Sunday, January 22, 2023

The Trading Post #173: Dime Boxes (Part 2: Nick’s Picks)

Picking up where I left off in August, here's a continued look at the stack of cards Nick at Dime Boxes sent for his 10th Anniversary. I picked a solid stack of cards from his giveaway pages, but being the guy he is, Nick included an even larger stack of hand-selected Rockies cards that have been keeping me company on one corner of my desk for quite some time now.

Seeing as how I'm still working my way through this shipment, I didn't think it right to make a claim during his 11th Anniversary giveaway in December. I simply made a congratulatory comment and left the spoils of that giveaway to my fellow bloggers (mostly because I didn't see it for five days).

True to his blog's name, getting a stack of cards from Nick is basically like having him look through a ten-cent box at a card show on your behalf. Which, I'm sure, is pretty much exactly how the magic happens.

2017 Topps Gallery #16 Trevor Story

I've seen some gorgeous cards from Topps Gallery over the years, and if it were more available and affordable, I'm sure I'd chase some of it down myself. It carries on the spirit of the UD Masterpieces brand, something that remained in the hobby for far too short a time.

The artwork on this Trevor Story card is done by Mayumi Seto, who only recently withdrew from her post as the artist on nearly 500 cards of the long-running Topps Living Set. As with this Topps Gallery card, her artwork graced Topps products prior to the introduction of the Living Set, a set which remains absent from my collection.

Maybe one of those would be a good candidate for my Eight Men Out list.

Though Trevor Story has had a solid career, he made his biggest splash during his first week in the Majors, hitting seven home runs in his first six games. His pace trailed off significantly as April 2016 wore on, but he still hit a total of 10 that month. The card back tells us that was one better than Albert Pujols's mark for an NL Rookie.

2016 Topps Heritage Rookie Performers #RP-TS Trevor Story

I was personally pretty impressed with Story that month. In fact, I have a very specific memory of watching a couple of those homers from a Buffalo Wild Wings near the office. I snuck away for a quick snack as the Rockies home opener was getting underway, and watched Story launch one to left field. It was probably this highlight.

That B-Dubs location is closed now, but I saw plenty of games there, including the start of Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, and most of the 2007 Game 163 tiebreaker.

Topps was also impressed, as they included him in multiple insert sets in 2016 Topps Heritage, which went to print not terribly long after Story's Rookie of the Month-worthy performance. He appeared in the Rookie Performers insert set, looking ready to crush another home run. I saw more than a few of his homers in person over the years, and as far as Coors Field home runs go, his always somehow had just a little extra. And I'm not even talking about the 2021 Home Run Derby.

2016 Topps Heritage Now and Then #NT-1 Trevor Story

Trevor Story's second insert set appearance came in the Now and Then set. 2016 Topps Heritage took us back 49 years to the 1967 set, and while insert cards weren't really a thing in 1967, this insert fits with the retro theme nicely. 

The card back again documents Story's sizzling-hot April 2016 while somewhat awkwardly tying it into Mel Stottlemyre's Opening Day 1967 two-hit shutout of the Washington Senators.

He may be long gone from 20th & Blake, but I'm still rooting for him. Sadly, he'll miss most if not all of the 2023 season while recovering from elbow surgery.

2017 Topps Golden Glove Awards #GG-10 Nolan Arenado

Another Rockie that has departed for greener pastures is my favorite active player, Nolan Arenado. No matter where he lands, he's the best defensive player around. He already had four Gold Gloves to his name by the time this card was printed in 2017, earning a spot in the Golden Glove Awards insert set along with seventeen other players.

Apparently, due to trademark issues, Topps couldn't officially use the term "Gold Glove" anywhere on the card, but they did manage to sneak it into the card number, giving this one a prefix of "GG".

Call it whatever you like, but Nolan somehow took his game to an even higher level after this. In 2017, he won his first of what is now an active streak of six consecutive Platinum Glove awards, which is given to the best defender in each league, not merely the best defender at each position. The Platinum award hasn't been around that long, but Arenado's streak is truly unprecedented.

