Saturday, October 17, 2020

The Trading Post #157: Topps Cards That Never Were (Part 4: Inserts)

Little did I know when this trade arrived from Topps Cards That Never Were that it would keep me company throughout the 2020 League Championship Series. It's been three parts so far, and this will be the fourth and last before we move on to the next trade. If you need a break from Rockies cards, this one won't have any. There will be a lot of Yankees and American Leaguers in general, and everything here is a Topps insert.

2015 Topps Eclipsing History #EH-3 Sandy Koufax / Nolan Ryan

Right off the bat is a hit for my Eight Men Out list, a card from 2015's Eclipsing History insert set. I didn't have a particular card in mind from the ten on offer; any one would do. I first became aware of it over three years ago thanks to one of Peter's posts shortly after the 2017 total solar eclipse, and I knew it would be perfect for my collection. Jeremy found card #EH-3 for me, a dual-player card of Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax.

Every record holder out there passed someone else along the way. In the strikeouts per 9 IP category, Sandy Koufax was the leader in that statistic until Nolan Ryan came along. In 1973, Ryan compiled his 1,000th inning pitched, and by that milestone, he eclipsed Koufax's mark of about 9.3, setting his mark at about 9.7. Ryan remained the record holder until Randy Johnson came along, whose K/9IP is about 10.6. These are rounded somewhat, and it shouldn't be that surprising to see strikeout leaders like Ryan and Johnson on the leaderboards for such a statistic.

Witnessing the total solar eclipse in 2017 was one of the great moments of my life. I did a vintage-heavy post shortly thereafter, and I am happy to add a newer card around this theme to my collection. This card doesn't really look much like a real solar eclipse, but then again, nothing really does. It's something you have to see for yourself.

2016 Topps The Greatest Streaks #GS-10 Lou Gehrig

One year later, Topps made another 10-card insert set called The Greatest Streaks. I feel like ten cards is a good size for an insert set. It offers some hope of completion. One could also make a fantastic argument for nine cards, which would perfectly occupy a nine-pocket page without obscuring any backs.

Anyway, Lou Gehrig was included in this set, but not for the reason you might think. We all know about The Iron Horse's record of 2,130 consecutive games played, but Cal Ripken, Jr. ended up eclipsing that, earning himself card #1 in this set. Gehrig, during his own streak, put together another. As part of a fearsome Yankees lineup, he had 100 RBI in 13 straight seasons, something only Jimmie Foxx and Alex Rodriguez have done otherwise. 

Sadly, both streaks were cut short by Gehrig's illness, as it was going strong right up to the end. He batted in one lone run in 1939, and that would be his last.

2016 Topps Back to Back #B2B-12 Babe Ruth / Lou Gehrig

Generally speaking, Gehrig batted after Babe Ruth in the batting order, so a huge portion of his RBI count meant Ruth crossed the plate. Gehrig's only RBI in 1939 was actually Tommy Henrich, the player who was up to bat when the most famous dropped third strike in history occurred in the 1941 World Series. But these two were the core of the Yankees for a long time (though not long enough, it must be said).

This card in particular, also from 2016, comes from a fifteen card set called Back to Back. That's exactly what happened in the 1932 World Series. Everyone knows about Babe Ruth's "called shot" in Game 3, arguably the most famous home run in history. What's often overlooked, this card tells us, is that Lou Gehrig hit one out immediately after.

No one disputes that Ruth hit that historic home run back in 1932. But over the years, there has been much debate about whether he "called" it. Joe Posnanski wrote about it in The Baseball 100, and it remains inconclusive. Interestingly, some previously-unheard audio recently surfaced, giving us none other than Lou Gehrig's view on the event.

This photo, at least of Gehrig, isn't from 1932. It's actually from 1938, and we can tell because of the commemorative patch on Gehrig's left sleeve. The Yankees, Dodgers, and Giants all wore that patch in 1938 for the upcoming 1939 World's Fair. Those shapes on the patch are the Trylon and Perisphere, the iconic temporary structures built in Queens for the occasion. I have a pressed penny that my grandparents took home as a souvenir from the event, dated 1940.

2014 Topps Upper Class #UC-27 Robinson Canó

Our next set is one I've seen before. This is the fourth card out of a possible fifty to enter my collection, and every time, the "Upper Class" name throws me off. I see "Upper" and "2005" at the top of this fancy gold border, and I immediately think it's something from Upper Deck. I wasn't buying boxes of UD at the time, so at a glance, this could be one of any number of sets from the mid-2000s. 

It's indeed a Topps product, though, and Robinson Canó is still going strong. Matt Holliday, whose card I showed last time, retired after the 2018 season. Canó will turn 38 on Thursday, so his career is likely coming to a close soon.

2014 Topps Update Power Players #PPA-MTA Masahiro Tanaka

Today's last Yankee is still with the team. Masahiro Tanaka pitched twice in the 2020 Postseason, earning a record of 0-1 and putting up a frightfully high ERA. He has many years of MLB experience under his belt by now, but when this card was printed, he had just joined the MLB after a lengthy career in Japan for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. The card back on this one is more of a scouting report, letting us know about his various pitches and high strikeout count in his then-limited MLB performance.

