Sunday, April 28, 2024

This Is 40

In my previous post, I mentioned the occasion of reaching my 10th blog anniversary. What I didn't point out is that I had not quite turned thirty when I clicked "Publish" for the very first time. A glance at the yearly archives list and a simple bit of math will lead you to the conclusion that I recently hit the big 4-0.

Another trip around the sun means my mom checked my Eight Men Out list again, and a few more cards found their way to me.

1996 Zenith Mozaics #12 AndréGalarraga / Dante Bichette / Larry Walker

Leading off today is a shiny (Dufex, in fact) card of a trio of Blake Street Bombers. Arranged in a vaguely stained-glass collage style, the 25-card Mozaics insert set from 1996 Zenith combined three teammates per card. Featured for the Rockies, and referred to only by first name on the card back, were Andrés Galarraga, Dante Bichette, and Larry Walker. I'm pretty sure that's Eric Young, Sr. making a cameo in the Galarraga frame, and the design is embellished with a few assorted baseball equipment items, and lots and lots of gold capital letters.

It's a busy card. It looks like the smallest-ever scrapbook page. Note that "Mozaics" is deliberately misspelled with a "z" for "Zenith", because we did things like that in the '90s.

I'm not sure where I first saw this set. It might have been on one of Nachos Grande's group breaks, which is my primary connection to the hobby these days. But I knew it would be a great collectible right from the jump. (Update: it was this post from Mario.)

1994 Topps Gold #396 Jeff Bronkey

Continuing my ongoing quest to complete the Topps Gold checklist replacement cards printed from 1992-1994, here's the third such card to enter my collection from the 1994 Gold set. It features the only MLB player born in Afghanistan, Jeff Bronkey. This fact was mentioned on the card back, and remains true today. He briefly played in three seasons for the Rangers and Brewers, earning two saves in his short career.

Topps managed to shrink the typeface enough in 1994 to get the checklists onto only two cards per series, down from three each series in 1993. That means I only need one more to complete the 1994 run of these rarely-seen parallels.

2020 Topps National Baseball Card Day #10 Nolan Arenado

As the seasons continue on, the memory of Nolan Arenado as a Rockie feels more and more distant. While his time in St. Louis hasn't been as strong as hoped, his absence from 20th and Blake is striking. 

Occupying the same #10 in the checklist as he did in 2019, this card celebrating National Baseball Card Day 2020 featured Nolan and his fifth straight season with 35 home runs and 110 RBIs. That sustained performance was an "unprecedented" feat for a third baseman, a word that got far too much usage in 2020.

Though it's a 2020 card, the photo itself dates from 2019, as we can tell from two pieces of evidence. First, the MLB 150 patch on Arenado's right sleeve, worn league-wide throughout the 2019 season. Second, actual fans are in the seats.

Of the three cards Mom gave me for my birthday, this one was all her doing, and she picked well. She always does.

1984 Topps #750 Jim Palmer (AU)

The birthday festivities don't end there, though.

My new father-in-law is another guy I can count on, as he's been giving me autographs for years. My in-laws took us out to lunch at a nearby pizza spot, and there he added to my collection with this autograph of Jim Palmer on a 1984 Topps card. The card itself is a new addition, as is Palmer's autograph to my much more limited autograph collection. 

I always like how Hall of Famers sign with their year of induction, in Palmer's case 1990. He and Joe Morgan were the two inductees that year, both on their first ballot.

In 1984, Palmer was fresh off his third and final World Series championship, appearing in a few games before seeing his long and storied career reach an end. No one printed a card for him in 1985, so this is the closest he came to getting a true sunset card.

2024 Topps NOW #39 Ryan McMahon /888

My birthday doesn't quite stretch out to Opening Day, but spring training is always well underway by the time I blow out the candles. It's a fun time of year. Only a few weeks later, we were together again at the Rockies home opener, thanks to his longtime coworker Dianna.

It's a fun tradition, especially when the beers are flowing long before first pitch. And despite an extremely disappointing top of the 9th, I was there to see Ryan McMahon win it for the Rockies with a walkoff grand slam in the bottom of that same frame, and 888 buyers, myself included, decided they wanted to see this moment on a Topps Now baseball card.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, the card back doesn't have a paragraph, just a photo of Charlie Blackmon pouring out the sports drink cooler all over McMahon. RyMac, as he's known, has been one of the few bright spots of what has thus far been a pretty dismal Rockies season.

