Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Trading Post #85: The Collector

Two days before Christmas was a big incoming mailday for me. Fuji, Daniel, and Peter all sent cards that arrived that day, and a fourth—the post you're about to see. This one is from Chris of the new blog, The Collector, apparently a pun on both his career and his hobby. Three cards arrived safely packaged inside a holiday greeting card, which Chris offered on a mid-December post.

2013 Topps 1972 Topps Minis #TM19 Carlos Gonzalez
1972 Topps. That one I know at a glance.

I also know the distinctive smooth-but-not-glossy feel of Topps Archives by heart, and this mini of Carlos Gonzalez fits that description perfectly. It's still a little bit strange to see a sharp, nighttime action shot at Coors Field on such a retro design, and the disco font at the top makes the team name look a lot like "Rookies". But we still get a good write-up about CarGo's well-rounded baseball skills, as he's a threat on the basepaths, at the plate, and in the cavernous outfield at 20th and Blake.

1972 Topps had cartoons on the back, and this retro set is faithful to that. This one is sort of a trivia question, but I've sure never heard it. The card asks "what pitch is sometimes referred to as a "Bugs Bunny?"

Apparently that's slang for a change-up, but I must admit that I've not once heard that in all my years of baseball fandom. I guess it has something to do with this cartoon. I'm sure I've seen it before, but the slowball didn't stand out in particular relative to the rest of his cartoony antics.

2013 Topps Chasing History #CH-97 Troy Tulowitzki
This is a card you've seen before in various forms on this blog. I'm still chasing the mini to complete the rainbow, but I like this card so much that it's a candidate to become my next wallet card, once that Girardi disintegrates enough.

Tulowitzki fell just one short of hitting the 25-homer milestone for the first time since this card was printed. He got 24 in a Blue Jays uniform last year, but if you count the ALDS, he got his 25th. He also had a handful in 2015 after The Trade, some of which you can see in this awesome supercut of Blue Jays homers, set to Johnny Cash's "God's Gonna Cut You Down".

2003 Finest Bat Relics #FRB-TH Todd Helton B (MEM)
The last card from Chris is a Todd Helton bat relic. It's from 2003 Finest, and by coincidence, I happened to have purchased a couple other relics from this set at a recent card show. I'm usually pretty behind on card show posts. There's just so much to include.

But anyway, as awesome as Topps Finest consistently is, 2003 still rises to the top of my favorites list. This relic design lacks the hexagons that I like so much from the base set, but I love the simple design and color scheme here.

A bonus on this card is a look at the Rockies 10 Season Anniversary patch on Helton's right sleeve. They began play in 1993, which meant their tenth full season occurred n 2002.

Not counting the strike, of course.

A few weeks ago, I finally bought some 75- and 100-pt thick toploaders to properly organize and protect my relic cards. Now that this is scanned, I know just where to put it, and it will fit in nicely in front of my two relics from the card show, Lance Berkman and Mark Mulder.

Thanks to Chris for adding a Rockie to that small stack.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

2016 Card of the Year

This has been a rough year.

With all the celebrities passing away before their time, including Carrie Fisher earlier today, as well as an election that most of us would rather forget, it seems like the ball can't drop soon enough. Personally, it's been up and down for me. My dad moved to another state in the spring, and even though he's happy, I do miss him. There have been some other challenges and disappointments, too. But the new car is fun, at least. And I will be an uncle by the time May rolls around!

Still, baseball and its related card industry have carried on regardless. The Cubs, of course, finally snapped their century-long Championship drought. Ichiro hit a pretty cool milestone. David Ortiz did his farewell tour. And another season is in the books, one in which my Rockies did better than usual. They finished just six games under .500, and the youth of the team looks better than ever.

To wrap up this year on the baseball card front, Tom at Eamus Catuli!, formerly known as Waiting 'Til Next Year, is running a "Best of 2016" contest. Topps released another Stadium Club set in 2016, and it's been a bright spot in the hobby ever since the brand was resurrected for 2014. Naturally, my favorite card from 2016 is from none other than Stadium Club.

