Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The Trading Post #160: It's Like Having My Own Card Shop

No sooner did I get caught up on trade posts than more started showing up. With no expectation of anything in return, I fired off a card to Daniel at It's Like Having My Own Card Shop, a Kirby Puckett duplicate I knew I had (help him with 1989 Cap'n Crunch if you can!). Nevertheless, he returned the favor with a card from my favorite Topps brand, and that of course is Stadium Club.

I know that my Wish List tab is a tremendously inadequate representation of what I'm actually on the hunt for, but I did put one Coors Field card on it from 2014 Stadium Club. Daniel sent it.

2014 Stadium Club #93 Chris Owings (RC)

My Coors Field frankenset is slowly but surely coming along. It's a long way off from completion. Truthfully, it's a long way off from even having most of the numbers filled. But each year gives me more candidates for the list, and now I can cross #93 off. The background shows the left field wall, which has some chain link gaps below the yellow line, which you can see here. Also there's one fan with just a hint of purple, and it's an NL West team, so the odds are good that I've guessed the right stadium.

Side note, the Rookie Card logo on this 2014 Stadium Club design nestles in perfectly and is in about the most unobtrusive spot I can ever remember seeing.

Pictured is Chris Owings, then a Diamondbacks rookie. I can't tell exactly which game, but it's likely this is from the September 20th-22nd, 2013 series in Denver. Owings was a September call-up then and was just getting a taste of the big leagues. We have another indicator that this was from 2013, and that's the #19 patch worn on Owings's right sleeve. That wasn't for a player, but rather to honor the memory of nineteen wildland firefighters that perished in Arizona's Yarnell Hill Fire. Fortunately, no firefighters died in the recent round of Colorado wildfires, and I certainly hope that continues to be the case.

Chris Owings got a front row seat for the smoky Colorado air earlier this year, as he signed with the Rockies for the 2020 season. The versatile player appeared all over the diamond, although he played in only seventeen games before being sidelined with hamstring troubles. It will likely go down as a Short-Term Stop, but it was long enough for Rockies fans to at least learn his name.

Kind of.

I say that because my girlfriend and I had a running joke this season. During a game, a camera happened to catch the back of his uniform. The tall, squarish shape of the letters and the wrinkle of his jersey made the "O" look more like a "D", which quickly turned into us both calling him "Dwings". As in, "Dwings made a nice play there." "I think Dwings is on deck." "Get in here, Dwings just hit a home run!" That sort of thing.

He's a free agent once again, and I hope he lands somewhere in the Majors. He's been a journeyman since he first reached free agency, so odds are another team picks him up. If he lands in the NL West again, he might even get another slot in my Coors Field frankenset.

Thanks to Daniel for the trade, and good luck with the rest of the Cap'n Crunch set!

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Making It to the Big Leagues (Part 2: Subsets and Beyond)

It's shortly after 5pm Mountain Standard Time as I begin writing this, and I have Part 2 of a Topps Big League blaster to finish. Part 1 looked at a handful of base cards from 2018 Big League, and now it's time for a few subsets, parallels, and inserts.

The news will be there when I'm done.

What we do know is that Charlie Blackmon had an impressive season in 2017. Good enough for a fifth-place finish in NL MVP voting, in fact.

2018 Topps Big League #303 Charlie Blackmon / Giancarlo Stanton / Paul Goldschmidt SK

Because of that, he got first billing on a whole slew of cards in the Stat Kings subset, which are essentially three-player League Leader cards. This white-bordered card for NL Runs Scored is still part of the base set, but it fits better here in Part 2. Blackmon occupied the top spot, earning a bigger photo than Giancarlo Stanton and Paul Goldschmidt. He crossed the plate 137 times in 2017, which in fact led the entire Major Leagues. Even Aaron Judge's first full season didn't eclipse Blackmon in Runs Scored.

As the card back tells us, Larry Walker still holds the team record, scoring 143 in his MVP 1997 season. Stanton and Goldschmidt are briefly mentioned as well, and interestingly, they were both still on their original teams at the time. Like many elite sluggers, Stanton eventually joined Aaron Judge on the Yankees, and Goldschmidt signed with St. Louis. All three are appropriately shown at the plate on the card front. Unlike a League Leader card from the Topps flagship set, we only get stats for these three players, as opposed to the ten or so players listed you'd see on the back of one of those cards. More photos, fewer stats. It was a winning strategy for early Upper Deck sets, in general.

2018 Topps Big League Gold #305 Charlie Blackmon / Dee Gordon / Ender Inciarte SK

Unless you have an elite eye, are intentionally walked regularly, or somehow manage to generate catcher's interference plays at a superhuman rate like Jacoby Ellsbury, you have to get hits before you can score those runs. And Charlie Blackmon did just that, with a whopping 213 hits. That, too, led the Majors. This time his cardmates are Dee Gordon and Ender Inciarte. Gordon has moved on to the Mariners and is now a free agent, but Inciarte is still with the Braves. Blackmon remains top dog, and got a picture at his home park this time. 

They're tiny on this photo, but both Gordon and Inciarte are both wearing special patches. Gordon, as a Marlin, wore the #16 memorial patch for José Fernández, who died in 2016. Of all the celebrity deaths that year, Fernández's hit me pretty hard. The Marlins also hosted the All-Star Game in 2017, as you can see by the patch on his right sleeve.

Inciarte has one too, which you can just barely see. The Braves wore this patch in 2016 to commemorate their final season in Turner Field, a very short stay. They followed it up with a similar one in 2017, and I can't tell which one this is. In any case, the Braves are in Truist Park now, which has already been renamed once in its short life, thanks to yet another bank merger.

Anyway, back to the card. Getting 213 hits in a 162-game season requires you to have multi-hit games, and Blackmon had 68 of them. That's a team record he did beat, according to the card, outpacing Dante Bichette's 66 in 1998. He had only 36 "o-fers" in 2017.

All base cards in 2018 Big League got some colored parallels, though they aren't serial numbered. This looks pretty similar to the mustard yellow color used in the 2002 Topps base set (and again in 2020 Archives, which we'll get to someday), but they call this one-per-pack variety "Gold".

Hey, it's a budget set and this isn't 1996 anymore.

