Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Transatlantic Triple Break Joins the Club

Stadium Club has been out for some time now, I picked up a hobby box to share as my contribution to the Transatlantic Triple Break with Kevin of The Card Papoy and Matthew of Bob Walk the Plank.

Each of us get 2 divisions. We each chose our home town team divisions this time, so I had these parallels from the AL Central, Fulmer on the left is a holofoil card numbered to just 25 copies.

I also picked the NL West, which afforded me this sweet Trevor Story insert.

Just a pair of Twins in the box, Buxton and Sano. The biggest name rookie pulled was Eloy Jimenez. We were robbed of a Vlad Jr card! Sorry Kevin.

Before I forget, here are the backs. The sooner I forget Buxton's 2018 season, the better. Yikes! He's doing much much better this year.

Stadium Club went hard after horizontal shots this year. Maybe it was just the luck of the draw, but they appeared to be more than half of the base cards. At that point, I think they could have just gone all in with the horizontal shots. Happy to a new bat rack card with Justin Turner!

I didn't pull this one from the box - both autographs and the box topper will be going out in the mail, just the way I prefer it on the breaks. But I saw that La Tortuga was on the auto checklist, so I made a special addition off of eBay of this card, and since the autos I pulled are going elsewhere, I figured I would share this one now.

Overall, the base cards still bring home the bacon, and like years past I feel like the parallels / inserts are unnecessary - I'd rather have more variety of base card images, as they are the best part of the set! Have you picked up any Stadium Club yet this year? What are some of your favorite cards in the checklist?

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

1992 Topps Traded Set

The single solid color bricks that served as a calling card for Topps Traded Sets was gone for good in 1992. The longer, thinner boxes that started in 1990 were now the "standard" format, though Topps still had the brick version. Now both versions featured photo reproductions of the cards inside, featuring the big name free agents, rookies, and traded players.

Another change for trade was the back. For the first time since 1981, the traded set backs were the same color as the flagship set - no bright neon traded variation this time. Just like the regular set, a panoramic image of the player's new home was squeezed in whenever possible. There were 3 horizontal cards in the 1992 traded set, the rest are the more familiar portrait format.

Canada was stockpiling Hall of Fame players. Toronto grabbed a pair of Saint Paul, MN heroes, Jack Morris and Dave Winfield. The Expos reclaimed their prodigal son, Gary Carter was no longer the "The Kid," but still a fan favorite. Steady Eddie Murray would be one of several new faces in New York, hoping to power the Mets to the post season again.

The traded set rarely had the biggest of the big name rookies. 1992 would feature the future Rookie of the Year Pat Listach, Team USA standout Jason Varitek, 2-sport star Brian Jordan, and a very young Nomar Garciaparra. Nomar was just a college Freshman, earning his spot as the only walk-on for Team USA. It would be a few years before he'd return to the national spotlight with the Boston Red Sox.

Although 1992 was a big USA Olympic year, the baseball team was on the outside looking in. After losing to Cuba and Japan in the tournament, the US team missed out on all medals.

Canada would not field an Olympic baseball team, but they had the last laugh with the Blue Jays winning the first of two World Series championships. The "other" Canadian team was just showing early signs of the team they would become by the mid 90s.

The Minnesota Twins may have been overconfident following their 1991 World Series victory - they did little to improve their team following the season. They would replace Jack Morris with another 20 game winner, John Smiley. They also added veteran arm Bill Krueger. While the team actually had a better record in 1992, they would fall short of the post season behind the still dangerous Oakland A's.

I tossed in Taubensee and Valera as some of my favorite images from the set.

The Hot Stove may have been cool in the Midwest, but the fires were burning on the coasts. The big free agents flocked to New York, with the Yankees scoring Danny Tartabull and the Mets adding Bobby Bonilla. A pair of trades sent Gary Sheffield and Eric Davis out West. Davis would reunite with his childhood friend Darryl Strawberry, and Sheffield would team up with San Diego legend Tony Gwynn.

Some off-season moves don't work out the way they were planned...

And others work out even better than you had hoped!

Last but not least, here's Kevin Campbell. You may be asking... why? What? Why? Well, to tell you the truth, if I had made this post last week, I would have skipped right past this card. Over the weekend, the Twins were playing the Chicago White Sox and LaTroy Hawkins was doing the commentary alongside play-by-play man Dick Bremer. They were talking about pitch selection and Bremer asked about the 4-seam vs. the 2-seam fastball. According to Hawkins, he never threw a 4-seamer in his entire MLB career - and he owed it all to Kevin Campbell. During Spring Training in his rookie year, Hawkins was warming up in the bullpen and Campbell noticed some fastball command issues from the young righty. He showed Hawkins his grip for his 2-seam fastball and Hawkins found it to be much more comfortable than any pitch he'd thrown before. The rest of his 21 year major league career, that 2-seamer would be LaTroy's bread and butter. So there you go - Kevin Campbell!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Trading Up North Again

Douglas from Sportscards From The Dollar Store surprised me with a nice stack of cards this month.

