Monday, November 6, 2017

Blog bat-around: Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon

The last time I took part in a theme suggested by Collecting Cutch, I went through most of my Todd Helton cards in one late-night marathon. Collecting Cutch recently threw a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon gauntlet out to the Cardsphere, and figured I'd whip up a quick one-card post.

If you're somehow unfamiliar, the game is to think of an actor, any actor, and try to connect him or her to Kevin Bacon in six steps or less. Tom Hanks, for example, has a "Bacon Number" of 1, as they appeared together in Apollo 13. Jeff Goldblum's Bacon Number is 2, as you have to connect them via Steve Martin. Goldblum did a voice in The Prince of Egypt, which also starred Steve Martin, who was in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (adding the Oxford comma on my own) with Kevin Bacon.

So which ballplayers can we connect to Kevin Bacon? A few have appeared in various Hollywood productions, such as Mark Grace and Don Mattingly, two early entrants in the theme. I can think of a few that are good candidates, but the one that immediately springs to mind is Bernard Gilkey.

1995 Score #485 Bernard Gilkey
Thanks to this theme, you've now seen 1995 Score and Bernard Gilkey today, probably not what neither you nor I expected when you woke up.

Yes, though he was a New York Met at the time, outfielder Bernard Gilkey appeared in 1997's summer hit Men in Black. He was the unfortunate outfielder who was mesmerized by the sight of a UFO passing over Shea Stadium, letting a fly ball smack him right on the head. I can't find a clip of the exact scene, but he's right there in the credits as "Baseball Player".

Coincidentally, Gilkey led the National League in sacrifice flies that year.

I remember him as a Cardinal, coming up in the second half of the overproduction era. He was a decent base stealer, and apparently has a Bobby Bonilla-like arrangement with the Arizona Diamondbacks. I did see him play at least once; he was the leadoff hitter for the Cards in the first game I attended at Coors Field in August 1995. His buddy Jose Oquendo took over at second base later in that game, who he's seen high-fiving here. It's one of those cameo cards where you're not quite sure whose card it is. It's flanked by 1995 Score's distinctive green dot pattern on a sort of sand background, maybe slightly inspiring what we saw in 2015 Topps.

So how does he connect to Kevin Bacon? You might be interested to know that, like movie star Jeff Goldblum, Gilkey's Bacon Number is also just two. Linda Fiorentino, the female lead in Men in Black, had a role in 1991's Queens Logic with Kevin Bacon.

Pretty much any Hollywood actor you've heard of has a Bacon Number of two or less. Perhaps unsurprisingly, mathematicians have a similar concept in their field called the Erdős Number, representing how far removed various scientists are from being published with a particular prolific mathematician. Naturally, you can combine that with the Bacon Number to get the Erdős–Bacon number, on which you can find a few genius actresses like Natalie Portman and Danica McKellar.

There's a surprising level of interconnection in social networks, and I'd wager that the average American citizen could be connected to Kevin Bacon in the requisite six steps. Perhaps not as a movie star, but at least along the paths of their acquaintances.

Me? I'm a 4. I met Niles Southern at a restaurant in Boulder some years ago, the son of Terry Southern, who co-wrote Dr. Strangelove. Southern and astronaut Jim Lovell both had cameos in a mid-'70s sci-fi flick called The Man Who Fell To Earth. Lovell, who was on the real Apollo 13, had a brief cameo in its namesake 1995 film, and we've already established that Kevin Bacon appeared in that.

So now you're all a 5.


Thursday, November 2, 2017

It's all over NOW

Now that we're a few days into November, the annual (except 1994, of course) World Series has drawn to a close. And what an amazing series it was! The Houston Astros had luck on their side this year, winning Games 2 and 5 in extra innings, doing so in absolute nail-biter fashion. Dodgers fans are no doubt heartbroken, as this series could very easily have gone the other way. Just a handful of different outcomes in a few key spots may have led to an entirely different champion this year.

It might have been the most evenly-matched World Series I've ever seen, with two championship-worthy teams slugging it out over seven games like a pair of heavyweight boxers. If a split decision existed in baseball, this would no doubt have been one. The Dodgers and Astros even managed to score 34 runs each throughout the series. If that's not an even matchup, I don't know what is.

2017 Topps Now #678 Colorado Rockies Clinch NL Wild Card /345
And as much as I love my Rockies, I don't think they could have held up against teams like this even if they had won the Wild Card game. Playoff baseball is a different animal, and while I fully believe Bud Black would have managed as best he could, I don't think the Rockies had all the pieces in place to stay standing in the ring this long.

I've been doing kickboxing for the past several months. Sorry for all the boxing metaphors.

On the penultimate day of the regular season, the Brewers lost to the Cardinals, ensuring the Rockies would occupy the second NL Wild Card spot. I used that opportunity to buy my third and final Topps Now card of 2017, commemorating the Rockies' celebration of making the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

That would be as far as they'd get. I didn't buy a card for the Wild Card game itself; as we all know, these things run $10 a pop, and that adds up. This could have gotten pricey if the Rockies made it further. Not to mention the $100 pair of NLDS tickets I had lined up for Game 3.

On the card, Nolan Arenado is front and center, with teammates Charlie Blackmon and Gerardo Parra also visible. Unfortunately, the Rockies would end up losing the final two games of the season to the Dodgers, and it has to be a little strange popping champagne in the clubhouse on the same day you lose. But Nolan doesn't seem to mind, nor did anyone in Denver.

And even though the Rockies dug too big a hole too early, each league's Wild Card game set the stage for an unpredictable and thrilling postseason.

Unpredictable, that is, unless you're Sports Illustrated.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Trading Post #104: Dime Boxes (Part 2: Random Goodies)

Last time I posted, the League Championship Series were just getting underway. Today, the World Series started, featuring an old NL West matchup between the Astros and Dodgers. It's shaping up to be an interesting series already, as the temperature at gametime was 103°F. That's a scorcher, and much, much warmer than Game 3 of the 2007 World Series, where it was so cold the vendors were selling hot chocolate in the aisles of Coors Field.

My Rockies are long since out of it, and I'm not sure how far they would have made it even if they won the Wild Card game. But I have plenty of cards to write about, such as the team bag of "Random Goodies" that Dime Box Nick included in a recent trade. Unlike the long part 1 post, there are no Rockies to be found in this one, but it's a quintessential Nick trade package.

2017 Donruss #173b Daniel Murphy SP ("Murph" Black and White)
As luck would have it, I commented first on one of his frankenset posts, voting for a Wilson Alvarez card, who was a member of the White Sox in 1993, the first Postseason I ever watched. Or at least the first one I remember watching. That comment earned me a "little something special", starting off with a short print from 2017 Donruss featuring Daniel Murphy. The runner-up for the NL batting title in two straight years is referred to by his nickname "Murph" in a classic Donruss script font.

That nickname reminds me more of Matthew McConaughey's daughter in Interstellar, but I don't regularly listen to Nationals broadcasts, so maybe they really do call him that. Still, it doesn't quite have the same ring as "The Duke of Flatbush" or "Charlie Hustle", players who also got a short-printed variation in 2017 Donruss.

