Saturday, March 14, 2020

Another Trip Around the Sun

My birthday was a few days ago, but it feels like I've aged quite a bit more than that since then. I'm sure we all have. Before the upcoming baseball season was postponed, though, I went over to see my mom for a little birthday celebration.

As expected, she went hunting for baseball cards and found a good one to add to my collection. This time, she ventured off the beaten path of my Eight Men Out list and found something I was rather unfamiliar with.

2005 Topps Cracker Jack Take Me Out to the Ballgame Mini Relics #TO-AR Alex Rodriguez Bat (MEM)
Topps released a couple Cracker Jack-branded sets in the mid-2000s, and this mini relic of Alex Rodriguez is from the final 2005 set. I do have a couple base cards from this set in my 2005 binder, but this design didn't jog any memories when I pulled it out of my birthday card. It has the faux-vintage card stock you'd expect of a set like this, a lot like Allen & Ginter sets we've become familiar with. This isn't as tiny as some other Cracker Jack cards, but rather it's the size of the 1975 Topps Minis.

The two vertical ovals on each side of the card bring 2017 Allen & Ginter to mind, with a portrait of A-Rod occupying one, and his bat relic the other. Since this is a bat relic as opposed to a jersey swatch, it makes the "infield" of the diamond design look a bit like a tiny softball field, the kind without grass that I played on in little league. The bases in this design aren't quite anatomically correct, if you will, and the shape at the bottom is just another square, rather than a home plate shape. But it certainly gets the point across.

There were two relic sets in 2005 Topps Cracker Jack. The first is just six cards, and was called "1-2-3 Strikes You're Out", an obvious mention of the baseball anthem that features a technically vegetarian meal of peanuts and Cracker Jacks. This Rodriguez card is from the second relic set, clearly called "Take Me Out to the Ballgame", with a helpful "relic card" note inside the banner, just in case you weren't sure what you were holding.

There is lots of tiny print on this card, including "Authentic game-used bat", part of the relic set name itself, and of course Alex Rodriguez's name and team. I wouldn't go quite so far to call it a busy or crowded design, but it's tiptoeing into that territory.

The card back has the usual congratulatory note that you pulled a relic card, a little context around the Topps Cracker Jack set itself, and Rodriguez's position, which at this point in his career was third base. His recent entry in Joe Posnanski's The Baseball 100 list mentions that he began his career as a shortstop, but moved to third to ensure Derek Jeter kept his spot in the infield. That essay also points out that Rodriguez is arguably the greatest five-tool player of all time who didn't play the outfield.

Whether Mom checks the Eight Men Out list or not, she always finds good stuff. I'm already looking forward to my next birthday.

To all my readers, be safe and healthy.