2016 Stadium Club #251 Jon Gray
I'm not trying to curry favor over here, but this Jon Gray card was sent by none other than Tom himself. Mike Trout's card from 2016 Topps is a strong contender, and Jose Bautista's bat flip card is a close second, but Jon Gray is the winner at Infield Fly Rule.

We didn't get snow for Christmas Day, but the wind was cold and biting. It's a bit sunny out right now, and not terribly wintry. But it's still far from a comfortable Colorado evening, one that's clearly pictured on this card. And that's what I'm longing for right about now.

It's usually a good day for the Rockies when Jon Gray is on the hill, assuming he's gotten his first inning jitters out of the way. And all those fans help set the tone of this card. There are a handful of empty seats about 20 rows up, but there is lots of purple out there, a lemonade vendor climbing the stairs, and some ghostly-looking fans silhouetted against the setting sun.

That little glimmer of sunlight is what truly puts this card on top. Gray in sharp focus with that background would be good enough, but tilting the camera up just a little bit gives it a lot more atmosphere. It's a bit of an allegory for the Rockies themselves, a statement that young players like Gray, Trevor Story, David Dahl, Raimel Tapia, Brendan Rodgers, and possibly Jeff Hoffman could be a light at the end of a dark tunnel the Rockies have been in for a while. I've never known the Rockies' farm system as well as I do right now, and hopefully that means there are good things to come.

But maybe I'm getting too philosophical about it.

Maybe it's just because I can picture myself so well in this scene. I'd be sitting in that general area (maybe a deck or two higher, depending on how much I felt like spending on a ticket), wearing my Nolan Arenado jersey. I'm guessing this is the second or third inning, meaning I'd probably have finished a bratwurst already, and be about halfway through a beer. Maybe I'd be thinking about another snack, perhaps some popcorn, a Tornadough pretzel available below the left field scoreboard, or even some Rocky Mountain oysters, which are only sold near where those fans are standing.

I'd have already checked in on social media, perhaps snapped a photo or two. For a night game, the temperature would have dropped a bit, but it would still be nice sitting in the shade. It's likely that a run or two would have scored by then. And this side of the stadium is perfect when a righty is on the hill. After the game, I'd head into Downtown just beyond, perhaps grabbing a late happy hour snack at one of the bars, ideally having just witnessed a Rockies win.

It's almost like one of those chalk drawings in Mary Poppins. I feel like I can just jump right in.

Not only is this card my favorite of 2016. This card is my happy place.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Trading Post #84: Jaybarkerfan's Junk

Anytime you see a package on its way to you from Hazel Green, Ala., you know that some goodies are on their way from Jaybarkerfan's Junk. The creator of the #Supertraders group made sure that all his readers were able to get in on some holiday trading action. He ran what he called a Trade-a-Thon in November, offering each reader the chance to claim up to five cards throughout the two-week process. I claimed four, and even with the bonus pack he threw in, this will be a rare post without any Rockies.

2008 UD Masterpieces #5 Max Scherzer (RC)
Upper Deck Masterpieces is an absolutely beautiful set. 2008 was the second of only two years that UD printed this product. Even with short prints, it's only a 120-card checklist, but they did an absolutely terrific job selecting players for the set. Max Scherzer, who had no Major League experience when this card was printed, has gone on to win two Cy Young Awards, and he threw two no-hitters in 2015. The first of those was only a pitch away from being a perfect game, but one pitch got a little bit away from him, Jose Tabata leaned into it, and Scherzer had to settle for a no-hitter.

It's a heck of a card to get your Rookie Card logo on. Upper Deck couldn't know how dominant he would become, and we've all seen our share of busted prospects, but things worked out really well for this card, and more importantly, for Max Scherzer.