As has been the custom from our trades, the four major North American sports were all represented!

In Hockey, both the expansion Wild and the (much earlier) expansion North Stars were included. 1990 Bowman was so terrible for baseball, but for hockey I don't mind it at all - maybe it's the inclusion of more on-ice action and less portrait shots.

The Wolves will be trying again to make some progress in the talent rich Western Conference, but without Rose and Jimmy Butler. Butler is somewhat of an enigma - he does really endear himself to his new team, but is seemingly quick to spoil a good thing. He's also pretty good at burning bridges, I doubt the Wolves will be trying to orchestrate a reunion.

Back to Hockey, I thought this was the coolest one- a clear acetate card reminiscent of a freshly zamboni'd rink.

And a hit! Jordan Greenway was a 2nd round pick of the Wild back in 2015 out of Boston University. He played in 81 games last season, scoring a dozen goals and assisting a dozen more. He'll be looking to increase his production this season, as he's in the final year of his rookie contract. He's a big dude, 6'6" to be exact, and the Wild will be counting on him to provide a physical presence in the offensive zone, probably on their 3rd shift.

Speaking of talented youngsters, the Twins are well stocked. Alex Kiriloff made Lewin Diaz expendable in yesterday's Sergio Romo trade, despite the fact that Diaz was projected to be MLB ready as soon as 2020.

Recent first rounder Royce Lewis was just promoted to AA taking Lewin's roster spot. He will most likely take over at Short, with someone else shifting over to be the everyday 1B. It won't be Willians Astudillo, who remains with the Big League squad, albeit on the IL for the forseeable future.

A couple more hits! Jose Berrios is the team Ace, and Twins fans will be hoping for a strong finish to 2019 from the young right hander, who just made his first All-Star squad.

Last but not least is the speedy Jake Cave. He was sent down to AAA this week, as Byron Buxton returned from injury. Given Buxton's history and the grind of the full season on all the outfielders, chances are Cave will get another shot to contribute to the Twins in 2019.  

Thanks so much for these, Douglas! I don't have a great package to send you - yet. But I'll have something headed your way as soon as I do!

Friday, July 19, 2019

Page Three - At The Bat Rack Frankenset

The Legend Continues! Page Three of the "At The Bat Rack" Frankenset is here. 

Rules -
9 different players
9 different card sets
9 different teams
player is at the bat rack (or bat pile) in or near the dugout
Have fun (most important)

Page Three!

The Backs:

19- Denny Walling 1984 Mother's Cookies Houston Astros 
20- Mark Grace 1993 Fleer
21- Nolan Arenado 2016 Donruss (1982 Retro design)
22- JJ Hardy 2001 Upper Deck
23- Eric Helfand 1994 Mother's Cookies Oakland Athletics
24- Dave Cohea 1983 TCMA Alburquerque Dukes
25- Ernie Banks 2010 Topps (Turkey Red Insert)
26- Bill Skowron, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle 1982 The Mickey Mantle Story 
27- Sammy Sosa 2003 Upper Deck Sweet Spot

Well, I really wanted to follow those basic rules to start out, but it is hard to find more than one card at the bat rack for each number. I'll be looking for replacements for 2 of the 3 Cubs so I can have 9 different teams represented. Even though they are 10 years apart, using 2 different Mother's Cookies cards felt like a cheat as well. They are very bat rack heavy sets.

On this page, my fave is probably the Mark Grace card. The best factoid was that JJ Hardy is listed as a SS-P as he was his high school team's closer. 

I am already pretty close on page 4, just need to find 2 more to finish it. Look for it some time in 2021!

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Highly Subjective Definition of "Vintage" with Completely Arbitrary Collation

Ok, what do you consider to be "vintage" baseball cards? Pre-war/pre-Topps? 1960s/70s? 1995? I was curious about Rollie Fingers' definition of vintage when he put his name on this box in 2004, promising "7 Vintage Cards Per Pack."

A Brief Video Interlude of the first 2 packs...

This was an impulse purchase - I wanted to bust open some packs and I was looking at a wall of uninspiring 80's and early 90's offerings when I spotted this box all alone for $10. 

This is a typical pack - there's no vintage there, at least based on most accepted definitions. I would say "vintage" should be 15 - 20 years old, at least. Technically 2003 to 1983 works, but to me that should be the most recent card. The definition of vintage today is generally 1979 or older-- the offerings from the 1980's and 1990's are rarely placed in vintage bins or boxes at card shows.

