Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Inside the card show, Pt. 2: Let's form a club
Though I'd heard a lot of people talking about it over the past month or so, I'd barely had a taste of 2014 Stadium Club before Saturday.
I can't remember the last time I'd been so excited to get a glimpse of a specific set. The preview images I'd been flipping through online had been nothing short of spectacular. I could only imagine how terrific they looked in-person.
One of my big goals for Saturday was to get my hands on some Stadium Club. I saw someone selling a box for $65 about halfway through the show. Though it was a far cry from the $100-plus they were commanding a month ago, wax wasn't my focus.
No, my friends, I was (of course) hoping for a dime box of singles. And, wouldn't you know it, I got my wish on Saturday. I found a vendor with a whole row or two of Stadium Club base cards tucked away inside a 3200-count box, all at a dime a piece.
I could feel the excitement building as I sat down and went to work. And then I saw Shelby Miller. The yawningly "game-faced" Shelby Miller. And yet another recycled photograph from Topps, to boot. The very first card from the box was a bore.
Was Stadium Club being overhyped?
Had I set myself up for disappointment?
No and no.
While there may be a few uninspired cards here and there, Stadium Club turned out to be one of the best all-around sets I've seen during my life as a card collector. And that's not an exaggeration.
I don't know if words can describe how much fun I had digging through all these dime box Stadium Club singles.
All I can do is give a heartfelt thanks to the vendor who made them affordable for a low-end guy like myself.
In an era where everything seems so phoned-in and catered towards the money-hungry collector, it's obvious that Topps put a lot of work into making this set enjoyable for people like me.
I've heard that a lot of high-end people weren't big fans of 2014 Stadium Club. The precious "hits" weren't enough for them to recoup their expenses, I guess.
All I can say to them is COME ON. You guys already have Five Star, Inception, and the number of other high-dollar sets out there. Take the loss and let the low-end people get the W on this one.
If you're at all into the photography and pure art that goes into this hobby, then you're bound to find something to like in this year's Stadium Club. True, Topps tried to revive the brand back in 2008, but it didn't seem to capture the true spirit of the brand. It was boring and gone in the blink of an eye.
The 2014 edition, however, is a masterpiece that I'll remember for a long, long time.
And, lest you think this is a horizontally-dominated set...
No matter the layout, Topps managed to cram a few years' worth of slick photography into one checklist. And not to mention a slew of mini-collection hits as well. Autograph shots, throwbacks, double dips, the whole enchilada.
The first thing I put on my Christmas wish list this year was a complete 2014 Stadium Club base set. Guess I can cross that off. Though most of the bigger old-time stars were removed (Ruth, Cobb, Mays, etc.), I got pretty much everything else I wanted from this dime box.
In the end, the 130 Stadium Clubs I picked out became mine for the low, low price of thirteen dollars. Sure beats dropping five times that on a box.
Oh, and by the way, none of the awesome cards I've shown thus far were even in the top ten of the stack I bought.
I saved those for last.
#10 -- 2014 Stadium Club #145 Matt Kemp
Sure, Stadium Club may be a set of action, action, and more action.
But that doesn't mean they couldn't go outside the white lines.
Isn't that right, Matt Kemp?
#9 -- 2014 Stadium Club #133 Ted Williams
As I said, almost all of the older stars were tactfully taken out of this dime box.
I guess the guy missed ol' Teddy Ballgame here, and I couldn't be happier about his mistake. Rather than sticking to the norm and featuring yet another shot of Williams in his Red Sox uniform, Topps got a little unorthodox and picked a photo of him in his war uniform instead.
It's a refreshing change of pace and, at the same, a fitting nod to the Splendid Splinter's time in the military.
#8 -- 2014 Stadium Club #38 Robinson Cano
I love all throwbacks, but there's something about these retro Mariners jerseys that especially tickle my fancy.
#7 -- 2014 Stadium Club #29 Jose Reyes
I'm normally opposed to not being able to see a player's face on a card, but I think I can make an exception here.
Shots like these make me thankful for all the high-quality cameras we have at our disposal these days.
#6 -- 2014 Stadium Club #101 Mike Napoli
I don't know if I own a more heroic baseball card.
#5 -- 2014 Stadium Club #24 Anthony Rizzo
Nothing like signing autographs on beautiful afternoon at Wrigley.
I'm not exactly opposed to it, but I have to wonder how different this shot would've looked with a big scoreboard in the background.
Maybe we'll get to see one in 2015 Stadium Club for comparison.
#4 -- 2014 Stadium Club #21 Roy Halladay
It didn't hit me until just now, but there really aren't enough ceremonial first pitch cards out there.
How else could you get a shot of someone like Roy Halladay on the mound in blue jeans?
Oh, and let's not forget the mounties at attention in the background, either.
#3 -- 2014 Stadium Club #66 Matt Cain
The throwbacks actually take second-billing on this beauty.
What I find great about this shot is the fact that it basically captures the past, present, and future as far as pitchers go.
At 39 years old, Tim Hudson is probably in his waning years on the mound after a long and fruitful career. While he had a down 2014, I'm hoping it's only a bump in the road to what has been a terrific track record up to this point for Matt Cain.
And, after this past postseason, I'm sure everyone's itching to see what Madison Bumgarner has in store for the years to come.
It's almost like a triple-pronged timeline.
And they're all wearing rally caps.
#2 -- 2014 Stadium Club #141 Evan Gattis
I'm both scared and fascinated by this card at the same time.
In what is obviously a play on Gattis's nickname ("El Oso Blanco" or "The White Bear"), Topps decided to use a shot of the catcher surrounded by an actual bear hide.
There is absolutely nothing I can say to sum up my amazement over a card like this, so I'll let the photo do all the talking.
#1 -- 2014 Stadium Club #182 David Ortiz
Let's get one thing straight.
I hate, hate, HATE selfies. I hate the word "selfie" and I hate when people feel the need to stop and take a selfie every five seconds. (Do I sound like a grizzled old man yet?)
Now, if you're meeting the president or something, than I guess a selfie could be in order. Even if it is mostly a sponsored sham.
But, still, the sheer Inception-like feel of a picture of a guy taking a picture is pretty darn cool. And I'm almost positive this is the only presidential cameo you'll ever find on a baseball card.
I can't imagine the Commander in Chief plays second fiddle in many photos.
When you get down to it, 2014 Stadium Club is an indication that Topps does still care about putting out a quality product. While it may contain autographs and other high-dollar cards, the base set caters to the collectors in it for pure fun and love for the hobby.
I needed that.