Monday, May 17, 2021

Modern Monday - The Art of Hitting

I mentioned yesterday how two fellow collectors contacted me on the same day last week to ask if I wanted a Tony Gwynn card they had available. Russell was a bit hesitant in his offer because the card in question was unlicensed. However, that isn't an issue for me, and when an unlicensed card looks as good as this one, who cares about logos?

Card Number 676: Panini Diamond Kings Art of Hitting insert, 2021; #AOH6

There are 10 cards in this insert series. It's especially relevant to Tony who wrote a book called The Art of Hitting. I remember reading a comment that Tony should have called his book the Science of Hitting instead of the Art, because he took a very methodical approach to the game and applied trial and error to everything. However, Ted Williams had already used that title for his book about hitting, which Tony read and re-read multiple times.

Diamond Kings cards are all 'illustrated' in a similar style now and no artist is credited with designs like these. I like the way the image has been replicated on the cards in this insert series, although in this case it does look a little bit like a chorus line. (My wife, Cathy, said "Ooh, he's dancing!" when she saw it.)

The image features on the back as well.

Now I'm known as someone who reads cardbacks and has a passing interest in cardbacks that feature other languages besides English. Have a close look at the copyright notice and it looks like there are some hanzi or kanji letters there.

I would like to know if that is Chinese or Japanese, or neither. I'd be very happy to add that tiny bit of non-English to my list of languages that feature on Tony's baseball cards.

A big thank you to Russell for sending me this card. It takes me up to 6 cards issued in 2021 in my collection.

Total: 676 cards

Sunday, May 16, 2021

One card only - Gypsy gold from 2012

I had been feeling a little bit down recently but my mood was lifted last week when two fellow collectors contacted me separately on the same day to each show me a card and ask if I would like it. One of those people was Laura, the t-shirt designer who created the .394 t-shirt I am wearing in my bio pic to the right there (if you are looking at the web version of this rather than the mobile version!) 

Laura has created a few Padres-themed t-shirts, including a "Slam Diego" design, which I was wearing on Wednesday to watch the first game in the Padres' double-header against the Rockies, when Victor Caratini hit a grand slam! You can check out more of Laura's designs here.

Card Number 675: Topps Gypsy Queen gold frame parallel, 2012; #252

This card is numbered 252, like the base card, but there were actually only 100 cards given the 'gold frame' treatment.

I had wanted this card for a while because I wanted to talk about Topps re-using images on cards. I knew this card set used the image that had appeared on Tony's Topps card from 1988.

The Gypsy Queen version has been sharpened in photoshop, but the equipment in the dug-out and the people in the crowd are the same. 

I'd like to be able to claim that I spotted this all by myself, but actually it's because I saw the card designs next to each other in an image of an auction lot on eBay. I 'borrowed' that image as a reference and have kept it for several months waiting for the opportunity to use it.

That picture shows what the regular base card looks like. This is a 'gold frame' parallel, which means there is literally a gold card frame stuck on the front of the card in a decoupage style. It's hard to see on the scan but that gives the card added depth and makes a real nice effect.

Based on my research, I think the framed versions were included in the 'value packs' which contained 3 packs of Gypsy Queen cards and 3 framed parallels. The gold were the most common framed card. There were also blue-framed cards serially numbered to 599 cards, and black-framed cards that were released in a print run of one card each (known as 1/1s).

There were lots of variations in this set as well, so there are two variants of Tony's base card and two variants of the 'mini' version of his card. There don't seem to be any variants of the framed cards on Trading Card Database, but even so that adds up to a lot of different versions of this card for collectors to tray and track down. It's also a good illustration of the 'bloat' that has happened in terms of total cards released for a given player. 

The back of the card is sllightly dull in comparison. At least it wasn't complete gibberish like the cardback the previous year.

"He paced the NL..." is an odd phrase. Maybe the cardback writer felt "led" was a bit too boring a word to use on a boring cardback.

And now an added bonus. I said I had been feeling a bit despondent recently. When I opened the envelope and took the card out there was a little post-it note on it with a cheerful message. It really made my day!

I hope that however this blog post finds you, you find the time to look for rainbows when it rains.

Total: 675 cards

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Fleer makes some MVPs

Somewhere I have read a story about Tony Gwynn nervously waiting for the announcement of whether he had been inducted into the Hall of Fame, and saying that he wasn't going to get in because he never won the MVP Award. I can't remember where I read that. I have looked through He Left His Heart in San Diego a couple of times but can't find the reference, so I must have read it somewhere else, probably on the Internet somewhere. 

Anyway, Tony might never have won the MVP, but that didn't stop card companies from including him in MVP subsets.

Card Number 674: Fleer Baseball MVPs, 1989; #17

This card was sent to me by Michal. It took 2 weeks to travel the 30 miles from where Michal lives to where I live. I think I could have walked to pick it up and walked back home again quite easily in the time it took for the mail to get it to me.

This card is from one of the 44-card complete sets that Fleer produced. They seemed to produce a few of these sets every year in the late 80s. I have a couple of cards from other sets issues in 1989, and this card brings me up to 12 Tony Gwynn cards issued in sets like this overall. They have a nice quality glossy finish and the card stock is higher quality than the regular Fleer base cards.

The back is a bit dull, but it is nicely laid out.

The blurb has an oddly specific comment about ruining a pitcher's attempt at a no-hitter, which takes precedence over his batting title in 1988. There's also a mention of his brother Chris playing in the Major Leagues too. Chris had played 25 games for the Dodgers in the two previous seasons.

