Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Cards for kids

I have read there was some concern about the way the baseball card hobby was going in the early to mid-90s. Cards were becoming more expensive and with inserts, parallels, relics and autographs, kids - the collectors of the future - were being priced out of the hobby. In an attempt to rectify this the major card companies launched sets designed for younger collectors. These never really took off that well, but they have left collectors with some quirky cards to hunt down.

Card Number 740: DonRuss Triple Play, 1994; #187


Tony looks almost like he is yelling or laughing in the photo. This card gets a bonus point for including the year in the set logo. I also like the effect of the see through 'cut out' letters.

It's a fairly boring cardback for a range aimed at kids, particularly compared to the Triple Play cards from 1992 and 1993. DonRuss had obviously decided that what kids really wanted was a massive stats box. 

Card Number 741: Upper Deck Fun Pack, 1994; #119

Not to be outdone by their competitors, Upper Deck also had their own range aimed at kids, selling packs of fun cards called Fun Pack!

"Ruh Roh!"

I would love to know what Tony has seen in that photo. A ghost in the outfield, perhaps? Maybe he's just feeling a bit dizzy, which is why he is surrounded by swirls.

Fun Pack cards lived up to their name with the cardback. Instead of a photo there's a little charicature of Tony. At this point he only had four batting titles, although he had come mighty close to five the previous season. He would collect his fifth title the year this set was released. 

Both card companies discontinued these sets after 1994. One theory I have seen is that kids felt these sets were condescending, and preferred to chase after the valuable insert cards in the regular sets. But these sets were also released just before the 90s baseball card bubble popped and the hobby went through a very difficult period of readjustment. Now they are relics of an era of desperate market differentiation when card companies tried as many different angles as possible to sell pictures of baseball stars to as many potential customers as possible.

Total: 741 cards

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Tuesday Twins - Shiny Leafs

I have started scanning the shiny cards that arrived in the parcel from France, using my overhead scanner. It's slow work because ideally I need daylight to scan the cards in, and I don't have much daylight left after finishing work. However, here are two shiny cards that got scanned last night.

Card Number 738: Leaf Limited, 1996; #53

Even with the overhead scanner the full shininess of the card isn't quite captured. This is lovely in hand. Unfortunately it also suffers from the common affliction of 90s shiny sports cards - there's a slight warp to it now, a quarter of a century later.

I like cards that have Tony's number (19) as their number in the set. But this comes close, with number 53, which is the number Tony wore in Spring Training with the Padres in 1982 and features on his Topps rookie card.

Apart from the set number, the back isn't particularly noteworthy although it does feature a stat I'd not seen before, about Tony's run of seasons posting over .350. That means he was hitting at a rate of more than 1 in 3 at bats, reaching base 7 times for every 20 times he went up to the plate. For all the hitting power in the current Padres line-up, they could really use some consistency like that.

Card Number 739: Leaf Limited Gold, 1996; #53

The gold parallel version of the Leaf Limited is incredibly shiny!

Leaf changed the colour on the cardback to gold as well. This is what I would call a proper parallel, with the card looking different front and back.

These high end cards may be rascals to scan, but they are lovely to look at. I have quite a pile of shiny cards to work through if I can catch some daylight hours over the next week. This may affect my blogging schedule but I promise I will post them all - and they will brighten up some gloomy winter days in the coming months!

Total: 739 cards

Monday, September 20, 2021

Modern Monday - slightly anachronistic All Star

This is a card freshly pulled from a Topps 2021 Series 2 pack, and sent to me by Gawain. He has sent me a brand new card two weeks running now!

Card Number 737: Topps 35th Anniversary All-Star, 2021; #86AS2

This is a really nice looking card, using the template of the All Star cards in the set that Topps released in 1986. There are a few things that trip the Anachronism Klaxon, though!

The obvious thing that sets off the klaxon is that Tony didn't have an All Star card in the 1986 set. He had one at bat in the 1985 game but wasn't deemed worthy of a card. 

That uniform is wrong for a card in 1986 as well. The Padres ditched the classic brown, yellow and orange after the 1984 World Series and went to white pinstripes. 

And then there's the back...

Topps have put Tony's stats from 1994 on the back of this card that replicates the 1986 card design. It's odd, even by Topps's standards for doing odd things. Yes, that was an amazing year in terms of Tony's achievements - this blog is called "point 394" because of that season - but why highlight that season on this card? Who knows? Like the Almighty, Topps moves in mysterious ways far beyond the understanding of mere collectors. 

However, this is a really nice looking card and I can tune out the klaxon. It is also particularly noteworthy because it is the 19th card from 2021 to make it into my collection. 19 is a very special number around here. Thank you Gawain for sending me this card!

Total: 737 cards 

Sunday, September 19, 2021

One Card Only - Topps Tek

I occasionally mention the glut of parallels in the hobby currently. Okay, I mention it more than occasionally. But it's not a new phenomonon. Today's card is from perhaps the most overblown set ever produced in terms of the sheer number of parallels. 

It's well over the top. It's Topps Tek.

Card Number 736: Topps Tek (pattern 22), 1998; #23

There were 90 base cards in this card set which was printed on acetate, and each card was printed with 90 different 'patterns' on the acetate. That's 8,100 different cards, if anyone was committed enough to try and collect them all. But then there were also 'diffractor' versions of each pattern of each card as well - another 90 parallels of the 90s cards, and another 8,100 cards in the set! 

That set bloat might explain why there are only 1.1% of the images on Trading Card Database. This card wasn't pictured on there, so I have submitted it.

Compared to some of the other designs, this is a lot less snazzy. It's a ripple effect. 

