Thursday, February 28, 2019

Welcome to the '70s

This card, on its own, pretty much sums up everything I love about Topps Heritage.

It's a throwback to a generation past that somehow also manages to stay firmly enmeshed in the present. This year's Heritage, of course, moves into a new decade by paying tribute to the 1970 design. But the Diamondbacks didn't exist then, and massive beards like Archie Bradley's weren't a glimmer in anyone's eye. To some, maybe that makes it fail as a true "throwback."

But to me, it's a brilliant collision of past and present, and a great reminder of why I remain such a fan of current players on retro designs.

Granted, I'm not a huge fan of the '70 design -- it's in constant competition with '68 Topps as my least-favorite vintage Topps look.

I don't like gray borders and I don't like cursive, neither of which bodes well for 1970 Topps. But I don't necessarily judge Heritage on my feelings toward the vintage design in question since that's kinda out of Topps's hands by now. For me it's more about how true it stays to the original, and I think 2018 Heritage succeeds there.

When looking at them side by side, I find few quibbles with the reproduction -- maybe some slight text oversights but nothing that has me up in arms.

Backs? Check-plus.

Even though I told myself I wouldn't go as crazy for retail this year, I still found myself on a Heritage manhunt at local Targets and Walmarts these last few days -- they finally showed up at the Target by my house today.

I bought a blaster, a hanger box, and a rack pack, and they made those days of waiting worth it. Though it's been around since 2001, Heritage is one of the few longtime brands that has ceased to feel like old hat. It's still relevant as ever -- I honestly can't imagine collecting nowadays without Heritage in there somewhere.

Better yet, 2019 Heritage seems to try to reproduce the quirks and oddities of the real set better than some efforts of years past -- I pulled a few Matz-like extreme closeups from my packs, which are quite reminiscent of those weird crop jobs on some of the 1970 originals.

One of the knocks on Heritage is that Topps has taken to backloading the SP checklist with big names, which is akin to a cardboard slap in the face.

Still, I did pull a couple I needed here, including Paul Goldschmidt's first card as a Cardinal -- doesn't look right to me yet.

The subsets remain a constant thrill in Heritage -- as does the old-time wordplay on the playoff cards.

I don't usually pay much attention to the inserts in Heritage, but these properly grooved-up New Age Performers made me take notice.

The News Flashbacks single sends me off on my yearly quest to complete that insert set, which I'm looking forward to.

That Rizzo is just plain fantastic -- it even folds out like the original '70 Topps Scratchoffs and everything.

And hey, I even pulled something that might net me a few bucks.

According to the stated odds, these Nickname SPs come 1:2,301 packs(!!!). This Acuna (aka "Sabanero Soy") fell out of the very first pack of the blaster I opened. It's a fantastic card, and I was briefly tempted to keep it, but I can't justify that when it'll likely go a long way in funding the two card shows I have coming up this month.

So there's a first peek into the new decade of Topps Heritage we've stepped into here in 2019 -- here's hoping it'll be a groovy ride.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The (Second) Dime Box Frankenset, Page 35: Numbers 307-315

Frankenset Page #36 WINNER -- 1993 Donruss #319 Geno Petralli (9 votes + tie-breaking vote)

Believe it or not, last week's frankenset page finished with yet another deadlock at the top.

Both Geno Petralli and Mike Laga received nine of 37 the total votes, forcing us into another tiebreaker situation to determine the champ. As is the usual protocol around here, I ask the first five people who care to comment on this post to choose between Leapin' Geno and Laga's airbrushed disaster. The first of the two to receive three of the five tie-breaking votes will be our king.

I'll edit this post once we have a winner.

EDIT: Geno wins!

In the meantime, let's take a look at this week's frankensetters -- in an odd twist of fate, the Random Number Generator spit out #35 (#s 307-315), the page immediately preceding the one we just saw last week.

These are the nominees.

1997 Upper Deck #307 Scott Erickson

"Whaddya mean I have to hit?" -- every AL pitcher before his first interleague game in 1997, probably.

1991 Topps #308 Tom Pagnozzi

Perennial frankenset favorite Tom Pagnozzi on a jewel from '91 Topps. 

