Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Trading Post #85: The Collector

Two days before Christmas was a big incoming mailday for me. Fuji, Daniel, and Peter all sent cards that arrived that day, and a fourth—the post you're about to see. This one is from Chris of the new blog, The Collector, apparently a pun on both his career and his hobby. Three cards arrived safely packaged inside a holiday greeting card, which Chris offered on a mid-December post.

2013 Topps 1972 Topps Minis #TM19 Carlos Gonzalez
1972 Topps. That one I know at a glance.

I also know the distinctive smooth-but-not-glossy feel of Topps Archives by heart, and this mini of Carlos Gonzalez fits that description perfectly. It's still a little bit strange to see a sharp, nighttime action shot at Coors Field on such a retro design, and the disco font at the top makes the team name look a lot like "Rookies". But we still get a good write-up about CarGo's well-rounded baseball skills, as he's a threat on the basepaths, at the plate, and in the cavernous outfield at 20th and Blake.

1972 Topps had cartoons on the back, and this retro set is faithful to that. This one is sort of a trivia question, but I've sure never heard it. The card asks "what pitch is sometimes referred to as a "Bugs Bunny?"

Apparently that's slang for a change-up, but I must admit that I've not once heard that in all my years of baseball fandom. I guess it has something to do with this cartoon. I'm sure I've seen it before, but the slowball didn't stand out in particular relative to the rest of his cartoony antics.

2013 Topps Chasing History #CH-97 Troy Tulowitzki
This is a card you've seen before in various forms on this blog. I'm still chasing the mini to complete the rainbow, but I like this card so much that it's a candidate to become my next wallet card, once that Girardi disintegrates enough.

Tulowitzki fell just one short of hitting the 25-homer milestone for the first time since this card was printed. He got 24 in a Blue Jays uniform last year, but if you count the ALDS, he got his 25th. He also had a handful in 2015 after The Trade, some of which you can see in this awesome supercut of Blue Jays homers, set to Johnny Cash's "God's Gonna Cut You Down".

2003 Finest Bat Relics #FRB-TH Todd Helton B (MEM)
The last card from Chris is a Todd Helton bat relic. It's from 2003 Finest, and by coincidence, I happened to have purchased a couple other relics from this set at a recent card show. I'm usually pretty behind on card show posts. There's just so much to include.

But anyway, as awesome as Topps Finest consistently is, 2003 still rises to the top of my favorites list. This relic design lacks the hexagons that I like so much from the base set, but I love the simple design and color scheme here.

A bonus on this card is a look at the Rockies 10 Season Anniversary patch on Helton's right sleeve. They began play in 1993, which meant their tenth full season occurred n 2002.

Not counting the strike, of course.

A few weeks ago, I finally bought some 75- and 100-pt thick toploaders to properly organize and protect my relic cards. Now that this is scanned, I know just where to put it, and it will fit in nicely in front of my two relics from the card show, Lance Berkman and Mark Mulder.

Thanks to Chris for adding a Rockie to that small stack.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

2016 Card of the Year

This has been a rough year.

With all the celebrities passing away before their time, including Carrie Fisher earlier today, as well as an election that most of us would rather forget, it seems like the ball can't drop soon enough. Personally, it's been up and down for me. My dad moved to another state in the spring, and even though he's happy, I do miss him. There have been some other challenges and disappointments, too. But the new car is fun, at least. And I will be an uncle by the time May rolls around!

Still, baseball and its related card industry have carried on regardless. The Cubs, of course, finally snapped their century-long Championship drought. Ichiro hit a pretty cool milestone. David Ortiz did his farewell tour. And another season is in the books, one in which my Rockies did better than usual. They finished just six games under .500, and the youth of the team looks better than ever.

To wrap up this year on the baseball card front, Tom at Eamus Catuli!, formerly known as Waiting 'Til Next Year, is running a "Best of 2016" contest. Topps released another Stadium Club set in 2016, and it's been a bright spot in the hobby ever since the brand was resurrected for 2014. Naturally, my favorite card from 2016 is from none other than Stadium Club.

2016 Stadium Club #251 Jon Gray
I'm not trying to curry favor over here, but this Jon Gray card was sent by none other than Tom himself. Mike Trout's card from 2016 Topps is a strong contender, and Jose Bautista's bat flip card is a close second, but Jon Gray is the winner at Infield Fly Rule.

We didn't get snow for Christmas Day, but the wind was cold and biting. It's a bit sunny out right now, and not terribly wintry. But it's still far from a comfortable Colorado evening, one that's clearly pictured on this card. And that's what I'm longing for right about now.

It's usually a good day for the Rockies when Jon Gray is on the hill, assuming he's gotten his first inning jitters out of the way. And all those fans help set the tone of this card. There are a handful of empty seats about 20 rows up, but there is lots of purple out there, a lemonade vendor climbing the stairs, and some ghostly-looking fans silhouetted against the setting sun.

That little glimmer of sunlight is what truly puts this card on top. Gray in sharp focus with that background would be good enough, but tilting the camera up just a little bit gives it a lot more atmosphere. It's a bit of an allegory for the Rockies themselves, a statement that young players like Gray, Trevor Story, David Dahl, Raimel Tapia, Brendan Rodgers, and possibly Jeff Hoffman could be a light at the end of a dark tunnel the Rockies have been in for a while. I've never known the Rockies' farm system as well as I do right now, and hopefully that means there are good things to come.

But maybe I'm getting too philosophical about it.

Maybe it's just because I can picture myself so well in this scene. I'd be sitting in that general area (maybe a deck or two higher, depending on how much I felt like spending on a ticket), wearing my Nolan Arenado jersey. I'm guessing this is the second or third inning, meaning I'd probably have finished a bratwurst already, and be about halfway through a beer. Maybe I'd be thinking about another snack, perhaps some popcorn, a Tornadough pretzel available below the left field scoreboard, or even some Rocky Mountain oysters, which are only sold near where those fans are standing.

I'd have already checked in on social media, perhaps snapped a photo or two. For a night game, the temperature would have dropped a bit, but it would still be nice sitting in the shade. It's likely that a run or two would have scored by then. And this side of the stadium is perfect when a righty is on the hill. After the game, I'd head into Downtown just beyond, perhaps grabbing a late happy hour snack at one of the bars, ideally having just witnessed a Rockies win.