2015 Topps Update Chrome #US377 Taijuan Walker
Like Daniel Murphy, Taijuan Walker exited the postseason in the NLDS, of course earlier than he intended. The former Mariner had a disastrous outing in Game 1 of the NLDS, giving up four runs in the first inning. He got through the first, if you can call it that, but the bullpen took over to start the second inning, and the Diamondbacks didn't muster much of an offense against the Dodgers.

I've been hearing hype about Taijuan Walker for a long time, even picking him for my fantasy team a few years ago. He does have a .500 winning percentage in his five seasons, but I think he's past the "Future Stars" stage of his career. Star or not, I'll add a sparkly card like this from Topps Chrome any day of the week. It's not even a parallel; all the Chrome Update cards that year looked like this. And judging by the cold reception that 2017 Update has received, Topps might want to do something similar to jazz up the set.

Or put Chris Taylor in the set. The guy did just hit Dallas Keuchel's first World Series pitch for a long home run in Dodger Stadium.

2017 Stadium Club Black Foil #18 Fernando Rodney
This Stadium Club card tears at me in two directions. It is a Stadium Club card, and it's a black parallel, which goes quite well with the Diamondbacks uniform colors. But on the other hand, it's no secret that I'm not a big fan of the D-Backs, and Fernando Rodney might be my least-favorite player in all of baseball. There's never a dull moment when he's on the mound, which is fine when you're a Rockies fan, but it's nerve wracking to watch. And this sideways thing he and Pedro Strop do with their caps makes me cringe a bit.

2016 Topps Amazing Milestones #AM-05 Nolan Ryan
Despite his long and storied career, Nolan Ryan played in just nine postseason games. Some of those were in 1969, when he won the World Series with the Miracle Mets, but he never won another Postseason series. He has ties to the Astros organization right now, but he suffered some hard luck when he was CEO of the Rangers franchise earlier this decade.

Of course, he's well known for his eye-popping total of 5,714 strikeouts, which is the subject of this Amazing Milestones insert card. It's a staggering number, but I won't necessarily call it unbreakable. Randy Johnson fell short by close to a thousand when he retired, but the way strikeouts are piling up more and more in today's game, it's not inconceivable that someone might beat that. On the other hand, Rickey Henderson's stolen base record is probably safe, and coincidentally, Rickey was Nolan's 5,000th strikeout victim in 1989, as this card tells us.

2016 Topps Pink #237 Carlos Ruiz /50
The smoke effect of 2016 Topps is replaced by a pattern of small hexagons and "2016 Topps" lettering on colored parallels, just like you might have seen in Opening Day. When it's pink, that means it's pretty rare, and if you flip this foilboard card over, you'll see a silver serial number to just 50 copies! This one is rare enough that I'll probably put it in a toploader rather than a binder.

Horizontal cards are always welcome, and I particularly like that we're staring directly down the barrel of a TV camera in the background. And it's always a bonus when the parallel color matches the team colors reasonably well. The shades are rarely exactly perfect, but close enough, I say.

1991 Stadium Club #388 Jeff Bagwell (RC)
A very young-looking Jeff Bagwell was a highlight of 1991's inaugural Stadium Club set, marking the year when Topps starting taking their upstart competition seriously. Full bleed, gold foil, a colorful back. Put yourself in your 1991 shoes and remember how amazing (and expensive) this card once was. It was cutting edge, and let's not forget that we're looking at 1991's NL Rookie of the Year, back when the Astros were still in the NL West. Or in the National League at all, for that matter.

The Hall of Famer wasn't always a big-leaguer. Once upon a time, even future MVPs had to take practice next to the metal bleachers behind the school. 1991 wasn't that long ago, and while Heritage still gives us images like this, it's hard to picture a current flagship card showing us such humble beginnings. Let's be honest, this doesn't look too different from our Little League team photos, does it?

2016 Topps Archives Bull Durham #BD-T Tony / Tom Silardi
Nick finds oddballs better than just about anyone. I realize this is an official Topps insert set from Archives, but it's just whimsical enough to qualify as an oddball in my book. Topps accurately used the 1988 design for their Bull Durham insert set, starring none other than Kevin Costner, the king of baseball movies. The '88 film has plenty of memorable scenes, including the rainout scene, where Tony, the subject of this card, wants a day off in the middle of a dry spell. Crash Davis sabotages the sprinkler system, and minor league antics ensure.

There's already been a Major League insert set, and with the number of baseball movies out there, Topps could milk this idea for years to come. You can bet that I'd chase a Terence Mann card from Field of Dreams. Or maybe a Danny Hemmerling card from Angels in the Outfield, featuring a young Adrien Brody.

2017 Topps MLB Network #MLBN-10 Dan Plesac
So I guess the question before us is this: can Topps make an oddball? They're the only licensed brand left, and they're practically synonymous with the hobby, at least from a postwar standpoint. But this is the second guy in a suit and tie to make it onto the blog this month, and both have been Topps cards. Most of my Dan Plesac cards show him in a Brewers uniform, where he's the career leader for Milwaukee in ERA, saves, and a few other categories. But now he's part of the MLB Network crew, with a card that somehow looks less like a TV graphic than some recent Topps sets.

The photo is rather fuzzy, just like Tony's card from Bull Durham. Topps might be using some inferior screen captures for these cards, and it's conspicuous considering how sharp Topps Bunt cards look to my eye. So yes, even though they're the juggernaut of the industry, my vote is that there can be oddball Topps cards.

Discuss.

2006 Greats of the Game Nickname Greats Autographs #NG-JM John Montefusco The Count (AU)
It's been all Topps so far, but Fleer got in on the action, too. Here's a beautiful autograph from Giants pitcher John Montefusco, a player I must admit I'd never heard of. "The Count" was 1975's NL Rookie of the Year, but had somehow escaped my baseball knowledge until now. I forget where, but I just saw another card from this set on another blog recently, and judging by today's nicknames, I doubt we'll see a set like this anytime soon featuring current players. As much as Donruss insists, I just don't see "Murph" showing up on a sticker autograph.

Bonus points to this card for giving us just a tiny bit of gold foil on the back, in the form of a Fleer logo.

1994 Upper Deck All-Time Heroes #179 Don Baylor
There's an error on this card. It's not that Don Baylor is pictured with a Rockies hat, as he was managing the young club when this card was printed. It's not a flipped negative or anything like that. The error can be unearthed in the paragraph on the back, where Baylor is said to have been hit by 244 pitches in his career. That number happens to be incorrect.

It's just one of those statistics etched into the baseball area of my brain, but Don Baylor was hit by 267 pitches. This was mentioned rather frequently in early Rockies TV broadcasts, and is rather difficult to forget once you hear it. I also remember when Craig Biggio took over this record, and these guys must have nerves of steel. My career HBP in little league was about two. Once on the helmet, once on the elbow. That was about enough for me. And I was not facing Major League pitching. I imagine that would look something like an old Western, where a single shotgun blast sends a bad guy tumbling backwards through a wooden wall and into a trough.