The "vintage" definition aside, after opening a few packs, patterns began to emerge.

It was borderline comical! P.S. there were no Rollie Fingers cards in the box, though he was still in the league in the early 80's.

Ha, joke's on you, Rollie! Technically those two shades of red on the '91 Topps logo represent variations! So you didn't give me 6 identical Tom Glavines, instead there were 3 each of the two variations. Don't know if it counts, but half of the Kent Hrbeks had printing smears on the front, the other half did not...

The oldest card in the whole box? 1980 Topps Hosken Powell. The newest? 1995 Pacific Omar Olivares. 1995?!?! Less than 10 years old when it was placed in the box. C'mon, man!

The best thing in the box was in the very first pack (I'm thinking this is by design?) - a 1983 Starline Sticker of Mickey Mantle. You can find a copy on COMC for around $5, so I can say that I spent $5 to get this sticker, and I paid another $5 for some very elaborate packing material.

Monday, July 8, 2019

1993 Topps All-Star Rookie Catcher - Mike Piazza

I started profiling the 1993 Topps All-Star Rookie team all the way back in March, and now we come to the end of the line - 1993 NL Rookie of the Year Mike Piazza. The burly catcher is the only member of this roster to make the Hall of Fame, but was famously the last one drafted.

The story goes that Piazza was drafted by the Dodgers as a favor - Mike's dad was a long-time close friend to Dodger legend Tommy Lasorda. The next chapter was all about Piazza struggling to succeed as a first baseman in the minors. Piazza even left his team briefly and if not for the encouragement of family and coaches, would have retired from baseball as a largely unknown player.

After returning, and after some very hard work to convert to a new position behind the plate, Piazza began to flourish in 1991 with Bakersfield. His 29 homers were a revelation. By the end of 1992, Piazza would climb three more minor league levels and make his MLB debut in a September call-up just a few days shy of his 24th birthday.

Once he made it to the big leagues, Piazza became a star. His Rookie campaign included an All-Star appearance, a Silver Slugger, a 9th place finish in the MVP race, and of course Rookie of the Year honors. He hit .318 with 35 homers and 112 RBI his rookie season. His 7.0 Wins above replacement was 2nd only to MVP Barry Bonds among position players.

This debut, coupled with the bright lights of Hollywood, made Piazza a frequent subject of insert sets in the crazy card world of the 1990s. The various card companies would work overtime to devise new ways to show Piazza's Prodigious Power.

Piazza spent his first 7 seasons with the Dodgers, hitting .331 with 177 homers. Good things don't last forever, and in 1998 the team and Piazza were at an impasse in negotiating a new contract. As often happens, newspapers spilled vast amounts of ink about player loyalty, and questioned Piazza's motives. For his own part, Piazza responded to criticism with scorn of his own- for the writers, for Vin Scully, for the Dodgers. In what could have been a life long, mutually beneficial relationship, the Dodgers and Piazza could not find common ground. Whether you want to blame the player or blame the owners, either way it was an unfortunately end to his time in Los Angeles.

It led Piazza to spend 5 bizarre games with the Florida Marlins. Marlins owner Wayne Huizenga was ready for a firesale, acquiring Piazza (and Todd Zeile) for Gary Sheffield, Charles Johnson, Jim Eisenreich, Bobby Bonilla, and Manuel Barrios. Florida essentially traded all of those guys (and Piazza) to get Preston Wilson and Ed Yarnall from the Mets. Piazza went 5-18 with a triple and 5 RBI for the Marlins before going on the move again.

He didn't know it yet, but the Mets would end up being the most significant stop in his post Dodgers career.

The two things that come to mind most readily about Piazza with the Mets are the 2000 Subway Series, and the Mets' games immediately following the events of 9/11. Piazza had a pair of homers in the Subway series, and his deep fly ball in game 5 was the final out. It would turn out to be the closest the team would get to a championship with Piazza. The next season, the Mets were disappointing but they saved their best work for the end of the season. After 9/11, it was Piazza who punctuated the Mets' return to NYC with a walk off home run.

In 8 seasons with the Mets, Piazza had over 1,000 hits, 220 homers, and 655 RBI. He'd make 6 All-Star squads and win 4 more Silver Slugger awards as a catcher with the Mets. 

As the wear and tear of catching limited Piazza's playing time and production, he would return to West Coast to finish off his playing career. He'd reach 400 career homers with the Padres, and his final appearance as a catcher. He'd finish his career with 83 games as the A's DH, platooning with lefty Jack Cust.

He is the all-time leader for homers by a catcher, and his 10 Silver Sluggers are also tops for the position. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016.