Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Back in the club

I always feel like the arrival of Stadium Club should be accompanied by a flourish of trumpets or something, kinda like when royalty enters a scene in a Shakespeare play.

Stadium Club made its big comeback in 2014, and it's taken the Set of the Year crown on this blog each and every year since then (don't think I ever got around to posting my 2019 list, but Stadium Club was #1). It's gotten some stiff competition from Big League here in 2020, but Stadium Club is (and probably always will be) the set to beat going into each card season. It's just objectively so much better than almost anything else out there these days. I think most of us can agree on that.

Given the state of retail in 2020, however, I was fully expecting to have to simply buy all the singles I needed online without ever seeing a pack. Yes, maybe that's the more rational strategy, but dammit, I like opening packs. Turns out the card gods had a surprise in store for me, because after months upon months of empty card aisles, I actually found a few Stadium Club rack packs at a Target on the way home from work last week. Most of the Targets around here have recently put up the We reserve the right to limit how much you buy... signs on the card shelves, and I guess they're working.

There were six rack packs left on the hanger, and, well...okay, I bought 'em all -- the gravity box was still about half-full with single packs for other collectors, so I don't think it was too selfish on my part (right?).

Pack 1:

#26 Sean Murphy
#125 Sonny Gray
#146 Jose Canseco

As I've done the past couple years, I'll be going card-by-card through my Stadium Club packs because there's just so much to show.

This year's design -- if you can call anything from Stadium Club a "design" -- is nice and minimalist, which is basically all I ask given how dominant the photos are (and should be) in a set like this. I'm on board with any look that supports the cause of lowercase letters -- there's something playful about them I can't quite explain, and they always remind me of '71 Topps.

Of course, it didn't take long for Stadium Club to floor me with a photo, as this Canseco won me over just three cards into the first pack -- a little jarring since I'm not supposed to want Jose Canseco cards.

#159 Roberto Clemente

In a rapid turn of events, we go from perhaps my least-favorite ballplayer to my all-time favorite.

Can't say I've ever seen this photo of Roberto Clemente before, and I love it -- it's beautiful and goofy at the same time.

#9 Jameson Taillon
#285 Shogo Akiyama

#116 Ronald Acuna Jr. (chrome refractor)

Chrome stuff in Stadium Club strikes me as unnecessary, but if you're gonna pull one, this isn't a bad one to get.

#163 Nomar Mazara (sepia)

#136 Zack Greinke (red foil)


#141 Danny Jansen
#94 Masahiro Tanaka
#62 Austin Meadows

Pack 2:

#36 Aristides Aquino
#41 Jonathan Villar
#135 JD Martinez
#98 Sam Hilliard
#172 Jeff Bagwell

Stadium Club is wonderful, but it ain't perfect -- I mean, Topps just used almost this exact same photo for Stadium Club a few years ago.

#240 AJ Puk

#167 Trevor Bauer


You win, Stadium Club.

#PZ-20 Anthony Rizzo, "Power Zone"

Don't really care about the inserts in this set, but I'll always take a new Rizzo!

#223 Matthew Boyd (red foil)
#237 Brendan McKay
#227 Justin Verlander
#25 Yasmani Grandal

Pack 3:

#229 Tim Anderson

Time for the game show that's sweeping the nation: Double Dip or Not A Double Dip?

(I say Double Dip.)

#281 Josh Staumont

#110 Ernie Banks

In case it hasn't become obvious already, the photo quality in 2020 Stadium Club is every bit as fantastic as we've been led to expect over the years -- that got taken care of after the first pack.

Also, cards with old advertisements rule.

#31 John Means
#179 Marcus Semien

#270 Ken Griffey Jr.

The Kid's got a lot of awesome cards out there, but this one has to rank right near the top.

#44 Tommy Edman

#PZ-25 Ken Griffey Jr., "Power Zone"

Griffey hot pack!

#IR-VGJ Vladimir Guerrero Jr., "Instavision"

Kinda cool -- I'd never pulled one of these Instavision inserts before now, and they fall about 1:100 packs, so here's to beating the odds!

#49 Josh VanMeter
#255 Dustin May
#233 Nick Castellanos

Pack 4:

#269 Aaron Civale
#199 David Ortiz
#90 Tommy La Stella
#3 Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth has to be the most photographed ballplayer ever, so I'm always kinda astounded when I see a new picture of him.