1980 Kellogg's #56 Don Baylor
That familiar-looking UD card highlights Baylor's MVP 1979 season. Kellogg's gave him a card in their 1980 set, and the fragile plastic has only picked up a single crack in over 35 years. No Angel had won the MVP award before Baylor, and only Vladimir Guerrero and of course Mike Trout have picked up the award since. The back has the old California Angels logo, which is just the outline of California with "Angels" written vertically down the state, a little halo up at the Oregon coastal border, and a tiny star right in Anaheim.

Kellogg's was giving us middle names of players before Donruss was around to educate us, and I'm glad to have a couple new cards of Donald Edward Baylor, who passed away just a few months ago.

1964 Beatles Black and White #145 John, Paul, George, Ringo
Further to my point that Topps can make oddballs, Nick found a card of The Fab Four from 1964, the year The Beatles became a worldwide sensation. Nick is a huge Beatles fan, so I'm not surprised that he sent me something like this. The back is plain, containing little more than the card number and copyright date, and this particular example has a bit of adhesive tape residue on both sides, and a little conveniently-located paper loss on the front.

Not to mention a facsimile signature of John Lennon.

I'm sure a rock-and-roll buff could pinpoint this photograph quite accurately, the way we baseball nuts can find out which game George Brett's sunset card is from. I'm not that expert, but I'm happy to add a card from the most influential rock band in history to my collection.

1969 Topps #285 Don Mincher
Many of my Seattle Pilots cards are really hastily rebranded Brewers cards. And the others probably came from Nick. I have a half page worth of 1970 cards, but the expansion draft took place in late 1968. That gave Topps enough time to get an actual Pilots team set together for the 1969 set, but not with new jerseys. Rockies and Marlins collectors in 1993 ran into that a lot. Don Mincher (another player I'd never heard of) is an airbrushed California Angel, selected in the 1968 draft just a few years after the Angels themselves came into existence.

That led me to wonder how the Rockies and Marlins fared in the 1997 Expansion Draft to stock the newly-created Diamondbacks and Devil Rays, and it turns out that two of the first four picks came from the Marlins and Rockies. Tony Saunders was taken first overall from Florida, then the Rockies lost Quinton McCracken in fourth. Both teams had playoff appearances under their belt by then, and the Marlins were fresh off a World Series championship.

I wasn't really collecting in 1998, nor did I have much geographic proximity to either of the new teams, but I remember the card industry being a lot more focused on the Rockies and Marlins than on the Diamondbacks and Devil Rays.

Of course, I obviously wasn't collecting in 1969, either. Although I did find it interesting to see that the Padres, Expos, Pilots, and Royals all had to stay in their respective leagues for the '68 draft, and Mincher went second overall on the AL side of things.

And it was a much safer draft than some other drafts that took place in the late 1960s, if you get my meaning.

1962 Topps #133 Felipe Alou
I'll never know why a past owner of this 1962 Topps card decided to mark it with a large "W" in ballpoint pen, but it's a prominent feature. Felipe Alou would later go on to manage the team he used to play for, as well as one of those '68 expansion teams, and also presided over one of the worst baserunning blunders in baseball history.

I notice that these older sets were more likely to talk about a player's minor league performance. This was Alou's fifth Major League season, but the card back mentions his 1958 Pacific Coast League season, and his cartoon calls out his league-leading.380 batting average from his time in the Class-D Florida State League in 1956. .380 is great and all, but wasn't there anything he did on the 1958-1961 Giants besides have a brother on the same team?

Even Mickey Mantle's 1962 card was not immune. Despite Mantle winning six World Series rings by then, numerous consecutive All-Star appearances, a Triple Crown (which the paragraph at least mentions), and leading the league in pretty much everything for a decade, the cartoon could do no better than to feature Mantle's .383 average in the Western Association with Class-C Joplin in 1950.

Suddenly some design gripes here and there on modern cards don't seem so bad.

By the way, I also checked Al Kaline's 1962 card. Kaline never played in the Minors, according to the back, so Topps had no choice but to make the cartoon about his 10 All-Star appearances.

Regardless of any, um, customization that was done to this card, and despite some less-than-relevant statistics, it's my favorite vintage Topps set ever. I'll forgive a lot for a woodgrain design, apparently.

You never know where these vintage cards will take you. I hadn't even heard of two of these guys before. As well as you think you know this sport, or this hobby, there's always more to learn. And Nick is a great guide.


Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Trading Post #103: Dime Boxes (Part 1: Rockies)

Nick sent me cards again. Buckle up.

As you can see by the title, this one's another two-parter. Maybe I'm losing my edge when it comes to editing myself, but I'd rather chalk it up to all the amazing denizens of the Cardsphere sending piles and piles of amazing cardboard my way. And anyone that trades with Nick from Dime Boxes knows that he basically represents you by proxy at all the card shows and flea markets he attends. And that includes The National, which is where a lot of these came from, according to his handwritten note.

Honestly, sometimes I wonder if he does a better job at finding cards for my own collection than I do.

2017 Topps Five Tool #5T-29 Trevor Story
Lots of bloggers have been writing about the new Topps Fire product this week. I'll probably wait for that to hit the discount boxes, but this insert from 2017 Topps seems like it would fit right in. It's one of the busiest designs I can recall, with five action shots (take that, 1993 Flair!) against a background that looks like an illustration of the big bang.

1995 Fleer would be proud.

Story, and forty-nine other players in this insert set, is billed as a five-tool player, a well-rounded individual with power, contact, speed, fielding, and an arm. The selected photos seem to represent those five tools well, and the back mentions his amazing 10-homer start in his first month in the Big Leagues. He only stole eight bases in 2016, so in a lot of eras, that would be considered rather weak, but in this ever-changing game, swiping eight bags in a season out of thirteen tries is, well, decent. It's a very different game from when Rickey Henderson and Vince Coleman were lighting up the basepaths on a regular basis.

Just due to how the game has changed, Rickey Henderson's career stolen base record of 1,406 might prove to be as unbreakable as Cy Young's 511 wins and 749 complete games.

1998 Circa Thunder #295 Darryl Kile
We move from the big bang into the Dr. Who wormhole, where the late Darryl Kile is preparing to field a comebacker. I was very much out of the collecting scene in 1998, and have never paid much attention to the budget-priced Skybox brands. 1998 was right around when I discovered the soon-to-be-defunct AOL Instant Messenger (and consequently, girls), so chasing wacky sets like this was just not on my radar.

The blue scribbles on the right somehow detract from the overall design, but I do like the bold foil of Kile's last name in the upper left. This card gives me a grand total of three from this set in my entire collection. I managed to break the mesmerizing spell of the card front and flip it over, finding a bar graph of Kile's ERA throughout his career. There were some alarming spikes in the mid-1990s during his career in Houston, but that was nothing compared to what this newly-acquired Rockie would endure for his two seasons in Denver. The annual data points before he took the mound in a pre-humidor Coors Field look a lot better than if this card were printed in 2000.

1993 Fun Pack #175 Jerald Clark
This is a familiar photograph of outfielder Jerald Clark climbing the wall at Mile High Stadium, a slightly different angle of the play found on his 1994 Pinnacle card. Instead of a full-bleed shot, UD put the kid-friendly Fun Pack frame around it. It's a distinctive set, yes, but I opened packs of this as a kid, making it one of the longest-tenured sets in my collection.