In the past decade, while there have been tears, loss, frustration, and grief, more often than not I've been the beneficiary of great strokes of luck and good fortune, and this little baseball card blog is just the tiniest part of it. My collection has grown, yes, but my life has grown in immeasurable ways. The simple fact that people in my life continue to show their appreciation in ways ranging from these little rectangular pieces of cardboard to acts of unforgettable generosity must mean that I've been doing something right these past 40 years.


Sunday, January 21, 2024

The Trading Post #174: Dime Boxes (Part 3: Shiny)

One year later, I'll finally be wrapping up the longest post series ever. I've had this last little pile of goodies set aside from Nick's 10th anniversary over at Dime Boxes, which has now moved houses with me in the same little team bag.

But wait, you might say. Didn't Nick just celebrate his 12th blog anniversary with another giveaway? Yes, yes he did. And I have a whole new stack of cards on my desk related to that, which I hope to get to before his 13th. 

No promises.

But even with all the changes over the past year, weekends in mid-January still mean NFL playoffs, which make for some of my favorite background content while writing these posts. 

What completely escaped my attention several days ago is that somehow I just passed my own tenth blog anniversary! As of the 15th, apparently I've kept this little thing going for a full decade. And looking back on my first-ever post, it was pretty much just an explanation about how Nick got me started on this whole thing in the first place.

We have truly come full-circle.

2002 Topps Chrome Traded #T68 Sandy Alomar Jr.

What hasn't changed in the past decade is my love for shiny cards. Part 3 of this blog series that has sprawled across the biggest period of change in my life will focus on the shiny, or at least the serially-numbered.

If any of my readers play the daily baseball-themed puzzle game Immaculate Grid, take note of the above card for the next time Cleveland and Colorado intersect. Sandy Alomar, Jr., the 1990 AL Rookie of the Year (also a useful bit of info) briefly stopped by 20th & Blake for 38 games in 2002, as documented on this Topps Traded card. A true "Short-Term Stop", to borrow Nick's phrase.

Alomar was well into a lengthy career by 2002, so the short paragraph on the card back only has room to simply tell us that the White Sox traded the veteran catcher to the Rockies for Enemencio Pacheco, a pitching prospect who never progressed past Triple-A.

Speaking of the White Sox, the team where Alomar spent the second-longest portion of his career, I recently learned of a documentary available on YouTube called Last Comiskey. I've only watched one of three parts so far, but it offers a look at the 1990 White Sox season, their last in the original Comiskey Park.

2017 Finest Breakthroughs #FB-NA Nolan Arenado

Turning to 2017, when Nolan Arenado still covered the hot corner for the Rockies, we come to the Topps Finest insert set "Breakthroughs".

As best I can tell, this set was unique to 2017, but it absolutely has the look and feel of a mid-90s insert set, something like Power Zone from Stadium Club. It has all the elements. Huge block lettering in all capitals, an eye catching star pattern suitable for a comic book panel, a team logo that is bursting through an area of fractured rock or broken glass, and a close-up action shot. The player's name and the Topps Finest logo are squeezed into the corners like a mere afterthought.

How can you not love something like this?

The theme does actually have a point, in that the card back gives us the player's "Breakthrough Moment". One of Nolan's mentioned was his second-ever Major League home run, a grand slam off of Cy Young winner David Price in early 2013.

2017 Topps Chrome #92 Trevor Story

I'm not sure where Nick found all this 2017 Topps Chrome, but he sent me a base card that could possibly have come from the same pack as that great Arenado insert card. 

Six years ago to the day, the Refractor version of this Trevor Story card appeared on the blog in The Trading Post #112, and then the Prism Refractor version about a year later, both courtesy of Julie at A Cracked Bat, whose blog has sadly gone silent.

Surely I am nearing having the rainbow by now, right?

2021 Topps Update Gold #US195 C.J. Cron /2021

To my eye, this C.J. Cron parallel from 2021 looks more bronze than gold, but there's a /2021 serial number to prove that this is indeed the gold parallel, serially numbered with a print run equal to the card's calendar year.

Cron, currently a free agent, finally found a spot to settle down for a few seasons after changing hands like a hot potato. The card back calls it "five homes in five years", bouncing between the Angels, Rays, Twins, and briefly the Tigers, before finally reaching the National League and spending a few seasons in Colorado. The Rockies traded him back to the Angels in late 2023 along with Randal Grichuk in return for a couple pitching prospects.

Guys like that are useful to keep in mind for Immaculate Grid. I can't tell you how many times I should have guessed Nelson Cruz.