Incidentally, most of the other NL Platinum Gloves since its inception in 2011 went to Yadier Molina, Arenado's now-retired Cardinals teammate. There have been a variety of winners on the AL side, but only Anthony Rizzo and Andrelton Simmons have managed to crowd out the elite masters of Molina and Arenado on the NL side.

2018 Topps Salute Series 2 #S-94 Nolan Arenado

One year later, Topps decided to tell us all about Arenado's continued defensive prowess, including him in Series 2 of the Topps Salute insert set. The card back of course talks about his "fielding award" and being "honored as the top overall defender in the Senior Circuit", a roundabout, lawyer-friendly way of saying he won the National League Platinum Glove.

Don't miss The Big Game in a few weeks.

An insert set of this size (an absurd 250 cards across three series) requires some repetition, and Arenado also made an appearance in Series 1. That one showed Nolan at the plate, while this one has Arenado reaching into the crowd for a foul pop in front of a bunch of smiling Padres fans, presumably at Petco Park.

2020 Topps Big League Defensive Wizards #DW-15 Nolan Arenado

A couple more years of this allowed Arenado to reach Wizardly status, showing up in a horizontal insert card from 2020 Topps Big League. This is a set I bought a blaster of back in 2020, and it's been on my card shelf awaiting a blog post ever since. But this card jumped the line, thanks to the purple orb of arcane magic, as befitting a Defensive Wizard.

While I realize this card is color-coded to the Colorado Rockies, the color palette on this card looks like it's straight out of the Wizard class of Diablo III. And, not to torture the metaphor, but there's a "Slow Time" skill in that video game, which simply has to be how Nolan can make some of these plays.

Seriously, watch the play described on the card back from September 4th, 2019. Corey Seager didn't stand a chance, and Nolan barely looked like he was trying.

2015 Topps Gypsy Queen Walk-Off Winners #GWO-18 Carlos González

He might not have the superstar cachet of Story or Arenado, but Carlos González was certainly a well-liked Rockie during the ten seasons he spent here. Perhaps his most famous Rockies moment made it into a 2015 Gypsy Queen insert set called Walk-Off Winners, which should need no explanation. It's a 25-card set filled with players like Bill Mazeroski, David Freese, and Mookie Wilson, not unlike the Historic Hits insert set from 2021 Allen & Ginter.

CarGo, who last appeared in a Major League game in 2019, had a great day on July 31st, 2010. Not only did he win the game with a solo shot in the bottom of the 9th, but he also completed the cycle with that swing. There was only one pitch thrown that inning, and that was all he needed. Topps also highlighted this achievement in one of their many "Golden" insert sets from 2012.

Look closely at his follow-through on that home run swing (hit to a pre-Rooftop upper deck at Coors Field), and you might notice something familiar.

2017 Topps '87 Topps #87-4 Carlos González

According to the card back on this 1987 throwback 30th Anniversary card, González said that he modeled his swing and bat drop after Ken Griffey, Jr.

Being a power-hitting lefty with a clear love for the game has been a recipe for success nearly as long as this game has existed, and CarGo turned it into a solid career.

I'm not sure why Topps had to omit all but two seasons of CarGo's stat lines to squeeze that tidbit onto the card back, but that's okay. We have enough 1987 reprints not to need total stylistic accuracy on each one of them.

2017 Topps Update Salute #USS-49 Kyle Freeland

Going back to the Salute insert set (well, a year prior), here's Kyle Freeland joining another member of the Rockies rotation in the massive checklist. Freeland pitched the home opener in 2017, an honor he has been given multiple times in his career, including 2022 which I had the good fortune of attending.

This one is actually from 2017 Update, giving Topps enough time to mention Freeland's home opener from the same season, as well as his first career home run a couple months later. Now that we've seen the last of pitchers batting, that one home run in Cincinnati is likely to be the only one of Freeland's career.

2014 Topps Toys 'R' Us Purple Border #290 Chad Bettis (RC)

That's one more than Chad Bettis ever hit, though.

I received the base version of his rookie card several years ago, but I liked the 2014 set and this Toys 'R' Us exclusive colored border so much I thought I'd show it again. I started this blog in 2014 (wow, I just passed my own 9th anniversary), and I also got into Topps Bunt that year. I find it to be a familiar, almost comforting design, even though the base version of this card isn't brand-new to the blog.

