Friday, August 7, 2020

Fact-check Friday

Yesterday marked the 21st anniversary of Tony Gwynn's 3000th hit. Yesterday. Here are a couple of cards that got the details wrong.

Card Number 248: Fleer Impact, 2000; #MF35
Remember Fleer Impact? It was a one season card range with low production values. The MF numbering refers to players they regarded as Mighty Fine in '99. Rhyming insert sets are fine by me, and I'm relieved that's what they were referring to when they used the initials MF.

In fairness, it's a good looking card.

But see if you can see the problem on the back. (Hint: they got distracted by nines!)

Yes, they got the date wrong. Tony made his 3000th hit on the 6th August, not the 9th August. 

It's a real shame, because this is otherwise a mighty fine card. 

Sidebar: Back in the 80s I used to go with my Dad to watch Shrewsbury Town FC play in the old Second Division of the Football League. (That's the highest level Shrewsbury have ever played.) In the 1985-6 season there was an advertising hoarding opposite where we sat for a road safety campaign that said 'Stay Alive in '85!' In the January, they updated the sign to read, 'Stay Alive in '86!' Even at the age of 10 that jarred with me. I have every reason to suspect that if Fleer Impact had lasted more than one season we would have seen cards saying 'Mighty Fine in '00' the next year!

Fleer were only three days out and their card only had the one mistake. Unlike the next card in this post...

Card Number 249: Topps Update Chrome, 2016; #3000C-12
This is a really lovely card to look at. It's super-shiny and it scans incredibly well!

Tony is in the 3000 Hits Club. When did he join this elite group? Let's have a look...

Topps must have been fact-checking their dates against their collection of Fleer Impact insert cards because they got the date wrong too! They also moved his poor mom back a generation and called her his grandma. That's two strikes, Topps!

Neither of these factual errors were recorded on the Trading Card Database, but they have been noted on there now!

Total: 249/394

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Joining the 3000 Hit Club

It's the 6th August! 21 years ago, at the Stade Olympique in Montreal, Tony Gwynn recorded his 3000th hit. It was his first hit of four on the night, as the Padres beat the Expos 12-10. Here are a few cards issued that marked the occasion.

Card Number 244: Topps, 2000; #459 (Season Highlights)

This card gives some great background information about the lead up to hit number 3000. The night before the Padres played the Cardinals and Mark McGwire recorded his 500th home run. There was every possibility that Tony would hit his own milestone in the same game. Except, the pitching staff in St Louis hadn't read the script...

The card also notes that weirdly Tony achieved both the 2000 hit milestone and the 3000 hit milestone on his mother's birthday, six years apart. That's pretty cool scheduling. (Here's a write up from a couple of years ago about how reaching the milestone in Montreal was a bit of a let down for Tony.)

Card Number 245: Skybox Dominion, 2000; #19 (Season Highlights)
This is an orange card.

This card has a unique look with the orange wash background and Tony picked out in full colour. I hope the photo is of him acknowledging the crowd on the occasion of his 3000th hit. But if so, that's one casual guy with his arms crossed in the dug-out in the background.

The write up on the cardback goes with the 'Mom's birthday' angle, in that bizarre chatty style that Skybox seemed to use on some of their cards. (The Spring Training one is like this.) However, I can forgive them that because this is card number 19 in the set!

Card Number 246: Pacific Private Stock, 2000; #124
Hot damn! Pacific did some nice cards in their time.  

I honestly couldn't like this card more than I do!

The back is a nice faux newspaper story.

In the details on the back it's revealed that Tony was the 22nd player to reach 3,000 hits, and the first National League player since 1979, two decades prior!

Card Number 247: Upper Deck Hitter's Club, 2000; #67
Hitter's Club was a small set of 90 cards featuring players known for their batting skills. Within the set, Tony had a regular card and was part of the 22-card "Why3K?" series featuring all the players who had achieved 3000 hits. 

The "Why3K?" name for the subset was a riff on Y2K, the commonly applied moniker for the year 2000. Often linked with the Millennium Bug fears and the general changeover of the century. I recall the countdown to Y2K was a mixture of wanting to make the most of the occasion and hoping planes didn't fall out of the sky and my bank account wasn't deleted. (Not that I had any money back then!) It's funny what memories get triggered by baseball cards. 

