Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Trading Post #21: Nachos Grande

In advance of a small flat-rate box containing my winnings from his Topps High Tek group break, Chris at Nachos Grande sent a trade package in return for some Barry Larkin cards and other Reds.

Speaking of the Reds, I ran across a fun fact about them on Reddit this morning. Once Ichiro suits up for the Marlins this spring, the Reds will be the only Major League team that hasn't fielded a Japanese player.

2000 Impact #75 Masato Yoshii
As luck would have it, Chris included a card of Masato Yoshii, who happens to be the player that took the Rockies off that list in 2000. Mac Suzuki and Kazuo Matsui have also spent some time in a Rockies uniform, and Kaz was an integral part of the 2007 Rockies, who even became the first Japanese player to hit a grand slam in the MLB postseason.

I didn't follow baseball too closely in 2000, so I can't say that I remember Yoshii's time in Denver. 2000 Fleer Impact isn't going to win any design awards, either. But given how baseball-crazed Japan is, it's surprising that it's taken this long for Miami and Cincinnati to get on board.

Another set that doesn't get much love is 2007 Topps, but I happen to like a bit more than most.

2007 Topps Chrome #99 Jeff Francis
That card is actually from 2007 Topps Chrome, but with those black borders it might win the award for the least-shiny shiny card in my collection. Jeff Francis is another international citizen that's played for the Rockies. Like Larry Walker, Francis is from British Columbia, Canada.

There was a lot of late-model Upper Deck in this package, which tends to coincide with the Rockies two most recent playoff appearances.

2007 Upper Deck #672 Garrett Atkins
Garrett Atkins was an important part of the Rockies lineup in both 2007 and 2009, and it looks like he just made contact in this Coors Field shot. That's probably former Rockies manager Clint Hurdle in the dugout, with his signature hands-on-hips stance. Neither Topps nor Upper Deck gave us their best designs in 2007, but unlike many other years, I can identify both of them at a glance.

There were a couple of mid-to-late '90s cards as well, including one from a set I had seen before...

2000 Topps Stars #13 Jeff Cirillo
...and one I hadn't.

1995 Topps D3 #54 Walt Weiss
Cirillo's Topps Stars card is actually from 2000, but it's a brand that I rarely run across. I like that shadow outline behind his photo, and the subtle raised parallel lines that frame the card. And that might be the best scan of of a foil card that my trusty flatbed Canon has been able to pull off.

Weiss's card is from a brand called Topps Dimension III, commonly called D3. I'm a bit of a video gamer, so D3 in my universe refers to Blizzard's Diablo 3 game, which has provided many hours of entertainment. It's less of a click-fest than previous versions of the franchise, and they're still releasing new patches and content years after its initial release.

But I digress. As it turns out, Topps D3 was a pretty small set at only 59 base cards. Clearly, it's meant to be a competitor to Sportflix and UC3. It uses lenticular printing to deliver a 3D effect, though without the illusion of motion that Sportflix provides. Sportflix seems to have had a lock on this type of card in the mid-90s, as the product flopped and Topps didn't even bother to release a second series.

Finally, there were a few cards from the Munnatawket mini set based on 2008 Allen & Ginter. I've noticed that many other bloggers who trade with Chris seem to end up with some.

Munnatawket Custom #3 Spider-Man
What the heck are these things anyway? They're a set of custom cards created by a guy named Ryan, who is a friend of Chris'. Topps has nothing to do with these; they're solely the creation of a devoted fan who happens to manufacture baseball bats under the name "Munnatawket Lumber Co." And they could totally pass for the real thing.

Apparently, there are close to 100 different cards out there, and there's even a market for them on eBay. Numerous bloggers have posted about these before, and to be honest I even had one filed away with the rest of my 2008 A&G cards until I took a closer look.

I'm not sure I'd ever have the devotion to make my own cards. Hiflew at Cards from the Quarry does an Archives-like custom set every year called Quarry Unlimited, though as far as I know, they're digital-only and he's never had them printed. So far, he's used designs from 1986 Topps, 1977 Topps, 1988 Score, and just announced the 2015 set, based on the 1976 Hostess design.

I have plenty of traditionally manufactured baseball cards, but these customs are really pretty cool. I have to hope that Topps' or MLB's copyright hounds won't spoil all the fun, but regardless, if collectors don't like what the "real" companies are putting out, they'll just take matters into their own hands.

Munnatawket Custom #26 Troy Tulowitzki
And I will point out (Topps, are you listening?) that colored parallels are conspicuously absent in the Munnatawket custom mini set.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Trading Post #20: Andrew's Baseball Cards

I have another new trading partner to blog about! This is the last of my trades from 2014, which arrived on New Year's Eve.

I reached out to Andrew at Andrew's Baseball Cards offering to fill some needs from his 2012 Bowman want list. One of the monster 5000-count boxes I got at a recent card show was loaded with them, so I had plenty to spare. I found a couple dozen cards for him (and gold parallel or two, if I recall correctly), and I got three pretty nice Rockies in return, as well as the always-appreciated handwritten note.