It's almost like one of those chalk drawings in Mary Poppins. I feel like I can just jump right in.

Not only is this card my favorite of 2016. This card is my happy place.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Trading Post #84: Jaybarkerfan's Junk

Anytime you see a package on its way to you from Hazel Green, Ala., you know that some goodies are on their way from Jaybarkerfan's Junk. The creator of the #Supertraders group made sure that all his readers were able to get in on some holiday trading action. He ran what he called a Trade-a-Thon in November, offering each reader the chance to claim up to five cards throughout the two-week process. I claimed four, and even with the bonus pack he threw in, this will be a rare post without any Rockies.

2008 UD Masterpieces #5 Max Scherzer (RC)
Upper Deck Masterpieces is an absolutely beautiful set. 2008 was the second of only two years that UD printed this product. Even with short prints, it's only a 120-card checklist, but they did an absolutely terrific job selecting players for the set. Max Scherzer, who had no Major League experience when this card was printed, has gone on to win two Cy Young Awards, and he threw two no-hitters in 2015. The first of those was only a pitch away from being a perfect game, but one pitch got a little bit away from him, Jose Tabata leaned into it, and Scherzer had to settle for a no-hitter.

It's a heck of a card to get your Rookie Card logo on. Upper Deck couldn't know how dominant he would become, and we've all seen our share of busted prospects, but things worked out really well for this card, and more importantly, for Max Scherzer.

2010 Bowman Prospects Black #BP1 Stephen Strasburg
Scherzer spent the majority of his career so far in Detroit, but now shares the rotation with Stephen Strasburg on the Washington Nationals. Strasburg was the most hyped pitching prospect in recent memory, drawing comparisons to Mark Fidrych. Watching his debut back in 2010 was quite impressive, as he struck out fourteen Pirates in his first-ever start. Unfortunately, he needed Tommy John surgery shortly after that, but he's settled into a groove in the Nats' pitching staff. The Nationals have had a pretty terrifying rotation ever since his debut, fielding guys like Gio Gonzalez, Doug Fister, Jordan Zimmerman, etc....

Of course, this card itself has quite the story behind it. Strasburg mania was in full force in late spring 2010, and there was finally a Bowman gold mine out there. They print cards of virtually every young prospect out there, many of whom never make it to the Majors. But Strasburg's First Bowman Card was the rare item that briefly brought baseball cards back into the national spotlight. His /1 Superfractor parallel of this Bowman card was found in 2010, and promptly spiraled to a five-figure sale price on eBay. Just months later, it changed hands again for $25k. The national media didn't miss that story, and I'm sure that millions of Americans that hadn't paid attention to the hobby for years or even decades got a crash course in the existence of parallels, printing plates, and /1 products.

The above is a parallel itself, the black-bordered variety. Bowman's base Prospect set that year actually used a white border, saving the black borders for a parallel set.

So while I don't have the Superfractor that's worth as much as a new car, I am able to add a parallel to my collection that reminds me of the Strasburg Fever that gripped the nation in 2010.

2004 Fleer InScribed #80 Tom Seaver RET /1000
Fleer made a lot of sets in their final few years of existence. I thought I had seen most of them, but this Inscribed set is new to my eyes. 2004 was the only year of this set, but it's pretty striking. The thick black border has a matte finish with some silver foil (including that serial number). The background of the photo is also matte, but the player's image itself is glossy. It's a minimalist design, and all the right elements catch the light, while others fade into the background. The "Inscribed" logo at the top isn't my favorite, but I'd be interested in finding more of these.

Only the ten retired players in this set got the /1000 serial number, and all ten of those are Hall of Famers. There were also fifteen rookies rounding out the main set at a print run of /750, containing a few recognizable names like Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina, and Kevin Youkilis.

Seaver had a long, Hall-of-Fame worthy career, but this card only had room for five seasons. Fleer featured his early time on the Mets for this card, giving us stats from 1969 through 1973. During that time, he led the league in strikeouts and ERA three times, somehow managing to miss out on the Cy Young Award for two of those seasons. During that same span, he appeared in two World Series, winning one, was an All-Star in each of those five seasons, and might have gotten into the Hall on those five seasons alone, not even counting the other fifteen seasons he pitched.

Not sure if Strasburg will join Seaver in the Hall of Fame, but I like Scherzer's chances.

1992 Triple Play Gallery #GS-11 Cal Ripken, Jr.
It wasn't all pitchers in this package. I have a soft spot for these early-1990s Donruss insert cards after they finally decided to evolve their design a bit. Cal Ripken, Jr. was definitely one of my favorite players when he was still active. I didn't get to see much of him at all, since it was pretty tough to see American League games back then, especially before Interleague Play. The All Star Game was usually the only time he'd make a TV appearance in my household. Cable, not to mention MLB.TV, has really changed things.

Of course, this card mentions his streak of consecutive games played, a record he'd break about three seasons later, toward the end of 1995. I remember being in sixth grade when that happened, and that many of my classmates chose the occasion to feature in their "Current Events" presentations to the class.

Ripken wasn't just known for his longevity, like Omar Vizquel or Jamie Moyer. He was darn talented out there, winning two MVP awards in his career, and making the All-Star team every year from 1983 until his retirement in 2001. He even hit a first-pitch homer in that 2001 All-Star Game in Seattle.

Not a bad way for one of my favorite all-time players to wrap up a legendary career.

1986 Sportflics #8 Cal Ripken, Jr.
My fellow Supertrader didn't stop there though. He even threw in an unopened pack of cards for his Trade-a-Thon participants, and I ended up with a pack of 1986 Sportflics. I bought some of the 1994 product, but I didn't really know this brand went back further than that. I might have a card or two from the 1990 set, but definitely none this old.

Of course, these never scan well, but the lenticular printing process on this card allows for one of three images to be visible, depending on how the card is tilted. A much younger Ripken, only several hundred games into his streak, gets one headshot and two action shots at the plate. I'm sure he sat a few late innings later in the streak, but at the time of printing, he hadn't sat a single inning in 603 games. That's nearly 5,500 straight innings!