Of course a set like this will have a cartoon on the back, along with a trivia question. The Q&A tells us that Clark's first career grand slam came on September 7th, 1992, off of none other than current Rockies manager Bud Black. The cartoon features Clark facing a field full of very Roald Dahl-esque ogres, clearly meant to represent the Giants.

Black is still in baseball, managing a young team to the postseason, but thanks to Bo's 1993 Studio series, I recently learned that Jerald Clark is now a realtor in the San Diego area, the city where he began his career.

1995 Pinnacle #54 Ellis Burks
Pinnacle managed to snap a very similar shot of Ellis Burks for their 1995 set, even including the ball in the frame, though I'm not sure Burks' leap had the height to snag it. It's clearly in a different stadium than Mile High, one with that infernal Astroturf stuff. And if you look very, very closely, you can even see the right hand of the left fielder running over to assist.

It's not easy to spot that among all the gold foil and the giant Cubs logo. Depending on how well the card is cut, it might not be visible at all.

2017 Topps Bunt Blue #132 Carlos Gonzalez
We'll cool things down a bit with a blue parallel from Topps Bunt, the regular version of which I got in a recent group break.

Not much else to say about this card, but I can see why the Rockies wanted to change their shade of purple. The blue tint makes CarGo's jersey look like it used to a few years ago, when the team's uniforms were a bit more bluish than they are now. Mainly the card is here to act like a stick of wintermint gum to offset the crazy colors and designs we just saw.

2017 Topps '87 Topps #87-122 Raimel Tapia
It's hard to believe we're 30 years removed from the famous 1987 Topps set. I've seen a card from this anniversary set before, but that one was from the All-Star subset. Raimel Tapia has yet to play in the Midsummer Classic, so he just gets the base card treatment. Unlike some other sets, the Rockies colors and logo fit quite well into the classic design. It's quite pleasing to see the "CR" logo and a nice shade of purple with the 1987 woodgrain design, unlike, say, watching Topps try to awkwardly squeeze "Diamondbacks" into the bottom banner of 1989 Topps.

The silver foil seal and Rookie Card logo notwithstanding, it's a familiar reuse of the design, right down to the greenish-yellow cardboard backs. Topps even continued the "On This Date" theme on the back, giving us actual events from 1987. Tapia's card references Greg Swindell's 15-strikeout complete game on May 10th, exactly thirty years before the birth of my nephew.

It's a coincidentally personal use of the 30th Anniversary seal, although it does remind me that fans of recent expansion clubs have largely been left out when it comes to the recent Topps Buyback sets. I've never seen one in person from any team, and fans like me, Daniel, Tim, and the mythical Marlins blogger might feel a bit abandoned by this buyback craze.

2017 Topps Archives #107 Carlos Gonzalez
1982 Topps also accepts the Rockies colors quite well, even if just a few fans in the seats behind the screen are there to see it. 2017 Archives did a very nice job, and I appreciate that Topps made the older sets actually feel like cardboard instead of the odd half-glossy feel they used to have.

Like Tapia's card above, the back is properly green and cardboard-y, and points out that Cargo hit several milestones in the 2016 season. He got to 200 homers, 200 doubles, 1,000 hits, and 2,000 total bases, all in the same year. If he sticks around Colorado he has a chance to challenge a career player like Todd Helton on the team leaderboards.

Except for doubles. Helton's keeping that one for a long time.

2016 Stadium Club #164 DJ LeMahieu
DJ LeMahieu and Todd Helton are tied with one batting title each, two of a gaggle of Rockies that have brought that award home, including Charlie Blackmon this year.

It used to be that Wrigley was the only park with brick behind the plate. Quite a few stadiums now do, or at least a faux brick, making it harder to pinpoint the stadium than it used to be. Even Minute Maid park in Houston, one of the two ALCS sites this year, has brick underneath the screen. However, theirs is done in a perfect grid rather than the usual overlap, which might be aesthetically pleasing but is structurally, well, deficient.

2017 Stadium Club Sepia #194 Andres Galarraga
The Stadium Club fun continues, this time with a lonely-looking Andres Galarraga on one of 2017's Sepia parallels. If you didn't know which position he played, you might think he was in the middle of a perfect game bid.

But he was not a pitcher, as we all know. He was a great slugger, and arguably the first real Rockies fan favorite. He was, after all, the first Rockie to appear in the All-Star Game. You could get him with a low-and-away slider with ease, but when he connected, "echoes of this slugger's hits can still be heard amid the Rocky Mountains". A wonderful bit of hyperbole from Topps, and one that plays to the embellished remnants of the Wild West you can still find in Denver.

2016 Topps Walmart Holiday Snowflake #HMW181 Nolan Arenado
October in Colorado usually means one thing. The first snow of the season. Sometimes it's a little earlier, occasionally (and more commonly, in recent years) it's later. But Monday brought a few inches to the Denver area. A lot of the trees weren't ready for it, and a lot of branches met a gruesome end. The tree out by the mailbox building collapsed entirely. It reminds you why deciduous trees are a bit less common here than evergreens, at least when not artificially planted.

Fitting, then, that one of last year's Holiday Snowflake cards made its way to me. The last time I saw one of these, I couldn't help but tie it into the crazy weather patterns we see in Colorado. And all that snow I mentioned earlier, which would have caused scheduling issues if the NLDS had taken place in Denver? It pretty much all melted days ago.

I appreciate when bloggers send me these Wal-Mart exclusives. It keeps me from having to enter one, but I'm still on the hunt for a Marketside pizza card.

Nolan Arenado looked just a bit more fallible playing third base this year, but there's still a chance he'll earn his fifth straight Gold Glove. We'll probably find out when one of the next snowstorms hits.

1996 Fleer #366 Curt Leskanic
Bruce Ruffin held onto the closer role in 1996, going against Fleer's prediction that it might be taken over by Curt Leskanic. Curt appeared in a league-leading 76 games during the strike-shortened 1995 season, and he had an ERA befitting a Rockies pitcher of the time.

All that can be found on the back of this matte-finish card, which Fleer became known for during the two years following the infamous 1995 set. One thing I noticed is that they actually gave us fractions for the number of innings pitched, as in "130 ⅓", as opposed to the "130.1" that Topps and most others use. On the decimal side of that number, that's a base-three counting system, a real-world look into math that's a bit more advanced.

I would have found math class infinitely more interesting if it were centered around baseball. One of the few moments I remember from 9th grade algebra is when we used some basic trigonometry to determine if the pitcher's mound is in the exact center of a baseball diamond (it's not). I did finally start grasping math pretty well in 12th grade, but there were some tough years in middle school.

"If two pitchers earn a decision in 25 games a season, and one wins 33% more games than the other, what will their final records be?

Tell me that's not a better way to teach math.

1998 Pacific Online #237 Pedro Astacio
Just a couple posts after Pedro Astacio made his first appearance on this blog, here's his second, this time from Pacific Online, perhaps the most cult-classic set of the late 1990s. You might be happy to know that bigleaguers.com now redirects to the current MLBPA site, but I can't find individual player pages.

