Thursday, June 2, 2016

I'll see your war hammer, and I'll raise you an elf!

I've had a lot going on the past couple of weeks. Summer (or at least late spring) has finally arrived in Colorado. On Saturday, I went to my first Rockies game of the year, a 10-5 loss to the Giants. Although the Rockies took the lead in the 7th on a Carlos Gonzalez home run to straightaway center, the Rockies bullpen played their usual role, blowing the lead before even retiring a batter in the 8th.

My Fantasy team seems to have turned a corner, with Greinke working his way to a decent record, and Mookie Betts crushing numerous home runs over a non-numerous series of games.

And oh yeah, I bought a new car. First time I've ever owned a car built in the current decade. A few days before, as part of a birthday present my family chipped in on in March, I got to drive a Ferrari for an hour in the foothills outside Denver. A bit anticlimactic to go buy a Mazda after that, but if anyone in your area offers cars like that for a quick, guided rental, it's well worth it, especially if you can find a Groupon.

With all that new stuff, surprise baseball cards from my girlfriend are still a common fixture, and she brought home a partial box of 2015 Allen & Ginter from a hobby shop that also sells coins and comic books. We had a bit of a pack war, and she definitely saw the appeal in cracking into a sealed pack of cards, especially A&G, a set that is well-known for more than just baseball.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter Ancient Armory #AA-8 War Hammer
They pick some quite obscure things for insert sets, including battle gear from the days before mechanized warfare. The war hammer, quite a lethal-looking tool, is perfect for smashing through armor when a sword would likely just bounce off. When I pulled that card from the Ancient Armory insert set and showed it to my girlfriend, she responded with a quip that just had to be the title of this post.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter Menagerie of the Mind #MM-2 Elf
And she used this card to do it. Elves can be found in the Menagerie of the Mind insert set, along with other mythological beings like fairies, trolls, centaurs, and a creature called a bunyip.

You learn something new every day.

These particular elves look like something out of a 1970s BBC production, and while the card mentions their current relation to Santa's workshop and the cookie factory, their roots can be found in Norse paganism. Their alleged immortality, found in the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, is also alluded to.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter Great Scott #GS-7 Continental Drift
This next set uses Doc Brown's catchphrase from Back To The Future to highlight some important scientific discoveries over the past century or so, including X-rays, DNA, and the Polio vaccine, right up to current endeavors like the Large Hadron Collider. It's rather amazing to think of all we've discovered in the last century. Of course we know that the sun's at the center of the solar system, and we figured that out over 400 years ago. But continental drift, the existence of other galaxies, and the discovery of Pluto are surprisingly recent.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter #302 Fall of the Berlin Wall
Even more astonishing are the changes in geopolitics in my lifetime alone. The reunification of Germany had yet to occur when I was born, the USSR hadn't yet fragmented into countless breakaway republics, and the developed European economies each had their own currencies. The invasion of Kuwait and the first Gulf War are the first newsworthy world events that I can remember, and I would have been about six then.

If you're interested in this era of history, Bridge of Spies is worth seeing, although Tom Hanks is so A-List that it's become hard to see him as anyone besides Tom Hanks. For all I know, he'll be in an A&G set before too long.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter Mini First Ladies #FIRST-23 Edith Roosevelt
The last time I wrote about 2015 Allen & Ginter, I remarked about how underrepresented women are in this set. The First Ladies insert set makes up for that a bit. Yes, that's a mini, but it's not the Mrs. Roosevelt that first comes to mind. Rather, she's Edith Roosevelt, wife of Teddy, serving in the role from 1901 to 1909. Edith was actually Teddy's second wife, as he became a widower in 1884. Perhaps you've seen his diary entry from that day, a day on which both his mother and wife passed away. Tragic, yes, but that didn't stop him from ascending to a two-term presidency, nor from having his likeness carved into Mount Rushmore.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter #143 Mike Zunino
Despite all this scattered randomness found in the inserts, Allen & Ginter is still first and foremost a baseball set. Though he's at the Triple-A level right now after three seasons in the Bigs, all that catcher's gear makes for one of the more interesting photos in the set. And when I say "all that catcher's gear," really I'm just referring to the mask and mitt. He might have shin guards on, but no chest protector, so it's probably just a warm-up shot.

I still can't quite get over how A&G insists on spelling everything out, like writing a check. His slugging percentage is Three Hundred Eighty Three, though he just has Two triples to his name.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter #23 Johnny Cueto
One aspect of baseball that was very, very different in the late 19th-century, when this brand got its start, is how little players moved around. Since this photo of Cueto as a Red just a year ago, he's pitched for the Kansas City Royals (and earned a World Series ring), and in 2016, he has an excellent 8-1 record with the San Francisco Giants, with one of those Ws coming just a few days ago against the Rockies. More on that series later, but the Rockies didn't do much to help their spot in the standings over the holiday weekend.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter Starting Points #SP-87 Adrian Beltre
This is from the only Baseball-themed insert set found in 2015 packs, and it's rather astonishing to be reminded that Adrian Beltre is currently in his 19th season. He and Elvis Andrus have been up to all sorts of antics for years, but he was once just a green rookie like everyone else.

His debut came on June 24th, 1998, and as the back of this card tells us, Randy Johnson whiffed a dozen Padres that day, and Jeff Bagwell hit two home runs in a pre-humidor Coors Field. However, the card neglects to mention that those 5 RBIs were not enough to beat the Rockies.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter Starting Points #SP-76 Buster Posey
Buster Posey's two home runs on Saturday, however, were indeed enough to sink the Rockies. His start came in 2009, just before the Giants started their every-other-year championship run, and they're up by a nice 4.5 game margin atop the NL West right now. Posey's 6-RBI performance on Saturday was a career high for him, and while the outcome wasn't what I'd hoped, at least I got a great view of Buster's homers, plus lots of quality time with my sister.

Posey hasn't been in the league nearly as long as Beltre, but already he has three World Series rings, plus his broken leg in 2011 is basically the reason why the rules for sliding into home plate changed. He's definitely an influential player, and he can add his name to the long list of San Francisco Giants whom I've seen hit a home run in person.

Plus, he sort of looks like an elf.


  1. I'm not a big Ginter fan but those Staring Points inserts are by far one of my favorite things from last years edition.

  2. Replies
    1. It is a Mazda 3 i Touring 4-door.

    2. Sorry I missed this post the first time around. Super jealous of your joy ride in the Ferrari!
      I have a Mazda CX-5 and I'm pretty happy with it, although it doesn't have the pick up of a Ferrari.