The cardback features a solid portrait photo of Tony and mentions his .394 average in 1994 as well. 

The repetition of Tony's vital statistics three times down the right hand side of the card is decidedly odd. Upper Deck did this on all the "Why3K?" cards. They must have really wanted everyone to know that Tony was 5'11".

Total: 247/394

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

A pair of Diamonds

Black Diamond was a premium card set released by Upper Deck for a few seasons at the tail end of the 90s and beginning of the new millennium. All the cards are shiny, making them difficult to scan.

Card Number 242: Upper Deck Black Diamond, 1999; #69

For a premium product, this looks alright. It's not the most exciting card. 

The back is incredibly dull. 

The factoid is reasonably impressive. It's not an everyday occurrence to score four runs in a game, particularly when you've only scored three hits! However, this card was released the season after Tony played in the World Series, so it's an unusual choice of factoid. Mind you, just about every other card of Tony released in 1999 mentioned him scoring a home run in Yankee Stadium during the World Series, so this is a refreshing change. 

Card Number 243: Upper Deck Black Diamond, 2000; #71
This honestly is an Upper Deck card from 20 years ago, rather than a Panini Prizm card from 3 years ago.

Again, it's shiny. Don't expect it to be interesting to look at as well!

That is an odd photo on the back. At first glance it looks like Tony is just standing legs akimbo or walking like a cowboy for some reason. Then it becomes apparent that he is running. 

Again the factoid editor missed the obvious thing to highlight, given Tony had connected for his 3000th hit during the 1999 season. Maybe they just thought every other card set would be mentioning that and they wanted to be different. 

Total: 243/394

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Six hit Tuesday

On 4th August 1993, Tony Gwynn recorded six hits in a single game against the San Francisco Giants, scoring two runs as the Padres won 11-10 after 12 innings. (Here's the box score!)

This was the only time in his career that Tony recorded six hits in one game. To commemorate the fact here are six cards that could be classed as 'hits' from the Fleer Ultra set in 1992. Fleer produced ten Tony Gwynn Commemorative Cards that season, which were inserted in random packs. There were also autographed versions of each card - Trading Card Database says there were 2,000 autographed ones, so I assume they were spread out with 200 of each card.

The ten cards roughly cover Tony's first ten seasons in Major League Baseball, during which time he had won four batting titles, five gold gloves and been an All Star seven times. I don't have all the cards in the set. But I have six, which links in with celebrating Tony's six hit game today.

Card Number 236: Fleer Ultra Tony Gwynn Commemorative Series, 1992; #1

This is the first of the set that I acquired. (It arrived in a joblot off eBay and one of the corners is dinged.) The green marble effect border is a little bit overpowering when you look at several of the cards together. (Although recent commenter bbcardz will be happy!)

I presume this photo was taken at Dodger Stadium as Tony is jumping in front of a huge 'Dodgers' sign. As a kid, Tony used to go to Dodger Stadium with his Dad. I wonder how he felt playing there.

For a commemorative series, the cardback opens with a very odd vignette about Tony Gwynn's knee injury. Even though this is only halfway through his career, that knee problem was beginning to affect his game. The mention there of his detractors is a rare glimpse into a side of the Tony Gwynn story that doesn't get talked about much. At this point in his career, he didn't get on with all his team-mates and he was accused by some of them of putting his own quest for personal glory ahead of the team's success. 

Card Number 237: Fleer Ultra Tony Gwynn Commemorative Series, 1992; #4

This is another card where the write-up starts with a discussion of an injury! This time it was the wrist injury that affected him at the end of his rookie season. Even back in 1983, Tony had started to use video to analyse pitches and his own batting style. The reliance on video became something he was renowned for as a pioneer in the deployment of technology to improve. Today it would be unthinkable for a top athlete not to be reviewing videos of opponents to assess their strengths and weaknesses. 

It was certainly paying off for Tony in 1983 as he went on a 25 game hitting streak at one point.

Card Number 238: Fleer Ultra Tony Gwynn Commemorative Series, 1992; #5
Tony seems caught in two minds here whether to run or not.

There's a posed portrait photo the back, and a comparison to Michael Jordan.

