Saturday, August 22, 2015

Not Mickey Mantle (Part 2: Topps)

As promised in my previous post, here's Part 2 from my recent trip to Mike's Stadium Sportscards, the same trip in which I picked up that '62 Mantle. We had a look at some non-Topps products last time, so here are some of my favorites from the hobby's only remaining MLB-licensed brand.

2000 Finest #57 Paul Konerko
This was the only Topps product I picked out of the bargain table area, a complete Series 1 short set from 2000 Finest (cards 1-100). Konerko is one of the more recently-retired members of that set, although a few are still active, like Bartolo Colon, whom I saw pitch last night in a classic Coors Field slugfest. The Mets won it 14-9, helped out by Yoenis Cespedes and his three home runs.

I'm not sure whether I'll ever find that many Topps Finest cards for less than a dime apiece again. That gigantic baseball (there, on the left) dominates the design, making 2000 Finest a distinctive product. I never really noticed the motion streaks on the right before now. I guess giant shiny silver baseballs are kind of distracting.

1996 Stadium Club #280 Jeff Conine
Most of the products from the $1 foil pack area were from Score, Fleer, etc, although I did find two or three packs of 1996 Stadium Club. Jeff Conine in his turquoise Marlins uniform wielding a tennis racket is a textbook example of what we all know and love about Stadium Club.

1996 Stadium Club Power Packed #PP3 Jose Canseco
1996 Stadium Club was one of the last products I purchased as a card-collecting kid before falling out of touch with the hobby for several years. I know the base design well, but I never ran across anything from this insert set. Confessed (and obvious) steroid user Jose Canseco appears on an eye-catching burst of color, almost as though he's playing with a Lite-Brite as a backdrop.

Maybe if I pulled this card in 1996 I would have stayed with the hobby longer.

1996 Stadium Club Mantle #MM15 Mickey Mantle, 1964
I know this is the "Not Mickey Mantle" post, but given my primary goal of the trip, this was such an appropriate pull from another $1 pack that I couldn't leave it out. There were Mantle tributes all over the place in 1996, especially from Topps. They released chrome reprints of all his base cards, and created this 19-card insert set to commemorate perhaps the most important player in postwar card collecting.

Sy Berger, the father of modern cards, said as much on the back of this Mantle card, admitting, "In no small measure did Mickey's cards help to put the company on the map."

2015 Topps First Pitch #FP-02 Jack White
2015 Topps First Pitch #FP-04 Eddie Vedder
A half-century or so later, Sy Berger's product has now evolved into something quite different, offering a little something for everyone. In wandering around the card shop, I found a 5,000 count box of 2015 Topps, from which I picked out a few cards from the well-received First Pitch insert set. I still say Bill Murray should be in here, but a couple music legends will do.

2015 Topps Gold #438 DJ LeMahieu /2015
Though the Rockies got clobbered last night, Nolan Arenado and his infield counterpart DJ LeMahieu made a few great infield plays, which takes the sting out of it a little bit. So did wearing my Arenado jersey to the park, especially when Nolan crushed one out to left center. Until this year, I hadn't gotten much into team apparel beyond hats, although I am seriously considering getting a Toronto Blue Jays jersey of Tulowitzki. That would get a few comments, for sure.

I do miss the gold serial numbers on the gold Topps parallels, a practice they ended several years ago, opting to just go with a plain black. But a double play card of DJ with an Alex Gordon interleague cameo is a winner in almost anyone's book.

2015 Topps Framed #72 Jordan Lyles /20
I've seen the metal framed parallels from 2015 Topps on numerous blogs, but this is the first one I've seen in person. Unlike Leaf Steel, it is not magnetic, although I'll bet not as fragile either. It's a hefty card, and almost has the dimensions of an early iPhone. Serial numbered to just 20, it's one of the rarest cards in my collection.

And after this trip, I now have a new oldest card.

1953 Topps #77 Johnny Mize (DP)
I picked up four 1955 Bowman cards at a card show last year, but this one beats it by a couple years. This is from 1953, incidentally the year that Mize won the last of his five consecutive World Series with the Yankees. Clearly Mantle was not the only vintage Yankee card I'd pick up that day, nor the only Hall-of-Famer.

I never knew this about Mize, but he went by the "Big Cat" nickname long before Andres Galarraga was even born. He didn't get a card in 1954, so this is his "sunset" card, to borrow Nick's term.  And he's now the oldest in my small but growing collection of vintage Yankees cards.

All in all, I'd say it was a successful shopping trip.

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