Sunday, November 3, 2019

A more local LCS (Part 2: Topps Archives)

Depending on the World Series schedule and duration, November may be one of the dark months without a single game of Major League Baseball. This just happens to be one of those months, as Game 7 of the World Series occurred on Wednesday, October 30th.

2018 Topps Archives #233 Trea Turner
When all was said and done, Trea Turner and his fellow Washington Nationals were World Champions. Turner was involved in a highly controversial interference call in Game 6. His speed carried him up the first base line at a rapid clip, knocking the glove off of first baseman Yuli Gurriel's hand before the bad throw arrived. Just two batters after that, Anthony Rendon, who led off the post a few days ago, crushed a home run into the Crawford Boxes past Houston's left field, giving an ever-so-slight shrug to the umpire as he crossed the plate.

One thing led to another, and Dave Martinez ended up being the only manager in World Series history to be ejected (during the 7th inning stretch, no less) yet still win the game.

This whole situation was partly caused by Trea Turner's speed, which is the subject of one of the cartoons on this card back. In 2018, Topps selected the 1981 set as one of the designs for that year's Archives, and it's a pretty faithful reproduction of the original, right down to the lack of an official Topps logo on the front. The only issue is that the Nats have never worn the curly W on a white-fronted hat like the ballcap has on this card, nor does it match the red cap Turner is wearing in this posed shot.

The card back is about right, other than squeezing the team name into the top banner in a practically microscopic font size. There are even two cartoons, just like the originals, and the second one mentions the time Turner hit for the cycle against the Rockies on April 25th, 2017. That was during a four game series the Nationals played in Denver, winning three. In fact, they scored in the double digits in all three of their wins, raining on the usual April parade the Rockies celebrate. Colorado had just swept the Giants and were in first place. By the time the Nationals left, they were 14-9 and a half-game back.

I distinctly remember the TV announcers referring to the Nationals and that series as a "buzzsaw".

2018 Topps Archives #69 Gary Carter
That and all the Topps Archives cards in this post came out of a discount box at Colorado Sports Cards. Part 1 showed the goodies that CSC stocked for themselves, and parts 2 and 3 will show cards from the consignment boxes they have set up in the center of the store. Upon checkout, the owner mentioned the particular boxes I thumbed through were set up by Adam, one of my favorite dealers at the local card shows.

1959 Topps was another design selected for 2018 Archives, which we've seen before, courtesy of Julie. I picked plenty more of these out of the discount box. Due to Washington's championship, I thought it fitting to feature a card from the previous iteration of their franchise, the 1994 World Series Champions Montreal Expos.

Specifically, I picked the late Gary Carter, pictured here as a smiling Expo. He was the first player to enter Cooperstown with the Expos on his plaque. He played with a few NL teams during his career, but he started off in Montreal, spent a decade there, and played his sunset season back north of the border in 1992.

2018 Topps Archives #143 Carson Fulmer
1977 Topps was the third set design used in 2018 Archives. I don't know the original set that well, and I haven't really seen it since those Antique Mall Mystery Packs from several years ago. It does contain a cartoon, and this one tells us that Lefty Grove (correctly depicted as a southpaw) once won 20 straight decisions at Fenway. Most likely, that was when he was a member of the Red Sox rather than during his earlier days with the Philadelphia Athletics. He was the AL MVP in 1931, and there are a whole lot of bold numbers on his Baseball Reference page.

I don't have anything in particular to say about Carson Fulmer, nor can I see any particular connection he has to Lefty Grove. Fulmer's not even a lefty. But this photograph caught my eye. At first glance, it looks like Fulmer is standing in front of a distant, snowy mountain. I have a pretty good idea what those look like, since I can see them by looking west from anywhere in Denver. A closer look reveals it to just be some wintry tree branches.

I was further confused by the orange dots in the lower right. I'm assuming that's an orange tree, so this might be a Spring Training shot. The thing is, the White Sox play their Spring Training games in Arizona, not Florida. We certainly associate citrus fruits more with Florida than Arizona. Heck, it's even in the name, "Grapefruit League". But further research shows that Arizona has quite a citrus industry all its own.

I'm just more used to seeing cacti on the Cactus League cards.

2016 Topps Archives #169 Jorge Soler
It's been a while since I've seen 2016 Archives. I bought a pack when it was still in stores, but it's been rather dry ever since. Compared to other Archives sets in this discount box alone, it was pretty scarce. I only found this one Jorge Soler card which used the 1979 design.

