Sunday, January 22, 2023

The Trading Post #173: Dime Boxes (Part 2: Nick’s Picks)

Picking up where I left off in August, here's a continued look at the stack of cards Nick at Dime Boxes sent for his 10th Anniversary. I picked a solid stack of cards from his giveaway pages, but being the guy he is, Nick included an even larger stack of hand-selected Rockies cards that have been keeping me company on one corner of my desk for quite some time now.

Seeing as how I'm still working my way through this shipment, I didn't think it right to make a claim during his 11th Anniversary giveaway in December. I simply made a congratulatory comment and left the spoils of that giveaway to my fellow bloggers (mostly because I didn't see it for five days).

True to his blog's name, getting a stack of cards from Nick is basically like having him look through a ten-cent box at a card show on your behalf. Which, I'm sure, is pretty much exactly how the magic happens.

2017 Topps Gallery #16 Trevor Story

I've seen some gorgeous cards from Topps Gallery over the years, and if it were more available and affordable, I'm sure I'd chase some of it down myself. It carries on the spirit of the UD Masterpieces brand, something that remained in the hobby for far too short a time.

The artwork on this Trevor Story card is done by Mayumi Seto, who only recently withdrew from her post as the artist on nearly 500 cards of the long-running Topps Living Set. As with this Topps Gallery card, her artwork graced Topps products prior to the introduction of the Living Set, a set which remains absent from my collection.

Maybe one of those would be a good candidate for my Eight Men Out list.

Though Trevor Story has had a solid career, he made his biggest splash during his first week in the Majors, hitting seven home runs in his first six games. His pace trailed off significantly as April 2016 wore on, but he still hit a total of 10 that month. The card back tells us that was one better than Albert Pujols's mark for an NL Rookie.

2016 Topps Heritage Rookie Performers #RP-TS Trevor Story

I was personally pretty impressed with Story that month. In fact, I have a very specific memory of watching a couple of those homers from a Buffalo Wild Wings near the office. I snuck away for a quick snack as the Rockies home opener was getting underway, and watched Story launch one to left field. It was probably this highlight.

That B-Dubs location is closed now, but I saw plenty of games there, including the start of Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, and most of the 2007 Game 163 tiebreaker.

Topps was also impressed, as they included him in multiple insert sets in 2016 Topps Heritage, which went to print not terribly long after Story's Rookie of the Month-worthy performance. He appeared in the Rookie Performers insert set, looking ready to crush another home run. I saw more than a few of his homers in person over the years, and as far as Coors Field home runs go, his always somehow had just a little extra. And I'm not even talking about the 2021 Home Run Derby.

2016 Topps Heritage Now and Then #NT-1 Trevor Story

Trevor Story's second insert set appearance came in the Now and Then set. 2016 Topps Heritage took us back 49 years to the 1967 set, and while insert cards weren't really a thing in 1967, this insert fits with the retro theme nicely. 

The card back again documents Story's sizzling-hot April 2016 while somewhat awkwardly tying it into Mel Stottlemyre's Opening Day 1967 two-hit shutout of the Washington Senators.

He may be long gone from 20th & Blake, but I'm still rooting for him. Sadly, he'll miss most if not all of the 2023 season while recovering from elbow surgery.

2017 Topps Golden Glove Awards #GG-10 Nolan Arenado

Another Rockie that has departed for greener pastures is my favorite active player, Nolan Arenado. No matter where he lands, he's the best defensive player around. He already had four Gold Gloves to his name by the time this card was printed in 2017, earning a spot in the Golden Glove Awards insert set along with seventeen other players.

Apparently, due to trademark issues, Topps couldn't officially use the term "Gold Glove" anywhere on the card, but they did manage to sneak it into the card number, giving this one a prefix of "GG".

Call it whatever you like, but Nolan somehow took his game to an even higher level after this. In 2017, he won his first of what is now an active streak of six consecutive Platinum Glove awards, which is given to the best defender in each league, not merely the best defender at each position. The Platinum award hasn't been around that long, but Arenado's streak is truly unprecedented.

