Sunday, February 9, 2020

The Trading Post #140: Nachos Grande

One nice thing about being perpetually behind is that I never have to go fishing for post ideas. It's pretty unlikely that you'll ever see me publish something titled, "Top nineteen cards showing the Pirate Parrot".

Here are two, in case that's what you're here for.

But seriously, the incoming stacks of cards are starting to multiply, as my fellow Cardsphere citizens are keeping my mailbox full. Those are the blogging priority, because I'm extremely thankful for all the carefully selected shipments put together by fellow traders like Nachos Grande. That blaster of 2018 Big League will be in a holding pattern for quote some time to come.

Mom gets to skip ahead, though. Hope you understand.

And what's that you say? 2020 Topps Series 1 is already out? Get in line, I guess.

1999 UD Choice Yard Work #Y12 Vinny Castilla
Nachos Grande's "Season of Giving" has happened before. It took me until early February to get the posts up that time too. He's appeared on The Trading Post theme numerous times, and that doesn't even count all the group breaks he's run. In short, he can take credit for a sizable chunk of my recent collection, and it shows no sign of slowing down.

One of the more eye-catching cards in this stack was a copper foil insert from the final year of Collector's Choice, known in 1999 as UD Choice. Just like a shiny little penny, complete with raised "Yardwork" lettering on the right. It's part of a 30-card insert set, and Castilla is one of two power-hitting Rockies to appear in this colorful homer-focused set.

Specifically, this card describes how Vinny Castilla began his 1998 campaign with a bang, smashing two homers in the brand new Bank One Ballpark on Opening Day, spoiling the inaugural game of the Arizona Diamondbacks. I've seen Pacific chronicle that first-ever D-Backs series elsewhere, mentioning Pedro Astacio's first win of 1998 on his Pacific Online card.

The error that Upper Deck made on this card comes toward the end of the paragraph on the back. After the newspaper-style blurb about the game, they go on to include a "Prologue" about how Castilla would finish his 1998 season with 46 home runs, a career high that he never eclipsed. Todd Helton later bumped Castilla's 1998 season down to fourth all-time in franchise history, but the problem is that UD should have called that an "Epilogue", not a "Prologue".

Card backs are so much fun. One of these days I'll dive into early-90s Score sets and read those novellas.

2005 UD All-Star Classics Midsummer Classics #11 Todd Helton
Here's a less-coppery Upper Deck card showing a youthful-looking Todd Helton. The good stuff here is on the back, where we learn that despite all those Blake Street Bomber power hitters, despite the 1998 All-Star Game actually being held at Coors Field, despite the rule that every team must have at least one All-Star representative, no Rockie homered in an All-Star Game until 2003. Blackmon and Story have both done so in the past couple years alone, but Helton set that Rockies first on the South Side of Chicago.

This insert from Upper Deck's 2005 All-Star Classics also mentions that now-defunct rule that the winning league would get home field advantage in the World Series. It was implemented in 2003 following that disastrous tie in Milwaukee in 2002. The TV networks laid it on thick with "This time it counts" promos, but the American League usually ended up with the win, and the rule was finally rescinded in 2017.

Just in time for the Astros to come along.

But that's a different story.

2009 Topps Ticket to Stardom #136 Todd Helton
It's been a few years since we've seen Topps Ticket to Stardom in these parts, not to be confused with the more violently-named Rocket to Stardom, a late-90s Ultra insert.

The card back highlights Helton's evening on June 10th, 2008, where he went 3-for-4 with a three-run home run. He was sporting a goatee later in his career, so I'm guessing this photo is from much earlier than 2008.

It would appear that Topps grouped teams by card number in this set, as Helton's card is just one before the Troy Tulowitzki card I received years ago, but a closer look at the checklist shows that it's as random as ever. Fleer got pretty weird in their later years, but I loved how they set up their checklists alphabetically by team.