Todd Helton's rookie year was 1997, and this Score card from the following year documents his breakout performance in his first-ever major league game against the Pirates, where he hit a home run.

1998 Score #251 Todd Helton
That's a pretty goofy expression on Helton's face. But then again, no one ever took a picture of me mid-throw, so who am I to talk? Note that the card has a little printed tan seal in the lower right noting that it's Helton's "Official Pinnacle Rookie Card". Snazzy.

The second one that Andrew sent was a really thick serial numbered card from Topps Triple Threads. I've never purchased that product outright, but I do see it from time to time in dollar or 75-cent boxes.

2012 Topps Triple Threads Sepia #2 Carlos Gonzalez /625
Like products across Topps' whole lineup, Triple Threads has a large number of different colored parallels. The one above is the "Sepia" variety, which are numbered to 625. They continue the "triple" theme on the back with three different facts about the player, which they call the "triple take".

Finally, another thick card. But this one is thick to contain a relic, rather than just thick for the sake of feeling expensive.

2013 Topps Chasing History Relics #CHR-TT Troy Tulowitzki Series 2 (MEM)
That's my second bat relic of Tulowitzki. The first was sent to me by another blogger, Matthew at Bob Walk the Plank. Matthew's blog, by the way, is only a couple weeks younger than mine, and he is running a contest to commemorate his first anniversary. Follow that link and put your name in the hat!

But back to the card, the "Chasing History" insert set was one of my favorites of 2013, when Topps was milking the "chase" theme for all it was worth. I didn't know there were relic varieties in that insert set, but I do like the design. The back of the card mentions that Tulo is "chasing" the late Ernie Banks for the record of most 25-HR seasons by an NL shortstop. He was halfway to Banks' record of six (who did it consecutively, in fact) when this card was printed, and tacked on a fourth strong season in 2013. Tulo is quite the power hitter, but he'll need a few more healthy years to eclipse that mark.

One odd thing about this card that I haven't seen on any other relic is that the bat slice seems to be slightly misaligned. There's a tiny sliver of empty space in the lower left corner. It makes me wonder whether it was jostled in shipping somehow, or if that's just how it was manufactured.

Regardless, it will go nicely with my growing stack of Rockies relics and autographs! Thanks, Andrew, and I look forward to our next trade.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Let's Post Two!

As you've surely heard by now, Ernie Banks, nicknamed "Mr. Cub," passed away on Friday at the age of 83. To honor him and his catchphrase of "let's play two", I'm making this the first multi-post day since I started writing this blog just over a year ago.

2009 Topps The Cards Your Mom Threw Out #CMT63 Ernie Banks
The card above is a reprint from the 1956 Topps set, showing Banks touching home plate after one of his many home runs. I've seen plenty of posts about Banks in the blog community this weekend, and thought that a card showing him celebrating with his beloved teammates would be appropriate.

Banks, a two-time NL MVP and first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, was known for keeping an upbeat attitude despite many losing years on the Cubs. Before "Ironman" Cal Ripken, Jr. wrapped up his career, Banks held the record for most home runs by a shortstop. That power stroke was good enough to belt 512 home runs, though he played over 2,500 games without a postseason appearance, an unfortunate Major League record that stands to this day. And I thought Todd Zeile's record of most games played without an All-Star appearance was bad.

After a few years with the legendary Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League, and a short stint in the Army, Banks entered the NL in 1953, only a few years after Jackie Robinson broke the MLB's color barrier. In fact, Ernie Banks was the first African-American player to play for Chicago's NL team.

I wrote a few posts ago about players that stayed with one franchise throughout their career. Unsurprisingly, with a nickname like "Mr. Cub", Banks was one of them. He played 19 seasons for the Cubbies, and coached for a couple years after his retirement. He was so synonymous with the Cubs franchise that he was the first player to have his uniform number (14) retired by the team.

If the Cubs finally make this their year, you can be certain that it will be dedicated to the memory of Ernie Banks.

The Trading Post #19: Foul Bunt

I wrote not long ago about the practice of pinpointing the date of the photograph that appears on baseball cards. Thanks to a small trade package from William at Foul Bunt, I'm pretty sure I was able to do so on a recent Jordan Pacheco card.

2013 Topps #186 Jordan Pacheco
While I had do to a bit more detective work than if Pacheco wasn't blocking the scores or the pitchers' uniform numbers that appear on the manually-operated scoreboard in right field at Coors Field, I was able to narrow this down to the weekend of August 31st to September 2nd, 2012, based on the four matchups.

From there, it was a matter of reading up on Pacheco's performance that weekend. As usual for a Coors Field series, it was a slugfest, so Pacheco was on base quite a bit. He scored on a couple of home runs, and made it on base numerous times. But based on the detailed scoring, I am going to say that this is from the 4th inning of the Rockies-Padres contest on Saturday, September 1st, 2012.