2010 Bowman Prospects Black #BP1 Stephen Strasburg
Scherzer spent the majority of his career so far in Detroit, but now shares the rotation with Stephen Strasburg on the Washington Nationals. Strasburg was the most hyped pitching prospect in recent memory, drawing comparisons to Mark Fidrych. Watching his debut back in 2010 was quite impressive, as he struck out fourteen Pirates in his first-ever start. Unfortunately, he needed Tommy John surgery shortly after that, but he's settled into a groove in the Nats' pitching staff. The Nationals have had a pretty terrifying rotation ever since his debut, fielding guys like Gio Gonzalez, Doug Fister, Jordan Zimmerman, etc....

Of course, this card itself has quite the story behind it. Strasburg mania was in full force in late spring 2010, and there was finally a Bowman gold mine out there. They print cards of virtually every young prospect out there, many of whom never make it to the Majors. But Strasburg's First Bowman Card was the rare item that briefly brought baseball cards back into the national spotlight. His /1 Superfractor parallel of this Bowman card was found in 2010, and promptly spiraled to a five-figure sale price on eBay. Just months later, it changed hands again for $25k. The national media didn't miss that story, and I'm sure that millions of Americans that hadn't paid attention to the hobby for years or even decades got a crash course in the existence of parallels, printing plates, and /1 products.

The above is a parallel itself, the black-bordered variety. Bowman's base Prospect set that year actually used a white border, saving the black borders for a parallel set.

So while I don't have the Superfractor that's worth as much as a new car, I am able to add a parallel to my collection that reminds me of the Strasburg Fever that gripped the nation in 2010.

2004 Fleer InScribed #80 Tom Seaver RET /1000
Fleer made a lot of sets in their final few years of existence. I thought I had seen most of them, but this Inscribed set is new to my eyes. 2004 was the only year of this set, but it's pretty striking. The thick black border has a matte finish with some silver foil (including that serial number). The background of the photo is also matte, but the player's image itself is glossy. It's a minimalist design, and all the right elements catch the light, while others fade into the background. The "Inscribed" logo at the top isn't my favorite, but I'd be interested in finding more of these.

Only the ten retired players in this set got the /1000 serial number, and all ten of those are Hall of Famers. There were also fifteen rookies rounding out the main set at a print run of /750, containing a few recognizable names like Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina, and Kevin Youkilis.

Seaver had a long, Hall-of-Fame worthy career, but this card only had room for five seasons. Fleer featured his early time on the Mets for this card, giving us stats from 1969 through 1973. During that time, he led the league in strikeouts and ERA three times, somehow managing to miss out on the Cy Young Award for two of those seasons. During that same span, he appeared in two World Series, winning one, was an All-Star in each of those five seasons, and might have gotten into the Hall on those five seasons alone, not even counting the other fifteen seasons he pitched.

Not sure if Strasburg will join Seaver in the Hall of Fame, but I like Scherzer's chances.

1992 Triple Play Gallery #GS-11 Cal Ripken, Jr.
It wasn't all pitchers in this package. I have a soft spot for these early-1990s Donruss insert cards after they finally decided to evolve their design a bit. Cal Ripken, Jr. was definitely one of my favorite players when he was still active. I didn't get to see much of him at all, since it was pretty tough to see American League games back then, especially before Interleague Play. The All Star Game was usually the only time he'd make a TV appearance in my household. Cable, not to mention MLB.TV, has really changed things.

Of course, this card mentions his streak of consecutive games played, a record he'd break about three seasons later, toward the end of 1995. I remember being in sixth grade when that happened, and that many of my classmates chose the occasion to feature in their "Current Events" presentations to the class.

Ripken wasn't just known for his longevity, like Omar Vizquel or Jamie Moyer. He was darn talented out there, winning two MVP awards in his career, and making the All-Star team every year from 1983 until his retirement in 2001. He even hit a first-pitch homer in that 2001 All-Star Game in Seattle.

Not a bad way for one of my favorite all-time players to wrap up a legendary career.

