Saturday, August 27, 2022

The Trading Post #172: Dime Boxes (Part 1: My Picks)

As August draws to a close, we're getting pretty close to Nick's 11th Anniversary. But it's finally time for me to put my entry in for "latest blog post documenting Nick's 10th Anniversary".

Starting in December of last year, Nick at Dime Boxes did a series of generous giveaway posts for the first full decade of his excellent blog. I managed to get claims put in on three or four of his ten giveaways, but more often than not they were pretty picked over by the time I saw the post. No matter, I'm sure they all went to great homes across the blog community.

I ended up selecting a baker's dozen worth of cards from those pages, which arrived in the mail accompanied by a healthy-sized stack of Rockies hand-selected by Nick. That'll be part 2.

1982 Donruss #195 Don Zimmer MG

These cards won't be in chronological order, but we'll still be starting with the oldest card in the stack, one from 1982 Donruss. That was when Don Zimmer was managing the Texas Rangers. He actually wrapped up his playing career with that franchise, back when they were the second iteration of the Washington Senators. As their skipper, he had a 95-106 record. He had better results when he managed the Red Sox and Cubs, leading them both to winning records overall during his tenure.

As many times as I've seen the famous Bucky Dent home run from 1978, I never realized Don Zimmer was the manager of that unfortunate Red Sox team. But Donruss pointed it out on a lengthy write-up on the back, a wordy paragraph approaching what we once saw from Score.

Many of us remember Zimmer as Joe Torre's right-hand man during the late-'90s Yankees dynasty, and we got a little footage of him in ESPN's recent Derek Jeter miniseries The Captain. But not many remember him as a coach for the inaugural Colorado Rockies, where he appeared alongside manager Don Baylor in those early days at Mile High Stadium and Coors Field.

2015 Topps Archives #24 Cal Ripken Jr.

Rolling things back to very early in the Topps design library, here's a young-looking Cal Ripken, Jr. in 2015 Topps Archives, appearing on the 1957 design. I'll admit, I had to look that one up. Vintage, especially the more plain-looking designs, isn't always my strong suit. But 1992 vs. 1993 Fleer Ultra? I'm your guy.

We get partial career stats for Mr. Ripken on the card back, which has that not-quite-actual-cardboard smooth paper that Topps Archives is known for. The stats show his playing career between 1981 and 1996, but the final few seasons of his storied career are nowhere to be found, except of course in the overall totals. He played 3,001 career games, good for 10th all-time, although he was passed by Albert Pujols earlier this year, who is still going strong and trying to reach that 700 home run plateau before his inevitable retirement.

2016 Topps Bunt #24 Roberto Clemente

When Topps Bunt moved out of the digital app universe and took corporeal form in 2016, it included a mixture of current and retired players. I have about three pages of this set in my 2016 binder, and this Roberto Clemente will complement those other players nicely.

There's a little line on the card back suggesting that I "Collect and trade this card in the Topps Bunt app today!" Unfortunately, I only have this physical version of the Clemente card, and they've long since reached "Sold Out" status in the app. But by searching the app for the "Bunt Physical 16" set, I did discover that I still have a handful of digital cards of this set hiding in a dark virtual shoebox, including a Topaz parallel version of Brooks Robinson's digital card, with a global card count (effectively a serial number) of 440 and Rare classification.

The more traditional portion of the card back makes reference to Clemente's "electrifying defense in right field", and if you haven't seen that before, there are a few brief clips in this video.

2016 Topps 100 Years at Wrigley Field #WRIG-11 Andre Dawson

This was totally unintentional, but somehow I ended up with a bunch of cards from NL Central teams. Well, of course there was no Central division during Clemente's days, nor Andre Dawson's Cubs tenure for that matter. But it was an odd coincidence.

This new-to-me insert set from 2016 Topps documents 100 years at Wrigley Field, which isn't entirely correct. The Cubs started playing there in 1916, yes, but the ballpark itself opened two years prior as the home park of the Chicago Whales of the ill-fated Federal League. 

Andre Dawson's time at Clark & Addison included an NL MVP award in 1987, which this card points out is the only MVP ever given to a player on a last-place team.

That particular fact reminds me of a story concerning Ralph Kiner, who led the NL in home runs in 1952 despite being on the dismal 42-112 Pirates. Apocryphally, he was told by Pirates management during contract negotiations, "We could have finished last without you."

2021 Topps '86 Topps #86B-83 Dylan Carlson

In the spirit of anniversaries, Topps kept their 35th Anniversary series going in 2021, affixing the special silver seal to the 1986 design. Also gracing the design is the Rookie Card logo for Cardinals outfielder Dylan Carlson, who is seeing quite a show being put on by his teammates this season. 

The old veterans Pujols, Molina, and Wainwright are still making the highlight reels, Arenado is flashing the leather as usual, and there's talk of Paul Goldschmidt winning the Triple Crown, something that hasn't been done in the NL since his long ago Cardinal predecessor Joe Medwick won it in 1937.

1996 Stadium Club #299 Fernando Viña

1996 Stadium Club was one of the last sets I collected before I somewhat lost interest in baseball cards for a time, but I do recognize it well since little else went in front of it in the binders for several years. I'm still keeping the run of NL Central teams going, although 1996 puts us before Interleague Play began, and that catcher looks like a Texas Ranger to me, involved in an awkward play at the plate with Fernando Viña of the Brewers.

That would be explained by the fact that the Milwaukee Brewers were a member of the American League until switching leagues in 1998 to even things out with the Diamondbacks and Devil Rays expansion. 

Now that we finally have the Designated Hitter in the NL, the split between leagues is effectively meaningless. That new reality has led MLB to design a less divisional-heavy schedule for 2023, where all 30 teams will face each other for at least one series next season. I'll finally get to cross the Minnesota Twins off my list, the last team I haven't seen play.

