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.

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