The cardback is all about Tony's 1984 season when the Padres won their first ever championship and played in their first World Series. I have thought about keeping a list of all the adjectives and descriptions that Tony was given on the backs of baseball cards. "Sparkplug" is a new one for the list!

Card Number 239: Fleer Ultra Tony Gwynn Commemorative Series, 1992; #8

The perspective on this photo makes the end of the swinging bat look like a cartoon rubber bat.

The photo on the back looks like Tony has just clocked someone is taking photos of him. 

That's a great quote from Jeff Silverman on the cardback. Tony didn't write a gospel, but he did write his own hitting manual, in the style of his hero Ted Williams. The blurb also covers Tony's .370 season in 1987, and his follow-up batting title in 1988 - the season he also recorded his 1000th hit. He took between five and six seasons per 1000 hits during his career, reaching each 1000 hit milestone in 1988, 1993 and 1999.

Card Number 240: Fleer Ultra Tony Gwynn Commemorative Series, 1992; #S1
In addition to the 10 commemorative cards inserted into random packs, people could also send off empty wrappers to claim two bonus 'Special' cards. Although I don't have the complete set of these cards, I do have the two bonus mailaway ones. 

"Special No. 1" is says on the back. It feels apt. 

Tony is called "Big T" on the cardback. That's another addition to the way Tony got referred to on the back of a baseball card.

Card Number 241: Fleer Ultra Tony Gwynn Commemorative Series, 1992; #S2

Tony is ready to make the catch! It amuses me how he has stuffed his batting gloves into his back pocket there. 

The back is a mini interview. I've said before how I like those. From this we learn that Nolan Ryan is the toughest pitcher he has ever faced - although he recorded his 1000th career hit off Ryan! He name checks his brother, Chris, as an up-and-coming star. There's a poignancy in the final question - how would you want to be remembered? I think those are all things he is remembered for. 

So those are the six hits to commemorate six hits! Tony also jointly holds the record for the most 5-hit games in a single season. The record is four games in a season and the only other player from the modern era to achieve that is Ichiro. Ty Cobb, Stan Musial and Willie Keeler all managed it too. 

Total: 241/394

Monday, August 3, 2020


Soon after I started this blog I posted about a Pacific card that listed Tony as Jardinero! Literally this means a gardener in Spanish; in baseball terms it's an outfielder. Voltigeur is the French word used for outfielder, although its literal meaning is an acrobat or tumbler. (Fun fact: a voltiguer was also a member of a lightly armed skirmishing unit in the French army during the Napoleonic Wars. In Canada is also had a semi-military application meaning a ranger.)

Anyway, as you can probably guess, this is a prelude to my post today featuring cards that call Tony a voltigeur. That means, of course, Canadian cards, and if there is one card manufacturer that springs to mind when Canadian baseball cards are mentioned, it is O-Pee-Chee. 

Like a lot of card producers, O-Pee-Chee started out as a candy manufacturer. Candy and cards were a natural fit and soon the cards were just as important - perhaps more important - than the candy. For most of the 80s, O-Pee-Chee reprinted Topps cards, with the O-Pee-Chee logo and sometimes other minor variations. But in the  early 90s, they also produced a premium range called, fittingly, Premier. They then diverged from Topps and released their own flagship sets for a couple of seasons.

In 1996 O-Pee-Chee was bought by Nestle, and O-Pee-Chee became a card publishing brand with various licences that it could sell on to other card companies. After the Nestle takeover, Topps printed O-Pee-Chee cards under licence, but since 2007 O-Pee-Chee cards have been produced by Upper Deck. 

Card Number 233: O-Pee-Chee Premier, 1991; #59

The Premier range was designed to compete directly with Upper Deck. It was printed on a decent card stock and was full colour front and back, unlike the Topps flagship that O-Pee-Chee reprinted. 

There is a tokenistic amount of French on the back

Living in a country where it is a legal requirement to ensure published materials are fully bilingual, I find bilingual cards particularly interesting. This card would most definitely not meet the requirements of the legislation regarding linguistic representation to which I have to adhere in my day job.

It's a very cute little company logo on the back though.

Card Number 234: O-Pee-Chee Premier, 1992; #106
One thing that O-Pee-Chee inherited from Topps - they really didn't believe it was important to show much of the player's face. (Also, is Tony looking to bunt there?)