Incidentally, most of the other NL Platinum Gloves since its inception in 2011 went to Yadier Molina, Arenado's now-retired Cardinals teammate. There have been a variety of winners on the AL side, but only Anthony Rizzo and Andrelton Simmons have managed to crowd out the elite masters of Molina and Arenado on the NL side.

2018 Topps Salute Series 2 #S-94 Nolan Arenado

One year later, Topps decided to tell us all about Arenado's continued defensive prowess, including him in Series 2 of the Topps Salute insert set. The card back of course talks about his "fielding award" and being "honored as the top overall defender in the Senior Circuit", a roundabout, lawyer-friendly way of saying he won the National League Platinum Glove.

Don't miss The Big Game in a few weeks.

An insert set of this size (an absurd 250 cards across three series) requires some repetition, and Arenado also made an appearance in Series 1. That one showed Nolan at the plate, while this one has Arenado reaching into the crowd for a foul pop in front of a bunch of smiling Padres fans, presumably at Petco Park.

2020 Topps Big League Defensive Wizards #DW-15 Nolan Arenado

A couple more years of this allowed Arenado to reach Wizardly status, showing up in a horizontal insert card from 2020 Topps Big League. This is a set I bought a blaster of back in 2020, and it's been on my card shelf awaiting a blog post ever since. But this card jumped the line, thanks to the purple orb of arcane magic, as befitting a Defensive Wizard.

While I realize this card is color-coded to the Colorado Rockies, the color palette on this card looks like it's straight out of the Wizard class of Diablo III. And, not to torture the metaphor, but there's a "Slow Time" skill in that video game, which simply has to be how Nolan can make some of these plays.

Seriously, watch the play described on the card back from September 4th, 2019. Corey Seager didn't stand a chance, and Nolan barely looked like he was trying.

2015 Topps Gypsy Queen Walk-Off Winners #GWO-18 Carlos González

He might not have the superstar cachet of Story or Arenado, but Carlos González was certainly a well-liked Rockie during the ten seasons he spent here. Perhaps his most famous Rockies moment made it into a 2015 Gypsy Queen insert set called Walk-Off Winners, which should need no explanation. It's a 25-card set filled with players like Bill Mazeroski, David Freese, and Mookie Wilson, not unlike the Historic Hits insert set from 2021 Allen & Ginter.

CarGo, who last appeared in a Major League game in 2019, had a great day on July 31st, 2010. Not only did he win the game with a solo shot in the bottom of the 9th, but he also completed the cycle with that swing. There was only one pitch thrown that inning, and that was all he needed. Topps also highlighted this achievement in one of their many "Golden" insert sets from 2012.

Look closely at his follow-through on that home run swing (hit to a pre-Rooftop upper deck at Coors Field), and you might notice something familiar.

2017 Topps '87 Topps #87-4 Carlos González

According to the card back on this 1987 throwback 30th Anniversary card, González said that he modeled his swing and bat drop after Ken Griffey, Jr.

Being a power-hitting lefty with a clear love for the game has been a recipe for success nearly as long as this game has existed, and CarGo turned it into a solid career.

I'm not sure why Topps had to omit all but two seasons of CarGo's stat lines to squeeze that tidbit onto the card back, but that's okay. We have enough 1987 reprints not to need total stylistic accuracy on each one of them.

2017 Topps Update Salute #USS-49 Kyle Freeland

Going back to the Salute insert set (well, a year prior), here's Kyle Freeland joining another member of the Rockies rotation in the massive checklist. Freeland pitched the home opener in 2017, an honor he has been given multiple times in his career, including 2022 which I had the good fortune of attending.

This one is actually from 2017 Update, giving Topps enough time to mention Freeland's home opener from the same season, as well as his first career home run a couple months later. Now that we've seen the last of pitchers batting, that one home run in Cincinnati is likely to be the only one of Freeland's career.

2014 Topps Toys 'R' Us Purple Border #290 Chad Bettis (RC)

That's one more than Chad Bettis ever hit, though.

I received the base version of his rookie card several years ago, but I liked the 2014 set and this Toys 'R' Us exclusive colored border so much I thought I'd show it again. I started this blog in 2014 (wow, I just passed my own 9th anniversary), and I also got into Topps Bunt that year. I find it to be a familiar, almost comforting design, even though the base version of this card isn't brand-new to the blog.

