Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Trading Post #41: Baseball Cards Come To Life!

Bo from Baseball Cards Come To Life! "loves big trades".

1993 Leaf #120 Checklist
All the way back in April (before the Rockies drifted down the NL West standings and Tulo was still wearing the purple pinstripes), Bo and I swapped medium-sized flat rate boxes full of baseball cards. The box I sent him wasn't quite as full, but after I unpacked what Bo mailed, the cards took up two entire rows of a 5,000-count box.

So I didn't quite know how to tackle this one.

I thought about splitting up this post into Topps and Non-Topps as I've done before, but there was significantly more UD, Pinnacle, Leaf, etc... than Topps, so it wouldn't have been balanced. Instead, much like getting a heavy parcel full of cardboard, I'm just going to give this to you in one giant, heaping spoonful.

Sharp-eyed readers will notice the late Ken Caminiti in that checklist card above, and given that he was part of the monster 12-player trade between the Astros and Padres in 1994, I figured any one of those players on a checklist card would be a perfect metaphor for this trade.

It's an interesting photo, because if one didn't know the rules of baseball, one might think that Caminiti were lunging for that ball as though the championship depended on it. Unlike most team sports that feature a constant battle for the ball, when you think about it, the fact that the offense pretty much wants the ball as far away from any human (especially baserunners) as possible once it leaves the bat is quite unusual.

Of course, that card is from the well-loved 1993 Leaf set, which Bo sent over in pretty darn close to complete form. I needed around 20 cards from series 2; I probably have that half complete now.

1993 Stadium Club #458 Alex Cole
1993 Stadium Club wasn't quite as complete, but I still received at least 400 cards from it, and all in numerical order, a huge help! Of course, 1993 was the first year Rockies and Marlins started making regular appearances on cardboard, and Alex Cole, with his trademark goggles, was an easy player to spot on the field. For the same reason, so was Chris Sabo on the Reds, a player that was mentioned during the Rockies' broadcast last week.

1991 Stadium Club #81 Chuck Finley
There was plenty more Stadium Club to be found, like this great action shot of Chuck Finley from the inaugural 1991 set, when they touted their use of Kodak film in obtaining their images. The shallow depth of field focuses on Finley's delivery, but the downside is that I have no idea who's at the plate, making it difficult to date this card.

1994 Stadium Club #100 Joey Cora
Here's a bit of a different view of the common double play shot. Oakland catcher Terry Steinbach is trying to break up a double play, and you can even see the base bending underneath Joey Cora's nameplate. It's a crowded area around second base, as Ozzie Guillen is in on the action as well, just under a decade before he'd go on to manage the White Sox to a World Series win.

1998 Stadium Club #192 Dante Bichette
Of course, the Rockies are still in the hunt for their first-ever World Series win, but at least they've been there, something many other expansion teams are not lucky enough to claim.

Dante Bichette was one of the Blake Street Bombers, and here he's casually sitting around on a cart for his 1998 Stadium Club photo shoot. I always liked the embossed baseball stitching on the corner of this set, and I think this is the first year of the updated Stadium Club logo.

I am guessing that this was shot during spring training. You can see the letters "HI" on the front of the cart, probably the property of Hi Corbett Field in Tucson, Arizona. Up until recently, that's where the Rockies held their spring training games, and my sister and I even made it down for a game in 2008.

That's about it for Topps, but there's still lots more to come.

1992 Classic/Best #286 Andy Pettitte
Bo included a few oddballs among all these cards, like a few from the minor league Classic brand. Most of them were no-namers that never made it to The Show. A few did, like Joey Eischen and Mark Sweeney, but there were a couple of real superstars in there, like Jim Edmonds and Andy Pettitte.

I saw him pitch at Coors Field once, back in 2002. The Yankees beat the Rockies that day in a 20-10 slugfest. Pettitte came a long way between wearing a minor league uniform and pitching the Yankees to numerous World Series wins.

1995 Signature Rookies Tetrad #58 Todd Helton
Like another Denver sports superstar, Todd Helton went to the University of Tennessee. He was proficient in both baseball and football, even serving on the same football team as Peyton Manning. Surprisingly, Helton is listed on this oddball card as a pitcher. It's true; he was quite a proficient closer before making the switch over to first base.

In fact, he's not the only multi-sport player the Rockies have targeted in the draft. Russell Wilson, current quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks, was picked by the Rockies and even played in the minors for a year or two. He still shows up for spring training as a Texas Ranger, but at this point, he probably ought to stick to the NFL.

1993 Pinnacle #521 Darren Holmes
Darren Holmes was much more baseball-focused than Wilson, and he leads off a few Pinnacle cards, this one from 1993. This was one of the first Rockies cards, sneaking its way into Series 2 like most of the 1993 releases. The logo on the front is from the 1992 expansion draft, while the Rockies logo on the back is an old version that was tweaked just a bit before they began their first season.