#178 Barry Zito

I'm not really liking this trend of greats from my childhood -- like Barry Zito -- appearing as "legends" in modern sets.

This is, however, a fantastic baseball card, and the first one I've seen that documents Zito's brief three-game return to the A's at the end of his career in 2015.

#161 Manny Machado

#A-JV Josh VanMeter, autograph

I kid you not: as I was briefly scanning the autograph checklist for this set, a couple days before I bought these packs, I saw Josh VanMeter's name and said to myself: If I pull an autograph, it's probably gonna be a guy like that.


#127 Miguel Sano (sepia)

Stadium Club doesn't really need parallels, but I'll be the first to admit these sepia ones are gorgeous.

#46 Joey Gallo (red foil)
#55 Lucas Giolito
#275 Bubba Starling

#276 Kyle Schwarber

A question I always ask myself around Stadium Club time: if Topps can make this set look so great, what's stopping them from making everything else look just as good?

There's probably a lot to unpack there, and I don't even begin to know the answer -- so for now we'll just continue to enjoy the Louvre exhibit that is Stadium Club.

Pack 5:

#197 Mike Yastrzemski


#166 Ozzie Smith
#158 Noah Syndergaard
#40 Blake Snell
#3 Babe Ruth (again!)
#178 Barry Zito (again!)
#161 Manny Machado (again!)

#EOZ-3 Lucas Giolito, "Emperors of the Zone"

Ran into some questionable collation with this pack, but it's offset by this nifty insert for my newest player collection.

Lucas Giolito's the new ace in town, and his no-hitter was one of only about two or three I've seen in real time, so I kinda have to collect the guy now.

#140 Willie Mays (red foil)

Bask in the greatness.

#17 JT Realmuto
#282 Sheldon Neuse

#277 Johnny Bench

For some reason I feel like I have to show every Johnny Bench card I get.

Pack 6:

#2 Nelson Cruz
#216 Rhys Hoskins
#155 Joey Lucchesi
#181 Josh Hader
#179 Marcus Semien (again!)
#270 Ken Griffey Jr. (again!)
#44 Tommy Edman (again!)
#BAB-6 Juan Soto, "Bash & Burn"

More collation issues here, and while I think the concept of these "Bash & Burn" inserts are fun, I'm not huge on the look of 'em.

#51 Adbert Alzolay (black foil)
#208 Domingo Leyba
#114 Robbie Ray

#138 Aaron Judge

In case you ever wondered what it being punched by Aaron Judge would look like.

Dad Bonus Pack #1:

#128 Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

As I guess I should've expected, Dad surprised me with a couple more Stadium Club rack packs he managed to secure before the retail hounds got to him, and they came out swinging.

Might not be on the Oscar Gamble or Jose Cardenal level, but this is one of the better "hair cards" around, yes?

#163 Nomar Mazara

#289 Luis Robert

Dad's had incredible luck with the packs he's gotten me this year -- I plan to go more in depth on this in a future post -- and of course the Luis Robert would fall out of his pack.

I'm already a big fan of this guy, and getting a card of his is definitely exciting, but it might be more of a pure relief than anything knowing I won't have to chase one down on the secondary market inferno.

#204 Patrick Sandoval
#81 Randal Grichuk
#111 Luis Severino

#288 Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

A Canadian treasure.

#EOZ-14 Jack Flaherty, "Emperors of the Mound"
#33 Albert Pujols (red foil)
#245 Willi Castro

#71 Carl Yastrzemski

Yaz makes his second Stadium Club appearance, this time on his own merits.

#85 Kyle Hendricks

Dad Bonus Pack #2:

#290 Sandy Koufax

Card. Of. The. Year!

#256 Bryan Reynolds
#274 Felix Hernandez

#112 Bo Bichette

Who does the Canadian skyline better: Vlad or Bo?

I go Bo.

#242 George Brett
#30 Bryce Harper

#A-AA Aristides Aquino, black foil autograph /25

Remember what I said about Dad's luck with cards this year?