The card back mentions Pedro's first start of 1998, in which he earned a win against Arizona. Many of you might recall that 1998 was the Diamondbacks' inaugural season, so that particular game was actually just the third-ever for the young franchise. It took the Diamondbacks six games to get their first win. They didn't get to enjoy the very early success the Rockies had in their home opener. I'll tip my hat to this card for informing me that the Diamondbacks lost their first-ever game and series sweep to the Rockies, a fact that had escaped my attention until now.

2017 Topps Allen & Ginter Hot Box Foil #65 Kyle Freeland (RC)
The story for much of the Rockies' 2017 season was their stellar young starters, like Antonio Senzatela, German Marquez, and Kyle Freeland, a Denver native that nearly pitched a no-hitter the day before the All-Star Break.

Nick was kind enough to give me my first look at 2017 Allen & Ginter, which has a distinctive antique photo frame design, with the usual splashes of watercolor as a background. The backs look about the same as always, but this card is a Foil parallel, found only in what Topps calls "Hot Boxes". Apparently, if you find a hot box, all the base cards inside it have this vaguely shiny finish, which Nick found three of for me.

I'm not sure how I feel about having such a modern touch on a set that is supposed to be so retro. It's 19th-century retro, not 1965 retro. But it's understated enough, and gives collectors something else to chase. We need more of those, right? At least it will not be confused for a late-1990s card.

2017 Topps Allen & Ginter Mini A&G Back #234 Charlie Blackmon
Batting champion Charlie Blackmon appears on this mini card, a parallel type that is more familiar to longtime collectors of A&G. I never focused much on card back variations, but this has one, and it's termed the A&G Back. It doesn't have any of his stats, but rather an A&G logo that would not be out of place on the back of a dollar bill. Back to the front, his beard looks a bit more well-managed than usual, but the overall design looks a bit more squished when translated to the mini size than in past years.

I'm happy to report that I recently found some Ultra-Pro pages designed for these tobacco-sized cards. And by "found", I mean "ordered on Amazon Prime". They're 15 cards to a page, so the next time I do a complete run through my binders, I'll be able to store these better, rather than using pages designed to fit 1975 Topps minis, whose pockets are still too big.

2017 Topps Allen & Ginter What a Day #WAD52 David Dahl
I didn't realize it at the time, but the day I saw Ichiro get his 3,000th hit, David Dahl had a record-tying rookie hitting streak in the works. Nor did I realize it the next day, when I was at Coors Field again to see the Texas Rangers play. Dahl had hits in both those games, on his way to a 17-game hitting streak, tying the record for the most to begin an MLB career.

This Allen & Ginter insert card picked August 6th, 2016 to profile, a day on which he had three hits, one of which was a triple, and he scored each time he got on base. Not only that, but the Rockies won that day, unlike the following two days in which I was in attendance. That win got the 2016 Rockies to 55-55, the last time they would be at .500 all season. Like this year, they still finished in third place in the NL West, but had several teams above them in the Wild Card race.

2016 Donruss Optic #56 Tom Murphy RR (RC)
As usual, objects in scanner may be shinier than they appear.

Donruss Optic is Panini's entry into the Topps Chrome market segment. It finds its way to me once in a while, and while I don't normally associate Donruss with shiny cards, that Rated Rookie logo feels right at home. It shows up on the back too, underneath Tom Murphy's paragraph, which calls him simultaneously "superb behind the dish" and can "pack a powerful swing".

Tom Murphy hasn't turned out quite like the Rockies have liked. He has three seasons of September call-ups under his belt, but hasn't really made much of a splash. If the Rockies re-sign Jonathan Lucroy as their primary catcher, Murphy's days in the Rockies organization may be numbered.

2016 Bowman Chrome AFL Fall Stars #AFL-RT Raimel Tapia
An insert set about the Arizona Fall League is perfect for Bowman. The 2017 campaign is underway right now, in case the Postseason isn't enough to keep an eye on, or if you're not interested in the remaining teams. Tapia would be a worthy inclusion in the 5-Tool insert set, as this card tells us he led the 2015 Salt River Rafters in hits, tied for the team lead in runs, and even swiped a few bases.

He's only 23, but he may present some tough questions for the Rockies, like what to do with another star outfielder. Obviously Blackmon patrols the expansive prairie in center field at Coors, CarGo gets on the highlight reel regularly in right, and Gerardo Parra is a talented player in left when he's not splitting time with Ian Desmond, who's already learning a new position since Story and Reynolds have their respective positions locked up. And with Greg Holland hitting the free agent market, there's more of a need in the bullpen than in the outfield.

2014 Bowman Platinum Chrome Prospects Purple Refractors #BPCP12 Jonathan Gray
But the starting rotation seems pretty good by now, led by Jon Gray, even if his pitching performance in the Wild Card game dug too big a hole for the Rockies to climb out of. This purple masterpiece was printed when Gray was very much just a prospect. Bowman Platinum does purple refractors particularly well, a colored parallel that is practically tailor-made for the Rockies.

Gray wears a slightly different uniform number as a regular member of the Rockies, #55, and has let his hair grow much longer, as is so clearly the trend in MLB right now.

I wonder if collectors in thirty or forty years will look back on today's cards of guys like Gray, or Blackmon, or Justin Turner, or Dallas Keuchel, or Jayson Werth, and stare back in amazement the way we do now at Oscar Gamble's and Jose Cardenal's cards.

Either way, I'm sure Nick will still be unearthing gems far into the future, regardless of future hairstyles. And don't forget, there's a part two to all this.

Thanks Nick!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Last Minute Group Break (Part 2: Diamondbacks)

That did not turn out the way I'd hoped.

Here it is, Saturday night, and I'm watching the Diamondbacks in Game 2 of the NLDS at Dodger Stadium, a game the Rockies could be playing in if Wednesday's wild Wild Card game went just a bit differently.

2017 Topps Bunt #109 Zack Greinke
Of the four Wild Card starters across both leagues, only Zack Greinke held it together in the first inning, and that ended up being the difference. Greinke joined Arizona for the 2016 season, and had a much better year in 2017, helping the Diamondbacks sink the Rockies and get their revenge for the 2007 NLCS. He's a bit removed from his near-Cy Young 2015 season with the Dodgers, but he stayed in the NL West and remained a thorn in the Rockies' side.

His card from 2017 Bunt came my way as part of Chris's late-spring Ultimate Group Break. You saw the Rockies in Part 1, way back when they were still part of the 2017 Postseason picture. The random luck of the draw netted me the Rockies' chief rivals, the Arizona Diamondbacks, as my second team. They're, let's just say, not my favorite team. They weren't going into Wednesday, so you can imagine how I feel now.

2017 Topps Archives #287 Paul Goldschmidt
That's partly thanks to this mischievous-looking fellow at the bat rack, Paul Goldschmidt. Goldy launched a three-run shot off of Jon Gray in the first inning of the Wild Card game before an out had even been recorded, and the D-Backs kept the Rockies in the rear-view mirror the rest of the way. There were four home runs, four triples, including a demoralizing one by reliever Archie Bradley in the 8th that really put it away, and a slew of hits, making for the offensive battle we all expected.

