Thursday, May 25, 2017

Diez de Mayo

No one has thrown a no-hitter at Coors Field since Hideo Nomo did it in 1996. There's only been the one in the stadium's 23-season history. There have been a few close ones, though. Most recently was German Marquez taking one into the 7th inning against the Cubs earlier this month. The Rockies ended up with a shutout against the defending World Champions, but the Cubs did manage to scratch out three hits.

This occasion marked my first purchase of a 2017 Topps Now card, which I believe is my first one of Marquez. The pitcher was a more minor piece of the Corey Dickerson trade, where the Rockies and Rays swapped players, with the Rockies also getting Jake McGee for the outfielder. Dickerson has been a solid piece of Tampa Bay's outfield this year, and Marquez has a 3-2 record so far in the 2017 season.

2017 Topps Now #132 German Marquez /378
It's a Coors Field card, yes, it marks yet another series the first-place Rockies won, and it shows off the new extra-purple Rockies jerseys. But I wasn't at this game, and a near no-hitter isn't exactly Hall of Fame material.

So why did I order this Topps Now card?

Well, May 10th, 2017 happens to be the day that my nephew was born. Little baby Levi came into the world at 6 lbs, 3 oz on a rainy Wednesday, just about equaling the weight of nineteen baseballs. He's already the proud owner of an official Colorado Rockies pacifier, so I'm doing my part to instill fandom early.

The print run was only 378 cards, and it documents the excellent pitching feat as well as the Rockies hot start to the 2017 season, which is still going strong almost into June. As many other bloggers have observed, the reverse of the card has a rainbow finish, the only set I can remember that has a special finish on the back but not the front. The packaging has been upgraded quite a bit from the 2016 cards, as well.

May 10th has always been an important date in my family. The day would have been my grandfather's 97th birthday, as well as my parents' 37th wedding anniversary. It feels extra-special for that date to suddenly be cause for celebration again.

Even if the Rockies gave up three hits that day.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Trading Post #98: Bump and Run Football Card Blog

Before the season started, the illustrious Night Owl sent an insert card from 1996 Fleer Ultra's Rising Stars set. Despite having a few in my collection already, it had somehow escaped my attention that Coors Field was the featured stadium throughout the set.

Fortunately, Trevor from Bump and Run Football Card Blog was watching out for me, offering a few more cards and getting me about halfway to completing the 10-card set. I still need to get a return package out to Trevor, but I figured today would be a good day for a post, since I'm attending my first baseball game of 2017 tonight.

1996 Fleer Ultra Rising Stars #8 Hideo Nomo
The Dodgers are in town this weekend, so who better to kick off this post than Hideo Nomo, the then-Dodger who pitched the first, and so far only no-hitter in Coors Field history. That happened to occur in 1996, the exact year of this card. I was not present for that game, but this card is a coincidental memento of that event, sort of an accidental Topps Now card.

The photo of "The Tornado", so called because of his windup, even appears to be from 1996, according to the commemorative patch on his left sleeve. That patch is for the team's 35th Anniversary of playing in Dodger Stadium, where they started in 1962. Of course, the Dodgers famously moved to the West Coast for the 1959 season, forcing them to play in Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for a few seasons until their shiny new park could be built, which is now the third-oldest stadium in the Majors.

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, while woefully inadequate as a properly-sized baseball park, is getting lots of renewed interest as L.A. bids for the 2024 Summer Olympics, a city that is sure to reuse the iconic stadium that was opened in 1923 if they are selected over Paris, the only remaining candidate. Several other cities have withdrawn their candidacy in response to financial pressures and voter objections, reminding us of the tremendous costs of hosting such an event.

And they're not just financial costs. As we saw in Rio, there are plenty of societal costs, especially for those living on the land where the facilities will be built. And concerns about the environmental impact are partly what led Denver to turn down the 1976 Winter Olympics, the only city ever to do so.

1996 Fleer Ultra Rising Stars Gold Medallion #4 Cliff Floyd
That fact is something that Montreal knows better than most. Olympic Stadium, where the Montreal Expos played between 1977 through their departure after the 2004 season, was plagued with cost overruns and structural problems throughout their tenure. The stadium was built for the 1976 Summer Olympics, but wasn't fully paid off until 2006. Now the city doesn't even have an MLB team to show for it, thanks to a variety of reasons.

