Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Tuesday Twins - Upper Deck Doubles

Parallels and special editions mean that card companies print virtually the same card twice and collectors like me will want both. It's such a common practice now that some collectors set out deliberately to collect parallel colour and foil versions, "collecting the rainbow".

This all started back in the 90s, and, yet again, Upper Deck were instigators of this development. Here are two cards from 1994 that I scanned together to illustrate what I mean.

Card Number 137: Upper Deck Collector's Choice, 1994; #122
Card Number 138: Upper Deck Collector's Choice - Silver Signature, 1994; #122
I scanned these with the signature version on the left as you look at them.

The silver foil signature comes out black on the scan. I do appreciate that Tony is actually signing a shirt in the picture, which really works with the silver signature in the parallel version. But this is basically the same card.

I clocked the Marlboro advert in the background which give this card that proper 'vintage' feel (it is over a quarter century old!). Back in 1994 you could still smoke in some ballparks, but the days were numbered for both smoking and the Marlboro ads. By 1998 most cigarette advertising was banned in sports stadia. 

The cardbacks are actually identical, barring a slight printing shade variation. 

Every single Collector's Choice card came with a silver signature variant. However in 2000, Upper Deck decided to print the same card, but in a different set.

Here's Tony's card from the base set.

Card Number 139: Upper Deck, 2000; #216

Upper Deck added the logo of the previous year's All Star Game to the cards of players who were selected. The 1999 game was in Boston. Tony was injured and couldn't play, but flew to Boston anyway to assist legendary hitter Ted Williams who was throwing the ceremonial first pitch. Ted was Tony's hitting idol and he considered it a huge honour to walk out onto the diamond alongside one of his heroes at the start of the game.

The back is a bold blue.

Upper Deck took 300 of their base cards, tweaked them a bit and released them as a different set.

Card Number 140: Upper Deck Gold Reserve, 2000; #224

There's no blue strip on the front and they've taken off the All Star Game logo. The cardback has changed colour as well.

I assumed this was a parallel and it took me ages to identify it as belonging to a completely different set altogether. It's not the most elusive 'twin' I've ever had to find, but it wasn't easy!

Total: 140/394

Monday, June 29, 2020

Monday Millennium Mixer

Three random cards from the year 2000 for your enjoyment today.

Card Number 134: Upper Deck Hitter's Club, 2000; #33
This was part of a small set released by Upper Deck that focused on the best batting players.

You can just about make out the foil number just over half way up the card. It reads .339, which was Tony's 18-season average up to the end of 1999.

The career projection graph on the back is actually charting his career batting. You can see the plateau in the mid-90s where he earned four batting titles in a row. This is one of those graphs that bug me slightly because the y axis starts a lot lower than needed. Maybe it's a uniform axis for all the players in the set, but it looks off to me. Anyway, that's enough graph nerdery.

Card Number 135: Pacific Vanguard, 2000; #32
Another card from 2000. Pacific seemed to lose their way a bit at the turn of the Millennium and produced this Photoshop image.

The sign in the background give me an Electric 6 earworm. Unfortunately.

The cardback mentions Tony's five gold gloves. Fielding was something he really had to work hard at when he first signed with the Padres. His diligence and commitment to improve is referenced by quite a few people in the book of reminiscences He Left His Heart in San Diego. He really earned those gold gloves.

Card Number 136: Skybox Metal, 2000; #1
Another one of the #1 card collection. Metal-coated cards don't scan very well.

In hand, this is shiny and has a bit of heft to it.

Tony's watching the ball on the back. His name is printed on the card, but on the scan it looks like it's been imprinted. One of the rare occasions when the scan looks better than the original.

That's the end of the Monday Millennium Mixer fresh from the turn of the century!

Total: 136/394

Sunday, June 28, 2020

One card only: Topps Kids #53

Although I do have a backlog of cards that I have owned for ages ready-scanned, this is another card that was in the haul that Gawain sent me last week (see yesterday's shout out post). I have wanted this card ever since I found out about this set on Fuji's blog three years ago, so I scanned it almost immediately so I could share it with you.

Card Number 133: Topps Kids, 1992; #53
Topps Kids was one of those ranges that lasted exactly one season, and was Topps's response to kids being priced out of the baseball card hobby as cards evolved. The range didn't fare particularly well, which is really unfortunate because I think they are great!