There were a couple of miniature trivia cards in here, a little smaller than those World Series History lenticular insert cards from 1991 Score. On these, we learn that Ernie Banks holds the NL Record for most Grand Slams in a single season, with 5. Albert Pujols has since tied that NL mark, and a couple AL'ers even surpassed it with 6. Travis Hafner did it about a decade ago, as did Don Mattingly just a year after this was printed. The other Trivia card is about Mike Schmidt, then the active player with the most Gold Glove awards.

1986 Sportflics #179 1985 Gold Glove
I found this final card to be quite interesting, and I assumed that these Sportflics cards just displayed two images like they did in 1994, until I looked more closely. This is something like a League Leader card, but riffing off of the second trivia card, they picked six 1985 Gold Glovers to feature. The three photos on the top (Don Mattingly, George Brett, and Keith Hernandez) are posed shots, while the three on the bottom (Willie McGee, Ron Guidry, and Dale Murphy) are action photos. My scanner preferred to show Brett and Guidry, plus a ghostly inclusion of McGee's bat.

By the way, the presence of Dale Murphy makes this ever-so-slightly a Rockies post, as the two-time MVP signed as a free agent with the Rockies in 1993 and played 26 games for them before retiring.

Anyway, these six players all led a statistic in 1985, as well as an award for defensive excellence. Every position has a Gold Glove winner (sometimes co-winners), so there's no mention of thirteen other players, unlike what we might see on a more traditional League Leaders card.

Keith Hernandez led the NL in Game-Winning RBIs in 1985, a statistic that isn't tracked anymore. There was quite a bit of debate about whom to actually credit with a GW-RBI (the back of 1987 Topps went wild over this stat). A walkoff hit is easy enough to figure out, but when your team takes the lead by three in the 7th, for example, but ends up only winning by one, the GW-RBI went to the player that took the lead, not the player that padded the cushion enough.

To my mind, that sounds pretty much the same as how a winning pitcher is determined. All a team has to do is keep a lead to ensure a pitcher gets the win. It can be a cat-and-mouse game all night, but as long as the lower-scoring team doesn't at least tie it, the pitcher of record remains the same. I'm sure better statisticians than I can explain the nuances of why tracking Wins that way is fine, but GW-RBIs isn't. But I digress.

When the statistic existed, no one had more than Keith Hernandez, thanks in large part to his 1985 performance. And we definitely just went down a statistical rabbit hole there, but they're an integral part of baseball, now more than ever.

Just like trading is an integral part of card collecting.

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Trading Post #83: All Trade Bait, All The Time

Even after 82 posts under The Trading Post theme, I am still making connections with new bloggers. All Trade Bait, All The Time is the latest to be added to the list. I claimed a card from a stack he offered up, thus earning a spot in his "Operation PWE". The card arrived a few weeks ago, along with a handful of other Rockies.

1997 Upper Deck #182 Larry Walker GI
I've actually opened some packs of 1997 Upper Deck, a product I found on sale at Dave & Adam's a couple years ago. I always liked the copper-heavy set, and the frequent use of actual dates on the card front. This subset, however, always confused me a bit. They definitely have the look of inserts, but are just part of the main checklist. They seem to be quite plentiful, making me wonder if some of them were double-printed. And the write-up on the back, in this case talking about Canada and its contribution to Major League Baseball, is only a partial paragraph, continued on card 183. I do have card 183 already, so I was able to see the final word of Walker's write-up, which is "season", before leading into the next player's write up.

It's a little bit like those articles where you have to click to a second page to see the final eight words. But it's nice and shiny, and I can't stay mad at a shiny card for long.

1997 Pacific #291 Larry Walker
Keeping the international theme going, Walker appears on another shiny card from Pacific, which means that this card is primarily written in Spanish, with English as a secondary language. Two-run homer translates into "cuadrangular de 2 carreras".

I grew up with Pacific cards much more than the Canadian O-Pee-Chee brand, whose cards contained both French and English. Especially living in Colorado, I've had way more exposure to Spanish as a foreign language. I even took four years of it in middle and high school. I can't speak it worth a darn, but I can usually get the general gist of a written paragraph.

I guess this card really isn't all that shiny other than the gold foil. Pacific loved their gold foil, and the vertical name on the left seems to have influenced 1999 Fleer Tradition.

1995 Score Hall of Gold #HG63 Ellis Burks
To go along with the Dante Bichette Hall of Gold card that Brian sent me a while ago, I now have Ellis Burks' card from the same set. This insert set was large enough that numerous Rockies made it in, and while there's a bit of fragility around the edges, the gold stripe through the middle of the card breaks up this action shot well. He's sporting some great flip-down shades on the back, which also mentions that he was the NL Player of the Month in 1994.

This didn't happen until later, but Burks became the first Rockie to enter the 30-30 club. In fact, three Rockies hit that milestone in two seasons, but it hasn't happened at Coors Field since.

2003 Upper Deck #545 Dontrelle Willis
A Marlin or two made their way into this envelope, with Dontrelle Willis showing off his high leg kick. He was an exciting pitcher to watch, and he was decent at the plate, too. This Upper Deck card is from his first season, in which he won the NL Rookie of the Year. He followed that up with an even better 2005 season, finishing with a 22-10 record. But the wheels started to come off after that, as his next two seasons in Florida were rather mediocre. He was traded to Detroit after that (along with Miguel Cabrera for a slew of prospects), but never regained his former glory.

He wasn't a complete bust by any stretch, but he did peak rather early. He'd probably still be on the hill now if his career took a different trajectory.

2016 Topps Allen & Ginter #32 Falcon 9 Rocket
And now we come to the main event, the card I originally requested. It's a great inanimate object from the always-entertaining Allen & Ginter set. The Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX's crown jewel, has had numerous successful launches (and a few failures), but it was just about a year ago that they finally managed to safely land the first stage after a launch. This card does not make mention of that historic feat, but it will go well with some of my other space cards.