2003 Topps Traded Gold #T265 Clint Barmes FY (RC) /2003

Going back to 2003, we find that Topps Gold had a slightly lower print run. Topps oddly decided to document their 52nd Anniversary on the card front, as well as adding a 1st-year Card stamp that I believe is unique to 2003. The Chrome variety of this card has the same stamp in a non-foil version, and I've also seen it on a Hanley Ramirez card.

Thanks to Google Image Search for finding those. This is my 379th post. No one's memory is that good, not even mine.

Prophetically, in The Trading Post #134, I pointed out exactly where on the card back I would expect to find a serial number if I had a rarer version of this Clint Barmes card. Little did I know that one would eventually find its way to me.

2018 Topps Fire Hot Starts Gold #HS-19 Charlie Blackmon

This is not the first gold parallel from 2018 Topps Fire that has been added to my collection. In fact, it's not even the first such card of Charlie Blackmon. For a brand I can't recall ever purchasing at retail, I have a surprising number of Topps Fire cards filling my binders.

This one of Blackmon and his iconic beard is from the Hot Starts insert set, which highlights strong early-season performances. Topps got pretty specific on the card back, pointing out that Blackmon's first seven home runs of 2017 came in a mere 77 plate appearances, good for a "blistering" [note the fire pun] 9.1% Home Run Percentage.

Interestingly, for all you "Coors!" folks, those first seven home runs all came on the road, tying the team mark set by Ian Stewart in 2010. Even Trevor Story's white-hot 2016 debut included some shots at Coors Field. Refer to my prior post in this series for my fond memories of catching at least one of those at Buffalo Wild Wings.

It seems quite rare for the Rockies to play at home on Opening Day. Their home opener is usually a few days into the season, and that trend will continue for 2024, scheduled for April 5th, on what would have been my dad's 77th birthday.

The Rockies are indeed known for hot starts. More often than not, April and May is the best time to be a Rockies fan. No wonder I like spring so much. But by the time we reach the All-Star break, the team is usually out of the running.

By the way, we know Blackmon will be a Rockie for at least one more year, but to my knowledge he has not yet announced any plans for retirement.

2016 Donruss Optic Pink #48 Jonathan Gray RR

Jon Gray, who went by Jonathan on this 2016 Panini card, finally got a taste of the World Series and even won his ring with the Texas Rangers last year. If it's not going to be here, at least it's nice to see former Rockies find success somewhere.

In the 2023 Fall Classic, Gray threw 4.2 innings, struck out seven, and even got the win in Game 3 after taking over for Max Scherzer who had to depart with back spasms. That's the perfect way to get around the difficulty Jon Gray often had in the first inning.

This shiny Donruss Optic card is the Pink parallel, unique enough to warrant a second look on this blog, but not rare enough to earn a serial number.

2021 Bowman Chrome Prospect Autographs #CPA-DM Daniel Montano (AU)

Nick was apologetic about this card's condition. He knew I'd enjoy an on-card Rockies autograph, no matter how obscure the player, and I'm glad he threw it in. The blue ink is a little smudged, and though I was able to clean it up somewhat well, I assume it once had something spilled on it. I probably could have done a better job cleaning it, but didn't want to further damage the autograph.

We'll see how Daniel Montano progresses, but he hasn't really spent much time above the High-A level yet and has dropped off the team's top-30 prospects list. It isn't looking too promising. Still, I'll never turn down a shiny autograph.

2020 Topps Chrome Rookie Autographs #RA-DN Dom Núñez (AU)

The final card of this series is another on-card autograph which seems to have made it through the past few years in much better shape. Dom Núñez even cracked the code and made it to the Majors, though unfortunately he put up a -1.0 bWAR over three seasons, and despite showing a bit of pop for a catcher by hitting twelve home runs, he never exceeded a .200 batting average. Even in this day and age where a guy like Luis Arráez can hit .354 and be an extreme outlier, .180 for your career is not going to cut it.

In any case, I do remember seeing Núñez play, and I can at least make out his initials in his signature. I also enjoy the 2020 design. It's one of those designs I got quite familiar with, given how much time I spent on Topps Bunt when nothing was happening in the early years of the pandemic.

It's unlikely I'll ever match my high-water mark from 2015 of 72 posts in a year, but I certainly hope to beat 2023's total of just 6. I'm a third of the way there already, and looking forward to my second decade of baseball card blogging.

Congratulations to Nick on on ten, eleven, and twelve years!

Saturday, January 13, 2024

A Wedding Present

It is a time of new beginnings. 