Anyway, upon a closer look at this Stadium Club card, it actually looks more like a fight than a play at the plate. Viña appears to have his right hand formed into a fist, although I can't comment on the wisdom of getting into a fistfight with a player wearing a catcher's mask.

That catcher, by the way, is likely the Hall of Famer Iván "Pudge" Rodríguez, who is wearing a commemorative 1995 All-Star patch on his right sleeve. The Rangers showed off their year-old ballpark to the world then, although it was short-lived. It only opened in 1994, but the team has already replaced it with a Texas-sized enclosed stadium just across the street, which was the neutral "bubble" site of the World Series in 2020.

1994 Pinnacle Museum Collection #481 Tim Pugh /6500

Even when I'm picking images off a screen (and knowing how poorly most of our scanners do with shiny cards), I can recognize a shiny parallel when I see one, especially when it has this nifty Dufex technology that was exclusive to Pinnacle/Score at the time.

It's not serial numbered, but these Museum Collection parallels (not to be confused with the hyper-expensive Topps product of the same name) are known to have a print run of 6,500. There's also an Artist's Proof parallel that is even scarcer at just 1,000. Those print run ratios are approximately reflected in my collection. I have a single Artist's Proof, and this Tim Pugh card is my seventh Museum Collection. Unsurprisingly, five of those are Rockies, but somehow I've also ended up with two Cincinnati Reds and nothing else.

1999 Stadium Club Video Replay #VR2 Sammy Sosa

That covers all the NL Central teams, but we still have more to go in that division before we head further west.

When I selected this Stadium Club insert, I may or may not have realized that it was a lenticular motion card. But in any case, it's pretty cool. It's part of a tiny five-card insert set (40% Cubs by the way) called Video Replay, and it shows the motion of Sammy Sosa launching a baseball far into the distance. It's not quite as sharp as those Screenplays cards, which are nothing short of magic, but it's definitely an improvement over Sportflics. 

The video, such as it is, shows Sosa facing off a right-handed pitcher wearing #42, which should narrow down the number of possible plays considerably, but I came up empty. I investigated the rabbit hole for longer than I probably should have, but Sosa hit 609 career home runs, so it's like looking for a needle in a haystack. 

This card is from 1999, so I assume this is a video capture from 1998, and fewer and fewer players wore #42 after MLB retired it in 1997. José Lima is a candidate, and he served up numerous long balls to Slammin' Sammy throughout his career (more than any other pitcher besides Schilling, in fact), but that pitcher is clearly not José Lima. Nor is it Scott Karl, who is a lefty. My best guess was Jason Schmidt of the Pirates. Schmidt did give up a home run to Sosa during the 1998 home run race, but by then Schmidt had changed his uniform to #22. 

Maybe just a random fly ball from a prior season? It sure looks like a home run even in this low-res format, though. Possibly Spring Training? I don't know. Like I said, I investigated the rabbit hole. I don't like not knowing these things.

2021 Topps Fire #121 Nolan Arenado

Our last NL Central card is this Topps Fire card of Nolan Arenado, post-trade of course. You can tell because of that fire engine red jersey and helmet, which the Rockies don't wear.

I do have this card in the Bunt app, but the printed version has a proper card back. That card back tells us how Arenado rapidly made a splash with the Cardinals, hitting safely in his first nine games. That did one better than Roger Maris, who set the prior record in 1967.

Really, he's one of my all-time favorite players. It's just no fun seeing him on another team.

2019 Panini Titan #22 Nolan Arenado

But it's also not so fun anymore seeing cards of him on his original team, because we all know how that played out.

At least I have a space theme on this shiny Panini card to take the sting away a little. The set is called Titan, and it's a 25-card insert set found in 2019 Panini Chronicles. I can't tell you much else about this unlicensed set, but the card back does tell us that Arenado is "a titan straddling the hitting and fielding worlds".

I can tell you lots more about the space theme, though. That's supposed to be Saturn in the background, and Titan just so happens to be the largest moon of Saturn, as well as the second-largest moon in the solar system. It has a thick atmosphere of methane, and the Huygens space probe landed on it in 2005.

1999 Upper Deck MVP #190 Ken Griffey Jr.

It's rumored that some of the baseballs from the 1998 Home Run Derby even landed on Titan.

But seriously, Ken Griffey, Jr. did win the 1998 Derby at Coors Field, and he's pictured lifting the trophy on his 1999 Upper Deck MVP base card. This is a perfect candidate for my Coors Field frankenset, and one that I've had my eye on for some time.

I didn't get a chance to experience the All-Star festivities in 1998 (although I do remember a blimp hanging around town for the occasion), but I made the most of it when the All-Stars returned to Denver in 2021. The Home Run Derby trophy has changed a bit since '98, as has the Coors Field scoreboard and several of the corporations with ad space on it.

1992 Classic/Best #383 Bob Abreu

I don't usually go for Minor League or Bowman Prospect cards, but this 1992 Classic/Best set is one I've collected for a while. Surely they're not worth much, but I have early minor league cards of guys that went on to become huge stars or even Hall of Famers. Jim Edmonds, Shawn Green, Mike Piazza, Johnny Damon, and quite a few others. I can now add Bobby Abreu to the back pages of my 1992 binder, which is one I don't get a chance to see often enough.

This is more of a tenuous connection to the Rockies, but the Asheville Tourists were the Single-A affiliate of the Rockies until 2020. Prior to that, they were part of the Houston Astros' farm system, and following some shuffling among Rockies affiliates, they're back with the Astros again.

