Monday, December 4, 2017

The Trading Post #106: I Need New Hobbies (Part 2: Not as Shiny)

When Scott at I Need New Hobbies reached out to me after a while to do a trade, this was the card that opened negotiations, so to speak.

2017 Topps Gypsy Queen Green #85 Raimel Tapia
Trevor sent me the autographed version of this card early this year, and Scott found this green version for me, always a favorite color around here. Compared to the autographed version, the Rookie Card logo lost its color, while the photo area gained a bit more space. The centering is actually not that great, but it's good enough to show the old-timey border that GQ is so well-known for. And this is one of those situations where I have a few varieties of a card, but lack the base card itself.

I really couldn't put non-shiny cards like these in the same post as some of the beauties from Part 1, opting instead to split this trade into two posts. Not only are they not shiny, some of these aren't even glossy.

2008 Upper Deck Goudey #65 Troy Tulowitzki
Yes, I know that Goudey cards still have the Upper Deck hologram on the back, which looks pretty out of place on actual cardboard. But that's only on the back. The front gives us a retro look, one of the best bat-barrel shots you can find, and a gratuitous picture of Ken Griffey, Jr., which is found on all the National League cards in Goudey that year. Derek Jeter was the equivalent on American League cards, but neither superstar actually seems to have anything to say about these players. The design certainly seems to suggest that we're getting a quote from The Kid about Troy Tulowitzki, but the paragraph on the back is just your run-of-the-mill baseball card caption.

Upper Deck did this concept correctly in a 1993 insert set featuring the thoughts of Reggie Jackson.

1993 Upper Deck Clutch Performers #R1 Roberto Alomar
In addition to a gold foil facsimile signature from Reggie, complete with his uniform number 44, the back has a small black-and-white headshot and the following paragraph about Roberto Alomar:
"Arguably the best player in baseball. He can beat you every possible way. In 1992, Alomar was the best performer in late innings, and at only 25 years old, he is just scratching the surface of a great career."
It might have been edited a bit, but I can believe that Reggie Jackson actually said something to that effect. The Goudey cards are just too normal-sounding, and don't seem to have a style any different between the AL and NL cards.

1998 Ultra #57 Andres Galarraga
I never snagged one myself, but Andres Galarraga is frequently seen signing autographs for adoring fans. 1998 Ultra shows the same, and this time he's actually signing a card. The blue pen he's using evokes the raised foil on the front of this 1998 Ultra card, but I can't quite tell which card he's signing. Presumably, it's a Fleer product. The few times I've seen this, it's always from the same card company. Rey Sanchez' 1994 Topps card comes to mind. I just can't place which of the Big Cat's cards this is. It's from his days as a Rockie, it appears to be a full-bleed card, and it looks like he's about to field a foul ball.

Anyone recognize it?

1998 Sports Illustrated Then and Now #138 Larry Walker
Larry Walker's textbook swing is shown on this horizontal card, co-branded by Fleer and Sports Illustrated. Just look at how he's turning over his wrists. It reminds me of one of the top ten Todd Helton cards I picked. The back has a similar vibe to the Alomar and Tulowitzki cards, as Fleer brought in legends Harmon Killebrew, Lou Brock, and Brooks Robinson to rate members of this set on Power, Speed, and Fielding. I trust that I don't need to specify which is which.

Larry Walker earned five out of five baseballs on Power and Fielding, missing a perfect score only on the Speed rating, where he got four out of five. There were a few Fleer/SI sets in 1998, but this is my first time seeing this one. I'm not entirely clear on the scoring system, though. One baseball means "Fair", but two means "Below Average". I'm not sure which of those two is supposed to be better. It's sort of like today's credit card offerings. The old Platinum, Gold, and Silver are obvious enough, but when you start throwing Diamond, Sapphire, Titanium, etc... in the mix, it's pretty unclear what the ranking is.

2003 SP Authentic #88 Larry Walker
It's hard to believe that SP was ten years old in 2003. Perhaps it's harder to believe that the inaugural 1993 SP set (and the Rockies, for that matter) will be a quarter-century old next year, but that's a different story. But a decade of SP had passed when this was printed, leading Upper Deck to include a little 10th Anniversary logo in the lower right. It's a clean design, just a bit of gold foil, some color coding, a green patch with just a hint of textured lines, and a crisp full-length photo.

One disappointing thing about that 1998 Sports Illustrated set is that it doesn't rate players on contact hitting. Tony Gwynn got some pretty low ratings in that set. And while Walker had much more power than Gwynn, he could still hit for average. Despite the slew of batting titles won by Rockies in their existence, only Larry Walker is a repeat winner, and three times at that. This card tells us that his 1999 mark of .379 "remains a Rockies single-season record", a fact that holds true to this day.

Unfortunately, SP is no longer around to keep tabs on Rockies batting titles, but it's possible MLB will sign up another manufacturer and take Topps' exclusivity away in 2020.