You'll notice that there's an entry during the bottom of the 4th that Chris Nelson hit a fly ball to deep right field, with Pacheco going to third base. Pacheco stopped at third two other times during that game, but those were both on hits to left field, and the second of those was in the 9th inning, far too late for the other AL games to still be continuing. Furthermore, the Padres' second baseman looks like he's preparing to cut off a throw from right field, so that 4th inning play is my verdict.

I mentioned that this was a smaller package. While it is fun to get flat rate boxes packed full of cards, smaller packages have their place too. They also have the added benefit of not requiring a whole lot of curation on my part to determine what to post about.

2013 Topps Mini #5 Carlos Gonzalez
William threw in a 2013 Topps Mini. Minis I've received in trade before, but not the 2013s. I did buy a box of 2013 Minis from Dave & Adam's a month or so ago, but I did miss the sale on 2014s that Topps ran late last week. 

That one of CarGo (note the card number matching his uniform number) is a nice Coors Field shot, as he's sliding into home against the San Francisco Giants. I did see the Rockies host the Giants in 2012, and Gonzalez did score in that game, so there is a slim chance that it's from the same game my dad and I attended.

That's one thing I'd really like for my collection - a card from a game I attended. It's very likely that I already have some in my collection, but not many of them can be dated so accurately.

Moving on to the oldest card that William sent, it's a shot of The Big Cat, taken during the Rockies' inaugural year.

1994 Donruss Special Edition #66 Andres Galarraga
In 1994, Donruss made these "Special Edition" cards, a partial parallel set of 100 cards. The base set was 660 cards that year, so these gold foil cards are few and far between.

Like three other cards I have from this parallel set, there seems to be some kind of "seam" in the gold foil. I'm not sure of the printing process they used, but there is a very visible shift in the gold foil's shininess about a centimeter from the right edge of the card. I'm not sure how prevalent it is across the whole print run, but it's about 20% of my collection.

Back to some newer stuff, here's a red foil parallel from 2014 Topps.

2014 Topps Red Foil #465 Justin Morneau
It's a nice looking card, one of well over a dozen colored parallels to be found. And it's no Emerald, but there are numerous teams that would look great with this ruby-red background and border.

Morneau made another appearance in this trade package, this time from 2014 Panini Prizm.

2014 Panini Prizm #55 Justin Morneau
You all know I love shiny cards, and I know for a fact that I'm not the only one in this community with that sentiment. Therefore, I am really not sure why no one seems to like Panini Prizm. Sure, the absence of logos is a bummer, but I really don't see what else is not to like. They don't even curl as much as some years of Topps Chrome. Is it because they're spelling "Prizm" with a Z?

Finally, one more of Carlos Gonzalez, which is an insert card from 2014 Topps Update.

2014 Topps Update Power Players #PPA-CGN Carlos Gonzalez
That's a great bat barrel shot of CarGo, but the background of this card is a little unusual. It looks like the wormhole from Doctor Who.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure that I've obtained a near-complete Rockies team set from 2014 Update by now, as well as a few inserts. And it's all been via trades. Thanks, William, and I hope you like the Orioles I sent your way!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner!

Last week, this blog reached its one-year anniversary! In honor of that milestone, I announced a giveaway to anyone who commented on this post by last night. The entry period is over after receiving fourteen entries.

And the winner is...

Tim B!

Tim writes the new blog "I Love The Smell of Cardboard in the Morning" and is now the proud owner of a complete 90-card set of 2013 Panini Triple Play! Tim, please get in touch with me via email or @adamk0310 on Twitter to claim your prize.

Here are the results, in case you want to see where you fell in the random drawing.

The Drawing
In other news, I got three more trade packages in the mail yesterday, so keep an eye out for lots more posts in "The Trading Post" theme.

Thanks to everyone who commented, and congratulations to Tim!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Trading Post #18: Cards on Cards

Another trade package that showed up late in 2014 was from the Cardinals blog Cards on Cards. There was a nice variety of stuff in here, all sorts of Upper Deck and Topps Update, even a relic or two.

He also threw in a card from one of my favorite brands as a child: Sportflix.

1995 SportFlix #96 Andres Galarraga
These cards look great in person, but I've seen lots of bloggers have trouble scanning them, myself included. I really just wanted to give it a try. But there is definitely something lost in translation when you can't see all the visual shifts that happen when you tilt the card back and forth.

One thing that certainly does scan well is one of the oldest ballparks in the game: Wrigley Field.

1996 Bazooka #96 Vinny Castilla
I've never been the biggest fan of the Bazooka brand, a Topps product. The designs don't really wow me, but I'm sure that it's a nostalgic product for plenty of collectors. This posed shot of Vinny Castilla isn't anything special, and it's painfully obvious that the photographer used a flash, but no baseball fan could mistake that iconic center field scoreboard at the Cubs' home park.