The last time I posted, I was on the verge of getting married and moving into a new house. I'm happy to report that all went according to plan, though not without the ongoing state of chaos and expense that comes with moving households.

But as we enter 2024, I wanted to kick off the new year, pun not intended, with a football post. At the wedding in October, I was given a set of 1984 Topps Football cards by Roger, a longtime family friend of my wife's who graciously agreed to officiate our wedding. 1984 happens to be the year I was born, and Roger had the perfect gift ready to go.

1984 Topps #63 John Elway (RC)

As a native Coloradan, and now a resident of Denver proper, I've long been a fan of the Denver Broncos. And it just so happens that John Elway's rookie card is the gem of this complete set. Roger hand-collated it himself from a case of '84 he bought long ago, and all 396 cards are there and accounted for. 

Elway is a member of the Ring of Fame, the list of retired Broncos greats that encircles the interior of Empower Field at Mile High. And he brought Denver its first two Super Bowls (after losing a few), even earning MVP honors in Super Bowl XXXIII.

Prior to becoming an NFL legend, he was famously a baseball star at Stanford. The cartoon on the card back (this is still Topps, after all), tells us that he hit .318 in the Yankees farm system.

1984 Topps #72 Louis Wright

Elway was immediately preceded in joining the Ring of Fame by Louis Wright, a cornerback for the team from 1975-86. The card back points out that Wright led the Broncos in interceptions in 1983, with six. Wright at CB gave us an early sneak peek of the type of play we eventually saw from Champ Bailey.

I had the pleasure of meeting him once at a Christmas party. Very nice guy. My dad and I even played a few rounds of foosball with him.

1984 Topps #163 Craig Colquitt

I'm turning 40 this year, and there has been plenty of NFL history that has gone by in that time. So much history, in fact, that we are well into the era of father-son NFL duos. I had never heard of punter Craig Colquitt before, but certainly recognized that surname. That's because his son, Britton, was the punter for the Broncos from 2010-2015. His older son, Dustin, also spent time in the NFL, as did his nephew, Jimmy.

I don't know if this held true for the remainder of Craig's career, but according to the card back, Craig had thus far never had the misfortune of having a punt blocked.

1984 Topps #123 Dan Marino (RC)

The other key rookie card in this set is Dan Marino, Elway's quarterback counterpart on the East Coast. They took a similar trajectory as contemporaries, but Marino consistently tops the list of best players who never managed to win a Super Bowl, joining similar ringless baseball legends like Ted Williams, Ernie Banks, and Ken Griffey, Jr.

Elway wasn't too far off from appearing on that list himself. He won Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII, retiring shortly after winning his final championship. But he did lose three in four years, nearly sealing an unfortunate fate for the Quarterback Class of 1983.

1984 Topps #55 Dave Logan

Dave Logan is pictured here as a Brown, where he spent most of his career, but he did wrap up his career in 1984 as a Bronco. Despite that brief stint at Mile High Stadium, he's much better known in these parts for his broadcasting work, as he has been on the Broncos radio team since 1990, which is certainly as far back as my memory goes.

1984 Topps #37 Cris Collinsworth

In fact, in thumbing through this set, I was struck by just how many of these guys ended up in broadcasting. Cris Collinsworth has been on the Sunday Night Football crew since 2009, and I'll tell you, his voice has become quite recognizable.

Of course we can add Troy Aikman and Tony Romo to that list, whose careers began quite a bit after this set was released. 

1984 Topps #162 Terry Bradshaw

Here's a once-spry Terry Bradshaw, who has perhaps overstayed his welcome at Fox.

1984 Topps #111 Howie Long (RC)

And rookie Howie Long, who has shared the analyst desk with Bradshaw for many years.

1984 Topps #390 Joe Theismann

Here's one more veteran broadcaster, Joe Theismann, who used to be in the booth for Monday Night Football. Long before that, he was QB on Washington, and wore a football helmet that doesn't look anywhere near strong enough.

His playing career goes back to the early 1970s, where he spent three seasons on the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League. All three of those seasons are represented on the card back, squeezing out any room for a cartoon or fun fact.

No relation to the Heisman Trophy, which I questioned when I was young.

1984 Topps #287 Jack Youngblood

Jack Youngblood also did a little broadcasting work, but that was before my time. I mainly recognized him from one of the few other football-focused posts I have done, the Merlin Olsen blog bat-around.

Youngblood doesn't look all that different in 1984 than he did in 1975. In fact, 1984 Topps doesn't look all that different from 1976, at least as far as the little football helmet design element. 1984 gives the helmet a bit more team flair, and assumes that fans have learned AFC vs. NFC teams well enough to omit that data point from the card front.

