Monday, November 12, 2018

Rockin' Retro Group Break the First (Part 1: Rockies)

Seeing as how Nachos Grande shipped my haul from his current group break today, it's probably a good idea for me to look at the retro cards he sent last time. I haven't blogged since the World Series ended, and then some, so I haven't offered my congratulations to the Red Sox for winning their fourth championship of the millennium, nor have I expressed condolences for the loss of Willie McCovey. May he and Stan Lee rest in peace.

Will I ever be caught up again? Time will tell. In the meantime, prepare to start seeing a lot of Topps Gold Label in these parts.

2017 Topps Gold Label Class 1 #15 David Dahl (RC)
David Dahl, who wisely scheduled his recent wedding for after the postseason (just in case), gives us our first look at the recently resurrected Topps Gold Label. After the success of Stadium Club's rebirth, Topps decided to dig into the archives for more ideas. Unfortunately, they brought the idea of a fractured set along with the name. I've never been thrilled with the concept, but at least there is some actual structure to all the variants, as opposed to the purely random variant chaos they've been giving us in flagship for a long time.

In a nod to the early Gold Label sets, the baseball fundamental depicted in the primary photo helps you identify which of three "classes" the card is in. A photo of a position player fielding indicates you're holding a Class 1 card. There's also an unbelievably faint vertical banner (almost like a security strip) on the left side of the card. Even under a magnifying glass, the light has to be just perfect to even glimpse it.

2017 Topps Gold Label Class 2 #15 David Dahl (RC)
Class 2 for a position player is a batting photo, which is slightly redundant, since the secondary picture already shows Dahl at the plate. Fortunately, the security strip is a touch easier to read, especially in the spot where it overlaps Dahl's uniform. The back is identical in both classes, and it mentions the record-tying 17-game hitting streak that he opened his career with. Dahl has a Gypsy Queen card that alludes to this as well, but Gold Label tells us that he shares this record with a Cincinnati Red named Chuck Aleno, who set the mark back in 1941.

1941 was a good year for hitting streaks.

2017 Topps Gold Label Class 3 #3 Trevor Story
I don't have a clue on the relative scarcity between the three classes, but I managed to obtain an example from each of them. Trevor Story on the basepaths signifies Class 3, confirmed by an even more visible security stripe. Story's been around for a while, so he doesn't get that nifty gold foil RC logo that David Dahl has, but there's still plenty of gold to go around, including the Topps logo in the upper right, which uses a logo I've never seen before. Seeing a capital "T" like that is just strange.

Story is a great all-around player, though he does strike out at an alarming rate. Still, he's excellent at the plate, and he now has a Silver Slugger award for his efforts, joining fellow Rockies Nolan Arenado and German Marquez in that award class.

1998 Topps Gold Label Class 1 #77 Dante Bichette
Brand-new sets of Gold Label aren't exactly "retro", but the inaugural 1998 set is. True to form, Dante Bichette's fielding pose identifies this as a Class 1 card, even though it's unlabeled. There's much more of a relief on this original set, especially the stamped logo, which contains the proper Topps font. It's delightfully thick and solid, and appears to be acetate, though it isn't transparent anywhere. The only slight gripe I have is that Bichette is wearing home and away jerseys on his two photos, but I'm splitting hairs. It's awesome that Nachos Grande found unopened boxes of these retro sets.

2016 Donruss Optic #9 Carlos Gonzalez DK
Shiny, too! Did I say shiny? It comes in the form of Donruss Optic, the quasi-Chrome set, and this time it's the normal white border, unlike the purple-bordered variety I once received from Highly Subjective and Completely Arbitrary, which I had slightly mislabeled until two minutes ago. Same painted look, same shiny finish, same unreadable kerning on the card back.

Seeing this in the normal white border makes me appreciate the colored borders even more. Purple is such a bold color, unique in baseball, that the base card almost seems like a different set. It looks more metallic, somehow more serious and weighty than with a fun purple border. I don't dislike it; it just has this visual sense that it could have been carved from an ingot of silver.

1998 Bowman Chrome #53 Neifi Perez
1998 Bowman Chrome is an under-represented set in my collection, which will become a theme throughout this post. Before this, I only had six cards from the set. I can at least fill one side of a page now, and Perez will be up toward the top. Under the right light, the Chrome finish makes Perez' uniform lettering, Jackie Robinson patch, batting glove, and shoes really pop. I don't recall most Chrome cards looking like that. Usually the player's outline is more prominent, but it's a really eye-catching look, almost like there are little jewels in the card.

Design-wise, it's a Bowman set that I can vaguely place within a 5-year window, but it looks very similar to 1999 Bowman. As with many years, the accent colors maintain the red/blue distinction between veterans and rookies. Todd Helton's card this year was a blue card; that's how retro we're talking here. And the card back is typical of Bowman, with a single year of stats and a scouting report. We're told about Perez' performance on June 26th, 1997, a win over the Giants in which he "participated" in five double plays. Knowing Perez' tendencies, I checked the box score to ensure he didn't "participate" by grounding into one. Luckily, his team had the ball (as the defense, weird, I know) during each of those five.

I wasn't really collecting in 1997. In fact, '97 was one of just two seasons in which I didn't go to a game at all. The other was 2000, which happened to coincide with the rise of a now-defunct online instant messaging program.

2002 Fleer Triple Crown #131 Larry Walker
2002 Triple Crown, the next retro set, is quite unfamiliar. Before this break, which massively expanded my hoard of this set, I had one single, lonely card in the bottom portion of a 2002 Fleer page. Too bad, because it's really a nice set, probably my favorite so far in this break. The three silver bars on both top and bottom look vaguely like something Pacific would have done. I don't think they ever did the whole selective glossy thing, where the player is glossy but the background is matte. It's nice to touch, one of those sets I can't resist touching perhaps a bit more than I should. Any lenticular card is like that in the extreme, of course, and my collection of 1994 Sportflics was a little mistreated by my 10-year old self and my fingernails.

Fleer didn't seem to make the trek to Denver in 2001 to snap their photos, since almost all the Rockies in this set are in their away uniforms. Confusingly, that involved pinstripes at the time, but Larry Walker is clearly sliding into third in front of a Cardinal (?) who is definitely considered to be part of the background.

2002 Fleer Triple Crown #107 Ben Petrick
Same goes for the tall Giants player behind Ben Petrick, who is flinging away his glossy catcher's mask. The cause of that is a bit unclear. It's likely a foul, but it could have been an extremely wild pitch that took an odd bounce or three. I don't recognize the Giant on this card, nor can I find anything out about the blue ribbon on his jersey. All I know for sure is that it's in SBC Park, a place where many Rockies were photographed for Fleer's multitude of 2002 sets.