I've mentioned before that I think the insert sets found in Opening Day are pretty awesome, from the Mascot series, to Fired Up, and let's not forget Stadium Lights.

2012 Topps Opening Day Elite Skills #ES-23 Carlos Gonzalez
This is from 2012, the only Opening Day set from the last four years that I didn't buy a box of. Thus, I don't know the 2012 inserts too well, but I'm not at all surprised to see great insert sets from that year as well. The one is called "Elite Skills", and each card focuses on an advanced topic of baseball, such as "fielding a grounder", "catching a foul ball", "hitting the cut off" and other skills that a ballplayer of almost any age can use to improve their game.

This one of CarGo "Playing The Ivy" really only applies to those that have already reached the majors. Any little leaguer ought to know how to execute a rundown, but knowing the outfield ground rules at Wrigley is valuable knowledge to just a hundred or so guys. But I see their point; knowing the ground rules or how to play the quirks of a particular field (since only the diamond's dimensions are set in stone) can give you a valuable advantage in any setting.

2008 Stadium Club #4 Todd Helton
Even those who possess elite skills need to practice, practice, practice. Todd Helton, the only Rockie to have his number retired, takes batting practice like any Major Leaguer. I took golf lessons once, and we were told that golf superstar Phil Mickelson won't leave the practice green until he sinks one hundred consecutive three-foot putts.

Cue the putting drill, and a fellow student's comment of "I wish I could make one in a row!"

Back to Helton, that BP card is from 2008 Stadium Club, which didn't earn nearly as much love as the recent 2014 release, but still featured some pretty great photography regardless.

And a guy who practices that much ends up getting rewarded with nice, shiny cards like this:

2004 SP Prospects #35 Todd Helton
Todd Helton was well past the "Prospect" stage by 2004, but that didn't stop Upper Deck from including him in the 2004 SP Prospects set, along with three other Rockies (including Luis A. Gonzalez) that Cards on Cards shipped in this package.

Todd Helton progressed through all the developmental stages of a Major Leaguer with the Rockies, going from a prospect, to a rookie, to a star, to a team legend, who was given a "fond farewell" as he neared retirement.

2014 Topps Update Fond Farewells #FF-TH Todd Helton
One-team guys like Helton and Derek Jeter are a rare breed in today's sports world. People point to many older players like Mickey Mantle, Al Kaline, or even Ted Williams who "remained loyal" to one team throughout their careers, but that's a bit of a misconception. Yes, all those Hall-of-Famers played for only one franchise, but that isn't taking into account the legal situation of the day. Not all that long ago, the Reserve Clause was the law of the land, and the concept of free agency wasn't around to allow even the legends to earn what they were worth.

Not that free agency doesn't have plenty of its own problems ($9 ballpark beers being the least of them), but one has to admit that sports is a much more lucrative business than it used to be once the owners were dragged kicking and screaming into a world with a fair labor market.

Helton chose to stick around even in that labor market, and as the back of the above card points out, he was gifted with a horse shortly after he announced his retirement.

Yes, we still have a bit of the Wild West out here in Colorado. The National Western Stock Show is going on right now, in fact.

One player that will be going to his third team in 2015 is Michael Cuddyer. He got his start as a Twin, then spent three years in Denver. He'll stay in the National League next year as a Met.

2014 Topps Heritage Chrome #THC-33 Michael Cuddyer /999
Next year's Topps Heritage set will feature the 1966 design. They sure didn't have shiny, serial numbered cards like the above in the mid-'60s, although the Gemini space program was wrapping up by then, leading into Apollo shortly thereafter.

Not sure how I feel about that. I think I'd take an inspiring American space program over shiny cardboard with a gold serial number.

Think anyone in Congress would take that trade?

Perhaps not.

In that case, I'll just have to enjoy this Brad Hawpe relic instead.

2008 Topps Allen & Ginter Relics #AGR-BH Brad Hawpe (MEM)
These Allen & Ginter relics have two-piece construction. The inner card, which contains the relic, is the same size as an A&G mini, but is contained within a standard 2.5" x 3.5" outer frame. There's a thin plastic coating on both sides of the frame that holds the inner card in place, and there's even a little window cut out of the front side of the frame so you can feel the relic within. It's quite elaborate; way beyond 1966 technology. And bonus points for the sliver of purple pinstripe.

This was a fun post to write while I had the NFL playoffs turned on in the background. Thanks to Cards on Cards for all the, uh, cards!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

One Year In (and a Giveaway!)

Today's a big day in Infield Fly Rule history. It's the one-year anniversary of this blog! Yes, January 15th, 2014 was the date of my first-ever post, which I put up shortly after winning a contest at Nick's Dime Boxes blog. It's been a good year, too! I didn't put up too many posts during the season itself, but after a few local card shows and well over a dozen trades, I've been getting a bit more into it! 

