Monday, October 26, 2015

Mini Monday #1

I'm debuting a new theme on Infield Fly Rule today, called Mini Monday.

Feel free to hashtag that.

I definitely do not have the same appreciation of MMMIIINNIIIISSS!!! as Night Owl, but after acquiring a fair number of inserts and a few boxes of Topps Mini Online Exclusive, I should have enough material to run this theme from time to time. Not necessarily weekly, but definitely when the inspiration strikes.

Topps ran a sale last year for three boxes of 2014 Topps Mini for around $50, which definitely grabbed my interest. As scarce as this product is (even the base cards only have a few thousand copies), I jumped at the chance, thinking I might pull a few rare cards.

2014 Topps Mini #378 
Ryan Zimmerman
2014 Topps Mini The Future Is Now
 #FNM-50 Bryce Harper
The base minis are a complete parallel set, so you've likely seen these before. However, The Future Is Now inserts have a different checklist than their full-size counterparts, and are seeded 1:4 packs. Other than relics, autographs, and colored parallels, this is the only true insert set to be found in 2014 Topps Mini.

After opening and sorting all three boxes (some time ago, to be honest), I had an extra copy of each lying around. While these are the originals from my collection, today the two extras went to a Nationals fan that I work with, who moved to Colorado from our D.C.-area office a few years ago.

With guys like Harper and Zimmerman, the Nationals have a playoff-caliber team, though they missed out on the 2015 festivities. The management was pretty lacking this year, so we can expect they'll turn things around next year now that Matt Williams has been let go.

On another note, today was a big, big outgoing mail day for Infield Fly Rule. If you reside in one of the following ZIP Codes, you can expect something from me within a week!


Happy #MiniMonday to you all, and enjoy the World Series! Whether you're pulling for the Mets, Royals, or neither, you won't want to miss the last few games of 2015.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Antique Mall Mystery Pack: Astros

Despite having Dallas Keuchel and his angular beard, the Houston Astros were no match for the Kansas City Royals and their pennant-winning late-inning magic.

Serves them right for moving to the American league. Although they wouldn't have had a chance this year if they stayed in the NL Central, what with the Cardinals, Pirates, and Cubs going 1-2-3 in that division. The AL West has three teams that have never won a World Series, and their most recent was the Angels squeaking by the Giants in 2002.

It's taken years, but I'm finally starting to get used to Houston playing in the American League. This year's All-Star Game and Postseason did a lot to cement that. But all these cards are from the Astros NL days, some even before there was such a thing as a Central division.

1994 Triple Play #29 Darryl Kile
This 1994 card is caught in the middle between the Astros' Shell Oil-colored uniforms and a major logo change. The late Darryl Kile, who threw a no-hitter toward the end of the 1993 season, is seen here on the value-priced Donruss Triple Play brand.

Especially as a kid, I always thought the transparent block letters at the bottom made for an innovative touch.

1994 Triple Play #22 Craig Biggio
Call me crazy, but I think that design starts to break down the more letters there are in the player's last name. Tall letters getting squished just looks a little strange. But this was probably my first-ever look at the new Astros logo in 1994.

1993 Donruss #504 Joe Boever
These Mystery Packs seem to be getting less and less interesting as I work my way through the pile. There's nothing that special in 1993 Donruss by itself, other than it marks the year that they finally made significant changes to the card backs after over a decade in business.

Also, I can't recall seeing a 1993 Donruss card in better condition. The gloss and color reproduction are almost perfect. I'd even consider getting it graded if I knew who the heck Joe Boever was. His stats say he had a 4-11 record in 1989 for the Braves without ever starting a game. You have to blow an awful lot of saves to earn a record like that.

1993 Pinnacle #423 Doug Drabek
Doug Drabek was much more reliable, although he didn't have a great 1993. Still, he was only a couple years removed from winning the Cy Young award as a Pirate. His son, Kyle, made the majors too, although he's only appeared in a handful of games in recent years. Griffeys, Alous, and Boones are hard to come by.

1991 Bowman #563 Andujar Cedeno
Early Bowman sets had more than a few pictures like this. It could have been taken outside any high school gym anywhere in North America. Unlike many Bowman card subjects, Cedeno did have a Major League career, but everyone has to start somewhere. Maybe if modern Bowman sets had cards featuring Colin Powell or Bobby Thomson, I'd be more interested in the brand.