Cliff Floyd never became the star he was expected to be, only getting one All-Star selection throughout his 17-year journeyman career. But he was a good candidate for this insert set, and Trevor not only sent the base card, but also the Gold Medallion Edition parallel, which you see here. This parallel just gets a tiny bit of extra silver foil around the logo, quite a bit different from Gold Medallion parallels found in the main set.

1996 Fleer Ultra Gold Medallion #459 Eric Davis
Maybe Fleer used so much gold foil printing those up that they had none left over for a little 10-card insert set. But I'm a little surprised they didn't even emboss Floyd's card, as they did with other insert sets in the 1996 Ultra set.

I'll give your eyes a minute to recover before we move on.

1996 Ultra Rising Stars #6 Chipper Jones
There are several players found in this set that could be part of the mythical "Hall of the Very Good", like Jim Edmonds, Ryan Klesko, Nomo, and maybe Manny Ramirez. But Chipper Jones is the only one of the ten that's a sure-fire bet to be voted in to the real Hall when he's eligible next year. As the card mentions, he was runner-up for 1995 NL Rookie of the Year, losing out to set-mate Hideo Nomo, the fourth of five straight Dodgers to win the award. But Chipper, whose stellar career ended with a frustrating loss in the first-ever NL Wild Card game, did indeed become a future MVP candidate as this card predicted, even winning it in 1999.

Jones' career mostly overlapped with the Braves' residence at Turner Field, one of the key venues built for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Of course, the Braves moved to the new SunTrust Park for 2017, making Turner Field one of the shortest-lived MLB ballparks in recent memory.

Like many Braves of the era, Jones (or C. Jones, when Andruw was his teammate) was a thorn in the Rockies' side, and many fans in the Rockpile, the center-field bleacher section where this Coors Field photo was taken, got a distant view of him at the plate. I only saw Chipper in person once, on April 28th, 2007. Jones went 1-4 with 2 RBIs and a walk that day, behind a strong pitching performance by John Smoltz.

I remember having awesome seats for that game, right behind the visitors' dugout, so close you could hear the Velcro rip when players removed their batting gloves. That game also happened less than 24 hours before Troy Tulowitzki turned an incredibly rare feat, an unassisted triple play, one that Chipper himself lined into while hitting from the left side.

2014 Topps Green #117 Anibal Sanchez / Bartolo Colon / Hisashi Iwakuma LL
That about does it for the Rising Stars cards, but Trevor wasn't done there. I mentioned that I like green cards, so he found a couple for that preference of mine. This league leader card from 2014 Topps is obviously one of the green-bordered parallels, a shade that clashes slightly with Bartolo Colon's Athletics jersey. Anibal Sanchez took the top spot that year with an ERA mark of 2.57, a player who threw a no-hitter in 2006 that couldn't have come at a worse time for my fantasy baseball championship run. Hishashi Iwakuma rounds out the top three, while ex-Rockie Ubaldo Jimenez squeaked his way into the top-10 as a Cleveland Indian.

Three photos is a lot to squeeze onto a card to begin with, but somehow the green border makes it feel more crowded. It makes me appreciate the single-photo League Leader cards that Topps is using this year.

1994 Stadium Club Team #116 Willie Blair
The green theme carries on with this one of pitcher Willie Blair, and it's from an infrequently-seen team set that Stadium Club put out in the early 1990s. As in 1993, only a handful of teams were represented in this set, and while I do run across the Rockies from time to time in the Denver area, finding other teams is surprisingly difficult. In case your chosen team appears in this set, keep an eye out for First Day Issue parallels. At the end of the day, this is still Stadium Club.

2006 Fleer Ultra #147 Matt Holliday
Fleer and their family of brands found themselves under the ownership of Upper Deck in 2006. They wouldn't have much longer to go, but they did put out this Fleer Ultra set, keeping the full-bleed design going for a little while longer. A simple band of silver foil with a little upside-down crown on it gives us the player, position, and team, along with a redundant but more stylish printing of the player's last name above that.