The cards are illustrated by commercial illustrator David Coulson, who did quite a bit of work for Topps. There's a short but meaty interview with him about this range on The Baseball Card Blog, and a gallery of his work on his website. I like the team-mates on the bench behind Tony, including the bat-boy tossing a baseball up and down at the end of the bench and the manager on the phone. The crowd look more excited than most of the real-life background crowd members you see on baseball cards.

I really like the cartoon of Tony on the back, with his multiple crowns. (He still only had four when this card was produced.)

The bat and ball characters in the 'Fun Box' are delightful too. My wife really liked them when I showed her this card. I think every baseball cardback should have a 'Fun Box'. Sport is meant to be fun. Baseball cards are meant to be fun. We need more fun. Every cardback stats box should look like this as well. Show me a better one.

If the cartoon style looks familiar, then that might be because you've seen David's work on other Topps products. He drew all the cartoons that graced the cardbacks of the 2006 Topps flagship set, for example. His work has also appeared in Bazooka basketball and football series.

There are two card sets I have a mind to collect next once I have completed my 1987 Topps set and this is one of them. Just because they are fun!

Total: 133/394

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Saturday shout out - cheers, Gawain!

Over the past couple of months I've bought a few cards from Gawain who I met through one of the UK Facebook groups. Gawain is a keen collector of Cuban baseball. I say keen collector, it's a bit more than that, as this video makes clear.

Gawain knows I collect Tony Gwynn baseball cards and a while back he told me he had asked one of his contacts in America to send some Gwynn cards over. Two weeks ago he sent me this photo.

The tall stack at the back was all Tony Gwynn cards.

We had a chat about sorting through them, and that resulted in him emailing me scans and us discussing the cards on a couple of Zoom calls, until eventually Gawain took the executive decision to just send them all to me for me to look through and return any I don't want.

He timed this well as I've taken this week off work so I've had plenty of time to really look closely through them. I'm glad he sent them to me because there are some cards with variations that are only spottable when you have the cards in hand. I kept finding new minor ways that card companies altered their cards. (And I'm starting to really despise some card companies!)

The result is I have now acquired a load of new cards.

Several evenings of scanning await me. Several blog posts await you, dear readers.

Gawain also took great pleasure in sending me another copy of the Upper Deck "push out" bobblehead that I posted about in a Monday Mixer a couple of weeks ago. The card looks like this:

Gawain wanted me to use the second card for its intended purpose. So I did. When you push it out, the bobblehead looks like this:

As Fuji said, back on the Monday Mixer post, Tony really has his game face on! He's now glowering over my desk space where I am sure he will inspire me when I go back to work next week.

He also needs a bat. I'm going to have to fashion one for him.

As I mentioned, I have a lot of scanning to do, but I wanted to show at least one card in this post from the haul that Gawain sent me, and I've chosen this one because, well, it kind of stood out from the herd when I went through them.

Card Number 132: Upper Deck Ionix, 1999; #R84
Nothing says 90s than the words "Techno, techno, techno"

In terms of design, there are two photos on the front, blotchy patterns, foil bits, the word techno repeated all over it with a 3 instead of an e, and so on.

It was also flipping hard to track down on Trading Card Database! For some reason the Techno themed cards have an R in front of the number, which means they have the same numbers as the "Reciprocal" parallel set. It was very confusing.

That's the Late Nineties Weird Card Challenge. If you can find the bloody thing, then you can add it to your list!

The back has a lot of information on it, and another photo.

They also use Tony's roster number as a design element, just to add even more confusion. I picked it up and thought, "Oh, great, they gave him card number 19!" But that wasn't the card number despite being the most obvious number on the cardback.

This whole palaver bodes well for sorting the rest of the cards. It will keep me out of mischief for a good while, and I'm sure a lot of people will be thanking Gawain for that! But they probably won't be as grateful as I am for the huge haul of cards.

[In terms of blog milestones, this is my 50th blog post. Happy half century to me!]

Total: 132/394

Friday, June 26, 2020

Holding out for a Hero

Hero may be an over-used word these days, but I think it's perfectly applicable to use it when referring to Tony Gwynn. A couple of card companies have thought the same.

