Monday, November 11, 2019

A more local LCS (Part 3)

We come to the end of our three-part series on my trip to Colorado Sports Cards, the newest and closest-to-me LCS in the Denver area. Part 1 saw all the affordable goodies you'd expect to find at a card shop, and Part 2 a bunch of Topps Archives from a consignment box in the center of the store. Part 3 will wrap things up, containing everything other than Topps Archives I pulled from the consignment box.

2017 Topps Gallery #90 Eric Thames
Topps Gallery was one of the high-end brands Topps released in the late-'90s, and I regained a bit of familiarity with it in a recent organization project. Cards with artist-painted artwork as the primary image might seem recent, or perhaps a holdover from the overproduction era (read: Diamond Kings), but card artwork goes back to the very earliest days of not only Topps, but also to the very concept of a baseball card. Topps Gallery carries on that tradition, with this particular card of Eric Thames featuring artwork by Mayumi Seto.

Eric Thames is wearing a throwback Brewers jersey on this card, but once the 2020 season arrives, we'll see the classic "MB" return to the field as the primary logo. Whether slugger Thames will return to the Brewers is an open question, but as the club declined their option on him, he'll likely suit up elsewhere in the league next season.

Thames is perhaps best known for his amazing flurry of eleven home runs in April 2017, which is mentioned on the card back and remains a Brewers record. He honed his swing in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) and upon his return to the Major Leagues, was swatting balls out of Miller Park left and right, taking the April home run title away from Trevor Story.

2008 UD Masterpieces #64 Joba Chamberlain
Upper Deck joined in on the artwork card trend, giving us two of their best-ever sets, 2007 and 2008 Upper Deck Masterpieces. If there was ever a reason to advocate for UD getting an MLB license again, Masterpieces is it. They were only 90 cards, making them easier to complete than some recent Topps insert sets, and they were also some of the most beautiful sets to ever come out of the Upper Deck factory.

This was the only Masterpieces card I found that day, depicting Yankees reliever Joba Chamberlain. He played in the shadow of Mariano Rivera, but was a member of the Yankees when they won the World Series in 2009, and is perhaps best-known for being attacked by a swarm of midges in Cleveland during the 2007 ALDS. This card doesn't say anything about that, but does tell us that he delivered a 0.38 ERA in his rookie year of 2007.

2018 Topps Chrome Prism Refractors #28 Gregory Polanco
Artwork cards require a certain deliberate appreciation, but reflective cards like Topps Chrome quite literally have that "shiny object" attraction. I'm happy to have both in my collection. This Gregory Polanco card is more than just shiny. Rather, it's what I think is a Prism Refractor. It's shiny, sure, and the background pattern looks like what you'd get if a hummingbird's feathers got stuck in a baseball card. It's more subtle than in past years, with more obvious patterns like 2011 "liquorfractors" coming to mind, but it works pretty well with the recent borderless Topps designs.

2018 Topps Chrome #51 Ian Happ
Ian Happ's card is just of the normal Chrome variety, which makes the bottom banner shiny and the Wrigley Field ivy alarmingly dark. It's hard to tell exactly which position Happ is playing in this action photo, because he plays all over the field. His home run count has declined since his rookie total of 24, however he's a valuable utility player who appears to be filling Ben Zobrist's shoes on the Cubs roster. Managers might be willing to accept a bit less power at the plate if they know they can slot you in anywhere. And with Kyle Schwarber in left field, who singlehandedly makes a case for the NL adopting the Designated Hitter rule, Happ may one day have even more opportunities to cover left field in Wrigley.

And as we all know, strange things happen in Wrigley's left field.

2018 Donruss Variations #225 Anthony Rizzo RETRO
Happ's teammate, Anthony Rizzo, appeared in the same retro 2018 Donruss subset as Nolan Arenado from about a month ago. Like Topps, the Donruss brand has been around long enough to repurpose many of their classic designs for reprints. The 1984 set is a great choice, but I doubt they'll get the same appreciation if they reuse the 1991 design.

As the card back tells us, Anthony Rizzo, who just won his third Gold Glove, is heavily involved in philanthropic activities. He's a cancer survivor, and his foundation has raised millions of dollars for cancer research and healthcare. Panini may not be able to use MLB team names and logos, but a close look at Rizzo's right batting glove lets us see the ribbon logo of his foundation.

2019 Donruss Variations #181 Blake Snell
Sometimes Panini looks back at classic Donruss sets, and sometimes they give us easy-to-spot variations. Like Topps, some of the variations just use a different photo, so you either have to be an expert or have good reference material on hand. Apparently that is the case with Rizzo's card, which is a variation I had no idea about until I looked it up on Beckett. But other variations use the player's nickname in addition to an alternate photograph to differentiate, like this Blake "Zilla" Snell card.