2008 Upper Deck Timeline #35 Roy Halladay

The final card I picked from Nick's giveaway is another color-coded Upper Deck beauty, Roy Halladay's card from the short-lived UD Timeline. To be fair, pretty much everything Upper Deck was printing at that time was short-lived, even the fantastic UD Masterpieces set.

Roy Halladay in particular caught my eye because he was from my home state of Colorado. He went to high school at Arvada West, quite near me and not far at all from a few good birdwatching sites. The Athletic ran a story a couple years ago about his high school championship game, where he faced off against Brad Lidge's Cherry Creek High School team. 

It's sad to talk about him in the past tense. But he was excellent all throughout his career, and as people all over Colorado know, long before he got to the Majors.

Congratulations to Nick on his first decade of blogging, and by now we know his second decade is already off to a solid start.


Sunday, July 31, 2022

The Trading Post #171: Card Hemorrhage

Every once in a while, for no particular reason, one of my longtime readers will send me an envelope full of cards. There is always a nice mix of Rockies when that happens, but sometimes it includes vintage goodies that are great additions to my collection but that I would be unlikely to buy for myself.

That exact thing happened last December (sorry) with Jay from Card Hemorrhage, who sent cards ranging from active Rockies to vintage all the way back to 1967.

1972 Topps #330 Jim Hunter

Vintage cards of Hall of Famers don't just grow on trees, especially when they predate the overproduction era by well over a decade. This 1972 card of Jim Hunter is certainly not what I expected to find in my mailbox that day. Jim Hunter, better known as "Catfish", was a Cy Young Award winner, five-time World Series champion, 1987 inductee into Cooperstown, and made an appearance on my second-ever blog post.

The card back from this '72 does refer to him by his commonly known nickname (in fact his Baseball-Reference page doesn't even list his birth name), and mentions that he never played in the minors. He joined up with the Kansas City Athletics as a fresh-faced 19-year old, and stayed in the Majors up to his retirement in 1979. Sadly, he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS) and died at the young age of 53 in 1999.

The cartoon and trivia question on the card back digs deep into the baseball vault, "before baseball was even baseball" as one of my favorite sportswriters puts it when referring to the game in the 19th century. We're asked, "How many runs did Guy Hecker score, 8-15-86?"

Now, when I see a date like that, I of course jump to 1986, but since this card is from 1972, clearly they mean 1886. Card companies do like to make predictions about who will end up in the Hall of Fame, but even they wouldn't look at a specific date that far in the future.

In any case, seven. The answer is seven.

Even in 1972, I can't imagine there were many who had a vivid enough memory to recall 1886.

1972 O-Pee-Chee #229 Steve Blass WS

On the other hand, the 1971 World Series was fresh in everyone's mind when Topps printed the psychedelic tombstone set. And it still was when O-Pee-Chee printed their Canadian equivalents that same year, and this is indeed an OPC card.

Card #229 in both sets featured a photo of Steve Blass, who went the distance in Game 7 to secure the championship for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Notching the W in complete fashion during Game 7 of the World Series is something that hasn't been done since Jack Morris in 1990, and Blass is in some very elite company for turning in that kind of performance. Names like Bob Gibson (twice), Sandy Koufax, Johnny Podres who finally sealed the deal for Brooklyn in 1955, Dizzy Dean, and others. 

Remembering that the flamethrowing closer Aroldis Chapman appeared in 2016's Game 7 with two outs in the 8th inning (only to immediately lose a three run lead), I think it's safe to say we have seen the last of complete games in Game 7.

The card back simply contains the box score (as well as a couple section headings in both English and French). On it, you'll find names like Clemente, Stargell, and two Robinsons on the Baltimore side.

Simple and timeless.

2021 Topps Heritage #151 Josh Naylor

Topps reused the 1972 design in the 2021 Heritage set, and to my eye, they did a pretty nice job. Jay threw in a copy of Josh Naylor's card, Cleveland's Canadian-born first baseman/right fielder. Naylor suffered a bad leg injury last season, but has recovered well and has proven to be an entertaining, high-energy player for the Guardians.

The trivia question on the back is a bit closer to the realm of recent history than we saw on Catfish Hunter's card. "How many intentional walks did Roger Maris get when he hit 61 homers in 1961?"

Famously, it was zero, because he had Mickey Mantle protecting him in the lineup. And Mantle hit 54 of his own that year, a career high. There was no easy way through that lineup.

1980 Topps #104 Manny Mota

Moving forward a few years in the Topps timeline, we come to 1980. This was near the end of Manny Mota's career, leaving his mark with a 20-year career. He spent most of that with the Dodgers and Pirates, along with brief stints as a Giant and Expo. His final season was 1982, if you can call it a season. Really it was just one at-bat in a September game against the Cardinals.

Manny went on to coach the Dodgers until 2013. His sons Andy and José both played in the Major Leagues in the early 1990s. You'll find each of them in a few of the many overproduction-era sets you have stashed away. Try 1992 Fleer.

1980 O-Pee-Chee #38 John Milner DP

Crossing the border again brings us to another Canadian-printed O-Pee-Chee card, this one of Pirates outfielder John Milner. He was fresh off winning his first and only World Series ring as a member of the 1979 "We Are Family" team that sported these bright yellow uniforms.

His cousin Eddie played for the Reds and Giants throughout the 1980s, and his 1987 card looks so familiar that I'm almost certain it was in the first pack of cards I ever got.

1967 Topps #56 José Tartabull

The oldest card in this envelope was of Cuban-born outfielder José Tartabull. He's pictured here on the 1967 set as a member of the Boston Red Sox, when he was teammates with Carl Yastrzemski. He was also teammates with Catfish Hunter for a few seasons during his time with the Kansas City Athletics. After his time in Boston, he wrapped up his career by joining the Athletics again, this time after they moved to Oakland. 