Elon Musk knows that reusability is the key to bringing down the astronomical (pun intended) cost of space travel. The Space Shuttle certainly had that concept down, and the solid rocket boosters (the side ones) were reused as well as the shuttle itself, but it ended up being a rather dangerous vehicle, and was never launched with anywhere near the frequency originally intended. It took several tries, but SpaceX is now consistently able to actively guide the first stage back home safely, saving millions of dollars. They've even landed them out at sea.

One fun fact that Musk likes to point out is that the average airline ticket would be about $1.5 million if they had to build a new plane for every flight. Again, I wish the card mentioned something about this, but I'm glad to have it in my collection.

And I got to add a few Rockies along with it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

From now on, our troubles will be out of sight.

Even though I only bought two cards out of about a thousand available from Topps Now in 2016, Topps still made sure to send me a small token of appreciation for the Holidays. In addition to a more traditional holiday greeting card, they threw in a Topps Now baseball card with four images from the 2016 season!

Lots of other bloggers have received the same card, so I have no idea of the print run, but I'd assume it's in the tens of thousands.

2016 Topps Now #NNO Highlights Bryant / Sanchez / Ichiro / Ortiz
First and foremost is Kris Bryant, the player who made the final out of 2016, at last putting an end to the longest championship drought in North American major sports. 108 years is a long time, but there has to be some soccer team somewhere that's gone longer, so I hesitate to say "in sports history".

But Kris Bryant, later named the NL MVP, clearly wasn't thinking about any of that when he fielded that grounder. He knew there was a drought, but I think he was just thrilled to win the World Series, no matter the team.

Also gracing the front of this card is Gary Sanchez, the slugging Yankees catcher who finished just a little short of winning the AL Rookie of the Year award. He still managed to crush twenty homers in just over fifty games. The Yankees have been in a bit of a decline recently, missing the playoffs entirely in 2016. But with young players like this, things are looking brighter for them. Still, it's a tough division even when they're not the ones making it tough.

2016 Topps Now #NNO Highlights Bryant / Sanchez / Ichiro / Ortiz (Reverse)
No Rockies made it onto this card, but Coors Field did! Ichiro doffing his helmet after reaching the 3,000 hit milestone in Denver is the first photo on the back. The actual card commemorating that achievement had a huge print run, and that's one of the two I bought. It was one of the most memorable baseball events I've seen in person, and I'm glad that Topps thought it important enough to share with every other Topps Now customer.

Recently retired David Ortiz gets the final spot on this card, and even though his baseball career is (probably) over, he still led the AL in doubles and RBIs last year. And he left behind quite a legacy in Boston, helping the Red Sox come away with three championships. He'll always be a fan favorite there, and while Gary Sanchez and Kris Bryant still have a lot of work to do, we could potentially be holding a card of four Hall-of-Famers.

I haven't decided yet if I'll keep this one with the back facing out in my binders. Ichiro's photo on his 3,000 card is about the same, and it would be nice to have a reminder of the Cubs' World Series win.

Either way, this was an unexpected gift from Topps, and the relatively high price of a Topps Now card stings a little less when they take the time to say "thank you".

Happy Holidays to all my readers, and thanks for stopping by!

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Trading Post #82: Cardboard Clubhouse

Since the inception of Infield Fly Rule, Adam from Cardboard Clubhouse has been one of my most frequent trading partners. He was part of my giant outgoing mailday on Monday, and many of my trading partners and #Supertraders should be seeing something from me, if it hasn't arrived already. I turned on the Broncos game last Sunday and nearly emptied out my trade box, packaging up a dozen or so PWEs and at least that many bubble mailers.

It's that time of year, and while I haven't gone for any of Topps' snowflake cards this year, hopefully I did manage to spread a little cheer around the Cardsphere. I've also been on the receiving end of a few packages recently, including a Christmas card from Adam that included a small stack of Rockies cards. Once I managed to de-glitter them, there were some nice surprises inside.

1993 Topps #551 Eric Young
It's set to hit subzero temperatures in the Denver area this weekend, and the snow is already falling, so Eric Young with a giant cactus behind him is a welcome sight. 1993 Topps, the second factory set I ever purchased, marked the first appearance of Rockies and Marlins in Topps base. Even then, they didn't show up until Series 2, but the league expansion did help the set balloon to an enormous 825 cards that year. That was still before any action shots could be used, so there are just a bunch of posed images. But there are a few interesting backdrops. Jerald Clark has a lovely seaside photo, and Jim Tatum has another desert landscape behind him. Marlins cards look similar, but much more tropical.

And very much above zero.

2008 Upper Deck Diamond Collection #DC-12 Manny Corpas
The Rockies had about fifteen seasons under their belt by the time Upper Deck was nearing the end of its baseball product. I seem to run across a lot of these Diamond Collection inserts. I'm not sure how common they are, but they're one of those sets that just seem to gravitate toward me.

Manny Corpas was a serviceable closer for the Rockies, racking up 34 saves throughout his career. He hasn't pitched in the Majors since 2013, but I can't help imagining that he'd still be an asset to the bullpen. The Rockies did just sign reliever Mike Dunn to a three-year contract, so the front office is clearly taking steps to address that weakness.

Still not sure about that whole Ian Desmond thing, though. They really have no option but to stick him at first base, a position he's never played. The outfield is pretty much stacked, but they only let you play three at a time. Between CarGo, Blackmon, potentially Desmond, and prospects Dahl and Tapia, they really need to convert some of that into pitching, as hard as it would be to see some of them go. It's almost like the Rockies are banking on the NL adopting the DH.

Last season Dickerson was traded for Jake McGee, so at least there have been some moves in that direction. But both players were a bit of a disappointment last season.

2012 Topps #460 Thomas Field (RC)
Between Tulowitzki and Trevor Story, the Rockies have been completely set on shortstop for quite some time. Except when Tulowitzki and Story were injured. Still, that didn't leave much room for Thomas Field, one of the few players to pass through Denver that I've never heard of, even though he got a Topps base card in 2012. He appeared in a mere 18 games for the Rockies, and in a few games for the Angels and Rangers the past few seasons. He seems like one of those players that tops out at Triple-A. But he did just sign with the Twins organization, so there's still hope.