The back of Petrick's card mentions another catcher whose name I haven't heard in years, Jason Kendall. Apparently, Jason's father, Fred, an ex-MLBer himself, served as a coach on the Rockies at the time.

2002 Fleer Triple Crown #251 Todd Helton PS
Fleer Triple Crown (not to be confused with the longer-lived Donruss Triple Play), included a few subsets at the end of the checklist. Pace Setters was one of them, and in addition to a little extra silver foil, the card took the opportunity to recount Helton's already stellar statistics both at the plate and in the field. Helton earned three Gold Gloves in his career, and if the Platinum Glove had existed at that time, he might have been in the running for that, too. Helton had numerous years under his belt by the time Yadier Molina reached the Bigs, and that's who has been winning most of the NL Platinum Gloves since its debut in 2011.

Nolan got it this year, though.

If Coors is such a hitter's park, then standout defenders playing there had better be getting that kind of recognition.

2012 Panini Cooperstown #97 Al Barlick
Things got a little weird after '02 Triple Crown. I'm fairly certain that I have an umpire or two in my Conlon Collection cards, but they're extremely rare. Topps has even gone so far as to edit umpires entirely out of photographs. But just look at Al Barlick's "You're Out!" call. If I were the batter, I would do everything humanly possible to make sure I got on base. Maybe even lean into a four-seam fastball.

He had a 27-season career as an ump, taking off a few years to serve in the Coast Guard during WWII. He earned "the utmost respect" from players, and he looks a bit more docile, if stern, on the card back. He became a member of Cooperstown in 1989, and since he's not wearing an official team logo, his forehead isn't oddly cropped out like many cards in the Panini Cooperstown set.

Barlick is one of just ten umpires in the Hall of Fame, and I doubt we'll be seeing anyone new enter the Hall anytime soon. Jim Joyce perhaps, but if Joe West makes it into the Hall before a Rockie does, I'm going to continue my fandom under protest.

1997 Sports Illustrated #27 Jamey Wright
Our final set is 1997 Sports Illustrated, a co-branded set released by Fleer. It's another set I only had a single card from, so this is mostly new to me. I wasn't really sure what to expect, but a grainy, sepia-toned headshot was probably not it. It's part of the Fresh Faces subset, documenting the early years of journeyman pitcher Jamey Wright's career. His longest tenure was with the Rockies, but after that, he spent time on nine other teams. Despite that, his only postseason appearance came in 2013 with the Rays as his career was drawing to a close.

Young Rockies pitchers held a lot more promise in 1997 than in later years, although that reputation is finally changing. But case in point, Fleer basically tells us on the back of this card that Roger Bailey, whose career would be over after 1997, had better stuff that Wright.

1997 Sports Illustrated #109 Vinny Castilla
Position players have always had an easier time at Coors Field than pitchers, and Castilla is so nonchalant that he's comfortable blowing a bubble as he jogs after a popup, batting gloves casually flopping out of his back pocket.

This is a player at ease.

The full-bleed photography found in this set is appealing, which is to be expected. Unfortunately, Sports Illustrated no longer has any photographers on their full-time payroll. I'm sure it saves money, but it erodes their brand if anyone else can pay to license the same photograph. That 1991 Topps set we all love so much had SI to thank for a lot of those images. And in a world where Topps has exclusivity, sports photographers don't have it easy.

1997 Sports Illustrated Great Shots #13 V.Castilla/A.Galarraga
The final bit of strangeness comes with this 5x7 folding photograph of who we're told is Andres Galarraga and Vinny Castilla. It's a 1997 set, but the player on the left really does not look like Vinny to me. He might be quite a bit younger, but I'm not 100% sure on identity here. And we can't see much of Galarraga's face at all, as he's clearly attending to something in his eye.

It's an odd picture on an odd card. The back is blank, and there's no card number, but the cropping works well to fit the fold of the paper. Each player is definitely on his own side.

This is a really great selection for a group break. It's nice to get the latest and greatest cards since it saves me a trip to Target, but to unearth these old gems really makes things different and reminds us how things have changed.

When I started today, Jason Kendall was not a a name I thought I'd hear.

That about wraps up the Rockies (and umpires, because there are no Rockies in the Hall yet). Part 2 will feature the Athletics.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

The Case Hit Group Break (Part 2: Pirates)

A nice bonus in most group breaks is an extra, random team in addition to your selected team. I picked the Rockies, no surprises there. And I believe I have the Mets in Nachos Grande's current break, but in Trevor's midsummer break at Bump and Run Football Card Blog, I ended up with the Pirates. No problems with that; in fact if I had to rank favorite teams, they'd probably be up in the top ten or twelve. They usually have some pretty interesting characters, and a rich but often overlooked history going all the way back to Honus Wagner. My Topps Opening Day blaster in 2017 was filled with Pirates, and I had fun with that post.

2018 Stadium Club #255 Gregory Polanco
Gregory Polanco also seems to be having plenty of fun on his 2018 Stadium Club card, flashing a couple peace signs at the camera. This is a view few of us get, a shot looking up the dugout steps that's usually reserved for players. The piercing gaze of cameras look down the dugout regularly, and sometimes even into the clubhouse tunnel, but very rarely out onto the field from this perspective. The full-bleed design lets us see the stadium lights turned on against a rapidly approaching dusk.

A fun fact on the back tells us that Polanco was the first-ever opening day DH for the Pirates, meaning they must have opened the 2017 season on the road for an interleague game. Sure enough, they opened last year in Fenway Park, and took a loss to this year's AL pennant winners.

2018 Stadium Club Black Foil #226 Starling Marte
A more commonly-seen view of the dugout greets us on Starling Marte's card, which is a Black Foil parallel. It doesn't pop quite as well as the Red Foil variety, but it's nice to get a look at the various colors to be found in 2018 Stadium Club.

I can't say I know much about Polanco or Marte, but they're both from the Dominican Republic. Santo Domingo, to be exact, which is the birthplace of a slew of famous ballplayers, including David Ortiz, Pedro Martinez, Albert Pujols, Jose Bautista, and many, many others. It's a pretty small country, but they've sent a significant share of famous ballplayers to the MLB.

2018 Diamond Kings #18 Paul Waner
Same goes for the state of Oklahoma. Hailing from that midwestern state are Johnny Bench, Mickey Mantle, Joe Carter, Willie Stargell, and Paul Waner, a Hall of Famer and the 1927 NL MVP. The Pirates won the pennant that year, but ended up with the misfortune of facing the 1927 Yankees, arguably the best baseball team of all time. It was the only postseason appearance of Waner's career, and his Pirates were swept by those invincible Yankees.

