Monday, November 5, 2012

"The Dime Boxes Top 100": Cards 100-91

The time is finally here.

Today marks the beginning of the "Top 100" countdown.

I tried to come up with a flashy name for this list, but I just couldn't do it. I'm not sure that anything could've properly capped off the time, effort, and sheer fun that went into making it.

Plus, I don't think supercalifragilisticexpialidocious would've fit in the title.

So, for now, we'll just keep it simple and call it "The Dime Boxes Top 100".

Until this very moment, I thought it would be impossible to compile a definitive list of my 100 favorite "modern era" baseball cards. (As a reminder, this list will only include cards from 1981 to the present. I'll be making a vintage list sometime in the future.)

Yet here we are.

It wasn't easy, though.

Night Owl's "100 Greatest Dodger Cards" preview put the idea in my head. I thought, "If he could do it, so could I."

A huge thanks goes out to him for the inspiration.

Then, I decided that the list would indeed be a "go", although I had no idea what I'd be getting myself into at the time. (Sneak peek: None of the cards I featured in that post made it onto the list, unfortunately.)

After weeks of deliberation, I finally whittled the list down to an even hundred. I revealed the ten "honorable mentions" a couple weeks ago.

Now, it's time to start revealing the hundred greatest "modern" cards I own.

It's a proud day for me, my collection, and, of course, my blog.

Before we officially begin the countdown, I should say that the above '82 Topps "Highlights" Steve Carlton is a "bonus" honorable mention. I received a card today that snuck into the "Top 100", bumping a card that features the oddest arm angle I've ever seen off the list.

Sorry, "Lefty". You just missed the boat.

Well, I think it's finally time to get this thing started.

Are you ready?

#100 -- 1981 Topps #55 Mike Norris

Let's begin with #100.

Because...well, where else would we start?

When I originally added this to the list of my "considerations" for this list, I figured it would be a longshot to make it.

I like Mike Norris and all, but it's not like he's one of my all-time favorites or anything.

Yet, although I came close to doing so on a couple occasions, I just couldn't bring myself to "cut" this one.

After all, it has quite the backstory.

A few years ago, I saw a little mini-documentary of Norris on ESPN. (I think it was a feature on SportsCenter, if I remember correctly.)

Apparently, he fell on some hard times after his playing career was over, even becoming homeless for a period of time.

Thankfully, he's managed to put the pieces of his life back together, even helping out kids of Oakland's inner-city community.

As revealed in the documentary, Norris has kept a copy of his '81 Topps issue with him through all his ups and downs, a reminder of how durable and flexible he used to be before real life came crashing down on him.

With all that, I couldn't bring myself to leave this one out of the countdown.

It wouldn't be right.

#99 -- 1996 Studio "Stained Glass" #12 Kenny Lofton

Like the Norris, a lot of the cards you'll see on this list made it due to an interesting backstory.

Others feature a neat action shot or capture a definitive moment in baseball history.

Yet others, like this Lofton, are simply too "cool" to not include on this list. The "stained glass" concept is one of the greatest I've seen for an insert set.

There are a lot of reasons why vintage may be better compared to the "modern era" of baseball cards. 

It's safe to say that this isn't one of them. 

You couldn't get something like this in the 1960's.

#98 -- 2008 Upper Deck #229 Manny Ramirez

I know, I know.

You're probably thinking, "Why Manny?"

Believe me, I asked myself the same question. Ramirez may just be my least favorite player of the last twenty years or so.

It wasn't easy to let this one into the "Top 100".

Still, that should tell you just how truly awesome this card is, one that captures the immediate aftermath of Manny's game-winning homer in Game 2 of the '07 ALDS.

Had this card featured almost anyone else, chances are you would've seen it a lot higher in the countdown.

#97 -- 1982 Donruss #311 Kent Tekulve

Going into this, I was unsure about a lot of the decisions I'd be making.

However, there was never a doubt about one thing.

I knew that Kent Tekulve would make an appearance in some way, shape, or form.

Surprisingly, it was Donruss who produced my all-time favorite card of his, getting a shot of him in the middle of his unorthodox delivery.

Although I probably shouldn't like it, there's something about the smattering of empty Wrigley Field seats behind him that I love.

Welcome to the "Top 100", Mr. Tekulve.

#96 -- 2007 Sweet Spot Classic #142 Harmon Killebrew /575

Harmon Killebrew is easily one of my favorite players to collect.

However, there's a specific reason for why I included this one.

It just looks so familiar to something found on pretty much every baseball card.

Although the stance might be flipped, you can't tell me that MLB didn't at least have Killebrew in mind when they produced the silhouette for their logo.

I'm not sure if that's what Sweet Spot was hinting at on this card, but it certainly got me thinking.

#95 -- 2007 Topps Allen and Ginter #119 Hunter Pence SP RC

Sometimes, I just "like" a card, for lack of a better term.

Even if I'm not quite sure why.

This is certainly an example of that.

Back in '07, I nabbed this card from a local card show for a buck. At the time, I just liked Hunter Pence and thought this card was "cool" enough for my collection. (If I had a blog back when I was fifteen, you probably would've seen the word "cool" at least five times per post.)

Ever since that fateful day, though, this card has grown on me, bit by bit.

Maybe it's just the general aura of a terrific A&G card. Maybe it's because the generic pose reminds me of an actual 1887 A&G tobacco piece. Or maybe it's because I actually like short-prints.

I sure hope it's not that last one.

#94 -- 1990 Score #589 John Olerud RC

There's a lot to love about this one.

To begin, I'd like to know if there are actually any baseball fans who don't like John Olerud. I've never met any.

