Tuesday, February 14, 2017

If it's copper, it must be Upper Deck

For holidays that you never get off from work, Valentine's Day and Halloween seem to be pretty big deals in this country. Restaurants and florists across the land are raking it in at enormously inflated prices. And the chocolate flows like honey on a day like today.

My parents have always made a bit of a special occasion around Valentine's Day when it came to us kids. In my family, it is an occasion worthy of at least a greeting card, some of which I have pretty specific memories of. Later on, I remember being in my mid-teens and my dad surprised me with a one-pound bag of plain M&Ms and a brand-new video game. I played that one quite a bit, and I even remember missing a four-minute time limit in one race by a mere six-hundredths of a second.

That tradition carries on, as my mom gave me a baseball card inside this year's greeting card. She picked one out when my back was turned at a recent card show in Denver, which I believe was her first-ever trip to a card show. She recently suggested that we visit one, which happened to be just a couple days before the monthly card show that one of my dealers puts on. So that Saturday morning, we stopped by Roy's table, the guy who sold me all this vintage, and picked out a few cards that she'll give to me on my birthday next month.

But while I was perusing some of the other cards on offer, she found one at another table that made for a great little surprise.

1999 Upper Deck Textbook Excellence Double #T8 Nomar Garciaparra /2000
I think my mom is kind of a Red Sox fan. She's always had this Boston hat that she likes to wear, the one with the red B. Just like Nomar's batting helmet, only softer. Derek Jeter was the other great shortstop in the AL East at the time, but Nomar was giving fans a preview that Boston was about to take its place near the top of that division. She asked if Nomar had won a World Series with Boston, and I couldn't quite remember. I knew he was part of a blockbuster trade, but had to look up when that occurred. Sadly for "Nomahh", he was traded to the Cubs just months before the Red Sox finally broke their curse.

She knows I like serial-numbered cards, she recognized the copper foil that completely dominated Upper Deck in the late 1990s, and couldn't pass up that eye-catching die-cut pattern on the right side. It's a lot like that postage stamp-shaped set that Pacific put out around the same time. It's a shame Pacific didn't stick around, because they really were quite innovative.

There was something about this design that looked familiar, possibly another insert set. So while I was answering all her questions about serial numbers, what's "rare", what the difference is between a subset and an insert set, I looked this card up on Beckett to see what it was all about. Apparently, this is the "Double" variety, obviously numbered to 2,000, and further differing from the base card by having copper foil instead of silver and offering the die-cut edge.

Triple and Quadruple varieties also exist that are more scarce, but I couldn't find an image of those. I'd just have to guess that more edges have the die-cut pattern, and likely there is a different foil color too.

But it still looked familiar, and it turns out I had five of the base cards in my collection. I really don't remember the "Textbook Excellence" name, but the overall theme jogged my memory.

Yes, the late-'90s were a lot to keep track of, especially since I probably didn't purchase a single card between 1997 and 2003.

1999 Upper Deck Textbook Excellence #T18 Ben Grieve
As expected, the base card looks a bit more normal, at least with four straight cuts. But an Upper Deck card from this era without copper looks sort of...off. Like Charlie Hough in a Marlins uniform.

This post also marks the first appearance of Ben Grieve on Infield Fly Rule. He was the 1998 AL Rookie of the Year, and although he didn't end up having a terrific career, he absolutely tore the Rockies to shreds in the early days of Interleague Play. In just six games against Colorado between 1998 and 1999, Grieve notched three doubles, three homers, and twelve RBIs. And only half those took place at Coors Field. It's a good thing he was an American Leaguer, because if he were in the NL West, he would have given Eric Karros a run for his money in his Rockie-slaying abilities.

Valentine's Day also happens to be right around the time that pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, so while I'm not the biggest Red Sox fan, this surprise card from my mom and the email I just got about the upcoming auto-renewal of my MLB.TV subscription are great reminders that baseball season isn't far away.


  1. That is a cool Nomah! Way to go Mom!

    Though Nomar was not part of the 2004 World Championship, I think the team voted to give him a share of the playoff bonus pool. So at least he got a little something for contributing.

    I was a huge Nomar fan. The two months between trading him and breaking the curse were tough on me. It's (slightly) less enjoyable when your team wins without many home grown players.

    1. That is cool of the Red Sox to do that. And I believe you get a ring if you suit up for the club at all during the regular season.

      I was seeing someone whose sister worked as a nanny for Red Sox families when they won in 2013. I'm told she got a five-figure bonus.

  2. Yeah, what was with Upper Deck and copper during the late '90s?

    Almost forgot how Eric Karros sliced and diced the Rockies. Thanks for the reminder!