1984 Topps #253 Doug English

I know Doug English even less than I know Jack Youngblood, but I am always a fan of commemorative uniform patches. All Detroit Lions wore the team's 50th Anniversary patch in 1983. which we can see on English's left shoulder. The patch marks their inaugural season of 1934, as well as four styles of football helmets worn through the years.

Sadly, their many years of futility have continued for well over 50 years by now, but they play the Rams Sunday evening, and you know what they say about any given Sunday.

1984 Topps #357 Ronnie Lott

Ronnie Lott, on the other hand, that's a name I do know. He was on the winning end of one of those hearbreaking Broncos Super Bowl losses, he's a Hall of Famer in both the Pro and College institutions, and is among the best to ever play Safety. Notably, he didn't switch to that position until 1985, and he's still listed as a Cornerback on his 1984 card.

As a baseball fan, it has become jarring to see the number 42 on a uniform. MLB retired that number for Jackie Robinson in 1997, and I don't follow any sport nearly as closely as baseball, so it's just an unusual thing to see in my personal sports viewing habits.

1984 Topps #322 Lawrence Taylor IR

Action shots were still a bit rare in these mid-1980s card sets. Jack Youngblood's photo is essentially unchanged from 1975, other than whether his helmet is on or off. A good action shot was notable enough that Topps put the best ones in a special "Instant Replay" subset. They even were kind enough to include the exact date of the photo, one of my favorite things to know about a sports card.

This one of Lawrence Taylor was taken on December 17th, 1983, as the New York [Football] Giants, lost to the Washington [Football Team]. The early part of this game went well for L.T. and the Giants, including this chaotic-looking tackle-for-loss, but the Giants were not good that year, and lost this game to the eventual NFC champions.

1984 Topps #280 Eric Dickerson (RC)

Arguably the next most important rookie card in the set, after Elway and Marino, was Eric Dickerson. The Hall of Fame running back still holds the record for most rushing yards in a season (asterisk, when O.J. Simpson played, it was only a 14-game season). He set that record in 1984, a year after winning Rookie of the Year as noted on this card.

The glasses he's sporting on this card aren't just for looks. They were prescription goggles, needed to correct a condition of myopia.

1984 Topps #228 Walter Payton

Today's last card is another all-time great running back, Walter Payton. No action shot this time, though he does have an "Instant Replay" subset card one card later in the checklist. I just really liked this close-up photo of him.

Much ink has been spilled debating the greatest baseball players of all-time, and it's hard to rank, say, Stan Musial vs. Ted Williams. The late Walter Payton easily finds himself at the very top of the RB rankings, right up there with Jim Brown, Barry Sanders, Dickerson, and more. Notably, the card back tells us that he ranks 3rd all-time on the NFL rushing list. Even this late in his career, he had plenty more in the tank, and pushed his way up to #1 at the time of his retirement. Only Emmitt Smith has eclipsed him, and with the way the game has changed, the top NFL rushing list might be set in stone for a very long time to come.

Thanks to Roger for broadening my collecting horizons with this excellent wedding gift!

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

What’s All This NOW?

Once upon a time, I did more posts during a single Hanukkah than I've done in all of 2023. There has been so little time for things like blogging during a busy year like this. So many of you read my previous post and offered condolences about the passing of my father, and I thank you all. 

But beyond that, there are some big life changes in the works which will be coming to fruition over the next couple weeks. My fiancée and I are planning on buying a house together (so yes, I will have a new address), and that should be happening very soon. I just don't want to jinx anything because it's not a done deal quite yet. 

And shortly after that, yes, I said fiancée! We are getting married in early October.

So in other words, house hunting and wedding planning has been my focus this year, sadly coming along with quite a bit of grief. It has been a bittersweet year. My baseball card intake has slowed dramatically, but there have been enough to build a nice little blog post full of Rockies and one very personal oddball.

2010 Bowman 1992 Bowman Throwbacks #BT14 Troy Tulowitzki

Long ago, in the days before the Rockies never lost 100 games in a season (a record spoiled yesterday), Troy Tulowitzki was the starting shortstop for Colorado. He was quite the fan favorite, earning a spot not only in the Bowman base set, but also in this 1992-themed Throwback set. This huge 110-card insert set is a very accurate reproduction of the original '92 design. The only major change is that the team-by-team opponent stat breakdown is a much more crowded table than in 1992, simply because interleague play had not yet arrived. There are 20 teams crammed onto this 2010 card back, but it's still mostly readable. We've been squinting at card backs since long before I was born.