1995 Fleer Ultra #376 David Nied
David Nied shows up a lot around here, and though he didn't become a household name like many of his teammates, he still was a rather familiar face of the early Rockies. Though it was pricey, I managed to buy a few packs of 1995 Fleer Ultra after the strike ended. Compared to the craziness of 1995 Fleer, Ultra gave us a foil-heavy but very clean set. This set has managed to grow on me quite a bit since I started this blog, but the two different foil colors still bug me a little.

1998 SkyBox Dugout Axcess #141 Vinny Castilla TRIV
This is one of those sets I had no idea existed until I started blogging and making trades. The Skybox division of Fleer definitely tried hitting the lower end of the market, something that Topps has been neglecting for some time. Dugout Axcess is a set I've seen before, but not this subset. Apparently there's a parallel of this card numbered to just 50 copies, which is surprising for such a low-end set.

Anyone care to take a guess at the answer to this Trivia question? There are some hints about an "improbable event" at "hitter-friendly" Coors Field in late 1996.

Yes, that was the only no-hitter ever pitched in Coors Field, thrown by the Dodgers' Hideo Nomo. The Rockies have been no-hit three times, twice by the Dodgers.

There are lots of other trivia questions on the back of this card, like what's Ken Griffey, Jr.'s given first name? What happened to Ivan Rodriguez on June 20th, 1991 besides his MLB debut? And there's an out-of-date question about the career home runs leader.

Junior's real first name is George, as was his dad's. Pudge happened to have his (first) wedding day the same day as his call up. And Hank Aaron was still the Home Run King in 1998, but Barry Bonds was well on his way to taking the crown.

1994 Stadium Club Team Finest #4 Andres Galarraga
Finally, this was the shiniest card in the envelope. Topps was still making these odd team sets under the Stadium Club brand in 1994, with an entirely different design from the regular Stadium Club cards. They did the same in 1993, the first of just two years this concept existed.

Adam, in fact, sent me an Eight Men Out card from 1993's Team Stadium Club set, so he probably found about as many of these cards as I used to. But this one's from 1994, and it has a Topps Finest finish on it, one of a 12-card partial parallel set, which I'm about halfway to completing now. Chrome wouldn't exist for another couple years, but Finest had already established itself, as did the curl that would forever plague beautiful cards like this. It was still such a new technology that Topps had to list the U.S. patent numbers on the back of the card.

I didn't know that a Rockie was honored with a card in this small set way back in 1994. And surprisingly, I don't have the base version. This card looks so familiar, but it's brand new to me. Maybe it's just the design. As much as I've collected since I was a kid, the sets I knew from 1993 and 1994 will forever be etched in my memory much more clearly than others. Recent Topps base sets I do pretty well with, but I can't match the set to the year for at least half of the 1960s and 1970s. And for Bowman, I might as well throw darts.

It's a little off-center, which has to be pretty blatant on a full bleed card to even notice. But I know exactly where this one will go in my binders, and it's a design I could basically draw from memory if I needed to.

Glad I could swap some holiday cheer with a longtime trading partner, and if your shipment just went through my local post office, I hope you enjoy yours.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Trading Post #81: Bob Walk the Plank

Anytime something shows up from Matthew of Bob Walk The Plank, there are sure to be some hits inside. Autographs, relics, patches, mini batting helmets, there's really no telling just what surprises await.

Matt and I aren't engaged in an ever-escalating battle of tailor-made trade packages like he is with Jaybarkerfan, but we have exchanged cards a few times. My autograph collection wouldn't be what it is today without him, and the hits just keep on coming.

2015 Topps Tier One Acclaimed Autographs #AA-VC Vinny Castilla /399 (AU)

Topps Tier One is normally way out of my price range. It's comprised entirely of relics and autographs, not even offering a traditional "base" set. It's a set that's entirely meant for player and team collectors, leaving set collectors to select one of Topps' many other fine products. There isn't even an actual card "number" to be found, as they're all lettered.

This looks more like something Panini would put out, or maybe Pinnacle ages ago. There's lots of gold foil here, a serial number right on the front, and even a tiny spot in the lower left where Topps managed to squeeze his position. Castilla's autograph matches other examples in my collection, and also a 5x7 photo that I got at my local library as a kid. Rockies memorabilia was a great incentive to get kids like me to read, especially when Pizza Hut's Book It promotion was idle. Pizza Hut was smart. They managed to instill a lifetime love of both reading and pizza.

2007 Topps Highlights Autographs #HA-MH Matt Holliday (AU)
This Matt Holliday card is pretty clearly from 2007. The black border matches the general theme of the base set that year, even though the little filmstrip squares are missing from the corners. It's definitely thinner than Castilla's card, the autograph is on a sticker, and there's no mention of the print run. It's definitely aimed at a different market segment than Topps Tier One, but pulling this out of a box of 2007 Topps would be pretty surprising. You expect a card like Castilla's when you spend so much on a box of Tier One. Pulling a card like this when it's unexpected offers quite a thrill on its own. Just see that Dee Gordon printing plate I found in a blaster of Opening Day, or the David Wright autograph from a hobby box.

Or when it shows up in the mailbox with a bunch of Costco flyers, for that matter.

2016 Topps Strata Autographs Blue #SA-TM Tom Murphy /99 (AU)
We're back to the world of on-card autographs for this final card, and it's from Topps Strata, another high-end set that I'll never pay full price for. It has completely transcended the use of cardboard; like Topps High Tek, it's printed on a thick acetate.

Each part of the design has a varying level of transparency. The autograph square is completely clear, the various banners and lines are a bit darker, and Murphy's image itself is nearly opaque. For $80 a box, I'd hope it looks like this. And that's a pretty low print run, the scarcest card in this whole post, and among the scarcer in my whole collection.

Murphy is one of the exciting young Rockies that has already shown flashes of brilliance in the Majors. Late this season, he crushed a 482-foot home run to left field, one of the longest in Coors Field history. The Rockies have good depth behind the plate, and Murphy's presence on the roster likely means that will be the case for several years to come.

Bud Black, the new Rockies manager, has an interesting group of young players to work with. Hopefully he can lead a few more of them to being worthy of inclusion in a high-end set like Topps Strata or Tier One.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Trading Post #80: Baseball Every Night

Even though he's a newcomer to the Cardsphere, Peter at Baseball Every Night already has close to a hundred posts under his belt. He's had a running theme since last month called "A Shoebox of Baseball Cards", which he's broken up into posts by individual teams. Adam at Cardboard Clubhouse recommended me as a potential trading partner for the Rockies, and thus a new trading partnership was born.