1992 Topps #12 Luis Gonzalez
This may look like your run-of-the-mill Topps base set, but 1992 represents a major turning point. While the photography doesn't stack up to 1991, this marks the first flagship set that Topps printed on all-white paper stock. They also took advantage of the card back's landscape orientation and included a wide-angle image of the player's home stadium.

1992 bridged the old and the new, but also included longtime trademarks like the Topps Rookie Cup. Gonzalez proved worthy of the award, driving in the winning run in the 2001 World Series.

Not sure that one will ever stop hurting. After 9/11 and the heroics of countless New Yorkers, the Yankees should have won that year, and came oh-so-close. Yankees fans can still know heartbreak, despite 27 World Series titles.

There, I said it.

1993 Upper Deck #294 Casey Candaele
Of course, the Yankees have nothing on the Cubs, and Casey Candaele has pretty much nothing to do with the Cubs, other than having a baseball card who shows him at Wrigley Field, with the Steve Bartman section visible in the background. Leave it to the greatness of 1993 Upper Deck to show us that section a decade in advance.

1992 Donruss Coke Ryan #14 Nolan Ryan/1980 HA
Lots of players go their whole career without ever winning a World Series, let alone playing in one. Nolan Ryan took care of that very early in his career with the 1969 "Miracle Mets", but never appeared in one after that, despite all those wins, all those strikeouts, all those no hitters, and all those oddball baseball cards.

One thing is sure, though it won't be the Cubs, one of the teams that made it to the Fall Classic will win their first World Series in many years. I was hoping to see a Cubs/Blue Jays World Series, but it turns out we got the opposite. A team that won because of the infamous Bill Buckner error versus a team that probably wouldn't have won if there were replay review in 1985.

Time will tell.

There is one fun fact, though. This World Series between the Mets and Royals marks the first-ever between two expansion teams.

Up next: The San Francisco Giants.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Antique Mall Mystery Pack: Blue Jays

I'm sure most collectors my age subscribed to Beckett as kids. Maybe some of us still do.

For a while, they had a feature where readers would add humorous captions to various baseball cards. Something along the lines of "He's at lunch. Can I take a message?" on one of those call to the bullpen cards.

1994 Score #43 Roberto Alomar
And I always wanted to caption a card like this as "Hurry up and take the picture! I can't hold this pose much longer!"

Comedy gold when you're ten.

Anyway, another one of my Antique Mall Mystery Packs from the Brass Armadillo jogged that particular memory, even though this pack was a bit less interesting than the Mets or Pirates.

1994 Score #427 Paul Molitor
In fact, there was quite a bit of Score product in this pack. I recognize these guys from the 1993 World Series, the last time the Blue Jays were in the postseason. Especially after that Tulowitzki trade, I'm pulling for them this year, but their prospects for advancing are not looking great, as they're down three games to two to the Royals and headed back to Kansas City.

Night Owl wrote a post last week about the prevalence of "hatless" players in some early Topps sets, but a good mix of that and action shots like Alomar's make for a pretty good set. Of course, these dark blue borders are seriously fragile (note the damage on the left edge), but that doesn't stop 1994 Score from being my favorite of their whole run.

1993 Score #602 Tom Henke
1993 wasn't bad either, and I remember getting a pack or two of this product from my dad for a Hanukkah present. The font's a little hard to read, but it is a surprisingly bold design for being so minimal.

I've worn glasses since before I was 5, so seeing a pro ballplayer wearing them was always cool. And I'm not talking about crazy goggles like Alex Cole or Chris Sabo, just plain old nerdy glasses. Greg Maddux wore them from time to time, too.

1994 Topps Gold #511 Devon White
This is totally a trip down memory lane, which is exactly what antique stores are selling, I guess. One-per-pack 1993 and 1994 Topps Gold cards were prized treasures of my early collection, and 1994 Topps was the first factory set I saved up enough to purchase. I've seen this card plenty, though this Gold parallel is a new addition.

Devon White was an important part of the Blue Jays' back-to-back World Series wins, and judging from all that mail, he was quite the fan favorite.

1993 Upper Deck #425 Carlos Delgado
Carlos Delgado had yet to make his mark on the majors the last time the Jays were a contender, and he looks so young in this photo! The back of this card details how he was tearing up the minor leagues in 1992, well on his way to wielding the wooden tools in that bat rack to hit darn near 500 home runs before he retired.