Interestingly, with the new MLB schedule design, where each team plays at least one series against every other team each year, they'd need 29 rows on this table, as well as the season and career totals. I don't know how feasible that really is.

2010 Bowman #123 Troy Tulowitzki

Here's that base card I mentioned earlier. A typical black-bordered Bowman card that I'd never be able to pick out of a lineup. It does have a nice action shot of Tulo in what was then called AT&T Park. That's an easy stadium identification, partly because I see NL West parks on TV constantly, and partly because the Chevron banner with the happy-looking cars was quite distinctive.

Chevron does still have a banner out there in left field at Oracle Park, but it's not quite as cartoony as it was back then.

2007 Fleer #338 Troy Tulowitzki (RC)

All these Tulo cards came from an assortment of Rockies my fiancée found in a clear bag at the local thrift store. 

Why do you think I'm marrying her?

It was mostly duplicates, but these three are new to my collection, and she only spent a dollar or so on the bag, so really it's much the same as if I found these in a quarter box. I haven't been to a card show since long before the hobby exploded, and I don't know if dime boxes are even around anymore.

This card is from the very last days of Fleer, the 2007 set. An extremely young Tulowitzki, who at that point had only played in the Majors as a late-season callup in 2006, is wearing the highly unusual uniform number 63, presumably a spring-training shot. Dexter Fowler is the most famous Rockie to wear that number.

Despite his young career, the card back still had good things to say about him, specifically his two-RBI, two-run performance on September 23rd, 2006.

2023 Topps Now Card of the Month #M-JUL Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

I did order a couple of Topps NOW cards this year. The first was July's Card of the Month, which ended up being of Vlad, Jr. who won the 2023 Home Run Derby in Seattle. He's happily hoisting the trophy after hitting 25 home runs in the final round of the Derby. The card back points out that he is part of the only father-son duo to win the Home Run Derby. Longtime fans might remember that his Hall of Famer dad won his Derby back in 2007.

I ended up getting this card for free. Somehow I had enough Topps loyalty points to get a code for a 100% discount. I actually redeemed that prize a couple years ago, but had a pretty tough time figuring out how to actually use it. It was not obvious at all and it took me numerous tries. But I ended up figuring it out, and now have a nice reminder of another All-Star Weekend.

2023 Topps Now #564 Elias Diaz /943

The other Topps NOW card I picked up, and paid full price for, was this one of All-Star Game MVP Elias Díaz, the catcher who is the first-ever Rockie to win the award. He must have been inspired by all those power hitters the night before, leading to his 8th-inning home run finally giving the National League a win at the All-Star Game.

He was beaming as he hoisted the Ted Williams MVP trophy in Seattle, and 943 collectors thought this was a worthy moment to immortalize on cardboard. It was also the highlight of the Rockies season, which, as I mentioned, is the first 100-loss season in team history.

2023 Topps Chrome Rookie Autographs #RA-BS Brian Serven (AU)

Even though I haven't been very active in the baseball card hobby this year, I'm still known for it. My fiancée's friend's husband has recently gotten into card collecting, and when we went to visit over the summer, we had a great chance to connect over cards. He's more into football cards, which I know very little about, but still it was fun to find a fellow collector. He even gave me this Rockies autograph card of Brian Serven, another of the team's catchers.

Serven, 28, has spent about a half-season of time in the big leagues since 2022, but in that time he has accumulated a negative bWAR, and he's not getting much playing time in Triple-A Albuquerque either. Players can always turn it around but we might not be seeing much more of him as a Rockie. Still, it's always nice to add an autograph to the Rockies collection, especially an on-card one.

1945 Roto-Panel Johnny McIntosh

Our final card is an eBay pickup, that oddball I mentioned at the beginning. I'm not too sure what this truly is. It's advertised on eBay as a "Roto-Panel" from 1945. It's certainly not in Beckett, and there is no card number. It's only about as thick as a magazine page.

But I do know who it is. Johnny McIntosh (coincidentally wearing #63) goes by "John" now, but to me he's always been "Granddad".

He played football for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (not the "honeybees" - an oft-repeated family story), and even made it as far as the 1945 Orange Bowl, where he had a receiving touchdown. He was teammates with Frank Broyles, who ended up coaching the Arkansas Razorbacks for two decades.

Granddad lives in Tennessee now, where he retired after a long career with Union Carbide. He's about to turn 100 at the end of November. It's been several years since I last saw him, but I'm glad to be able to have him occupy a very unique spot in my collection.