They make up for the poor photo on the front with a portrait shot on the back

In fairness, there is limited information on the back of the card, but again the commitment to two languages is the bare minimum.

Card Number 235: O-Pee-Chee, 1994; #100
This was the regular card set that O=Pee-Chee produced.

For a flagship product, this is high spec. Full bleed on good card stock and a ball-on-bat photo!

Tony is jogging on the back. Sadly the cute logo with the little kids has gone.

But the cardback has some blurb in both English and French. The columns on the stats box are single-language but this is a much better effort at providing bilingual information. 

This was actually the last home-grown baseball card set that O-Pee-Chee produced as the company began to struggle, and two years later it was acquired by the giant Nestle corporation for whom cards were not a priority. 

Total: 235/394

Sunday, August 2, 2020

One card only: Gone fishin'

Baseball card companies like to be a bit quirky sometimes and show a player in a different environment, or playing a different sport. 

Card Number 232: Upper Deck, 1997; #492

Did you ever expect to see Gwynn and Trout on the same card?

In He Left His Heart in San Diego, Jerald Clark relates a funny story about going fishing with Tony and how he had to tie Tony's lures on for him because otherwise they flew off when he cast. It's one of the few stories in the book that is actually about something Tony couldn't do very well.

The brown splodge on the card is a foil stamp for the 1996 All Star Game in Philadelphia. Upper Deck applied it to all the All Star players in the set. Although Tony was initially named as a starter for the National League, he didn't actually play. His fellow Padre, Ken Caminiti, scored a home run though, as the National League won 6-0. This game was also Ozzie Smith's final All Star game before retiring. To date it is the most recent All Star game to be played on artificial turf.

The cardback mentions Tony going fishing.

The three factoids down the side are more informative than the large stats box. It notes that Tony collected his 2,500th hit on 14 August in the preceding season. There's also a reference to a relatively rare event - a Tony Gwynn home run!

Total: 232/394

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Taking a look at Bazooka!

Bazooka Gum was a Topps brand of gum launched after the second world war. As you'd expect there were trading cards linked to the gum. There are actually three eras of Bazooka cards - the 1960s, the mid-90s, and a short run from 2003-2006. More recently Bazooka has been an insert series in Topps Heritage and also been variant cardback for Allen & Ginter mini cards.

These cards featuring Tony are from the second era of Bazooka cards, the 1990s. 

Card Number 229: Topps Bazooka, 1995; #30

Although Bazooka was a cheaper card range aimed at kids, this is a really nice card.

The back is some kind of game called Play Ball. It looks fun.

That's a fairly in-depth statistical background for a kids' range. It reveals that in Tony's most memorable batting season, he did better against right-handed pitchers than left-handed pitchers. I hadn't seen that stat anywhere else, which kind of shows why it's important to collect all the cards! 

It doesn't say what the ratings in the little blue box are based on. Why was Tony's throwing rated an 8? (And out of what?) I suspect these are fairly meaningless numbers that had something to do with the game.

I've read a few theories about why Topps Kids undersold in 1992, and one of them was that it had no parallels. Younger collectors may have felt they weren't getting as good a product as adults were getting. Topps made up for that in Bazooka with a few different parallel versions of their cards.

Card Number 230: Topps Bazooka Red Hot Parallel, 1995; #RH-6

In addition to the slightly apocalyptic red background, this parallel had Tony's name in gold foil on the front.

The cardback has more red in the colour scheme and the wheel contains different parameters. Tony is less likely to strike out with this card! (If that's how the game works!)

Card Number 231: Topps Bazooka, 1996; #124

Having the bat with Tony's name on makes this card look a bit more like a card for kids.

There's another kind of game on the back as well. But the main attraction is a cartoon of Bazooka Joe who is sporting an eyepatch for some reason. 

Bazooka Joe was character who appeared in little comic panels on pieces of Bazooka gum. The other things to feature on gum wrappers were 'fortunes'. There's also one on this card - at the bottom, upside down - which is a baseball prediction about Tony Gwynn. According to this on 4 August 1996 Tony would appear in his 79th game in a row without striking out, thus acquiring a new National League record. 

I don't believe in spoilers so I'll leave it up to anyone reading this to find out if it happened.

Total: 231/394