Holliday is hitting in Wrigley Field here, as we can see Cubs catcher Michael Barrett behind the plate and wearing a hockey-style mask. You can even barely make out the bear logo on the top of his helmet. I wasn't that up-to-date on my decade-ago Cubs catchers, so I had to break out the magnifying glass for this one. In that same area, we can see that Holliday, uniform #5, is using a bat labeled #19. This was way before Charlie Blackmon, so that bat belongs to Ryan Spilborghs, currently part of the Rockies' on-air TV broadcast crew.

2017 Topps Gypsy Queen Autographs #GQA-RT Raimel Tapia (AU)
The "hit" of this trade package is an on-card autograph of Raimel Tapia, one of the Rockies' top prospects. In fact, Tapia was just called back up to the Majors yesterday, so he might even play a bit tonight. Trevor put this one in an Ultra-Pro penny sleeve, easily the highest-quality sleeve I've ever seen. It's thick, almost like that sealed Mickey Mantle card that Topps put in their 1996 Factory Sets, if you ever ran across one of those. But more than that, it even has a little Ultra-Pro hologram on the back in the lower left corner. I might have to pick up a few of these for my higher-end cards.

I wasn't really aware that 2017 Gypsy Queen was even out yet, as it's not something I tend to seek out until it hits the discount boxes. But it's a nice card for the autograph collection, and I hope it will become a conversation piece if Tapia lives up to his potential.

I'm awarding extra bonus points to this card for its obvious location inside Coors Field, with a great, if a bit blurry, shot of the manually-operated out-of-town scoreboard in right field. It's blurry, but I think there's just enough information on the Giants/Cubs matchup we see under Tapia's right arm to date this card to September 4th, 2016. Those white numbers on the right side of the scoreboard signify the current pitcher's uniform number. 47 on the Giants facing 41 on the Cubs translates to Cueto facing Lackey, in Chicago.

Tapia got on base a few times that day, and advanced to third twice when DJ LeMahieu was at the plate, once in the first after being picked off but advancing to third on the pitcher's throwing error, and again in the 5th when DJ hit a long fly ball. Hard to say which of those two scenarios this is, but I'm leaning toward the 5th inning, since it seems like Tapia has slightly less a sense of urgency than if he had just escaped being thrown out.

2012 Absolute #44 Demaryius Thomas
With Trevor running primarily a football card blog, it should come as no surprise that a few Broncos made it into the envelope. Demaryius Thomas, one of the Broncos star wide receivers, looks like he just made a catch while playing against the Minnesota Vikings. Panini was resurrecting Donruss brands way back in 2012, using the Absolute set for this card, along with a little inspiration from Upper Deck thanks to the copper foil.

I never played football as a kid, but I've watched enough to know that the way DT is holding the ball out in midair like that is just asking for a fumble, especially since it looks like he's about to block an incoming Viking on his right.

Football cards are significantly easier to date than baseball cards. You know the year the card was printed, you can usually make a good guess as to whether it's a home or away game based on the jersey, and as long as there's some indication of who the opponent is, that's pretty much all you need.

This photo was taken on December 4th, 2011, as the Broncos were visiting the Vikings. Thomas had 4 catches for 144 yards, on the way to a 35-32 win. The Broncos won it with a field goal as time expired, which was pretty typical of the way the Broncos won games in the Tim Tebow days.

2016 Prestige Xtra Points Green #63 Von Miller
This is a road game, as the Broncos typically wear the all-white uniforms away from Denver. I can't determine the opponent, but that's okay, as the shiny green foil more than makes up for a bit of ambiguity. The front of the card also has a rainbow finish, and the rest of the background behind Miller fades into the darkness a little bit.

Miller, the Broncos' star outside linebacker, has been racking up sacks for several seasons, amassing 73.5 since beginning his career in 2011. No Bronco has ever been on the cover of a Madden video game, but Miller was briefly the "cover athlete" for the iOS/Android mobile version of the game. Whether he was on the splash screen or the icon, I don't know. But that alone sets him apart as a Bronco. He's sure to become a Ring of Famer when all is said and done, and his MVP award earned during Super Bowl 50 is only a small part of that.

So that catches me up on trade packages, but I still have plenty of birthday gifts and card show purchases still waiting their turn. Thanks again to Trevor, and here's hoping the Rockies keep up the great season so we're not waiting for the Broncos by the time August rolls around.