Fleer had given Chris Gwynn a rookie card in their 1988 set, which he shared with Peter Smith from the Braves. He also had a Score card in 1988 as a "rookie prospect". In 1989, Chris got a card to himself in the Fleer main set. He was also in the Upper Deck set that year, and was also still appearing in minor league sets. He didn't get a Topps card until 1990, although he was mentioned on the back of Tony's 1985 Topps card.

I have noted before how despite never winning the MVP Award, Tony appeared on a lot of MVP-related cards, mainly from DonRuss cards. Tony was in an MVP insert series in the 1994 DonRuss set, and in earlier sets too. That second link also includes some cards from the Upper Deck MVP brand sets.

Total: 674 cards

Friday, May 14, 2021

Friday French Lesson

Have you ever bought a job-lot of cards for just one card? I have. Dan put a little pile of cards up for sale on the UK Facebook group at a fair price and I spotted two Tony Gwynn cards in it. They were both fairly common cards that, no, wait a minute, that's an O-Pee-Chee card!

Card Number 673: O-Pee-Chee, 1986; #10

Apart from the O-Pee-Chee logo in a big white box on the front, there isn't really anything to distinguish it from the Topps card of the same year.

But when you turn it over, there's a lot of differences because most of the content is replicated in French.

"Parlons Baseball!"

"Premier coup de circuit!"

"Fiche complete comme frappeur dans les Majeures!"

I had an interesting discussion in work a couple of days ago about trying to produce genuinely bilingual resources and one thing we talked about was how pedestrian translated material becomes. The same thing happens on card backs. In English Tony "belted" his first major league home run on August 22nd 1982. The French just notes his first home run was on the 22nd August 1982. (Also, how weird is it that in French they put the dates the correct way round, instead of putting them the American way!)

This cardback is from the era where an unrelated factoid makes its appearance on the back as well. I noticed the French text is about 25 percent longer than the English. We have exactly the same issue in work when we have resources translated into Welsh. English is a language that is very easy to pare down and convey meaning with minimal words and grammar. Languages like French and Welsh have less forgiving syntax and are more precise. 

By the way, that premier coup de circuit was against the Chicago Cubs in an 8-7 defeat for the Padres at Wrigley Field. Tony hit it off Bill Campbell in the sixth inning. It was a solo home run, but Tony had already hit a triple in the second inning, batting in a run.

A big thanks to Dan for making this post possible.

Total: 673 cards

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Happy Birthday Mr Padre and to this blog

One year ago, I started this blog with the intention of collecting 394 Tony Gwynn cards. A year later, and I am about to show you my 672nd Tony Gwynn card; 278 over my target! I had 179 cards when I started, so I have acquired 493 cards since launching the blog - a whisker away from 500. That's not bad going for a year.

This is my 331st blog post, which included a run of posts every day from 9 May 2020 to 9 January 2021, which I calculate at 245 days in a row. I passed the 394 card mark in October and carried on. As of this morning, when I published this post, there had been 684 comments on the blog - and I'd like to thank those of you who have commented, particularly Fuji who has added his thoughts to almost every blog post. I really appreciate that commitment and all the nuggets of wisdom he has posted.

I was hoping to celebrate my blog birthday (blogaversary?) with a Project 70 card featuring Tony, but unfortunately the postal service has not delivered. So as of now, I have maxed out my cards to be blogged folder by presenting this rather shiny offering from DonRuss.

Card Number 672: DonRuss Elite Series, 1998; #20

The Elite Series cards were inserted into packs of DonRuss flagship cards during the first wave of cards (Series 1). 

The cards are serially numbered out of 2,500. That seems quite a high print run compared to the kinds of print run seen today, but back then this meant the cards were considered rare.

The cardback notes that Tony was included in one of the 'Elite' insert series for the first time in 1992. DonRuss must have felt that was quite a honour to bestow on a player. Tony's low strike out rate in 1991 earned him the spot among the Elite. It was impressive - as Tony went almost 30 plate appearances between strike outs. I think most of the current Padres team have more strike outs already this season than Tony usually experienced in a year.

So that's the first year of this blog done and dusted. Thank you everyone who has been part of this! (There is a list here - I think I have mentioned everybody!)

Total: 672 cards

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Black bordered All Star

Black bordered cards always look classy.

Card Number 671: Fleer (All Star Card), 1992; #2

There were 24 All Star cards to collect as inserts in the main Fleer set in 1992.

There is a long, sober summary of Tony's career to date on the back.

A couple of things stand out from that. One is how close Tony was to winning the batting title in 1991. Also his base-stealing exploits are often overlooked, but two seasons with more that 40 stolen bags, and stealing five in one game are aspects of his career that are worth being reminded about.

Total: 671 cards

Bonus note: I was going to title this post as 'Bordered in Black', but then I remembered there is a creepy short story by Larry Niven called that. Someone has uploaded it onto Scribd.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Post-season prescience

Another Fleer card today. A foil Fleer card. So you know what that means... double scanning!

Card Number 670: Fleer Ultra Fall Classics insert, 1998; #13

This actually scanned reasonably well on the flatbed scanner.

But it pops a bit more on the overhead scan. I like the effect. Tony is haloed in light in front of a giant blue-tinged cosmic egg.

The back is about Tony's post-season appearances in 1984 and 1996.

Like the Diamond Tribute card that I blogged about yesterday, this is another prescient card from Fleer. This was issued in 1998, which was another season the Padres would make the post-season and through to the World Series, for the second, and to date most recent, time in their history. I wonder if the same staff member selected Tony for this insert series and the Diamond Tribute inserts. That person may have been clairvoyant. 

Total cards: 670