Those of you who read my previous post will notice that this is a new design, as I didn't get any Rockies from the box of 2018 Diamond Kings. That was more than offset by a case hit of Jon Gray (also from Oklahoma), but the box gave up a few treasures for the Pirates stack. The set has that same playing card finish I've pointed out in past years, and a similar oil painting look as you've seen before.

The white-on-yellow text is a touch hard to read, but the back of the card tells us that Waner made the most of growing up on a farm. He honed his craft learning to hit corncobs with a stick, which apparently makes hitting a nice sphere with a thick bat a walk in the park. Of course, being in the Hall of Fame often leads a team to retire your number, and if you look closely on Marte's card, you'll see Waner's #11 on the facade of the third deck, just to the right of Marte's cap.

2018 Diamond Kings Brown Frame #13 Lloyd Waner
The Pirates also brought Paul's younger brother Lloyd aboard, and they played together throughout the 1930s. Lloyd is also in the Hall of Fame, but didn't have quite the high performance as his older brother. And the Pirates #10 is still in circulation, currently worn by Jordy Mercer.

Diamond Kings yielded a hit for me, balancing out the lack of my preferred team. This is a framed border parallel, the Brown version, which is numbered to just 49 copies. It's most likely a bit more plentiful than a Photographer's Proof in 2018 Stadium Club, but 49 is pretty darn scarce.

I'm sure the Waner family back home in Oklahoma was delighted to have a couple pro ballplayers bringing home the bacon during the 1930s while the topsoil was blowing away in the midst of severe drought.

2018 Diamond Kings #19 Roberto Clemente
Moving a bit further down the Pirates timeline, we come to the great Roberto Clemente, Hall of Famer, MVP, 15-time All-Star, and two-time World Series champion. He's also in the 3,000 hit club with Paul Waner.

As this is an unlicensed set, there can't be any MLB logos, but somehow that's a bit less noticeable on older photos. The blocky yellow "P" is pretty conspicuously absent from Clemente's batting helmet, the kind without ear flaps. But on the Waner cards, It's not clear how much image editing Panini had to do.

2015 Topps Chrome #126 Gregory Polanco
Gregory Polanco makes another appearance, but he's all business this time around, and with a degree more shininess. I don't hear much talk about Topps Chrome anymore, which maybe has something to do with the lack of borders in Topps flagship. But I'll always take a shiny card.

I'm always partial to cards that show special patches on the player's sleeves. I kind of got hooked on that mini collection while hunting for cards for Highly Subjective and Completely Arbitrary. In 2014, the Pirates wore a #4 patch, memorializing Ralph Kiner. Kiner, yet another Hall of Famer, led the NL in home runs for his first seven years. He only played ten seasons, retiring at just 32 due to a back injury. He stayed involved with baseball for the rest of his life, getting into broadcasting in the early 1960s, and he was the voice of the Mets right up until his death in 2014.

2018 Topps #591 Daniel Nava
Game 7 of the NLCS is drawing to a close as I write this, so I'll wrap things up with one for my Coors Field Frankenset, newly released onto the market by Topps this year. This happens to be a zero-year card, because while Daniel Nava is technically part of the Pirates organization, he hasn't appeared in a Major League game with them, let alone one at Coors Field. He's bounced around the big leagues since he left Boston in 2015, and it remains to be seen when his next appearance will be.

That looks like Bud Black in the Rockies dugout, occupying his usual spot on the top step. That would place this card in 2017 when Nava was a Phillie, narrowing this down to early August 2017 in an entirely different uniform.

This has been my most prolific month of blogging since April, and it feels good to be writing again and giving proper thanks to the great members of the Cardsphere. Thanks for sticking around, and enjoy the World Series! I'll be trying to figure out which team I can tolerate more.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Case Hit Group Break (Part 1: Rockies)

I keep signing up for group breaks, including Nachos Grande's upcoming break, so it's only right that this blog gets its money's worth for all the PayPal transactions I've been doing. Over the summer, Trevor at Bump and Run Football Card Blog ran a break for 2018 Stadium Club, 2018 Topps Series 2, and 2018 Diamond Kings, as well as the usual handful of extras that make it in to many shipments. I had these sitting on my side table for months, and it turns out that I did quite well!

Stadium Club is always a favorite, and I have a blaster sitting on my coffee table that I've yet to open. That's definitely more due to busyness than patience, but I'll get to it someday. If I wait another couple months I might just give myself a nightly Hanukkah gift out of that blaster. You know, because the celebration is for the holy oil lasting seven nights plus one extra night.

I've never run one myself, but it seems to be quite difficult to sell all 30 teams, so most breaks these days seem to be good for two team slots, a selected team and a random team. It should be no surprise which team I selected, and the all-powerful randomizer chose the Pittsburgh Pirates as my second team. I'll be splitting those up into two posts, starting with the team that was most recently swept in the playoffs.

2018 Stadium Club #6 Carlos Gonzalez
This year's Stadium Club design isn't necessarily my favorite. Lots of bloggers haven't liked the lettering of the position being so large, and it is a bit more imposing than the faint outline of the team name. This year's set reminds me a bit of 2006 Upper Deck, but let's be honest, there are only so many things you can do with a minimalist full-bleed design.

Carlos Gonzalez, the Rockies right fielder, can frequently be seen laying out like this to make a catch. I've seen it in person more than once and it's exhilarating to watch. Here, he's doing it on the road, but I can't quite tell which stadium this is. There's an extremely faint outline around the ball, making me wonder if this is an effect of HDR photography. I took a couple photos of my cousin juggling last month, and the HDR software in the iPhone left an outline some distance above the ball itself. It was much more pronounced, so maybe a fancy DSLR and a $4,000 telephoto lens will minimize that effect.

2018 Stadium Club #204 Charlie Blackmon
These come in horizontal alignment, too. We never seem to call it "portrait" or "landscape" in this hobby like we do on our computer screens, just plain old "vertical" and "horizontal".

The photos are pin-sharp, as usual, letting us see pretty much every strand of hair in Charlie Blackmon's beard. And mullet. And even on his forearm. Once you look past that, you can see the well-liked Rockies spring training logo, as well as a prominent bat doughnut as Charlie warms up.

It's pretty difficult to color-code a design like this, but Topps managed to subtly do so on the back. It's a vertical back, and the background is meant to look like you're looking down on the field from the seats in the upper deck. Those seats are color-coded, and they're purple on Rockies cards, yellow on Pirates cards. Those don't actually match the real seats at the ballparks (Coors Field seats are dark green), but it's a clever way to group each team. The upper portion of the back even reminds me of 1993 Fleer Ultra.