2018 Topps Big League Blue #315 Charlie Blackmon / Daniel Murphy / Justin Turner SK

Getting 213 hits in a season puts you in a pretty good position to challenge for the batting title, and Blackmon won that, too. José Altuve had a better mark over in the AL, but Blackmon's .331 edged out future teammate Daniel Murphy and longtime division rival Justin Turner, both with .322. 

Actually, they had to split hairs on that one, per the card back. It was a close race, so they had to go to an additional decimal place. Murphy finished with .3221, just beating Turner's .3217. Murphy did even better in 2016 with a .347 average, but lost the batting crown to another Rockie, DJ LeMahieu.

This is obviously another parallel, the accurately-named Blue version, available in blasters only. The dark blue doesn't contrast well with the statistic being featured, and the same goes for the Topps logo. There's one more color yet to come, but we have some more ground to cover before we get there.

2018 Topps Big League #307 Nolan Arenado / Daniel Murphy / Odubel Herrera SK

Back to the off-white borders of the base set, we finally get a different Rockie in the #1 photo. Nolan Arenado led the NL in Doubles in 2017, although a half-dozen American Leaguers had more.

Topps did Arenado and Rockies collectors a favor on this card, as Daniel Murphy and Arenado both had 43 doubles. There's certainly no splitting hairs there. A fractional double is just a single (and a great analogy for electron energy levels, as I suddenly experience a flashback to high school chemistry). Maybe Murphy should have gotten the nod here, as the card back says than Murphy had ten more doubles than Nolan over the prior four seasons. Odubel Herrera, not currently a Major Leaguer, rounded out the top three.

We are all aware of a major political event tonight, but one minor thing we just learned is that Nolan Arenado won his eighth consecutive Gold Glove award, and well deserved! It's nice to see that streak stay alive.

2018 Topps Big League Players Weekend Photo Variations #287 Alex Bregman

We're used to seeing nickname variation cards on some recent Panini sets, and Topps decided to get in on the fun. This card of Alex Bregman lives somewhere between a skip-numbered parallel set and an insert set. It's considered a photo variation, and it has the same card number as his base card, but it has an entirely different design both front and back. 

A-Breg wore that nickname on his Players' Weekend jersey in 2017, which used much better colors across the than in 2019. It was a delightful splash of color in the inaugural year of 2017, so much more fun than the plain black and white uniforms worn in 2019. You couldn't tell the all-black uniforms apart from the umpires, and it wasn't well-received. Players' Weekend didn't happen in 2020, so here's hoping that occasion returns in 2021.

2018 Topps Big League #356 Swimming Pool

I like this Big League set. It puts these unique and fun cards right in the main checklist rather than relegating them to an insert set. It's a lot like the early Triple Play sets. This is another subset, called Ballpark Landmarks. Only half the stadiums were included, and Coors Field was sadly omitted. Their division rival Diamondbacks did make it in thanks to the swimming pool beyond right-center. This isn't as interesting a photograph as we saw on Zack Godley's card in 2018 Stadium Club, and is obviously the exact opposite of social distancing, but it would be a great place to catch a game.

The card back gives us a fun fact, telling us that Mark Grace was the first player to get a Splash Hit in the pool. Of all the games I've watched where the Rockies visited Phoenix, that one has never come up. Topps did get something wrong on the back, telling us that the pool was built in 2011. That's not the case; it's been there since the ballpark opened. And even so, Mark Grace retired long before 2011. That one probably should have been caught.

2018 Topps Big League Gold #362 Stan Musial Statue

Back to the Gold parallel set, here's the Stan Musial Statue outside of Busch Stadium. This statue predated Musial's election to the Hall of Fame by a year, and has been a landmark outside both versions of Busch Stadium. This entered Cardinals lore in 1968, the same year that Bob Gibson gave us one of the best pitching seasons of all time. I don't remember seeing it in an establishing shot during ESPN's Long Gone Summer episode of 30 for 30, but it might have been in there somewhere. Incidentally, there is a fan sporting a Mark McGwire jersey, if you look closely.

2018 Topps Big League Blaster Box Bottoms #B2 Bryce Harper

I promised one more colored border, and here it is. There aren't many with this green border, as it was one of just four possible options collectors could find as part of the blaster box itself. I didn't do a fantastic job of cutting this Bryce Harper card out, as is common with box cutouts that have entered the hobby over the years. It wasn't a "Box Bottom", anyway. It was on the side and at a bit of an angle. It was tricky to get a pair of scissors in there perfectly.

2018 wasn't really that long ago, but already lots of these players have gone on to other teams. Harper is with the Phillies now. He didn't make it into the coveted four-card Box Bottom set in 2019, although he did return there in 2020.

2018 Topps Big League Ministers of Mash #MI-6 Bryce Harper

A few of these cards defy categorization. They're not really inserts, not really main set cards. This Ministers of Mash card of Bryce Harper is the first indisputable insert card I've seen, and we're nearing the end of this post. This ten-card set gave us each player's career home run count through 2017, and Harper already had 150. That ties in to the back of his Box Bottoms card (and presumably his base card, which I didn't pull), which told us that he was the third-youngest active player to reach 150 home runs. Stanton and Albert Pujols were slightly younger, and apparently Mike Trout was exactly the same age, to the day, when he reached the 150 milestone.

If you continue that comparison to Mike Trout, however, Harper has slowed significantly. Through 2020, Harper's "only" at 232, while Trout has screamed to (and a couple past) 300.

2018 Topps Big League Star Caricature Reproductions #SCR-CK Clayton Kershaw

Neither Trout nor Harper have a World Series ring, but as of last week, Clayton Kershaw finally got that monkey off his back. As a Rockies fan, I'd prefer not to have seen those division rivals win it all, but they've been an extremely good team for a long time, no doubt. I guess Mookie Betts was the last key piece to making that work.

In any case, Kershaw went 4-1 in the 2020 Postseason, including two wins in the World Series. His greatness is now without question or reservation. Regardless of his past October struggles, he was a star player to begin with, which meant that Topps included him in this 30-card insert set, which looks a little cartoony but not quite as much as the set's 2019 follow-up. It was also a slight annoyance to count how many cards are in this checklist, because the card numbers are of the alphabet soup variety, rather than the numerical variety.

