I know this post is way, way overdue.
I know I'm about the 96th person to talk about 2016 Stadium Club on the blogs by now. I know everyone has already made the comparisons to '97 Fleer. I know some of you have probably already moved on to newer things like A&G by now. I know.
But there's just no way I could run this blog and not post about 2016 Stadium Club, albeit a little late.
My local Target's been a bit flaky when it comes to putting out new releases lately.
I checked the card aisle multiple times in the days and weeks following Stadium Club's release, only to find nothing there. In the past couple years, that wouldn't have been a huge deal.
I was lucky enough to attend card shows right on the heels of both 2014 and '15 Stadium Club, which enabled me to pick up a large amount of commons on the cheap without having to purchase a single pack.
But that's not the case this year.
The local card show schedule has changed here in 2016, which unfortunately means that I probably won't be able to make it to one until at least September or October. One thing's for damn sure: there was no way I was waiting until the fall to find Stadium Club.
In the end, I decided to go the online route. I snagged 40 hand-picked singles off Sportlots for about half the price of a blaster, and I acquired another lot of around 70 off Just Commons after that. The best part was that I'd earned a $20 gift certificate from Just Commons prior to the order due to their rewards program, which meant that the Stadium Clubs were basically free.
And nothing beats free Stadium Club.
I'm just reiterating what everyone else has already said about this set: Topps knocked it out of the park once again.
The design may be a bit of a knock-off, but the originality of the cards themselves can't be questioned. That's one of the things I like most about Stadium Club: whereas other brands like A&G, Topps Chrome, etc. kind of has that we've-seen-this-before feeling to them, Stadium Club always feels unique, a breath of fresh air.
Like I've done with the past two editions, I undertook a nearly impossible task and pieced together a list of my ten favorite cards from this year's Stadium Club. And, like before, so many great ones missed the cut. None of the masterful cards you've seen thus far cracked the list.
Only the best made it to the Top Ten.
#10 -- 2016 Stadium Club #129 Adam Jones
I'm admittedly partial to a good pie-in-the-face card.
Stadium Club added a nice little twist to the concept here, in that this is the first card I've seen featuring the man about to deliver the pie rather than the one taking it.
#9 -- 2016 Stadium Club #60 Carl Yastrzemski
I love the centerfield angle on this beautiful Yaz ball-meets-bat moment at Fenway (and is that a Tommy John cameo I see?).
#8 -- 2016 Stadium Club #280 Mike Trout
Mike Trout having some fun with a dear friend.
Shades of Dennis Eckersley from last year's Stadium Club.
#7 -- 2016 Stadium Club #38 Frank Thomas
I'm just a tad too young to remember Frank's prime years with the Sox in the mid '90s (Paul Konerko is the first baseman of my childhood), but there's little doubting the Big Hurt's iconic status on the south side of Chicago.
Just check out that statue for proof.
#6 -- 2016 Stadium Club #13 Sandy Koufax
Another one of Stadium Club's high points is the impressive mix of black-and-white and color photos.
Sandy Koufax is among the last generation of ballplayers who I actually picture in black-and-white -- probably due to the fact that most of the footage I've seen of him wasn't in color -- so this image fits for me.
Couple that with the nighttime sky and the glowing neon scoreboard, and you have a winner.
#5 -- 2016 Stadium Club #107 Jake Arrieta
No single card captures the glory of the Cubs' valiant 2015 run better than this one.
And at the center of it all is the man who put together the single greatest pitching season I've ever seen in my lifetime.
#4 -- 2016 Stadium Club #222 Evan Longoria
Thanks to Ebay and other various sites around the 'net, I'd seen many of the images of the Stadium Clubs I would up purchasing in my orders before they even wound up on my doorstep.
This, however, was one that'd flown under my radar, and it was love at first sight. Seen here is a neat meta-image of Evan Longoria posing in front of a blown-up MLB Debut insert card...of Evan Longoria. (Along with Matt Harvey's 2016 Topps flagship issue in the backdrop.)
It might be the single most baseball card-y baseball card ever made, if that makes any sense.
#3 -- 2016 Stadium Club #171 Randy Johnson
Talk about a perfectly framed moment.
#2 -- 2016 Stadium Club #294 Jackie Robinson
Perhaps the thing that strikes me most about watching old film of Jackie Robinson is the way he ran.
I'm not talking about the all-out intensity -- though you'd be hard-pressed to find a better baserunner than Jackie -- I'm talking about the physical way he ran, his arms flailing at his sides like little motors gearing up and bursting to life. This card perfectly captures that unique running style, which is why I ranked it so high here.
And, of course, don't sleep on all those wonderful old-timey ads splayed across the outfield wall.
#1 -- 2016 Stadium Club #126 Roberto Clemente
Unlike the past couple years of Stadium Club, there wasn't a clear number one for me in 2016.
Last year had Eck and his Oakland doppelganger, and 2014 had Big Papi and the Commander in Chief. This year was one big question mark until I actually sat down to write this post. I briefly had the Big Unit and Jackie Robinson in the #1 slot before deciding to bestow the honor to my all-time favorite ballplayer, Roberto Clemente.
This rather heroic shot features the late Pirate in profile, signing autographs (a mini-collection hit!) at what I believe is Wrigley Field. There's something comforting in the fact that the crowd poring over Clemente is comprised of eager little kids, as opposed to the hordes of grown men I see crowding around the foul lines at most big-league games I attend these days.
It's simply a peaceful image, one that's sure to make any baseball fan smile.
I think it pretty much goes without saying, but it sure looks like Stadium Club is on track for a third straight Set of the Year crown here in 2016.
There's just too much firepower here for anything else to even come close to knocking it off its throne.