I actually put in quite a bit of effort to avoid repeating myself, which is hard to do with what is apparently approaching a decade of blogging. I don't like using the same card multiple times (except in rare cases like this), nor do I enjoy repeating my own written phrases, which comes across like I'm plagiarizing myself. But then again, when we have AI tools confidently declaring total falsehoods, maybe a little human error isn't such a terrible thing.

2002 Topps 206 Piedmont Black #267 Chin-Hui Tsao (PROS)

To make up for the repeat photo, here's a Rockies player that is making his first appearance on Infield Fly Rule. Chin-hui Tsao played part of three seasons for the Rockies, then jumped over to the Dodgers. He was in and out of independent and overseas leagues for many years, then returned to the Dodgers after an eight-year hiatus, finally retiring in 2016.

Tsao is the only Taiwanese player to suit up for the Rockies, and he was included in mini form as a parallel of the 2002 Topps 206 checklist. Specifically, this is a Piedmont-back parallel, reproducing the logo of one of the many early 20th-century tobacco brands that were marketed along with the first baseball cards.

Come to think of it, it's actually a little uncomfortable in this day and age when you think about how the history of baseball cards is inextricably linked to tobacco products. The actual brands in question have been defunct for well over a century by now, but it's not too far removed from having a Marlboro logo appear on one of these things. And we all recall how much effort Fleer put in to scrubbing Randy Johnson's card of any tobacco advertising.

Just a thought.

Anyway, the World Baseball Classic is coming up soon! Tsao's home country of Taiwan is hosting one of the round-robin sites in the first round, and will be competing as Chinese Taipei. This ambiguous name mirrors the country's identity in the Olympics and other international events, which is done this way due to ever-present geopolitical tensions with mainland China, far beyond the scope of this blog.

2003 Fleer Platinum #5 Todd Zeile

One of the lesser-known Todds to play for the Rockies, third baseman Todd Zeile is seen here having some fun at Spring Training outside the batting cages.

Rather than use an exact reproduction of a legacy set, Fleer went in a slightly different direction for 2003 Platinum. It still has the unmistakable look and feel of an '80s Fleer card, right down to the card back with the vertical orientation and two-colored columns. The thick pinstripes on the front remind me of the unintentionally famous 1989 set, but it's not an exact match like the two prior years of Platinum. Of course, I had to look all that up.

Fleer's names for their retro sets always threw me off, anyway. To me, "Platinum" implies not an '80s style design and card stock, but more of an extremely shiny and thick card laden with gold foil and lots of refractory rainbows. Something like Topps Finest. I suppose it is similar to Topps Archives, but it just never made sense to me. I was further confused by the company calling its true flagship set Fleer Tradition for a couple years, which itself evolved into a Topps Heritage competitor, going so far as to resurrect the 1961 Fleer set in 2003.

Frankly, I struggle with any changes the hobby made after about 1996.

2012 Topps Opening Day #101 Todd Helton

Which is right around the time Todd Helton burst onto the scene. He debuted in 1997, nearing the end of his career when this Opening Day card came out in 2012. He's by far the most famous Todd to ever play for the Rockies, and one of only two players with a retired number, the other being Larry Walker.

It remains to be seen whether Helton will one day join Walker in Cooperstown, but his chances are still looking somewhat promising. I hear Scott Rolen has the best chance this year, but it's far from a sure thing. We'll find out in less than 48 hours whether the BBWAA will be adding anyone to the Class of 2023 to join Fred McGriff.

Partly because Nick sends more great cards at one time than I could possibly fit into one post, and partly because I can't edit myself, there will be a part 3 of this post. All the shiny cards needed their own space.

If you've ever traded with Nick, then you know.


Wednesday, January 18, 2023

1993 is not yet complete

The Colorado Rockies joined Major League Baseball in 1993. I was nine years old, and I was growing up in a city that finally had a big league team.

Everyone was excited. There was memorabilia everywhere. Pennants, souvenir guidebooks, apparel, lapel pins, pocket schedules, and of course baseball cards.

I embraced it fully and without reservation.

