Friday, October 16, 2020

The Trading Post #156: Topps Cards That Never Were (Part 3: Oddballs)

It's been a busy week of writing about a trade I did with with Topps Cards That Never Were, but after two posts of Rockies, you've seen lots of cards that indeed were. If you're not a Rockies collector, you probably haven't seen most of them, but you likely at least know the sets. In Part 3, we'll see some oddballs and one Card That Never Was.

1994 Topps Custom #NNO Don Baylor

Jeremy is known in the community for his custom cards, such as what you see here. He clearly puts in a truly breathtaking amount of work into these customs, and was kind enough to print out a few for this trade. As you may know, 1994 Topps was the first factory set I ever bought, and I like the design a whole lot more than I bet you do.

Unfortunately, though they made an appearance in 1993, manager cards were a casualty of the 1994 Topps set. Jeremy sought to right that wrong by creating this custom card of Don Baylor, manager of the Rockies from their inaugural 1993 season through 1998, the year Coors Field hosted the All-Star Game. He also came back as a hitting coach in 2009 and 2010.

There's no back on this card, which would have made this an exponentially bigger project, but the 1994 design is spot-on. If anyone at Topps wants to hire Jeremy to work on future Topps Archives or Heritage sets, he'd be a great candidate.

2002 Grandstand #13 Clint Hurdle

It's been a long time since manager cards have appeared in a Topps set. They do pop up in Heritage for historical accuracy, but I think the last time they were in the flagship set was 2009. But that gives space for oddball sets to ease into their niche. 

And in this case, that niche exists entirely outside the world of Beckett. I have no idea what this thing is, and searching for "Armour Stars", the logo that appears on the back, gives no good results about what this was supposed to advertise. There's a little "Grandstand 2002" name on the back of this Clint Hurdle manager card, so I guess that's the set. 

Whatever it is, the front has an excellent example of the Rockies 10th Anniversary logo, which appears in slightly lower resolution just centimeters away on Hurdle's sleeve. 2002 was his first year as manager, where he stayed until mid-2009. He's actually the longest-tenured Rockies manager, and the only one to lead them to the NL Pennant.

2001 Royal Rookies Amazing Todd Helton #A2 Todd Helton

Todd Helton played a large portion of his games under Clint Hurdle, but that hadn't quite started when this oddball was printed. This is an insert set from 2001 Royal Rookies, and Todd Helton got his very own five-card insert set all to himself. On card #A2, we're told about his time at the University of Tennessee, something many cards mention. They also paint him as a power hitter that can hit to any field. 

There's no MLB or even an MLBPA logo on this card, but there is something called an Official Player License with "OPL" in a black-lettered logo next to the copyright date. I've never seen such a logo before or since, and couldn't even venture a guess as to who says it's official. Such is the world of oddballs. At least Beckett knows about this one.

2001 Post #18 Todd Helton

Oddballs are seen as having a bit more legitimacy when they're attached to a major brand. Post Cereal teamed up with Topps in 2001 for the latter's 50th anniversary. I'm not much of a breakfast guy, so I definitely wouldn't have seen this when it was actually on grocery store shelves, in specially marked boxes, part of this complete breakfast.

I said I wasn't a breakfast guy, I didn't say I never watched a cartoon when I was 8.

This Post and Topps joint venture consisted of eighteen cards, and Helton wrapped up the checklist. The card back has his facsimile signature, the usual vital statistics, and his complete career record up to that point, 1997-2000. He had already hit 137 doubles in barely more than three seasons, and had just won the batting title with a .372 average.

2001 Upper Deck Twizzlers #7 Todd Helton

2001 gave us a bumper crop of Todd Helton oddballs. Who knew?

This one is from Twizzlers, who joined forces with Upper Deck to counter the Post and Royal Rookies offerings in the oddball market. This set is a mere ten cards, and appears to be unlicensed. There's no team logo or official name anywhere, and this red jersey looks like a Photoshop job to me. 

Examining the oddball logo more closely, we can see it's for Twizzlers and the Big League Challenge, although I can't find any details on what the Big League Challenge actually was. The card back doesn't say anything about that, but they do mention his .372 batting average, as well as his 42 home runs and what ended up being a career-high 147 RBI.

The logo has a certain Young Adult fiction ring to it, as in "Todd Helton and the Big League Challenge". Or perhaps some Colorado music scene mash-up, like "Big Head Todd and the Big League Challenge".

These oddballs are making my writing style feel a little odd today. It's the perfect time to get to a Pacific card.

1999 Revolution #50 Darryl Hamilton

I vacillate on whether to call Pacific an oddball brand. It suits my purposes this time, but they made so many sets for long enough that they could go either way. They were just so...out there. Card-Supials, anyone?

This is positively tame by Pacific standards, and I really mean that, despite all the gold and sparkly silver and and burnt orange shapes. Darryl Hamilton and part of that dark blue area are lightly embossed, for good measure. It's just the second card from 1999 Pacific Revolution to enter my collection, joining Barry Bonds.

Darryl Hamilton and Barry Bonds were actually teammates for a couple years in San Francisco, so it's appropriate that they'll be sharing space in one of the later pages of my 1999 binder. 

2016 Topps Update Team Franklin #TF-6 Jose Altuve

We come to our final card of this oddball post with Jose Altuve, who just hit an RBI triple in Game 6 of the ALCS as I write this. After the Astros cheating scandal, I'm now the opposite of an Astros fan, but this card fit too well into the theme of this post.

It's an obvious promotion for Franklin, the batting glove company. I had one a lot like that when I played in Little League. There are Franklin-related hashtags and URLs and social media handles all over the back, but this isn't as much of an oddball as you might think. It clearly has the Topps logo in the upper left, and this is actually part of a 20-card insert set that appeared in 2016 Topps Update. The product placement is pretty blatant with this one.

And in case you were curious, no, Wil Myers is not in the set.

This is an appropriate segue into the final Part 4, which will consist of plenty more Topps inserts. There will be less product placement, and really not that many batting gloves at all.


  1. Cool stuff, the Hurdle is from the set listed as 2002 Grandstand Colorado Rockies Police on TCDB, usually these were a stadium giveaway.

  2. That first custom looks really good! I sure wish that there was a way that Pacific could come back, and not under the guise of Panini, their sets were just so darn innovative, and most of which still look just as awesome today as they did when they came out.

  3. The Big League Challenge actually was a home run derby held in Las Vegas in the early 2000s - it was televised on ESPN - I remember a friend getting Helton's autograph on his event program / info brochure.

    Here is a story about one of the years: