Thursday, December 31, 2015

Cards of the Year: 2015

You know, 2015 was actually a pretty decent year.

I enjoyed continued success at school and met a lot of great people. I had two more short stories published. I received accolades for some of my schoolwork. I finally landed a steady job, at a bookstore, no less. I'm primed to graduate college in May 2016 and, if things work out the way I'm hoping, will begin applying for grad school over the summer.

Baseball wasn't half bad to me, either. I actually remembered what it was like to watch a good Cubs team. The prospect the Cubs' higher-ups have been promising are finally beginning to blossom. And the World Series was entertaining, and a team I actually like won it all. (Beats another indifferent Rangers, Yankees, Cards, Giants, etc. matchup.)

To top it all off, 2015 was a solid showing for cardboard, perhaps more so than any single year in recent memory. Sure, maybe I didn't blog about them as much this year, but that's not the cards' fault. Like each and every year since I've started this blog, I've ranked my Top 10 Cards of the Year for 2015.

A lot of great cards hit the streets this year, and it wasn't an easy list to make, but here goes.

#10 -- 2015 Topps Archives Will Ferrell inserts

I'm cheating already.

This first slot isn't devoted to a single card as much as a single idea. Archives was kind of meh again in 2015, but, like 2014's Major League inserts, Topps hit on a winner with the Will Ferrell series this year.

I like Ferrell, but he's by no means one of my all-time favorite comedians or anything. But I did rather enjoy his ten-teams-in-one-day journey in Spring Training this year. Archives printed a card of him in each of the ten jerseys he wore in March.

The idea was a hit, and I remember seeing it being mentioned on national news outlets for a while back then. (It's always nice when baseball cards get a little nationwide pub now and then, isn't it?)

I've only tracked down two of the ten cards in the set thus far, but here's hoping getting my hands on a few more in 2016.

#9 -- 2015 Topps Heritage High Numbers #560 Pat Venditte RC

Pat Venditte, the famous switch-pitcher, got his first taste of big-league ball in 2015 after eight years in the minors.

Topps rewarded him by granting him a rookie card in this year's High Numbers checklist, and, even better, getting a shot that clearly shows Venditte's quirky six-fingered glove. (He's also in Update, but this card is way better, I think.)

Venditte posted a 4.40 ERA in 26 games with the A's this year before landing on the DL. He was claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays in October, so we'll see what he does north of the border in 2016.

Here's hoping this isn't the last glimpse of Pat Venditte on cardboard.

#8 -- 2015 Topps Update "Pride and Perseverance" #PP-9 Pete Gray

There weren't many memorable insert sets this year, but Update's "Pride and Perseverance" series is a huge exception.

The checklist recognizes those who overcame disabilities to play in the majors. Perhaps no single player overcame more than Pete Gray, who made it to the bigs with the Browns in 1945 despite losing his right arm in a childhood accident.

This is only the second card I own of Gray, and by no means did I ever think I'd see him pop up in a standard Topps checklist.

#7 -- 2015 Stadium Club #1 Fernando Valenzuela

Fernando Valenzuela has a lot of great cards out there, but I never thought any of them really summed up Fernando-mania.

This year's Stadium Club made sure to put an end to that.

#6 -- 2015 Stadium Club #298 Larry Doby

Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you know how great Stadium Club was this year.

SC did everything well in 2015. Modern heroes, past heroes. Hall of Famers, fan favorites. Color photos, black-and-white photos. There is a certain class in black-and-white photography, and that's exactly how I view this excellent Larry Doby/Jackie Robinson combo card. Classy. 

I feel like this image should be hanging in a museum somewhere, and yet I have it stored in one of my trusty nine-pocket pages.

#5 -- 2015 Topps "First Pitch" #FP-1 Jeff Bridges

I usually don't include non-ballplayers in these Cards of the Year lists, but I had to make an exception for The Dude.

It's enough of a baseball card to warrant inclusion here. It's sitting in my Dodgers binder right now, as a matter of fact. Topps struck a goldmine with this year's popular "First Pitch" insert series, and no single card from the set was better than this Jeff Bridges.

Bridges sported his very Dude-esque Hawaiian shirt and jellies as he bowled the baseball to home plate for his first "pitch." 

Obviously, he is not a golfer.

#4 -- 2015 Topps #2 Derek Jeter

This was probably the most talked-about card in the early stages of 2015.

What you see here is the child-like exuberance following Jeter's game-winning single in his final game at Yankee Stadium. Everything about this card is perfect. Perfectly framed, perfectly timed, perfectly executed.

A perfect way to send perhaps the most famous player of my generation into the sunset.

#3 -- 2015 Stadium Club #13 Ernie Banks

Baseball lost more than a Hall of Fame ballplayer upon Ernie Banks's passing in January.

The game lost one of its greatest personalities, one of its loyal ambassadors, and, most importantly, one of its kindest men. Somehow, Stadium Club managed to sum all that up in a single shot, depicting Banks receiving a Presidential Medal of Freedom from the Commander in Chief himself.

Hope you're playing two up there, Mr. Cub.

#2 -- 2015 Stadium Club #226 Dennis Eckersley

Maybe it's just a coincidence, but I find it interesting that my two favorite cards from 2015 Stadium Club feature former greats as suit-and-tied, post-big league men.

This is one of those cards that seems to be Topps saying Hey, Nick, this card is for YOU. I mean, how better to fit the tone of this blog than a shot of Eck with his giant-headed mascot alter ego?

Baseball cards are not often ha-ha funny, but you better believe this card is ha-ha funny.

#1 -- 2015 Topps #177 Paul Konerko

As I predicted way back when Series 1 hit the shelves, this is the Card of the Year, but it's a lot more than that.

It's the single greatest sunset card of my collecting lifetime.

It's the best card Topps has produced since I started this blog...and probably long before that.

It gives the collector the farewell Paul Konerko deserved, both from a baseball and baseball card standpoint.

It's representative of perhaps the single most fulfilling pull from a pack of baseball cards that I can remember, as far as pure joy goes.

This, and much, much more, is why this was my runaway choice for 2015's Card of the Year. As I've said, it really was a great year for cards, but I can't think of a better way to send out 2015 than with Paulie here.

Happy new year to all, and here's to a heckuva 2016!


defgav said...

Very nice! Happy New Year, Nick!

Tony Burbs said...

Really can't argue against any of your choices; excellent list. Happy New Year!

Brian said...

Great list, Happy New Year!

beefman said...

Awesome list, Nick - I can't argue with any of your choices here.

I was lucky enough to pick up the Jeter and The Dude in my (only) Series 1 blaster this year.

All the best for you and your family in the new year!

Nick J

majpasqua said...

Great list Nick! I dig that Doby/Robinson card. Good luck in your final undergrad semester. Happy New Year!!


Rob said...

Love your #1 - I get the factory set from my folks each year and that Konerko definitely got my attention the most as I looked through it...

shoeboxlegends said...

Great list Nick, Happy New Year to you!

Daniel Wilson said...

Lots of great cards to choose from, but I really like your list! Happy New Year Nick!

Steve at said...

Good picks. I got the 2015 mini set and the more I look at it the more I like it, and really like the Jeter, you summed that card up perfectly!

Big Tone said...

Good choices.Happy New Year ,buddy!

Julie Owens said...

Thanks for sharing yourself with us Nick. It's a great thing to view your success from afar. I can't wait to see the next chapters unfold. Oh, the list is cool too! Happy New Year!