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.


  1. Those are some of my favorite designs from the mid-90s, especially 1993 Donruss.

  2. All Giants cards are of course amazing by default, but really like that "prettiest swing in all of baseball" '94 Clark card.

  3. Would you mind shooting me an email lifebythedrop79 at Yahoo dot com