These Star Caricature cards are from the final insert set of 2018 Big League. One blaster certainly isn't enough to complete it, but it is enough to see a little of everything. I'm glad I finally got around to looking at this, and I didn't expect to like it so much. At such an affordable price, I'll have to be on the lookout for more.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Making It to the Big Leagues (Part 1: Base)

Now that I'm caught up on trade posts, my next project is going through all the blasters that have been accumulating on the same shelf. Most of those have been from 2020, but I have a stack of Topps Big League going back to the brand's inception in 2018 that has just been sitting there.

It would be more accurate to say that Topps Big League replaced Topps BUNT, the physical manifestation of their digital app. An app, by the way, that I spent way too much time on this weekend. Regardless of what they call it, this is the low-priced, youth-focused set that occupies the market segment that Triple Play and UD Fun Pack held back when I was a kid. 

That means affordability, small-ish set sizes, entertaining photographs, and fun facts on the back that may or may not be tangentially related to the actual sport of baseball.

2018 Topps Big League #281 Ketel Marte

Even when I'm not leading off with a Rockies card, the NL West is well-represented. This is Ketel Marte of the Diamondbacks, doing some pre-game warmups with Orbit, the lovable mascot of the Houston Astros. Usually you have to find Opening Day to add mascot cards to your collection, but Big League put it right in the base set. There is one Topps flagship card with a mascot that comes to mind, but it's quite rare. This photo is not going to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated, but it sets a lighthearted tone nonetheless.

Marte's card back calls him "a high-energy performer with good speed." It also mentions that he had two triples in the 2017 NL Wild Card game, part of what ended the 2017 Rockies season earlier than I would have liked. There were two additional triples that game, one by pitcher Archie Bradley, and another by A.J. Pollock.

Yes, yes, I know. COORS. That game was played in Arizona.

Regardless, Marte kept right on going in the 2018 season, leading the Big Leagues with twelve triples. Warming up with Orbit is always a good decision. Just look at those little baseballs on the end of the antennae.

2018 Topps Big League #226 Ichiro

Ichiro is one of those guys that never has a bad card. Not that there are many bad cards out there in this day and age, but he never even has mediocre ones. If they don't show a great action shot, then it's an awesome landscape or wide-angle shot like this. Or this. Everywhere he went, he had mobs of adoring fans from all walks of life and fandoms. Here, I see fans with apparel from the Mariners, Nationals, Royals, Dodgers, Red Sox, Twins, and even the Chicago Bears. I particularly like the giant photo a fan is holding out toward him with two big blue arrows directing him where to sign, as though he hasn't been doing this kind of thing for decades.

2018 Topps Big League #195 Yolmer Sánchez

With or without a pitch clock, baseball does involve waiting around. Of course, for that patience, you're occasionally rewarded with a roller coaster of a game like we saw Saturday in Game 4 of the World Series. But it's a strategic game with time to plan your moves, so no matter what rule changes come at us over the next few years, you can be sure players will still be chewing bubble gum out there on the diamond.

And as long as that happens, I hope baseball card companies aren't afraid to give us cards of players blowing bubbles. It's certainly less problematic than showing players with a big wad of chewing tobacco, especially for a youth-oriented set. And based on what the back tells us about Yolmer Sánchez, who is described on the back as a "fun-loving prankster", this is a perfect card.

2018 Topps Big League #370 Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (RC)

This one is more of a typical card photo, but the memorial patch on Lourdes Gurriel Jr.'s left sleeve caught my eye. The Blue Jays wore that #32 patch in 2018 for Roy Halladay, who passed away in November 2017. Some might remember him as a Phillie, since that's the only team he saw Postseason action with, but he spent most of his career as a Toronto Blue Jay.

You still get to see the Rookie Card logo from time to time in a brand like this, although most collectors will probably consider his true Rookie Card to be #US110 from 2018 Topps Update. Even with a Topps monopoly, the RC logo isn't completely reliable.

Overall, 2018 Big League is a simple but effective design. There are color-coded border accents that don't intrude on the photo. The player's name, team, and position are all in the same small area, and they're a bit on the small side but still easily legible. Again, youth-oriented. The team logo is perhaps bordering on a bit too large, but nothing obnoxiously out of hand like 2010 Topps. And it's foil-free at this price point, which leads to a surprisingly detailed Big League logo in the upper right.

Gurriel's fun fact tells us about his whole baseball family in Cuba, as well as his brother Yuli who plays with Orbit for the Astros. That got me thinking about Cuban players in general, and how many players never got their shot in the MLB due to the geopolitical tensions between the USA and Cuba. As with Japanese players, there were one or two that debuted back in the 1960s, but you didn't see players of either nationality get a shot in the MLB until the mid-'90s.

Just add it to the list of the many what-ifs that are peppered throughout baseball history.

2018 Topps Big League #293 Carlos González

That hasn't been quite as much the case with Venezuelan players. The first Venezuelan Big Leaguer played in 1939, and you'll certainly know the name Luis Aparicio, the country's first Hall of Famer who debuted in 1956.

Similarly, Carlos González and Yolmer Sánchez are fellow countrymen, but only one of them is likely to enter my Coors Field frankenset. Sánchez could up his chances significantly if he joined an NL West team. Actually, he did sign with the Giants for 2020, but the shortened season meant he never got playing time there and just signed right back with the White Sox.

As I scan these, I'm noticing how CarGo's bat peeks out of the frame all the way to the top of the card, always a nice design touch. Gurriel's card didn't do that, so there's a little inconsistency on the design front in that regard.

As this is a rather common set, I've seen it arrive in trades several times. Mostly I've just mixed them in to the blaster pile, so if you sent me cards from this set, they may have been intermingled into this stack over the past couple years. Entropy and all, you know. I don't catalog my cards nearly as accurately as some of you do, so this CarGo card could have been from the blaster, or from one of my many trading partners. 

The trade posts are the catalog, I suppose.

2018 Topps Big League #210 Billy Hamilton

Billy Hamilton, then with the Reds, is the first USA-born player to appear in today's post, and he looks somewhat humbled to be playing in Yankee Stadium. The recognizable upper facade has appeared on many, many cards throughout the years, and I'm glad to see Topps keep the tradition going, even though it's technically a new stadium now. 

