Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Trading Post #93: Night Owl Cards

March is usually the snowiest month in Colorado. But in the Denver area, we've barely seen a flake fly in weeks. It's definitely odd, seeing what the climate's been doing these days, and if we're getting summer-like weather at the end of winter, it makes me wonder what actual summer will be like.

2016 Topps Wal-Mart Holiday Snowflake #HMW152 DJ LeMahieu
Pretty much the only snowflakes I've seen recently came on this Holiday Snowflake card, a Wal-Mart exclusive set. Everyone was writing about these a few months ago, but as I haven't set foot in a Wal-Mart in years, I didn't pick any of these up. I also missed out on the Marketside insert cards that came in those frozen pizza boxes. But thanks to Night Owl Cards, this particular Wal-Mart exclusive found its way into my collection.

Unlike many others, I didn't really mind the smoke effect that Topps gave to their base cards in 2016. Seeing snowflakes there instead doesn't make this any better for me, just different. And definitely more festive. This is more like a Topps base card than 2016 Opening Day, as the Topps logo is in foil. But that's the same Jake Lamb in a throwback Diamondbacks jersey, trying to break up a double play being turned by a 2016 NL award winner.

2017 Topps #335 Jeff Hoffman (RC)
This is the third time that Night Owl has sent me cards, and judging by this 2017 Topps card, he couldn't get these Rockies extras to me fast enough. He's no fan of any other NL West team than the Dodgers, particularly not the Giants, but I'm fine with being his designated destination for Rockies cards.

I wrote about Jeff Hoffman earlier this month, but he still doesn't have a lock on a rotation spot as we near Opening Day. But even for the short time he's had in the majors, he did get a chance to get a great Coors Field card in 2017 Topps, probably with a blurry DJ LeMahieu in the background. I've only purchased one retail pack of the product so far, but sometimes these new sets show up in trades pretty quickly. And it's starting to seem familiar already.

2017 Topps #81 DJ LeMahieu LL
It doesn't get the same purple pinstripe color-coding on the front, but Topps has made a giant leap forward by color-coding the back of this League Leaders card the same color as the rest of the Rockies cards. I think that's the proper treatment for an award winner. Perhaps even better is that DJ gets the whole card front to himself, not needing to share it with runners-up or another league as in past years. And as Night Owl himself observed earlier this week, that can make for some odd combinations.

DJ and Daniel Murphy were neck-and-neck for the NL batting title as the 2016 season drew to a close, but the Rockies middle infielder edged out his fellow second baseman by a single point, hitting .348. I even snagged him for my 2017 Fantasy Baseball team in Monday night's draft. I'm certainly hoping for another strong performance.

2013 Topps Chrome #71 Ryan Wheeler (RC)
Ryan Wheeler had a card in 2013 Topps.

Various versions of it tend to pepper incoming trade packages, even this shiny and minimally curled one from Chome. But I've never featured it on the blog before. He played in a handful of games for the Diamondbacks and Rockies over three seasons, but never really made much of a splash. Pun not intended related to the Sea Turtle design.

2013 Topps was the year of the "Chase". If you flip this card over, you get a look at Wheeler's valiant attempt to eclipse Tris Speaker's all-time doubles record of 792. At the time, Wheeler had six. As of his most recent MLB appearance in 2014, he chipped away at that a little, leaving just 782 to go. I particularly like Topps highlighting that 792 number, a number that should be familiar to anyone who collected an overproduction-era Topps set.

2016 Topps Archives 65th Anniversary #A65-AG Andres Galarraga
I bought a small amount of 2016 Archives at Target last year, and I initially thought this Andres Galarraga card was an insert card from it. But it turns out that there was another Wal-Mart exclusive last holiday season, the 65th Anniversary variety. It's more or less like Topps Archives, but contains 65 lettered base cards, one for each of the past 65 flagship designs. Andres Galarraga's 1997 card was chosen as the reprint for that year, and I think it looks a heck of a lot better and easier to read without gold foil.