1997 Metal Universe #75 Kevin Ritz
Speaking of weird Fleer (and rockets, I suppose), how about some twin-barreled robotic laser cannons on Kevin Ritz's 1997 Metal Universe baseball card?

Somehow, that's a valid sentence.

And yes, that's what's on this card. Nothing in the whole hobby scans worse than Metal Universe.

As weird as you think 1996 Metal Universe might be, trust me, 1997 is weirder still. Part of me wants to complete it just for the sheer insanity of it. Artist Clayton Chambers is credited with the artwork, mentioned on a card back that would fit perfectly in a late-90s video game menu screen.

There's a perfectly reasonable explanation for all this, in that Fleer was once a subsidiary of Marvel Enterprises, long before their parent company started cranking out billion-dollar box office blockbusters under the Disney umbrella. There are plenty of Marvel Metal cards out there that look a lot like this, just without any sort of baseball tie-in. Blending baseball and comics isn't the craziest idea to ever come out of a boardroom, but they just don't fit together. I've been through enough mergers in Corporate America to recognize this as a collectible manifestation of "our cultures are really similar!"

1999 Fleer Tradition #528 John Thomson
Even after over six years of writing this blog, somehow there are still Rockies making their Infield Fly Rule debut. And it's not like John Thomson was a one-and-done guy. He spent all or part of five seasons with the Rockies. He didn't have a great time as a Rockie; in fact his 1999 record was an abysmal 1-10. He did turn things around a bit elsewhere in the Majors later on.

Players with cameras is a fun mini-collection topic, but this is just the second one to appear on the blog. I'm guessing Thomson wasn't slated to start this game in Dodger Stadium. He's hanging out with the photographers and looking through a surprisingly beat-up telephoto lens that's likely worth more than my first car (and maybe even my second). He just has his warm up jacket on, and it looks like it's late afternoon with the California sun casting long shadows on the seats and the foul pole in right field. It doesn't look like game day for this starter to me.

1999 Pacific #152 Jeff Reed
Think of this: 1997 Metal Universe is so crazy that a Pacific card isn't the craziest card in the post. Instead, this is really a nice, normal design, with a fantastic horizontal shot of catcher Jeff Reed in full extension, not to mention the Coors Field home dugout in the background. Pacific even kept it simple with silver foil. None of that red, green, or copper foil you'd find from them on occasion.

There are lots of specific game performances mentioned on card backs in this post, and this one is no different. Jeff Reed came on as a pinch hitter on July 27th, 1998 (back when I still got summer vacations), and ended up with a walkoff double in the 13th inning. Todd Helton got on base to start the 13th, and Reed came through with two outs to send fans home happy.

1999 Pacific #148 Darryl Kile
Incidentally, one of those two outs in the bottom of the 13th came from pitcher Darryl Kile, who pinch hit for Curtis Leskanic, worked a 3-1 count, and popped out to the catcher. Reed was on deck at the time and settled the matter a few pitches later.

It was one of those kinds of games.

In case you were wondering, that's not the game Pacific chose to profile for Darryl Kile's card. They went with September 20th, 1998, in which he pitched 10 shutout innings on 102 pitches in San Diego.

10 shutout innings; how's that for a lack of run support? Kile would have had a "Maddux" if the Rockies did anything at the plate that day before the 11th inning.

In that 11th, Larry Walker pinch-hit for Kile and singled in the game's only run. Dave Veres got the save, and Kile picked up a well-earned win, his last of the 1998 season, and good enough to earn a spot on a Pacific card.

2000 Pacific Crown Collection #96 Larry Walker TC
Pacific didn't have much baseball life left in 2000. They put a single set out in 2001 and decided to focus on other ventures. But 2000 offered some good Pacific sets, including the primarily Spanish-language Crown Collection. If you're wondering whether this card back thought highly enough of Walker's clutch hit back in 1998 that saved Darryl Kile's shutout, sorry to disappoint. In fact, this card is a team checklist, or rather a listado de jugadores del equipo, helpfully checking in card #96 for us.