1986 Sportflics #8 Cal Ripken, Jr.
My fellow Supertrader didn't stop there though. He even threw in an unopened pack of cards for his Trade-a-Thon participants, and I ended up with a pack of 1986 Sportflics. I bought some of the 1994 product, but I didn't really know this brand went back further than that. I might have a card or two from the 1990 set, but definitely none this old.

Of course, these never scan well, but the lenticular printing process on this card allows for one of three images to be visible, depending on how the card is tilted. A much younger Ripken, only several hundred games into his streak, gets one headshot and two action shots at the plate. I'm sure he sat a few late innings later in the streak, but at the time of printing, he hadn't sat a single inning in 603 games. That's nearly 5,500 straight innings!

There were a couple of miniature trivia cards in here, a little smaller than those World Series History lenticular insert cards from 1991 Score. On these, we learn that Ernie Banks holds the NL Record for most Grand Slams in a single season, with 5. Albert Pujols has since tied that NL mark, and a couple AL'ers even surpassed it with 6. Travis Hafner did it about a decade ago, as did Don Mattingly just a year after this was printed. The other Trivia card is about Mike Schmidt, then the active player with the most Gold Glove awards.

1986 Sportflics #179 1985 Gold Glove
I found this final card to be quite interesting, and I assumed that these Sportflics cards just displayed two images like they did in 1994, until I looked more closely. This is something like a League Leader card, but riffing off of the second trivia card, they picked six 1985 Gold Glovers to feature. The three photos on the top (Don Mattingly, George Brett, and Keith Hernandez) are posed shots, while the three on the bottom (Willie McGee, Ron Guidry, and Dale Murphy) are action photos. My scanner preferred to show Brett and Guidry, plus a ghostly inclusion of McGee's bat.

By the way, the presence of Dale Murphy makes this ever-so-slightly a Rockies post, as the two-time MVP signed as a free agent with the Rockies in 1993 and played 26 games for them before retiring.

Anyway, these six players all led a statistic in 1985, as well as an award for defensive excellence. Every position has a Gold Glove winner (sometimes co-winners), so there's no mention of thirteen other players, unlike what we might see on a more traditional League Leaders card.

Keith Hernandez led the NL in Game-Winning RBIs in 1985, a statistic that isn't tracked anymore. There was quite a bit of debate about whom to actually credit with a GW-RBI (the back of 1987 Topps went wild over this stat). A walkoff hit is easy enough to figure out, but when your team takes the lead by three in the 7th, for example, but ends up only winning by one, the GW-RBI went to the player that took the lead, not the player that padded the cushion enough.

To my mind, that sounds pretty much the same as how a winning pitcher is determined. All a team has to do is keep a lead to ensure a pitcher gets the win. It can be a cat-and-mouse game all night, but as long as the lower-scoring team doesn't at least tie it, the pitcher of record remains the same. I'm sure better statisticians than I can explain the nuances of why tracking Wins that way is fine, but GW-RBIs isn't. But I digress.

When the statistic existed, no one had more than Keith Hernandez, thanks in large part to his 1985 performance. And we definitely just went down a statistical rabbit hole there, but they're an integral part of baseball, now more than ever.

Just like trading is an integral part of card collecting.

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Trading Post #83: All Trade Bait, All The Time

Even after 82 posts under The Trading Post theme, I am still making connections with new bloggers. All Trade Bait, All The Time is the latest to be added to the list. I claimed a card from a stack he offered up, thus earning a spot in his "Operation PWE". The card arrived a few weeks ago, along with a handful of other Rockies.

1997 Upper Deck #182 Larry Walker GI
I've actually opened some packs of 1997 Upper Deck, a product I found on sale at Dave & Adam's a couple years ago. I always liked the copper-heavy set, and the frequent use of actual dates on the card front. This subset, however, always confused me a bit. They definitely have the look of inserts, but are just part of the main checklist. They seem to be quite plentiful, making me wonder if some of them were double-printed. And the write-up on the back, in this case talking about Canada and its contribution to Major League Baseball, is only a partial paragraph, continued on card 183. I do have card 183 already, so I was able to see the final word of Walker's write-up, which is "season", before leading into the next player's write up.