There was another wave of enthusiasm when Coors Field opened two years later, another round of pennants and guidebooks and card sets and clipboards and little metal pails, mostly with the Coors Field logo.

The thing is, the novelty has worn off quite a bit, at least according to my fellow citizens. The Avalanche and the Broncos were the ones who won the championships, and the Rockies descended into mediocrity. Other than some brief periods of excitement, like the magical World Series run in 2007 and a pair of All-Star Games, the Rockies are more or less an afterthought in this city. The joke is that Coors Field is one of the best sports bars in Denver.

Be that as it may, what it does mean is that a majority of the Rockies memorabilia I see to this day dates back to that early period. I'm one of the few who still follows the Rockies, and my friends, family, and acquaintances know this. So when they run across some old Rockies object in their travels, they know I'm the guy who would appreciate it. And I do. But it's been a lot of seeing the same guidebooks, the same lapel pins, and very often the same baseball cards over the years. Not to say I don't enjoy it. I do. Nostalgia is a powerful force, no matter how many times you experience it.

Which makes it all the more curious when something new comes my way.

Most weeks, my fiancée and her dad will go to an overflow site for Arc Thrift Stores, a local thrift chain. They're mainly on the lookout for surplus books to share with underserved communities and Little Free Libraries, but once in a while they unearth a gem or two I'd like. A birding guidebook, a vintage Apollo-era book about space, etc.... Recently, she found a small white baseball card album hiding in one of the crates and snagged it for my collection.

You may have seen albums like this. It's significantly smaller than a binder; about 6" x 8", with eight or ten pages inside. Each page only has room for four cards, arranged in a square.

This particular album had a cover printed with the Rockies logo, the 1993 Donruss and Leaf logos, and the Rocky Mountain News logo, a defunct Denver-area daily newspaper. I had seen similar albums, but never one with that exact combination of promotional logos. The album itself was beyond saving, as the clear plastic pages (really more of a vinyl) had started to yellow. 

It did have about forty cards inside from three sets. 1993 Rockies Team Stadium Club, which is one of the more common relics from that era, 1991 Topps, which had no particular connection to the Rockies, and 1993 Donruss, matching the album cover.

As luck would have it, two of the Donruss cards are new to my collection.

1993 Donruss #38 Daryl Boston

Collectors in 1993 had to wait for Series 2 before they got Rockies and Marlins cards. But lots of players that were selected in the expansion draft appeared in Series 1 with their pre-draft teams. That went for Daryl Boston, selected by the Rockies from the New York Mets. He played a single season on the inaugural Rockies as a platoon outfielder, but before that he was a member of the White Sox and then the Mets. He was one of many players whose career ended with the Strike.

As a Met in 1992, he wore a black "S" memorial patch on his left sleeve, which we can see here. This was for the 1991 death of William Shea, the New York lawyer who tried to form a third Major League in the late 1950s. The Continental League was over before it began, ultimately leading to MLB expansion and the formation of the New York Mets. Shea Stadium was named for him.

1993 Donruss #341 Jim Tatum (RC)

The other new quasi-Rockies card in the album was of Jim Tatum, another expansion draftee from the Milwaukee Brewers, who were then in the American League. His position is listed as "IF", as he was a journeyman corner infielder during his career. He'd probably be a guy I wouldn't remember too well, except that he played on the inaugural Rockies, a team I watched and listened to as much as possible.

Tatum was no stranger to Mile High Stadium upon his arrival in 1993, as the Denver Zephyrs were the Triple-A affiliate of the Brewers. Other than his five-game call-up in September, he spent his 1992 season as one of the last Minor League players in Denver. He was a promising enough prospect to earn the coveted Rated Rookie logo on his Donruss card.

Also tucked away in a clear pocket on the inside cover were a pair of ticket stubs. These were for July 8th, 1993, a day game against the Florida Marlins, the expansion brethren of the Rockies. The holders of these season tickets got to sit in the rows behind the Rockies dugout on the first base side, watching the Rockies win 3-2. Dante Bichette had all three RBIs that game, putting on a winning performance in front of 56,807 fans.