I thought I'd point out the CHS memorial patch on this card, which the Rockies wore for most of the 1999 season following the events at Columbine High School.

2000 Topps Own the Game #OTG13 Larry Walker
This Own The Game insert card looked incredibly familiar, but what we have is ever-so-slightly different from a card Night Owl sent a few years ago. That one focused on Walker's batting average, but this one, showing Walker in a home uniform, looks at his slugging percentage instead. Now that I have a couple cards from 2000 Topps Own The Game, I can see that it's basically a league-leader set. And since Walker led the Majors in both average and slugging in 1999, he got two cards in this 30-card set, as did other players like Mark McGwire, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and more.

Walker's slugging percentage was a whopping .710 in 1999, and .567 for his career to that point. That stat dipped ever so slightly by the time he retired, finishing at .565. That's currently 12th all-time, and still ahead of Hank Aaron, whom Walker was compared to on the card back.

Now that he's a Hall-of-Famer, you'll probably be seeing a bit more of Larry Walker on the blog. 

1999 Topps #438 Matt Belisle / Matt Roney (RC)
We'll get back to Hall-of-Famers before this post is over, but not before a quick detour to draft picks.

A pair of Matts appear on this 1999 dual-player card, Matt Belisle and Matt Roney. Though he's pictured as a Brave, Belisle is actually the only one of this pair to ever play for the Rockies. He was a Rockie from 2009-2014 and finished an even 32-32 in relief appearances before entering journeyman status. He pitched as recently as 2018.

Roney, on the other hand, accumulated a 1-10 record over two seasons, mainly with the historically bad 2003 Detroit Tigers, who went 43-119, the worst mark in the MLB since the 1962 Mets. Even recent Tiger and Oriole teams haven't been that bad.

At first, I thought one of the Matts here was Matt Holliday, whose Rookie Card also appeared in this set.

1999 Topps #442 Matt Holliday / Jeff Winchester (RC)
That's actually this one, a few card numbers away in the same subset. Holliday's career lasted about as long as Belisle's, retiring as a Rockie after the 2018 season. I guess I got to see his final game, which was Game 3 of the 2018 NLDS against the Brewers, in which the Rockies were swept. I crunched the numbers, and Matt Holliday has appeared in five-eighths of all Rockies Postseason games (fifteen out of twenty-four).

Rockies Postseason appearances are truly once in a blue moon, aren't they? Two dozen playoff games in club history, and just ten at home. Blue Moon wheat ale, born at the Sandlot Brewery in Coors Field, has a name that ended up being a little too appropriate.

Holliday's cardmate, the only non-Matt in this pair of cards, is Jeff Winchester, a catcher who never progressed past Double-A.

2007 Bowman Heritage Prospects #BHP15 Greg Reynolds
As long as we're doing Infield Fly Rule debuts, how about pitcher Greg Reynolds? I've mentioned him a time or two, but this is his first card here. He had a forgettable Major League career, finishing with a 6-11 record and a -1.5 WAR. Mostly, he's famous in Denver for being selected second overall by the Rockies in the 2006 draft, ahead of players like Evan Longoria, Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum, and Max Scherzer.

It's a good retro card, at least. You don't see actual cardboard often anymore.

2018 Donruss #106 Kyle Freeland
Of course, the Greg Reynolds story is just one data point. They've drafted some greats, like Helton, Tulowitzki, Arenado, Blackmon, Holliday, and Story, to name a few. It remains to be seen how Kyle Freeland's career will shape up, but he's another highlight of the Rockies draft history. He grew up a Rockies fan, and came darn close to pitching a no-hitter a couple years ago.

Every so often, Bowman cards pan out. Turns out I was sent a Bowman Chrome Prospects card of Freeland way back in 2015. He's progressed well enough to get a card in 2018 Donruss, an obvious Coors Field card that shows the raised outfield wall in front of the bullpens, with a bright Comfort Dental billboard just beyond.