His hitting leaves a bit to be desired, but Hamilton is known throughout the league for his speed. Near the end of the 2020 regular season, he stole home, something that Manuel Margot just unsuccessfully tried in Game 5.

Gutsy play, though.

2018 Topps Big League #145 Carlos Carrasco

Cleveland did make it to the Postseason this year, although they were dispatched in short order by the Yankees. Carlos Carrasco started their second game, but things fell apart for the Indians late that day. He'll surely be back for another season in 2021, hurling two-seam fastballs as pictured on this horizontal card.

"Cookie", another Venezuelan, has been with the Indians for his whole 11-year career, although he lost a lot of time in 2019 fighting leukemia. In fact, in looking through this stack of cards, I was pretty surprised at how many of these guys have had to deal with cancer.

2018 Topps Big League #44 Trey Mancini

Trey Mancini has had his own battle to fight. Shortly before turning 28 during this year's dicey spring training, he was diagnosed with stage-III colon cancer. That's a scary thing to happen, especially at such a young age, and he wrote all about his experience in The Player's Tribune.

The 2020 season, in whatever form it was going to take, passed him by, but I hope to see him and Carrasco facing off against each other next season.

2018 Topps Big League #4 Jon Lester

Cancer is further in the past of a few players, such as Jon Lester. It depends on a lot of factors, but treatments for many forms of the disease are becoming more effective. Lester's battle involved a fight with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma back in his rookie year. He's had a long and successful career since then, and pitched Game 4 of the 2007 World Series, the day after I had my own chance to witness such a historic game. 

Incidentally, I recently found out that Game 3 in 2007 marked the first time that two Japanese-born players appeared on opposing teams in a single World Series. Boston's Game 3 starter was Daisuke Matsuzaka, and the Rockies had Kaz Matsui on their roster.

2018 Topps Big League #59 Jameson Taillon

Even with the havoc that coronavirus has wrought on the 2020 season, Jameson Taillon wasn't going to pitch in 2020 anyway. He's recovering from Tommy John surgery, which he underwent in 2019. But before that, he suffered from testicular cancer in 2017, and fortunately recovered from it in remarkably quick fashion. This 2018 card doesn't mention it, but his Did You Know fun fact is that he is "a proponent of proper nutrition, [and] often prepares his own healthy food."

For a kid-focused set, that's probably a good way to handle it.

That was four players in a normal-sized blaster, and I didn't even find Chad Bettis or Anthony Rizzo, both of whom are in the checklist. It's a scary thing, but I'm glad that all these guys are still alive, and other than Bettis, are still playing, miraculously. It's a general fear I think we all have, and the age of COVID-19 certainly doesn't help relax me.

But writing about cards does. I know my audience is pretty tiny, but I appreciate all of you who take the time to visit and comment.

Part 2 of this series on 2018 Topps Big League will have a few inserts, parallels, and league leader cards. I'm not sure whether I'll write it before the World Series ends, but it will come.


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The Trading Post #159: The Collector (Part 2: Not Topps)

The majority of what I found in a box that was sent to me from The Collector consisted of non-Topps products. Part 1 had all those Topps products, and here in part two we have Fleer, Upper Deck, and even a little Pacific. I particularly enjoy when cards tend to fall into nice pairings, like they did in one of Nick's trades last month. That will happen here once again.

Category 1: Score Gold Rush

1994 Score Gold Rush #336 Alex Cole

After more than 300 posts, surely I've shown at least a couple thousand cards by now. Because of that, I generally check my past posts to ensure I haven't scanned a card before. This Alex Cole card is new, but I'm surprised at how often I've seen 1994 Score Gold Rush. Score was one of many brands in a crowded pre-Strike marketplace, but they were affordable and thus quite common. Their one-per-pack Gold Rush parallels took full advantage of the foil craze that was going on in the early 1990s, and they're really quite stunning. The downside is that the foil has a tendency to peel slightly, and unlike every late-'90s Topps Finest card I own, that's not something I'd like to see happen here.

Alex Cole, an outfielder, was known for wearing goggles like these in the field. You can see them on pretty much all of his cards, but I never saw a close-up so clear that you could tell the brand. I'm no sunglasses expert, and I've never heard of Cazal before, but this German brand is still out there.

This being Score, there's a lengthy write-up on the back, which tells us that he joined the Rockies in the 1992 Expansion Draft, that he platooned with Chris Jones in 1993, and that he had never hit a home run in MLB. He signed with the Twins for the 1994 season, and hit five home runs for them over the two shortened seasons of 1994 and 1995. The center fielder was definitely more of a speed guy, swiping 148 bags in his career.

1995 Score Gold Rush #588 Jayhawk Owens

Gold Rush was carried over for 1995, and unlike the base cards which have a bunch of green dots in the design, the Rookie subset uses a very thick black border. The last time I showed a card of Jayhawk Owens, or simply "J." as he prefers it, it was from 1993 Topps Gold, the set that Gold Rush was obviously created to compete with. 

Even though he's in this subset, Owens wasn't really a rookie at this point. He had playing time in both 1993 and 1994, and ended up playing 130 games over his four seasons with the Rockies. He, too, joined the Rockies via the Expansion Draft, and wound up with eleven career homers.

Category 2: Inaugural Rockies Pitchers

1997 Circa #360 Steve Reed

Since we've already seen two players who were among the first-ever Rockies, here are a couple more who shared the field, or even a battery, with the guys from Score Gold Rush. First up is Steve Reed, appearing on 1997 Circa, one of many Fleer/Skybox brands with a very loud design. In addition to these in-your-face graphics, Fleer put a quote from Reed right on the front. He says, "You can score as many runs as you want here [Coors Field], and it still might not be enough unless you have a pitcher who can go in and stop the bleeding."

Wise words from someone in a position to know. He suffered a lot of blown saves in pre-humidor Coors, but ended up with quite a few wins on the other side of it. I harp on this statistic a lot, but he had 33 wins as a Rockie despite never starting a game. The card back mentions his 22 holds (presumably in 1996), a statistic that refers to entering a save situation while preserving the lead for the next pitcher. Set-up men earn a lot of these. Scot Shields, who set up for Francisco Rodríguez on the Angels, had a ton of them. It's sort of related to what we might call a "high-leverage situation" today. 

The only problem on the card back is that Steve Reed isn't pictured at all.