1993 Upper Deck #339 Duane Ward
I don't remember Duane Ward as well as some of these other guys, but it's a perfect example of the legendary awesomeness that is 1993 Upper Deck. Pre-game stretching while on the road? Might as well blow a bubble.

I didn't really have a good appreciation of the closer role (when are we just going to break down and call it a "position"?) until I started playing Fantasy baseball in 2005, let alone an understanding of a "save situation". Still, Ward was good for 45 saves in 1993, and even got the W in the final Game 6, thanks to this next guy.

1994 Score Gold Rush #73 Joe Carter
One can hardly say a word about the Blue Jays, especially this time of year, without mentioning Joe Carter. His home run in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series was only the second time anyone won the whole darn championship in walkoff home run fashion, other than the (in)famous Bill Mazeroski. There have been plenty of walkoff home runs in World Series history, names you're sure to recognize, like Kirk Gibson, Carlton Fisk, and Derek Jeter. But only Carter and Mazeroski got to raise the trophy immediately after rounding the bases.

It's a tall order for the Blue Jays at this point, but if there was ever a team to add to that list, its the 2015 Jays and their stacked lineup.

Up next, the Houston Astros, which will be the last Mystery Pack of a 2015 Postseason team.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Antique Mall Mystery Pack: Pirates

For the next iteration of my Antique Mall Mystery Pack theme, I'm continuing to focus on teams that made it to the 2015 Postseason.

1998 Fleer Tradition #218 Shawon Dunston
Unlike the Mets, however, the Pirates were ousted by the Cubs in the National League Wild Card game. They're the subject of the next team bag I opened from a recent trip to the Brass Armadillo antique mall in Denver. There are still plenty more to come, but for now, lets look at this Fleer-heavy pack of the NL Central's first runner-up.

Shawon Dunston leads it off, a player who spent most of his career on the Cubbies, but who came over to Pittsburgh for a short 18 game stop toward the later part of his career. This is from that brief time in 1997, which we can tell by the Jackie Robinson 50th Anniversary patch on his right sleeve. This Fleer design is always tough for me to place precisely, but that patch helped out quite a bit.

1995 Fleer #477 Mark Dewey
1995 Fleer, on the other hand, is so distinctive it can probably be seen from space. The NL Central design is a bit more tame than the NL East design we saw on the Mets. If the rest of these packs have a 1995 Fleer card or two, this should be a fun journey.

2000 Fleer Tradition #187 Bruce Aven
As little as I know about middle reliever Mark Dewey, I know even less about Bruce Aven. I'd honestly never heard of him prior to pulling this card. Fleer brands got pretty strange around this time, as they started calling their flagship product "Fleer Tradition" in 1998, as we can see on Dunston's card at the top of this post.

That only lasted two years, as they shifted the Tradition brand over to a retro style in 2000, and didn't even market a flagship "Fleer" set for most of the rest of their existence. They were clearly going for the look of 1954 Topps with this set, which will become clear soon enough.

2001 Upper Deck Vintage #318 Pittsburgh Pirates CL
UD was on the vintage bandwagon not long after, as was Topps with their Heritage brand. This team checklist from Upper Deck Vintage is full of disembodied heads, but the variety of hats, batting helmets, logos, and even a hatless player I've never heard of make this card somewhat disjointed.

2003 Topps #458 Josh Fogg
There, that's more like it! No wonder I keep coming back to Topps as my favorite brand. I thought I knew the 2003 design pretty well, but it wasn't until I scanned this card that I noticed that the upper right corner of the photo is rounded. Overall, this is a great color-coded set, and I've always liked the black and yellow of the Pirates. Fogg even spent some time as a Rockie, and was part of that magical 2007 playoff team. His career didn't last much beyond that, but he holds a place in Rockies history.

1994 Topps Archives 1954 Gold #87 
Roy Face
1994 Topps Archives 1954 Gold #213 
John Fitzpatrick CO
Speaking of history, how about a couple one-per-pack Gold parallels from one of my favorite reprint sets, Topps Archives 1954?

These aren't perfect reproductions, as the original 1954 cards didn't have a white border on top, and the dimensions were slightly larger (think 1989 Bowman). But with a large, full-color painted headshot, small action black-and-white photograph, facsimile signature, team logo, and the team name and spelled-out position toward the top underneath the player's name in all caps, it's plain that Fleer did barely more than change the font for their 2000 Tradition product.

And I thought 1997 Donruss ripped off 1996 Leaf.

