Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Trading Post #61: Night Owl Cards

Well, it finally happened. I completed a trade with the great Night Owl Cards. He is a legend in our community, and I don't know of another (active) blogger with such universal appeal. Granted, as a Dodger blogger, he's not much of a fan of the rest of the NL West, but he nearly always has interesting things to say about our little hobby. And I know no bigger fan of 1975 Topps.

1995 Flair #344 Dante Bichette
1975 predated the Rockies by quite some time, and even Hockey's Colorado Rockies by a year, the franchise that is now the New Jersey Devils. But baseball's Rockies have been around for long enough to have a wealth of great baseball cards. And with the rise of retro sets, finding Rockies on old designs isn't that tough anymore, as we'll see later.

The more I look at these Flair cards, the more I see where Topps Gold Label got its inspiration. In fact, Flair pretty much singlehandedly invented this type of super-premium card printed on thick card stock. Topps Museum Collection, Triple Threads, Panini Immaculate Collection, and plenty of others can trace their lineage to this brand right here. 1995 was a couple years into Flair's run, but they had the formula down by then. This one's still thin enough to fit in a standard top-loader, but it's as sturdy as a sheet of metal compared to its competition in 1995.

2009 Upper Deck Icons #41 Garrett Atkins
Icons is one of the numerous sets UD released throughout much of the '00s, but this is the first time I can remember seeing it. They were certainly going after player collectors with all those products, but with more innovation and product development than just a bunch of colored parallels. UD became big on color-coding once they exhausted their supply of copper, and that much purple behind Atkins' batting helmet strongly reinforces that this is a Rockies card. Atkins looks a little late on this swing, but he's clearly swinging for the fences here.

That was something I remember the Rockies doing a lot of in their last couple playoff appearances, especially once they reached the World Series, and in 2009. Later in the game, everyone who got up to the plate was clearly trying to hit a home run, and it usually resulted in a lot of strikeouts. Just putting the ball in play and getting guys on base is enough, as the Padres reminded the Rockies of last weekend, scoring 29 runs in the first two games of the series.

2004 Fleer Ultra #293 Vinny Castilla
Night Owl sent cards from all throughout the Rockies' existence, including this one, from Vinny Castilla's second of three stints as a Rockie. Vinny looks like he just hit one out, and we can see catcher Charles Johnson (and I believe Royce Clayton on the left) waiting to congratulate him at the plate. Castilla hit over 40 home runs in three straight seasons in the early years of Coors Field, and he was always welcomed back into the fold when he rejoined the Rockies in 2004 and 2006. I saw him pinch hit in 2006 against the Nationals (for which I had some awesome seats behind the Nats' dugout) in one of his last games in Denver.

2002 Upper Deck #720 Larry Walker
Here's more post-Run action at the plate, as Larry Walker calmly fist-bumps his teammate. Looks like that's a Cardinal in the visitor's dugout, which gives me a clue. The Rockies hosted the Cards six times in 2001, but the only game in which Larry Walker hit a home run against them was on Opening Day, April 2nd, 2001. It's as good a guess as any.

But now I'm second-guessing myself, since Walker doesn't have batting gloves on. More likely he nonchalantly trotted home from third on someone else's extra-base hit.

By the way, that's a fairly rare occurrence for the Rockies, to begin the season at home. more often than not, especially in recent seasons, they open up on the road and come back to Coors for a weekend series.

1993 Leaf #312 Alex Cole
There were lots of 1993 Leaf cards in here, including one of Night Owl's favorite non-Dodgers, Alex Cole. He spent the 1993 season as a Rockie before moving back to the American League. He was more of a contact hitter than a power hitter, having hit only seven home runs in his career, none of which came in a Rockies uniform. He was well-known for his goggles, and chased down lots of long fly balls in Mile High Stadium.

1993 Leaf #312 Alex Cole (Reverse)
We get a shot of the Denver skyline on the back, one of my favorite features of 1993 Leaf, a set that appears here quite often. Though not as breathtaking as the snowy Rocky Mountains found on other 1993 cards, it's a nice photo of my home city (or at least my home Metro area). That is Republic Plaza on the right, the tallest building in Denver. It's among the tallest buildings in the entire Western USA, not counting the cities on the Pacific Coast.