2018 Stadium Club Red Foil #290 Nolan Arenado
Colored parallels are still found in Stadium Club, and I ended up with a couple of these. I'm not sure on the relative scarcity of these Red Foils, but they stand out pretty well, maybe a bit more so than in past years. Nolan's uniform number looks ever so slightly odd near the large position letters, but this is a great card which shows the five-time Gold Glover doing what he does best. He might be the best third baseman in the game. "An apparent consensus has been reached" on that. The card says so.

2018 Stadium Club Photographer's Proof #98 Jon Gray
We'll rotate 90 degrees and enhance on this card of Jon Gray. He's had some trouble handling the pressure of the high-leverage games he's appeared in, but I think he'll be a fixture of the Rockies rotation for some time to come. He's certainly good enough to appear in a small-ish set like Stadium Club, which apparently has a new type of parallel, Photographer's Proof.

I honestly had no idea what I had on my hands this whole summer, but this is an amazing pull! It's a 1:2 case hit, or 1:512 packs. It's not serial numbered, but if it's anything like those Members Only parallels, there are probably less than ten copies. A glance at eBay seems to put the print run at just seven.

Design-wise, it seems to be a replacement for the Contact Sheet insert set, using the filmstrip theme on one edge of the card. Trevor kindly put this in a penny sleeve, and I'm amazed at how lucky this pull is! That's why we do group breaks, I guess.

2018 Topps #668 Tyler Anderson
I got shut out of Rockies in the Diamond Kings box, but that's fine. That Gray card will make up for a lot. There were a few Pirates in the box, so at least I got a look at the design. It wasn't advertised up front, but Trevor also added in a blaster of 2018 Topps Series 2, and a few base cards went into my pile. I just finished sorting the factory set, but it's nice to have a few extras here and there.

Tyler Anderson was a regular member of the Rockies' rotation, earning a record of 7-9 this season. I saw him pitch a time or two at Coors this year, and he started NLDS Game 2. He did his best to keep the Rockies in the series, as did most of the pitching, but the offense just didn't get the job done.

I haven't kept up too closely with the 2018 releases. at least not beyond what I see on the blogs. The waterslide set is one I might have a little trouble remembering in a few years.

2017 Topps Bunt Blue #22 Jeff Hoffman
On his 2017 Bunt card, and by extension the Blue parallel, Topps predicted that Jeff Hoffman would "almost certainly" be a member of the Rockies' rotation, but that seems not to be panning out. The key return from the Troy Tulowitzki trade had a rocky six games in the majors during 2018, is currently playing in a High-A league, and didn't make the 40-man roster during September callups. Luckily for the Rockies, they have a few other young stars like Kyle Freeland and German Marquez to hold things down.

Right next to that blaster of Stadium Club, I have an unopened blaster of Topps Big League, the low-end replacement for Bunt. The mobile app is still active, but I haven't kept up with it regularly for a few years. These Blue parallels were nice, though. Sort of a poor man's printing plate. Beyond the headliners of the break itself, it and the rest of these cards were a nice bonus.

2018 Topps Opening Day At The Ballpark #ODB-COR Colorado Rockies
I'm not terribly broken-hearted about the demise of Bunt. But if Opening Day inserts are gone, Topps and I are going to have a problem. They're continually the best in my book, and they certainly have me eagerly awaiting the next home opener.

This 2018 card shows the home opener from 2017, which was Bud Black's first home game with the Rockies. He's facing the field for his first national anthem ceremony at Coors Field, and little did he know that he'd lead the team to a Wild Card spot two years in a row. In fact, that Wild Card game against the Cubs a couple weeks ago was the first Postseason win that Black ever led a team to, despite over a decade of managerial experience, mostly with the Padres. Before that, the last win he was a part of in the Postseason was Game 7 of the 1985 World Series as a member of the Royals. It's amazing that you can spend over thirty years in the sport between Postseason wins.

I'm sure when Matt Holliday rejoined the Rockies this summer, he and Bud Black had a chat about the 2007 Tiebreaker game. Black, you see, was in his first year managing the Padres when Holliday may or may not have touched home plate.

The Rockies rarely begin the season at home, and that will be the case in 2019, too. They'll face the Dodgers on Friday, April 5th, after a road trip against both Florida teams. They'll be the first to see the new Marlins logo, rumored to debut next month. It's probably best they start on the road, as early spring snowstorms are quite common around here. And the city has embraced the Friday afternoon party we can always count on.

1994 Topps Gold #186 Marcus Moore
Following Mike Munoz in the Obscure Rockies Relief Pitchers category (which you used to actually find in a base set) is Marcus Moore, who appeared in 56 games as a Rockie during their Mile High Stadium years. He was traded to the Reds in 1995, but didn't suit up for them until '96. He earned two saves in 23 games for Cincinnati, then that was it for his career.

I remember the name, and I remember this card, as I remember most from 1994 Topps. I assume we have decided to call it "The Home Plate Set", but it will always be my first factory set to me. This is probably a photo from spring training, as the Rockies never wore black jerseys during the regular season for many years. Ballplayers still wore stirrups back then, and you can spot a little "CR" logo on his left ankle.

And of course, it's a Topps Gold parallel, perhaps my favorite parallel set of all time.

1994 Pacific #191 Pedro Castellano
How about another Rockie I've never shown on the blog before? We'll turn to Pacific for this one, that quirky brand which existed in that weird space between being an oddball and a major producer. Appropriately for this Venezuelan utility player, part of this card is in Spanish, as Pacific frequently used on their cards. Sort of a Latin American equivalent of O-Pee-Chee.

Pacific used gold foil for this 1994 set, which pretty much everyone was doing at the time. Pacific also took a shot at making their own version of the Topps Rookie Cup, a rather flat-looking trophy in the lower right. He's listed as a "1994 Rookie", but didn't actually play during the 1994 season. His career spanned 51 games from 1993-1996, mostly during that inaugural year.

1994 Pacific #205 Armando Reynoso
Armando Reynoso, a member of the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame, had a card in the same 1994 Pacific set. Mr. Pickoff is in the legendary Wrigley Field on this card, and you can just make out the basket below the foul pole. Reynoso pitched in the Windy City twice in 1993, but judging by the ivy, it looks more like early spring than mid summer, so I will date this one to May 5th, 1993, Cinco de Mayo. Reynoso took the loss in a quick afternoon game, just two hours and eighteen minutes.

I've seen this set numerous times, but I only now noticed the marble-like color-coded design at the bottom, very similar to what Score Select looked like in 1995. 1993 Fleer Ultra had that look too, but Pacific was way more of an innovator than anyone gives them credit for.