Blatant plagiarism aside, there was one more surprise in this pack.

1972 Topps #180 Dock Ellis IA
This is by far the oldest card I've pulled from this shopping trip, and it's from Topps' iconic 1972 "psychedelic gravestone" set. Dock Ellis, of course, is the pitcher who threw a no-hitter while on LSD (the same substance that may have inspired 1995 Fleer). I haven't seen it yet, but there's a documentary about the feat, whose movie poster is clearly based off of 1972 Topps.

Though the Pirates may not have progressed in this year's Postseason, the franchise has a long and colorful history from Honus Wagner to Andrew McCutchen, with some Dock Ellis and Barry Bonds in between.

Up next: the Toronto Blue Jays.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Trading Post #43: My Best Friend Collects Chipper Jones

It's been a while since I started a new trading relationship, but I'm always reminded how fun it is to swap cards with other collectors. Mark from My Best Friend Collects Chipper Jones commented on a recent post offering a couple needs from my Eight Men Out want list. Just a few days after a PWE from 2x3 Heroes was delivered, another envelope showed up this weekend, and it had some beauties.

1991 Bowman #410 Bobby Thomson / Ralph Branca / Shot Heard Round the World
Only a couple sets have been in my collection longer than 1991 Bowman, but somehow this iconic card eluded my grasp all these years. The Eight Men Out list comes through again! This was one of the first sets to experiment with gold foil, and it's present on only a few cards, including this one.

Come to think of it, the card backs on this set might be why I like green cards so much. Like the woodgrain design on 1987 Topps influencing my appreciation of 1955 Bowman and 1962 Topps (and thus 2011 Topps Heritage), perhaps green cards just look "right" to some deep-seated part of my brain.

1991 Bowman #410 Bobby Thomson / Ralph Branca / Shot Heard Round the World (Reverse)
With all the monster clutch home runs we've seen so far this postseason, like those from Kyle Schwarber and of course Jose Bautista (topped off with the best bat flip in baseball history), Bobby Thomson and his "Shot Heard 'Round The World" fits right in, despite happening over sixty years ago.

But that wasn't all.

1991 Stadium Club #493 Scott Coolbaugh
This was the last card I needed to complete Series 2 of 1991 Stadium Club! The penultimate card came via trade not long ago, but I can finally cross this one off the list. I don't really know much about Coolbaugh, but he played a few seasons in the majors, and even went over to Japan for a couple years following the 1994 strike. More on that later.

1996 Collector's Choice Silver Signature #753 Bichette / Castilla / Galarraga / Walker CL
Mark stuffed an envelope with close to two dozen cards, including lots of Rockies, like this Silver Signature checklist of the Blake Street Bombers. The Colorado Rockies' Facebook account posted a Throwback Thursday photo of these guys last week, and it is very, very 1990s.

1992 Fleer Ultra #199 Craig Biggio
He also included a small stack of Hall-of-Famers from 1992 Fleer Ultra. This Biggio card is one I could almost draw from memory, but I don't recall that little six-sided pin on top of his hat, despite having seen this card countless times. It's also a quick reminder that Biggio started out as a catcher, something that's commonly forgotten.

1996 Zenith #13 Dante Bichette
The rest of these cards were mostly shiny Rockies. I've seen Zenith before, but never from this 1996 vintage that I can recall. I don't know whether they all have eight gold bats arrayed like a Japanese folding hand fan, but I'll sure remember it now.

1995 Finest #255 Bill Swift
I also got the opportunity to liberate a few Finest cards from their protective peel-off coating, one of the most satisfying simple pleasures of 21st-century American life. Whether it's an iPhone, microwave panel, or 20-year old baseball card, it's like unwrapping a present.

Bill Swift was one of the first high-end free agent pitchers the Rockies signed, before anyone knew that free agent pitchers seem not to make it in Coors Field. Swift and Bret Saberhagen were the first to set that precedent.

1995 SP #51 Vinny Castilla
The position players on the Rockies have almost always been the highlights, going all the way back to an inaugural Rockie, Vinny Castilla. He was a third baseman, but he's clearly covering second base to turn two, and doing a good job of it, despite Bip Roberts' non-leg-breaking takeout slide.

For a "Super Premium" card, it's on the thin side, but makes great use of gold and blue foil. That blue foil features a whole lattice of SP logos when they catch the light just right, which shows up quite nicely in the scan.