Yes, 56,807 fans for a Thursday afternoon game. That's how you get to nearly 4.5 million fans in a season.

You're going to pay a lot more than $14 for a ticket like this today, but there is a coupon on the back for a $9.99 large 1-topping pizza at Domino's.

Not everything goes up in price.

It's getting more and more difficult to find cards new to my collection, especially from the overproduction era. I reached a point of diminishing returns a while ago, but it's not approaching zero just yet!

Sunday, January 15, 2023

This is all because of my Dad

As much as I've written about baseball cards over the years, I have to admit that my interest in collecting didn't start out of nowhere. It was something that was introduced to me and nurtured by my parents, particularly my dad. While mom is continuing to carry the torch these past few years, my dad is the one who kindled it.

It began when I was quite little. I got a pack of 1987 Topps, which lived in a prominent corner of my desk drawer for years. A few years later, a pack of 1990 Fleer went right on top of them. It wasn't much, but it was enough to forge some strong connections in my young brain. My collection exponentially grew when the Rockies began play in 1993, and I haven't looked back since.

All this to say that it should come as no surprise that my dad collected cards when he was a kid, too. He remembers the TV cabinet design of 1955 Bowman in particular, and also tells a story of flipping (and losing) some cards with cars on them, which I assume came from the 1961 Topps Sports Cars set. 

I can afford blasters and visits to the LCS on my own now, but in those early days of my collection, he was usually the one to drive me around to various card stores and mall card shows. My little sister often came along, and I remember one time we were given a few piles of cards by another card show attendee (mostly hockey and football, as I recall), who had no interest in "commons" and only was looking for the special "hits".

At the time, this was a truly inexplicable turn of events. Why would someone just...not want cards they had paid for? It made no sense.

In any case, my dad would occasionally take the opportunity to buy a few cards for himself. He stocked up on 1994 Topps Archives (based on the '54 set), and some nice shiny ones of his favorite Yankees here and there.

Anyway, that was all a long time ago. He has since retired and moved to Florida, but he did leave behind some possessions in a self-storage unit here in Colorado. He decided to let the contents go recently, and I cleaned it out last fall. Among many other family heirlooms, I found a binder full of baseball cards, as well as a couple other stacks tucked away in toploaders for safe keeping.

Despite being mere meters away from total incineration in the Marshall Fire, they all survived in fine condition. As I looked through the piles and pages, I recognized nearly all of them as coming from my perpetually overflowing duplicates box, which I invited him to raid many years ago to build his own collection.

Emphasis on "nearly".

I found close to five hundred cards, and I was virtually certain that all of them were already in my collection. But I did check just to be sure.

Four slipped through.

2003 Topps Opening Day Stickers #5 Josh Beckett

First up is a very young Josh Beckett, who had recently begun his career as a Florida Marlin. This card is a miniature, measuring a neat 3" x 2". The photo matches the full-size version in the main 2003 Opening Day set, but the card back is actually a scratch-off contest thing, which expired May 30th, 2003. I don't often keep that sort of stuff in my collection, especially when it's just an advertisement card on both sides. This one is a bit more like a real card, but I'm not surprised I tossed this one into the duplicates box. I guess my dad liked the mini size.

Beckett (the price guide, not to be confused with this player himself) says this is a sticker, part of a 72-card partial parallel set. It's unnumbered, so I have no idea how Beckett decided it is card #5. Maybe that comes from a long-forgotten sell sheet somewhere.

The back remains unscratched, and will perpetually live in a superposition of maybe once being a winning card and having much of its original value eroded by the passage of time.

2003 Topps Opening Day Stickers #11 Eric Chávez

Here's another card from the same set, featuring Eric Chávez of the Oakland A's. He's a player that shows up around here surprisingly often for a non-Rockie. His card back also remains unscratched.

I used to have quite a few of those early-'90s Panini stickers that were about this size. I let them go a long time ago, and can't say I really miss them. I'm not really a sticker guy. Despite what Beckett says, I'm not convinced these are actually stickers anyway, and I'd prefer not to wreck the paperboard to find out. But I'm glad these survived, especially now that I have binder pages that fit them.

