Friday, July 31, 2020

3 from 93

Following on from yesterday's post which featured a card from Upper Deck in 1993, here are 3 more cards from the same year, and the same card company!

Card Number 226: Upper Deck Fun Pack, 1993; #138
In the early 90s most of the card companies put out sets aimed at kids. Topps called their range Topps Kids, DonRuss/Leaf had Triple Play, and Upper Deck released the Fun Pack, with 225 cards to collect, jazzy stickers, scratch off cards and even cards featuring mascots! The "Stars of Tomorrow" were rookies in a zodiac style constellation and there was a subset with photos of top stars from their childhood. (Most of them look adorable!)

Compared to those cards, Tony's is quite plain.

Well it's plain on the front! On the back there's a cartoon!

It's not a funny cartoon, but I'm all for cartoons on cardbacks! Back in 1993 his best hitting average was .370 and that's the one that's gets mentioned here.

Card Number 227: Upper Deck, 1993; D-14
Meanwhile in the main Upper Deck range, Tony had a card in the "On Deck" subset.

This is a bit like a Studio card, or one of the early Stadium Club cards.

The cardback is a bit different.

I like this idea for a cardback. It reminds me a lot of the player profiles that used to be a staple of soccer programmes when I was a kid. It's always interesting finding out what players like, dislike, treasure and regret. Even though nowadays we have much closer access to players through social media accounts and stuff, more cardbacks should be like this instead of yet another stats box.

Looking at this now, 27 years later, Tony came close to that career goal in 1998, but never made it. He probably would have been a basketball player if he hadn't been drafted in baseball. Who knows how that would have gone if he had accepted the draft offer from the Clippers? I'd actually read about that most embarrassing moment before, so that must have really haunted him. 

Tony really admired Barry Bonds. One of the contributors to He Left His Heart in San Diego said that Tony actively laid out Barry Bonds's credentials for induction in the Hall of Fame after Bonds retired, despite the steroid scandal that tainted the end of Bonds's career. 

Card Number 228: Upper Deck Fun Pack, 1993; #221 (All Star Advice subset)
And back to the Fun Pack range!

Want to swing like Tony Gwynn? Here's a scientific explanation for why he made all those hits.

The back breaks down the mechanics of his swing.

This is another cardback I find really interesting. It's unique in my collection so far, and I would like to see more cardbacks that look like this. 

Upper Deck also released their Fun Pack range in 1994 but like other companies the 'kids' ranges faded a bit. Still, at least this brief flurry by Upper Deck into segmenting the market gave me some fun cards to show on my blog.

Total: 228/394

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Sharing the spotlight - 4 star batters

Another card in my irregular 'Sharing the Spotlight' series. 

Card Number 225: Upper Deck, 1993; #474 (Team Stars insert)

Tony shared the spotlight here with three team-mates, Gary Sheffield, Phil Plantier, and Fred McGriff.  Their combined offensive power is outlined on the cardback.

You would expect players with these pedigrees to put the Padres out of sight in their division. Gary Sheffield and Fred McGriff are the only two players to hit more than 30 home runs in a season for 5 different teams. (Fred is also the player with the highest number of home runs - 493 - not to have been inducted in the Hall of Fame!) Gary Sheffield's batting title in 1992 means he is the only San Diego Padre apart from Tony to become a batting champion. 

However by the middle of the 1993 season the four players pictured on this card were no longer team-mates. In the summer Fred McGriff was traded to the Atlanta Braves, and Gary Sheffield went to the Florida Marlins (as they were called then) where a few years later he was a World Series winner. Gary's subsequent lengthy career across both the National League and American League means he holds the record for the most ballparks played in (51). He eventually retired after a final season in 2010.

Phil Plantier was still a Padre at the end of the season, recording career highs in RBI and home runs. However he was traded at the end of the 1994 season, with Padres legend, the late Ken Caminiti travelling the other way from the Houston Astros. Plantier returned to the Padres twice more during his short career for a couple of half-season stints before being the first of the players featured on this card to retire, at the end of the 1998 season.

All baseball cards capture a moment in time. This card reflects a brief window when the Padres boasted what was on paper one of the most powerful batting line-ups in their history. A few months into the season and and this card was already an artifact of a team that had gone its separate ways.

Total: 225/394

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Back to Base - Bowman

Some cards today that cross the UD Boundary in baseball card history.

Card Number 219: Bowman, 1990; #217

This is a Bowman baseball card in 1990. A goofy photo, fuzzy print, drab colouring, matt card stock. It looked and felt like a cheap and dated product.

Bowman went all out on the stat box on the back though.

It looks like someone has tried to print an Excel sheet on the back of the card (and that's not an anachronism - Excel 3.0 launched in 1990!). It's Tony's stats against all the different teams in the National League. He got 31 hits against the Astros, and 30 hits against the Giants, who won the League pennant and lost in the World Series. The black on blue print is horrible to read and the figures are tiny.

Card Number 220: Bowman, 1991; #647

It's a much better photo this year!

The back is a lot easier to read. They are still loving the giant statistical breakdown though.

Card Number 221: Bowman, 1992; #50
Tony is looking up as if there is an approaching asteroid...

The transformation wrought by the Upper Deck asteroid is no more evident than the difference between the 1991 Bowman cardback and the 1992 cardback. It is so stark you'd almost think this was a different hobby!

Cool shades! Even the stat box with the breakdown against all the other teams has been livened up a bit with colour and a watermark Bowman logo. The cardback is glossy and a much higher quality. It's also portrait orientation just to shake things up further.

Card Number 222: Bowman, 1993; #630
A return to action shots this year...

Tony is dispensing with his bat after clocking another hit.

The photo on the back is less flattering. Tony is squinting. Perhaps he should have put his shades on!