He, too, is a baseball dad, as his son Danny played with the Mariners, Royals, Yankees, and others during the '80s and '90s, who is also in that 1992 Fleer set if you still have it out. Danny Tartabull was Derek Jeter's teammate during th 1995 rookie season, and I can definitely recommend the Jeter documentary "The Captain" on ESPN. I'm not entirely caught up, but I'd imagine you can see the younger Tartabull in some of that footage.

1993 Rockies Team Stadium Club #8 Roberto Mejía

My baseball fandom began in earnest in 1993. Based on that, anyone in this community can probably guess I like the early 1990s influx of gold foil that overtook the hobby. That includes this Team Stadium Club card, a set that was a very early acquisition in my collection. It's from the same team set I completed a while ago with help from the blog community.

As stated on the card back, Roberto Mejía hadn't yet made his Major League debut. That would come a little later in 1993, specifically on July 15th while visiting the Cubbies. That is foreshadowed by what I think is a "WGN Sports" banner in the background, the longtime TV home of the Cubs.

1981 Fleer #498 Broderick Perkins (AU)

Our final two cards are graced by on-card autographs. They're not certified or anything, but will still be good additions to a special page I have in one of my first binders.

I must admit that I've never heard of Broderick Perkins. He played in the late '70s and early '80s for the Padres and Indians, but I can't recall crossing paths with one of his cards in my collecting career. Nevertheless, both Fleer and Donruss included him in their 1981 sets following the dissolution of the Topps monopoly. Which, of course, we now have again.

1994 Leaf #172 Gerónimo Peña (AU)

Gerónimo Peña, on the other hand, I do remember. As pictured, he was a member of the Cardinals for nearly his entire career, and he was on the roster during my first visit to Coors Field on August 25th, 1995. I just ran across some family photos from that trip during this tremendous photo organization project I spent most of July on, and while Peña didn't appear in any of those pictures, I did find some distant snaps my dad took of Galarraga, Bichette, and lots of other Blake Street Bomber-era Rockies, along with Ozzie Smith's scoreboard graphic.

I remember Peña's 1994 Topps card, where on the back they mentioned a series of freak injuries he suffered. He once tripped over his glove in spring training and broke his collarbone. Things like that.

He's healthy enough to be dancing down the third base line on his 1994 Leaf card, another strong candidate in the 1990s gold foil festival. The busy card back contains another action photo, a couple lines of statistics, a tiny rainbow foil Cardinals logo, a ticket stub design element that puts us in the Field Box at Busch Stadium, and a wide shot of said stadium with the Gateway Arch in the background. And the card number.

More is more with 1990s card backs.

Thanks very much to Jay for thinking of me!


Thursday, June 23, 2022

Opening Day Is Upon Us (Part 2: Inserts)

Voting for the All-Star Game is well underway. If you haven't voted in the first round, you have about a week left to do that. I did submit a few ballots during the first couple days, and it's so much easier now than when I was a kid. I remember the old paper ballots, and I used to vote so many of them at once that the kitchen table would be blanketed in tiny white paper dots. Things are a bit more environmentally friendly now.

Meanwhile, as the season approaches its halfway point, I'm still over here writing about Opening Day. Specifically, the inserts and other goodies from a blaster of 2022 Opening Day that I got shipped from Target. 

I'll never be caught up again, will I?

And I'm sure I'll hold the record for the last post in the community about Nick's 10th Anniversary giveaway. Sorry, Nick.

2022 Topps Opening Day Mascots #M-19 Mariner Moose

As promised in Part 1, and as longtime readers probably predicted, I did pull a card of a very patriotic-looking Mariner Moose. I've still yet to see one of these gigantic animals in the wild, but that chance is ever-present in the great state of Colorado. I hope that my repeated luck in pulling Mariner Moose cards isn't negatively impacting my luck of seeing a real one, because I'd love to someday.

In the meantime, I'll rely on Topps to keep me in a steady supply of Mascot cards.

2022 Topps Opening Day Mascots #M-7 Dinger

It goes without saying that I've never seen a triceratops in the wild, either. But Dinger makes plenty of appearances on my mascot cards and in person at Coors Field, too. Here's a shot of him all dressed up to host the Purple Carpet show prior to the 2021 All-Star Game at Coors Field. I'm not sure exactly, but this is probably in front of the new McGregor Square building, just across 20th Street from Coors Field.

Hard to believe that was almost a year ago.

2022 Topps Opening Day Mascots #M-9 Orbit

The 2022 All-Star Game is being held in Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium. It was supposed to be there during 2020, but that of course was cancelled due to the pandemic.

There were lots of mascots on the concourse at Coors Field during the All-Star Game. I remember seeing Fredbird, the Phillie Phanatic, and of course Orbit. Though I'm not sure Orbit will be particularly welcome at Dodger Stadium considering the cheating scandal that happened during the 2017 World Series. As pictured on this card, maybe he's limbering up with squats to be able to escape angry fans.

And where's the 2023 game going to be held? That would be Seattle, giving our friend the Mariner Moose a real opportunity to shine.

2022 Topps Opening Day Opening Day #OD-2 Detroit Tigers

The other insert sets found in Opening Day are never as fun as Mascots, but they're still worth a look. Here's the redundantly named Opening Day set, a fifteen-card set featuring half of the MLB teams and their performance on Opening Day 2021. 

The Tigers, in particular, won their season opener in Detroit thanks to a home run from Miguel Cabrera. His turn at the plate began rather normally, but a sudden snow flurry rapidly picked up over the course of his at-bat, ending with the ball just clearing the right field fence.