1996 Select #124 Wally Joyner

This one's presence is far more baffling. Despite all the baseball we watched together in my childhood, I don't think my dad ever once uttered Wally Joyner's name. I doubt he had an affinity for this particular player. I have no choice but to assume he liked the gold foil mixed with the woodgrain look on the left-hand side of the card, perhaps a reminder of that '55 Bowman set he liked so much.

Fair enough, but where did he get it? I only have a page or two of 1996 Select in my own binders, and this card isn't among them, nor is any other Padre. I suppose he might have bought it on his own at a card show while he was keeping me company, but if so, why just this one? More likely this was a stowaway into my duplicates box. Maybe it stuck to another card.

I'm glad to have a new addition to my collection, but I find this disconcerting.

1997 Pinnacle Inside Club Edition #122 Mike Mussina

Even more curious is this Pinnacle parallel of Mike Mussina. The former Oriole later joined the Yankees, which is my dad's favorite team. So the player selection makes a little more sense to me, but I still don't know the provenance of the card itself. 

Well, since it's the Pinnacle Inside set, we know it came from a steel can. But I still don't know how Dad got hold of it.

Pinnacle was nearing the end in 1997 (probably at least in part because of canning baseball cards), but they were still printing shiny cards like this a year before their bankruptcy. I'm no expert on this set, but the foilboard finish did stand out to me. I have very little in my collection to compare it to, but the base cards just had a normal front. This one is the shiny Club Edition parallel, noted in vertical lettering on the card back.

This design actually reminds me a bit of 1994 Upper Deck. It doesn't show up well in the scan, but the proportions are about the same, and the one narrow monochrome photo squeezed onto the left size certainly has similarities to that UD set. Of course, there's no copper foil, something that UD seemingly cornered the market on.

So we know it's a parallel, but that only raises the question of why it was in my duplicates box at all? I don't have Mussina's base card from this set, so I don't see how I would have made that mistake of thinking this was a second base card. And of course I didn't have the Club Edition already (who would have two of these, anyway?), nor the die-cut Diamond Edition parallel.

Again, maybe he bought it on his own, but this project ultimately raised more questions than answers. 

In fact, finding these four cards that almost certainly came from my duplicates box makes me wonder whether absolutely everything in that 5,000-count box is truly a duplicate.

Only one way to find out.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Another Year, Another Hanukkah

Sometimes I wonder how I used to have time to write forty posts a year. 2022 was by far my lowest post total since the inception of Infield Fly Rule, where I managed to get a mere nine posts done. I’m not even sure I can play the “quality over quantity” card, but I'll let you be the judge of that. It's not for lack of material, I assure you, as there are piles of cards continuing to grow, including a recent blaster of 2022 Stadium Club that had some nice parallels inside. 

I also see that Beckett has changed their site significantly since my last post.

In any case, I still have that Eight Men Out wishlist on my blog header, and it continues to pay dividends each holiday season, thanks to Mom. This year, she picked a couple going back to the very early days of the Colorado Rockies franchise.

1993 Triple Play #127 Mile High Stadium

When the Rockies joined Major League Baseball for the 1993 season, they didn't quite have a permanent home yet, though Coors Field was already under construction. They played their first two seasons at Mile High Stadium, home of the Denver Broncos, just a few exits down I-25. It has since been replaced by what is now known as Empower Field at Mile High, but while it was still standing, it saw millions and millions of fans filter through to see the first MLB team in the Mountain Time Zone.

Officially, 4,483,350 fans attended home Rockies games in the inaugural 1993 season, filling the cavernous Mile High Stadium to the brim. I counted for two of those. In fact, the team's per-game attendance was averaging even higher in 1994, but the strike had other ideas, cutting short our fan base's chance at beating its own record. The 1993 count still remains the single-season record across the big leagues.

Triple Play included a nighttime panorama shot of Mile High in the 1993 set, mentioning the stadium's past role as home to various Denver-area Minor League teams on the card back. The stadium was built in 1948, and the Denver Bears and later the Denver Zephyrs called it home.

I don't know the actual release date of 1993 Triple Play, but unless it was toward the end of the 1993 season, I would guess this photo is actually from a 1992 or earlier Zephyrs game. The individual player Rockies cards in this set used the old team logo, which tells me they produced it in the narrow window between the expansion draft and the start of the 1993 season.