1995 Topps Cyberstats #71 Walt Weiss
1993 was a tough year to be a budding baseball fan. The 1993 season was great, ending with Joe Carter's walkoff home run in the 1993 World Series, but the infamous strike of 1994 prevented me from seeing another World Series until after Coors Field had opened. It's a giant shame, especially since the Montreal Expos were having a fantastic season and were far from a long shot to win it all.

1995 Topps did what it could with that disgraceful period in baseball history, making a partial set of CyberStats parallels with a special foil on the front.

1995 Topps Cyberstats #71 Walt Weiss (Reverse)
The back of these parallels include "computer-simulated" statistics, projecting what would have happened had the final six or seven weeks of the 1994 season occurred. No one expected Weiss to improve on his single real-life home run of 1994, but Barry Bonds' card in this set suggested that he might have tied Roger Maris' 61 home runs. I find this scenario highly unlikely, given that Bonds only had 37 when play stopped. But we'll never know whether Maris' record (or even his asterisk) would have fallen, or if the Expos would have brought Canada its third World Series trophy in as many years.

Matt Williams was sitting much prettier at 43 home runs, so if the record were to fall, it probably would have been a different Giant than Topps thought. But who knows? One thing's for sure. Whether Bonds, Williams, or Maris held the single-season home run record at the end of a complete 1994 season, Topps Cyberstats never would have existed.

Cool cards, but I'd have preferred a full season.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Trading Post #42: 2x3 Heroes

Trading activity is starting to pick back up. This summer has been pretty quiet on that front, but my mailbox has been graced by a couple PWEs in recent days.

2013 Topps Chasing History Holofoil #CH-97 Troy Tulowitzki
These have done some damage to my Eight Men Out list with very little warning. Jeff at 2x3 Heroes mailed over this Tulowitzki card, which is the silver holofoil parallel from a 2013 Topps insert set. You've seen other varieties of this card before, including the bat relic and gold holofoil. All that's missing is the base version, meaning I'll be completing this rainbow in a highly unusual reverse order. Sort of like hitting for the cycle with a homer, triple, double, and single.

2014 Topps Chrome Orange Refractors #157 Michael Cuddyer
Jeff continued to work some rainbow magic, sending over the orange parallel of Michael Cuddyer's Chrome card, adding to the base and blue parallel already in my collection. This orange is especially appropriate, given that he's playing for the Mets in the NLCS. In fact, he just ripped an opposite-field single up the first base line as I type this. Unlike the blue parallel, this orange is not serial numbered, but it certainly scans better than the blue.

2010 Topps #445 Miguel Olivo
2010 Topps had a good base design, and they really wanted to make all the collectors know that they still had the rights to display team logos and names, unlike their longtime competitor Upper Deck, who lost that right that year.

Still, they focused a bit too much on logos and not enough on photography, as this is one of the more egregious Photoshop jobs I can remember seeing in recent years. First, that isn't really the right shade of purple to represent the Rockies, the belt is still blue, and the pinstripes are way too close together. Even worse, flip the card over and you can see that Topps didn't even bother to edit Olivo out of his Royals jersey, meaning you can plainly see where they made changes for the front photo.

2010 Topps #445 Miguel Olivo (Reverse)
I suppose it's better than just some white text saying "Signed by Rockies", but Topps' image manipulation skills had a long way to go in 2010.

2014 Bowman #20 Nolan Arenado
There, now that's a proper Rockies jersey! This image is from Nolan Arenado's rookie year of 2013, which you can tell by that commemorative 20th Anniversary patch on the right sleeve. Arenado took a month or so to settle into his role at third base, but he's quickly become one of the best all-around players in the Majors. He'd had plenty of Bowman cards by the time he actually reached the majors, but some varieties of his 2010 card go for a pretty penny.

Here's hoping he can lead the Rockies to one of these playoff games in the not-too-distant future.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Five-Box Group Break

I just watched this guy ground out to the pitcher in the ALDS.

2015 Topps Gypsy Queen #155 Troy Tulowitzki
That Tulowitzki card is one of several that I got in a long-ago group break that Nachos Grande ran. Rather than a full case of one product, I prefer a little variety, so when he decided to open five products, I was in for a $25 slot.

When this break happened in April/May, I sure as heck didn't expect to see Tulowitzki in the playoffs, let alone on the Toronto Blue Jays. But baseball is like that, reserve clause or no.