These fall about 1:500 packs, which here I was thinking my "Instavision" Vlad beat the odds. I collect Aquino, but I'll probably try and move this one. Bad news is that there's a fairly obvious printing flaw near the bottom of the card where the foil's starting to peeling away. Still, I've been thinking for a long time that I should let Dad open all my packs now, and this further confirms it.

(If any bloggers are interested in this one, please let me know -- I'd love to find it a good home.)

#116 Ronald Acuna Jr. (red foil)
#146 Jose Canseco (sepia)
#271 Logan Allen

#218 Mookie Betts

Topps showed Matt Kemp in his red-carpet duds in 2019 Stadium Club, and from the looks of it they're doing it again this year with Mookie Betts.

I still can't decide whether or not I like these fashion-show photos, but they're certainly jarring to see in a pack of baseball cards, I'll say that.

#203 Chipper Jones

You probably already got the hint, but yes, 2020 Stadium Club's a big hit with me, as it is year after year after year. I guess I'm trained to expect sets I once loved to go a bit stale (cough A&G) but Stadium Club remains fresh and exciting every single time, and once it arrives, all other sets on the card calendar bow to it.

[exeunt, flourish]


Mike said...

Wow, so many great shots and a fun coincidence that a bunch of my favorite players were shown. Among the legends, the Banks and Koufax really stood out (I'd say Griffey, Jr., too, but that photo is one with which I am very familiar). I love Greinke, yet his cards often have a sameness to them. As such, this photo depicting him ripping into a pitch at the plate is particularly cool to see.

Mike said...

Great stuff and glad I could contribute!

acrackedbat said...

Blown away by your hits: refractor, auto and Instavision?? Then a hot rookie in the pack from your Dad? I've called you a "magician" in the past. Are you pulling these cards from your Dad's hat?

Adam Kaningher said...

Every year this is awesome. I have a blaster on the way and I can't wait for it to get here!

Zippy Zappy said...

Congrats on the VanMeter, the man traded for Luis Torrens back in 2016.

Johnnys Trading Spot said...

I considered buying hobby boxes at the card show Sat. Figuring it would take at least three boxes to get enough cards to try to build the set. I did not, came home and bought a complete set off ebay for less than 1/2 of 1 box. I like TSC, this years' design is not my favorite. Great photos, the design is a bit off to me. Happy that you got to rip some packs. I did that with Fire, it felt good. :)

Nick Vossbrink said...

My set is in the mail. Totally looking forward to getting it in hand.

night owl said...

Took you long enough to pull a Dodger! I thought I was looking at my packs for a minute!

Just think, when everything is right in the world and not a single pitcher is batting again, there will be NO MORE PITCHERS BATTING ON CARDS!!!!!!

And that will be a travesty.

Fuji said...

Awesome photography as usual. Don't think I've ever seen that photo of Griffey (on his base card) used before. It is weird seeing Zito appearing on the checklist... but as an A's fan, I'm glad to see Topps put him with the team he started and ended his career with.

Bo said...

These are fantastic. When I saw the Banks card, I thought to myself that that would be the best card in the post. Then I saw Griffey, Ruth, Mays (a night card?), Judge, Guerrero . . .

And sorry to be "that guy" but a gimmick card of a lifetime .097 hitter, even if he's one of my favorite vintage stars, does not rate as high to me.

Matt said...

That Roberto Clemente perfectly summarizes everything that makes Stadium Club magical. That Mike Yastrzemski is gold too.

GTT said...

Beautiful cards. Except for the Mookie.

Chris said...

So many awesome cards as always. I hadn't seen the Mays before. Fantastic photo there. The Banks, Bichette, and Koufax are awesome. I legit thought Gurriel was Bryce Harper for a second.

Congrats on pulling that Aquino auto! Your dad sure knows how to pick a pack!

The Bucs Stop Here said...

So much goodness in those packs and congrats on some awesome hits. The Yaz duo card is amazing - they are TWINS!

shoeboxlegends said...

It's been a little crazy for me lately, so this is actually the first I've seen of this set. They're gorgeous, and I'm not surprised!

Adam said...

So many cool cards there. My favorite though has to be the Ernie Banks card, I’m a sucker for cards that feature old school advertising on it. Also, if no one has claimed Aquino, I’d be interested in it. Just let me know. I’m sure I can find some card to send over eventually, I think I owe you at least a PWE.