Shoeboxes were a terrific way to store cards when I was younger. Between my parents, my sister, and myself, shoeboxes seemed to be in abundant supply. Binders and 9-pocket pages were pricey things for a kid on an allowance, and hobby supplies were lower on the list than the cards themselves. So into the shoeboxes they went, biding their time until a box of 250 pages appeared under the tree.

Anyway, I'm clearly not the only one that stored cards in shoeboxes circa 1995, and while these will end up in pages soon, a few of them deserve a spot on the blog first.

1995 Donruss #476 Bruce Ruffin
About a year ago, I wrote that Steve Reed still holds a top-ten spot in career wins for the Rockies. A season later, and that's still true. But to further illustrate the kind of turnover the pitching staff in Denver has experienced, the guy pictured above is #4 all-time in saves for the Rockies, with 60. And most of those came in strike-shortened years. Ruffin retired as a Rockie, but even then, closers didn't have quite the importance as they do now, so his name isn't nearly as recognizable as one of the Blake Street Bombers.

1995 Donruss obviously went too far with the foil, as this card is barely legible unless it's under just the right light, Even the Donruss logo itself is pretty tough to read. But I do like how he's specified as a left-handed pitcher. Most card companies just stick a "P" on there and call it a day. They could go with LHRP if they wanted to be really accurate, but that would turn into alphabet soup pretty quickly.

1994 Upper Deck #105 Roberto Mejia
Upper Deck began their long fascination with copper in 1994, and gave us a much more readable design than 1995 Donruss. Roberto Mejia filled in at second base on occasion from 1993 to 1995, and might not have made it to the big leagues at all without expansion. Two new teams means fifty new roster spots, or even eighty once you factor in the September roster expansions.

What I'll most remember him for is colliding with Andres Galarraga while chasing down a foul pop in July 1993. Galarraga ended up missing about a month after suffering a knee injury on that collision, putting his run at the batting title and a possible .400 average in jeopardy. Galarraga ended up winning with a season average of .370, beating none other than Tony Gwynn, the second place finisher.

I don't know whether this photo was taken before or after that incident, but he's clearly calling off another fielder here. Statistically speaking, it's probably afterwards, as the collision happened just a couple weeks after Mejia's debut. It's also possible to see that he wears his batting glove under his glove, which is exactly what I did in little league, just to be like the big boys.

1994 Score #229 Freddie Benavides
So did Freddie Benavides, who played shortstop for the Rockies in 1993 before Walt Weiss left the Marlins to become the first player to suit up for both expansion teams. Benavides is putting the tag down on an unknown base-stealing Cub, and that looks like a caught stealing to me! We have a stadium, an infrequent starter, an action play, and a season. Time to do some sleuthing.

Vinny Castilla was the regular shortstop in 1993, and Benavides appeared in relatively few games that year. He only played in Chicago three times, and only one of those games featured a runner caught stealing. That happened in the bottom of the 5th on July 17th, 1993. With Armando Reynoso on the mound, Cubs left fielder Derrick May tried stealing second on the first pitch of Rick Wilkins' at-bat. He was caught by Danny Sheaffer, which is just as well, since Wilkins smashed a home run later that at bat.

The Rockies still lost that game, but this play was definitely a success and prevented them from going deeper in the hole. And backing up Benavides (as is the 2B's job on this type of play), is none other than Roberto Mejia, appearing in only his third Major League game.

It was a Saturday game right in the middle of summer break. There's a fairly strong chance I saw this play unfold on TV. I should have kept a few of my scorecards from back then.

1993 Topps #774 Curtis Leskanic (RC)
Curtis Leskanic, one of the bigger characters to ever grace the Rockies pitcher's mound, broke into the majors in 1993 as part of the rotation. He was shifted to a bullpen role in later years, even closing for the Brewers for a couple seasons. But non-Rockies fans will probably remember him for his 1995 Collector's Choice card.

1993 Topps did a good job with horizontal cards, and he was one of many Rockies and Marlins to appear in posed shots in their new uniforms. Not that anyone really cares, but this is Leskanic's Rookie Card, and we only get his minor league stats and school history on the back. It turns out that he went to LSU, a school that many of us got a good look at on Thanksgiving night, as they squared off against Texas A&M concurrently with the Steelers and Colts.

Always good to have another game to flip to during commercials. My brother-in-law did an admirable job with the remote.

1993 Stadium Club #652 Armando Reynoso
Armando Reynoso has already been mentioned in this post, and here's his card from 1993 Stadium Club. I've seen this set more times than I can remember, and even opened a few boxes, but I don't recognize this card. It was a poorly-collated set, so while I may have a copy of this already, if I run across John Johnstone's or Domingo Martinez' cards again, I might scream.

1995 Fleer #324 Luis Aquino
The Rockies and Florida Marlins will always be inextricably linked. There are some obvious differences, like Florida's two World Series championships, but they came into the league at the same time, have unusual team colors, and their genesis coincided with the later days of the overproduction bubble. Peter thought the same, and combined the Rockies and Marlins in his post. I offered to take the extra Marlins off his hands when we set up the trade, primarily to get one card.

I can't help but wonder if Fleer's crazy 1995 set was somehow influenced by the purples and turquoises that suddenly burst onto the scene in Major League Baseball. This thermal camera design for the NL East they came up with naturally seems to have colors similar to Luis Aquino's hat. Plus they threw some of his personal stats on the front for good measure. Much more than that and it would be tough to tell the front from the back.

1994 Upper Deck Electric Diamond #233 Darrell Whitmore
This was the card I was after when I offered to take the Marlins. After Topps Gold, UD Electric Diamond parallels were high on my favorites list in 1994. A Giants catcher, probably Kirt Manwaring, makes a cameo, along with an umpire in a light blue shirt. Those shirts always make them look like mail carriers. That sparkly foil may have been an industry first, or perhaps right around the same time as red foil hit Diamond Kings cards.