And ex-Rockie Daniel Descalso had one of those homers. I thought something like that might happen.

Anyway, here we are, and I'm watching the rest of the Postseason on the sidelines, as is usually the case.

Goldschmidt's card from 2017 Topps Archives obviously uses the 1992 design, one that I think is better color-coded than the Rockies cards in that set. The blue borders here aren't quite right, but the Rockies got yellow, light blue, and red. Chase Field also makes a rare appearance on the back, but doesn't quite capture the park as well as Ian Desmond's card did. This one has little more than the infield and dugout areas, but it does show the unusual dirt path between the mound and the plate, something found only there and in Detroit's Comerica Park.

2002 Flair #12 Mark Grace
When Mark Grace played there, it was still called the Bank One Ballpark, colloquially known as "The Bob", which is why the Diamondbacks' mascot is a bobcat rather than a snake. Bank mergers have made D. Baxter the Bobcat (get it?) a bit of anachronism, though Grace's teammate Jay Bell's son Brantley was the brains behind all this. Jay Bell, of course, scored the winning run in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, in which Mark Grace singled to lead off that fateful 9th inning.

The background photo of Mark Grace on this upscale Flair card has the look of a man who just won a World Series, and he's even sporting an alternate Diamondbacks logo to go along with his previous-year action shot. I haven't seen many 2002 Flair cards, and I particularly like the color of the foil. It's not copper, like we've see on so many Upper Deck cards, but more of a rose gold.

2008 Upper Deck #406 Eric Byrnes
Here's one for Nick's Short Term Stops theme. Not as a Diamondback. Everyone in Denver knows him as a Diamondback, as he didn't make many friends during the 2007 NLCS around here. But when I flipped this 2008 UD card over, apparently Byrnes spent part of 2005 in Denver, his second of three teams that year, forcing Upper Deck to abbreviate that to "ATH/RCK/ORI" on the vertical-backed card. He played just 15 games here, which was apparently something that we all just decided to forget.

2008 Upper Deck X #2 Conor Jackson
Yes, I'm a bit salty, but again, it's not something that just began on Wednesday. This goes way back. And I'm completely fine with the hitting clinic the Dodgers put on in the bottom of the 5th in Game 2 on their way to a 2-0 series lead.

But I guess it's good to have a rival. Who would the Yankees be without the Red Sox? Or vice versa? Who would Tom Brady be without air?

I kid, I kid.

Other than Greinke and Goldschmidt, these are all bonus cards that Chris included in my shipment, and I found quite a few cards to like, even of a division rival. Conor Jackson was swinging a decent bat for a few years, and the back of this Upper Deck X card documents his four home runs in September 2007. One of those homers helped beat the Rockies as the season was winding down, marking the Rockies' only loss between September 16th, 2007 and the end of the NLCS.

If the Rockies somehow won that game, they would have had a 22-game win streak heading into the World Series. That makes the Indians' accomplishment this year all the more impressive, but underscores just how amazing Rocktober was back in 2007.

2012 Triple Play #300 Real Feel Jersey (MEM)
In addition to this stack of hand-selected cards, Chris also threw in an unopened pack of 2012 Triple Play. I don't see a lot of love for Triple Play sets, especially recently, but I was lucky enough to pull this relic card out of that pack. The card doesn't depict any particular player or team, and thus has no need to disclaim that the relic "is not from any particular game" etc... like most relic cards do.

The coloring on this card happens to make it fit quite well with a bunch of Diamondbacks cards, and it might actually be a real D-Backs road jersey. The back gives us a lengthy history of the baseball jersey that would not be out of place on an early Score card, and it's one of six relic types you could pull, a few of the others being the base, batting glove, and bat. This is card #300, the final one in the Triple Play set that year. It's not officially listed as a short print, but the "short set" runs only to card #90. Even jerseys of no particular player must be relatively scarce.

Munnatawket Custom #1 Paul Goldschmidt
If the Real Feel jersey capped off the 2012 Triple Play set, then Paul Goldschmidt opened up the magnificent Munnatawket Mini custom set with card #1. I recently lamented that this set hadn't made an appearance around the blogs in quite a while. It's amazing that these have been kicking around for almost ten years, and I'm happy to add another to the small quantity I've managed to collect.

2008 Topps Update #UH293 Adam Dunn
Obviously, the Rockies are heavily represented in my Coors Field frankenset, but the ones that aren't are typically NL West teams. Dee Gordon's card from 2011 Topps Update is a prime example, as he's shown acrobatically turning two over Ty Wigginton with the left field bleachers in view. The Diamondbacks seem to have all sorts of Coors Field cards, including this one of strikeout king Adam Dunn.

And when you're a strikeout king without being a pitcher, that's a bad thing. At this point in his career, he was good for about 40 home runs a season, but he'd put up darn near 200 strikeouts doing it. This Update card points out that no player before Dunn was ever traded during the season when he was leading the league in home runs.

He's either striking out or hitting a home run here, and because you can spot the Coors Field signage on the dugout roof behind him, it's a fair bet that he might be hitting one of those 40-ish home runs instead of striking out. Dunn did hit one home run at Coors Field as a Diamondback, even though that was just a 44-game stretch before he became a free agent and signed with the Nationals.

2008 Upper Deck Spectrum #1 Chris B. Young
This Upper Deck Spectrum card (another card #1) caught my eye with this striking turquoise color, not really a Diamondbacks color anymore, but a pretty card nonetheless. It's not a color-coded set to begin with, but it came in a few colored parallel variations.

This gentleman is Chris B. Young, currently playing in the Postseason for the Red Sox, not to be confused with Chris R. Young, a pitcher for the Royals. They both have quite a bit of Postseason experience. Chris B. played in the 2007 NLCS against the Rockies with a few of these other guys, but Chris R. earned his ring with Kansas City in 2015. Both are still in the league, and it's still a touch confusing.

But that's nothing compared to Khris Davis of the Athletics and Chris Davis of the Orioles. Both are noted power hitters. They've never played together, but somehow they both managed to strike out exactly 195 times this season, tying for third in the American League.

I can't mention 200-strikeout hitters like the Davises and Adam Dunn without mentioning Tony Gwynn at the other end of the spectrum (pun not intended), who only had slightly more strikeouts in the final twelve years of his career.

Of course, that was a Strike-shortened period. I'm sure his total of 203 would be two or three higher if 1994 and 1995 were full seasons.

2003 Ultra #129 Junior Spivey
I don't especially remember much about Junior Spivey. I know he was on the Diamondbacks, and I probably saw him play once or twice, but I don't recall any specific plays. I just like this acrobatic card of him playing the infield, which is cropped perfectly to fit the card and even the little dip in the bottom banner.

The old Diamondbacks uniforms and colors are on display quite vividly on this Fleer Ultra card, as is their large snake patch on the left sleeve. In the days before HDTV, I never really got a good look at that patch, and it always looked like a hot air balloon or a parachutist to me. In reality, has the state, team name, and a large snake head.