The future Hall-of-Famer gave fans at Comerica Park memorable moments in two consecutive Aprils, as he got his 3,000th hit two months ago against the Rockies.

2022 Topps Opening Day Opening Day #OD-9 Kansas City Royals

I don't recall the Royals making the highlight reel that day, but they won their 2021 home opener in a 14-10 slugfest against the Rangers. The card back tells us that fan favorite Alex Gordon threw out the first pitch that day, all the way from his longtime station in left field.

I saw the Royals visit Coors Field in May, the 29th team I've seen play. I missed my chance at the Expos, but only the Minnesota Twins remain to be checked off.

2022 Topps Opening Day Bomb Squad #BS-10 Giancarlo Stanton

Nearly as plentiful as Mascots in this blaster were cards from the Bomb Squad insert set. This 25-card set features some of the game's best home run hitters, new and old. Giancarlo Stanton, one of many slugging Yankees, is frequently on the highlight reel for launching baseballs deep into the Bronx night. He is far off his league-leading pace of 59 from his 2017 season, his final as a Marlin, but he still has a respectable 14 so far in 2022. 

The #16 patch on his pinstriped sleeve honors Whitey Ford, who died in 2020.

2022 Topps Opening Day Bomb Squad #BS-7 Babe Ruth

Stanton traces his lineage as a slugging Yankee all the way back to the granddaddy of them all, George Herman "Babe" Ruth. Not much needs to be said about the Sultan of Swat, perhaps the greatest-known player to ever take the field. Nevertheless, the card back gives us plenty of unique statistics, starting off with his career total of 714. The Bambino also led the AL in homers twelve times, and two of those seasons were 35 ahead of the second-place finisher.

They didn't really call home runs "bombs" back in those days, but Ruth's colorful and alliterative nicknames like "The Colossus of Clout" more than make up for it.

2022 Topps Opening Day Bomb Squad #BS-16 Jim Thome

He might not be on the Mount Rushmore of baseball players like Ruth, but Jim Thome is in the Hall of Fame, and he has 612 home runs to thank for it, good for eighth all time. He's pictured here as a Phillie, but he spent most of his career with Cleveland. He was the first Phillie to compete in a Home Run Derby, and the card back also tells us that 17 of his homers came on a 3-0 count.

I seem to remember the baseball world getting into quite a kerfuffle last year when young stars like Fernando Tatís, Jr. and Yermín Mercedes took pitchers deep on 3-0 counts, apparently violating the sacred unwritten rules. I don't remember hearing much about that during any of Thome's 17 blasts.

2022 Topps Opening Day Triple Play #TPC-1A Mike Trout / B Shohei Ohtani / C Anthony Rendon

A trio of Angels (though not the Russian ones from 1993 Topps #633) make up this odd-looking insert card from the Triple Play subset. Mike Trout (who possesses a Ruth-esque nickname of "The Millville Meteor"), Shohei Ohtani, and Anthony Rendon all make appearances, and the card includes a perforation between each player. If you were to separate these, they would be slightly smaller than an Allen & Ginter tobacco-sized Mini. This design also includes the same divot on the top border we saw in 2008 Topps, which everyone disliked for encroaching on the photo.

There isn't much room on these card backs, but somehow Topps still left a ton of white space. Mike Trout's storied career is boiled down to eight All-Star Game selections, more than any other Angel.

Sadly, Anthony Rendon's season came to an end last week due to wrist surgery, but the Angels have added an exciting breakout star to their lineup in Taylor Ward, a five-season veteran who is finally finding his stride.

2022 Topps Opening Day Blue Foil #72 Gavin Sheets /2022

I didn't pull any cards from the exceptionally rare Walk This Way, Luck of the Irish, or Dugout Peeks insert sets, so we'll close with the only Blue Foil parallel I found, a Rookie Card of Gavin Sheets. No relation to former Brewers pitcher Ben Sheets, but he is the son of former Orioles outfielder Larry Sheets. I haven't heard much about him, as he only has 98 games under his belt, but he fits right in on a young White Sox team playing for the oldest manager in the game.

As is usual with Blue Foil parallels, their stated print run is equal to the calendar year, but there is no serial number to be found.

That about wraps up Opening Day, just in time for summer.


Friday, May 27, 2022

The Trading Post #170: The Angels, In Order

Due to inclement weather in our nation's capital, the Rockies have been rained out Friday night. But that's okay, because I still have a game to watch while writing this quick three-card post. The Colorado Avalanche were in St. Louis tonight for a Game 6 against the Blues, advancing to their first Conference Finals since 2002. 

Hockey isn't always at the top of my list of sports, but it's a fast-paced sport that is a delight to watch. It's a good contrast to the chess match that is baseball. Don't count on me getting hugely into hockey cards, though. Baseball remains the #1 sport in my heart.

It's amazing that the MLB season is already a quarter over. It feels like just yesterday when I went to Opening Day. That much of the season has zipped by since my last post. It's been about that long since I claimed three cards from a generous giveaway run by Tom over at The Angels, In Order. He hasn't been particularly active lately, nor have I, but he did pop up long enough to spread some cheer through the blog community.

2013 Topps Making Their Mark #MM-1 Yoenis Céspedes

The first of my three picks is this insert from 2013 Topps, showing the not-quite-retired Yoenis Céspedes. The Cuban-born outfielder hasn't played in the Majors since 2020, when he appeared in eight games during the shortened season before deciding to opt-out. He put together a solid career, mainly for the Mets and A's, and also won the Home Run Derby in two consecutive contests, putting him among Ken Griffey, Jr. and Pete Alonso as the only ones to accomplish that feat.