2015 Topps Gypsy Queen Mini #144 Justin Morneau
I've expressed admiration for this year's Gypsy Queen design. In fact, that was on the full-size version of this card. The onion dome means I'll actually be able to pinpoint this one once a few years have rolled by, even in miniature.

2015 Topps Gypsy Queen Basics of Base Ball Minis #BBMR-4 Head-First Slide
This insert mini doesn't have the base design, but it's an interesting card nonetheless. I think that's supposed to be Willie Mays, judging by those orange bands on the sleeves. However, I question whether a head-first slide is really a basic. The other cards in this set, sure, like how to steal, how to grip the bat, how to take a lead. We learned all that in little league. But we were explicitly instructed not to do a head-first slide, particularly not into first base. Eric Byrnes remembers that from the final out of the 2007 NLCS, I'm sure. Nor did we have any knuckleballers. But a three card set of hitting, fielding, and throwing wouldn't be much fun, would it?

2015 Diamond Kings #25 Charlie Blackmon
Panini has resurrected the Diamond Kings brand, and I have to say that I like it a lot more with a little gold foil and none of those mildly terrifying Dick Perez paintings featured on the 1980s-1990s Diamond Kings cards. It's also an unusual material; it feels like a thick, sharp-cornered playing card.

2015 Bowman Prospects #BP52 Jon Gray
Many players in the prospect-heavy Bowman sets never make the Majors, but Jon Gray has, and I've even seen him pitch in person. He faced Bartolo Colon that day, but the real star of that game was Yoenis Cespedes, who hit three home runs and had plenty of chances for a record-tying fourth. Cespedes hit a monster home run in the NLDS last night, swinging the bat as hard as I've ever seen anyone swing.

Gray has talent, but I'm still on the fence as to whether he'll live up to the hype, although the fact that the Rockies have a hyped pitching prospect in the first place is a positive development.

2015 Topps Opening Day #159A Justin Morneau
I got a couple base cards from 2015 Opening Day, which I think I already had. I have been buying a blaster or two of that product at Target each year, and ending up with most of the set. I was hoping for an insert or two, but I'll never turn down Rockies cards. It's still pretty striking how much the lack of foil in Flagship makes Opening Day look almost identical. If Topps continues with that, Opening Day might not remain in the market.

There was a fifth box opened, which was Topps Museum Collection, although I was shut out of that one. I'm OK with that, as I had awesome luck in Chris's previous break, snagging Tulo and a serial-numbered Willie Mays in a box of Topps High Tek.

2005 Topps Opening Day #102 Aaron Miles
The great thing about Chris's group breaks is that he always has a few extras lying around to sweeten the deal. The break was exclusively 2015 products, but Chris threw in some older cards for good measure. Hard to believe this Miles card is already ten years old. It was from a time when Opening Day products still had foil, and for a few years, I even liked them better than Flagship. This blue foil in the Opening Day product might look better than the gold of the base set.

1993 Bowman #339 Jim Tatum FOIL (RC)
I always liked these foil Rookie Cards from 1993 Bowman, even if the rainbow-ness of it doesn't actually show up in a scan. Jim Tatum is likely known only to the earliest die-hard Rockies fans, and he only slugged three home runs his entire career. But there are countless copies of his cards, simply because he played toward the tail end of the overproduction era.

1994 SP #164 Dante Bichette
There were a few years when Upper Deck really liked copper. Early SP sets used them quite a bit, then the base UD sets from 1994-1998 featured it in ever-increasing amounts. Even that MVP set in 2002 had it. I guess they left Pinnacle and Fleer to go nuts with the gold foil. Always trying to be different, those guys, right down to the gold hologram found on the back of SP cards.

Dante Bichette doesn't seem to mind, he'll just tighten up those purple batting gloves on the way to a .310-ish average with a smile on his face. And boy, did the guy like a two-strike count.

I appreciate that Chris runs these breaks, and sorry it took so long to get this post up. If it's any consolation, Chris has a new group break open right now for some great 2015 products, including Stadium Club! Go grab a $25 slot before they're gone!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Crate o' Cards

Last holiday season was pretty heavy for me on the card front. There were a few generous trades, the Moon Mars set from my mom that I just posted about, as well as a subscription box from Collector Crate.