1993 Flair #40 Joe Girardi
The baseball world got to see lots of Joe Girardi in the 2017 Postseason. He led the Yankees as far as Game 7 of the ALCS, but didn't quite get the job done. The Yankees let him go at the end of the season, announcing Aaron Boone as their new manager a few days ago. Boone knows a thing or two about Game 7 of the ALCS. But Girardi did fairly well as a Yankees manager. They won the 2009 World Series with him at the helm, won the Wild Card a few times, and came very close this year.

Of course, he got his start as a catcher, being drafted by the expansion Rockies in 1993. That's shown on this 1993 Flair card, about as premium as it got in 1993. This particular card has a bit more curling than I tend to see from that set, but it looks great in a 9-pocket page.

The gradual transitions you see from one photo to another on 1993 Flair work better on some cards than others. The action shot of Girardi finding a foul pop in the sun is fine, but the top half of the home plate umpire is edited out, leaving us with an awkward set of pant legs topped by a stack of Gatorate cups. It's almost as bad as that infamous Manny Ramirez card.

1994 Upper Deck Electric Diamond #76 Joe Girardi
This Upper Deck Electric Diamond parallel (shiny, but not shiny enough to be in Part 1) again shows Joe Girardi doing his catcherly duties, observing a Cincinnati Red down at the plate. That looks to be second baseman Juan Samuel, judging by that uniform #8. The Reds visited Denver twice during that inaugural season, but I couldn't find anything in the box scores regarding a play at the plate involving these two players.

And that's where it gets interesting.

Girardi missed about half of the 1993 season due to an injury, which coincided with the Reds' first trip to Denver. That leaves the final three home games of the Rockies' season. Again, no plays at the plate, but then I took a closer look. The ball is nowhere to be found, the coach is nonchalantly leaning on the dugout railing, Girardi is still holding his mask (which he would not do if trying to catch a ball incoming from the outfield), and Samuel looks a bit distressed.

Maybe it's a hit by pitch.

I dug a little deeper, and there was indeed such a situation, where Juan Samuel was hit by Armando Reynoso in the top of the 4th inning on September 26th, 1993. That was the only day game of that three-game series, and the final home game of the Rockies season. Which can mean only one thing.

I was at this game!

I don't recall this exact situation, even though I said a few months ago that I remembered this game "like it was yesterday." Memory is not as reliable as we think. But aside from Topps Now or UD Documentary, I finally found a card of a game I attended!

Incidentally, Samuel ended up being the third out anyway, thanks to Armando Reynoso's league-leading pickoff move.

2016 Donruss #114 Dexter Fowler
I'm not quite sure how to top that, so let's move on to the very specific category of "Past Rockies Center Fielders playing for Chicago Teams". First up is Dexter Fowler on an unlicensed Donruss card. There are a lot of red teams out there, but I'll go with this being a divisional game against either the Cardinals or St. Louis or Cincinnati. This would probably look better as a horizontal card, but that's not something Donruss really (ever?) did.

One thing Donruss always used to do was give us the player's full name. That trademark seems to have gone by the wayside, as he's just Dexter Fowler on both front and back, forcing me to head to Wikipedia to learn that his given name is William Dexter Fowler. But I do like that Panini ventured away from referring to the team only by its city, calling the Cubs the "North Siders" in one spot on the back.

1994 Score #431 Ellis Burks
Fowler headed to Chicago after he was a Rockie, but Burks was there before. He was just on the South Side a year before he joined up with Colorado and got his first taste of the National League. Score lauded him as a "tremendously talented athlete who has sizzling speed and graceful moves". He'd probably do pretty well on the Sports Illustrated ranking, likely edging out Walker on the Lou Brock Speed rating.

This is a very 1990s photo. I hardly ever see flip-down shades anymore. Odds are this is being played on astroturf. And there's a nearly life-size elephant pictured on the outfield wall, the logo of the Oakland Athletics, back when team logos from around the league used to dot every stadium. This card is a perfect opportunity to finally learn why the Athletics have anything to do with an elephant, and it goes way back to the early days of the American League. John McGraw, manager of the New York Giants, referred to the newly-created A's as a "White Elephant." Connie Mack proudly adopted it as manager, and it figured into the behind-the-scenes aspect of the 1905 World Series.

And that's why Ellis Burks has a giant elephant on his 1994 Score card.

1994 Topps Gold #468 Dante Bichette
Those Giants would eventually move out West to San Francisco, and their catcher (and future Rockie) Kirt Manwaring got a cameo on Dante Bichette's 1994 Topps card. Of course, this isn't just any Topps card. This happens to be the one-per-pack Topps Gold parallel, a set that was a real hot ticket in my collection as a 10-year old. I still gravitate toward them all these years later. Electric Diamond cards are nice, but these were the ones I chased.

1994 Topps had plenty of horizontal cards, and this one is another good candidate. both Manwaring himself and Bichette's bat are cut off, but we do get a good look at the swing and follow-through. It's the perpetual trade-off of a photographer choosing an aspect ratio.

The card back is horizontal, and it has his complete Major League stats (remember those?). However, I think there might be an error. We're told that his 1993 mark for runs scored was an expansion team record, and that his batting average of .310 (of course) was second-best by a hair-splitting .00007. But I think Topps meant to say third-best. Andres Galarraga had a whopping batting average of .370 that year, so whomever edged out Bichette must be in second place, putting Bichette in third.