1994 Pacific Silver Prisms #20 Andres Galarraga
Our final card was printed before the advent of serial numbers or a set label on the back, but from what I've read, there was a print run of 8,000 cards. Quite scarce for 1994. The Big Cat appears before a triangular Silver Prism background; there is also a circular background variety.

If you flip it over, you'll find a big purple diamond, as well as a few highlights of Galarraga's 1993 campaign, such as his league-leading .370 batting average, totals for Hits, Doubles, and Home Runs, and a mention that he was the 1993 NL Comeback Player of the Year. It's not an award that has nearly as much prestige as the Rookie of the Year, but apparently it's been awarded in each league since 1965. Galarraga was the only Rockie to earn it until Greg Holland did so last year.

Trevor did an awesome job for me on this break! I feel quite bad that it's taken so long for me to finally put up a post, and I haven't even gotten to the Pirates yet. No case hits in there, but we will get a look at some old-time Hall of Famers and that 2018 Diamond Kings set.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

NOW We Finally Have Some Pitching

The season was almost over when I finally pulled the trigger, but I finally ordered some 2018 Topps Now cards. Sadly, their season was over by the time they arrived, even though I ordered them when the Rockies were on fire and looking great for another Postseason run. It just goes to show you how quickly your fortunes can change in this sport.

2018 Topps Now #791 German Marquez /194
Rockies starter German Marquez pitched a few high-profile games toward the end of the 2018 season on their way to their second straight Wild Card spot. More on that later, but the Rockies beat up on the Phillies in a 14-0 win on September 26th, 2018, the third game of a four-game set that the Rockies swept. I attended the first one of that series, the final contest I was able to visit during the regular season. It was a win, but I chose to get the Topps Now card from Wednesday's game, thanks to German Marquez tying a modern-era Major League record. That makes it the second Marquez Topps Now card in my collection.

Marquez struck out eight straight batters to begin the game, tying a record set by Jim Deshaies in 1986 and tied by Jacob DeGrom in 2012, which we know thanks to the helpful paragraph on the card back. That card back has some faint rainbow-colored Topps logos, basically a series of watermarks. What it doesn't tell us is that during this early-innings streak, German Marquez passed Ubaldo Jimenez to become the Rockies' single-season strikeout leader, finishing the year with 230.

It was an impressive performance, and even though a couple batters got on base to end the streak at eight, Marquez struck out another batter to end the third inning, meaning he got his first nine outs via the strikeout. And as soon as it happened, I knew exactly which card to pair it with, assuming Topps released a NOW card for the feat.

1987 Topps #2 Jim Deshaies RB
Long before Topps NOW, Topps opened their annual sets with a subset of Record Breaker cards, and this one of Jim Deshaies, the first player to set the modern record of eight strikeouts to start a game, is a card that's been in my collection since the very beginning. This 1987 Topps card has been replaced over the years, but it's one of the most familiar cards I own. It might have even been at the very top of the once-small stack that comprised my entire collection, since even back then I was alphabetizing cards by team. None of the 1987 Angels cards jump out at me, so this is pretty much Side 1, Track 1 of my baseball card collection.

Despite this being more or less my first-ever baseball card, it still has things to teach me. I keep saying that this 8-strikeout opener is a "modern" record, because according to Deshaies' card back, there was a game way back in 1884 where Hall-of-Famer Mickey Welch started a game with nine Ks.

The strikeout story doesn't end there, because in his very next start during the NL Tiebreaker game against the Dodgers, Marquez tied another mark, recording four strikeouts in one inning. Many pitchers have reached that catcher-assisted record, this time thanks to a passed ball from Tony Wolters. It ended up being extremely costly, because instead of Max Muncy sitting in the dugout as the first out, he remained on first base after the third strikeout, at which point Cody Bellinger hit a home run to lead the the Dodgers to a sixth straight division title.

That set up a Wild Card matchup between the Rockies and Cubs at Wrigley Field, and let's just say Rockies managed to earn another Topps NOW card, despite 13 innings of little offense and terrible announcing from ESPN.

2018 Topps Now #834 Colorado Rockies /360
I covered the results of the NL Wild Card game in my previous post, which ended up being the only Rockies win of the postseason. Lots of Rockies are visible on this team card, including Nolan Arenado, Scott Oberg, Garrett Hampson, and the backup catcher with the game-winning hit, Tony Wolters. Topps was sure to mention that the Rockies played games in three time zones in three days, something that had to take a toll on the team. Sunday was in Denver, Monday was in L.A., and Tuesday was in Chicago.

None of that would be possible without air travel, which reminds me of an interesting article I read recently on the Washington Nationals and all the behind-the-scenes logistics management that it takes to field a Major League team.

German Marquez would take the mound one final time in 2018, starting NLDS Game 3 at home against the Brewers. I had the good fortune to snag four seats in the upper deck, two rows from the top. It was cold, cloudy, and rainy, and the offense that was on display during the final week of the regular season was nowhere to be found. Go figure, the team finally has some solid pitching, and the bats shut down.

It was just the tenth postseason game ever played at Coors Field, and I've been to two of them. I'd really love to see these banners around the ballpark more frequently, but we'll have to wait until next year. The Brewers look great, and I can't help but wonder how this postseason would look if the Rockies had managed to win the division for the first time ever. They would have hosted the Braves for a rematch of the 1995 NLDS, and the Braves did almost as badly in this year's NLDS as the Rockies did. If the Rockies had been able to scratch out just one more win this year, things might be very different.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The Shiny Donruss Group Break

Two months ago to the day, the cards from Colbey's Donruss Optic group break showed up in my mailbox. After a bunch more travel in September, and a nail-biter of a sudden-death game last night, I have a little time to get back to blogging. In the 2018 NL Wild Card Game, the Rockies managed to hold the Cubbies to a single run in 13 innings, the longest-ever elimination game in MLB Postseason history, advancing to the NLDS and bringing the month of Rocktober back to Colorado.

The cards that arrived from Cardboard Collections looked pretty familiar, and I've seen plenty of 2016 Donruss in the past few years. It's a common fixture in trade packages, and it's only 150 cards large, not counting short prints. But the shiny version, Donruss Optic, basically a clone of Topps Chrome, is a bit harder to come by. $4 to add the shiny quasi-parallels was literally a small price to pay.

2016 Donruss Optic #107 Nolan Arenado
Nolan Arenado will start us off today, and he began the scoring last night with a sacrifice fly, allowing his buddy Charlie Blackmon to score from third. Charlie was sent back to third after a ground rule double ended the previous play before he could score. But number 28 came through in the first, though he and much of the Rockies offense were shut down by Jon Lester and the Cubs bullpen for most of the game.

