Sunday, January 31, 2016

Antique Mall Mystery Pack: Marlins

That trip to the antique mall last year keeps on providing fresh material, and I haven't even opened two of the Mystery Packs yet, though I know they're for the Twins and the Expos. But for this round, we'll be taking a look at the Rockies' expansion counterpart, the Florida Marlins.

Yes, they're now called the Miami Marlins, partially because they haven't been the only team in Florida for close to twenty seasons, and partially because marketing got involved and decided they were in need of a re-brand. But all these cards are from the "Florida" era, and most from when their primary color was turquoise.

1994 Donruss Special Edition #5 Gary Sheffield
We see that color a little bit in their road uniforms, but there's more gold than turquoise on this card, thanks to baseball card trends of the time. Donruss wasn't quite fully on board with gold parallels, so this Special Edition set only had a hundred cards, fifty from each of the two series. Which is just as well, since the card number on the back is also done up in gold foil, making the it pretty tough to read. Hand-collating 660 of these would involve plenty of squinting.

It depends on the light, but sometimes these Special Edition cards look a little more copper than gold. But the giant Donruss logo provides plenty of area for the gold to look shiny and rainbowy. But more on copper later.

1994 Topps #20 Bryan Harvey
A common theme of these packs has been lots of 1994 Topps, and while this isn't quite the glamour shot we saw for a Giant, it's definitely a posed studio photo, along with some cartoony motion blur. Most of the card brands got into double or triple exposures and motion blur, but the flame thing that's happening here doesn't really reflect what it would actually look like if they did a long exposure.

1994 Topps #370 Benito Santiago
But there were plenty of great action photos in 1994 Topps, like this card of Benito Santiago, listed here as "Benny". I do recall various announcers referring to him by that nickname, but I heard his given name of "Benito" much more frequently. Maybe it's just one of those cases of Topps deciding what they wanted his name to be, sort of like their 1960s "Bob" Clemente cards.

Don't forget that cameo of current Mets coach Tim Teufel. You can't quite tell what the outcome of this play was, but thankfully we can date this card! The Marlins visited San Diego (Santiago's previous team) twice in 1993, and a quick look through the box scores leads us to June 6th, 1993, about a week before I attended my first-ever Major League game. The Marlins won that one, helped out by an outfield assist from Jeff Conine on this exact play. So though it doesn't quite look it, Santiago got his guy!

1994 Topps Gold #161 Darrell Whitmore
Darrell Whitmore had a short, three-season career with the Marlins, and I don't really recognize his name other than from his various inaugural Marlins cards. But this is the Topps Gold parallel, which I'll be able to add to a sizable stack of these one-per-pack cards, a good chunk of which I got on eBay several years ago.

1993 Leaf #384 Charlie Hough
Charlie Hough was definitely past his prime by the time the Marlins signed him, as he built just a 14-25 record in his final two seasons. The Marlins employed a strategy similar to the Rockies, as Colorado signed Bryn Smith in 1993 to wrap up his long career. Smith in purple and Hough in turquoise must look extremely odd to most collectors, but since I found so many of their cards in my first year of collecting, they don't look that unfamiliar to me.

Flip this card over and you'll see the same gold rainbow foil on the team logo that Leaf/Donruss used the following year on those Donruss Special Edition cards. The premium brands always get the cool stuff a little earlier. Sometimes decades earlier, as 2016 Topps is finally losing the borders and going with full-bleed printing.

25 years coming on that one.

1993 Pinnacle #562 Cris Carpenter
This is probably our best look yet at the retina-searing colors of the early Florida Marlins, especially against the black borders of 1993 Pinnacle. It even has the Expansion Draft logo, just like the Rockies cards you've seen before. And that means this Marlins card has a tiny bonus Rockies logo, which more than makes up for a little bit of damage on the left side of the card.

Cris Carpenter might sound like a familiar name, but this is not the same Chris Carpenter who won the Cy Young Award for the Cardinals in 2005. Different guy entirely, although both played for the Cardinals, confusingly.

2002 Upper Deck MVP #226 Brad Penny
As in the Mets pack, this black-and-copper 2002 Upper Deck MVP remains one of my favorites. It's always nice to see some specialty sets like this in a 50-cent pack filled mostly with overproduction cards. I guess that's the magic of antiquing.

The color coding works really well with this design, and I've found that the black background is pretty sturdy, unlike say, 1994 Score, or 1993 Pinnacle. Or 1971 Topps, for that matter.

1996 Upper Deck #339 Al Leiter
Upper Deck was still pushing the copper envelope in 1996, and it's in a bold bar at the bottom of every base card in this and the following year's set (other than the numerous subset cards, of course). They hadn't quite thought to tone it down until a few years had gone by for that 2002 MVP design. This is a fairly boring photo of Al Leiter, but 1996 was the year he pitched the first-ever no-hitter for the young Florida Marlins, which happened to be the first no-hitter pitched against the Colorado Rockies. Interesting and unlikely trivia fact, isn't it? Both expansion teams had their first taste of a no-hitter while facing each other.

1996 Upper Deck #338 Pat Rapp
Pat Rapp never threw a no-hitter; in fact he only had one winning season his whole career. But we can all appreciate a card of a pitcher at the plate, right? As with most pitchers, it looks like unfamiliar territory for him. His uniform number is 48, but the bat he is using is marked #11, the number of fellow pitcher Chris Hammond. Maybe he was just trying to break out of a slump by switching out the lumber.

1998 Ultra #295 Todd Zeile
But copper is Upper Deck's color, not the Marlins'. Fortunately, the raised green lettering found on other 1998 Ultra cards happens to match well with the Marlins' colors. even if it is obscuring the catcher in this photo, Tom Pagnozzi of the Cardinals. Though Walt Weiss beat him to it, Zeile was one of dozens of players to play for both the Marlins and the Rockies, but that was still a few years off when this card was printed, as was his two-inning pitching career.

2000 Upper Deck Hitter's Club #77 Julio Ramirez HS
I have never heard of Julio Ramirez, who "Hit The Show" in 1999, but didn't play in 2000. Nor have I heard of Upper Deck Hitter's Club, a small 90-card set entirely devoid of pitchers. It has a little bit of mint green foil, an unusual but pleasing color for a card. But that's what cards were like around the turn of the millennium. You can spend a couple decades building a collection and never know of the existence of a set like this.

Who knows what I'll unearth in the next Mystery Pack?


  1. Then there's the third Chris Carpenter, who played for the Cubs and Red Sox. Seems like a pretty popular name for MLB pitchers.

    1. Interesting. I never knew about that guy.

    2. Also interesting about Cris not Chris Carpenter is Cris is still a record-holding punter at the University of Georgia and he teaches social studies in Gainesville, Georgia.

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