Well, "The Gems of Junk Wax" tournament is officially underway.
A couple days ago, I randomized the 64 contestants into their individual places on the bracket. Kind of like my own personal "selection show", if you will.
Needless to say, I'm looking forward to seeing how this fun little project plays out. All I'm asking my readers to do is vote, but feel free to comment with your feelings behind each choice as well. I'd love to hear why some people like one card over another.
The eight pairings you'll see today are from the first of four "regions" of the bracket.
A few things before I introduce the first batch of matchups...
Initially, I'd said that the awesome night shot of Wrigley Field would be Donruss Triple Play's entry into this tournament.
However, I'd completely forgotten that I'd already featured a Wrigley piece in this theme (which you'll see in a bit), so I decided to replace it with the above Sandy Alomar piece. You won't see Mr. Alomar until a bit later on in these brackets, though.
Secondly, in keeping with the whole "March Madness" bracketology theme, I assigned seeds to each of the "gems" in this tournament. All that said, though, they're fairly meaningless. Don't let the seeding sway your choices.
Lastly, voting on this initial group of matchups will close this Monday, April 15th, at 11:59 PM.
I was originally planning on having the individual polls open for a bit longer, but this project would probably drag on for longer than I'd planned if I left voting open for too long.
So, to be clear, you'll have the rest of tonight, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday to get your votes in. I will not be voting at any point, but I hope many of my readers hit the polls!
With that in mind, let's introduce the first eight matchups in the field of 64.
#1 seed -- 1994 Topps #715 Hank Aaron
#16 -- 1993 Topps #48 Bert Blyleven
If I were to have hand-picked the four #1 seeds, I'd bet the Aaron would've made my list.
The Blyleven is indeed one of my personal favorite "sunset" cards, but I'm betting it'll prove to be a tough draw for the Dutchman in this matchup.
Still, you just never know.
#8 -- 1989 Upper Deck #415 "Oil Can" Boyd
#9 -- 1991 Topps #170 Carlton Fisk
From the looks of it, you can add Mr. Boyd to the "tough draw" crowd.
Good ol' "Oil Can" was rewarded with a superb card in UD's initial release, but he's going up against one of the more iconic cards in hobby history with the Fisk.
#5 -- 1994 UD All-Time Heroes #2 Johnny Vander Meer OW
#12 -- 1994 Topps Archives #251 Roberto Clemente
Both of these beauties snuck their way into my recent "Top 100" countdown.
The Vander Meer has to be one of the oldest night shots to ever grace the front of a baseball card.
And, of course, the Clemente is arguably the all-time greatest "zero-year" piece in existence.
#4 -- 1991 Upper Deck #617 "1917 Revisited"
#13 -- 1994 Topps #180 George Brett
Had it not been for the hometown White Sox, we might have never seen the whole "throwback" craze make its way into the game.
The jerseys featured on that "gem" from 1991 Upper Deck were the very first throwbacks ever worn in an official big-league contest.
The "sunset" card of Mr. Brett there was one of the first individual pieces I ever featured in the "Gems of Junk Wax" theme.
I think you can see why.
#6 -- 1989 Fleer #616 Billy Ripken ("Rick Face")
#11 -- 1989 Score #277 Graig Nettles
Personally, I think this will prove to be the most interesting matchup from this region.
I've always found the Ripken to be an innocent, charming little piece of cardboard, one that I've treasured throughout my collecting life.
Still, from hearing the testimonies of those who grew up collecting during the overproduction era, a lot of people seem to have a strong distaste for it.
Between the dreaded "black-outs", "white-outs", "scribbles", and all the other hooplah that surrounded Mr. Ripken at the time, I can certainly understand it.
Because of all that, the Nettles may will take the victory here by default, depending on how many "children of the overproduction era" hit the polls.
The Ripken is undoubtedly the more famous (or infamous) card of the two, but I'm betting it'll be a fight to the finish.
#3 -- 1992 Score #888 Craig Biggio "Dream Team"
#14 -- 1994 UD All-Time Heroes #72 Don Newcombe
The Biggio is a coveted "multiple exposure" piece, while the Newcombe is one of my personal favorite "pitcher at the plate" shots.
That being said, the "victor" here would be an easy choice for me, but I'll leave it up to my readers to make the call.
I don't want to sway the poll results.
#7 -- 1989 Upper Deck #452 Goose Gossage
#10 -- 1989 Score #652 Wrigley Field HL
Ah, here's a nice "Cubbie" matchup.
As one of the best relief pitchers in history, it's a little strange seeing "Goose" sporting a batting helmet there. Still, that's what earned it a place in this tournament to begin with.
The Wrigley Field "highlights" piece is the card I alluded to earlier, one that commemorates the first night game in the stadium's history. As you probably know, the Cubs were the final franchise to install lights, not doing so until 1988.
Before that, the Tigers were the last of the holdouts.
They made the switch in 1945.
Those Cubbies were so darn stubborn.
#2 -- 1989 Upper Deck #145 Nolan Ryan
#15 -- 1988 Score #225 Steve Garvey
The last matchup from this region features a couple landmark pieces of cardboard.
Until recently, I'd never realized that Nolan Ryan's 1989 Upper Deck issue was the very first of the "multiple exposure" variety.
And, against all odds, Score was the only card company to grant Steve Garvey a true "sunset" card.
Although he only played in 27 games during the 1987 season, you'd figure that at least one other company would've granted him a true cardboard send-off.
In the end, though, Topps, Fleer, and Donruss all missed their chance.
Score was the only one to do so, featuring a terrific Wrigley Field action shot in the process.
Well, there's your eight matchups. Again, voting closes this coming Monday at 11:59 PM.
The polls are now on the sidebar.