It was one of the greatest pitcher's duels I've ever seen, and to have Kyle Freeland on one end of it was amazing.

There are a handful of parks with brick behind the plate, and this Donruss Optic card may have gotten its photo courtesy of Wrigley Field. It's a bit tough to tell for sure. Regardless, Nolan won't soon forget his most recent game in the Windy City, including that odd hug with Javy Baez.

2016 Donruss Optic #48 Jonathan Gray RR (RC)
The Rockies gave Jon Gray the ball in last year's Wild Card game, which they lost to the Diamondbacks. Gray is notoriously unreliable in the first inning, so Bud Black decided not to go with him this time around. He'll surely start at some point in the NLDS. 

He's long past being a Rated Rookie, perhaps Donruss' most famous subset besides Diamond Kings. And he's shortened up his name, just going by Jon these days. He's a strong pitcher, and I'm glad to have him in the rotation, but he hasn't quite been able to handle the pressure like Kyle Freeland. 

2016 Donruss Optic Purple #53 Trevor Story RR
It doesn't seem that long ago, but Trevor Story was once a Rated Rookie, too. His flurry of home runs at the beginning of the 2016 season is mentioned on the back, but no one knew that he'd soon take to regularly launching home runs onto the left field concourse at Coors Field, some even eclipsing 500 feet. I've seen him hit home runs in person, and I can assure you, he absolutely puts them into orbit.

This purple parallel (a border color tailor-made for Rockies cards) shows Story in the field, where he's no slouch, either. In fact, he speared a liner yesterday with a man on, which kept the momentum on the Rockies' side.

I've noticed that Donruss is prominently featuring player's uniform numbers on these photos, which is just as well, since this is of course an unlicensed set. Gray's #55 is a bit covered up, but #27 and #28, the stellar left side of the Rockies infield, are clearly visible, and show one of the more significant uniform changes since Marvin Freeman and the early days of the franchise. 

2016 Donruss Optic Purple #56 Tom Murphy RR
There were about as many purple parallels in this shipment as base cards, and that Rated Rookie logo is enjoying its time back in the spotlight, after years of being shoved into basements and closets.

Tom Murphy, #23, played in a handful of games for the Rockies this season, but there is a bit of a logjam at the catcher's spot this year. Chris Iannetta is enjoying Rocktober once again, and apparently Drew Butera became a Rockie about a month ago, unbeknownst to me. But the real catcher hero yesterday was none other than Tony Wolters (which ESPN kept mispronouncing "Walters"). With two outs, Wolters singled Trevor Story in during the top of the 13th, and it ended up being the game winner. Scott Oberg wasted no time in striking out the side in the bottom of the 13th, and the Rockies got to pop some champagne for the first time in quite a while.

2016 Donruss Optic Aqua #72 Carlos Gonzalez /299
CarGo has been a Rockie for ten seasons, but other than when they clinched a playoff spot last year just edging out the pre-Yelich Brewers (and I guess Friday when they sealed this year's spot), yesterday was the first time CarGo got to spray champagne around the clubhouse. It couldn't have been easy for the Cubs to watch two teams in two days celebrate in Wrigley Field as visitors, but that's how it ended up this year with the two tiebreaker situation. One of the four teams had to lose two winner-take-all games in a row. I would have preferred it if that had been the Dodgers, but we'll get them in the NLCS, unless the Braves take care of them first.

The Yankees have won the AL Wild Card as I wrap up this post, so I'll close with this Aqua parallel of Carlos Gonzalez' Donruss Optic card, serial numbered to 299 copies. I bet this one is at Wrigley, too, judging by that brick and the fan in blue and red apparel. Maybe even from the same game as Nolan.

CarGo's Diamond Kings card from 2016 Optic is the only one from the set that has appeared on this blog before, a trade post concerning Highly Subjective and Completely Arbitrary. Looking back, that was one of my favorite posts I've ever written. It might be a while before I find the time to do an 18-card post like that again, but five cards at the beginning of the month is a good start, and that means I might be able to do multiple posts in October.

Er, Rocktober.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Mom's 6-for-6 Day at the Thrift Store

Mom is always on the lookout for cards for my collection. When she's not simply referring to my Eight Men Out list, she's unearthing some gems at a card show. This past spring at my nephew's first birthday party, she presented me with a small envelope of cards obtained at a local thrift store. Surprisingly, even amazingly, each and every one of them is brand-new to my collection. That's not usually a feat even I can pull off. It's never been as bad as getting five copies of the same card at one show, but I inevitably end up with a few I already had.

Not so when Mom is shopping for me.

I had the good fortune to witness Charlie Blackmon go 6-for-6 at the Rockies' Home Opener in 2014, the very first day The Rooftop deck at Coors Field was opened to the public. Mike Trout had a 5-for-5 day yesterday, so let's take a look at what a perfect day at the plate looks like.

1997 Upper Deck #479 Jaime Bluma DD
First up is a subset from 1997 Upper Deck, a Diamond Debuts card of Jaime Bluma. I'd never heard of this reliever before, and it's actually a bit tough to tell which team he's on. The stack of golden diamonds on the right each contain a small "KC" (which scan better than they look), but I never really noticed them while this card was sitting on my side table all summer.

Bluma was a late-season call-up for the Royals in 1996, converting five saves in 17 relief appearances. He held promise, and the card back tells us all about those five saves, but Bluma didn't return to the big leagues in 1997 or any year after. Also on the back is a 1995 Fleer-esque thermal image of the front photo, as well as what ended up being his complete MLB stats.

It's unfortunate when your rookie card is also your sunset card. But those two months in late 1996 must remain unforgettable for Jaime Bluma.

1997 Upper Deck #381a Ruben Rivera CF
Clearly, Mom found a rich vein of 1997 Upper Deck subsets. This gold nugget, with a conspicuous absence of copper, UD's favorite metallic element, documents a key pinch-hit that Ruben Rivera delivered during the 1996 pennant race for the Yankees. His efforts helped them (and his cousin, Mariano Rivera) win their first World Series since 1978, even though he didn't end up on the ALCS or World Series roster.

Rivera did end up playing a World Series game at the old Yankee Stadium in 1998, but he came up on the losing end that year as a member of the San Diego Padres. After that, he wrapped his career up as a Giant, but not before going down in history by executing one of the worst displays of baserunning ever seen. Despite that TOOTBLAN, the Giants still managed to salvage a win in 13 innings, although the very next game would be the final one of Rivera's career.

Quite the contrast to his cousin's Hall of Fame-worthy career.