1994 Topps #309 Carlos Garcia

Wrigley Field at its finest (even though the card itself is of an opposing player). 

2013 Topps #310 Edwin Encarnacion


1992 Leaf #311 Mariano Duncan

Turning two, horizontal edition. 

1995 Upper Deck #312 Steve Buechele

That could very well be Steve Buechele's oldest son, Garrett, who is already out of baseball following a few pedestrian years in the Giants' system (man I feel old). 

2009 Topps #313 Jeff Baker

Double dip! 

2011 Topps #314 Ryan Kalish

That time when Ryan Kalish was the fourth-most famous player on his own card.

1994 Score #315 Mark Whiten

In honor of one of the single greatest games any player has ever had.

That's it for this week's page. The polls are now on the sidebar, and don't forget to help break last week's tie!

Happy voting!

Monday, February 25, 2019

Into the Sunset: The NL West Team

While the end of my "Short Term Stops" theme was inevitable, I was still disappointed when it came to its natural conclusion.

Between the research and my love for unfamiliar uniforms, I very much enjoyed writing those posts. I wanted to get another theme like it started, but aside from a few small flickers no ideas came. It wasn't until recently that a fairly obvious concept hit me: All-Sunset Teams! Sunset cards are another former theme of mine that seemed worth reviving in roster form.

But there's a few more limitations involved with Sunsets than Short Term Stops. One, final cards are limited to guys who've already retired, obviously. Two, a quick flip through some of my binders showed that I don't really have enough sunset issues for each team to do 30 different posts (there'd be a whole lot of imperfect rosters if I did). So I met somewhere in the middle and decided to revive the Sunset theme with teams for each of baseball's six current divisions, starting with the NL West here tonight.

To refresh, the rosters will follow the same format as my Short Term Stops posts: three pitchers, catcher, first base, second base, shortstop, third base, three outfielders, and a DH if applicable -- so without further ado, it gives me great pleasure to bring you the NL West Sunset Team.


1966 Topps #100 Sandy Koufax

Sandy Koufax (Years Active: 1955-66) -- 1966 Dodgers, 41 games, 27-9, 1.73 ERA (sunset season)

Coincidentally, this series starts with what is probably the greatest sunset season in the history of baseball.

Sandy Koufax took home the Cy Young in 1966, and the numbers speak for themselves: 1.73 ERA, 317 strikeouts, 27 complete games (all league leaders). Little did anyone know, however, that it'd turn out to be his final season. Koufax retired at age 30 due to elbow tendinitis: the choice was either keep playing or likely lose an arm. Koufax chose the arm.

Deciding what Koufax's true sunset card is can get a bit tricky -- his decision to retire seemed to throw Topps HQ into chaos like everyone else. He has no standard card in '67 Topps. He's featured on a few league leaders, but I don't consider multi-player issues to be true finales. He's also shown on a special "Retired" card in the '67 Topps Venezuelan checklist, but I'll probably never own that one unless I come into a small fortune.

Me, I consider Koufax's 1966 Topps issue to be his true (if imperfect) sunset card, and thanks to my dad, who picked it up at a card shop long ago, I actually own it.

 1969 Topps #400 Don Drysdale

Don Drysdale (1956-69) -- 1969 Dodgers, 12 games, 5-4, 4.45 ERA

I'm excited to write these Sunset posts because they give me a chance to show my respect for dudes who spent their entire careers with one team.

As much as I like my Short Term Stops, I have the same amount of enthusiasm for those who made called one franchise home, and one franchise only. There's something to be said for guys like Don Drysdale whose cards are all housed within a single one of my team binders and nowhere else. Drysdale, like Koufax, was a career Dodger, though his last season was a bit more pedestrian than Sandy's. He pitched in just 12 games for the '69 Dodgers, collecting the final five of his 209 career wins in the process.

His sunset card from '69 Topps is a hero number (like Koufax), though sadly he didn't get a true farewell with full stats on the back (also like Koufax).

2010 Topps Heritage #96 Randy Johnson 

Randy Johnson (1988-2009) -- 2009 Giants, 22 games, 8-6, 4.88 ERA

But make no mistake about it: I do indeed enjoy talking about guys who finished their careers in odd uniforms.