Long before sending exhibition-game moonshots into the midsummer night, Céspedes hit his first major league home run in early 2012, giving Topps plenty of material for the Making Their Mark insert set. Céspedes's first Major League home run actually happened in Tokyo, facing off against the Seattle Mariners during an overseas opener. It was officially part of the 2012 regular season, a tradition the teams repeated in 2019.

I haven't seen this insert set in years, but it was familiar enough for me to easily recognize it and give myself a chance to open the 2013 binder again. I haven't done that in a while.

2017 Honus Bonus Fantasy Baseball #52 Ryon Healy

Another green-colored selection was my first-ever Honus Bonus card. Among the oddest of all recent oddballs, this product briefly made a splash (maybe more of a gentle ripple) in 2017, never to be heard from again. The 500-card unlicensed set made the rounds back then, and still pops up from time to time on the more oddball-focused blogs around here.

If you're interested, there are some extremely affordable Honus Bonus 1/1s on eBay right now. I'm content to have just one example of this oddball in my collection, if only as a curiosity.

The green borders are about the only splash of color on this whole card, and that's the only clue that Ryon Healy was playing for the A's at the time. You have to flip the card over to check the team, which of course just says "Oakland", given the unlicensed nature of this set. The card back also has a small selection of 2016 stats, his uniform number which we clearly see on the front, and his position. The stats line omits hits, but we are given at-bats and batting average, leaving us to do the math ourselves. They did include his stolen base total (zero), as well as his OPS.

It's a strange one.

Also on the card back is a barcode and a scratch-off section, meant for playing Honus Bonus Fantasy Baseball online. The URL is long-dead, although there are some fossilized fragments remaining at archive.org.

Speaking of all this green, the Rockies unveiled their City Connect uniforms today, set to debut on-field on June 4th against the Braves. The mostly-green uniforms are patterned after the retro Colorado license plates, which were mostly green with white lettering. Even the typeface is the same. There are other Colorado-themed elements, such as the GPS coordinates of Coors Field, a double black diamond meant to represent a ski slope sign, and a few purple accents scattered throughout.

In fact, in taking a closer look, the yellow patch containing the GPS coordinates and the diamonds looks a bit like the annual stickers that go on the corner of a license plate.

I can't wait to see it appear on a card.

1998 Topps Stars Gold #58 Masato Yoshii /2299

Rolling things back to the late-'90s, our final collectible is a parallel of Masato Yoshii's Topps Stars card, serial numbered to 2,299. That print run identifies this as the Gold parallel. So does the gold lettering, of course. Even the regular base cards are serial numbered to 9,799, making these on the scarce side.

As you can see, Yoshii's first team in North America was the New York Mets, where he stayed for two seasons. Following that stint, he joined the Colorado Rockies for one season, becoming the first Japanese-born player to suit up for the Rockies.

The card back has a five-star player rating system for a variety of metrics, from the easily measurable "Velocity" to the highly intangible "Savvy". He rates two and five stars in those categories, respectively. Below that is a trivia question, asking us which Met was the team's first Rookie of the Year in 1967. We have to check the next card in the checklist to find the answer, but in case you're not one of the fewer than 10,000 owners of card #59 (I am not), I'll tell you that the answer is Tom Seaver.

The trivia answer that carries over from card #57 is "Fernando Valenzuela in 1981", which was obviously asking about that year's Rookie of the Year Dodger. Card #57 is Hideo Nomo, cleanly tying it all together. I don't have that card either, but maybe Night Owl has it hiding somewhere and can confirm for us.

Thanks to Tom for the giveaway and enjoy the next three-quarters of the MLB season!


Sunday, April 10, 2022

Opening Day Is Upon Us (Part 1: Base)

At long last, the 2022 MLB season has begun. The lockout, while it did delay Opening Day by a week or so, was ended early enough to salvage a full season. Baseball is back, though not without some notable changes.

The National League, nearly a half-century after the American League made the switch, is now using a Designated Hitter, although MLB carefully carved out some exceptions so as not to diminish Shohei Ohtani's unique strengths. The extra innings ghost runner rule is still intact. Playoffs have expanded to 12 teams, further eroding the value of playing a 162-game schedule. The TV streaming landscape continues to grow ever-more fragmented, and umpires are finally using the stadium PA system to explain reviewed calls. 

But in speaking with more casual baseball fans in my circle, the thing I've been asked about the most (once they learn that the lockout is over, that is), is the electronic pitch-calling system that a few teams tested during spring training. After what happened with the Astros in 2017, the system for catchers calling pitches was definitely due for an upgrade. Teams throughout the league now have the option of using the new PitchCom system, a button-operated device worn by the catcher that audibly communicates the selected pitch to up to five players over an encrypted radio channel. As baseball changes go, it's been pretty well-received.

The game has changed a lot in the past few years, not to mention in the past century.

2022 Topps Opening Day #76 Eloy Jiménez

On the other hand, the game hasn't changed so much that it's lost its roots. The 1919-esque Field of Dreams game that took place last summer still has its place. And Topps picked a few photos from that evening's event for 2022 base cards (and thus the quasi-parallels of the Opening Day set). Eloy Jiménez, one of the stars of a young White Sox team, is pictured here in the throwback Sox uniforms worn by the team that night in Dyersville, Iowa. It's been jazzed up a little bit with modern touches like the Nike Swoosh, gold chains, and the helmet C-Flap, a piece of safety equipment that saved Francisco Lindor from a serious injury on Friday night.

As we approach Easter, it's worth telling an amusing story about Eloy Jiménez. Late in spring training last year, he suffered a tendon injury and was projected to miss several months. Of course that was unfortunate, but the White Sox tweeted about it in such a way (granted, on April Fools' Day) that made it sound like he had died. After plenty of misunderstanding among the fan base, everyone started joking "He is risen" upon his earlier-than-expected return last summer, which came in plenty of time for him to emerge like an apparition from the outfield corn in Iowa.