1997 Upper Deck #280 Greg Norton
More 1997 Upper Deck gives us a subset I was at least familiar with already, the shiny Star Rookies set. As with Bluma's card, there's a small shield in the lower left with the date of Greg Norton's debut with the White Sox, and it's less than two weeks after Bluma's. He earned an interesting distinction in that debut game, becoming just the second-ever Major Leaguer to get his first two hits in the same inning.

Some real star power coming up in the AL Central in August 1996, right?

Pardon my sarcasm, but if I had to pick a least-favorite Rockie of all-time, it would be Greg Norton. He was a nice enough guy, and looking back, his stats aren't that bad, but he didn't start a ton of games, and when they did put him in as a pinch-hitter, he always seemed to strike out at the worst possible times. I do recall a grand slam, which was so uncharacteristic that I still remember Greg Norton once hit a grand slam.

2000 Upper Deck #241 Fred McGriff
That taps out 1997 UD, but there's a bit more of that familiar copper to ease us into the new millennium with their 2000 set. We also get to see a much more familiar player in Fred McGriff, not quite a Hall-of-Famer, but an MVP, World Series champion, and five-time All-Star.

Tampa Bay kept the "Devil Rays" name for so short a time that it's quite strange to see their early cards. By now, they've been the Rays longer than they were the Devil Rays, so it's definitely a case of a team still trying to find their identity. Getting out of Tropicana Field would help, and they do have a proposal for a new stadium, which would open in 2023.

Mom told me she was hesitant to give me this card at first, due to what she called an "unflattering" pose. I told her it was fine; action sports sometimes generate slightly awkward positions. Just a little extra reassurance that I am happy to have this card in my collection, adding to a very small stack of 2000 UD.

1997 Pinnacle X-Press #21 Vinny Castilla
I have an even smaller stack of 1997 Pinnacle X-Press, and now I get to add another Rockie to it, the first one of this post.

No, we're not counting Greg Norton.

Pinnacle didn't have much time left in late 1997, but they were still putting out nice sets. The border of this card is a bit fragile, but I like the design, color coding, and slightly different shade of gold that Pinnacle often used compared to Topps and Upper Deck.

There's a nice action shot on the back of Castilla applying a tag at third base to #4 on the Montreal Expos, who happens to be Mark Grudzielanek. In my constant vigilance for Coors Field cards, the 1997s tend to feature a lot of Expos. I'm not quite sure why, especially because it crosses over lots of card brands. You'll see plenty once I finally manage to complete my Coors Field frankenset.

1995 Ultra #373 Marvin Freeman
The final card is another Rockie, and this is the only one I even thought might be in my collection already. I bought a handful of 1995 Ultra when it was new, or at least some was purchased on my behalf. It was a bit spendy for an 11-year old. But I knew I had most of the Rockies from this set.

For that matter, I opened plenty of 1997 UD, but that's just been Series 1, and the three at the top of the post are all from Series 2. Mom managed to find just the right ones across two different sets. 2000 UD and '97 Pinnacle X-Press were wide open, though.

Rockies jerseys haven't changed much throughout the years, but back in the early days of the franchise, especially when they shared Mile High Stadium with the Denver Broncos, they didn't have the uniform number below the letters on the left side, as they do now. I'm looking right at them on the TV now, although a lefty is on the hill as I write this. If the uniforms looked then like they do now, we would see a "44" near Freeman's gloved hand. Its a bit less informative, but a slightly cleaner look, especially on this properly cropped full-bleed card.

So there you have it. Six brand new cards that I didn't go looking for, without a single duplicate to omit or toss in the extras box.

That's what we call batting a thousand.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

The Trading Post #121: A Penny Sleeve for your Thoughts

Back in 2015, when it was unthinkable for the Rockies to be in a tie for first place at any point after April, I ran a contest for my 100th post. I was blogging much more consistently then, not squeezing in a single post at the end of the month like I've been doing all summer long. The winner of that contest was Jon, the writer of A Penny Sleeve for your Thoughts. Not long after, he sent a return package, #49 in The Trading Post series.

That history between Jon's blog and mine takes us up to about March of this year, when I spotted my ZIP code (yes, technically that's an acronym) on an outgoing mail post of his.

Yes, March. Meaning this group of beautiful, shiny Rockies cards has been sitting in the lower left area of my side table since the early days of Spring Training. And in case you were wondering, most of them came in penny sleeves. But better late than never, the saying goes, so let's see what Rockies history we can unearth today.

1999 Bowman Chrome Refractors #22 Vinny Castilla
1999 Bowman was well-known for including facsimile signatures in a prominent vertical banner on the right. Rather than an illegible signature, Vinny Castilla's card has his full, printed name of "Vinicio Castilla Soria", with the same large dots over the "I"s that can be found on his 1993 Studio card. Owing to his Hispanic heritage and Mexican nationality, you might notice that his full name includes his second last name, properly an apellido materno, his mother's maiden name. This practice is generally quashed down in English-speaking countries where First Name, Last Name is the law of the land, but dropping that final piece hides an integral part of one's identity that many Hispanic cultures honor and acknowledge much more than we do here.

Credit card issuers in Latin America must have another way to verify who you are when you call customer service, which is good, because your mother's maiden name (or any static identifier) is a truly awful way to authenticate someone. But I digress. All I know is that if I were a Hispanic player, I wouldn't stop at making sure accent marks were on my jersey.

Another thing I noticed on this shiny Bowman refractor applies to all the non-prospect (i.e. red) cards that year, a pair of "Now & Then" photos on the card back. Castilla's then-current photo was displayed on the top, with a very slightly smaller shot of him as a young player in the Braves organization on the bottom. 1999 Bowman remains one of the few Bowman sets I can recognize and assign to the right year, but even it still has surprises.

2013 Bowman Platinum Cutting Edge Stars #CES-DD David Dahl
Less rectangular but no less shiny is this die-cut card of David Dahl. The recent re-signing of Matt Holliday might limit Dahl's playing time more than he'd like, but they're both hitting key home runs for the Rockies at an important time in the pennant race. This Cutting Edge (get it?) card dates back to 2013, not long after the Rockies drafted him, but still many years before his first MLB appearance in 2016. He's just 24, but he's taken a bit longer to develop than some of his contemporaries, like, say, Andrew Benintendi.

He still has plenty of time to hone his craft. After all, his nickname on his Players' Weekend jersey is "Baby Dahl". And think of how long it took Topps to get this good at die-cuts.