Since I already covered a lot of said players in my Short Term Stops series, I'm gonna do my best not to have too many repeats here unless the players and uniforms in question are just so (un)memorable and so (un)noteworthy not to discuss. Case in point: Randy Johnson, who finished his career as a San Francisco Giant(?) in 2009, a stint so odd that I can't help but include here. Johnson did collect his 300th win with the Giants, but everything else about his stint there was...weird.

I've shown his 2010 Topps finale on the blog many times before -- it's one of the best sunset cards ever for my money -- but I thought I'd change things up a bit by showing my only other true farewell of the Big Unit, from 2010 Topps Heritage.


1959 Topps #550 Roy Campanella 

Roy Campanella (1948-57) -- 1957 Dodgers, 103 games, 13 HR, 62 RBI

My sunset theme becomes a bit more somber when it comes to the sad story of Roy Campanella.

You could argue the dude was the greatest catcher in big league history, or would've been had he been able to enjoy a full career. Three MVPs, eight All-Star Games, 242 homers...all in just ten big-league campaigns. And that's not even talking about the prime pre-integration years he spent in the Negro Leagues. After an off '57 season, though, Campy was sadly paralyzed in an car accident, this cutting short his legendary big-league career.

Despite the sight of the once-strapping Roy Campanella in a wheelchair, his '59 Topps "Symbol of Courage" finale gives me hope and joy every time I hold it in my hands -- for that, it remains one of the crown jewels of my sunset collection.

First Base

1981 Fleer #434 Willie McCovey 

Willie McCovey (1959-80) -- 1980 Giants, 48 games, 1 HR, 16 RBI

Choosing the first baseman for this roster was a tough call: the choices are absolutely stacked.

You've got Todd Helton, a single-team guy in an era where such a thing was a rarity. You've got Steve Garvey, a fan favorite who enjoyed considerable and longtime success for two different NL West franchises. And you've got Mark Grace, one of my favorite (and most underrated) players of my youth -- and a bit of the unfamiliar factor since it's still hard to think of him as a Diamondback.

But I went with the late Willie McCovey for the sheer reason that, while he didn't spend his whole career in San Francisco, he's instantly identifiable in my mind as a Giant, perhaps more so than anyone who ever played for the Giants. And also his sunset situation is strange. McCovey didn't exactly go out with a bang -- just one homer in 48 games in 1980 -- but still it's somewhat odd that Topps and Donruss left him out of their '81 checklists.

In the end, it was Fleer, and only Fleer, who gave "Stretch" the true ride into the sunset he deserved.

Second Base

2010 Topps "Cards Your Mom Threw Out" #CMT-121 Jackie Robinson 

Jackie Robinson (1947-1956) -- 1956 Dodgers, 117 games, 10 HR, 43 RBI

Another position, another lifelong Dodger: Jackie Robinson mans second base on this already star-studded roster.

I have nothing to say that hasn't already been said about Jackie. He changed baseball more than any other player in the game's history. His sunset story is an interesting one, in that he technically ended his career as a Giant. The Dodgers traded him to San Francisco after the '56 season, but Robinson refused to report and retired, thus voiding the swap.

Really the only ding against Robinson's 1956 Topps museum piece (other than the fact that I don't yet own a real copy) is that it's not a true finale -- it doesn't have career stats and he wasn't featured in the '57 checklist, but still you can't say Jackie didn't go out with a bang with that masterpiece from '56 Topps.


1958 Topps #375 Pee Wee Reese 

Pee Wee Reese (1940-42, 1946-58) -- 1958 Dodgers, 59 games, 4 HR, 17 RBI

I don't think I ever realized how many Dodger legends wound up being career Dodgers.

Koufax. Drysdale. Campanella. Robinson. And now Pee Wee Reese. All 16 years of Reese's HOF career (truncated by three prime seasons lost due to WWII) were spent with the Dodgers. Oddly, Pee Wee's final season was the Dodgers' inaugural one in Los Angeles. The 40-year-old shortstop played in just 59 games in 1958, hitting just .224 with four homers before calling it quits.

