Thursday, June 6, 2013

Access to the Stadium Club

I'll admit, I fantasize about dime boxes sometimes.

Of course, I've had the privilege of digging through some amazing discount bins over the years. Those experiences were the inspiration for this very blog.

Still, I find myself wondering how great it'd be to find a whole bunch of these or a little of that in a dime box every now and again. Dime boxes full of Fan Favorites, mid-'90s Upper Deck, or 1970's oddballs are just a few of those fantasies.

As a huge fan of fantastic photography, one of my longtime dreams has been to find an early Stadium Club-centric dime bin. I manage to find a few individual issues here and there, but they've proved to be fairly sparse pickins' over the years.

Luckily, that's where the blogosphere comes in handy. Bert, author of one of the better new blogs around, "Swing And A Pop-Up", must've read some of my past praises of the Stadium Club brand.

A couple weeks ago, I found a bubble mailer waiting on my doorstep, brimming with stacks upon stacks of early 1991-94 Stadium Club cards. All courtesy of Bert.

From what I know, Stadium Club's initial effort in '91 was one of the first "high-end" sets ever released. Cards like the above Harold Reynolds made it worth the price tag, though. It was most likely the most captivating piece from Bert's generous mailer.

I could go on and on about how great it is, believe me. But, to move things along, I'll just ask this.

Is that not one of the better action shots you've ever seen?

Stadium Club's designs were never all that exciting.

Then again, they didn't have to be. After all, the photography is what made the set. Their 1992 release is a perfect example.

A little dome and a small black nameplate was about it as far as the design went. But the photography is what has always made Stadium Club a stand-out set in my eyes.

This new add to my Jim Abbott collection is certainly a beaut.

The brand picked up right where it left off in '93.

While the design was a little more complex, the photography was its same beautiful self.

Try as I might, I can't resist these utterly peaceful "locker room" shots.

Stadium Club's 1994 release was more of the same.

Once again, the photography says it all. With shots like these, you can tell that the people at Topps put a lot of time and effort into getting the photography just right. (Which, for the most part, is more than I can say about Topps these days.)

Thanks to all that work, the end results are heaps and heaps of sheer cardboard art, much like we have with the above Goose Gossage masterpiece. It proved to be the last card he'd have issued by the Topps brand.

He certainly went out with a bang.

Still, Stadium Club left plenty of room for simply "fun" cardboard as well.

I can't stop staring at those mountains behind Tino Martinez. Or Teddy Higuera's helmet hair.

Upon further examination, though, the Higuera may be a lot more than a laughable "hair" piece. Those pinstripes on the player in the foreground look an awful lot like White Sox throwbacks.

And, in fact, the White Sox kicked off the whole "throwback" trend with their "Turn Back the Clock" game against the Brewers in 1990. Higuera was in fact with Milwaukee that year.

And, given the set's release in 1991, it's more than reasonable to think that many of the shots for Stadium Club's initial release were taken the year prior.

So, what we may have there is a pre-game shot from the first "throwback" contest in the big leagues.

Now that's a piece of history.

Since we're on the topic of "throwbacks", here's another one.

That's Albert Belle in full "turn back the clock" Indians garb, complete with a painted-on beard and a smile. There's something you don't see every day.

I sure never knew Albert Belle smiled.

On top of that, Mr. Greenwell takes its place amongst the top of my newfangled "at the wall" mini-collection.

I doubt he made the catch, though.

Stadium Club certainly did "autograph" shots right in their day.

Even if those awful inaugural Marlins uniforms are a bit distracting.

Here's one of the more serene "double dip" cards you'll find.

To me, Wrigley Field will forever be the most beautiful park in baseball.

Shots like these should tell you why.

As if all the Stadium Club goodness wasn't enough, Bert managed to hit not one, but two of my "Dime Box Dozen" needs.

I'm not sure how Terry Forster's 1987 Topps "sunset" issue managed to slip through the cracks for so long. As far as I know, it's the only card he received in '87, as well as one of the few to feature his one-year stint as an Angel.

I guess it's fitting that a package like this would knock out one of my Stadium Club "Dime Box Dozen" needs with the Thomas. As you might be able to tell, "The Big Hurt" is slyly flipping the bird to an unfortunate Topps photographer while applying some eyeblack.

I can't help but imagine what the poor guy did to deserve the obscene gesture.

Perhaps the photo shoot lasted a few frames too long for Thomas's liking.

Unlike the majority of past trade packages I've received, I haven't been able to crown a single king from Bert's awesome assortment of cardboard.

Nearly any one of the cards I've featured in this post could've taken the title. So, while it's the last piece I'll be featuring this afternoon, this Brock isn't necessarily the surefire favorite.

It's most certainly in the running, however.

Given my love for unfamiliar uniforms, it's easy to see why this is such a neat piece for my collection. Lou Brock as a Cub is near the top of the pops in that regard.

And, to state the obvious, this short-printed Masterpieces issue is exactly that. A masterpiece.

You'd be hard-pressed to find better baseball card artwork.

Still, while it may not be "art" in the conventional sense of the term, I consider nearly every piece of great Stadium Club photography as little individual cardboard masterpieces.

And, while I have yet to stumble across a Stadium Club-tastic dime box around these parks, this package from Bert was the next best thing.

To me, Stadium Club is the stuff of legend in this hobby.


The Junior Junkie said...

I love Stadium Club, even in '92.

Swing And A Pop-up said...

Thanks for the kind words. Compared with what was available in 1991, Stadium Club was jaw-dropping (and expensive). Although I'm probably wrong about this, but it may have been one of the first (if not the first) to cost more than a dollar a pack.
The memory fades as you get older.

Mark Kaz said...

Looks like Bert hooked you up nice and good! That Reynolds is awesome!

I truly do love Stadium Club from top to bottom. And thanks to this post, later on I'm gonna flip through my '92 Stadium Club binder, which has been sadly ignored for too long.

Ana Lu said...

Who is Abbott holding the glove? It's kind of weird.

Never had the oportunity to get any pack of this Topps set but they are similar, in my opinion, to the UD CC in what photo we can talk about.

Dime boxes look really interesting.

gcrl said...

I think forster also has an 87 fleer card.

petethan said...

Funny thing is, I see that same confused look on Harold Reynolds' face just about every night on MLB Network...