1997 Circa #360 Steve Reed (Reverse)

I'm pretty sure that's Kevin Ritz, a starter. Reed's trademark mustache is missing, and that's clearly a "T" on the back of this pitcher's uniform.

1997 Score Premium Stock #204 Armando Reynoso

Another pitcher that handed off to Steve Reed in the early days of the Rockies was Armando Reynoso. For 1997, Score omitted a photo on the card back to leave lots of room for various statistical breakdowns and splits, the Pinnacle authenticator box, and the usual novella you find on Score cards. This one lists out all six pitches in his arsenal. There are two types of curveballs, the usual fastball/slider/change-up combo, and even a forkball, the forgotten cousin of the split-fingered fastball which pretty much no one throws anymore. They also mention his masterful pickoff move.

I picked this card as a comparison to Bruce Ruffin's card from last week so you could see the difference between the Series 1 and Series 2 versions of 1997 Score parallels. Ruffin's card was from the Series 2 Reserve Collection, while this is the Series 1 Premium Stock. It's the same base set, just different flavors of parallels. This is a really thick card, probably the thickest Score card I've ever seen.

Ruffin, by the way, was another inaugural Rockie.

Category 3: Pitchers Who Rake

2003 Ultra Gold Medallion #26 Mike Hampton

It's possible that we're already into the age of the universal DH, not realizing when pitchers hit in the 2019 World Series that it might have been the end of an era. We were all so caught up with Baby Shark back then and didn't realize that #PitchersWhoRake might never trend again. 

Pitchers, of course, can hit. Sometimes. I can't remember whose blog I saw it on, but I was recently made aware of Craig Lefferts's walk-off home run in 1986. And let's not forget Bartolo Colon's glorious homer at Petco Park. Here we have five-time Silver Slugger Mike Hampton on a die-cut Gold Medallion card. Note that he's running the bases, not a common sight at all for a pitcher. 

2003 Donruss #279 Jason Jennings

Jason Jennings didn't do quite as well at the plate, but the card back of this 2003 Donruss issue does remind us that he hit a home run and pitched a complete game shutout in his debut game on August 23rd, 2001, something no one had ever done before. 

Donruss gave him a great card in 2003, a Coors Field card that will slot in to one of the many empty slots in my Coors Field frankenset. It's hard to tell, but that's a more youthful-looking forest back behind the center field wall.

Category 4: Rockies at the Plate

2004 Upper Deck #259 Chris Stynes

I've never once claimed to be an expert in 2004 Upper Deck. I've only shown the set on this blog once before. But two things about this card caught my eye. First is obviously Chris Stynes's batting stance, consistent with a Fleer card from the same year, the only other time Stynes has appeared on this blog. It's the typical view of a Coors Field card, showing one of the dugouts. I'm guessing the Dodgers were in town then.

Second, upon much closer inspection, I spotted the tiny photo of the Coors Field clocktower in the purple area on the bottom. That's what Upper Deck used on vertical cards, compared with the right field upper deck (not an accident, I'm sure) on horizontal Rockies cards.

It's a very purple card on the back, part of one of the more heavily color-coded sets to come out of Upper Deck. There are no more stadium photos, but there is a headshot of Stynes, and a short paragraph about his first career grand slam on June 19th, 2003, which UD incorrectly listed as June 20th.

2010 Upper Deck #176 Ryan Spilborghs

Ryan Spilborghs was a fan favorite during his playing days, but we've really come to enjoy him as part of the Rockies TV crew. He was remote during the 2020 regular season, and the broadcast team would periodically check in on him at home to see how his barbecuing was going. I liked him when he was a player, and now that he and Cory Sullivan, whom we saw in Part 1, are on the broadcast team, I've grown to like him even more.

But there aren't many broadcaster cards out there, so we'll have to go back to his playing days to find a card. Like Stynes, he's a righty, but this angle gives us a look at the opposite dugout. Notice how they changed the color of the dugout roof over the years.

Unlike many cards in 2010 Upper Deck, UD did a reasonably good job of obscuring any official team logos on Spilly's card, something they needed to do after losing their MLB license. If they had taken this much care on other cards in Series 1, they may not have ended up in legal trouble. Still, there's a little glimpse of the CR logo on the inset headshot at the bottom, so that might be enough to put this out of compliance.

On the back, Upper Deck was sure to mention the great highlight of Spilborghs's career, his walk-off grand slam on August 24th, 2009, the first in Rockies history. The TV crew spent plenty of time on that highlight this year, as Charlie Blackmon hit the second in September. Same part of the park, too, but over what's now a higher wall.

Category 5: Great Photos

1997 Ultra #440 Bill Swift

As I usually do when I put these pairings together, I'm going to break my own rules a little and add a third card to this category. I had the idea of making another oddly specific category, but I realized I had already shown the card in question once before. So we'll start with Bill Swift nursing his shoulder. It's from '97 Fleer Ultra, and it gives us a less-glamorous look at the life of a right-handed pitcher. 

You'll want to flip the card over to get a couple images of him on the mound. You'll find two there, arranged in a foreground and background style similar to 1993 Flair.

2000 Pacific Ruby #150 Neifi Perez

Here's that Pacific card I promised, and yes, of course it has red foil. Red, or "Ruby" foil, as Pacific calls it here, has become as rare as a forkball. It's a good color accent to this Phillies player's uniform, who is doing his best to make Neifi Pérez's life difficult. Normally this would be a difficult cameo to pin down, but fortunately, the Phillies helpfully wear their uniform numbers on their sleeves. #6 on the Phillies in 1999 was Doug Glanville, who recently appeared here on a Pacific card of his own.

On the back, below some very tiny statistics, is a short paragraph about Pérez's day on June 6th, 1999. Besides being the 55th anniversary of D-Day, that was also the day that he went 3-for-5 with a triple, a home run, and two RBI. That was a game against the Brewers, just a year after they switched to the National League.

My idea was to make a whole section for "Phillies Cameos at Second Base", but realized that a particular Mike Lansing card already entered my collection in 2015. Rather than show a duplicate, I just lumped this one in here. And it's not the last cameo we'll see today.