It's a little bit like those articles where you have to click to a second page to see the final eight words. But it's nice and shiny, and I can't stay mad at a shiny card for long.

1997 Pacific #291 Larry Walker
Keeping the international theme going, Walker appears on another shiny card from Pacific, which means that this card is primarily written in Spanish, with English as a secondary language. Two-run homer translates into "cuadrangular de 2 carreras".

I grew up with Pacific cards much more than the Canadian O-Pee-Chee brand, whose cards contained both French and English. Especially living in Colorado, I've had way more exposure to Spanish as a foreign language. I even took four years of it in middle and high school. I can't speak it worth a darn, but I can usually get the general gist of a written paragraph.

I guess this card really isn't all that shiny other than the gold foil. Pacific loved their gold foil, and the vertical name on the left seems to have influenced 1999 Fleer Tradition.

1995 Score Hall of Gold #HG63 Ellis Burks
To go along with the Dante Bichette Hall of Gold card that Brian sent me a while ago, I now have Ellis Burks' card from the same set. This insert set was large enough that numerous Rockies made it in, and while there's a bit of fragility around the edges, the gold stripe through the middle of the card breaks up this action shot well. He's sporting some great flip-down shades on the back, which also mentions that he was the NL Player of the Month in 1994.

This didn't happen until later, but Burks became the first Rockie to enter the 30-30 club. In fact, three Rockies hit that milestone in two seasons, but it hasn't happened at Coors Field since.

2003 Upper Deck #545 Dontrelle Willis
A Marlin or two made their way into this envelope, with Dontrelle Willis showing off his high leg kick. He was an exciting pitcher to watch, and he was decent at the plate, too. This Upper Deck card is from his first season, in which he won the NL Rookie of the Year. He followed that up with an even better 2005 season, finishing with a 22-10 record. But the wheels started to come off after that, as his next two seasons in Florida were rather mediocre. He was traded to Detroit after that (along with Miguel Cabrera for a slew of prospects), but never regained his former glory.

He wasn't a complete bust by any stretch, but he did peak rather early. He'd probably still be on the hill now if his career took a different trajectory.

2016 Topps Allen & Ginter #32 Falcon 9 Rocket
And now we come to the main event, the card I originally requested. It's a great inanimate object from the always-entertaining Allen & Ginter set. The Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX's crown jewel, has had numerous successful launches (and a few failures), but it was just about a year ago that they finally managed to safely land the first stage after a launch. This card does not make mention of that historic feat, but it will go well with some of my other space cards.

Elon Musk knows that reusability is the key to bringing down the astronomical (pun intended) cost of space travel. The Space Shuttle certainly had that concept down, and the solid rocket boosters (the side ones) were reused as well as the shuttle itself, but it ended up being a rather dangerous vehicle, and was never launched with anywhere near the frequency originally intended. It took several tries, but SpaceX is now consistently able to actively guide the first stage back home safely, saving millions of dollars. They've even landed them out at sea.

One fun fact that Musk likes to point out is that the average airline ticket would be about $1.5 million if they had to build a new plane for every flight. Again, I wish the card mentioned something about this, but I'm glad to have it in my collection.

And I got to add a few Rockies along with it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

From now on, our troubles will be out of sight.

Even though I only bought two cards out of about a thousand available from Topps Now in 2016, Topps still made sure to send me a small token of appreciation for the Holidays. In addition to a more traditional holiday greeting card, they threw in a Topps Now baseball card with four images from the 2016 season!

Lots of other bloggers have received the same card, so I have no idea of the print run, but I'd assume it's in the tens of thousands.

2016 Topps Now #NNO Highlights Bryant / Sanchez / Ichiro / Ortiz
First and foremost is Kris Bryant, the player who made the final out of 2016, at last putting an end to the longest championship drought in North American major sports. 108 years is a long time, but there has to be some soccer team somewhere that's gone longer, so I hesitate to say "in sports history".