Finding so many Archives cards not long after opening those thrift store bags gives me a rare opportunity to examine these older sets back to back. And the 1979 set looks great here, right down to the retro Topps logo. I'm not nearly familiar enough with these sets to get picky about color combinations or font sizes, but I do notice some slight differences when newer sets are picked for Archives.

Jorge Soler, who is now on the Royals, somewhat quietly led the AL in home runs in 2019, with 48. I'm sure the highlights were there; he just seemed to fly under the radar this year. In any case, back then he was a Cub, preparing to break the longest curse in pro sports, and honoring Ernie Banks with a #14 memorial patch.

2012 Topps Archives #160 Prince Fielder
I didn't realize Soler was a home run leader, but at least I knew which team he was on. But for Prince Fielder, unless you're a Rangers fan, his departure from the big leagues seemed not to really register. I've had several people ask me what happened to him, and when I looked him up, I was surprised to see he hadn't played since 2016. He signed a massive free agent contract with the Tigers in 2012, was traded to the Rangers after the 2013 season, and "retired" in 2016 following a career-ending neck surgery.

The Rangers had to keep him on the 40-man roster through 2017 while they got an arrangement worked out with an insurer for the rest of his contract. That contract was supposed to run through 2020, and Prince was quite upset when it became clear he wouldn't be able to finish it.

But in 2012, when Topps Archives became what we know today, they featured the big slugger on the 1984 design, all ready to go in his new Tigers uniform. I'm sure that most fans, and especially the Tigers, expected Prince Fielder's career to at least keep pace with the annual releases of Topps Archives.

2012 Topps Archives #92 Jordan Walden
I found a few other 2012 Archives in these boxes, the most eye-catching of which was the black-bordered 1971 design. It's reprinted on occasion, and not just in Archives. Even the originals have been showing up here since the early days of this blog.

I'm sure this card will hold up better than real '71s, but this one is already showing some signs of wear on the right edge. Black borders are as fragile as they are beautiful.

Topps probably expected Jordan Walden to be more of a star during his career than he ended up being. The 2011 season, which this card focuses on, was by far his best. He earned 32 saves for the Angels, got some Rookie of the Year votes, and even an All-Star appearance. The Angels traded him away for Tommy Hanson, who ended up being one of many Angels players to pass away long before their time.

Walden last played for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2015 but never returned to his former glory, nor did he earn more than a handful saves here and there.

2015 Topps Archives #75 George Brett
As you can see, I found lots of assorted years of Topps Archives, but the main one was 2015 Archives. That year, Topps expanded the set to 330 cards (including SPs), while reducing the number of reprinted set designs from four to three. 1957 was one of those sets, and the original is one of several 1950s issues that are entirely absent from my collection. Those early years of Topps are pretty spotty. I thought I had the Elmer Valo card, but I guess I've just seen it across the Cardsphere so many times that it's embedded itself in my memory.

Consequently, I don't have much to say on the design, other than it's quite sparse. It was groundbreaking at the time, being the first set to use a color photograph, as well as giving us the standard 2.5" x 3.5" dimensions we know today.

George Brett has a bit of a goofy look in this photograph, posing with a completed swing. It's a strange shot regardless of his expression. I never hit lefty like Brett, but the way the bat is positioned relative to his body just looks a little off to me.

Another thing that irks me a bit is that Topps omitted five years of Brett's statistics, ending in 1988. He played for the Royals through 1993, and even earned a batting title in 1990.

2015 Topps Archives #214 Orlando Cepeda
There's nothing wrong with posed shots, and I realize that action shots were few and far between for a long time in the hobby. They were so rare as to be worthy of a subset in 1972. Maybe it's just because I grew up in the era of action shots, but when posed shots are visibly wrong relative to the background, it bugs me a little. It's not even that Orlando Cepeda isn't displaying the usual stretch we see from a first baseman. It's just that when we look where he's standing in Wrigley Field, he'd be taking this throw from Row 17 behind the dugout. He's not even playing catch along the foul line.

I like seeing Wrigley Field on cards, and this is probably my first of Cepeda. It just sort of breaks the illusion that this is what he looks like in the field when you realize that a real throw like this would hit him square in the back.

The same issue dings Cepeda's card as happened with George Brett's. The final few seasons of Cepeda's career are gone, stopping in 1970. He played through 1974, and this clearly carries across designs, since we're on 1983 Topps now.

At least his 1967 MVP season is on here, the same year he won his only World Series ring with the Cardinals.