That section of Coors Field has been a rotating stream of Denver-area businesses over the years, and watching old highlight reels brings back memories of defunct brands that used to do well enough to advertise in a ballpark. Airtouch Cellular, for example, has been showing up on a lot of Larry Walker highlights recently, and that brand has since evolved into Verizon Wireless. US West was another, one of the Baby Bells that is now part of Centurylink.

These phone companies are something else with their mergers and acquisitions. Which is how you end up with bipedal robot battle tanks on baseball cards.

That about does it for the Rockies, but there were a handful of unopened packs thrown in, which are always a joy to open whether you've completed the set or not.

1989 Topps #269 Tom Bolton
1989 Topps was one of the first sets I completed, and by "completed", I mean I bought a hand-collated set at the local card shop when I was a kid for under $10. I should have known then that this would not be a successful retirement strategy. I even kept a sealed pack of 1992 Stadium Club squirreled away for a time until my curiosity got the better of me.

I don't really know much about Tom Bolton. Topps lost interest in him after he was traded in 1992, but Upper Deck kept him in their sets until his retirement in 1994. What really caught my eye on this card is the Ferris wheel in the background. It's one of the last vestiges of random card backgrounds, sort of like that legendary Luis Alvarado parking lot card in 1973 Topps.

And it says more than a little bit about the circus that's been following the Red Sox this offseason, beginning with Alex Cora's connection to the Astros cheating scandal and his subsequent departure from the Red Sox managerial position. And let's not forget the Mookie Betts trade that's been in question for several days, and the media frenzy surrounding it.

1990 Donruss Bonus MVPs #BC-26 Alan Trammell
I've had 1990 Donruss on my Completed Sets list for a really long time. Not quite as long as 1989 Topps, but I definitely obtained it during my first foray into the baseball card hobby as a kid. However, these one-per-team MVP bonus cards have proven surprisingly elusive.

Alan Trammell got the nod for the Tigers that year, and is the final card in the 26-card insert set. It's hard to imagine a 26-team league, especially when it seems like we'll see a 32-team league shortly. Anyway, Trammell, now a Hall-of-Famer, spent his entire career with the Tigers, and is currently part of their front office. A friend of mine who grew up a Tigers fan ran into him at a sports bar outside Coors Field when Trammell was a coach with the Diamondbacks. My friend felt that nagging sense of familiarity, but only realized after the fact who he had been talking to.

There are enough incomplete insert sets in my collection that I'll open packs of anything, and I'm still likely to find something worthwhile. I have a feeling that I'll catch up on my blog posts before I complete 1988 Donruss, unless I just buy the set outright.

2010 Upper Deck #516 Aaron Hill
The final unopened pack Nachos Grande threw in for me was 2010 Upper Deck. I have around five or six pages worth of this set, so I'm likely to find a slew of new cards even in one single pack. This Aaron Hill card is one of them. It shows Hill when he was with the Blue Jays, er, Toronto, and had just led the league with a mind-boggling 682 at bats in 2009, earning a small splash of red text on the largely empty card back.

There's also a small splash of red on the front, that "TED" patch on his sleeve. That was a memorial patch for Ted Rogers, the owner of the Blue Jays who passed away in 2008. That's the same Rogers family that founded the Canadian telecom Rogers Communications, for which the Jays' home park of Rogers Centre is named.

Below that is an official Blue Jays logo that got Upper Deck in a massive amount of legal trouble.

I consistently can't do a Nachos Grande shipment justice without writing 3,000 words. And I didn't even show you Jamey Wright's Metal Universe card with tiny Death Stars floating all over the place.

OK, here.

1997 Metal Universe #78 Jamey Wright
Thanks for reading!


  1. Glad you liked the cards, the Season of Giving packages are fun to put together!

  2. I really like the look of the Topps Own the Game insert of Larry Walker. Whenever I see them laying in dime boxes, I'll usually grab them.

  3. A ferris wheel is definitely one of the best background sights on a card!