I like seeing their occasional retro jersey, but I think there's only room for one purple team in the NL West, and we were there first.

2012 Topps Update #US22 Chris Nelson
I just couldn't do a whole post of Diamondbacks. I had to get this Update card of third baseman Chris Nelson in here to wrap it up. Even if the Rockies lost the Wild Card game, they're still my team. And they're even more fun to watch when they have a four-time Gold Glover covering the hot corner, who makes plays like this look effortless.

I talk a big game about not liking the Diamondbacks, but really, I'd like nothing more than to see our rivalry expand over the next few seasons.

Perhaps a rematch next year? This time at Coors Field.

Unless, of course, the Rockies finally win the division for once.


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Last Minute Group Break (Part 1: Rockies)

Way back in June, Chris of Nachos Grande, easily one of the most active and prolific bloggers in our community, ran another one of his group breaks. I've taken part before, but I had considered sitting this one out. He had fifteen slots open, good for one selected team and one random bonus team. Based on the products in this break, I didn't really mind if I missed out, and I figured that was fairly likely given he only had to convince fifteen collectors.

On offer this time around was 2017 Topps Archives, 2017 Topps Bunt, and 2017 Diamond Kings, along with his usual smattering of bonuses. Other than Archives, I wasn't entirely wowed by the products in the break. But the slots didn't fill up like I expected, and I decided to jump in to beat the buzzer. And even though we had just done a trade, I know his bonuses and throw-ins are always worthwhile.

Of course, I picked the Rockies, but by chance, I also ended up with the Diamondbacks. We'll be seeing that matchup on TBS in the NL Wild Card Game just hours from now, so this seemed like a perfect time to finally dig into the results of the break.

2017 Diamond Kings #105 Charlie Blackmon SP
I don't know much about Diamond Kings, and if Chris hadn't helpfully put this in a penny sleeve and written "Short Print" on it in black Sharpie, I wouldn't have had any idea. It's about what you'd expect, though perhaps with a bit more of a watercolor look than in past years. That red splotch toward the bottom is actually a distorted Cardinals batboy, as we can see on the back. A zoomed-out version of the artwork without the watercolor theme is found on the back, making it easy to see what's what. Panini put an elaborate frame around that image, just like what you'd see in an art museum.

And all that before I really noticed that there was no logo on Blackmon's helmet. Maybe they actually kind of know what they're doing.

2017 Diamond Kings Aurora #A-18 Nolan Arenado
This loud Arenado card is an insert from the Aurora set, no relation to the old Pacific brand. If you turn it sideways, it could be a national flag of a similarly colorful country, somewhere in the Caribbean perhaps. Panini also threw in a little gold foil to go along with the familiar playing-card surface. It really is quite different. I think Donruss was trying for something like this with some of their early-90s designs, but the execution is really quite good here.

Arenado fell a little short of the 40-homer mark this card praised him for reaching in back-to-back seasons, but he still hit the 130-RBI mark for the third straight year, something only a handful of Hall of Fame-caliber players have done. Giancarlo Stanton put two more across than Nolan did in 2017, preventing Arenado from being the first to lead the league in three straight seasons while also getting to the 130-RBI mark. But he's still a record setter and could very well earn his fifth straight Gold Glove.

2017 Topps Archives #256 Ian Desmond
This might be my first card of Ian Desmond as a Rockie. He missed about half of the team's games this year due to injury, but has still made an impact in Denver. And he picked up where Brandon Barnes left off on the tattoo front. Part of the Rockies' stacked-as-usual outfield, Desmond is shown at the plate, with his bat extending past the border of the 1992 Topps design, one that somehow doesn't "feel" like an Archives card. The card stock is definitely a little different in Archives this year.

1992 Topps was the first flagship set to be printed on white card stock, a major change that not everyone thinks should have been made. But it did allow Topps to reliably print photographs on the back, and 1992 gave us those very thin panorama shots of the team's home stadium. Coors Field had barely broken ground in 1992, and the Rockies and Marlins had yet to play a game. So this marks one of the few appearances of Coors Field in in the stretched 1992 format on the back, and while Topps did a pretty good job capturing the sold-out park, none of the iconic scoreboard in left field made it on, nor any of the picturesque sky behind it. That scoreboard, by the way, will undergo extensive renovations this winter, to go along with the popular Rooftop patio in right-center.

Now that I think about it, less than ten parks that made an appearance on the back of 1992 Topps are still around. Not even Camden Yards, which kicked off the flurry of retro-style ballparks around the league, made it on. There have been four new teams since 1992, but over twenty new stadiums. And the Braves have gone through two! It'll be interesting to see 2041's Topps Heritage set, and what the stadium situation looks like then.

2017 Topps Archives Peach #37 Jon Gray /199
Jon Gray, the probable starter for tonight's Wild Card game, was one of my hits in this break. This salmon-bordered parallel (Topps calls it Peach) of the 1960 design is numbered to just 199 copies, and Chris managed to pull one just like it of David Dahl on my behalf. Those pulls are the highlights of the break for me, at least as far as odds go.

The card back, complete with cartoon, contains the serial number, orange and black printing, and and some season highlights, including his magnificent 16-strikeout game on September 17th, 2016.

Here's hoping his performance tonight is closer to that and less like the first-inning jitters he's sometimes known for.

2017 Topps Archives '16 Retro Original #RO-19 Nolan Arenado
I got a insert card or two, and this one of Nolan is termed a "Retro Original". Sort of like all these ballparks we have now. It's vaguely reminiscent of a few different Topps designs cobbled together, such as 1986 and 1959 on the front, and maybe a bit of 1977 on the back with all that green. It even reminds me of the 2017 Allen & Ginter set, though a bit more 1960s and less late-19th century. I didn't even notice the facsimile signature, a longtime Topps fixture, until several looks at the card.

2017 Topps Archives #136 Rob Manfred
The final design used in 2017 Archives was 1982's "Hockey Sticks" design, and Chris decided I was worthy of getting a couple of MLB Commissioner cards. This one, of course, and also Bart Giamatti's card from 1990 Donruss.

Current Commissioner Rob Manfred seems open to bringing MLB further into the future, hinting that he's open to expansion, pushing for extended netting after a recent incident at Yankee Stadium, and is heavily concerned with the speed of games, introducing the rather silly intentional walk rule, despite still letting the Yankees play the Red Sox in their regular Sunday night 4-hour marathons.

Nick wrote all about this card last week, and I think that Archives as a set is obscure enough to let the Commissioner slip in. If anything, it marks that Major League Baseball is in a period of change, and it serves as a reminder that the league is, first and foremost, a business.

2017 Topps Bunt #132 Carlos Gonzalez
I've seen a few arrive via trade, but the value pack I purchased at Target was devoid of Rockies. I probably got the whole team set thanks to this break, and the print quality on these cards is ridiculously sharp. For a bargain product, I'm certainly impressed. I guess I didn't really notice until I saw this side-by-side with 2016 Bunt, from which Chris threw in a couple extras. I'd say it's pretty much on par with a Topps Now card, and the color coding with these Rockies is just gorgeous!