Card Number 130: DonRuss Team Heroes, 2004; #357
This was a nice looking set that was mainly of the then-current players with a bonus retired player for each team. Tony was the natural choice for the Padres.

All the cards gave a little summary of the current status of the team and the team stat totals for the previous year. On the Padres cardbacks the write-up mentions Petco Park, which opened for the 2004 season.

The generic blurbs also mention Padres former stars, which means that Tony Gwynn's name is on all 13 cards featuring Padres players. I have not yet reached a level of insanity when I would include those in cards I am chasing.

Card Number 131: Upper Deck Baseball Heroes, 2008; #147
This is another set with a mix of contemporary players and retired stars.

Nothing to complain about here, with the 1984 uniform and a photo of young Tony. There's a mention of his .394 batting average in 1994 on the back.

Tony featured on another card in this set on a card he shared with Cal Ripken Jr. There were three other Padres with their own cards in the 200-card set - Jake Peavy, Greg Maddux and Kevin Kouzmanoff (a highly rated young star in 2008, who unfortunately burned bright and fast). Peavy and Maddux also shared cards in the set with players from other teams.

[For those interested in this sort of thing, these are the first cards from 2004 and 2008 to feature on this blog.]

Total: 131/394

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Star Quest!

"Starquest" feels like it should be a subset of a science fiction set, not a baseball card set. But then it wouldn't be on this blog would it?

Starquest was a subset of inserts produced by Upper Deck in their Collector's Choice range for two seasons towards the tail end of Tony's career. (The theme re-emerged in 2008).

Card Number 127: Upper Deck Collector's Choice, 1998; #SQ19
I find the "STARQUEST" lettering on the left hand side of the card really hard to read the way its organised here. I keep reading it as STEASR or TEAST.

Horrible lettering juxtaposition aside, the front is relatively unremarkable. This is actually a subset within a subset as it is listed as a Starquest Single, hence the word 'single' above the Starquest logo. In their quest to make collecting their cards as annoying as possible, Upper Deck released all these cards as versions saying 'double', 'triple' and 'Home Run' on, in varying degrees of rarity (I presume, based on the lack of pictures for the other versions on Trading Card Database, and because I have two copies of the "single" version).

Upper Deck persevered with the terrible lettering on the back. It's no better a second time around.

However, I do dig the fact that this is Starquest card number 19! That was Tony's number, and will never be worn by another Padre. I hope it wasn't a fluke of the numbering system and this was a deliberate choice by Upper Deck. It's a classy touch.

Although Tony wasn't much of a home run hitter, this card mentions that by the end of 1997 he was third in Padres franchise history. The 1998 season would be the one where he would end the year belting a home run in Yankee Stadium during the World Series.

As 1998 was a special season for the Padres, it feels fitting that Upper Deck released a second Starquest card featuring Tony that year.

Card Number 128: Upper Deck Collector's Choice, 1998; #SQ43
This is Tony's card from the regular Starquest set.

It says 'Special Delivery' on the back. I don't know what that refers to. The first 45 cards in the set were all 'Special Delivery'. The remaining 45 cards were split between 'Students of the Game', 'Super Powers', and 'Super Star Domain'. Tony had a card in the 'Students of the Game' section as well.

Overall it feels like this is a needlessly complicated set to try and complete. It's a nice photo of Tony with a big smile on the back.

Moving on to 1999, and Starquest was much simpler.

Card Number 129: Upper Deck UD Choice, 1999; #SQ8
Collector's Choice became UD Choice in 1999. There were only 30 cards instead of the 90 base set and additional multi-paralleled 30 cards released in 1998. The regular base was a very fetching shiny blue.

That low wall with the recognisable brickwork behind Tony features in a lot of photos of him. There was a low wall behind the plate at Jack Murphy Stadium, so maybe that's why it appears in so many photos.

The back of the card is relatively unfussy, but they could have placed the card number between two rays and they didn't need the bio data. They cropped and reused the front image on the back, which is something I associate more with Panini-era DonRuss cards.

Interesting factoid that Gwynn was the leading active player for career batting average when this card was printed. His overall batting average would drop .001 before he finally retired three seasons later.

There were three different parallels of this card produced, in green, red and gold. But compared to the previous season, that feels very restrained.

