Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Tuesday Twins - X exclusive

I hadn't heard of Allen & Ginter X until Paul from the Facebook group sent me a picture of this card. Apparently it was an online exclusive version of Allen & Ginter. I have expressed reservations about the Allen & Ginter shebang a few times now. And yet, this is the fifth version of this card in my collection.

Card Number 576: Topps Allen & Ginter X, 2020; #128

The card is black. Classy.

Actually, to be fair, the three in a row look really nice sitting next to each other.

The main thing about the X card is that 'Gwynn' is much more prominent than on the regular base card or the chrome version. I thought the chrome was a definite improvement on the regular base. I'm almost of the opinion that the X is an improvement on the chrome. Almost.

The back looks like every other regular Allen & Ginter card.

I don't like the way Topps write out the numbers. I get that it's retro and trying to be quirky, but the charm has worn off for me. 

And just like that, I'm back on blogging break.

(Thanks again, Paul.)

Total: 576 cards

Monday, January 18, 2021

Modern Monday - Topps Tribute

Last week I signed off on hiatus with my 250th blog post featuring the last of my unblogged cards. I posted to the same effect on Facebook and Paul heeded my subtle cry for help and got in touch offering me some cards I didn't have. So, the hiatus didn't last long!

Card Number 575: Topps Tribute, 2020; #59

This isn't a set I saw that often in the Facebook card groups. The base cards are printed on 2mm cardboard so they are hefty!

There is a pearlescent sheen to the border on this, which means it scans very nicely. The photo is classic Tony-at-bat, presumably not his first at bat in the game given the muddy leg from a knee slide. The pinstripes and blue helmet combination means this is from the early-mid 90s. 

The back is impressive. There are four factoids and three of them are ones I didn't know before reading the back of the card. That's three bonus points for this card right there!

I think it's testament to Tony's prowess with the bat and his demeanour approaching the game that he didn't let a strike faze him. Even if he did give up a strike he would still make a hit over three times in every 10 at bats. 

However, there's a reason I didn't know that second factoid. It didn't actually happen like that. The only game when Tony struck out three times was on the 14th April 1986 against the Dodgers. (The pitcher was Bob Welch.) In the tenth inning, Tony reached second base on an error and then ran in the tying run off a John Kruk single, but it was Bruce Bochy who hit the home run that won the game for the Padres in the eleventh inning. Here's an article all about the game.

So, only the two bonus points. I have a feeling I should go and check the other statistics but I don't really want to be that guy.

Many thanks again to Paul, who also sent me a card to be featured tomorrow!

Total: 575 cards

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Short Print Legend

This was one of those late night 'see a card on eBay and make an offer which gets immediately accepted' purchases that arrived a couple of days ago. It's a short print from Topps flagship release last year when they subbed in "legends" to replace some other players.

Card Number 574: Topps (Short Print), 2020; #248

This is an unusual photo of Tony. I'm not sure what the booklet is that he's holding. It could be a game programme, with a loose piece of paper in. It's also unusual to have an advertising hoarding in the background. I'm a little surprised Topps didn't airbrush that out. At least it's for Coca Cola and Diet Coke rather than Marlboro!

Apparently if you look at the serial numbers in the legalese, that will tell you this is a short print. The regular card numbered 248 was Hunter Renfroe's card, which showed him as a Padre even though he had been traded to Tampa Bay. (He has recently been traded to the Red Sox so I wonder if Topps will show him a Red Sox uniform next year and his sojourn in Tampa will go unrecorded on Topps cards.)

Topps stuffed their Series 1 with short print and super short print variations, but I haven't found a figure for how short a short print was. I asked in the UK collectors group on Facebook and Andy M replied saying that short prints were available in fat packs in a 1:18 ratio and in retail packs in a 1:38 ratio.  Given that the "Advanced Stats" insert cards were serial numbered to 300 and their appearance ratios were about treble the short print ratios, Andy suggested that short prints probably mean a print run of about 1000.

However, Beckett has different ratio figures, which if true would make the short prints even smaller print runs. Beckett describes them as "pretty tough" to get. However this card had sat on eBay for a while, so much so my offer at just above half the asking price was accepted without quibble.