I prefer the latter. Who has time to be checking their cards for little sparkles or wondering whether the photo on the front is anything out of the ordinary?

Panini has been doing the nickname variation for a few years with the Donruss brand, and I once received a variation of Daniel Murphy's card from the 2017 set, courtesy of Nick. I had no idea at the time that "Murph" would one day become a Rockie.

Blake Snell, one of the few players in this day and age with a nickname that isn't simply a slight alteration of his actual name (i.e. "Murph"), won the AL Cy Young Award in 2018. He regressed significantly this year, so he isn't a finalist for the 2019 award, but his teammate Charlie Morton is.

2018 Finest #39 Wil Myers
Back to shiny, this time in the form of 2018 Topps Finest. The mirror finish is nice, and reminds me of something like Fleer Brilliants or Pinnacle Certified, but that's an awfully busy background design. The card back is a little more interesting in this case, as we get a complete history of cycles hit by the San Diego Padres.

After close to a half-century of games, Matt Kemp finally hit for the cycle for the first time in Padres history. That happened on August 14th, 2015. Not long after that, on April 10th, 2017, Wil Myers hit for the second Padres cycle. Careful observers will note that both those feats were accomplished at Coors Field.

That leaves the Miami Marlins as the only remaining team without a cycle.

They will be visiting Denver from July 20th-23rd, 2020.

Interestingly, the Padres are still on the hunt for their first franchise no-hitter. Their chances of finally crossing that off the list will likely depend on whether they sign one of the free agent ace pitchers this offseason.

2008 SPx #57 Johan Santana
For the longest time, the Mets were the team who had gone the longest without a no-hitter following their inception. They had played just over eight thousand games before Johan Santana managed to finally throw one in June 2012. There is debate about whether that feat put an end to Santana's career, but the Mets finally got that elusive performance. The Padres didn't start until 1969, so it took them until this past spring to surpass the Mets' no-hitter drought.

I can't resist the die-cut pattern of 2008 SPx. I'll buy this every time I come across it. In fact, it's the third time I've had it on the blog.

This card is yet another example of how these posts practically write themselves. I did not know that Wil Myers hit for the cycle in Coors Field, let alone that his 2018 Topps Finest card mentioned it. Nor did I have a deliberate plan to follow it up with the pitcher who threw the only no-hitter in Mets history. But that's how it worked out. And while this SPx card pictures Santana with the Twins, the logo and team name clearly indicate this is a Mets card. It was printed right around the time the Twins traded the two-time Cy Young winner to the Mets for a bunch of prospects, including Philip Humber, who would somehow toss a perfect game before Santana would break that minor curse for the Mets.

In case you were curious, the only player still active as part of that 2008 trade is Carlos Gómez.

2008 Topps Allen & Ginter Mini #262 Mark Spitz
As much as I don't want to admit it, we are in the offseason. I suppose that makes it appropriate to have a non-baseball sports card. Minis, and especially these cigarette-card-sized minis, can be hard to find in a five-row card box. They have a tendency to slip out of stacks, especially when the curly 2010 Chrome is anywhere to be found in said stack. Even so, this mini of swimming legend Mark Spitz survived the journey.

2008 Allen & Ginter was released just weeks before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Games at which Michael Phelps broke Mark Spitz's record of seven gold medals in one Olympics, winning a whopping eight. Phelps may have come away from Beijing with a little more hardware than Spitz had when he left Munich in 1972, although technically they tied each other by setting seven world records. One of Phelps's eight races wasn't quite done in world record time.

Olympic Games are four years apart, so depending on the sport, you do see repeat participants and winners over the years. Certain sports like gymnastics and figure skating don't lend themselves quite as well to dynastic domination as swimming or snowboarding. Spitz is known for his 1972 Olympics, but this card back informed me that he also won four medals in Mexico City in 1968, including two golds.

Tokyo 2020 will mark the first Olympics in two decades that won't feature Michael Phelps in the pool. He didn't medal, but his Olympic career began way back in 2000 in Sydney, just a few months after Johan Santana began his Major League career.

No-hitters and cycles are impressive, of course. But one of the most amazing sports moments I can remember was when Michael Phelps edged out his opponent by a hundredth of a second to win one of those eight golds.

I guess the offseason isn't so bad, especially when there are Winter Olympics every four years. The next Winter Games will next take place in 2022, also in Beijing.

Maybe the Padres will finally have their no-hitter by then. Or at least the Marlins might have a cycle.


  1. Thank you for saying this: "I prefer the latter. Who has time to be checking their cards for little sparkles or wondering whether the photo on the front is anything out of the ordinary?"
    Love the Rizzo throwback variation!

  2. I've thought about starting a Spitz PC, since I was born during the Munich Olympics. He didn't actually win any medals on my actual birthday, but he won a bunch on the surrounding dates.