All the backs from this obscure reprint set, one that I largely missed amidst the contemporaneous flurry of Topps snowflake cards (pun definitely intended on that one), are done up in the style of 1975 Topps. I imagine that's why Night Owl made a purchase of this set to begin with, as his love of the '75s is well-known across the Cardsphere. That card back calls out Galarraga for being a five-time All-Star, and for two each Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards, but they neglected to mention his batting title in 1993. Not only did his mark of .370 put the Rockies on the map in their inaugural year, but he did that at the height of Tony Gwynn's career. That's basically like being a leading goal scorer during Wayne Gretzky's heyday.

1997 Select #127 Neifi Perez R
1997 Select isn't something I run across very often. But red foil is always welcome, a relative rarity that appeared on occasion in the late 1990s. The silver area has an interesting herringbone-like pattern with a slight texture. He was never my favorite Rockie, and a Google search turned up his name on a list of most-hated Royals, and for being the first player disciplined under MLB's banned stimulant policy. Then again, he did turn an unassisted triple play in the minors, a tidbit I learned from Night Owl's previous mailing. Quite a legacy.

Pinnacle, on the other hand, missed a giant opportunity by not making this a horizontal card. Or at least by chopping off the action that is obviously occurring at second base to make room for the herringbone foil. Try as I might, I don't think I'd ever be able to determine who got a cameo appearance on this rookie subset card. But it does hit the Coors Field mini collection nicely.

1996 Fleer Ultra Rising Stars #2 Marty Cordova
Everyone knows Night Owl loves his night cards. Fortunately, it seems he had one to spare. This surprisingly thick Fleer Ultra insert card is of 1995 AL Rookie of the Year Marty Cordova. Now, I like the Minnesota Twins as much as the next guy (as long as that guy isn't Brian), but I wasn't sure why this one was included. Perhaps Night Owl is just spreading the gospel of night cards across the Cardsphere. But upon closer examination, Night Owl's eagle eyes (pun intended, again), spotted a special place at the bottom of this card. Below the backdrop of celestial pinpoints is a young Coors Field as viewed from the center field Rockpile. It's looking toward Downtown Denver's skyline, one that has undergone quite a bit of change in recent years.

This is definitely an insert set I'll be chasing. I already had three cards from this set in my collection, and surprisingly, or rather alarmingly, somehow I never noticed that Coors Field was a key design element. It took a fan of an NL West rival to bring that to my attention.

1996 Sportflix Hit Parade #11 Dante Bichette
And as long as we're on the topic of American Leaguers, we'll wrap up with another 1996 insert card, this one from Pinnacle's 3-D Sportflix brand. Dante Bichette is the primary subject of this card, but there's a lenticular animation of an unidentified Seattle Mariner crushing a ball out toward left-center. The umpire and catcher both appear to stand up to watch the ball sail away, but the catcher seems to be looking in the wrong direction as the ball leaves the bat, and his view is obscured by the Sportflix logo anyway.

Perhaps the technology wasn't quite there yet, but an animated reproduction of one of Bichette's many home runs, such as his memorable 1995 Opening Day game-winner, would have really made this card incredible. With the pace of technological change, it's entirely possible that we'll start seeing highlight reels embedded in cards before too long. There's no reason the Topps Bunt app couldn't do that right now, but in the physical world, a little screen of some kind with a power source on a printed circuit board would make a set unlike any the Hobby has ever seen.

Topps already has us paying a couple hundred bucks a pop for the likes of Museum Collection and Tribute. How much more could it be to get a box with little computerized baseball cards?


  1. I don't mind having Rockies around at least for a little while. They don't breed disease like Giants cards. The timing was just right to add some 2017 cards, which lost their appeal pretty quickly.

  2. I completed the Rising Stars set and have a few extras I could send your way: Garret Anderson, Cliff Floyd, Chipper Jones, and Hideo Nomo. Let me know if you're interested.

    1. That would be great! How can I get in touch with you? I'm not seeing any contact info on your profile page.

    2. My email is TNTCARDSSTG at GMAIL. I probably can scrounge up some more Rockies for you, too.