As I've shown so far, Topps didn't grant many true sunsets in their olden days, Pee Wee Reese included -- though his by-default '58 Topps finale has long been a favorite of mine (not to mention one of the more affordable vintage sunset cards of a HOFer!).

Third Base

2015 Stadium Club #20 Eric Chavez 

Eric Chavez (1998-2014) -- 2014 Diamondbacks, 44 games, 3 HR, 8 RBI

These sunset posts will follow the rules of an All-Star team, in that one player from each big-league club must be represented on every roster.

The Diamondbacks, barely two decades old, operate at an obvious disadvantage compared with clubs like the Dodgers and Giants who've been around for what seems like forever. But I don't think it's much of a stretch putting Eric Chavez on this roster, a star (but also oddly injury-prone) third baseman of my youth. After a handful of big years with the A's, Chavez closed out his career with a couple unfamiliar seasons in Arizona, hitting the final three of his 260 career homers in his 2014 farewell.

And hey, he got something greats like Koufax and Robinson were never lucky enough to receive -- a true sunset card, thanks to 2015 Stadium Club.


1983 ASA Duke Snider Story #12 Duke Snider 

Duke Snider (1947-1964) -- 1964 Giants, 91 games, 4 HR, 17 RBI

As I mentioned, I don't want to include too many Short Term Stop/Sunset crossovers in these posts, but I made room for Duke since I didn't own this card -- the only one I've ever seen of him as a Giant -- when I wrote my Short Term Stop Giants post.

Unfamiliar doesn't even begin to describe Duke's tenure in San Francisco, especially considering he spent the vast majority of his HOF career with the rival Dodgers. Nothing about Snider's lone season as a Giant was memorable: he hit .210 with just four homers in 91 games there before retiring.

Very few of the game's greats enjoyed a grand, majestic end to their hallowed careers, and Duke Snider is a prime example of that.

1993 Upper Deck #706 Dale Murphy 

Dale Murphy (1976-1993) -- 1993 Rockies, 26 games, 0 HR, 7 RBI

See also: Dale Murphy, another legendary Short Term Stop/Sunset combo that was just too great not to include on this roster.

I've covered Murph's woeful career-ending stint with the Rockies on this blog many times before, but I'll never tire of it. Murphy hit just .143 with exactly zero homers in 26 games with the expansion Rockies in 1993 before taking the hint and calling it quits. It's a stint made even more incredible considering Murphy was an active player the previous time baseball had expanded nearly two decades earlier with the Mariners and Blue Jays in 1977.

It can be painful watching a former legend limp into the sunset, but for better or worse, it makes for great blog copy.

2002 UD Piece of History #82 Tony Gwynn

Tony Gwynn (1982-2001) -- 2001 Padres, 71 games, 1 HR, 17 RBI

But after two forgettable Short Term Stops comes a single-team legend with the late Tony Gwynn.

Mr. Padre was, of course, a career Padre. So many of his stats seem superhuman: .338 career average, 15-time All-Star, and perhaps most incredible, only 434 strikeouts in 20 big-league seasons. TOTAL. Hobbled by injuries later in his career, however, Gwynn appeared in only 71 games for the 2001 Padres, though that didn't stop him from hitting .324 in his abbreviated sunset campaign. Card-wise, he didn't pick a great year to retire, as not a lot of the designs bestowed on us in 2002 are all that memorable nowadays (this frenzied Piece of History card is one of his few true sunset issues).

Still, there really isn't such a thing as a bad baseball card of Tony Gwynn -- it just doesn't exist, and that goes doubly so for the few who gave him that true, glorious ride into the sunset.

That just about does it for this inaugural sunset squad -- thanks for tuning in!

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The (Second) Dime Box Frankenset, Page 36: Numbers 316-324

Frankenset Page #65 WINNER -- 1993 Upper Deck #582 Brian Hunter (8 votes)

I had a tough time deciding what my favorite card was from last week's page, and it looks like my fellow readers did as well.

While we had a high total of 37 votes, Brian Hunter ended up taking the crown with a mere eight tallies. Six of the nine cards from last week's page received between four and eight votes. We almost had a three-way tie for first until a couple latecomers put Hunter over the top.

If a single set can be classified as a Frankenset MVP, it's 1993 Upper Deck -- and now it has another notch in the Gallery of Frankenset Champions.