The skyline in Denver has changed quite a bit in the last few years. Coors Field was still under construction when this was printed, and looking at an aerial photo from 1993's home opener (also a season they started on the road), you can see that Denver has grown significantly since then. So has satellite mapping technology, for that matter. McNichols Arena and the old Mile High are gone, but Coors Field, the Pepsi Center, an amusement park, an aquarium, an expanded transit hub, residential high rises, and lots more have gone up since 1993, with more under construction.

1996 Score #74 Vinny Castilla
I can't remember an action shot with more displaced infield dirt than this. Deion Sanders was a force of nature, and it was a good idea for Vinny Castilla to wear eye-shielding shades here. Score used the torn paper look in the upper left just a year after Topps did something similar for their own border in 1995. With photography like this, it's a shame Score didn't stick around longer. Perhaps it's the next brand that Panini will reinstate.

1996 Pinnacle #107 Walt Weiss
Walt Weiss sure had a lot of double play cards! Seems like everyone spent years trying to recreate his 1991 Topps rookie card. Here's another, with Jason Bates and an unidentified Cub making cameos.

In all these years of looking at 1996 Pinnacle, I never noticed the tiny silhouette of a batter in the center of the gold pyramid. And I didn't even need my magnifying glass to finally spot it. I pulled out my 1996 binder and confirmed that they all seem to have it, even the pitcher cards. It never ceases to amaze me the things I still manage to unearth after a lifetime of collecting.

2008 Topps Update #UH286 Aaron Cook AS
Like Shawn Chacon, Aaron Cook is one of just six pitchers to go to the All Star game in a Rockies uniform. Though the AL ended up winning in 2008, as they usually do, Cook pitched three solid innings of relief, giving up a few walks but no runs.

Since the early 1960s, the National and American leagues alternated the host city of the All-Star Game until 2007, when the Giants hosted a year after the Pirates. This was done to ensure the All-Star Game in 2008 would be held in Yankee Stadium, its final year of existence before being replaced. In that research, I learned that there were two All-Star Games each year between 1959 and 1962. My first thought is that they played one on each coast to accommodate the teams that had recently moved out West, so players wouldn't have to schlep out to the East Coast for a single exhibition game. But the real reason turns out to be pretty dumb.

And that alternating trend will be broken for the foreseeable future, as NL parks are scheduled to host through 2018, marking four consecutive years including last year in Cincinnati. I don't know if that's because the AL always seems to win and they want to level the playing field a bit, or just because the NL has been building more new stadiums lately.

Probably the latter.

2008 Topps Heritage #548 Glendon Rusch
There were a few retro cards in here, including this Topps Heritage card recreating the 1959 design. Rusch's photo here is very fuzzy, either taken out of focus, or more likely blown up from a low-res image. Maybe they did that deliberately to better make it look like a 1959 card. But I've seen better photography on cards. Even 1959 originals, like a Robin Roberts card I've had since I was a boy.

2015 Topps Rainbow Foil #680 Nick Hundley
Though he just got placed on the DL for a quick seven days, Nick Hundley has been the Rockies' starting catcher for most of the season so far, and after spending most of his career as a Padre, he surely knows his former NL West competitors well. Catchers are smart fellows. Maybe even smart enough to spot an obvious Photoshop job like this. Topps has kept up the rainbow foil parallels for a couple years, and I've ended up with most of the 2015 Rockies via trades and card shops by now.

1995 Upper Deck Minors #101 Neifi Perez SH
This last one made me do a double-take. I was completely certain that Neifi Perez never turned an unassisted triple play. Tulowitzki has, but not Neifi. Then I took a closer look and saw his California League All-Star Game jersey, and realized it must have been in the minors! I had never known that. This event did not occur in the Minor League All-Star Game as pictured, but it's an interesting bit of trivia regardless.

From some Minor League trivia to a tiny detail in a sea of gold foil, my first trade package from #SuperTrader Night Owl expanded my knowledge quite a bit.

1 comment:

  1. I do remember the Perez unassisted triple play. They must have made a big deal about it even if it was in the minors.

    Glad you enjoyed the cards!