What else has happened this year?

I debuted the "Eight Men Out" page to list some of my top wants, and The Angels, In Order has already filled two of them!

I finally got a foul ball at a Rockies game in August!

I found a few new sets to enjoy.

I selected a Wallet Card for 2015.

My girlfriend opened up a Bret Saberhagen portal.

And, coincidentally, my guest post at Nachos Grande went up today for his "Better Know A Blogger" series!

So, in honor of all that, I think it's time for another Infield Fly Rule First; a giveaway!

What's the prize, you ask?

2013 Panini Triple Play #49 Aramis Ramirez
A complete short set (90 cards) of 2013 Panini Triple Play!

2013 Panini Triple Play Stickers Red #18 Yoenis Cespedes
I'll throw in a few inserts, too.

I ordered a box of this from Dave and Adam's Card World a month or so ago along with my Stadium Club hobby box, and the collation was pretty good! I was able to assemble two complete sets, so I figured I'd save one for a giveaway on the blog anniversary or whenever my Better Know A Blogger guest post went up, whichever happened first. Of course, those both occurred today!

This blog might not exist if I hadn't won Nick's giveaway a year ago. Perhaps a reader will win and be inspired to start his or her own blog, or perhaps it'll go to a fellow blogger who wasn't smiled on by the collation gods.

To enter, just leave a comment answering the following question:

How long have you been blogging?

That's all! The entry period will close on Tuesday, January 20th, 2015 at 11:59pm MST. Leave a comment before then and be entered to win! I'll randomly select a winner and post the results on Wednesday, January 21st.

Thanks for reading, and here's to another great year!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Trading Post #17: The Junior Junkie

Continuing with more of "The Trading Post" theme, the third of three trade packages that arrived on Christmas Eve was from The Junior Junkie, complete with little Mariners logos hand-drawn on the box. I've already covered the first two, from The Angels, In Order, and Nomo's Sushi Platter.

Remember how I said that my girlfriend and I opened all three on Christmas Eve? Well, I didn't quite give you the whole story on that.

1996 Collector's Choice #130 Bret Saberhagen
My girlfriend had a childhood friend who had a "thing" for Bret Saberhagen. Right around the same time that the baseball card bubble was at its highest, she started buying packs here and there to see if she could pull a Saberhagen card for her friend. She didn't ever find one, and eventually stopped looking that carefully. Unopened packs started to end up in the back of the proverbial shoebox, long forgotten.

Forgotten, that is, until stocking-stuffer season rolled around. She asked her mother if any of those old cards were still tucked away. Sure enough, her mother found six unopened packs (1991 Score, 1990 Fleer, 1989 Donruss, etc...) and a few other loose cards, all of which ended up in my stocking on Christmas morning.

I wouldn't be able to leave packs unopened that long any more than I could not finish my chips with a lunch sandwich.

Anyway, on Christmas Day, the morning after a few Saberhagen cards fell out of The Junior Junkie's trade package like the one above, take a look at what I finally liberated from the second pack I opened:

1990 Fleer #116 Bret Saberhagen
After all those years.

Of course, now they're just starting to show up everywhere.

1995 Collector's Choice #441 Mike Kingery
Just like the 125th Anniversary patch, which I've pointed out in numerous recent posts. Here it is on center fielder Mike Kingery diving back to first base.

I wonder if these commemorative patches are starting to turn into a mini-collection. This next card from Ellis Burks caught my eye because of one.

1996 Fleer Tiffany #361 Ellis Burks
That's the Rockies 1995 patch, commemorating the opening of Coors Field. The arch part of the logo replaces the "Colorado" lettering with green-colored girders matching the stadium's architecture. Saberhagen is wearing one too, at the top of this post.

There was plenty of great photography to be found, and it wasn't just in Coors Field.

2008 Topps #607 Ryan Spilborghs
Outfielder Ryan Spilborghs did a good job in the Rockies outfield, and he's now a commentator for the team on the Root Sports cable channel. I even snapped a picture of him when the Cubs were in town in 2007. But this one is from Turner Field in Atlanta. That #44 banner on the outfield wall (right-center, to be specific) is of the Home Run King, Hank Aaron.

Let's take a look at one more arm patch. It's small in this image, but very important.

2008 Upper Deck First Edition #350 Garrett Atkins
Yes, that's the 2007 World Series patch! Garrett Atkins is shown here facing Red Sox relief pitcher Hideki Okajima in either Game 3 or 4.

I was really hoping to pinpoint the date of this card. Trouble is, Atkins faced Okajima in both games, so I can't be sure. Atkins hit a home run off of Okajima in Game 4, so it's likely that this is that shot. However, I was really hoping that I could point to Game 3, because that's the game I was lucky enough to get a ticket to!

Yes, I've been to 50% of all World Series games that have taken place in Denver. Unfortunately, the Rockies were swept that year, but the appearance itself was pretty special!