Still, the place is pretty packed for a Minor League game. I did go to a couple Zephyrs games as a young child, and I don't remember it being so full. It might be that this is a fireworks game, as you can see the right field seats (also known as the "South Stands" in Broncos parlance) are empty, which was done for safety on the few fireworks nights the Rockies put on for their fans. I'm just guessing, though. There isn't enough detail in this print job to really tell.

In case you were curious, the Florida Marlins got a similar card in the 1993 Triple Play checklist, a very orange card of what was then called Joe Robbie Stadium. Though it has since been renamed many times over, the structure currently known as Hard Rock Stadium remains standing, and still plays host to Miami Dolphins home games.

Longtime Colorado residents still lament the loss of old Mile High, and the orange and blue seats that used to fill the stadium are now scattered across various basements and man caves throughout the Denver area. It's a bygone relic.

1998 Pacific Platinum Blue #425 John Flaherty /67

So, too, is the idea of pitchers running the bases. With the arrival of the Designated Hitter in both leagues, the opportunity for a pitcher to be involved in a play at the plate is now as rare as hen's teeth. That makes this 1998 Pacific card of Padres catcher John Flaherty all the more special, as Rockies starting pitcher Roger Bailey got a cameo while sliding into home. 

Even in 1998 when the DH was strictly an American League thing, that was a pretty rare play. Rare enough that it should be reasonably easy to pinpoint this card to an exact date.

In the 1997 season, Roger Bailey started two games in San Diego. That would have been at Qualcomm Stadium, as long as we're bringing up defunct ballparks. The first of those was on June 19th, 1997. After building a 5-3 lead, Bailey led off the 5th inning with a full-count walk. He advanced to second on an Eric Young sacrifice bunt, then tried to score on an Ellis Burks single. That's this play.

Out at the plate! Bailey was cut down by Greg Vaughn via an outfield assist, a four-time All-Star who concluded his career with a very short 22-game stint with the Colorado Rockies in 2003.

At first the result of this play struck me as an odd photo selection, then I remembered this is actually John Flaherty's card, not Bailey's. It's too bad he didn't stop at third, because the next batter was Hall of Famer Larry Walker, who easily drove in Burks with a double to right. In another universe, Pacific would have had to pick another photo for this card.

Roger Bailey's story is actually quite a sad one. He was a top prospect for the early Rockies, and appeared in many 1992 and 1993 Minor League sets as an amateur draftee. Most other card companies ignored him for a few years, but Topps put him in multiple sets as a Rockie during 1993. 

He debuted in 1995, appearing in the second-ever game at Coors Field. Over time, he worked his way into the rotation, and actually put up a respectable ERA in pre-humidor Coors. His 1997 season was his best yet, finishing with a 9-10 record, including two complete game shutouts. He was on track to be a key member of the Rockies rotation. 

Sadly, during spring training in 1998, Bailey was a riding in a car with fellow Rockies pitcher Mike Munoz when it was rear-ended. Just like that, his back was injured and he never recovered well enough to pitch again.

Pacific, ever the unappreciated innovator, was known for lots of colored foil parallels in their time. I have little idea which one is which, but there were lots of golds and silvers and blues and reds out there. In the 1998 base set, gold foil was the base variety, and then some of the parallels were silver. That seems backwards to me. But anyway, the foil on this one is a pale blue color, sort of the color of aquamarine.

I only had the base card on my list, which would have been fine. I knew upon first looking at this that the blue foil made this some kind of parallel, which is also fine, as my primary desire for this card was for the Roger Bailey cameo. But, not being an expert in 1998 Pacific, I had no idea until sitting down to write that this is actually the Platinum Blue variety, which had a stated print run of just 67 copies. 67! Way back in 1998!

There's no serial number on the card, so I had to find out about this by checking Beckett.

Yes, indeed it does make me wonder whether I have any other hidden gems in my few Pacific pages that are far more rare than I thought.

1998 was a weird year for cards.

It was also 25 years ago, which is deeply unsettling.

Happy New Year!