Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Pity Prize Group Break (Part 2: The Pity Prize)

Usually when I participate in a group break, I get enough for one good post. Not so last time. According to Nachos Grande, the Rockies slot I picked did the worst out of any team. That means I ended up with the consolation prize, a complete base set of 2015 Topps Allen & Ginter!

I don't usually go out of my way to collect A&G, but I ended up with quite a few cards from the 2010 set, as well as a handful from most other years. And certainly none of the 19th-century originals. So this is really my first look at the whole thing, getting a sense for the balance between baseball, non-baseball, and general interest cards.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter #21 Kolten Wong
You don't see many horizontal Allen & Ginter cards, and I really like this one! There's space for so much more of the background than just a little bit of color behind the head. An action shot like this would be pure witchcraft if it appeared in the late 1800s. The back of the card hasn't changed much, as they still spell all the numbers out. Two Hundred Thirty Six is on the low side for career batting average, but then again, he was only born in Nineteen Ninety.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter #194 Zack Cozart
In case that wasn't enough, how about another NL Central middle infielder? Again, a great action shot, and a whole bunch of the outfield wall in the background. These are color-coded to a degree, not that they match the team colors, but the A&G logo and border colors can vary from card to card.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter #301 Justin Morneau
As this is a complete set, of course there are Rockies. Morneau makes an appearance, although with the same photo as his Gypsy Queen card. This vertical card looks much more familiar, as there's just a splash of color.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter #14 LaTroy Hawkins
Recently retired LaTroy Hawkins is in this 350-card set, too, though his recycled photo is from his Topps Heritage card. I won't belabor the point, but seriously. When I photograph, I usually end up with several exposures of one subject. SD cards are cheap. Mix it up a bit, Topps. It's not like it's Ty Cobb and there are only so many photos to choose from.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter #48 Coco Crisp
But I guess recycled photos aren't all bad. We do get another look at one of the favorites from 2014 Topps base, Coco Crisp with his wraparound shades and textbook afro.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter #322 Mark Melancon
Melancon is one of the last pitchers in the game I'd ever want to face. He has such an intense look, and he led the Majors in saves last season. But I'm sure it's all professional with him, unlike, say, Jonathan Papelbon.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter #250 Jimmy Rollins
Now, I've only seen the Rockies and a couple others from Gypsy Queen and Heritage, so these may all be recycled photos. I don't know. But this bat barrel shot is probably my favorite Jimmy Rollins card in my collection, and the unfamiliar Dodgers uniform makes this card even more interesting. Of course, I'm not a Rollins supercollector or anything, but this is one of the dozen or so I picked out of the 350-card stack.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter #309 Gabe Kapler
Gabe Kapler retired years ago, and is now working as an analyst on Fox Sports. He spent part of two seasons as a Rockie, then went on to help the Red Sox reverse the curse in 2004. Of course, A&G isn't limited to current players, or even players at all for that matter. But plenty more on that later.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter #177 Bernie Williams
Bernie Williams won a few rings himself, but he followed that up with a successful recording career. He even played at Derek Jeter's final game, and he has appeared on a card or two with his guitar in the past. His baseball days are behind him, so the back of this card identifies him as a "musician".

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter #67 Malcolm Gladwell
A&G goes way beyond the world of baseball. I'm sure few of us would associate author Malcolm Gladwell with America's Pastime, though he does have some interesting things to say about snap judgments, underdogs, and lots more.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter #347 Aaron Paul
Aaron Paul might not appeal as much to the New Yorker crowd, but being a main character in a TV show as awesome as Breaking Bad will do wonders for your career. You can even appear in a Fast & Furious knockoff based on a video game franchise.


2015 Topps Allen & Ginter #293 Philae Probe
Some of the cardsphere's all-time favorite cards from A&G have nothing to do with baseball, sports, Kate Upton, or celebrities of any kind. So the Philae probe, the comet lander from ESA's Rosetta mission, gets its own card. If you liked the Revolving Door card, you'll love this one.

Unfortunately, it's really, really hard to land on a comet, and Philae only had enough juice for a few measurements and photos once it settled to the comet's surface at an odd angle. But you can't expect to get much better results from the extremely harsh environments of Venus or Titan, so any data at all from a lander like that is a success.

You don't see space missions in most baseball card sets. But there is something else about Allen & Ginter that is quite unusual in this hobby.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter #93 Kelia Moniz

There are some card sets featuring women, mostly of WWE, WNBA, Danica Patrick, that sort of thing. Also entire sets of (NSFW) scantily-clad models and Japanese pop stars. Let's just say that professional surfer Kelia Moniz is definitely dressed for the beach on that card.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter #124 Lakey Peterson
As a Coloradan, I'm landlocked. But I do know that the ocean in California is colder than the ocean in Hawaii. So Lakey Peterson, another professional surfer, is practicing her craft in a wetsuit.

But you're starting to get the idea, right? Allen & Ginter is a set of mostly baseball cards, along with with some retired baseball players, some influential male artists and authors, random stuff like spacecraft and elevators, athletes from rather obscure sports which might feature a few women, and usually a supermodel like Chrissy Teigen or Kate Upton thrown in.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter #92 Michelle Beadle
We see Jennie Finch pitch in the celebrity softball game that's aired after the Home Run Derby each year, but other than her and various sideline reporters, there aren't many women to be found on-field at the typical sporting event. There are the occasional anchors like Michelle Beadle, though I can't think of any women in the main broadcast booths. Some sports (though segregated) are quite a bit more equal overall; golf and tennis come to mind. And yes, Annika Sorenstam and Serena Williams have both been given the A&G treatment over the years. As have numerous Olympians.

And while that's not an indictment of the Big Four sports themselves, as I clearly understand that there are no women in the typical baseball card set because there are no women in the MLBPA, it is an indictment of Topps. Say two-thirds of this set is active MLB players, then that still leaves more than 100 cards for non-baseball. And there is no good reason not to split that more evenly.

Sure, a lot of the non-baseball cards in A&G are just of other sports, even of "sports" like poker and billiards, but there are lots of historical figures that have nothing to do with sports. And since the whole point of A&G is to have a sizable non-baseball section, including inanimate objects like space probes and revolving doors, where are the non-sporting women? Like Sally Ride? Or Sheryl Sandberg? Or Jane Goodall? Or Meryl Streep? Or Amelia Earhart? Or Tina Fey? Kate Middleton did once get a card, but only with Prince William on it, too. I couldn't find First Ladies in any base set, though there was an insert set this year.

Celebrity chefs like Anthony Bourdain and Daniel Boulud have cards. Even some of the more inane Food Network personalities like Adam Richman, Guy Fieri, and Jeff Mauro have A&G cards. But what about Rachael Ray? Or Giada de Laurentiis? Or even Julia Child, for that matter?

It all reminds me quite a bit of the #MoreWomen campaign that Elle Magazine published a few months ago. Forgive my rounding, but a set that's 1% space probes and 2% women seems pretty unequal to me. Apply the #MoreWomen treatment to 2015 A&G and you can fit it in a 9-pocket page with the card backs showing.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter #341 Malala Yousafzai
Just saying. If you're a woman and not an athlete, sports announcer, or beauty queen, then you pretty much have to win the Nobel Prize to get in this set.

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