1997 Pinnacle X-Press Swing for the Fences #9 Dante Bichette
Contest cards seem to be a thing of the past. These were all the rage in the 1990s as the numerous competing card companies tried to outdo each other. I rarely did anything with them, though I did enter a Score contest once and got a shiny Alex Rodriguez card.

I just saw a card from this set earlier today on The Angels, In Order, featuring Carlos Delgado. Winning the contest itself seemed to be quite a long shot, and an expensive one at that. There was nothing in the fine print about "No Purchase Necessary", so you had to stock up on retail and hobby boxes of Pinnacle to get the proper game cards for entry.

To win, you had to pick each league's Home Run leader, as well as their final number of home runs. It was a sixty-card set, and who knows exactly how many dingers there would be. And with that many contestants, there were some in this set that had no prayer of winning the home run crown. Tim Naehring didn't even get out of the single digits.

The final winners for the 1997 season were Larry Walker and Ken Griffey, Jr, with 49 and 56, respectively. Mark McGwire's card was also deemed a winner, as he split an MLB-leading 58 across both leagues. Bichette had an off year, topping out at 26.

Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I sent something like this off to the listed PO box. Probably nothing, especially since it seems hard enough to get redemptions for current sets. Would it come back as undeliverable? Does the person who now has this PO box see contest entries show up on occasion? It would be a fun experiment, and wouldn't cost more than a few stamps.

2002 Fleer Showcase Legacy #10 Todd Helton /175
Fleer Showcase was midway through its six-year run in 2002, and Todd Helton could be found as the Rockies entrant in pretty much any set. It's a nice design for a framed set, though the nameplate is a bit unreadable. But it does remind you of a fancy frame you might see in an art gallery, complete with a brass plaque.

If you flip this one over, you'll find the words "Legacy Collection", and a serial number to 175 copies. You'll also see that Helton had a .334 average after four full seasons and a late-1997 callup. He was awfully close to 200 doubles, and had just wrapped up that all-important age 27 season.

2003 Fleer Showcase Legacy #20 Todd Helton /150
Helton's equivalent card from the following year is a variation on the same theme. The nameplate is more readable, Helton is taking a swing in Wrigley field, and the Rockies' 10th Anniversary patch is visible on his right sleeve. Check the back and you'll find more of the same. His career batting average dropped just a point, his doubles count was up to 230, he had just won his third of four straight Silver Slugger awards, and Fleer lowered the print run on their Legacy Collection parallels by 25 copies.

Of the two, I'd say I prefer the front of 2003 and the back of 2002. But they're both easily recognizable as the same set, assuming you can differentiate the vast multitude of sets that Fleer was producing during that era.

2015 Stadium Club #261 Jake Odorizzi
Scott was kind enough to throw in a half-dozen cards from 2015 Topps Stadium Club, a set that is always welcome. One that caught my eye is this horizontal card of Rays righty Jake Odorizzi, a guy that I've picked for my Fantasy squad a time or two.

I've developed a good eye for spotting commemorative patches on cards, partly thanks to trading with Brian, who keeps those as a mini-collection. This one on Odorizzi's shoulder caught my attention, because the Rays are far too young a team to be celebrating a 75th anniversary of anything. It took a bit of digging, but that patch was worn league-wide on July 4th, 2014 to honor the 75th Anniversary of Lou Gehrig's retirement speech at Yankee Stadium. This briefly-worn patch escaped my attention at the time, but I clearly remember the ALS-related Ice Bucket Challenge, which went viral right around the same time.

That means we have a second card we can date. However, Odorizzi didn't start on July 4th, but rather in Yankee Stadium on July 2nd. That doesn't line up with the date the rest of the league wore the patch, but the offcial MLB press release on this topic notes that the Yankees commemorated this event a couple days early, while they weren't on the road. It's a scheduling issue that Peter Gammons took issue with on Twitter (with predictable results), but it's captured on this card nonetheless.

2015 Stadium Club Gold #183 Travis Ishikawa
Finally, here's a third that I'm confident in narrowing down to an exact date. Travis Ishikawa bounced around the Majors like a pinball, but ended up on the San Francisco Giants at just the right times to earn World Series rings in 2010 and 2014. That 2014 championship was partially thanks to his walkoff home run in the NLCS against the Cardinals, an Aaron Boone moment from someone who was definitely not a superstar.

I'm pretty sure the final moments of that game are captured on this Gold parallel, as Ishikawa flung his batting helmet to the ground in elation after sending his team to the World Series. Lots of helmet flinging happens in AT&T Park, apparently. I never saw him play as a Giant, despite living in an NL West city, but I did see him play for the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats in 2015, where he hit two homers in a win over the Salt Lake Bees. As best I can recall, his helmet remained on his head.

Stadium Club gives us plenty of awesome photography, that much we know. But if you know what you're looking for, it's easy for a fan to get even more out of the set.

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