Today's my 27th birthday, and it gives me great pleasure to reveal this week's special birthday frankenset page -- as chosen by the Random Number Generator, we'll be taking a look at Page 36 (#s 316-324) here today.

Let's meet the nominees.

1995 Donruss #314 Wes Chamberlain

Fan favorite. 

1993 Upper Deck #317 John Orton

John Orton's attempt for a repeat winner from '93 Upper Deck. 

1971 Topps #318 Rudy May

Horizontal vintage FTW.

1993 Donruss #319 Geno Petralli

I've looked at this card for a good couple minutes, and I still have no idea what's going on here.

2018 Topps #320 Yasmani Grandal

I sometimes think about starting a high-five mini-collection. 

1987 Topps #321 Mike Laga

Worst airbrush job ever? 

1995 Pacific #322 Bob Welch


1996 Score #323 Jay Buhner

New from the Hallmark channel: the Everlasting Friendship of Ken Griffey Jr. and Jay Buhner.

2017 Topps #324 Ben Revere

A rare moment of greatness from 2017 Topps.

That's it for this week's page. The poll are now on the sidebar.

Happy voting!

Monday, February 18, 2019

Requiem for a nightmare

Well, my nightmare came true yesterday: my car broke down on the way to the card show.

It was every bit as frustrating as you'd probably imagine. Middle of a snowstorm, freezing cold, the works. And not to mention my birthday is tomorrow -- which I'll probably be spending picking up my car at a shop far from my house, since after about an hour of driving, it chose to broke down literally a half-mile from the show (which I could've walked, but didn't since my card show buzz was understandably killed at that point).

But as the saying goes: you win some, you lose some. There's another show in a few weeks that Dad and I will be planning on attending (car willing), and it's not like I don't have enough cards to keep me occupied in the meantime. Sometimes I get so swept up in acquiring new cards that I forget I already have ones to love and appreciate.

And hey, I can even catch up on a few long neglected parts of my collecting life -- like cataloging and trade posts, both of which came together in one magical mailer I recently received from the immortal Julie of "A Cracked Bat" fame.

I like to think of myself as a fairly organized collector, but it's hard to believe I've gone about two decades without ever giving much thought to cataloging my collection.

I finished listing out my Hoyt Wilhelm collection not long ago (I'm at 143 different Hoyts!), and I discovered I owned three different parallels of that card at the top of this post...without ever having pinned down the standard base version. In a weird twist of fate, Julie's package arrived literally a few days later, and wouldn't you know it -- there was that very same base Hoyt!

And while I haven't yet cataloged any of my collections of the players above (they're high on the list though!), I immediately knew I needed these four from Julie.

Some shiny stuff of other dudes I collect -- the Trumbo confirms that blue is the best refractor color ever.

A couple oddballs of Chicago legends, and the thought of baseball cards and pizza (frozen or otherwise) has my adrenaline going already.

Julie's sent me many amazing packages in the past, and almost all of them have included stuff from high-end sets that aren't exactly common fodder.

I've never opened any Triple Threads (obviously), but I'll certainly take the cards when I can get 'em.

Shimmery National exclusives rule.

Minis of various makes and models.

I'm never quite sure what to do with disc-shaped baseball cards -- I can't store them in a binder and they're too small for prominent nightstand display.

But that aside, I'll be darned if these things aren't cool nevertheless: that Radbourn in particular is stunning since it's an extremely rare pre-1900 Short Term Stop, as his Reds career lasted all of one season in 1891(!).

Cool cards of old dudes.

All hail the '90s, the decade that gave us Bartolo Colon rookies and laser-etched baseball cards.

And capping off this Card Show in a Box was this 2011 Topps Mike or Giancarlo or whatever Stanton, a former Dime Box Dozen need!

Like the aforementioned Hoyt, it's a card I owned a parallel of without the base card, and holy heck does that bug me. Thanks to Julie, it's one less headache in what has already been a dastardly weekend of headaches. It gives me a smile at a time in which I definitely need one.

In the meantime, I'll be spending some quality hours with my collection, and praying that yesterday's nightmare never comes true for any of you fellow bloggers out there.