I guess the only critique I have is that the back could be jazzed up a bit, but if you don't want to spend big on Topps products, it's a solid offering.

That about does it for the official group break items, but anyone who's taken part in his breaks knows that there's plenty more where that came from.

2004 Topps Total Production #TP8 Todd Helton
I always liked the idea of Topps Total, but I never really got into it. During the few years this set existed, I wasn't buying a whole lot of new product. Mainly I was trying to decipher the fallout from the craziness that was the late-'90s. Shiny and Topps Total definitely occupy different compartments in my collecting mind, but here's an insert that checks both boxes. I had no idea. it's faint, much more so than 1998 Pacific Omega Online, but the background design is definitely going for a printed circuit board look.

Interestingly, the card back mentions Helton's OPS, which is helpfully defined as on-base plus slugging. It was just a couple years after the A's Moneyball season and the sudden adoption of Sabermetrics, and this is the earliest Topps card I've seen that mentions one of the new statistical categories. Helton had a significant falloff later in his career, but at the time, his career OPS trailed only Ruth, Williams, and Gehrig, according to the card.

1994 SP #169 Walt Weiss
It seems like every time I buy into one of Chris's group breaks, I end up with some 1994 SP. The shiny copper gets me every time, and I can't get enough of that gold hologram. I don't know where he gets them all, but I'll take it.

Walt Weiss certainly looked a lot younger in his playing days, compared to his recent managerial stint with the Rockies. The photo on the back shows Weiss flashing the sign of the horns, indicating to his outfielders that there are two outs. Just like I did in little league! "Infield, tell the outfield!", our coach would say. And I was usually in the outfield, except during the minimum of two innings when each kid had to play an infield position.

On the front, Weiss is in Mile High Stadium, with what looks like the Braves logo displayed on the outfield wall (it's tough to tell on the scan), back when teams all over the league had logos of their competitors plastered all over the place.

This might have been pretty early in the 1994 season, maybe even before the Rockies got their first win against the Braves, their old division nemesis. Yes, the Braves used to be in the NL West, and I had always assumed that was because they used to be based in Milwaukee but never had a chance to be realigned until the six-division system was created. But no, the Braves were already in Atlanta by the time East and West divisions were created, meaning they had almost a solid quarter-century of schlepping out to California from Atlanta on a regular basis.

And I thought the Astros in the AL West was questionable.

Maybe that's why it took me so long to figure that one out. Houston's definitely not in the West. At least not like Seattle is.

2012 Bowman Chrome Draft Draft Picks #BDPP113 Scott Oberg
Bowman Chrome isn't quite as shiny as that copper masterpiece, but this card is notable for a different reason. The subject, Scott Oberg, is actually a Major Leaguer, which is rather unusual for a Bowman card. The reliever appeared in a whopping 66 games this season, and got the Rockies out of a few dicey situations.

Not bad for a 15th-round pick from UConn.

2012 Topps Update #US123 Jamie Moyer
Unlike his uniform number, Jamie Moyer wasn't quite 50 when he won on April 17th, 2012, becoming the oldest player to ever earn a Win in the Major Leagues. He even broke his own record about a month later, just a couple days before turning 49 1/2. Both wins came in divisional games at Coors Field, and he had a way better final season than Roy Oswalt.

Rockies are rarely featured on the checklist cards. Helton's retirement got a card in 2014, but that's the only other one that comes to mind. But unlike Helton's checklist, Moyer's card is properly color-coded to fit in with the rest of his teammates. And this is not quite a meta-checklist, where the card's number appears on the card itself, but Jamie Moyer's actual card number shows up about halfway down the third column.

2001 Upper Deck #261 Ben Petrick
Ben Petrick got a card in 2001 Upper Deck, striking a similar pose to Ian Desmond's follow-through. He's swinging a big bat, and there was a ton of white space on the vertical back of the card, plenty of room to fill with a long career. However, as we know now, it was not to be. Unbeknownst to the Rockies, he was battling Parkinson's disease from the young age of 22. That he was able to put together a Major League career of any length while contending with that is amazing enough, let alone five seasons at the grueling position of catcher.

And I still remember him as "the guy whose autograph I almost got."

2000 Fleer Tradition #35 Pedro Astacio
Even though he's in the career top ten in most Rockies pitching categories, I don't find too many Pedro Astacio cards. He's in the top three for strikeouts, and is at the very top for complete games and strikeout-to-walk ratio, but on the other hand, no Rockie has ever hit more batters or allowed more home runs.

Also, in looking over those stats, I noticed that late reliever and occasional closer Steve Reed was finally knocked off his perch on the Rockies top-ten list for Wins. Tyler Chatwood earned his 34th win in mid-September, ending one of the more astonishing statistical oddities out of the Rockies bullpen.

The blue background on his 2000 Fleer Tradition card is probably better-suited to his Dodger days, so it's maybe not the best selection to debut him on the blog. I'll keep an eye out for another card, perhaps one that better shows him in action. Or at least one with more purple.

1997 Collector's Choice Teams #CR11 Ellis Burks
At first, I assumed this was a duplicate, but in looking a bit more closely, it's actually from a team set that Collector's Choice put out in 1997. Only ten teams got that treatment, obviously including the Rockies. For some reason, the Rockies seem to be pretty well-represented in this type of offering, including both years of Topps Team Stadium Club. But I've never seen a Topps buyback card.

The "Did You Know?" fact on the back is about Eric Young and the four times he's led off a game with a home run, which was then a Rockies record. I don't know for certain, but I feel confident that Charlie Blackmon had to have passed that record by now, if for no other reason than he set the all-time record for RBIs as a leadoff hitter this season, with 103.

2014 Topps Heritage #404 Charlie Blackmon
Speaking of Charlie Blackmon, when was the last time you saw him without his trademark beard? Well, other than his rookie card from 2011 Topps Update, one you may have run across in search of Mike Trout's from the same set? 2014 was his breakout year, the same year as this 1965-themed Heritage set. I saw his 6-for-6 game on Opening Day 2014, which was also the first day The Rooftop was open at Coors Field. He's only gotten better since then, helping put the Rockies in the playoffs for the first time in eight years, and making a pretty strong case for the NL MVP award.

2009 Upper Deck #621 Chris Iannetta
2009 Upper Deck was one of Chris's bonus products in the group break. Catcher Chris Iannetta fell out of one of those packs, who was a Rockie from 2006 to 2011, a timeframe that spanned both their last two Postseason appearances, but Iannetta didn't have a Postseason appearance in either year.

That does not leave me with a good feeling. I feel like that may come back to haunt the Rockies, because Iannetta is now a Diamondback, after finally getting a taste of October baseball in 2014 with the Angels.

Or maybe it will be Daniel Descalso, or Jorge De La Rosa.

The Rockies and Diamondbacks seem inextricably linked. The two teams even share a spring training facility. And they've swapped a lot of players over the years. Gerardo Parra or could just as easily sink the D-backs tonight. Or Mark Reynolds.

After being swept in the 2007 NLCS by the Rockies, I'm sure the Diamondbacks can't wait to take the field to try to get their revenge. They'll have their ace on the mound, as will the Rockies.

I can't wait!