It seems I've come to a point in my collecting life where my nostalgia is starting to get displaced.
I realized this when Kerry of "Cards on Cards" (and a longtime friend of the blog) mentioned he'd come into a large lot of 2003 & 2004 Donruss Team Heroes singles. My dreaded I MUST HAVE THESE lights turned on, and I commented saying as such. They were on my doorstep not long after, a box of at least a couple hundred(!) cards from the short-lived brand (Team Heroes, along with Donruss as a whole, called it quits after 2005).
I like Team Heroes for a lot of reasons, but two main ones: 1) it's about as close as Donruss ever got to a Topps Total-like set (I mean, Corky Miller's in the checklist!), and 2) I seriously never find these ANYWHERE. It's one of the sets I'm talking about in my theory that cards from the early/mid-2000s just plain fell off the face of the earth at some shady midnight in my adolescence.
But my first thought on seeing (and wanting) them on Kerry's blog was more nostalgic, something like: Oh, I used to love these back way back when!
But then I really started to think about it, and I realized that I don't think I actually opened any Team Heroes when they were actually on store shelves.
Somewhere down the line, it seems I got so frustrated about the lack of Team Heroes in my collection that it tried to convince me I did actually open these when I was 11-12 years old, that I didn't let them just go by unnoticed at the time.
In the end, the box Kerry sent was more than enough to make up for the gap in my collection (and mind) previously left by Team Heroes.
Aside from featuring a whole lot of Obscure Dudes I collect (Matt LeCroy!), I'd also like to take a moment and reflect on how wonderfully detailed the backs are -- how many sets give you player and team bios on the same card?
Unlike Topps Total, there are a few legends sprinkled into the checklist -- but true to form, they're far from the Ruths and Aarons and Boggses you see shoved into every set nowadays (the world needs more Eric Davis and Keith Hernandez cards).
I can talk on and on about Team Heroes, and the nuts and bolts of it -- but since I don't think that truly sums up my enjoyment for this short-lived brand, I decided to undertake the tough task of pinning down my ten favorite cards from the massive box Kerry sent over, just to show all the little joys and minutiae that make it so great.
#10 -- 2003 Donruss Team Heroes #313 Endy Chavez
I collect Endy Chavez, and while I don't know if he can be classified as "obscure" given his famous catch in the 2006 playoffs, his brief stint with the Royals (29 games) sure is.
What makes this one doubly weird is that Chavez had last played with the Royals in 2001, and yet here he is depicted with them on a card released two years later.
#9 -- 2003 Donruss Team Heroes #432 Kenny Lofton
I get excited over any new Kenny Lofton card, but I'm particularly fond of any that feature the seemingly infinite Short Term Stops from the later stages of his career.
#8 -- 2003 Donruss Team Heroes #294 Jack Morris
Jack Morris's 1991 season with the Twins was so legendary that people (including myself) sometimes forget that it was his only one with the franchise.
#7 -- 2003 Donruss Team Heroes #516 Juan Gonzalez
Because of the guy in the cowboy hat in the background.
#6 -- 2004 Donruss Team Heroes #441 Bartolo Colon
The man, the myth, the legend.
#5 -- 2003 Donruss Team Heroes #305 Jose Vidro
This, I think, is when posed shots work best: afternoon sunshine, fans in the stands, obviously taken not long before the start of an actual game.
#4 -- 2003 Donruss Team Heroes #371 Mark Ellis
Whoa: a double mini-collection card!
#3 -- 2004 Donruss Team Heroes #411 Edwin Almonte
I have no idea who Edwin Almonte is -- 2003 was his only big-league season (12 games total) and he never actually played for the Red Sox -- but wow is this a terrific baseball card.
Like Team Heroes as a whole, it kinda brought up that nostalgia again: I can't think of many cards that show the batter's eye like it used to be at Wrigley, all shrubbery and green, back before it became yet another "premium seating" area (aka seats for rich people who don't actually like baseball).
#2 -- 2003 Donruss Team Heroes #12 David Eckstein
One of my all-time favorite players wearing one of my all-time favorite throwbacks?
#1 -- 2004 Donruss Team Heroes #205 Amos Otis
As I mentioned earlier, Team Heroes features a whole lot of legends who don't get a whole lot of play in the modern hobby.
But still: there have been cards of Eric Davis in recent years. There have been cards of Jack Morris. Best I can find, however, this is the last regular ol' base card ever issued of Amos Otis...and it came out fifteen years ago. Fifteen years! Amos Otis may not be a household name (though he's up there in the Great Baseball Names category), but that's still a helluva drought for someone who had a long and fairly distinguished career right smack dab in the middle of the '70s.
If nothing else, Team Heroes was there to give poor Amos Otis his moment in the sun -- you might even say it's downright Heroic.