Because it's acetate, they've flipped the image of Tony on the back to match the shape of his head and bat. We have yet another serious photo - hey, it's a card from 1998. That's what they did.

The cardback threw me a bit because it had milestones for Tony in 1999 and 2000. But this is definitely a card from 1998 - I have triple-checked! (Thank you, YoRicha, for uploading some pictures on to TCDb!) So I think those were Topps trying to predict when Tony would achieve the milestones. 

Tony reached 3000 hits in 1999, and hit his 500th double the same year. The target of 1,500 runs was aspirational, and Tony didn't manage to reach it in 2000, or at all. He finished his career on 1,383 at the end of the 2001 season. I guess two predictions from three isn't bad.

Getting a Topps Tek card for the collection had been one of my aims for a while. Collecting all 90 is very unlikely. 

Total: 736 cards

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Hall of Famer - 14 years early

In 2007 Tony Gwynn was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, in the first year he was eligible for the ballot. However, two card companies made an early case for his election, fourteen years previously.

Card Number 734: Leaf Heading for the Hall insert, 1993; #2

I really like the logo for this insert series with the little road heading towards a line drawing of the Hall of Fame. There are some sparkles under his name as well. 

The back is outstanding. Leaf had fantastic cardbacks in their 1993 set and this insert series is no different. The combination of the picture of the National Baseball Museum that houses the Hall of Fame, a map of the area and a mocked up plaque shows some exceptional care from the designers.

Here's what the actual plaque looks like, of course!

On that map you can see Lake Otsuga. Nobody ever really mentions Lake Otsuga when they talk about Cooperstown. This is a photo of it that is also my desktop background so I see it every time I write blog posts!

My wife Cathy and I spent two nights in Cooperstown on our road trip in 2016. I would happily say that the day in Museum and Hall of Fame was one of the best days of my life so far. It probably makes the top 3! 

There was an exhibit in the museum about the player's strike in 1994 that cut the season short. That was the season when Tony was tantalisingly close to breaking .400. (Which is why this blog is called .394!)  That exhibit has one of Tony's shirts from the 1994 season in it.

I also met another very famous celebrity from San Diego!

Anyway,. that's enough about the wonderful experience of going to the National Museum and Hall of Fame. Let's get back to baseball cards. Pinnacle were also considering future contenders for Cooperstown back in 1993...

Card Number 735: Pinnacle Cooperstown Card insert, 1993; #20

One day I am going to count up how many cards I have of Tony in this pose, preparing to sprint to first base, with his discarded bat disappearing off the edge of the card.

There's no map on the back, just another photo in his familiar anticipatory batting stance. 

Pinnacle felt Tony was "well on his way to Cooperstown". He added another four batting titles before he finally got there. 

It feels like both these card companies recognised Tony's greatness well before he retired and was officially inducted into the Hall of Fame. That is a genuine indication of his ability and attitude at the height of his career.

Total: 735 cards 

Friday, September 17, 2021

Eat cake by the ocean

Well, that's what the Padres hoped to be doing this year. It feels less and less likely to happen.

But talking of the ocean, here's a couple of Pacific cards from the last year the Padres got to the World Series.

Card Number 732: Pacific Crown Collection, 1998; #427

Somehow this card design manages to look both fancy and still very clean. The logo and player name are in gold foil. 

Pacific's USP was targeting Spanish-speaking collectors. They also included the English translation on the back. That didn't leave much room for any stats. Somehow they managed to fit everything in, including Tony posing with one of his bats. 

The orange background locates this firmly in the late 1990s. As ever, Pacific get a bonus point for putting the detail of the set name in the little circle with the card number. It's a great help to collectors like me over two decades later!

Card Number 733: Pacific Aurora, 1998; #191

Such a green card!

The 1990s was the decade when PhotoShop became a thing and this card design is almost Photoshopped to death. I appreciate the halo around Tony's head in the top right image. 

Also, you may have noticed this just says San Diego on the front. It repeats that on the back. The Aurora range was only licensed by the Player's Association so they didn't include franchise names. I presume Pacific had a license from MLB to print a limited number of sets, or perhaps there was a stipulation in their contract that they could only produce Spanish language sets - and this is just in English. 

There is a trivia question on the back about how many seasons Tony recorded more than 200 hits. To save readers from craning their necks, here's the answer.

Tony didn't record a 200-hit season after 1997 so that answer (5) is still the correct answer. 

The photo on the back is quite similar to the one on the back of the Topps Stars card I blogged about yesterday. Serious cardback photos must have been the fashion in 1998!

Total: 733 cards

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Reach for the Stars

I'm running out of useable headlines about stars...

Card Number 730: Topps Stars, 1998; #75

All the base cards in this set were serially numbered to 9,799. I have previously blogged the silver parallelwhich was serially numbered to just 4,399.

I really like this card design because it has actual stars in the background. 

Tony looks solemn, and dare I say it, even a little bit grumpy, in the photo on the cardback.

This is card number 1,168 of 9,799. I can't really think of anything significant linked to 1,168. If you want the answer to the quiz question, that got answered in the comments on the post about the silver parallel!

Card Number 731: Topps Stars, 2000; #170

Tony had two cards in this release - a regular one and this set from a series towards the end of the set. He's in the spotlight, and casting a large golden shadow.

The cardback sets off the BATTING DONUT KLAXON! Fuji has already included this card in his 'dozen doughnuts' post of Tony Gwynn cards. I am gradually collecting all the ones on that list.

The write up on the cardback is a succint summary of Tony's career up to the end of 1999. He barely played in the 2000 season and didn't really improve on any of these numbers in his final couple of seasons.

Total: 731 cards