For a lot of collectors, this card was likely the first look at that odd helmet that Olerud wore in the field. Although I know that the reason for that helmet is far from "awesome", I can't help but enjoy cards that feature him wearing it a bit more.

However, what makes this particular piece of cardboard a "Top 100 inductee" is the position that Score gave Olerud for his rookie card.


From what I understand, that's what he played during his college days at Washington State, so it's not some sort of printing error.

I'm sure it's the first and only time we've seen that designation on the front of a baseball card.

#93 -- 1993 Upper Deck #174 Carlos Baerga

I understand that the hundred cards I'll be showing in this countdown are far from universal.

Not everyone enjoys stained glass. Maybe you'd just rather not see a Manny Ramirez card on here. Or perhaps you just plain don't like Hunter Pence.

That's fine.

Yet, I'd bet there's a select few cards in existence that almost all of us can agree on.

I'm inclined to think that this is one of them.

I know of at least one blogger who collects "double play" cards. Although I don't specifically collect Carlos Baerga, I've always felt that this one has to be near the top of the list in that category.

I've never seen a better one.

#92 -- 2007 Upper Deck #301 David Weathers

I'd like to see the "Top 100" lists for the members of my trading forum.

Although it's not a slight against the online trading community, I imagine the list would include tons of "big hits". Not to mention a lot of your everyday Jeters, A-Rods, and Trouts.

What I love most about my list (and the others I've seen in the blogosphere), is that the name alone gets you nowhere. (In fact, not one Jeter, A-Rod, or Trout card made my countdown.)

Although I've collected him for a while now, David Weathers isn't the most well-known subject in the cardboard universe.

As a result, I've often found myself wondering if anyone even cares about his terrific 2007 Upper Deck card, one that managed to find its way onto my "Top 100". (And one I've shown before on this blog.)

I guess that's another thing the blogosphere has taught me.

A lot of collectors do care.

It's comforting to know.

#91 -- 1998 Fleer Tradition #391 Mike Piazza

To close out the initial installment of the "Top 100", we have one of the more iconic cards of my collection.

As many of my readers know, I'm a big fan of cards that show a guy in an "unfamiliar" uniform. In some cases, the uniform is strange because I've so closely associated the player with a certain franchise. Although he played three years with the franchise, Mark Grace as an Arizona Diamondback is a good example of that.

Most of the time, though, it's about the actual length of time that the player wore the uniform.

The shorter, the better.

One of my first "obsessions" as a young collector was to find a card of Mike Piazza as a Marlin, a team for whom he only played five games during the '97 season.

For years, I didn't think any existed. 

That changed when I was able to pick up this "historic" piece in a trade. 

I currently have three cards of Piazza in my Marlins binder, and I know there's at least a few more out there.

But this is the one that started it all. 


Well, that just about does it for tonight.

Although I didn't plan it, these first ten cards have done a great job of showing the different aspects of my "Top 100" as a whole.

Some cards, like the Norris, have a special story attached to them.

As evidenced by the Lofton, some are just too "flashy" to leave off the list.

Like Ramirez and Baerga, some simply have top-notch action shots, even if I don't specifically collect the player featured on it.

Mr. Weathers shows that others are just good for a laugh. 

The uniform can also play a role in a card being included in the "Top 100", as shown by the curious case of Mike Piazza.

From now on, I'll probably devote one post per week on revealing more from the countdown.

At least until we get to the hallowed #1 card on the list. That'll be a long time from now, though.

Until then, I hope you enjoyed the first installment of my "Top 100".


Robert said...

I've looked at that Olerud 100 times (at least), and never noticed that the position was OF-P. I know that he did pitch during college, but I'd be hard pressed to see him as an outfielder (the foot speed just wasn't there).

Nice start...looking forward to the rest..

buckstorecards said...

There was a lot of talk among baseball media types about Olerud pitching when he started with the Jays, so it really wasn't surprising to see at least one card reflect the possibilities of seeing John on the mound.

Though due to local familiarity with Olerud, I'm more of a fan of the Herb Washington card for unusual listed positions.

arpsmith said...

Nice start to the list, I enjoy your stories and reasonings behind the cards.

To keep the Olerud comments going, I think it is funny that his position is listed as OF-P yet he is pictured playing 1B with a firstbasemen's mitt.

Spiegel83 said...

I dig this countdown so far. Piazza in a Marlins uniform is still painful after all these years.

JediJeff said...

UniWatch talked the the guy who more than likely created the MLB logo. He said it is not based on Killebrew:

AdamE said...

I knew when you talked about this list last week that it would be all over the place. I mean what other list in the world would have those 10 guys on it?

98th for that Manny card is an utter travesty! If I did a top 100 Red Sox card list it would be in the top 10. Just look at the elation of everyone on that card. (except the catcher) The players are streaming out of the dugout. (except for Youkilis who is trying to climb the barrier and seems to have got stuck) Every single person in the stands are in on their feet with their hands in the air. Even Manny’s bat is giving him a standing O. It is a Photographic Masterpiece!

(How hard would it have been to take that picture? I couldn't of done it. I would have followed the ball and missed Manny's celebration. Plus the photographer had framed it just right to get Manny the crowd and the team all in the shot together. As far as camera shots go this one was perfection.)

majpasqua said...

Great intro to your top 100 Nick! I remember pulling that Steve Carlton out of a pack when I was a kid and kind of freaking out about his arm. Love your explanations too! Gotta dig those old A's unis. Can't wait for your next grouping.

Bruce Baskin said...

Sorry I'm 2+ years behind everyone else, but I just found your blog today.

I've lived in Western Washington most of my life and I was at the game in Seattle when John Olerud returned to the WSU lineup for the first time after his aneurysm in 1989. He cranked a home run over the fence in right-center that kept going and going...NORAD may still be tracking it.

Great list.