Total: 574 cards

A quick note: This is my 250th blog post, and I have run out of cards to blog. From now on I will blog as I add new cards to the collection, so this blog is going to be intermittent. (I took my first break last Sunday after 246 daily posts.) Of course if someone sends me a large number of cards I don't have, I will take up the daily schedule again!

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Sharing the Spotlight - with Fernando in the Gallery

This card came via Andrew T in the UK collectors Facebook group. Andrew offered me first dibs on it and I said yes. 

Card Number 573: Topps Gallery, 2020; #MA7

There were 10 cards in this "Master & Apprentice" insert series in Topps Gallery.

Fernando Tatis Jr has really made the headlines in the last year or so, and his rookie cards have been very popular. In fact, as a Padres collector, the chase for rookie cards featuring "El Nino" made Padres cards more expensive than usual recently, and slightly harder to get. Suddenly people wanted the Padres in box breaks. What is this popularity thing? 

The 'Master & Apprentice' phrase feels a bit Star Wars-ey to me. And that is a slight niggle about this card. As far as I know El Nino never actually met Mr Padre, or was coached by him. (One of Tony's students at San Diego State was Stephen Strasburg, the 2019 World Series MVP!)

Another discrepancy is that the players have been painted with Petco Park in the background. Now, while Tony did go to Petco Park after he retired, he never played at the Stadium. For his entire career the Padres played their home games at the Jack Murphy Stadium (most recently known as the SDCCU Stadium), which is apparently being demolished right now. (Bang goes my plan of a pilgrimage there when the pandemic is over!)

But apart from that anachronism, it's clear why Topps paired Tony and Fernando on this card - they are both exemplary hitters. Fernando is a great batsman and despite the nonsense last season about him having to apologise after hitting a grand slam when Texas were already trailing in a game, he's clearly one of the most exciting players in a currently very exciting Padres team. So, a worthy young player to share a card with Tony.

I didn't know until reading this card that Fernando's batting average in his rookie year was higher than Tony's. Whether it will be a similar "springboard" to batting titles and an eventual place in the Hall of Fame is impossible to know right now. Hopefully he has a long and mega-successful career ahead of him, particularly in Padres colours, but these things are totally unpredictable. Whatever happens, Fernando will always be remembered as a contributor to the "Slam Diego" grand slam streak of 2020 that really lit up the season.

Topps have included the artist's name on this card. On his website John Giancaspro says he was six years old when he first saw a DonRuss Diamond Kings card and realised he wanted to be a sports artist. John uses photos as a base for his art, which is fairly common on these kinds of "illustrated" cards. He started doing portraits when he worked as a bat-boy or the New York Mets in 1991-92 - there's a fun photo album on his website - and he also designed some cards for the Diamond Kings series in 2012.

I like learning about the artists whose drawings of Tony Gwynn feature on baseball cards, so Topps get a bonus point from me for including the artist's name like this. 

Total: 573 cards - this is the 27th card in the collection released in 2020.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Tuesday Twins - shiny Allen & Ginter

Like they did with Stadium Club, Topps gave their Allen & Ginter range the Chrome treatment at the extreme end of 2020. And like he did with Stadium Club, my friend Gawain opened a few boxes and along the way found me some Tony Gwynn cards!

These work as 'twins' in two different ways. They are the same as each other and the same designs as the regular Allen & Ginter non-chrome release.

Card Number 571: Topps Allen & Ginter Chrome, 2020; #128

Although this is the same card as the base range, the Chrome effect makes it look a lot more impressive. (Judge for yourself by comparing with the original version I blogged about two months ago.)

The cardback is exactly the same as the regular Allen & Ginter release. As ever, I feel it's a bit pretentious writing out the numbers as words.

As in the regular release, all the base cards were produced as 'mini' versions as well. And one tipped up in Gawain's ripping adventure.

Card Number 572: Topps Allen & Ginter Chrome (Mini), 2020; #128

This also looks a lot more impressive as a Chrome card than the regular release. The picture has been cropped but is exactly the same image as the normal-sized card.

The back is the regular cardback shrunk to fit. However, the version of this I own from the regular release has a parallel "A&G" cardback, so this cardback is different to the one I had previously.