2000 Upper Deck #378 Terry Shumpert

Terry Shumpert makes another appearance a little more than a week after his last. The relatively unknown Rockie got a good action photo in 2000 Upper Deck, one of the least-plentiful UD sets in my collection. This is obviously a spring training shot, and the white car in the background reminds me a lot of that famous Luis Alvarado parking lot card in 1973 Topps. I'm not sure which car is behind the athletic Shumpert, but if I had to guess, it might be one of the first-generation Jeep Wagoneers.

Category 6: Oddballs

2010 Pacific Coast League Top Prospects Multi-Ad #7 Esmil Rogers

You don't get a box like this without a few oddballs in it. In addition to a whole deck of MLB Showdown cards, there were a few Minor League cards. Esmil Rogers is one of the few whose name I recognized as an eventual Major Leaguer. The Dominican righty spent part of seven years in the Majors, four with the Rockies. 

Really it was more like six, because his 2009 appearance consisted of a single game in mid-September. That was mentioned on this 2010 MiLB card, as well as his gradual rise through the Rockies farm system. The card back of this PCL card says he's "on a long list of elite Colorado starting pitching prospects". Usually they remain just that, prospects.

From their inauguration through 2014, The Colorado Springs Sky Sox were the Rockies' Triple-A affiliate. That changed in 2015, when the Rockies switched to the Albuquerque Isotopes. The only team that's stayed in the same place as part of the Rockies farm system since the team's inception is the Class-A Asheville Tourists. Rogers pitched there in 2007, going 7-4 with a 3.75 ERA.

1992-93 Ultra #54 Reggie Williams

Our last card isn't really an oddball. It's a Fleer Ultra NBA card, which is of course a major brand. But in my collection, basketball cards are few and far between. I probably have more Minor League cards than NBA cards, to be honest. So that makes this something of a rarity for me.

There were a few of these Denver Nuggets cards nestled at one end of the box, and since basketball is so much more of a contact sport than baseball is, you have lots of opportunities for cameos. The cameo on this card of Reggie Williams is none other than Hall-of-Famer Charles Barkley, who was then in his final year with the Philadelphia 76ers.

I certainly don't know NBA jerseys well enough to place this in Denver's McNichols Arena or in The Spectrum in Philadelphia. But boy, did the Nuggets have some great uniforms then. 

Like his teammate Dikembe Mutombo, Williams attended Georgetown for college, and was a freshman when they won the NCAA championship in 1984. College basketball experts can put those pieces together to realize that he was college teammates with Patrick Ewing, and took over as Georgetown's best player once the Knicks drafted Ewing.

Again, not an oddball. I just love Hall-of-Fame cameos no matter what the sport.

And with that, dear readers, I'm caught up on trade posts!

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The Trading Post #158: The Collector (Part 1: Topps)

Just a few days ago, I said that Opening Day Mascots was my favorite insert set of all. I stand by that, but what I didn't know until I got this box of cards from Chris at The Collector was that it used to be a subset in the Opening Day set itself, circa 2007.

2007 Topps Opening Day #192 Dinger

Dinger is getting us pumped up for a two-part series, which will cover a Pay It Forward box that Chris sent to me early this year. After this, I'll finally be caught up on trade posts from all you generous bloggers and readers. I can't thank you all enough.

Like the Rockies' uniforms themselves, Dinger's shade of purple has evolved a little bit over the years. It's a bit darker these days. Even though this was a 2007 set, this photo was already a decade old when Topps picked it for the white-bordered '07 Opening Day set. It's from all the way back in 1997, which was the year that players league-wide wore the Jackie Robinson 50th Anniversary patch. The obscured Met has that patch on his right sleeve if you look closely.

This is one of the few Dinger cards that doesn't mention the dinosaur fossil story, an often embellished tale which does have a grain of truth to it. Instead, the card back tells us about how he works with elementary school kids to advocate literacy and fitness, and that he's a hit with fans of all ages.

The 2007 Opening Day design differs from the base Topps set in an obvious way. The border is white with gold foil instead of the bold black with silver foil we got that year. The Mascot subset has one other slight difference from a player card, and sharp-eyed readers might notice that there's no facsimile signature. 

Fortunately, I have the real thing.

2007 Topps Opening Day #73 Cory Sullivan

Looking at Opening Day side-by-side with Topps base really makes it obvious how different Opening Day used to be. This link has Cory Sullivan's black-bordered 2007 Topps card, and they have a pretty different feel. There's a minor difference, in that the facsimile autograph is shrunk slightly to make room for the Opening Day logo, but the white borders and gold foil make it feel a lot different. The black borders are nice, but they make the card feel a little claustrophobic. It's subtle, but this looks a little more open to my eye.

Other than that, not much is changed. The card back is identical, other than the card number of course, and the Opening Day logo, which occupies a usually conspicuously empty area on the left.

2008 Topps Opening Day #162 Jeff Francis

The whole box of cards was organized chronologically, making sorting extremely easy. That was much appreciated. That meant that this 2008 Opening Day card was quite nearby in the whole stack, and the red borders make this pretty easy to spot at a glance. The design is pretty similar, but there are a few differences here as well. There's no color-coding to speak of on the front, but the polka dots at the top have gold foil. That's just colored ink in the base set. Anywhere else that has foil is gold instead of silver, but the differences don't end there.

The major complaint everyone has about the 2008 set is the notch at the top, which is where the Topps logo lives. Maybe you've gotten more used to that by now, because your smartphone probably has something like that. But if you don't like that feature, you'll like Opening Day even less, because Topps made another notch at the bottom for the Opening Day logo. That forces the facsimile signature up slightly without resizing it, and that led Topps to simply crop the photo more tightly.

Have a look at the 2008 base card, pulled from my existing collection:

2008 Topps #511 Jeff Francis

The card backs are again identical, other than the Opening Day logo appearing like a watermark (think of 1991 Topps backs) and the card number.

The write-up is the same, and both cards praised Jeff Francis as the Rockies ace, pointing out that he was the Game 1 starter in all three Rockies playoff series in 2007. He won two, and the loss was Game 1 of the 2007 World Series, where he lost to Josh Beckett. It just so happens that tonight is Game 1 of the 2020 World Series, where we're seeing Clayton Kershaw face off against Tyler Glasnow.

