Sunday, September 9, 2018

Mom's 6-for-6 Day at the Thrift Store

Mom is always on the lookout for cards for my collection. When she's not simply referring to my Eight Men Out list, she's unearthing some gems at a card show. This past spring at my nephew's first birthday party, she presented me with a small envelope of cards obtained at a local thrift store. Surprisingly, even amazingly, each and every one of them is brand-new to my collection. That's not usually a feat even I can pull off. It's never been as bad as getting five copies of the same card at one show, but I inevitably end up with a few I already had.

Not so when Mom is shopping for me.

I had the good fortune to witness Charlie Blackmon go 6-for-6 at the Rockies' Home Opener in 2014, the very first day The Rooftop deck at Coors Field was opened to the public. Mike Trout had a 5-for-5 day yesterday, so let's take a look at what a perfect day at the plate looks like.

1997 Upper Deck #479 Jaime Bluma DD
First up is a subset from 1997 Upper Deck, a Diamond Debuts card of Jaime Bluma. I'd never heard of this reliever before, and it's actually a bit tough to tell which team he's on. The stack of golden diamonds on the right each contain a small "KC" (which scan better than they look), but I never really noticed them while this card was sitting on my side table all summer.

Bluma was a late-season call-up for the Royals in 1996, converting five saves in 17 relief appearances. He held promise, and the card back tells us all about those five saves, but Bluma didn't return to the big leagues in 1997 or any year after. Also on the back is a 1995 Fleer-esque thermal image of the front photo, as well as what ended up being his complete MLB stats.

It's unfortunate when your rookie card is also your sunset card. But those two months in late 1996 must remain unforgettable for Jaime Bluma.

1997 Upper Deck #381a Ruben Rivera CF
Clearly, Mom found a rich vein of 1997 Upper Deck subsets. This gold nugget, with a conspicuous absence of copper, UD's favorite metallic element, documents a key pinch-hit that Ruben Rivera delivered during the 1996 pennant race for the Yankees. His efforts helped them (and his cousin, Mariano Rivera) win their first World Series since 1978, even though he didn't end up on the ALCS or World Series roster.

Rivera did end up playing a World Series game at the old Yankee Stadium in 1998, but he came up on the losing end that year as a member of the San Diego Padres. After that, he wrapped his career up as a Giant, but not before going down in history by executing one of the worst displays of baserunning ever seen. Despite that TOOTBLAN, the Giants still managed to salvage a win in 13 innings, although the very next game would be the final one of Rivera's career.

Quite the contrast to his cousin's Hall of Fame-worthy career.

1997 Upper Deck #280 Greg Norton
More 1997 Upper Deck gives us a subset I was at least familiar with already, the shiny Star Rookies set. As with Bluma's card, there's a small shield in the lower left with the date of Greg Norton's debut with the White Sox, and it's less than two weeks after Bluma's. He earned an interesting distinction in that debut game, becoming just the second-ever Major Leaguer to get his first two hits in the same inning.

Some real star power coming up in the AL Central in August 1996, right?

Pardon my sarcasm, but if I had to pick a least-favorite Rockie of all-time, it would be Greg Norton. He was a nice enough guy, and looking back, his stats aren't that bad, but he didn't start a ton of games, and when they did put him in as a pinch-hitter, he always seemed to strike out at the worst possible times. I do recall a grand slam, which was so uncharacteristic that I still remember Greg Norton once hit a grand slam.

2000 Upper Deck #241 Fred McGriff
That taps out 1997 UD, but there's a bit more of that familiar copper to ease us into the new millennium with their 2000 set. We also get to see a much more familiar player in Fred McGriff, not quite a Hall-of-Famer, but an MVP, World Series champion, and five-time All-Star.

Tampa Bay kept the "Devil Rays" name for so short a time that it's quite strange to see their early cards. By now, they've been the Rays longer than they were the Devil Rays, so it's definitely a case of a team still trying to find their identity. Getting out of Tropicana Field would help, and they do have a proposal for a new stadium, which would open in 2023.

Mom told me she was hesitant to give me this card at first, due to what she called an "unflattering" pose. I told her it was fine; action sports sometimes generate slightly awkward positions. Just a little extra reassurance that I am happy to have this card in my collection, adding to a very small stack of 2000 UD.

1997 Pinnacle X-Press #21 Vinny Castilla
I have an even smaller stack of 1997 Pinnacle X-Press, and now I get to add another Rockie to it, the first one of this post.

No, we're not counting Greg Norton.

Pinnacle didn't have much time left in late 1997, but they were still putting out nice sets. The border of this card is a bit fragile, but I like the design, color coding, and slightly different shade of gold that Pinnacle often used compared to Topps and Upper Deck.

There's a nice action shot on the back of Castilla applying a tag at third base to #4 on the Montreal Expos, who happens to be Mark Grudzielanek. In my constant vigilance for Coors Field cards, the 1997s tend to feature a lot of Expos. I'm not quite sure why, especially because it crosses over lots of card brands. You'll see plenty once I finally manage to complete my Coors Field frankenset.

1995 Ultra #373 Marvin Freeman
The final card is another Rockie, and this is the only one I even thought might be in my collection already. I bought a handful of 1995 Ultra when it was new, or at least some was purchased on my behalf. It was a bit spendy for an 11-year old. But I knew I had most of the Rockies from this set.

For that matter, I opened plenty of 1997 UD, but that's just been Series 1, and the three at the top of the post are all from Series 2. Mom managed to find just the right ones across two different sets. 2000 UD and '97 Pinnacle X-Press were wide open, though.

Rockies jerseys haven't changed much throughout the years, but back in the early days of the franchise, especially when they shared Mile High Stadium with the Denver Broncos, they didn't have the uniform number below the letters on the left side, as they do now. I'm looking right at them on the TV now, although a lefty is on the hill as I write this. If the uniforms looked then like they do now, we would see a "44" near Freeman's gloved hand. Its a bit less informative, but a slightly cleaner look, especially on this properly cropped full-bleed card.

So there you have it. Six brand new cards that I didn't go looking for, without a single duplicate to omit or toss in the extras box.

That's what we call batting a thousand.


  1. Very nice! It's so nice to have supportive parents like that. The 2000 UD set doesn't get much love, but it's pretty great

  2. Moms who buy cards for their kids are super cool!

    1. I second that! (Hoping my mom somehow reads this post and Fuji's comment.)

  3. Finding good cards at a thrift store is definitely a rare thrill.

    1. I saw a '73 Topps in the wild once, but that's pretty much been it other than the usual 1991 Fleer and such.

  4. your Mom is tops! I've picked up a few good boxes from the local S-Army to mix into my trade stacks.