

I don't know if the Tim Wallach super-supercollector in our community collects cameos, but I just might find a copy of this card to send his way.

As a side note, that commemorative #52 patch on Wallach's sleeve is for Tim Crews, a Dodgers pitcher who died in an accident in the 1992-1993 off-season, along with Steve Olin of the Indians. I remember reading about that shortly after it happened, but in the days before the Web, it wasn't so easy to figure out what those patches were for. You usually just had to listen to the broadcast and hope a color analyst would mention it from time to time.

1994 Score Gold Rush #448 Royce Clayton
Like most brands in 1994, Score had a one-per-pack gold variant, their version of which was the Gold Rush parallel you see above.

Royce Clayton, who shared the middle infield with Steve Scarsone on occasion, might even be preparing to field a throw from him on this exact picture. I remember Clayton primarily as a Giant, even though he spent a year on the Rockies toward the end of his career. He even portrayed Miguel Tejada in the film adaptation of Moneyball after his retirement.

1993 Donruss #524 Robby Thompson
To wrap things up, how about another Giants' middle infielder? Thompson split time with Scarsone after this season, but he was a very, very consistent performer. He even led the league in triples in 1989, thanks to that famous Donruss asterisk, which you'll see on the back.

1993 Donruss #524 Robby Thompson (Reverse)
Though Donruss finally made significant changes to the backs in 1993, they still stuck with five years of recent stats, and those numbers are precisely what I'd want out of a second baseman. But what most stood out to me is that huge commemorative patch on the left sleeve. It's for the Baseball Centennial (1839-1939), and though that date for the origin of baseball is highly questionable, the Giants still wore some throwback New York Giants jerseys in the 1992 season, which had a nice white and blue color scheme, though the current San Francisco helmets were still used. These uniforms were found more commonly in 1993 Upper Deck, as you can see below.

1993 Upper Deck #160 John Burkett
It's odd not seeing those iconic black and orange colors the Giants are known for today, and their time in New York isn't as well remembered by today's fans as, say, the Brooklyn Dodgers, though they won five World Series before moving to the Bay Area. But you can always count on 1993 Upper Deck to make your point.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Trading Post #53: Wish They Still Came With Bubble Gum

Not long ago, Jeff from Wish They Still Came With Bubble Gum sent a pretty interesting small shipment in return for some Braves. It came in a bubble envelope, but had about the number of cards normally found in a PWE. You'll see why soon.

2015 Topps Update #US358 Nolan Arenado
This is the third time he's sent me cards, and he definitely knows I like Nolan Arenado. I rarely purchase Topps Update; rather it seems to find me pretty quickly through trades and at card shows. As is usual for Update, there are a whole slew of All Star Game cards, and though the back of this card has the normal red and blue color scheme, the front wears Purple with pride.

The All-Star hats were a little weird this year, but I see the century-old look they were going for. At least they didn't make everyone wear handlebar mustaches. Mike Trout certainly set the tone in that game by belting a first-inning home run, while Arenado took over in the field in the 7th for the Home Run Derby champ, Todd Frazier, and struck out in his only at-bat in the 8th.

Unless this is just a warm-up shot, this is the last out of the top of the 8th, when Jose Iglesias grounded out to 3rd with Mark Melancon on the mound.

There might be an oversupply of All-Star cards in Update, but it's not often you can date a card down to a single play.

2015 Topps Heritage #306 Rafael Ynoa (RC) / Jackson Williams (RC)
I've seen a lot of 2015 Heritage this year, and this dual-player card adds to what I've shown on the blog so far. But that same scoreboard/fence/net thing we previously saw on some Rockies' High Number cards is present on both Ynoa's photo and this Angels guy's. For all I know, Topps took a photo of the entire Cactus League on this single spot. Incidentally, this Jackson Williams fellow has signed on with the Rockies twice. He played a few games for Colorado when rosters expanded in September 2014, and re-joined the Rockies organization just a couple months ago.

2015 Bowman Draft #200 Brendan Rodgers
Unless you follow the draft and Bowman cards in general, you probably haven't heard of Brendan Rogers. But the Rockies picked this shortstop third overall this year, and here's hoping he turns out to be a great pick, unlike Greg Reynolds in 2006, who was selected second, just a few spots above Award Winners and MVPs you may have heard of, like Evan Longoria, Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum, and Max Scherzer.