2009 Topps Update #UH28 Matt Murton

Advancing one year into the Topps library, we come to 2009, with a mid-swing bat barrel shot of Matt Murton. I'm pretty good at remembering the Rockies who only played in Denver for a short time, but this one came as a complete surprise. He played 29 games as a Rockie at the end of his MLB career, which came to an end in 2009. He played in Japan for a while, then tried to mount a comeback via the Minors as recently as 2017, but that didn't pan out.

I really don't remember any of this. The only thing I remember about Matt Murton is that for a few weeks in the mid-2000s, he was The Guy to have in Fantasy Baseball early in his Cubs career. But now I have a Topps Update card to document his short time as a Rockie.

2012 Topps Archives #143 Marco Scutaro

On the other hand, I do remember Marco Scutaro. He only played 95 games as a Rockie, but he clearly made much more of an impact on my memory. He got a card in the first Topps Archives set, which used the 1980 design, among others.

As you see here, his only season with the Rockies was in 2012, and even then it was only for a few months. Near the 2012 trade deadline, the Rockies and Giants did a swap, Scutaro for Charlie Culberson. Luckily for Scutaro, he ended up being a part of the Giants' even-year magic. He was named the MVP of the 2012 NLCS, catching the final out off the bat of Matt Holliday on a rainy night in San Francisco. A really rainy night, actually. He'd go on to get his only World Series ring that year.

On the other side of the trade, Charlie Culberson remained with the Rockies for a couple years, and is currently with the Braves. He played in his own NLCS as recently as last Wednesday.

Long before all this, Scutaro was a Minor Leaguer featured in the documentary film A Player to be Named Later, which chronicled several players and their journey through Triple-A.

2011 Topps Diamond Anniversary HTA #HTA-12 Troy Tulowitzki

I'll have all the other brands in Part 2, but this is our final Topps card of the post. It has the feel of an insert, which would go well with all the other inserts I showed in Part 4 of the previous trade series, but it's actually from a 25-card set distributed through Topps' Home Team Advantage program. You had to go to a Topps-authorized hobby store to get this, and I haven't frequented local card shops recently to know whether it's still active.

The silver foil Diamond Anniversary logo on the front clearly dates this to 2011, right in the middle of Troy Tulowitzki's tenure with the Rockies. The card back gives us one of Tulo's "Diamond Deeds", and they picked August 10th, 2009, the same 5-for-5 day they profiled on his Career Day insert a year later.

It was a really good game for him and the team.

Most of this box from Chris included brands other than Topps, and I'll have about twice as many cards coming up in Part 2. Until then, enjoy the World Series!

Saturday, October 17, 2020

The Trading Post #157: Topps Cards That Never Were (Part 4: Inserts)

Little did I know when this trade arrived from Topps Cards That Never Were that it would keep me company throughout the 2020 League Championship Series. It's been three parts so far, and this will be the fourth and last before we move on to the next trade. If you need a break from Rockies cards, this one won't have any. There will be a lot of Yankees and American Leaguers in general, and everything here is a Topps insert.

2015 Topps Eclipsing History #EH-3 Sandy Koufax / Nolan Ryan

Right off the bat is a hit for my Eight Men Out list, a card from 2015's Eclipsing History insert set. I didn't have a particular card in mind from the ten on offer; any one would do. I first became aware of it over three years ago thanks to one of Peter's posts shortly after the 2017 total solar eclipse, and I knew it would be perfect for my collection. Jeremy found card #EH-3 for me, a dual-player card of Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax.

Every record holder out there passed someone else along the way. In the strikeouts per 9 IP category, Sandy Koufax was the leader in that statistic until Nolan Ryan came along. In 1973, Ryan compiled his 1,000th inning pitched, and by that milestone, he eclipsed Koufax's mark of about 9.3, setting his mark at about 9.7. Ryan remained the record holder until Randy Johnson came along, whose K/9IP is about 10.6. These are rounded somewhat, and it shouldn't be that surprising to see strikeout leaders like Ryan and Johnson on the leaderboards for such a statistic.

Witnessing the total solar eclipse in 2017 was one of the great moments of my life. I did a vintage-heavy post shortly thereafter, and I am happy to add a newer card around this theme to my collection. This card doesn't really look much like a real solar eclipse, but then again, nothing really does. It's something you have to see for yourself.

2016 Topps The Greatest Streaks #GS-10 Lou Gehrig

One year later, Topps made another 10-card insert set called The Greatest Streaks. I feel like ten cards is a good size for an insert set. It offers some hope of completion. One could also make a fantastic argument for nine cards, which would perfectly occupy a nine-pocket page without obscuring any backs.

Anyway, Lou Gehrig was included in this set, but not for the reason you might think. We all know about The Iron Horse's record of 2,130 consecutive games played, but Cal Ripken, Jr. ended up eclipsing that, earning himself card #1 in this set. Gehrig, during his own streak, put together another. As part of a fearsome Yankees lineup, he had 100 RBI in 13 straight seasons, something only Jimmie Foxx and Alex Rodriguez have done otherwise. 

Sadly, both streaks were cut short by Gehrig's illness, as it was going strong right up to the end. He batted in one lone run in 1939, and that would be his last.

2016 Topps Back to Back #B2B-12 Babe Ruth / Lou Gehrig

Generally speaking, Gehrig batted after Babe Ruth in the batting order, so a huge portion of his RBI count meant Ruth crossed the plate. Gehrig's only RBI in 1939 was actually Tommy Henrich, the player who was up to bat when the most famous dropped third strike in history occurred in the 1941 World Series. But these two were the core of the Yankees for a long time (though not long enough, it must be said).

This card in particular, also from 2016, comes from a fifteen card set called Back to Back. That's exactly what happened in the 1932 World Series. Everyone knows about Babe Ruth's "called shot" in Game 3, arguably the most famous home run in history. What's often overlooked, this card tells us, is that Lou Gehrig hit one out immediately after.

No one disputes that Ruth hit that historic home run back in 1932. But over the years, there has been much debate about whether he "called" it. Joe Posnanski wrote about it in The Baseball 100, and it remains inconclusive. Interestingly, some previously-unheard audio recently surfaced, giving us none other than Lou Gehrig's view on the event.