I saw a few Collector Crate posts in the blogosphere many months ago, and after watching a few unboxing videos of non-baseball subscription boxes with my girlfriend a few weeks ago, I thought I'd finally document the loot from a Bronze baseball Collector Crate. I also considered starting up the subscription again, but it turns out that they're no longer in operation. Their Facebook page hasn't been updated in months, and their website doesn't exist any longer. Given that my geekdom is not limited to baseball, I did end up ordering 3 months of the 1Up Box, and am thinking about making a debut on YouTube. Chris and Daniel both have card content on their YouTube channels, I wonder how their experience has been.

2014 Collector Crate #BU-MT Mike Trout
The big draw for some of these subscription boxes are the exclusives, commonly t-shirts. Collector Crate did this as well, and I wonder how many there are out there besides this soon-to-be oddball Mike Trout, as I have no idea how long they were in business.

In addition to packs, there were a few other baseball goodies, like a Yankees mini pennant that I gave to my dad, a little baseball Christmas ornament with a Santa hat on it, and a hard plastic mini baseball with the Angels logo that I think I sent to The Angels, In Order. They let you pick up to three teams for the non-pack goodies, and the "hits" matched that selection too.

2002 Bowman Autographs #BA-GA Garrett Atkins (AU)
My Rockies autograph collection continues to grow, and this is the treasured on-card variety with a hologram Topps sticker on the back. Atkins hadn't yet made it to the Majors when this card was printed, making it a somewhat unusual Bowman card of a guy we've all heard of. Atkins ended up having a solid career with the Rockies, being part of their two most recent playoff appearances.

2002 Bowman Heritage Relics #BH-TS Tim Salmon Uni C (MEM)
Here's another Bowman hit, a relic of Tim Salmon. The 1993 AL Rookie of the Year was nearing the end of his career by this point, but a pinstripe is a pinstripe!

For me, the draw of these boxes were the unopened packs. and this one came with nine, including a few from products I'd barely seen before.

Pack 1: 1999 Bowman

1999 Bowman #148 Russell Branyan
This has been a Bowman-heavy post so far, and it's never been one of my favorite brands, especially from the everything-has-a-black-border era. At least this one has an actual numeral for the card number. I remember Branyan as a Cincinnati Red, but it turns out that he only spent a couple seasons with them during his journeyman career.

1999 Bowman International #183 Calvin Pickering
Calvin Pickering played for a few Major League teams too, but I must admit that I've never heard of him. You might notice that he's not pictured inside a baseball stadium, meaning that this is a one-per-pack International parallel. Usually the background is the flag from the player's country of birth, but for 1999, Bowman took a page from Metal Universe and instead used a bit of local photography.

Pack 2: 2010 Topps Update

2010 Topps Update #US-178 Jim Edmonds
If you're into unfamiliar uniforms, Update is the place to be. I have zero recollection of Jim Edmonds on the Reds, which makes sense, since he only played thirteen games with them before hanging 'em up.

That looks like Chase Field to me, which would put this game on August 18th, 2010, the only game in which Edmonds scored in Arizona while playing for the Reds.

2010 Topps Vintage Legends Collection #VLC-26 Johnny Mize
The presence of all these packs means inserts and parallel will pop up with zero warning! Topps inverted the Heritage formula for the Vintage Legends insert set, placing old-time players on recent designs, like New York legend Johnny Mize on 1992 Topps. You'll recall that Mize appeared on a recent vintage pickup, but then as a Yankee.

This was an interesting insert set, as they didn't just use 1992's design and leave it at that. They compare how his real-life stats from 1947 would have stacked up in 1992, and he would have been a Triple Crown contender, falling a bit short on batting average. Not surprising for a man with five consecutive World Series rings.

Pack 3: 2014 Topps Update

2014 Topps Update Gold #US-146 Neftali Soto /2014
Neftali Soto has yet to make much of an impact in the Majors, but a gold parallel out of a single pack is pretty cool. He hit a couple home runs in AAA this year, but I don't know whether we'll see more of him.

2014 Topps Update Fond Farewells #FF-MR Mariano Rivera
Rivera, on the other hand, is an absolute legend, and like other Yankee greats in recent years, received plenty of attention as he made his final stops in various Major League cities. I'd love to see this set become a regular thing, especially since the well-loved legends don't always get the recognition they deserve on a card. Jeter and Konerko, yes, but Tim Hudson? Chipper Jones?  No wonder Nick is so into Sunset cards.