Anyway, he might be the future of the Rockies' shortstop position whenever Jose Reyes wraps things up in Denver, assuming he sticks around that long. I, for one, would love to see Reyes gone, especially in light of the domestic violence charges for which he'll stand trial just as the 2016 regular season opens.

2015 Bowman Prospects #BP19 David Dahl
Now that Jon Gray has made his Major League debut, David Dahl is probably the most promising prospect in the Rockies' farm system. But this card confuses me. It's branded as a Bowman Chrome card, but it doesn't have a BCP card number, nor, obviously, a chrome finish. Just a plain card. So either Bowman goofed up the logo and it should just be the red Bowman logo like you see on Rodgers' card, or there really is a Bowman Chrome set that doesn't have a chrome finish.

It's probably the former, but Bowman sets have been so convoluted for so long that the latter wouldn't surprise me a bit.

2014 Bowman Chrome Purple Refractors #54 Troy Tulowitzki /150
There, now that's what a Chrome card should look like. This purple-bordered beauty of Tulo happens to be serial numbered to 150, and there's a decent view of the Rockies' 20th Anniversary patch on his right sleeve. Of course I miss him, but it was fun to watch him in the postseason last year.

And to give you an idea of when I composed this post, the end of that Green Bay / Arizona game was pretty fun to watch too.

1998 Collector's Choice StarQuest #SQ13 Todd Helton SD
Helton had his share of postseason play, but long after this card was printed. He was still a clean-shaven rookie on this Star Quest card. The purple and white look great, and if there's one thing I miss about late 1990s cards, it's red foil. I first saw it on 1994 Stadium Club, and it's a bold look that I'd love to see make a comeback.

2002 Post #11 Todd Helton
2002 Post #22 Ryan Klesko
These two Post oddballs were still sealed in their plastic wrap, which insulated them from who knows what kind of sugary cereal. A rare non-Rockie makes an appearance on one of my trade posts, but he did play in the same division as the Rockies after the Braves traded him. I see a lot of NL West teams at Coors, so I definitely saw him in person a time or two. I'm pretty sure he was on my fantasy baseball squad in my early years of that activity.

So far you've seen almost every card Jeff sent. Think that would be about right for a PWE?

2013 Topps Allen and Ginter Box Toppers #OB-TT Troy Tulowitzki
Not if this oversized box topper is part of the deal.

This giant thing is roughly 4"x7". The back is not terribly interesting, but the front has a much sharper image that you'll see on most A&G cards. I have no idea how rare these are, but I've sure never seen one. I have a Hideo Nomo Topps Chrome card about this size, so I'll probably squeeze it into that page.

You might have noticed a lack of Blake Street Bombers in this post so far. Have no fear.

1995 Leaf #135 Dante Bichette (AU)
Yep, that's autographed! And it's on the great 1995 Leaf, no less, a set I singled out recently as one of my favorites of 1995. I got a few Rockies autographs in their early years, like Joe Girardi, Eric Young, and Darren Holmes, but missed out on the biggest sluggers of that era. So I'll happily put this one in my Rockies autograph collection.

And on the subject of the card itself, this isn't the only shot of Bichette playing the field at Wrigley. He was "Mr. .310" and he excelled on a two-strike count, but the card companies loved when he came to Chicago.

There was some really interesting and unexpected stuff crammed into this envelope, spanning the whole of Rockies history, and likely several years into the future. Thanks Jeff!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Pity Prize Group Break (Part 2: The Pity Prize)

Usually when I participate in a group break, I get enough for one good post. Not so last time. According to Nachos Grande, the Rockies slot I picked did the worst out of any team. That means I ended up with the consolation prize, a complete base set of 2015 Topps Allen & Ginter!

