Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Pinnacle of Affordable Group Breaks (Part 2: Phillies)

The teams I got in Colbey's Pinnacle group break were basically a preview of this past weekend's series at 20th and Blake. Part 1 contained the hosting Rockies, and Part 2 will be the visiting Phillies, who dropped three out of four to Colorado, allowing the Rockies to climb out of last place.

Of course, all the names since 1995 have changed, but they should be pretty familiar to anyone who followed the Phillies and their playoff-caliber team in the early 1990s.

1995 Score Summit #34 Lenny Dykstra
Lenny Dykstra was one of the key members of that Phillies era, covering center field and putting together a near-MVP season in 1993. He retired rather early, at 34, so this 1995 card is one of the later ones of his career, which spanned from 1985 to 1996. He got his start with the Mets, but post-career (and even during), he has been in and out of lots of legal trouble.

Fraud, embezzlement, and much worse than that notwithstanding, he did get a solid horizontal card in 1995 Score Summit, showing a full extension and some allegedly steroid-enhanced muscles.

1995 Sportflix #133 Gregg Jefferies
I got cards from all three of the boxes Colbey opened, so there won't be any new designs to see until a bonus card at the very end. Still, this Sportflix card is different than most. Rather than containing two action shots, this lenticular card of Gregg Jefferies alternates between a headshot and the Phillies team logo.

The switch-hitter was reunited with Dykstra, his old Mets teammate, after signing as a free agent with the Phillies in the 1994 offseason. That shows one way the game has been changing in recent years. There's been plenty of talk about a slow free-agent market; in fact Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel are still watching the 2019 season unfold from the comfort of their homes. But back in 1994, even during the dark days of the strike, there were free agent signings happening during the Hot Stove season.

1995 Sportflix #27 Darren Daulton
Darren Daulton was another famous member of that 1990s Phillies squad, serving as their longtime backstop. His talent was rewarded with half of an entire insert set in 1994 Fleer Ultra, splitting the checklist with John Kruk.

Like Dykstra, Daulton was nearing the end of his career at this point too. He almost spent his whole career as a Phillie, but was traded to the Marlins for his final 52 games. Sadly, he passed away in 2017 at the young age of 55.

His Sportflix card is a lot more representative of the brand, as Pinnacle found a pair of action shots. They actually did an awesome job with photo selection, showing Daulton in very similar lunge positions, one wearing his catcher's gear and another as a batter. It's really a shame this brand didn't last, because these lenticular cards are mesmerizing. On the back, Pinnacle did their best to sweep the strike under the rug, telling us that "he missed the last six weeks of the '94 season with a broken clavicle". It's not wrong, but really he missed the last twelve-plus weeks of the '94 season, the second part of that for obvious, non-injury reasons.

1995 Zenith #96 Rusty Greer
For Zenith, there was a Texas Rangers stowaway in the Phillies team bag. It's an easy mistake to make, as the Rangers' colors around that time contained barely any blue. And like the Phillies, their road uniforms didn't have pinstripes. Rusty Greer was the player who managed to sneak in, a left fielder who spent his whole career with the Rangers. He wasn't a power hitter like Dante Bichette, and didn't manage to hit any opposite-field home runs in his rookie 1994 season.

Even though he was a rookie, Pinnacle chose to give his card the normal gold brick design, deciding that his 80 games of experience no longer warranted inclusion in the Rookie subset.

1995 Zenith #68 Lenny Dykstra
Len(ny) Dykstra makes another appearance in Zenith, this time with the only Phillies home uniform of the post. He was much more of a contact hitter, only hitting five homers in a "full" 1994 season. There was no way the Phillies would have made another run at defending the NL Pennant if the season was completed, but there will always be question marks. Who knows, maybe he'd have gone "oppo taco" given the rest of August and all of September.

I find it unusual that Pinnacle decided to be a bit more formal with Dykstra's first name on this card. I don't remember announcers of the day calling him Len, and anyway, Lenny seems to fit someone better whose nickname was "Nails".

1987 Topps #684 Kent Tekulve
Colbey was nice enough to throw in a couple bonus cards to close out the break. Kent Tekulve seems to have something of a cult following in this community, so here's one of his cards. Like most players in this post, his career was nearing its end, as he retired in 1989 with the Reds. The reliever's career overlapped with the emergence of the closer role, and he put up a pair of 31-save seasons in the late 1970s. He never had the name recognition of a Rollie Fingers or Dennis Eckersley, but he was a reliever through and through. In 1,050 appearances, he never once started a game.

I always look forward to these inexpensive breaks, especially when they include sets from my early collecting career. I get to add Blake Street Bombers to my binders quite regularly, but seeing a stack of cards of players who appeared in the first World Series I ever watched is a rare treat.

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