Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Trading Post #24: Cards From the Quarry (Part 2: Topps)

Hiflew from Cards From the Quarry recently sent over a huge assortment of Rockies cards, so many that I had to break it up into two posts. The first post was all about non-Topps cards, and in this second post, I'll just be featuring cards from the only current MLB-licensed card manufacturer.

There seem to be a lot of cards picturing Carlos Gonzalez sliding into home. One came over from Foul Bunt not long ago.

2013 Topps Chasing History #CH-72 Carlos Gonzalez
This package had one too, and it's from 2013's Chasing History insert set, one that is rapidly evolving into my favorite insert set of that year. Along with Emerald parallels and the playful "sea turtle" design, I think Topps actually did a pretty good job in '13.

That card refers to his streak of 20 or more stolen bases in consecutive seasons (which he continued through 2013), but I highly doubt he is actually stealing home in that shot. Now that the steroid era has come to an end, perhaps the game will focus a bit more on well-rounded players that can not only hit for power, but also get on base frequently and steal. Sort of like Barry Bonds did in his early days.

Here's another card that documents how CarGo can do more for a ballclub than just mash home runs in the thin, dry air of Denver.

2011 Topps Opening Day Stars #ODS-2 Carlos Gonzalez
The back describes how he started off the year with four singles, on his way to leading the NL in hits in 2010. Charlie Blackmon did him two better last year, having a rare 6-for-6 day at the home opener. Assuming the Opening Day Stars insert set returns in 2015, I hope Blackmon gets a card. He certainly earned it.

3-D cards never scan well, but it's a recurring favorite in Opening Day sets. Maybe that's why us collectors seem to like Opening Day insert cards so muchTopps reuses a few of the same great themes from year to year. Superstar Celebrations, these 3-D ones, and of course the sought-after Mascot cards. You'll find these old standbys in addition to a few new insert sets each year, and I think it's a winning formula.

Speaking of the thin, dry air of Denver, to say that Coors Field is a hitter's park is a massive understatement.

2010 Topps Update More Tales of the Game #MTOG-8 Mile-High Humidor
Yes, Topps made a card of the famous humidor at Coors Field, meant to keep baseballs from drying out and turning into little ballistic missiles. It's helped a bit, but slugfests are still pretty common at 20th and Blake. These days, they are at least the exception rather than the rule. Even with the installation of the humidor in 2002, the Yankees came to town that year and combined with the Rockies for a record 70 runs over a three-game series. Derek Jeter compared it to playing a video game.

Arizona has kicked the humidor idea around as well, and if an MLB team ever plays in Las Vegas, I'm sure they'll consider it too.

Topps Archives sets of the last few years haven't been at the top of my favorites list, but they appear in discount boxes rather frequently, so it's neither hard nor expensive to see which sets Topps has chosen to recreate. However, I do really like the semi-gloss coating on these cards. It's pretty easy to pick them out by touch alone.

2014 Topps Archives #24 Michael Cuddyer
In 2014, one of the sets they chose was 1973. Like most early- to mid-1970s sets, it usually ranks pretty high on the list of best Topps sets. The silhouette of a player in action in the lower corner is an iconic touch.

Cuddyer was a Home Run Derby participant in 2013, but since he's wearing his Rockies home jersey with the Mets All-Star Game patch rather than just a National League jersey, this must be from the exhibition game itself. The NL pulled off a streak of wins after many years of AL dominance, but it looks like the tables may be turning again, as the NL has now lost two in a row, including this game where Cuddyer was a starter.

One thing the Rockies aren't known for is All-Star pitchers. There have been a few, including Ubaldo Jimenez, who might be the best hurler to ever take the mound for the Rockies, but with a 6-11 record last year, Tyler Matzek isn't likely to make that short list.

2011 Topps Pro Debut #163 Tyler Matzek
Matzek only made the majors last year after numerous injuries to the rest of the rotation, and he's pictured here playing for the Asheville Tourists, a Class-A affiliate of the Rockies. Minor League cards are pretty hard to come by, especially of Rockies players, who never seem to draft the great prospects. In 2006, the Rockies had the 2nd overall pick, and missed out on Kershaw, Lincecum, Longoria, and Scherzer, They took Greg Reynolds instead.

2013 Topps Update Emerald #US206 Reid Brignac

Anyway, moving on from current cards, there was an eye-catching assortment from 1999 Stadium Club, the brand that made a terrific comeback in 2014.

1999 Stadium Club #9 Vinny Castilla
Castilla is launching a throw to first base with all his might, and the card number happens to match his uniform number (mini-collection idea, anyone?). It's a Coors Field card, to boot. That's the tarp in the background under its cover, which is kept by the wall near shallow left field. Over my fifty or so visits to Coors Field, I've seen the tarp deployed more than a few times, including during that "video game" Yankees series in 2002.

1999 Stadium Club #83 Darryl Hamilton
Though there is ivy at Coors Field on the batter's eye behind the bullpen area, Hamilton's card is obviously from Wrigley Field. The way this photo is cropped, it almost looks like he's fielding a fly ball on some British estate with trimmed hedges. Great photography in Stadium Club goes way back, long before 2014!

Two other cards from this set look fantastic when viewed side-by-side, and I'd wager they're even from the same game. Based on the cameo, it must have been from when the Rockies were visiting Philadelphia.

1999 Stadium Club #302 Kirt Manwaring
1999 Stadium Club #230 Larry Walker
Kirt Manwaring was a catcher who spent most of his career in the NL West as a Giant and then a Rockie. He's not the most well-known player, but when his 1999 Stadium Club card is paired with Larry Walker's, it looks pretty magical. I'll have to check if I have any other copies of these. Daniel from It's Like Having My Own Card Shop has a mini-collection of all-dirt backgrounds that these would be perfect for.

I am fully sold on having a "most-wanted cards" list, which I call "Eight Men Out", because it's already helped fill a few gaps in my collection.

2011 Topps Town #TT-48 Troy Tulowitzki
In our first email exchange, hiflew said he had around 20 copies of this ToppsTown card. He threw in two for good measure. Though another trader beat him to it, as seems to be a common occurrence when it comes to mini wantlists, I can't stress how much I appreciate my fellow collectors and bloggers taking the time to look at my specific needs when putting together trades. It's part of what makes this community so great. Even though he wasn't the first to send the ToppsTown card, I'm still happy to give him credit.

The baseball community is still mourning the loss of Ernie Banks, so I thought it would be appropriate for Mr. Cub to make another appearance to wrap this up.

2012 Topps Timeless Talents #TT20 Ernie Banks/Troy Tulowitzki
Given the outpouring of sympathy and fond memories following the passing of Ernie Banks, I think it is indeed clear that he was truly a "timeless talent." Those aren't just words that Topps is throwing around on that insert set; Banks was truly a legend. And Troy Tulowitzki should consider himself honored to be compared to such an amazing player. I hope he plays his whole career in Denver, because us Colorado fans don't have a "Mr. Rockie" just yet.


  1. Love the side-by-side look of the Manwaring and Walker.

  2. I agree with the hope that Tulo sticks around for his entire career, but I think Todd Helton more than qualifies for the title "Mr. Rockie." I do think Tulo can eventually eclipse him, but we can't forget the first true franchise player.