This photo, at least of Gehrig, isn't from 1932. It's actually from 1938, and we can tell because of the commemorative patch on Gehrig's left sleeve. The Yankees, Dodgers, and Giants all wore that patch in 1938 for the upcoming 1939 World's Fair. Those shapes on the patch are the Trylon and Perisphere, the iconic temporary structures built in Queens for the occasion. I have a pressed penny that my grandparents took home as a souvenir from the event, dated 1940.

2014 Topps Upper Class #UC-27 Robinson Canó

Our next set is one I've seen before. This is the fourth card out of a possible fifty to enter my collection, and every time, the "Upper Class" name throws me off. I see "Upper" and "2005" at the top of this fancy gold border, and I immediately think it's something from Upper Deck. I wasn't buying boxes of UD at the time, so at a glance, this could be one of any number of sets from the mid-2000s. 

It's indeed a Topps product, though, and Robinson Canó is still going strong. Matt Holliday, whose card I showed last time, retired after the 2018 season. Canó will turn 38 on Thursday, so his career is likely coming to a close soon.

2014 Topps Update Power Players #PPA-MTA Masahiro Tanaka

Today's last Yankee is still with the team. Masahiro Tanaka pitched twice in the 2020 Postseason, earning a record of 0-1 and putting up a frightfully high ERA. He has many years of MLB experience under his belt by now, but when this card was printed, he had just joined the MLB after a lengthy career in Japan for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. The card back on this one is more of a scouting report, letting us know about his various pitches and high strikeout count in his then-limited MLB performance.

I've seen this insert set too, getting both Rockies from it already. 2014 Topps Update made this one 25 cards, but numbered them with letters only. Of the four cards I now have from it, the background is yellow and blue on all but Carlos González's. Side note, the former Rockies outfielder is celebrating his 35th birthday today!

2018 Topps Update Don't Blink #DB-7 Ichiro

October 22nd used to be a big day in Mariners land. Ichiro and Robinson Canó happen to share that birthday. It's a shame that they never got to play as Mariners in the Postseason to celebrate it together. Regardless, it was always a joy to watch Ichiro play, especially that day when I witnessed his 3,000th hit. That hit was a triple, so it's appropriate for this speedy outfielder to be included in this 2018 Update insert set, Don't Blink.

Speed is becoming less valued in today's game, so you can probably guess who's in the 25-card set. Mike Trout, Trevor Story, Whit Merrifield, Dee Gordon. I guessed all four of those before glancing at the checklist, and I was only wrong on Story. In my defense, I was unaware that the checklist included a mixture of retired and current players, meaning that Henderson, Robinson, and Brock are in here.

I probably should have guessed Trea Turner, though.

The streaking horizontal lines on this card really give a sense of speed, but it's artificially added. It is definitely possible to do something like this in-camera, not counting the streaking on Ichiro's outline. Ideally you'd do a panning shot with a tripod, although certain lenses have an optical stabilizer mode that allows you to do it handheld. That's not what the photographer did here, because we can see the player in the dugout isn't streaked the same way the lines are.

2018 Topps Heritage '69 Topps Deckle Edge #1 Mike Trout

We're almost two decades into Topps Heritage by now, and they've always had insert sets. However, it wasn't until the brand reached the mid-1960s designs that they had real insert sets to use as inspiration. This Deckle Edge card of Mike Trout is just such a set, modeled after a 35-card insert set from 1969. They trimmed it to 30 for the 2018 version, but kept the same rough borders and even gave us a period-correct blue facsimile signature.

I'm not sure how they made these in 1969, but having seen enough cards from the '90s, I assume this is what we'd consider a die-cut today.

2015 Topps Update Whatever Works #WW-2 Tim Lincecum

Here's a fun one. Whatever Works is from 2015 and selected fifteen players and their superstitions. Tim Lincecum's particular quirk is that he likes to keep old hats to wear, a practice he did all the way back in high school. Others in this set are Nomar Garciaparra and I assume his batting glove routine, Joe DiMaggio for something other than his bat polishing, and a few various pitchers. Who knows what they were up to?

Apparently, the baseball world recently learned, Freddie Freeman wears a lucky shirt under his jersey, and has done so ever since 2012. He'd better hope that luck holds out in Game 7 of the NLCS on Sunday.

2018 Stadium Club Never Compromise #NC-RD Rafael Devers

We'll take a quick pop over to Stadium Club and their Never Compromise insert set. The Boston Red Sox haven't been great since winning the World Series in 2018, and part of that is due to the departure of Mookie Betts. Betts, a former teammate of Rafael Devers, weighed in on the back of this card, saying that "We just kind of sit and admire his work", speaking about Devers.

There's a little bit more foil on this card than on most others we've seen today. It's held back for Stadium Club, though. Usually we get things like Power Zone and Beam Team.

2016 Topps Update First Pitch #FP-2 Jake Gyllenhaal

Devers debuted for the Red Sox in 2017, so he wasn't on hand to see Jake Gyllenhaal throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Fenway. That happened in April 2016, where the famous actor was on hand along with Jeff Bauman, a victim of the Boston Marathon bombing whom Gyllenhaal portrayed in the movie.

Topps kept this celebrity-heavy insert set going for a few years, I believe 2015-17. Jeff Bridges was my first card from 2015, and I have McKayla Maroney's card in a stack from a card show I went to ages ago. I'm pretty sure that stack is from the same show at which I got that Joe DiMaggio Pinnacle set, and I keep telling myself that I'll finally do that post when I get caught up on everything else. After this, I only have one trade post left. And a couple LCS visits. And about seven blasters.


2011 Topps Opening Day Mascots #M-20 Mariner Moose

In the meantime, we'll wrap up this four-post marathon with what I will confidently say is my favorite insert set of all: Opening Day Mascots.

I've said before that Mariner Moose is one of my most frequently-pulled mascots when it comes to Opening Day. I see Dinger a lot, too, but that's usually via trade. I didn't get him in my 2020 Opening Day purchase (one of the seven blasters I mentioned above), but I will add these to my collection any chance I get. 

One of these days I'd like to make it to Seattle for a game and see this "funny, neat, and friendly" mascot. I've never seen a moose in the wild before. From what I hear, they are not friendly at all. I've never seen one at a ballgame either, for that matter. But they're a frequent sighting when it comes to Opening Day.

Thanks to Jeremy for this amazing batch of cards, and thanks to all my readers for continuing to stick around for my sporadic posting sprees.