On the back, the card offers an excellent view of the Marlins' inaugural 1993 logo. I've seen it countless times, but only now noticed a small "Carl" at the bottom of the logo.

1994 Upper Deck Electric Diamond #233 Darrell Whitmore (Reverse)
I did some research on this, and it was worn in honor of the late Carl Barger, President of the Marlins who died in 1992, just days after the expansion draft. The Marlins retired number 5 for Barger's favorite player, Joe DiMaggio, only to "unretire" it a few years ago when they became the Miami Marlins. Sure enough, that's on all the Marlins inaugural patches that year, including the John Johnstone card that I thought I knew so well.

1993 Stadium Club #734 John Johnstone (RC)
I know the Rockies' history pretty well, and quite a bit about storied franchises like the Yankees, but there are lots of surprises to be found in these expansion clubs. The Seattle Pilots' brief existence, for example, or this fairly obvious lettering on a patch that had eluded my attention up until twenty minutes ago.

Is there still no one in the Cardsphere interested in Marlins cards?

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Trading Post #79: Waiting 'til Next Year

The Chicago Cubs are World Champions.

I think we're all finally at a point where that's starting to sink in after their historic roller coaster of a Game 7. I caught the first half of that game at my local Buffalo Wild Wings, and there were plenty of Cubs fans there. I headed home around the 6th inning just in time to see the Indians chip away at the lead, capped off by Rajai Davis' game-tying home run. He was flying out of the box, so it might have been a triple even if it were off the wall. But that game suddenly became an instant nail-biter after the Cubs had taken a lead in the first at-bat.

We all questioned how early and for how long Aroldis Chapman was on the mound, as most fans had for the final few games of the Series. But after a rain delay and some last-minute team building in the Cubs' clubhouse, the Cubs plated two runs in the 10th. Pinch runner Albert Almora Jr. had the presence of mind to put together some brilliant baserunning, Miguel Montero and eventual MVP Ben Zobrist both drove in runs, and even though Rajai Davis smacked an RBI in the bottom of the 10th to terrify Cubs fans again, it wasn't quite enough. The look on Kris Bryant's face said it all.

So I guess that means that my fellow Supertrader Tom at Waiting 'til Next Year can finally change his blog name.

Tom sent a bunch of trade packages out in October hoping to build up some good karma for his Cubbies. I was on the receiving end, and I guess it was enough for the Baseball Gods to smile on the Cubs in 2016.

2012 Topps Opening Day #39 Michael Cuddyer
There were a ton of great cards in here; as usual I had trouble narrowing it down. But it starts off with a bit of unfamiliarity.

I always enjoy Topps Opening Day, but somehow I largely missed it in 2012. It's certainly the one in the last five years I have the least familiarity with. The surfboard design scans much better than cards from the flagship set, as the foil used for the player's last name usually ends up disappearing against that black background. But it shows up fine here, and gives us one of the first looks at Michael Cuddyer in a Rockies uniform. He had just left the Twins at the end of 2011, and began a three-year stay in Denver. He'd go on to win the batting title in 2013, and he made his second All-Star appearance that same year.

He became a well-liked player in Denver, and he got to play with his old teammate Justin Morneau for one of those seasons.

2002 Select Rookies and Prospects #42 Jason Romano (AU)
Continuing the theme of unfamiliar, here's a sticker autograph of a player I've never heard of on a set I've never seen. The card is embossed with an "authentic signature" stamp, and not only is it authentic, but it's more or less legible.

He played a handful of games for the Rockies in 2002, and with four other teams in his short career. He didn't make much of an impact in his career, and this set was lost in the glut of sets that existed in the later days of Pinnacle, Leaf, and Fleer.

2012 Bowman Chrome Prospects #BCP73 Will Swanner (AU)
Here's another player that never made in to my internal baseball encyclopedia. Will Swanner, a catcher, briefly progressed as high as Triple-A in 2016, but suddenly was demoted all the way to single-A then released by the Rockies' organization. Sadly, that's true for many players that appear on Bowman cards, though it does look like he took a few moments out of his development schedule to sign this card for a fan. Not sure whether Tom snagged this autograph himself, but it will go in the ever-growing collection of autograph cards.

2001 Topps Fusion #109 Ben Petrick GL
Like that Bowman Chrome card above, Tom threw in a bunch of shiny cards in this package. At first glance, this one of catcher Ben Petrick looks like a Topps Gold Label card, but it's actually from a very strange 2001 release called Topps Fusion. These always confuse me a bit. The set used five designs from Topps' portfolio at the time, including Finest, Stadium Club, Gold Label as you see here, and a couple others. They put a Topps Fusion stamp on them so they wouldn't be confused with the actual sets from those brands. I guess it was a cheap way for collectors to get a look at those higher-end sets without buying a box of each, but fifteen years later they're little more than a red herring.

Needless to say, this concept only lasted a year.

1996 Topps Gallery Players Private Issue #3 Dante Bichette /999
Topps Gallery was one of the sets included in 2001 Topps Fusion, and Gallery itself got its start in 1996. I have a few Gallery cards in my collection, including from that inaugural year. This one of Dante Bichette rounding the bases at Wrigley (that brick wall is easy as pie to spot) is actually a Players Private Issue parallel. This has a gold serial number on the back, but the print run is not given as part of the number. So it's #860 out of something. It's 999 according to Beckett, but the execution of serial numbered cards had not quite matured by 1996.

2000 SP Authentic United Nations #UN6 Larry Walker
Shortly after Bowman introduced their International parallels, where the flag or a skyline from the player's home country is displayed in the card background, Upper Deck did something similar for this 10-card United Nations insert set. Walker was the representative from Canada, selected for this set due to his consistently high batting average, and because he was the first native Canadian to bring home an MVP trophy. You can even see a faint Canadian flag in the background. By the way, that's the post-1965 flag, as the previous flag was a Union Jack on a red background, along with a coat of arms.

Rockies or ex-Rockies made up 30% of the small set, and which highlighted players from all over the world, from the USA to Curaçao, and across the ocean to Japan and Korea.