2012 Topps Opening Day Fantasy Squad #FS-7 Troy Tulowitzki
Tulowitzki was a participant in the 2007 World Series, but this card is a bit newer. It's an insert card from a brand that does a pretty darn good job with insert sets, Topps Opening Day. There's a nice amount of green on this one, and foil too (only the "Fantasy Squad" lettering), but nothing that distracts from readability. There's even a little bit of the "surfboard" design element that was the major theme of 2012 Topps. In fact, it looks a bit like the McLaren logo, for those of you who follow Formula 1 or supercars.

When you're sent this many Rockies cards, you're sure to get plenty of photos from Coors Field, like this one of my favorite Rockies player, Nolan Arenado:

2013 Bowman Chrome #24 Nolan Arenado (RC)
It's not that shiny for a "Chrome" card, which is a little disappointing, design-wise. It also has a bit of that gravity-defying curl, though nowhere near as bad as 2010 Topps Chrome. Arenado appears with the left-field wall over his shoulder, clearly earning that Gold Glove while covering third base.

Last but not least (last but most?) is my first card from the 2014 Finest set, and it's a beauty.

2014 Finest #30 Carlos Gonzalez
The colors really pop on this design, as do the bright accents on the right. The vertical nameplate isn't my favorite, but the subtle concentric lines around the border give it an interesting frame. And I don't know if it's just me, but I see a lot of this design in the upcoming 2015 Topps base set, which I can't wait to see in person.

I have to thank The Junior Junkie for my first taste of 2014 Finest; as well as the whole small flat-rate box full of Rockies!

And Bret Saberhagen.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Trading Post #16: Nomo's Sushi Platter

Three trade packages arrived in my mailbox on Christmas Eve. My girlfriend and I had fun opening these up after some family time at my Mom's. The first was from The Angels, In Order, which I posted about this weekend. The second of these was from Spiegel83 at the Dodger blog Nomo's Sushi Platter. Though he hasn't posted in over a year, he's still been active in comments, and clearly in trading, as you'll see below.

Speaking of sushi, I'm a little overdue for some.

But let's get to the cards, starting with the 2003 release of Stadium Club, the final year of consistent annual releases since the brand's inception in 1991. Of course, 2015 will continue a new streak for Stadium Club, and I hope it keeps going for many more years.

2003 Stadium Club Royal Gold #94 Larry Walker
This is my third card from the Royal Gold parallel set, printed with gold foil (what else?) on extra-thick card stock. I showed my two others in a previous post, but this is the first vertical card, and as is typical of Stadium Club, it has quite an interesting photo. The ball hasn't even reached Walker's glove yet, but he's already well into the motion of firing the ball back toward the infield, perhaps to gun down a runner at home, something Walker was well-known for.

Here's another Larry Walker card from this package, and it's from the same UD set as the Preston Wilson card that I got from The Lost Collector.

2004 UD Diamond All-Star Silver Honors #29 Larry Walker
This one, however, is a "Silver Honors" parallel, which comes with silver foil rather than copper, as well as a seal on the lower left side of the card. A "Gold Honors" parallel also exists, which is serial numbered to 50. Spiegel83 also included the base cards of Helton and Walker, so I have a decent little stack of Rockies from a set that was unknown to me before these trade packages!

Speaking of Helton, there was a base card of his from 2004 Upper Deck.

2004 Upper Deck #338 Todd Helton
These always reminded me a bit of 1994 Upper Deck; but what I enjoy most about this set is the tiny image of the home stadium in the lower right, this one showing the right-center field stands at Coors Field, where The Rooftop was built during the 2013-2014 off-season. The vertical cards from this set have a photo of the clock tower outside the home plate entrance. The 2010 Upper Deck team card features that same area of the stadium.

Not only did I receive some good shots in and of Coors Field, but there were lots and lots of shiny cards in this shipment as well.

2004 UD Reflections #350 Luis A. Gonzalez (RC)
Upper Deck was churning out products like crazy in the early 2000s; this is from a 390-card 2004 set. That doesn't sound like a lot compared to the typical base set, but for a fancy shiny set, it's huge, although all the relics and autograph cards weren't considered separate.

Please don't get the impression that I'm some super-expert on all these obscure sets. I look this all up on Beckett like the rest of you.

2013 Topps Tribute WBC #12 Jhoulys Chacin
I had to look this one up too, as flashy as this card is. Topps made an unlicensed (!) set through their Topps Tribute brand to commemorate the World Baseball Classic. I always appreciate when a blogger includes a card like this - one has to know the players and the league to know that Chacin in a Venezuela uniform is still appropriate for a Rockies fan.

In the years leading up to Y2K, there was a lot of "millennium" branding being thrown around in virtually all consumer product segments. Candies, baseball cards, computers, you name it.