2015 Topps Archives #219 Kurt Suzuki
And after Wednesday's game, Kurt Suzuki can now count himself in the rare company of players who have won a World Series ring. The entire World Series roster of the Nationals all put themselves on that list for the first time, by the way. Even journeyman Fernando Rodney hadn't found himself on a championship team before.

I bet Kurt Suzuki is even happier now than he looks in that inset photo in the lower left as a Twin. He even hit a home run off the great Justin Verlander in Game 2, his first postseason home run, and the first World Series home run hit by a Hawaiian-born player.

2015 Topps Archives '90 Topps #1 Draft Picks #90DPIMS Max Scherzer
In what must be an agonizing statistic for Detroit Tigers fans, following the 2019 World Series, every member of the 2014 Tigers rotation has now won a World Series. Just not with the Tigers. Verlander did in 2017, David Price and Rick Porcello did last year, and Aníbal Sánchez and Max Scherzer got their rings last week.

Max Scherzer was a first-round draft pick in 2006, and Topps put him in a 1990-themed insert set with a little #1 Draft Pick logo up in the corner, just like Frank Thomas's rookie card. First-round picks aren't always successful, but sometimes they're unbelievably dominant. There were a few insert sets designed in the 1990 Topps style, and joining the heterochromatic Scherzer in that set are Buster Posey, Kolten Wong, Jay Bruce, and Mike Trout.

2015 Topps Archives '90 Topps All Star Rookies #90ASIMT Michael Taylor
Topps reused the 1990 design again in a slightly different insert set, this time replacing the #1 Draft Pick logo with the Topps Rookie Cup. There are far fewer big names in this set, so I was able to pull quite a few out of the discount box. Michael A. Taylor, who includes his middle initial that was omitted from this card, is the center fielder who made a great diving grab to help his team advance past the NLDS round.

Yes, I know this is a Nationals-heavy post. They just won the World Series!

2015 Topps Archives #151 David Wright
Like Prince Fielder, David Wright is another player whose career was cut short by health problems. 2015, the year of this card, marked the only time Wright made it to the World Series, and they lost in five games to the Kansas City Royals. Interestingly, half the World Series this decade went the full seven games.

1976 Topps is the third and final design used in the main set of 2015 Topps Archives, and I'd put this one down as my favorite of the three. That Sparky Lyle card already buttered me up a bit, and the positional variation of the design element in the lower left only gets better with age.

2015 Topps Archives #104 Kolten Wong
Speaking of Kolten Wong, he just won his first career Gold Glove. DJ LeMahieu shifting over to the American League opened that door a bit, but Wong earned every bit of it. You can tell from the little player icon in the lower left. Second basemen in this set got this awesome depiction of turning a double play. The shortstop icon is nearly as great, which shows a stolen base attempt.

By the way, Wong played in the 2013 World Series, quite an experience for a rookie with little more than a late-season call-up under his belt. He went 1-for-1, but since it was not a home run, he left the door open for Kurt Suzuki to get that Hawaiian-born player record.

2015 Topps Archives #134 Duke Snider
Archives always has a great mix of current players and retired legends. I don't think Topps expected David Wright to switch groups so suddenly, but either way, Duke Snider is a great player to share the 1976 design with. The outfielder icon in 1976 might not be as exciting as some of the others, but we get a Brooklyn Dodgers cap in the photo to make up for it.

Snider has the same sort of odd-looking posed lefty swing as George Brett. Maybe it's that a real swing doesn't normally end up that high behind your head. And unlike Brett, there's no indication of twisting the torso. I can't quite put my finger on it. It almost reminds me of that pantomime grand slam that Michael Morse "hit", one of the great moments in pre-Championship Nationals history.

2015 Topps Archives #172 Corey Dickerson
It's been a few posts since I showed an actual Rockies card. That's uncharacteristic of me, I know. Many of the recent sets I've shown predated the Rockies, and a set focusing on retired stars doesn't really leave a whole lot of room for Rockies greats. In fact, the team is still waiting to send a delegate to Cooperstown. Vinny Castilla appeared in this set as a short print, but that's a whole different story.

Corey Dickerson isn't even a Rockie anymore anyway, but rest assured, there are plenty of Rockies cards yet to come in future posts. But not in part 3. That will be shorter than this marathon post, and will have the non-Archives goodies I pulled from this great discount box.


  1. I was super happy for Nats fans... and Kurt Suzuki. Although I was scratching my head about his visit to the White House ;)