1998 Topps Gold Label Class 2 Black Label #69 Vinny Castilla
Castilla was Mexico's player in that UD set, but here he's on a Topps Gold Label card, this one of the Class 2 Black Label variety. His name at the bottom is just a bit more sparkly than usual. The Todd Helton card I got via trade from Play at the Plate now has a mate, even from the same Class 2 (out of 3).

1998 was a terrific year for the Blake Street Bomber, as he made it onto his second All-Star team, which happened to be at Coors Field that year. He also hit a career high 46 homers and won a Silver Slugger award.

1996 Pinnacle Aficionado #81 Vinny Castilla
A couple years before that, Pinnacle gave him a card in their Aficionado set. This has raised black printing on the right that makes for a pretty unique-feeling card. It's similar to an insert card from this set that I showed long ago, but it also reminds me a bit of 1998 Pacific Omega.

1996 was the only year for Pinnacle Aficionado, which is too bad. I think it had way more legs than Topps Fusion. Probably was pretty expensive to print, though.

2002 Fleer Ultra Gold Medallion #65 Jeff Cirillo
We're in the middle of a run of horizontal cards within all these shiny cards, and here's a player you don't run across too often. Jeff Cirillo came over to Denver from the Brewers for a couple seasons. He's holding on to a "snow cone" at third base here, which stands out just a bit better than usual on this Gold Medallion parallel. He was a good guy to have at third base, but nowhere near as good as Nolan Arenado's been since 2013, who convincingly won a Gold Glove in each of his four seasons so far.

Tom really found some good stuff for me!

1996 Leaf All-Star Game MVP Contenders #9 Dante Bichette
Horizontal shininess continues with another Bichette card, this one from a 1996 Leaf insert set. This is what I'll call a conditional redemption card, much like Upper Deck's You Crash The Game cards. In other words, it only becomes a redemption card if the player depicted does what he's supposed to do when he's supposed to do it. In this case, Bichette was one of 20 players selected by Leaf as one of the possible MVP winners in the 1996 All-Star Game. If Bichette got the honors, then this card could be redeemed for a full 20-card gold set of MVP Contenders, with a stated print run of 5,000.

Bichette did end up with a double and a run scored in the 1996 Midsummer Classic, but the MVP ended up being Mike Piazza, thanks to this early home run. I'm about 20 years too late on the redemption anyway, but maybe someday I can find a gold parallel of this card. Piazza, by the way, won that award in his hometown of Philadelphia. He never played for the Phillies, but won a pretty impressive award in their old park.

1998 Topps Gallery #107 Larry Walker
The frame was always an important part of Topps Gallery, sort of a non-retro precursor to Gypsy Queen. This is an exceptionally sturdy card, and has a slight texture on the front that's trying to go for an oil painting, I think. It looks a bit more like paint that's bubbled due to a fire, but it's still a neat card. Mets shortstop Rey Ordóñez makes a cameo wearing a white hat as Walker slides into second in the very blue Shea Stadium. It's not quite as obvious as the brick walls at Wrigley, but pretty much everything at Shea looked like that.

2000 Topps Chrome New Millennium Stars #NMS5 Todd Helton
Todd Helton shows up in a lot of discount boxes around here, but I'm pretty sure I've never run across this shiny number before. "Millennium" was quite the buzzword in 1999 and 2000, and Topps didn't miss a chance to give Helton and that word the shiny treatment. The background reminds me of an Art Deco style, and amazingly for a Chrome card, isn't curled!

2000 Black Diamond Rookie Edition #88 Todd Helton
I am not sure if I have this card, but it's one of the few sets so far that I clearly recognize. 2000 Black Diamond Rookie Edition, with its distinctive red and black colors, has appeared here before. The colors are so striking that I never really noticed the gold pattern in the background, which looks like a chain link fence with giant sections cut out of it. Or maybe a hockey net. They have a weave about like that.

2000 Topps 21st Century #C10 Todd Helton
Here's another millennium-themed card of Helton, who was not far removed from his rookie season when these were all printed. He was clearly recognized as a budding star, having led NL rookies in all three Triple Crown categories. Kerry Wood ended up with the Rookie of the Year award in 1998, edging out Helton by a few votes. It's been an elusive award for the Rockies, Jason Jennings being the only one to win it in 2002. Tulowitzki wasn't far behind in 2007, and Trevor Story was a strong contender this year until injury sidelined him shortly after the All-Star break.

This is a mesmerizing card. The grid has thick, bold lines, but that big baseball toward the top (see it?) is the focal point. If you tilt the card back and forth along the horizontal axis, a circular rainbow pattern appears to expand and contract, like you're travelling through a wormhole.

Not that I know what that looks like. But it might look something like this card.

1999 Upper Deck Century Legends #77 Andres Galarraga
Upper Deck got into the Y2K celebration too. Before Upper Deck Legends, the short-lived set was called Upper Deck Century Legends. I have maybe 15 cards from this set, one of the first to combine retired legends with current stars. Though he was a Brave at this time, and is pictured as one on the back, the front shows him as a Rockie (again at Wrigley), the team on which he became a genuine star. Upper Deck still had a fascination with copper foil in 1999, which became a real signature for them. With all the sets out there in the late 1990s, it was probably a good idea to have a recognizable feature, which they moved further and further away from as casualties started mounting in the card industry.

2016 Stadium Club #251 Jon Gray
Yes, a current player or two did make it in here. After all this past Rockies greatness, I figured I'd end with one of the bright stars of the Rockies rotation. This is one of the best Coors Field shots I've ever seen on a card, as we get a great look at some full sections on the third base side (right where I like to sit), and a glimpse of a sunny Colorado sunset through the concourse. I've waited out a rain delay in that exact spot, and can point you to a couple excellent pre- or post-game spots just beyond.

Baseball season has only been over for a couple weeks, but already I'm hungry to head back to Coors Field, especially when I see it on a Stadium Club card.

Bud Black was just announced as the new manager, the rotation and lineup remain strong, and the Rockies are reportedly talking to Mark Melancon, who could provide an invaluable boost to a perennially weak bullpen.

That Cuddyer card at the beginning ended up being the dullest one of the whole post. I almost had to wear sunglasses to look at these. And if this kind of a generous trade package helped the Cubs finally win it all, then I'm fully on board.