2022 Topps Opening Day #120 Carlos Rodón

In flipping through the surprisingly massive quantity of cards that came out of a single blaster (including not one, but two "Extra Packs"), I noticed just how many different uniforms the White Sox wore last year. Another throwback worn by pitcher Carlos Rodón is, um, thrown back but not as far, bringing us back to the early-mid 1980s. There sure is a lot of red on the sock for a team called the White Sox.

Rodón, who pitched a no-hitter just under one year ago, has an "MR" memorial patch on the right sleeve of his uniform, something we'll see lots of throughout this post. The MR initials are for Martyl Reinsdorf, wife of White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. She passed away in June 2021.

2022 Topps Opening Day #192 Lance Lynn

Of course, the White Sox often wore their normal black and white pinstriped uniforms too, but that's less interesting, so let's move on while pitcher Lance Lynn recovers from knee surgery.

2022 Topps Opening Day #194 José Abreu

That brings us to José Abreu, the MVP veteran of the White Sox, sporting the team's special City Connect uniform. By the end of 2022, about half the teams will have partnered with Nike to create these unique City Connect uniforms, meant to "explore the personality, values, and customs that make each community and their residents unique", according to the press release. The White Sox, as you can see, have all-black uniforms with white pinstripes, and "Southside" lettering across the front, tying them into their particular area of Chicago.

2022 Topps Opening Day #147 Nico Hoerner

Contrast that with their crosstown rivals, the Cubs, whose dark blue City Connect uniforms have "Wrigleyville" lettering. A mere eleven miles away up Lake Shore Drive, the Cubs have their own section of Chicago firmly locked up, and are next in line to play in Iowa for their own Field of Dreams game this August 11th.

2022 Topps Opening Day #98 Trevor Rogers

The Marlins debuted their own City Connect uniforms in 2021, featuring "Miami" in script lettering on a red background, along with a blue cap. These are the colors once worn by a Cuban-based Minor League team, the Havana Sugar Kings. That team's history came to a sudden end around the time of the Cuban Revolution, although they eventually evolved into the franchise that is today's Triple-A Norfolk Tides.

Even the patch worn on Trevor Rogers's right sleeve is a near-replica of the original Sugar Kings logo, slightly altered to include the Marlins name. The Sugar Kings may not be around anymore, but the Cuban connection in Miami very much is.

I'll always have a fondness for the turquoise uniforms the Marlins debuted with in their inaugural 1993 season, but these are pretty cool.

2022 Topps Opening Day #129 Max Scherzer

The Dodgers debuted their "Los Dodgers" jerseys in L.A. last summer, but this one wasn't as well-received among fans. It's a nice shade of blue, but isn't especially different from the team's usual uniform. Max Scherzer isn't even a Dodger anymore anyway. He's with the Mets now, and I find it surprising that neither New York team has been involved in this program yet. The Yankee pinstripes are timeless, but surely the Mets could come up with something.

2022 Topps Opening Day #86 Mike Yastrzemski

Think of San Francisco, and you'll probably think of the Golden Gate Bridge. The designers of Mike Yastrzemski's alternate Giants uniform thought the same thing. They added what's meant to be a layer of fog on the all-white uniforms, and even a white gradient on the bottom of the "G", as though the logo is emerging from the fog the way the bridge towers do.

As a tech worker, the bridge design on the sleeves remind me of older Cisco logos.

The Red Sox and Diamondbacks got in on the City Connect fun last year, but I didn't find any such cards of theirs in this blaster. Several more teams this year, including the Rockies on June 4th, will have a new alternate jersey in the series with which to take the field.

I have to admit that these kind of flew under my radar last year. I had seen them on highlight reels, but didn't really put together how inspired and creative these were meant to be. I'm excited to see more teams have their City Connect jerseys unveiled throughout the season. I've made it a point to put this year's release dates on my calendar, since clearly I'm into it. I've spent eight cards talking about little else but uniforms, and there's more where that came from.

2022 Topps Opening Day #166 Ernie Clement (RC)

This is a Photoshop job, but it is our first look at Cleveland's new team name and logo, the Guardians. Unfortunately, they lost their first game under the new banner. 

I don't have much to say about rookie Ernie Clement, but I haven't said anything about the 2022 design yet, so here goes. 

I like it.

It doesn't seem quite as much like a Bowman design as I first thought. I particularly like how the red line around the outer border swoops around and curves through the stitches of the baseball design element in the lower left. The team name and especially the position are pretty tiny and hard to read, but the size of the player's name is a huge improvement over the 2021 set, as are the photographs. 

I do see how collectors are calling this the "wrench set" based on the lower design elements, but I don't see a wrench as vividly as I see the so-called sea turtle in 2013 Topps, at least not when the border is color-coded for a red team. Maybe it's a little more noticeable with a white border. The colored border carries over to the back, but the baseball stitch loop area is only halfway there. Where the other half would be is occupied by the card number.

2022 Topps Opening Day #219 Freddie Freeman

Not counting something like Topps Update, the photos we get on baseball cards are typically one season behind. Printing technology has improved by leaps and bounds since I started collecting (really, go back and look at the photo quality on late-80s Donruss sets), but the constraints of creating, printing, and distributing baseball card sets have only gotten more challenging. We've only had Topps Now for a handful of years, and keep in mind you've never been able to buy that by the box.

I'm not expecting a current-year photo of Freddie Freeman on this card. That would be silly; the season is only a few days old. I'm just using that as a segue to point out the commemorative patch from 2021 on Freeman's sleeve, the 150th Anniversary of the Braves franchise. They can trace their lineage all the way back to 1871's Boston Red Stockings, which predated the National League itself by five years.