I don't usually go out of my way to collect A&G, but I ended up with quite a few cards from the 2010 set, as well as a handful from most other years. And certainly none of the 19th-century originals. So this is really my first look at the whole thing, getting a sense for the balance between baseball, non-baseball, and general interest cards.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter #21 Kolten Wong
You don't see many horizontal Allen & Ginter cards, and I really like this one! There's space for so much more of the background than just a little bit of color behind the head. An action shot like this would be pure witchcraft if it appeared in the late 1800s. The back of the card hasn't changed much, as they still spell all the numbers out. Two Hundred Thirty Six is on the low side for career batting average, but then again, he was only born in Nineteen Ninety.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter #194 Zack Cozart
In case that wasn't enough, how about another NL Central middle infielder? Again, a great action shot, and a whole bunch of the outfield wall in the background. These are color-coded to a degree, not that they match the team colors, but the A&G logo and border colors can vary from card to card.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter #301 Justin Morneau
As this is a complete set, of course there are Rockies. Morneau makes an appearance, although with the same photo as his Gypsy Queen card. This vertical card looks much more familiar, as there's just a splash of color.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter #14 LaTroy Hawkins
Recently retired LaTroy Hawkins is in this 350-card set, too, though his recycled photo is from his Topps Heritage card. I won't belabor the point, but seriously. When I photograph, I usually end up with several exposures of one subject. SD cards are cheap. Mix it up a bit, Topps. It's not like it's Ty Cobb and there are only so many photos to choose from.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter #48 Coco Crisp
But I guess recycled photos aren't all bad. We do get another look at one of the favorites from 2014 Topps base, Coco Crisp with his wraparound shades and textbook afro.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter #322 Mark Melancon
Melancon is one of the last pitchers in the game I'd ever want to face. He has such an intense look, and he led the Majors in saves last season. But I'm sure it's all professional with him, unlike, say, Jonathan Papelbon.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter #250 Jimmy Rollins
Now, I've only seen the Rockies and a couple others from Gypsy Queen and Heritage, so these may all be recycled photos. I don't know. But this bat barrel shot is probably my favorite Jimmy Rollins card in my collection, and the unfamiliar Dodgers uniform makes this card even more interesting. Of course, I'm not a Rollins supercollector or anything, but this is one of the dozen or so I picked out of the 350-card stack.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter #309 Gabe Kapler
Gabe Kapler retired years ago, and is now working as an analyst on Fox Sports. He spent part of two seasons as a Rockie, then went on to help the Red Sox reverse the curse in 2004. Of course, A&G isn't limited to current players, or even players at all for that matter. But plenty more on that later.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter #177 Bernie Williams
Bernie Williams won a few rings himself, but he followed that up with a successful recording career. He even played at Derek Jeter's final game, and he has appeared on a card or two with his guitar in the past. His baseball days are behind him, so the back of this card identifies him as a "musician".

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter #67 Malcolm Gladwell
A&G goes way beyond the world of baseball. I'm sure few of us would associate author Malcolm Gladwell with America's Pastime, though he does have some interesting things to say about snap judgments, underdogs, and lots more.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter #347 Aaron Paul
Aaron Paul might not appeal as much to the New Yorker crowd, but being a main character in a TV show as awesome as Breaking Bad will do wonders for your career. You can even appear in a Fast & Furious knockoff based on a video game franchise.


2015 Topps Allen & Ginter #293 Philae Probe
Some of the cardsphere's all-time favorite cards from A&G have nothing to do with baseball, sports, Kate Upton, or celebrities of any kind. So the Philae probe, the comet lander from ESA's Rosetta mission, gets its own card. If you liked the Revolving Door card, you'll love this one.

Unfortunately, it's really, really hard to land on a comet, and Philae only had enough juice for a few measurements and photos once it settled to the comet's surface at an odd angle. But you can't expect to get much better results from the extremely harsh environments of Venus or Titan, so any data at all from a lander like that is a success.

You don't see space missions in most baseball card sets. But there is something else about Allen & Ginter that is quite unusual in this hobby.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter #93 Kelia Moniz

There are some card sets featuring women, mostly of WWE, WNBA, Danica Patrick, that sort of thing. Also entire sets of (NSFW) scantily-clad models and Japanese pop stars. Let's just say that professional surfer Kelia Moniz is definitely dressed for the beach on that card.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter #124 Lakey Peterson
As a Coloradan, I'm landlocked. But I do know that the ocean in California is colder than the ocean in Hawaii. So Lakey Peterson, another professional surfer, is practicing her craft in a wetsuit.

But you're starting to get the idea, right? Allen & Ginter is a set of mostly baseball cards, along with with some retired baseball players, some influential male artists and authors, random stuff like spacecraft and elevators, athletes from rather obscure sports which might feature a few women, and usually a supermodel like Chrissy Teigen or Kate Upton thrown in.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter #92 Michelle Beadle
We see Jennie Finch pitch in the celebrity softball game that's aired after the Home Run Derby each year, but other than her and various sideline reporters, there aren't many women to be found on-field at the typical sporting event. There are the occasional anchors like Michelle Beadle, though I can't think of any women in the main broadcast booths. Some sports (though segregated) are quite a bit more equal overall; golf and tennis come to mind. And yes, Annika Sorenstam and Serena Williams have both been given the A&G treatment over the years. As have numerous Olympians.