I actually put in quite a bit of effort to avoid repeating myself, which is hard to do with what is apparently approaching a decade of blogging. I don't like using the same card multiple times (except in rare cases like this), nor do I enjoy repeating my own written phrases, which comes across like I'm plagiarizing myself. But then again, when we have AI tools confidently declaring total falsehoods, maybe a little human error isn't such a terrible thing.

2002 Topps 206 Piedmont Black #267 Chin-Hui Tsao (PROS)

To make up for the repeat photo, here's a Rockies player that is making his first appearance on Infield Fly Rule. Chin-hui Tsao played part of three seasons for the Rockies, then jumped over to the Dodgers. He was in and out of independent and overseas leagues for many years, then returned to the Dodgers after an eight-year hiatus, finally retiring in 2016.

Tsao is the only Taiwanese player to suit up for the Rockies, and he was included in mini form as a parallel of the 2002 Topps 206 checklist. Specifically, this is a Piedmont-back parallel, reproducing the logo of one of the many early 20th-century tobacco brands that were marketed along with the first baseball cards.

Come to think of it, it's actually a little uncomfortable in this day and age when you think about how the history of baseball cards is inextricably linked to tobacco products. The actual brands in question have been defunct for well over a century by now, but it's not too far removed from having a Marlboro logo appear on one of these things. And we all recall how much effort Fleer put in to scrubbing Randy Johnson's card of any tobacco advertising.

Just a thought.

Anyway, the World Baseball Classic is coming up soon! Tsao's home country of Taiwan is hosting one of the round-robin sites in the first round, and will be competing as Chinese Taipei. This ambiguous name mirrors the country's identity in the Olympics and other international events, which is done this way due to ever-present geopolitical tensions with mainland China, far beyond the scope of this blog.

2003 Fleer Platinum #5 Todd Zeile

One of the lesser-known Todds to play for the Rockies, third baseman Todd Zeile is seen here having some fun at Spring Training outside the batting cages.

Rather than use an exact reproduction of a legacy set, Fleer went in a slightly different direction for 2003 Platinum. It still has the unmistakable look and feel of an '80s Fleer card, right down to the card back with the vertical orientation and two-colored columns. The thick pinstripes on the front remind me of the unintentionally famous 1989 set, but it's not an exact match like the two prior years of Platinum. Of course, I had to look all that up.

Fleer's names for their retro sets always threw me off, anyway. To me, "Platinum" implies not an '80s style design and card stock, but more of an extremely shiny and thick card laden with gold foil and lots of refractory rainbows. Something like Topps Finest. I suppose it is similar to Topps Archives, but it just never made sense to me. I was further confused by the company calling its true flagship set Fleer Tradition for a couple years, which itself evolved into a Topps Heritage competitor, going so far as to resurrect the 1961 Fleer set in 2003.

Frankly, I struggle with any changes the hobby made after about 1996.

2012 Topps Opening Day #101 Todd Helton

Which is right around the time Todd Helton burst onto the scene. He debuted in 1997, nearing the end of his career when this Opening Day card came out in 2012. He's by far the most famous Todd to ever play for the Rockies, and one of only two players with a retired number, the other being Larry Walker.

It remains to be seen whether Helton will one day join Walker in Cooperstown, but his chances are still looking somewhat promising. I hear Scott Rolen has the best chance this year, but it's far from a sure thing. We'll find out in less than 48 hours whether the BBWAA will be adding anyone to the Class of 2023 to join Fred McGriff.

Partly because Nick sends more great cards at one time than I could possibly fit into one post, and partly because I can't edit myself, there will be a part 3 of this post. All the shiny cards needed their own space.

If you've ever traded with Nick, then you know.

 

4 comments:

  1. Gotta admit... I kinda miss seeing those Rockies lineups that featured LeMahieu, Story, Arenado, Cargo, and Blackmon. Talk about a scary lineup.

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  2. That Zeile is just a great card. I always stop and look at it when I'm going through my Rockies binders. Glad you needed a few and thanks again for being a great reader of the blog!!

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  3. Love that purple border Bettis! Bummer that Helton just missed out on the HOF but he's got a good shot to get in next year.

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