I happened to get a good look at Freeman on Friday when his new team, the Dodgers, visited Coors Field for Opening Day. Yes, some Opening Day tickets came my way this year, and it was a fun experience to be back at the ballpark, but the Dodgers sort of spoiled the fun. Their entire lineup is just one MVP after another, with some All-Stars peppered in there for good measure.

2022 Topps Opening Day #94 Adam Wainwright

Adam Wainwright's stellar career is likely drawing to a close this season, along with that of his longtime battery mate, Yadier Molina. That's probably just who is ready to catch the pitch that Waino is winding up for on this photo.

Many of the Hall of Fame legends we lost in the past couple years were honored with memorial patches during the 2021 season. Bob Gibson and his #45...

2022 Topps Opening Day #174 Christian Yelich

...Hank Aaron and his #44 (though he was only briefly a Brewer)...

2022 Topps Opening Day #65 Julio Urías

...Tommy Lasorda's #2 and Don Sutton's #20...

2022 Topps Opening Day #5 Joey Gallo

...Whitey Ford's #16...

2022 Topps Opening Day #168 Josh Donaldson

...Mike Bell's initials, the bench coach of the Twins...

2022 Topps Opening Day #191 Pete Alonso

...and Tom Seaver's #41.

It's sad, that much loss. But it's always a nice gesture when teams honor their great legends. 

Seaver's number is being worn by Pete Alonso, one of the exciting young stars whose name isn't mentioned nearly as much as Tatís, Guerrero, Soto, Acuña, and others. He was the 2019 NL Rookie of the Year and has two consecutive wins at the Home Run Derby. Alonso, aka Polar Bear, is a few years older than those vibrant young players, but I think he's a bit underrated.

The card back mentions the whopping 74 home runs he hit at the 2021 Home Run Derby. He's likely to get plenty more great horizontal cards in future Topps sets if he keeps that up.

2022 Topps Opening Day #82 Manny Machado

I really am not a fan of Manny Machado, but I have to admit that this a fantastic card. The cropping and pose is great, and the "wrench" design works especially well in horizontal orientation. I even noticed the tiny white dot between the team logo and the player's name, which I didn't spot on the vertical cards.

2022 Topps Opening Day #38 Byron Buxton

Many of the best defensive plays, which I have a special appreciation for thanks to my Nolan Arenado fandom, really can't be depicted any other way than horizontally. Byron Buxton, now a Twin for the next seven years, shows us exactly why. 

Home run robberies, on the other hand, would typically need a more traditional vertical orientation. 

We've been seeing cards like these for a long time, but I have to wonder what a collector from fifty years ago would think, someone who had just started seeing "In Action" photos appear on baseball cards. We look back fondly on various baserunning and play-at-the-plate cards from that era and still write about them today. Will we still be talking about Byron Buxton cards in the year 2072?

I can't promise this blog will go on that long, despite my best efforts.

2022 Topps Opening Day #169 Ryan McMahon

Only a couple Rockies were present in this blaster, chock full of over 150 cards. Ryan McMahon was the first among them, and he's holding down the starting third baseman job for the Rockies even after the team signed Kris Bryant, who is now apparently a left fielder. I never expected this Stadium Club insert from several years ago would end up being related to an eventual Rockies player, but I'm glad I held onto it. Bryant had a chance to tie the game on Opening Day in the 9th inning, but foul tipped the last pitch for a strikeout.

Clearly he is the big news in Denver this year, other than Russell Wilson joining the Broncos, who traveled a couple miles east to throw out the first pitch on Opening Day. All I'm talking about is Bryant in relation to RyMac's card. But McMahon is growing into one of the fan favorites around here, and he had an RBI and a double in Saturday's night game. Perhaps the All-Star Game patch on his sleeve is a sign for the future of his career.

2022 Topps Opening Day #177 Trevor Story

Trevor Story, on the other hand, couldn't get out of here fast enough. He signed a deal with the Red Sox, and he's playing second base instead of his usual shortstop, a position that is currently occupied by Xander Bogaerts. As I understand it, the Rockies offered him more money than did Boston, but he still decided to venture out elsewhere.

Whatever happens now, at least us Rockies fans had six seasons of electrifying performance and monster home runs from Trevor Story to look back on. I don't know what it was, but somehow his homers just felt like they were bigger, even if they often traveled roughly the same distance as many others. He was a lot of fun to watch, and I wish him well.

2022 Topps Opening Day #199 Trent Grisham

Trent Grisham is one of the very few players in the MLB who chooses not to wear batting gloves, but the main reason this Padres card caught my eye is that it's obviously a candidate for my Coors Field frankenset. That much purple, especially in and on the dugout, makes it hard to mistake for anything else. Plus, as a player in the NL West, he's much more likely to play in Coors Field during a road game.

2022 Topps Opening Day #208 Wander Franco (RC)

And finally, this wouldn't be a proper post about a 2022 baseball card set if I didn't mention Wander Franco, this year's red-hot rookie whose cards are currently going for eye-popping prices. I'll end up with his Topps Series 1 rookie card later on once I buy the factory set, but the nearly-identical Opening Day version will hold me over until then.

The season is barely underway and I've already seen this card countless times, enough to notice that between the Topps Rookie Cup and the Opening Day logo, the design elements at all four corners of the photo are nicely symmetrical. That symmetry is slightly thrown off on his Series 1 base card since there's nothing in the lower right.

This post was twenty-two cards, possibly a record for me. And this is just part one. Come back later for the Mariner Moose (yes, I did get the Mariner Moose because of course I did) and the rest of the inserts in part two.