Monday, June 26, 2023

Joel Kaningher (1947-2023)

My dad passed away earlier this year.

It happened just a few weeks after I penned this post about four new cards I found for my collection amongst the belongings he left behind here in Colorado. It has been a difficult several months to say the least, and is certainly part of why you haven't seen me write anything since then. 

In mid-March, I flew down to Florida to settle his estate. My sister had already planned a trip down there to visit him, so I just tagged along on what we all expected would be a different kind of vacation. An old friend of mine who lives nearby helped me clean out his office and bedroom, and I flew back to Colorado a few days later with a few of his prized possessions. Watches, books, photo albums, things like that. A few fountain pens, which has turned into quite the little addiction, let me tell you.

And yes, baseball cards.

It wasn't much. His card collection from when he was a boy was long gone before I was even born. And most of the few hundred cards he kept from my duplicates box stayed behind in Colorado. But I did find three or four pages of his favorites from recent years.

2010 Yankees Topps 27 World Championships #YC2 Lou Gehrig

Over half of the cards I found came from this complete 27-card set that Topps released in 2010, documenting each of the 27 World Series the Yankees have won in their illustrious history. I remember giving this set to him as a gift, probably for Father's Day. I'm glad he liked it so much that he kept it nearby all this time.

Lou Gehrig was before Dad's time, as was much of the team's success that began with Babe Ruth. The Iron Horse also predated Topps itself, so for all the 1920s, '30s, and '40s guys, Topps simply added their photos to the 1952 design. Later on in the set they did true reprints of actual Topps cards, which you'll see later.

DiMaggio is actually not in this set, surely a rights issue that Topps couldn't resolve.

2010 Yankees Topps 27 World Championships #YC15 Mickey Mantle

But Mickey Mantle is. Three times, actually. 

A reprint of Mantle's mythical 1952 Topps rookie card is #15 in this checklist, already over halfway through the set before The Commerce Comet even makes an appearance. 

Even a casual collector knows this card front very well. But this particular reprint set is a bit different. The back is a dark blue with pinstripes, and it contains a decently long paragraph describing the Series (more or less like the lenticular mini cards found in 1991 Score), along with the overall World Series outcome, and the special championship logo unique to that year.

The 1952 World Series went the distance, with the Bronx Bombers taking the full seven games to defeat their crosstown rivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers. My dad was actually born in Brooklyn, but moved to Queens as a child, a decade or so before the Mets came into existence.

It should be obvious by now that my dad was a Yankees fan, through and through. And none other than The Mick was his favorite player.

2010 Yankees Topps 27 World Championships #YC19 Roger Maris

He spoke fondly of Roger Maris, too. Dad would have been fourteen years old during the home run chase of 1961, exactly as old as I was when McGwire and Sosa had their own chase in 1998. I think he felt bad for Maris when remembering how much the media pressure got to him when he hit 61 in '61.

The Yankees did win the World Series that year, a year after their heartbreaking loss to Pittsburgh at the hands of Bill Mazeroski. Topps reprinted Maris's 1961 card, and noted on the card back that the new home run champion hit a World Series home run in Game 3 against the Reds.

2010 Yankees Topps 27 World Championships #YC24 Derek Jeter

I don't think Dad really followed the Yankees that much in the 1970s or '80s, although I did find a picture of him wearing the classic "NY" hat circa 1983. But when the dynasty re-established itself in the late 1990s, he and I were both excited to watch it. Derek Jeter was of course a huge part of that, reprinted here on his 1998 card. It's not quite a perfect reprint, but the only major difference is that the foil is silver instead of gold.

2002 New York Yankees Pocket Schedule

He took my sister and I to Maine and New York City for a vacation in 2002, and he picked up this Yankees pocket schedule somewhere during that trip. One of these games in mid-June says the Yankees played in Colorado. June 19th, to be exact. He splurged on two Club Level tickets for that game, and we got to see the Yankees rout the Rockies in a 20-10 victory. Until last Saturday, that was the most runs I had ever seen an opposing team score against the Rockies.

You'll notice the schedule documents 26 World Championships. The 27th was in 2009, and coincidentally my dad and I went to see them play in Anaheim that year. He lived all over the country, and telling his story through a few baseball games barely scratches the surface of who he was. But, as Terence Mann says in Field of Dreams, baseball marks the time.