But Kris Bryant, later named the NL MVP, clearly wasn't thinking about any of that when he fielded that grounder. He knew there was a drought, but I think he was just thrilled to win the World Series, no matter the team.

Also gracing the front of this card is Gary Sanchez, the slugging Yankees catcher who finished just a little short of winning the AL Rookie of the Year award. He still managed to crush twenty homers in just over fifty games. The Yankees have been in a bit of a decline recently, missing the playoffs entirely in 2016. But with young players like this, things are looking brighter for them. Still, it's a tough division even when they're not the ones making it tough.

2016 Topps Now #NNO Highlights Bryant / Sanchez / Ichiro / Ortiz (Reverse)
No Rockies made it onto this card, but Coors Field did! Ichiro doffing his helmet after reaching the 3,000 hit milestone in Denver is the first photo on the back. The actual card commemorating that achievement had a huge print run, and that's one of the two I bought. It was one of the most memorable baseball events I've seen in person, and I'm glad that Topps thought it important enough to share with every other Topps Now customer.

Recently retired David Ortiz gets the final spot on this card, and even though his baseball career is (probably) over, he still led the AL in doubles and RBIs last year. And he left behind quite a legacy in Boston, helping the Red Sox come away with three championships. He'll always be a fan favorite there, and while Gary Sanchez and Kris Bryant still have a lot of work to do, we could potentially be holding a card of four Hall-of-Famers.

I haven't decided yet if I'll keep this one with the back facing out in my binders. Ichiro's photo on his 3,000 card is about the same, and it would be nice to have a reminder of the Cubs' World Series win.

Either way, this was an unexpected gift from Topps, and the relatively high price of a Topps Now card stings a little less when they take the time to say "thank you".

Happy Holidays to all my readers, and thanks for stopping by!

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Trading Post #82: Cardboard Clubhouse

Since the inception of Infield Fly Rule, Adam from Cardboard Clubhouse has been one of my most frequent trading partners. He was part of my giant outgoing mailday on Monday, and many of my trading partners and #Supertraders should be seeing something from me, if it hasn't arrived already. I turned on the Broncos game last Sunday and nearly emptied out my trade box, packaging up a dozen or so PWEs and at least that many bubble mailers.

It's that time of year, and while I haven't gone for any of Topps' snowflake cards this year, hopefully I did manage to spread a little cheer around the Cardsphere. I've also been on the receiving end of a few packages recently, including a Christmas card from Adam that included a small stack of Rockies cards. Once I managed to de-glitter them, there were some nice surprises inside.

1993 Topps #551 Eric Young
It's set to hit subzero temperatures in the Denver area this weekend, and the snow is already falling, so Eric Young with a giant cactus behind him is a welcome sight. 1993 Topps, the second factory set I ever purchased, marked the first appearance of Rockies and Marlins in Topps base. Even then, they didn't show up until Series 2, but the league expansion did help the set balloon to an enormous 825 cards that year. That was still before any action shots could be used, so there are just a bunch of posed images. But there are a few interesting backdrops. Jerald Clark has a lovely seaside photo, and Jim Tatum has another desert landscape behind him. Marlins cards look similar, but much more tropical.

And very much above zero.

2008 Upper Deck Diamond Collection #DC-12 Manny Corpas
The Rockies had about fifteen seasons under their belt by the time Upper Deck was nearing the end of its baseball product. I seem to run across a lot of these Diamond Collection inserts. I'm not sure how common they are, but they're one of those sets that just seem to gravitate toward me.

Manny Corpas was a serviceable closer for the Rockies, racking up 34 saves throughout his career. He hasn't pitched in the Majors since 2013, but I can't help imagining that he'd still be an asset to the bullpen. The Rockies did just sign reliever Mike Dunn to a three-year contract, so the front office is clearly taking steps to address that weakness.