2015 Bowman Chrome Bowman Scouts Update #BSU-RT Raimel Tapia
With all that depth in the outfield right now, both old and new, there's simply no room for Raimel Tapia. But even if you don't have a roster spot, everyone has a shiny card. This particular card is from the same set (well, the Update checklist) as a Jon Gray card I received from Bob Walk The Plank over three years ago. Fans of things like chain-link fences and fans in pink shirts consuming ballpark snacks ought not to miss Bowman cards. Minor league games are far from a national spectacle, and the venues still allow for gems like these.

Tapia has just a handful fewer games in the big leagues than Dahl, but he did beat Topps' prediction of a 2017 debut by a year. We're less than a week away from September call-ups, so Tapia will likely get a few more games in this year, as will Garrett Hampson, the player who was sent down to make way for Matt Holliday.

2008 Topps Chrome Trading Card History #TCHC50 Brad Hawpe
There were no cards of Matt Holliday in this trade package, but one of his outfield mates, Brad Hawpe, did make it in. The 2009 All-Star made it into 2008's Topps Chrome Trading Card History set, the final card in the 50-card set. The set had a larger, non-shiny counterpart in Topps base that year at 75 cards. He's pictured (literally, just pictured) on the 1953 Bowman design. Most of the chrome in that decade ended up on grilles and tailfins of Buicks and Mercurys, not on baseball cards. Times have certainly changed. We still love shiny stuff, but our preferences about which products contain it have dramatically shifted.

1999 Topps Chrome Refractors #144 Jeff Reed
Not many collectors liked Topps' experiment with non-white borders between 1998 and 2003. 1998 and 1999 used a gold border that wasn't well received, but both Opening Day and Chrome used silver borders in 1999. It does seem to work a little better, especially with that little "Refractor" word underneath the card number on the back.

Topps gave us a great action shot on this one, picturing Jeff Reed throwing down to second with his full gear on. When I first started watching baseball, I seem to remember catchers rapidly removing their masks before trying to nail a would-be base stealer, but there's no time for that anymore. On the other hand, the veteran catcher might have just been making a practice throw before the start of an inning. He's occupying a lot of real estate without a batter or umpire in the frame, and the Met in the background seems to be casually preparing to begin an at-bat at Shea Stadium. I'm not quite sure who that is, but the uniform number looks like a "5" to me. John Olerud wore #5 for the Mets, so that's my best guess for this cameo.

There's a Cincinnati Red on the back, making this a rare double-cameo card. There are no identifying marks on that Reds jersey, so I'll guess Sean Casey and leave it at that.

1995 Score Gold Rush #228 Mike Munoz
There have been a lot of players who have worn the Rockies uniform over the years, but it's rare for a player to make a first appearance on this blog after a couple hundred posts and at least a thousand or so cards. Mike Munoz, an inaugural-year Rockie, is just now debuting on Infield Fly Rule. In fact, Jeff Reed appeared only once before, and then as an Expo.

Mike Munoz is a name I remember well. He appeared in a whopping 300 games as a Rockie, always in relief. In baseball slang, he was the LOOGY (Left-handed One Out Guy), but he earned a 15-14 record in his Rockie career, and even was credited with a handful of saves. Score, in one their legendary write-ups, identified him as "A durable southpaw relief specialist" on this Gold Rush parallel.

In retrospect, I don't think I realized how much I liked Score until recently. It was an inexpensive brand, they gave us plenty of reading material with those epic paragraphs (many of which I've never read and have no idea what gems are waiting to be uncovered), and the designs are just, well, fun. Plus they gave us cards of guys like Mike Munoz.

2016 Topps Museum Collection #43 Nolan Arenado
We finally depart the realm of the shiny (cue mental image of the magic wormhole to Asgard), but not before passing through the luxury section with a look at Topps Museum Collection. The photo from this card would be from 2015, and the excellent photo reproduction in this set makes the old shade of purple noticeably different and more blue. Even the bat looks a little bit blue. Compare that with a Corey Dickerson card that came from A Cracked Bat, and the shade looks a bit different.

It's nice to have a couple cards from Museum Collection without having to pay the crazy prices associated with that product. That's one of the reasons I liked Score.

2008 Upper Deck First Edition #206 Kazuo Matsui
Kazuo Matsui, another rarely-seen Rockie, got a card in 2008 Upper Deck First Edition, basically UD's foil-free Opening Day equivalent. The card tells us about Matsui's 32 stolen bases in 2007, as well as his two-hit performance in the epic Game 163 against the Padres in October 2007.

That was a long time ago, but in some ways not a lot has changed. Matt Holliday is still not a great outfielder, but is good enough at the plate to make up for it. Chris Iannetta is still around, and they're both once again on the Rockies roster. Double-digit scores are still common at Coors Field, and you're likely to see a passing thundercloud on a late-summer afternoon in Denver, though the level of wildfire smoke obscuring the mountains has increased alarmingly.

I'll never turn down a Coors Field card, especially one showing the out-of-town scoreboard. Usually there's enough to date the card to a specific game, but not quite exactly on this one. All we know is that the Pirates were hosting the Dodgers, which would put this at some point between June 1st-3rd, 2007, when the Reds came to visit Denver.

2003 Fleer Ultra Photo Effex #17 Todd Helton
Fleer likes their plain white backgrounds, don't they? New to me is 2003 Fleer Ultra Photo Effex, where they've applied a rotoscope effect to a photo of Todd Helton. If you've ever seen A Scanner Darkly or Waking Life by Richard Linklater, you'll know what I mean. The large white area at the bottom is clearly meant to make this look like a Polaroid, and they even use a rougher matte finish in the frame area. It's a clever design, if a bit simple.

I'm curious whether any other players in this set got a different photo effect applied to their images, a la Instagram, or if they did this rotoscope look for all twenty cards. 2003 Fleer Ultra isn't exactly flying off the shelves these days, so I'll have to keep a sharp eye out.

2014 Topps Rookie Cup All Stars Commemorative #RCAS-15 Troy Tulowitzki /99
The last card for today is another member of that magical 2007 team, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. It's a manufactured relic of the Topps Rookie Cup, which was awarded to Tulo on his 2008 card, and this is by far the thickest card I own. It's almost comically so, thicker than the entire stack of cards above, and even thicker than my iPhone 6.

There's a nice serial number on there, just 99 copies, and the card tells us lots about Tulo's rookie year in 2007. There were plenty of defensive gems, an unassisted triple play, and more home runs as an NL rookie shortstop than Ernie Banks, a record that would stand until Tulo's replacement, Trevor Story, came up about a decade later.

I hope to get back into the swing of things with trade posts, because I certainly have plenty waiting for me. There are lots of cards left to be blogged about and filed away, though none as thick as this one.

Thanks to Jon for sending a few that fit my collection (but not my toploaders) perfectly!