Pack 4: 2012 Panini Prizm

2012 Panini Prizm Prizms Green #195 Hector Santiago
I don't get it. I really don't. Why does everyone seem to hate Panini Prizm? They're shiny, feature good photography considering they can't use logos, and come in nice, colorful colors like green. And in my experience, they lack that godawful curl that plagues many of Topps' premium products. Even that RC logo is pretty unique. It's no Stadium Club, sure, but does it really deserve its reputation?

Pack 5: 1994 Flair

1994 Flair #373 Andres Galarraga
For a brand produced at the height of the baseball card bubble, 1994 Flair is downright scarce. One pack doubled its representation in my collection. The packaging was quite impressive, as it came in a shrink-wrapped paperboard mini-box. Up until then, I'd only ever opened wax or foil.

1994 Flair #447 William Van Landingham
The design is a bit busy and ostentatious, which isn't helped by Van Landingham's exceptionally long last name. It has as much trouble fitting on this card as it did on his uniform. But hey, 1994.

Pack 6: 2013 Gypsy Queen

2013 Topps Gypsy Queen #29 Cole Hamels
I am mostly indifferent about this brand, though I do like this year's "onion dome" design. Like Bowman, I just can't seem to get into a brand that looks the same year after year. Even Topps Flagship was getting a bit repetitive before the splash of color we saw this year.

Cole Hamels has looked impressive in the playoffs thus far, raining on the Blue Jays parade and giving the Rangers 2015's first opportunity to advance to the Championship Series, although Toronto lived to fight another day, thanks in part to Tulowitzki's three-run home run.

2013 Topps Gypsy Queen Mini #344 Tim Hudson
As advertised, a one-per-pack mini fell out, and it's of recently-retired pitcher Tim Hudson. I don't have many of these, but I ought to invest in a few 15-pocket mini pages, since they look a heck of a lot better when they're not swimming in a holder five times too big.

Pack 7: 2008 Upper Deck X

2008 Upper Deck X Die Cut #17 Carlos Zambrano
Most cards in this pack were a standard rectangle, but a brand like Upper Deck X just begs for a die-cut variety. This one's from the previous time the Cubs made the playoffs, though Big Z didn't get it done that year.

2008 Upper Deck X Xponential #X-KG Ken Griffey Jr.
Of course, a World Series win isn't the only indicator of a great career. Griffey never even appeared in a World Series, but he still had countless awesome cards, arguably becoming a modern Mickey Mantle in that sense. Xponential cards came in four...powers(?) of increasing scarcity, this being the base Xponential (to the power of 1), which, like in math, isn't noted.

Pack 8: 2010 Upper Deck

2010 Upper Deck #570 Washington Nationals BP
Upper Deck's baseball card business was in dire straits by this point, and taking a picture of a stadium was about the only way they could get a team's name on a card that year. The back of the card mentions the presidential foot race, but the front just shows the stadium facade, pretty much what you see in the House of Cards intro.

2010 Upper Deck Supreme Green #S-90 Adrian Gonzalez
Adrian Gonzalez is elsewhere in the NL West this season, but had a resurgent year and helped the Dodgers reach the playoffs. Upper Deck put him on one of my favorites, a green card, and didn't really take efforts to hide the SD logo on his helmet like they were legally supposed to do that year. See Topps' 2010 design above for how proud they were to display team logos.

Pack 9: 1995 Select Certified

1995 Select Certified Mirror Gold #115 Mark Grudzielanek
This is only the second time I've run across 1995 Select Certified in my collecting career, which is a shame, since it's right up there with Flair as a super-premium set. Grudzielanek's card is a Mirror Gold parallel, which has a refractor background, and is seeded 1:5 packs. Clearly, he was competing with William Van Landingham for the longest surname in the Majors.

1995 Select Certified #32 Eddie Murray 3000th Hit
Eddie Murray's base card got some special treatment, as is warranted when you reach 3,000 career hits. It's a highly exclusive club, with slightly more members than the 300-win club. Ichiro is likely to reach it next year, and if he does, he'll also pass Pete Rose for most career hits, assuming you count the thousand-plus he got during his Japanese career.

Not a bad haul for $30, right? I'm always up for a surprise look at brands I've rarely seen before. It's unfortunate that Collector Crate folded, since I'd totally get another one of these.

The 1Up Box is unlikely to contain baseball cards. There might be Magic: The Gathering or Heroes of the Storm in there or something, but it's just not the same. Of course, the subscription box industry is hot right now, so maybe someone else will fill the vacuum. If they do, don't keep it a secret!