1997 Stadium Club Millennium #M15 Brian Hunter
I don't remember that Brian Hunter was ever a Rockie; although he did apparently spend part of the 2000 season in Denver. I doubt that Spiegel83 knew that either; I'm sure he threw this one in for the shininess. And not only is it shiny, but the surface of the card is raised, almost like a relief map. You can even tell there are wrinkles in the uniform!

There were a couple other cards with these raised surfaces as well, both Rockies, and both from Upper Deck's Ovation brand.

2002 UD Ovation #60 Todd Helton
2006 UD Ovation #70 Garrett Atkins
On Helton's card, only the Rockies logo in the background is raised. But on Atkins' card, the player, the baseball seam, and the whole card surface above the foil each have different surfaces. If you flip either of these cards over (and the Hunter), you can see the imprint on the back (though with less definition).

It wasn't all Rockies though, nor even former Rockies like that Brian Hunter card. Given that I am only loosely into targeting Rockies for my collection, cards from other teams are also welcome.

Especially when they're serial numbered.

2014 Topps Update Gold #US234 Felix Hernandez /2014
That's a pretty recent card of King Felix, from 2014 Update. I've yet to buy a pack of the stuff, but I've already been sent numerous Rockies from it, as well as other inserts and parallels like you see both above and below.

2014 Topps Update The Future Is Now #FN-JA1 Jose Abreu
Jose Abreu was voted the 2014 AL Rookie of the Year, the fourth Cuban to win the award. The players that appear in "The Future is Now" insert set each have three sequential cards, and I can add this to my collection, along with a couple of Yu Darvish cards I got a few months ago from Alex at Chavez Ravining.

Abreu's name came up in an episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations show, the one where he visited baseball-crazed Cuba. In it, Bourdain encounters a park full of government-sanctioned "professional baseball fans," many of whom have more expertise on the game and its prospects than us American fans with $130 to burn on an MLB.TV subscription.

This episode originally aired a day before the 2011 All Star Game, and the crowd of baseball experts also predicted that Yoenis Cespedes could easily be an MLB star. Judging by Cespedes' performance in the two most recent Home Run Derbys, it's clear that they know their baseball down in Cuba. Though they've developed quite a unique culture under Castro, I'm pleased to see the United States finally taking steps to developing better diplomatic and economic relations with the island nation.

As quoted in that clip, "baseball transcends politics".

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Trading Post #15: The Angels, In Order

It's everywhere.

Clearly, I have been seeing a lot of 1995 cards recently, because the 125th Anniversary patch that MLB players wore on their right sleeves throughout the strike-shortened season of 1994 keeps popping up.

1995 Fleer Ultra Gold Medallion #153 Joe Girardi
A trade package from The Angels, In Order that arrived on Christmas Eve contained the above card, part of five full team bags stuffed with Rockies cards (and a few other teams). The above Fleer Ultra is a "Gold Medallion" card, one of the many gold-themed one-per-pack parallel sets that existed in the early-to-mid 1990s, along with Topps Gold, Score Gold Rush, and Donruss Special Edition.

In fact, this one is really quite similar to my "Wallet Card", a 1994 Topps Gold Joe Girardi. In that card, Girardi also has his mask off but the rest of his catcher's gear on, and it, too, is a gold parallel.

Not that gold foil was all that hard to find circa 1995. In fact, it was pretty much the de facto standard. It was even more everywhere than that patch I keep pointing out.

I wrote in my previous trade post about the matte finish 1996 and 1997 Fleer sets, and as luck would have it, one of these appeared:

1997 Fleer #312 Quinton McCracken
I like this design a little more than the 1996 set I showed yesterday; though the designs are quite similar. I probably prefer the way the last name is printed so large and in outlined letters. That doesn't look like the best bunt that's been executed in baseball history, but it makes for an interesting card nonetheless.

2000 Upper Deck Gold Reserve #263 Neifi Perez
Neifi Perez in the on-deck circle is the beneficiary of more gold foil, appearing on a Gold Reserve parallel of 2000 Upper Deck. UD sold this as a main set rather than inserting them into base packs, so you could get all the gold you want without having to deal with the normal base cards, which had copper foil that year.

I am not sure what that "14" is that's scrawled on the side of the batting helmet. At first, I assumed that Perez grabbed Andres Galarraga's helmet, as The Big Cat wore that number for the Rockies, but he was a righty, so the ear flap would be on the wrong side of this helmet. Plus, you can just barely make out the numeral 5 on the back of the helmet, matching Perez's uniform number. Just a notation for the equipment manager, I suppose.

Speaking of Andres Galarraga and his #14 batting helmet (note the ear flap), check out this thick card that, yes, contains gold foil:

1995 Emotion #125 Andres Galarraga
This is my first card from 1995 Emotion, a Fleer/Skybox product. Apparently, there is a large word on every card that in some way describes the player. I browsed through eBay and found all sorts of stuff, like "Pillar", "Captain", "Prepared", "Sprint", "Delivering", and "Cool". Ken Griffey, Jr.'s card is just "Junior". Filling out some Mad Libs with a box of these cards would be hilarious, I'm sure.