Still not sure about that whole Ian Desmond thing, though. They really have no option but to stick him at first base, a position he's never played. The outfield is pretty much stacked, but they only let you play three at a time. Between CarGo, Blackmon, potentially Desmond, and prospects Dahl and Tapia, they really need to convert some of that into pitching, as hard as it would be to see some of them go. It's almost like the Rockies are banking on the NL adopting the DH.

Last season Dickerson was traded for Jake McGee, so at least there have been some moves in that direction. But both players were a bit of a disappointment last season.

2012 Topps #460 Thomas Field (RC)
Between Tulowitzki and Trevor Story, the Rockies have been completely set on shortstop for quite some time. Except when Tulowitzki and Story were injured. Still, that didn't leave much room for Thomas Field, one of the few players to pass through Denver that I've never heard of, even though he got a Topps base card in 2012. He appeared in a mere 18 games for the Rockies, and in a few games for the Angels and Rangers the past few seasons. He seems like one of those players that tops out at Triple-A. But he did just sign with the Twins organization, so there's still hope.

1995 Fleer Ultra #376 David Nied
David Nied shows up a lot around here, and though he didn't become a household name like many of his teammates, he still was a rather familiar face of the early Rockies. Though it was pricey, I managed to buy a few packs of 1995 Fleer Ultra after the strike ended. Compared to the craziness of 1995 Fleer, Ultra gave us a foil-heavy but very clean set. This set has managed to grow on me quite a bit since I started this blog, but the two different foil colors still bug me a little.

1998 SkyBox Dugout Axcess #141 Vinny Castilla TRIV
This is one of those sets I had no idea existed until I started blogging and making trades. The Skybox division of Fleer definitely tried hitting the lower end of the market, something that Topps has been neglecting for some time. Dugout Axcess is a set I've seen before, but not this subset. Apparently there's a parallel of this card numbered to just 50 copies, which is surprising for such a low-end set.

Anyone care to take a guess at the answer to this Trivia question? There are some hints about an "improbable event" at "hitter-friendly" Coors Field in late 1996.

Yes, that was the only no-hitter ever pitched in Coors Field, thrown by the Dodgers' Hideo Nomo. The Rockies have been no-hit three times, twice by the Dodgers.

There are lots of other trivia questions on the back of this card, like what's Ken Griffey, Jr.'s given first name? What happened to Ivan Rodriguez on June 20th, 1991 besides his MLB debut? And there's an out-of-date question about the career home runs leader.

Junior's real first name is George, as was his dad's. Pudge happened to have his (first) wedding day the same day as his call up. And Hank Aaron was still the Home Run King in 1998, but Barry Bonds was well on his way to taking the crown.

1994 Stadium Club Team Finest #4 Andres Galarraga
Finally, this was the shiniest card in the envelope. Topps was still making these odd team sets under the Stadium Club brand in 1994, with an entirely different design from the regular Stadium Club cards. They did the same in 1993, the first of just two years this concept existed.

Adam, in fact, sent me an Eight Men Out card from 1993's Team Stadium Club set, so he probably found about as many of these cards as I used to. But this one's from 1994, and it has a Topps Finest finish on it, one of a 12-card partial parallel set, which I'm about halfway to completing now. Chrome wouldn't exist for another couple years, but Finest had already established itself, as did the curl that would forever plague beautiful cards like this. It was still such a new technology that Topps had to list the U.S. patent numbers on the back of the card.

I didn't know that a Rockie was honored with a card in this small set way back in 1994. And surprisingly, I don't have the base version. This card looks so familiar, but it's brand new to me. Maybe it's just the design. As much as I've collected since I was a kid, the sets I knew from 1993 and 1994 will forever be etched in my memory much more clearly than others. Recent Topps base sets I do pretty well with, but I can't match the set to the year for at least half of the 1960s and 1970s. And for Bowman, I might as well throw darts.

It's a little off-center, which has to be pretty blatant on a full bleed card to even notice. But I know exactly where this one will go in my binders, and it's a design I could basically draw from memory if I needed to.

Glad I could swap some holiday cheer with a longtime trading partner, and if your shipment just went through my local post office, I hope you enjoy yours.