During the 1994 strike, we had a little family outing to a mall-anchor department store to get Darren's autograph. He signed several items for me, most of which I still have. The baseball is a bit faded, but the cards and 8x10 photo are as sharp as ever.

1993 Select #77 Luis Sojo
You'd think with as much as I go on about green cards, you'd have seen some 1993 Select by now, but the set just never grew on me. Somehow the green isn't as vivid, maybe because of the two-tone design they use.

I like this picture of Luis Sojo. The Angels' second baseman probably looks like I did playing second base in little league, squinting his eyes and just hoping that the baseball gods would guide the ball into his glove. While I'm sure a few liners ended up over my head, the back of this card tells a different story.

1993 Select #77 Luis Sojo (Reverse)
That might be the best snow cone I've ever seen on a card.

1995 Pinnacle #208 Bo Jackson
How's that for a sunset card? Nevermind the guy's baseball career; that is an awesome awesome Blue Angels F/A-18 Hornet!

By the time this 1995 card was printed, Bo Jackson had played his last game. He spent a year with the California Angels (before all that "of Anaheim" nonsense) as a Designated Hitter. The reverse only has his 1994 and career total stats, plus a rarely-seen line of "Career Highs"the baseball card version of those little bars that stay elevated on a stereo equalizer.

It's a very 1990s card.

1995 Ultra #155 Mike Kingery
Mike Kingery was one of my mom's favorite players during the early years of the Rockies. He was an unassuming, yet capable, center fielder. Not a Jim Edmonds by any means, but he made plenty of clutch plays in the cavernous outfield of Coors Field.

This is a play at the plate, although not the usual dusty, sliding affair we're used to. That's definitely a Giants' catcher (probably Kirt Manwaring) unceremoniously tagging Kingery on the leg for an unfortunate Rockies' out.

Fleer went a little nuts with the foil here, using both gold and silver foil, different letter styles for the first and last name, plus the team logo for good measure. The photography still works well in spite of all that.

1998 Fleer Tradition #471 Scott Brosius
Honestly, Fleer got pretty darn good with the photography in the post-strike era, although the designs always felt like they were trying too hard. They broke with tradition in 1998 and 1999, calling their flagship set "Fleer Tradition". Again, the photography is sharp and action-packed, and we even get a cameo of Rafael Bournigal, an under-the-radar Major Leaguer you've probably never heard of. His offensive stats are mediocre, but he had a stellar career fielding percentage of .988.

1996 Donruss #78 David Segui
Besides that stack of 1993 Leaf, there wasn't much Donruss in this huge box. There were a few from the 1996 set, known in collector circles as "the loincloth set" for the rather obstructive placement of the square jumble containing the logo, city, team, position, brand, and uniform number. There was no room for the player's name in all that, so we find that in a color-coded ribbon toward the top.

Almost everyone was following Stadium Club's lead by now, offering a full-bleed design with some interesting photography. This on-deck photo must be from the always-windy Candlestick Park, based on that San Francisco ad on the stadium facade.

1995 Collector's Choice SE #246 Mike Stanley
I'll wrap up with a bit of Upper Deck. Here's a slightly more conventional play at the plate, with Yankees catcher Mike Stanley bracing for an impact with Tino Martinez. I thought this might have been Edgar, the other Martinez, the one who spent his whole career in Seattle, the one who has a left-field bar area named for him at Safeco Field, but no. It was the soon-to-be Yankee Tino.

1995 Collector's Choice #442 Curt Leskanic
Here's another spring training photo, similar in design to Stanley's card, but from a set entirely separate from the blue Special Edition cards.

Curtis Leskanic was a strange guy. He was a pitcher's pitcher, not quite Turk Wendell-level, but still plenty odd. He claimed that he put more juice on his fastball by shaving his right arm to cut down on wind resistance. And for all I know, that's his Social Security number on his name sticker. I hope he hasn't suffered a lifetime of identity theft due to this card. But Baseball Card Bust has a different theory.

1994 Upper Deck #399 Terry Mulholland
1994 Upper Deck was well-represented, and it'll fit nicely into an already-large collection I have of that set. But I don't think I had this card. The dugout shot makes it interesting, and I'm guessing that this was not taken on a day he started. He looks relaxed enough to know that he's not climbing the mound that day.

I remember him as a Philadelpha Phillie, partly because he was on that team at the height of the baseball card bubble, but also since he pitched in the 1993 World Series, the first I ever watched. He played for a lot of teams in his long career, though surprisingly never for the Rockies.

