Saturday, May 23, 2020

Saturday round up: Time Sinks and Serendipities

A chap called Tim got in touch with me, having read a few of my blog posts, and said he would like to try and help me out on my project to collect 394 different cards featuring Tony Gwynn. Then he asked if I had a wants list.

I am a disorganised collector. My cards aren't in any real order. I keep them in a repurposed Panini soccer cards binder and they are roughly ordered by date of acquisition. I've grouped certain types of cards together, but mostly they are random.

So, I decided I needed to make a list. My first thought was a trusty Excel spreadsheet but then I realised that would take a while. So I went on Trading Card Database (TCDb) where you can log the cards you own. I thought this would be quicker, but I think I chose an inefficient way of doing it because it took me several hours.

There are over 10,000 Tony Gwynn cards on TCDb. Or at least that's what they tell you. In reality many of the "cards" they list are 1/1 printing plates and the like, or barely-remembered sets with a billion variations like Topps Tek. (Do you remember Topps Tek? I don't. And after scrolling through literally hundreds of varieties I don't feel particularly enamoured of them.)

However, the huge glorious timesink that is TCDb did throw out a couple of really interesting little factoids for me, and even revealed a hitherto disregarded card in my possession that counts as a Tony Gwynn card.

Firstly, last weekend I posted about Tony's DonRuss cards in 1990. What I didn't know then, but thanks to TCDb I do know now, is that the All Star Card I've got is an error variation.

On the back there, where is says "Recent Major League Performance" it should have said "All Star Game Performance." In my previous post I made fun of how the DonRuss team had used cut'n'paste for the career highlights sections. Turns out they did the same for the box header as well, and that really should have been changed. I did point out in the post that it was his All Star Game stats but I didn't realise this card was changed for subsequent print runs. From the looks of it on TCDb, almost all the All Star cards  in this part of the DonRuss set had a similar error.

So, what does this mean? Well, it means I can keep an eye out for the corrected version and add it to the set as another card, and probably quite cheaply compared to 1/1 printing plates.

The second bonus was finding Tony listed on a Pirates card, which I actually owned.

Card number 44: Topps 1989, #699 (Pirates Leaders)

Yes, that's Tony, failing to safely make it to base. The Pirates player tagging him out is shortstop Al Pedrique, who only had three seasons in the Major Leagues after spending nine years in the Mets farm system. Originally from Venezuela, Al is now a coach with the Athletics.

This again highlights the odd choices Topps made for certain cards. Why have a leaders card that doesn't show team leaders on it? Al Pedrique wasn't a leader in any category on the back, and was barely even a Pirate for any length of time.

Two other things, though, about the back of this card. 1) It's the second Topps set in a row where Tony is on the card numbered 699. In 1988, that was the Padres Leaders card. 2) One of the names on the back of the card is infamous. Bobby Bonilla was the Pirates' joint leader for RBI. Yes, that Bobby Bonilla, the guy who signed a contract with the Mets that was so huge he will be getting paid $1,193,248.20 a year every year until 2035, despite retiring in 2001. (That really is a story worth reading about as epic fraudster Bernie Madoff is involved, and it's leaves me shaking my head at the insanity.)

Anyway, so I saw this card listed on TCDb and it rang a bell. I went and had a look through the little pile of Pirates cards that I have acquired over the years because I had a weird memory of seeing this card at some point. I must have pulled it out of a repack. Going through the cards I found it, and there was Tony, sliding desperately into a base and already being called out. I didn't know I had this card.

I did consider whether it should really count towards my total, but then I thought, if it's good enough for the TCDb, then it's good enough for me. Plus, rule 4 applies.

I have another card that Tony is gatecrashing. It arrived in a bundle of his cards I bought from someone, sight unseen. One of the cards wasn't of Tony, it was of his team-mate Greg Vaughn. However, I can see why the person would have thought it was a Tony Gwynn card.

There he is, high-fiving Greg, with his name very prominent.

Unlike the Pirate Leaders card, I'm not counting this card as a 'bonus Tony card', because it's Greg's card and it seems unfair to take it away from him. It's from the 1999 Sports Illustrated set published by Fleer.

Greg was a very different batsman to Tony, hitting 50 home runs during the Padres World Series season in 1998. The following year he was traded to the Cincinatti Reds - the first time any player had been traded the season after hitting 50 home runs. His beard was an issue, as the Reds had a ban on players having facial hair, but they lifted it for him. So, as a great servant to the Padres, who they cashed in as quickly as they could, and the trailblazer for today's hipsters who want to play for the Redsame and keep their beards, I don't feel it would be right say this card isn't his.

Total: 44/394


  1. A lot of bloggers utilize TCDB. I've been tempted to catalog my Gwynns and other player collections in the past, but I just don't have the time or attention span. If I have some free time today, I might browse some variations though. I'm curious to see which 1990 Donruss A/S Gwynn I have sitting in my binder.

    1. Check any of the All Star cards you might have because I think they bodged up all of them.