I've seen this insert set too, getting both Rockies from it already. 2014 Topps Update made this one 25 cards, but numbered them with letters only. Of the four cards I now have from it, the background is yellow and blue on all but Carlos González's. Side note, the former Rockies outfielder is celebrating his 35th birthday today!

2018 Topps Update Don't Blink #DB-7 Ichiro

October 22nd used to be a big day in Mariners land. Ichiro and Robinson Canó happen to share that birthday. It's a shame that they never got to play as Mariners in the Postseason to celebrate it together. Regardless, it was always a joy to watch Ichiro play, especially that day when I witnessed his 3,000th hit. That hit was a triple, so it's appropriate for this speedy outfielder to be included in this 2018 Update insert set, Don't Blink.

Speed is becoming less valued in today's game, so you can probably guess who's in the 25-card set. Mike Trout, Trevor Story, Whit Merrifield, Dee Gordon. I guessed all four of those before glancing at the checklist, and I was only wrong on Story. In my defense, I was unaware that the checklist included a mixture of retired and current players, meaning that Henderson, Robinson, and Brock are in here.

I probably should have guessed Trea Turner, though.

The streaking horizontal lines on this card really give a sense of speed, but it's artificially added. It is definitely possible to do something like this in-camera, not counting the streaking on Ichiro's outline. Ideally you'd do a panning shot with a tripod, although certain lenses have an optical stabilizer mode that allows you to do it handheld. That's not what the photographer did here, because we can see the player in the dugout isn't streaked the same way the lines are.

2018 Topps Heritage '69 Topps Deckle Edge #1 Mike Trout

We're almost two decades into Topps Heritage by now, and they've always had insert sets. However, it wasn't until the brand reached the mid-1960s designs that they had real insert sets to use as inspiration. This Deckle Edge card of Mike Trout is just such a set, modeled after a 35-card insert set from 1969. They trimmed it to 30 for the 2018 version, but kept the same rough borders and even gave us a period-correct blue facsimile signature.

I'm not sure how they made these in 1969, but having seen enough cards from the '90s, I assume this is what we'd consider a die-cut today.

2015 Topps Update Whatever Works #WW-2 Tim Lincecum

Here's a fun one. Whatever Works is from 2015 and selected fifteen players and their superstitions. Tim Lincecum's particular quirk is that he likes to keep old hats to wear, a practice he did all the way back in high school. Others in this set are Nomar Garciaparra and I assume his batting glove routine, Joe DiMaggio for something other than his bat polishing, and a few various pitchers. Who knows what they were up to?

Apparently, the baseball world recently learned, Freddie Freeman wears a lucky shirt under his jersey, and has done so ever since 2012. He'd better hope that luck holds out in Game 7 of the NLCS on Sunday.

2018 Stadium Club Never Compromise #NC-RD Rafael Devers

We'll take a quick pop over to Stadium Club and their Never Compromise insert set. The Boston Red Sox haven't been great since winning the World Series in 2018, and part of that is due to the departure of Mookie Betts. Betts, a former teammate of Rafael Devers, weighed in on the back of this card, saying that "We just kind of sit and admire his work", speaking about Devers.

There's a little bit more foil on this card than on most others we've seen today. It's held back for Stadium Club, though. Usually we get things like Power Zone and Beam Team.

2016 Topps Update First Pitch #FP-2 Jake Gyllenhaal

Devers debuted for the Red Sox in 2017, so he wasn't on hand to see Jake Gyllenhaal throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Fenway. That happened in April 2016, where the famous actor was on hand along with Jeff Bauman, a victim of the Boston Marathon bombing whom Gyllenhaal portrayed in the movie.

Topps kept this celebrity-heavy insert set going for a few years, I believe 2015-17. Jeff Bridges was my first card from 2015, and I have McKayla Maroney's card in a stack from a card show I went to ages ago. I'm pretty sure that stack is from the same show at which I got that Joe DiMaggio Pinnacle set, and I keep telling myself that I'll finally do that post when I get caught up on everything else. After this, I only have one trade post left. And a couple LCS visits. And about seven blasters.


2011 Topps Opening Day Mascots #M-20 Mariner Moose

In the meantime, we'll wrap up this four-post marathon with what I will confidently say is my favorite insert set of all: Opening Day Mascots.

I've said before that Mariner Moose is one of my most frequently-pulled mascots when it comes to Opening Day. I see Dinger a lot, too, but that's usually via trade. I didn't get him in my 2020 Opening Day purchase (one of the seven blasters I mentioned above), but I will add these to my collection any chance I get. 

One of these days I'd like to make it to Seattle for a game and see this "funny, neat, and friendly" mascot. I've never seen a moose in the wild before. From what I hear, they are not friendly at all. I've never seen one at a ballgame either, for that matter. But they're a frequent sighting when it comes to Opening Day.

Thanks to Jeremy for this amazing batch of cards, and thanks to all my readers for continuing to stick around for my sporadic posting sprees.



  1. Great pickups, gotta love Topps inserts!

  2. Nice cards, especially that Ichiro. As long as the Sox sign Devers long-term I can kind of forgive them for trading Mookie. Maybe.