Total: 129/394

Wednesday, June 24, 2020


Readers of a certain age might get a Living Colour earworm from this post's title. (Were you into rock in the early 1990s? I was.)

The post title isn't actually a reference to a song that is now 30 years old (how?!?), but instead to a really nice insert card released by Topps a mere 5 years ago.

Card Number 126: Topps, 2015 (Archetypes Insert); #A-17
The photo on the front has been edited to make it look like its been drawn or painted, which gives it quite an ethereal quality.

The back talks about Tony's bat control. It really was no accident that he made so many hits in his career and very rarely struck out. Tony was a placement hitter, not a power slugger, and he aimed to steer the ball down the gaps in the infield.

Tony was active when the great craze for hitting home runs hotted up in the late 90s. His contemporaries like Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa were smashing the ball out of the park on a regular basis and breaking record after record. It appears from what people have said about him, that Tony went through more than one period of introspection regarding his hitting wondering whether he should chase more home runs. Whether he could have done that without the steroids that provided many of the big hitters with their power is an unanswerable question.

Happily, Tony decided to stick with the controlled hitting, which is why he retained such a high career batting average title and so many hits. Placement is a skill gained through hard work and there are no short cuts. The legacy of the power hitters who attracted the headlines during Tony's latter career is tainted because so many did take short cuts through using performance enhancing drugs.

Total: 126/394

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Tuesday Twins - Chasing History

Today's similar cards come from two different Topps sets, which made one of them a pain to track down on Trading Card Database. I found it in the end though.

Card Number 124: Topps (Series 2), 2013; #CH-76
The Chasing History insert series ran over three Topps releases in 2013. The first 50 were in flagship Series 1. The second 50, including this card, were in flagship Series 2. This card commemorates Tony setting the record for hits in Padres history.

You can't see it very well in this scan, but the grey bits on the left hand side are edged in silver foil, adding to the attractiveness of the card.

The back is elegant and notes how Tony became the all-time record Padres hits leader way back in 1988!

Card Number 125: Topps Update, 2013; #CH-149
Topps continued the Chasing History series into their Update release, with another 50 cards. This card commemorates the 19 seasons that Tony recorded a batting average above .300.

The card template stays the same, but there's a change of photo and the little caption on the left has changed as well.

The back has the same template. It's still elegant. The blurb mentions how his record-breaking 16th season batting over .300 overtook a record set more than a century before by Cap Anson.

There is also a third Chasing History card about Tony's batting crowns. I've yet to acquire that card to turn these twins into triplets.

Total: 125/394

Monday, June 22, 2020

Monday Mixer All Star Edition

Some random "All Star" cards to brighten up your Monday.

Card Number 121: DonRuss All-Stars, 1988. #51

This card really looks like the base card (included in the Back to Base post I published last week). I think it's a photo from exactly the same game. EDIT: But thanks to Fuji for pointing out the different border. This is from the DonRuss All-Stars set in 1988 rather than the regular base set. #51 in the base set was Roger Clemens. The base set didn't have All Star cards.

The cardback includes Tony's All Star Game record in 1987, when he was a pinch hitter with one appearance at the plate. The game was held at the Coliseum in Oakland. The National League won, and the game went to 13 innings.

Although the factoids on the back are mainly All Star Game-related, this being a DonRuss card, it has to mention Tony stealing five bases in one game. The factoid compilers loved that achievement so much!

Card Number 122: Topps 1989 All Star Game Commemorative Set, 1990; #8
A few posts back I made a mistake about how Topps packaged the cards it produced for Kay-Bee Toys. Fuji helpfully corrected my error and I updated the post. These All Star cards were actually the cards I was thinking about when I said that some cards were included in a cellophane "Rak Pak" with 45 regular base cards. You got one card per pack with 22 to collect in total.

Tony looks likes a concerned observer in the photo. I love those brown Padres jackets, though. I want one. Tony missed the 1988 All Star Game, which was played in Cincinatti. The 1989 game was back in California, in Anaheim. Tony started the game and was second in the batting order. He had 3 plate appearances, before being replaced in the line up by Andre Dawson. He got a hit and one of the National League's runs as they slumped to a 3-5 defeat.

None of this information is included on the cardback, which is probably a contender for dullest Topps card back ever.

