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.


  1. Wow, what a post! I'm glad you liked the cards and I hope all the shininess didn't blind you. Haha!

  2. You really got hooked up! I was all about the Pinnacle Aficionado set when it came out. It would still easily make it into my top five baseball sets from the 90's list.