Saturday, August 13, 2016

Happy National Baseball Card Day!

If you've ever glanced at trending hashtags on any of the major social networks, you've likely run across something like "National [product] Day". National Popcorn Day is in mid-January. National Scotch Day was toward the end of July, as was National Chicken Wing Day to wrap up July.

You're darn right I had wings that day.

Next month, we have Talk Like a Pirate Day on the 19th, and Elephant Appreciation Day on the 22nd. Something to look forward to. You may or may not "celebrate" these holidays, and you're unlikely to be getting a paid day off for any of them, but if you're reading this, you ought to know that today is National Baseball Card Day!

This probably explains why the Rockies TV team were talking cards during the game yesterday in the bottom of the 5th. They opened and compared their haul from a few packs of 2016 Topps, and play-by-play announcer Drew Goodman regaled us with tales of pulling Willie Mays cards, "flipping" cards, and learning back in the early '80s that a prized Ozzie Smith rookie card was worth much less than he and his friends thought it was. Color analyst and former Rockie Ryan Spilborghs reminisced about stale gum, and his unopened Upper Deck set with Ken Griffey, Jr.'s rookie card, which he incorrectly said was 1991.

So in honor of this momentous occasion, there's no better time to see the highlights from a blaster of 2016 Stadium Club, making a strong case for the best Topps product three years running.

2016 Stadium Club #167 Micah Johnson
Awesome photography remains a staple of Stadium Club, and here that means bunting! Over time, this card of Micah Johnson will surely find its way into the many bunting mini-collections in the Cardsphere, including mine that Jeff from 2x3 Heroes kickstarted for me.

Pretty much everyone has compared this year's Stadium Club to 1997 Fleer, and at a glance, it is very similar. The fonts are a little different, Stadium Club uses silver foil instead of gold, and 1997 Fleer lists the position.

1997 Fleer #339 Jeff Bagwell
1997 Fleer also has those cool little foil seals above the last name, denoting for Jeff Bagwell that he was both an All-Star and a League Leader in 1996. I'm not sure in what, though. I had to look that one up, and his 48 doubles led the NL that year.

The difference mainly comes in on feel. 1997 (and 1996) Fleer used an unusual matte finish that's very distinctive. Stadium Club cards are at least twice as thick, and while in a page or display case these might be hard to tell apart, when it's in your hand, it couldn't be easier.

2016 Stadium Club #146 Johnny Bench
There are a lot of horizontal cards in this set, and many of them are terrific! Like he did in 2014, Hall of Fame Reds catcher Johnny Bench makes an appearance, here guarding the plate against the Mets in Shea Stadium. I have to wonder if this is from the same game as his 2014 card, a card I believe was also taken in Shea based on the memorabilia he's signing.

Autograph shots and an imminent play at the plate? No wonder this brand is so great.

2016 Stadium Club #294 Jackie Robinson
As in past years, black-and-white photos of old-time players make a stunning appearance. Jackie Robinson appears in Ebbets Field in a photo that I can't ever recall seeing on a Topps card. Robinson seems to suffer the most from recycled photos, as Night Owl has repeatedly pointed out. In fact, after looking at that post, I recognize this photo in a much more closely-cropped and colorized format from 2010.

The photo looks way better in its original form, capturing the essence of Ebbets Field in one of its final years. There's an ad for 1956 Chevrolet on the outfield wall, so the move to L.A. was just a few years away. Chevrolet still maintains an advertising relationship with Major League Baseball, giving away shiny new GM products to MVPs of both the All-Star Game and World Series. Other car and gasoline ads line the wall, and something that you won't see at ballparks anymore, a tobacco ad.

2016 Stadium Club #6 Brandon Phillips
This behind-the-batter shot is a common photo in recent Stadium Club sets, and it's a tough shot to get with the batter's box and baseline so perfect. Those chalk lines get destroyed after just a few batters, so this one of leadoff hitter Brandon Phillips in an away uniform is clearly the first batter of this game. Maybe even the first pitch.

2016 Stadium Club #3 Matt Kemp
Here's a similar photo of Matt Kemp, then with the Padres. He became a Brave just before this year's trade deadline, his first time playing away from the NL West. I can't tell quite what's going on here (he might be rounding third), but it's a perfect all-dirt "Tatooine" card, a prime candidate for a mini collection, one that Daniel collects.

2016 Stadium Club #113 Andrew McCutchen
McCutchen has another one of these horizontal beauties, and the batter's box line is already pretty disrupted. It could still be the first inning, though. To my eye, McCutchen looks abnormally small here. I guess it's just a weird angle, but you'd expect to see more grass in this photo, and maybe part of the catcher. That seems to be the dirt path back to the dugout behind his head, a feature found in PNC Park. I still think this was taken with a weird focal length or something, since it's unusual to see a batter so alone yet inside the batter's box.

2016 Stadium Club #142A Corey Seager (RC)
There are vertical cards, too. I just got a little caught up with all that infield dirt. Rookie of the Year candidate Corey Seager is showing off his maple bat in the locker room, and he gets the "RC" logo just under the Stadium Club logo in the upper left. Seager's birthdate of 4/27/94 makes him just a couple weeks younger than Dinger, who was "hatched" at Mile High Stadium on 4/16/94.

2016 Stadium Club #93 C.J. Wilson
The photos get weird for a bit, so brace yourselves. C.J. Wilson is doing some sort of karate move in the infield without his hat on. He's holding his blue glove between two fingertips in his right hand, and under the magnifying glass, I think that's a baseball card in his left hand. Maybe even his own.


2016 Stadium Club #227 Robin Yount
That makes Hall-of-Famer Robin Yount leaning on a dirt bike next to a saguaro cactus seem, well, still rather weird. But it just adds to the charm of Topps Stadium Club.

Good to see he has a helmet by his side. That sport can be dangerous otherwise.

2016 Stadium Club Contact Sheet #CS-7 Miguel Cabrera
Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera had the only insert card in this $20 blaster, one of ten cards to be found in the Contact Sheet insert set. Clearly, it has a filmstrip theme going on, though not quite as literally as those 1994 Leaf Slideshow inserts. Still, a photography-themed card fits with the ethos of Stadium Club perfectly.

Allow me to nitpick a bit. If this really were a set of negatives from a roll of film, the colors would be inverted. I do like the checkmark over the bottom photo, as though that were the one selected from the roll. But that's not actually the photo used on Cabrera's card in the main set, which would have really tied this insert set in to the master product better.

2016 Stadium Club Gold #98 Ian Kinsler
In addition to that insert card, I pulled a couple parallels. This one of Kinsler (to go along with his silver-foil base card) is the Gold parallel. Though you might not find a batting cage shot in 1997 Fleer, the gold parallels would be a bit easier to confuse. Despite the similarity, I still think there's a low likelihood of confusion, way less likely than a reprint from a Topps set like Cards Your Mom Threw Out, or even something like Donruss Originals.

2016 Stadium Club Black #229 Babe Ruth
Finally, here's a Black parallel, seeded 1:8 packs. On average, you'll find one of these in each blaster, but not necessarily of The Sultan of Swat, Babe Ruth himself. As huge an influence as he was, it's surprising that he's not found on more cards. Photos of him seem to be somewhat rare, but getting my Black parallel on a monochromatic card is perfect. I don't know if the black lettering would look quite as good on a full-color card. I'll just have to keep my eyes peeled for one next time I'm at a card show.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy your National Baseball Card Day!

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