Card Number 123: Upper Deck Collector's Choice, 1997; #23 (All Star Connection insert)
The big red foil blob on this commemorates the 1997 All Star Game in Cleveland. That was the logo for the game. It's a shiny card that didn't scan very well.

Tony was the Designated Hitter for the National League team in 1997, and was second in the batting order again. His Padres team-mate Ken Caminiti was also in the starting line-up. Tony had 3 at bats but didn't get on base once. He didn't strike out either, which is something, I suppose. The National League lost 1-3.

I really like the photo on the cardback for two reasons. First it shows Tony making time for the fans, something which he believed was very important. Secondly, the crispness of the photo really shows the pinstripes of the Padres uniform in the Cleveland sunshine.

The cardback also carries a stats box with a difference, comparing Tony's stats in All Star Games, post-season divisional championships, league championship seasons, the World Series, and his most recent season stats for the Padres. It's a comprehensive breakdown of how Tony performed in different pressure situations. The factoid is about Tony's game-winning run in the 1994 All Star Game. All in all, I think this is probably a contender for best cardback on an All Star Game card.

Total: 123/394

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Number One Card Only

Sundays are posts when I just show one card. Today the one card is a #1 card, because it was the very first card in the Topps 1996 flagship set.

Card Number 120: Topps, 1996; #1 (Star Power series)
Jasper recently sent me a dozen cards from the Nineties and this is the most Nineties-looking of all of them.

It looks like the animated titles to a long-forgotten terrible TV show. I think what really makes this card epic is the Nineties design crime of using different fonts everywhere! (I lived through the "desktop publishing" era. I have scars.)

I haven't identified the main Star Power font on the front. A huge tip of the hat to blogger Junior Junkie who noticed that it's the same font used in the Hall of Violence in Demolition Man (released in 1993). There's a picture on that link that proves Junior Junkie isn't crazy.

On the cardback you can really appreciate  the quirky "digital" font, which Topps uses on the front with added drop shadow! (Why, Topps? Why?)

It's not the most exciting cardback, compared to the front. However, I also learned from that Junior Junkie post that there were Chrome versions of this card that look even more awesome. The hunt is on!

Total: 120/394

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Sharing the Spotlight 2

An occasional series where Tony shares a baseball card with another player. Today, it's his younger brother, Chris.

Card Number 119: Upper Deck, 1992; #83 ("Bloodlines" insert)
A genuinely nice family photo. I hope it really was taken in a ballpark at dusk, and that's not just a backdrop.

Chris Gwynn had a respectable Major League Baseball career with the Dodgers, the Royals, the Dodgers again, and then finishing up playing alongside Tony at the Padres. He was originally drafted by the Angels, but opted for a college degree instead and then was drafted by the Dodgers. Although this card is from the 1992 Upper Deck set, he had actually been traded to the Royals for the 1992 season.

The cardback kind of hints at Chris's understudy role. When he got to the Padres he was a pinch hitter making occasional forays onto the field. He did have one honour that Tony never achieved - a silver medal from the 1984 Olympics, held in his home city of Los Angeles. It was the first time baseball had been played in the Olympics, and the USA lost the final to Japan.

He played his final Major League Baseball game in September 1996, in the last regular game of the season. He came in as a pinch hitter in the top of the 11th inning and hit a double that brought two team-mates home and won the game. That meant the Padres won their second ever National League West pennant. It was the last at bat of his ten year career in the majors.

Chris, of course, had some baseball cards in his own right. Recently, Jasper sent me this Upper Deck card from 1994 with Chris in the Royals uniform.

Ironically, Chris was released by the Royals at the end of the 1993 season and returned to the Dodgers, signed as a free agent, for the 1994 season. So he is in the 'wrong' uniform again on this card. He is being impeded in the photo there by Tim Hulett, who was the third baseman for the Baltimore Orioles in 1993.

The cardback has a batting cage photo.

Speaking of cardbacks, I've noted before how Chris has been mentioned on the backs of Tony's cards. Way back in 1985, Topps decided that Chris's appearance in the 1984 Olympics would be of more interest to card collectors than mentioning Tony's first national league batting title.

In 1991 DonRuss added Chris to their list of factoids on Tony's base card. Chris had been playing for five seasons by then.

And then of course, in 1992, they got to share the front of the card as part of the Upper Deck "Bloodlines" insert series.

Total: 119/394