2016 Topps #93 Charlie Blackmon

The rest of the cards I found were more stowaways from my duplicates box, like this 2016 base card of Charlie Blackmon. Dad retired to Florida in early 2016, so I'm not quite sure how he got this card. I don't remember mailing it to him, but maybe it was a duplicate I gave him from my very first pack or two of 2016 Topps Series 1. If that's what it was, he moved to Florida very soon after.

In any case, he enjoyed the local teams here, and we watched plenty of Rockies games both on TV and in person together. He knew how much of a baseball fan he raised. He taught me how to keep score, he (and my mom) drove me to little league games and practices, they bought me cards for holidays and birthdays, they took me and my sister to the ballpark.

I remember he got home from work early one summer afternoon, and he said, "I drove by Mile High Stadium on the way home and the seats were starting to fill up. There's probably a game on." And I immediately turned on the stereo to find that he was right. And surely, surely he knew that I stayed up past my bedtime listening to the Rockies on my little clock radio.

2014 Stadium Club #17 Michael Cuddyer

After all he gave me, I'm glad I at least got to share my love of Stadium Club with him. He picked this one out, and while he was never a Rockies die-hard like me, he knew a good card when he saw it.

I noticed the 20th Anniversary patch on Michael Cuddyer's sleeve on this 2014 Stadium Club card, the year the brand returned from a long hiatus. And this year the Rockies are wearing a 30th Anniversary patch

Which means that memory I have of turning on the radio is either 29 or 30 years old. Not sure how I feel about that.

2015 Topps First Pitch #FP-01 Jeff Bridges

Dad picked out a fun card or two, such as this well-liked First Pitch insert card of Jeff Bridges. Along with baseball, my dad liked movies. And chess, and physics, and cooking, and a thousand other topics. But during those years when our interest in baseball waned a little bit, he introduced me to plenty of movies. Blade Runner, Midnight Cowboy, Little Big Man, other movies with and without Dustin Hoffman. Later in his life, he just enjoyed watching his favorites over and over again. Charlie Wilson's War was a particular favorite of his, and I think I remember him mentioning Crazy Heart, which would explain why he liked this Jeff Bridges card.

1993 Yankees Team Stadium Club #5 Wade Boggs

But it always came back to the Yankees. That was his team no matter what. I asked him once who he would root for if it ever came down to Rockies vs. Yankees in the World Series. Without much hesitation, he told me the Yankees. I like them too, thanks to him, but I'd have to say the opposite. Mainly I grew to like New York because I wanted a horse in the race when the Postseason came around, and the Rockies, as we all know, are usually wrapped up by the end of September.

Losing 25-1 like they did on Saturday doesn't bode well for this year, either.

But those pinstripes are timeless, and they look good on this Wade Boggs Team Stadium Club card.

2011 Topps Lost Cards #60YOTLC-6 Whitey Ford

It's sad that 2009 was the last Yankees championship Dad got to see. But being alive for seventeen of them is pretty cool. He was still keeping an eye on them in these Aaron Judge years, and I think he would have liked Joe Posnanski's recent feature in Esquire about the new Captain of the Yankees.

I'm wrapping up with this insert card of Whitey Ford, from "The Lost Cards" Topps insert set. Due to rights issues, Ford was never actually in the 1955 set, but this is what it would have looked like.

Whitey Ford, it so happens, is one of the later Yankees connections I had to my dad. During that awful year of 2020, Whitey Ford was one of the many Hall of Famers we lost. I talked to my dad not long after that, asking about more of his old baseball memories. The main thing I remember was him repeatedly using Ford's nickname, "The Chairman of the Board", and I'm sure he saw him pitch at the old Yankee Stadium. 

Dad went to many Yankees games when he was young (somehow nearly always against the White Sox, he told me), and he idolized Mickey Mantle. I can't imagine how special it must have been for him to watch such a legendary superstar play just up the street. It's sad though, because we all know how much knee pain Mantle endured during his career, how "it about killed him", my dad said, when Mantle finished with a .298 lifetime batting average, how even though he's undoubtedly one of the greatest of all time, the knee injury The Mick suffered as a rookie made his career a what-if.

And my dad watched his childhood hero go through that, and the aftermath. I hardly ever saw him upset or bothered by anything he saw in the news, especially over something as inevitable as a celebrity death. But one of the few times I saw him shaken up was in 1995, when the newspaper came one morning and he learned of Mickey Mantle's death. It got to him.

I'll never know what it was really like to watch Mickey Mantle play, but I think at least maybe a little of how much time and effort my dad put into cultivating a love of baseball in his only son was to try to share some of that magic that he (and my grandfather) got to witness all those decades ago in the Bronx.

Thanks, Dad.

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.