1996 Upper Deck #27 Gary DiSarcina
Here's a double play card, always a blogosphere favorite. While the action is great, and I have an appreciation for middle infielders, perhaps the best aspect of these is the cameo. You're sure to find a baserunner, and occasionally the other middle infielder (like in that Joey Cora card way up at the top). 2B Damion Easley is nowhere to be found here, but we do get a cameo of Chris Gomez, a Detroit Tiger at the time.

DiSarcina makes it look easy. I played second base in little league, and I could never pull this off.

2007 UD Masterpieces #8 Lou Gehrig
This has been a hugely long post, certainly my longest, so thanks for hanging in there. I know that 1990s overproduction cards aren't everyone's cup of tea, but I would have been beyond ecstatic to get a box like this in my elementary school days. Even all these years later, I'm still pretty stoked and humbled that I've found such a generous community of like-minded bloggers, and that 48 people are even subscribed to this thing.

This box included enough cards to tell a bit of a story, leading off with Ken Caminiti, and wrapping up with a humble and appreciative Lou Gehrig, from a set that was one of Upper Deck's literal masterpieces.

Thank you, Bo, for all these great cards, and thanks to each and every one of you who takes the time to read my blog.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A Less Exclusive Club

I've been adding to my vintage collection a bit lately, but don't for a moment think that I'm abandoning current cards.

Stadium Club's resurrection is back in force for a second year, and now available in convenient pack form at your local big box retailer. Last year, the high rollers in this hobby didn't think it stacked up to the overpriced insanity of Museum Collection and the like, so Topps must have figured that it wasn't quite appropriate as a hobby-store-only product.

So I tossed a pack into my red handbasket and ended up with a dozen cards of full-bleed awesomeness.

2015 Stadium Club #12 Giancarlo Stanton
They feel a little thicker than last year, and the subtle lightening under the nameplate reminds me a bit of Flair. And the top-notch photography just can't be beat. I can't quite tell who's behind the plate, absorbing pitches as Stanton bides his time to crush a monster home run. But it's a great example of an all-dirt "Tatooine" card, and we get a pretty good look at how the batters box and infield can be watered differently.

Stanton seems surprisingly forward in the batter's box, and if he tried to swing here, he definitely checked it.

2015 Stadium Club #88 Chris Davis
There were quite a few horizontal cards in this pack, but the vertical ones are typically more plentiful anytime there's a mixture. That holds true for 2015 Stadium Club, and let's be honest, Chris Davis' forearm is pretty much the focal point here. The steroid era may be over, but it still takes plenty of strength to lead the Majors in home runs. Of course, that happens the year after I picked him in fantasy baseball.

2015 Stadium Club #136 Reggie Jackson
I do enjoy seeing retired legends appear in the base set (as long as it's not in flagship), and Reggie rounds out a trio of HR-hitting stars. Though Davis and Stanton are both quite young, they have a long way to go before they match Jackson's 563 career dingers.

Jackson is probably most well-known among casual fans for his performance in the 1977 World Series, but as this card points out, he had quite a successful run in Oakland before donning the pinstripes.

2015 Stadium Club #35 Ryne Sandberg
Sandberg, on the other hand, was a Cubbie almost his entire career, at least until he returned to Philadelphia to manage the team that drafted him. I've seen this card on many blogs, and it's a favorite of mine, too. The sharpness of modern printing does blow me away from time to time, as the texture of Ryno's jersey and the stains on his hat almost pop off the cardboard.

2015 Stadium Club Legends Die Cut #LDC-04 Willie Mays
If you remember the hobby box of 2014 Stadium Club I bought, then you'll recall that I pulled a Willie Mays insert from one of the mini-boxes that year too. Between the card above, last year's Field Access card, and a serial-numbered rarity from Topps High Tek, I've been having awesome luck pulling Mays cards the past year or so.

Die-cut cards are hit or miss for me. Topps Chrome has been going way overboard in recent years, but this Mays is just about my speed. And the color-coding across this insert set is great, especially this copper-colored Giants card.

2015 Stadium Club #13 Ernie Banks
It's not every day that President Obama drapes a Presidential Medal of Freedom around your neck. Like Mays and of course Jackie Robinson, Banks was one of the first African-American players in the MLB. Despite the obvious challenges that remain in this country, a baseball card depicting America's first black president awarding a medal to an early black baseball player many years his senior is a positive and inspirational image, reminding us of how far we've come, yet also how far we have to go.

Other than the obvious Sammy Sosa, Banks is second all-time in Cubs home runs, so his baseball career is nothing to sneeze at, either. Unfortunately for both him and Ryno, neither ever competed in a World Series, but after the recent passing of Mr. Banks, this would be the perfect year for the Cubs to change that.