Galarraga may indeed have been an "Observing" player, as I'm sure almost all professional athletes are. Come to think of it, wasn't he more on the "Participating" side? I was the fan. I was the observer.

Anyway, this is a pretty "Cool" shot of him "Looking" (sorry, I'll stop) through a pretty high end camera with a monster telephoto lens attached. That's a Canon EOS-1 that shoots film (compared to the digital EOS-1D, which is widely used by today's sports photographers), as digital photography was still in its infancy in 1995. That huge lens has Canon's trademark red ring, signifying that it is a "L" lens, Canon's top-of-the line product.

As an aside, did you ever wonder why those huge lenses are white, instead of black to match the camera? It's not really a brand thing (that's what the red ring is for), but it's for heat management, according to Canon. A black lens would absorb rather than reflect heat, which would cause it to expand, potentially causing image distortion or problems focusing. This isn't significant in smaller lenses, which is why they're still black.

The more you know.

Moving along, there was a near-complete Rockies team set from arguably the best set of the overproduction era, 1993 Upper Deck.

1993 Upper Deck #720 Willie Blair
Here's pitcher Willie Blair covering first base in Mile High Stadium, with Rockies legend Andres Galarraga "Observing" (I lied) the play nearby. Notice how UD subtly featured Blair on this card? Blair's head is in front of the Upper Deck logo at the top, but Galarraga's head is behind it. Very clever. It's little details like that, not to mention awesome photography, that make this set a classic.

What other collectibles do you remember in 1993? It was a tad too early for beanie babies (of which my sister had a nice collection), and Magic: The Gathering was just barely getting off the ground.

1993 Ted Williams POG Cards #11 Florida Marlins / Colorado Rockies
Remember pogs?

By 1993, I was already firmly entrenched in the world of baseball cards, but by the time I hit 5th grade (1994-1995), many of the other kids had dived headfirst into the world of pogs. Lots of games took place during lunch and recess (vaguely resembling tiddlywinks), and I remember a few kids that had elaborate "slammers" and colorful plastic tubes filled with the cardboard discs.

I owned one. And it was shiny.

My only pog.
You can't tell from the scan, but it has a refractor finish. I got this at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo., probably during a field trip or a family visit. It's a pretty interesting place. The building was designed by Chinese architect I.M. Pei, who also did the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Louvre Pyramid. They have quite an assortment of supercomputers behind a big glass wall, lots of weather-related science exhibits, and even an early Cray-1 supercomputer on display in the lower lobby.

Back to cards, this seems like a good time to move on to the section with green cards.

2008 Upper Deck First Edition Starquest #SQ-7 Matt Holliday
The above card of Matt Holliday (who also wore #5, just like Neifi Perez), is my second card from the 2008 StarQuest insert set. This was from the year after the Rockies made their first (and only, so far) appearance in the World Series, so the back of this card mentions quite a bit about his home runs during the 2007 postseason.

Also from 2008 is a Helton card from the Baseball Heroes set, commemorating his NL batting title in 2000.

2008 Upper Deck Heroes Emerald #59 Todd Helton /499
This set came in a lot of colors. It isn't just Topps that goes overboard with the number of colored parallels; UD was guilty of it too. I have this one in black, and a few others from the base set which is sort of a sand color, but the Emerald is quite nice. And it's serial numbered, so bonus points there.

As I mentioned earlier, this trade package mostly contained Rockies, but there were three or four cards from other teams.

2000 Upper Deck Black Diamond Rookie Edition #64 Jose Vidro
Given that the Expos haven't existed since 2004, it's pretty rare to see an Expos card in the wild these days. This is from yet another Upper Deck set, Black Diamond. This black, gold, and red 2000 Rookie Edition release ranks pretty high on my list of favorite Upper Deck designs.

Now, I'm definitely not the world's biggest Barry Bonds fan, although I do believe that he should be in the Hall of Fame, despite his use of steroids.

1995 Fleer Lumber Company #3 Barry Bonds
So why show it? Well, I am a set collector, so I do go for any card of a set I like. And I am pretty darn close to completing all the insert sets from 1995 Fleer. I only have a few left to go, but this one was on my "Eight Men Out" tab, the eight cards highest on my want list.

That Bonds card marks the first one I can cross off that list through trading! The Angels, In Order earned a spot in Infield Fly Rule history with this trade.

But he didn't stop there.

2011 Topps Town #TT-48 Troy Tulowitzki
This was the last card I needed to complete my set of the 50-card 2011 Topps Town, and it was indeed an Eight Men Out card. I truly appreciate this blogger taking the time to check my highest-priority wants and fill not just one, but two needs!

That, I'd say, is a successful trade.