And while that's not an indictment of the Big Four sports themselves, as I clearly understand that there are no women in the typical baseball card set because there are no women in the MLBPA, it is an indictment of Topps. Say two-thirds of this set is active MLB players, then that still leaves more than 100 cards for non-baseball. And there is no good reason not to split that more evenly.

Sure, a lot of the non-baseball cards in A&G are just of other sports, even of "sports" like poker and billiards, but there are lots of historical figures that have nothing to do with sports. And since the whole point of A&G is to have a sizable non-baseball section, including inanimate objects like space probes and revolving doors, where are the non-sporting women? Like Sally Ride? Or Sheryl Sandberg? Or Jane Goodall? Or Meryl Streep? Or Amelia Earhart? Or Tina Fey? Kate Middleton did once get a card, but only with Prince William on it, too. I couldn't find First Ladies in any base set, though there was an insert set this year.

Celebrity chefs like Anthony Bourdain and Daniel Boulud have cards. Even some of the more inane Food Network personalities like Adam Richman, Guy Fieri, and Jeff Mauro have A&G cards. But what about Rachael Ray? Or Giada de Laurentiis? Or even Julia Child, for that matter?

It all reminds me quite a bit of the #MoreWomen campaign that Elle Magazine published a few months ago. Forgive my rounding, but a set that's 1% space probes and 2% women seems pretty unequal to me. Apply the #MoreWomen treatment to 2015 A&G and you can fit it in a 9-pocket page with the card backs showing.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter #341 Malala Yousafzai
Just saying. If you're a woman and not an athlete, sports announcer, or beauty queen, then you pretty much have to win the Nobel Prize to get in this set.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Pity Prize Group Break (Part 1: The Rockies)

Back in October, Nachos Grande ran a group break consisting of some later 2015 releases: Stadium Club, Heritage High Numbers, Chrome, etc.... I signed up for my usual Rockies slot, knowing full well that he'd throw in some extras regardless of what came out of the primary boxes. And what did come out of those boxes was all sorts of shiny goodness.

2015 Topps Chrome #108 Rafael Ynoa (RC)
Rafael Ynoa has yet to really make his mark as a Rockie, but with the Rockies continuing to stockpile outfielders, and Arenado firmly entrenched at third base, there might not be much room for him on the roster, especially given his late arrival to the Majors. Still, he got a card in Topps Chrome, and I really like that the chromey outline that usually just surrounds the player extends to the ripple and curved lines on the bottom. See all the extra things you can do without a plain white border?

2015 Topps Chrome #66 Nolan Arenado
Arenado's Chrome card came my way too, which shows off his uniform number in a great post-swing pose, just like the rainbow foil version that I got via trade earlier this year. The curl on this year's Chrome cards isn't too bad, and the awesome border of the 2015 set gets even more accentuated with the shiny treatment.

2014 Stadium Club #132 Wilin Rosario
I'm pretty sure I had this one already, as my trading career in the cardsphere kicked off right around when 2014 Stadium Club launched. Rosario is stoked about something, and you can even see a reflection of Coors Field in his helmet. There was a bit of 2015 Stadium Club as well, which I'll get to later, but of the two, I think I prefer the 2014 set. It was pretty groundbreaking when it came out (assuming you're not an autograph collector), and the photography really couldn't be beat. 2015 is pretty similar, but I prefer the color coding found in 2014.

2015 Topps Heritage #532 Daniel Descalso
I've never been that interested in Heritage High Numbers; usually the first series is sufficient. All I'm really after with Heritage is the design. They don't need to deliberately reproduce the same errors and gimmicks that existed 49 years ago. Still, it is nice to see some of the lesser-known players in this later series. Descalso pretty much flew under the radar for his first year as a Rockie, but it's always nice to have a guy or two with playoff experience in the clubhouse. Just in case. His 44 postseason games are even the subject of the cartoon on the back.

2015 Topps Heritage #540 Rafael Betancourt
Wherever they shot Descalso's photo, they also shot Betancourt's and most of the other Rockies in this set. I can't quite tell what that structure is behind them. Probably the back of the scoreboard in whichever spring training facility they're in, but at a distance, it looks like the mesh fence at the edge of a driving range.