Even though there is nothing particularly new about this release, these are very nice cards, and are an improvement on the normal set. I'm very grateful to Gawain for putting these to one side for me as he was opening the cards. I already owe him several beers and one day, when we are allowed to meet up on the other side of this pandemic, I think I owe him yet another one!

Total: 572 cards

Monday, January 11, 2021

Modern Monday - Stadium Club Chrome

Tony was card #160 in the Topps Stadium Club release in 2020, and Chrome parallels were included in that set. However, Topps also released an entire set of Stadium Club Chrome at the end of the year. My friend Gawain "busted some product" and it's my good fortune that he found Tony's card in his box.

Card Number 570: Topps Stadium Club Chrome, 2020; #160

This is a different picture than the one used in the regular Stadium Club release (as blogged back in October 2020). It's a picture from earlier in Tony's career. The pinstripes and brown jacket and helmet date this to between 1985 and 1991. I would estimate it being from about 1986-7, based on Tony's moustache.

Apart from a blue tint to the background, the cardback is exactly the same as the regular Stadium Club set.

I've read different opinions of Topps's release of Chrome versions of their sets. Some collectors see it as a 'cash grab', although that could be applied to just about every Topps release. If they didn't think it would make money then they wouldn't release any sets. To me, their use of a different photo, and using one which I personally haven't seen used in other sets recently, makes this much more than just a chromatised reissue. 

Total: 570 cards

Saturday, January 9, 2021

And another Tony Gwynn...

I'm reaching the end of my cards to blog, so thought I'd do something a bit different today. Here are some cards featuring Tony Gwynn's son, Anthony Keith Gwynn Jr, also known as Tony Gwynn Jr.

I recently watched the MLBTV documentary about Tony Gwynn (thanks to Daniel in Chicago who recorded it for me), and Tony Jr shares several stories in that, including how at college he went in to bat in his first game, went 0-4 and decided he would be known as Anthony Gwynn Jr for the rest of the year. Being Tony mark II was not easy, particularly as he was at San Diego State where his dad was a legend.

Tony Jr was drafted by the Brewers after college, playing for them for three seasons from 2006-2008. He then moved to the Padres for a couple of seasons before signing for the LA Dodgers. Tony Jr's uncle, Chris, had also played for the Dodgers, and it was the team Tony Jr's grandfather, dad and both his uncles supported. Chris Gwynn also played for the Padres, so Tony Jr was the third Gwynn to play for them. 

After a year out of the game, Tony Jr had a return to the Major Leagues in 2014 with the Phillies, playing 80 games for them. He was on the road with the Phillies when he got the news that his father had passed away.

I've got cards of Tony Jr playing for three of the Major League sides he represented.

Tony was still with the Brewers on this Upper Deck card in 2008.

He appeared on these three cards in Upper Deck's 2010 set. The "Season Biography" card mentions how he moved to San Diego in 2009.

His base card in 2010 shows him diving to make a catch. I think he really looks like his dad in that photo.

One the back, we get a note that this is an unlicensed baseball card. Topps had been given the monopoly, but Upper Deck went and put out this set anyway. Topps sued them and, to date, this remains the last baseball card set released by Upper Deck.

Tony was also on the team checklist, along with Chase Headley, who played for the Padres for 7 and a half seasons before moving to the Yankees, returning to San Diego for a final season in 2018.

The back of the checklist helpfully reminds everyone of a not very good Padres season.

By the time Topps released their 2012 set, Tony was with the Dodgers. In the photo he is just about to dive to try and reach base. 

The cardback mentions him diving to catch balls as a fielder.

Looking at his stats on that latter card, it's clear Tony Jr wasn't as attuned to hitting as his dad. He had an 8-year career in the Major Leagues, which would be considered very successful in other families. It does feel, however, that Tony Jr was always going to be playing in his dad's shadow.

Tony Jr now does a lot of media work in San Diego. He's a very watchable studio presence and seems very personable. Like the rest of the Gwynn family, he has done a lot to maintain his father's legacy, and he is a great ambassador for baseball.

I don't count any of these cards as "Tony Gwynn cards" for the purposes of my collection, but I do keep them as part of my collection. 

I'm taking a break tomorrow and plan to be back on Monday with another Modern Monday post.