2015 Stadium Club #242 Troy Tulowitzki
I usually don't have much of a problem with foil, but that's really all there is on the front of 2015. I like to see just a bit of color. Of course, it has the stellar photography this brand is known for, and they even spelled his name right. I got Morneau's card too, which somehow looks even sharper. Printing technology has progressed dramatically, so I can see plenty of detail with that magnifying glass I just got.

2012 Triple Play #26 Todd Helton
2012 Triple Play was a late addition to the group break, and this might be my first time seeing it. I built the complete short set of 2013 Triple Play, and I feel like the caricatures that year were way more interesting than this inaugural (and penultimate) year.

2012 Panini Prizm #170 Drew Pomeranz (RC)
Let's not forget Prizm, another Panini brand that Chris threw in later on in the break. This Prizm set has the MLBPA logo front and back, surely to compensate for the fact that they don't have an MLB license. It's more or less a Topps Chrome equivalent, and now that we have a couple years of the resurrected Donruss under our belts, the little printed (though textureless) indentations look a lot like 2014 Donruss.

2012 Panini Prizm Prizms Green #162 Jordan Pacheco
This Pacheco rookie card parallel was the only "hit" I got from this break. My luck ran a little short, and I didn't end up with any other inserts, parallels, or relics/autos. I was shut out on the Topps High Tek box, which is fine, since I struck it big last time.

So if this is the only one, at least it's green.

Now, I don't tremendously mind the lack of logos and team names on Panini products, but the fact that they totally altered his jersey does bug me a bit. The Rockies have never worn solid white jerseys; their home jerseys have always had pinstripes. He is clearly at Coors Field here, so they did some pretty extensive photo editing on this one. All the black trim and accessories make him look like he's on the White Sox, but they have pinstripes, too!

But at least it's green.

2001 Stadium Club Diamond Pearls #DP19 Todd Helton
So is this one of Helton, though it's a different shade than I usually see. We're past the main group break items, so now we're into the stack of extras that Chris invariably throws in. It's an insert card from early in Helton's career, but toward the end of Stadium Club's initial run. I've seen so few of the late-90s insert sets that every one is pretty much new. This even lives up to its name, as the white area of the infield really does have an iridescent look. Even all the little white baseballs front and back look like pearls.

2008 Topps Gold Foil #25 Kaz Matsui
Kaz Matsui was one of the heroes of the Rockies 2007 postseason, drilling a grand slam in game 2 to set them up for the NLDS sweep. Though he became an Astro the following year, I won't soon forget his performance as a Rockie.

Even better, this is the gold foil parallel, one of which was found in every other pack. I wasn't really collecting that year, and all I know is the usual silver foil on the base cards. They kept up the tradition of printing a gold-bordered card with a /2008 serial number, but these gold foil cards aren't serial numbered. They do make the 2008 design look a bit better, even though that Topps logo encroaches on the photo, leading some to call this the "uvula set".

2008 Upper Deck X Xponential 2 #X2-TT Troy Tulowitzki
The second horizontal Tulo card in this post is brought to you by the letter X and the number 2. Upper Deck really likes the letter X. You've seen Xponential cards before, as I got an Xponential Griffey from a Collector's Crate box about a year ago, which is the most common of four insert sets. But this is the rarer Xponential 2 insert set (Xponential Squared?) which had fewer cards and was harder to find in packs. Perhaps one day I'll find cards from the Xponential Cubed and Xponential to the power of 4 insert sets.

That's not really what they were called. I'm just a math nerd.

1994 SP Die Cuts #164 Dante Bichette
When I was a kid, I knew of Upper Deck SP, but it was way out of my price range, and I liked Topps Finest better, anyway. It wasn't until the last few years that I started seeing SP cards. I knew I had seen the standard-cut version of this card before; turns out Chris sent it to me as a bonus card in his previous group break! Oddly, this card has a silver UD hologram on the back. I had always thought that SP cards came with a gold hologram, but I stand corrected. I like the shape, too. In my interpretation it's supposed to look like a Hall of Fame plaque, something any Rockie has yet to earn.

It doesn't end there, though! In Chris' judgment, my Rockies slot did the "worst" of all the 30 teams, so I ended up with a special prize as a consolation. Keep an eye out for my next post on that.