The stats box has dropped a lot of extraneous detail, like, er, hits. The home run column doesn't look impressive. Tony was never a power slugger. He had a particularly good batting average against the Braves the previous season.

Card Number 223: Bowman 1994; #120

This is the pick of the bunch of the Bowman base cards and shows another step up in quality for the Bowman brand. It's a full bleed photo that captures Tony preparing for his stint at bat. There's foil edging as well.

The back retains the truncated stats box.

Card Number 224: Bowman, 1995; #304
This card shows Bowman catching up with gimmicky mid-Nineties design. It's the first card to mess about with the photo on the front.

It looks like Tony is smashing a mirror there. The design has also brought back borders, which feels like a retrograde step after the smashing borderless cards in 1994.

The cardback is a bit awkward to read. Compared to a lot of cards issued around this time it's not completely hideous. Chocolate brown is an odd colour for a cardback though!

That's it for this Back to Base post!


Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Tuesday Trio - Topps reprints

I could have called this blogpost "Why I've grown to hate Topps." For all that I moan about parallels, reprints are even more frustrating.

Card Number 216: Topps, 1997; #410
This is Tony's base card from 1997.

It's quite green. It's not very remarkable. Topps often crop their action photos too close and regularly seem to pick photos of players looking away from the camera.

The back has a big stats box and another photo of Tony running. It also mentions that if he managed another batting title that season it would tie the record for titles won in the National League. (He won it, of course!)

All in all this is a mundane baseball card. There's nothing particularly exciting about the 1997 series from Topps, and if you were going to pick cards of Tony's to reprint this would not be near the top of anyone's list.

Unless you're Topps.

Because only 5 years later they reprinted this card.

Card Number 217: Topps Archives, 2002; #19

Crucially they give it a big foil stamp on the front, saying what set it was from. Tony's name is in yellow print instead of gold foil. The back is a weird grey card stock and there is a strip up the edge. So it's clearly a different card.

I will say Topps got one thing right. This is card #19 in their set!

Then, as I was going through the large volume of cards I'd purchased from Gawain, I found another version of this card.

Card Number 218: Topps 60 Years of Topps (Original Back); #410
What alerted me to this being a different card was the silver foil on the front instead of gold.

It was a real troublesome card to track down on Trading Card Database. I looked all around the 1997 cards to see if it was a known error, or an opening day version. Unlike the 2002 card this cardback was the same glossy stock as the base card.

Then eventually I spotted the word "reprint" under the Topps logo.

If I had been more switched on I should have seen the Cooperstown Collection logo as well, alerting me to the Hall of Fame connection. Buried in the blurb at the bottom was the year, 2011, and then it was a case of going through all of Tony's cards from 2011, which wasn't too bad. He only had 182 cards released that year, and it was easy to skip through the short numbered relics and autograph cards to find the one I was looking for. (It was a slow year for Tony Gwynn cards; this is the only card from 2011 that I have in my collection so far. I have 7 from 2020 already!)

I can't figure why Topps liked this card so much they thought it was worth reprinting not once, but twice! There are so many other iconic Tony cards they could have chosen instead of one from the end of the Nineties, from a set that nobody raves about or is particularly interested in (as far as I know).

But that's Topps for you. They make odd choices sometimes. And it's up to collectors to look at the card in their hand and try to work out what the hell is going on!

Total: 218/394

Monday, July 27, 2020

Monday Mixer - Spring Training in Late Summer

The baseball season has started and teams had a weird shortened pre-season of exhibition matches. Today's blog post hails a happier time when Spring Training meant training in the Spring ready for baseball to start in April.

Card Number 213: Score Rookie and Traded, 1998; #RT264
Tony's catching a fly-ball on the front.

There's a huge batting stats box on the back, fielding statistics for the previous season, and a pre-season batting statistic as a factoid!

This is from the time when Score was being touted as a Pinnacle brand, and just before Pinnacle went bust. (More on the history of Pinnacle here.)

Card Number 214: Skybox Premium, 1999; #277
"Spring Fling!"

That's a cool photo on the front. Everything is OK! I'd love to know what was in that kitbag. And, also why didn't Tony have someone to carry his kitbag for him?

And now a serious contender for oddest cardback in the collection.

A pretend postcard to Tony telling him he didn't need Spring Training. As an on-off philatelist as well, I like the fake postmark, even if the message is a bit cringeworthy.

Card Number 215: Upper Deck SP, 1993; #167
Take a second look...this really is a Tony Gwynn card.

Why does it say Sanders on his jersey?

All is explained on the cardback.

He was fooling around during Spring Training and put on pitcher Scott Sanders's jersey. As you do. Maybe it was an early April Fool.

So who was Scott Sanders? It wasn't a name I recognised as I was putting this post together. Then in a quirk of fate a package of Padres cards arrived last Friday and in among them was Scott Sanders's Fleer Ultra rookie card from 1993.

Scott went on to have a seven year career in the major leagues, giving up 674 hits in 681 innings pitched for the Padres, Mariners, Tigers and Cubs. Those aren't stellar figures but at least he has the honour of being one of a handful of other baseball players besides Tony to appear on this blog!

I went looking to see what the SP means in the SP brand from Upper Deck and it turns out it doesn't mean anything. Still, it's gave me a fun little card to round of this Monday Mixer. Let's hope next Spring Training happens as normal!

Total: 215/394

Sunday, July 26, 2020

One card only - on the Dream Team

Card Number 212: Score, 1992; #887
Score selected a "dream team" towards the end of their 893-card set in 1992. Tony was on it.

That's a great posed photo, even if the baseball is clearly glued to the bat!

The back mentions that Tony wielded the smallest bat among active Major League players. Although 1992 is around about when Ted Williams insulted his bat saying it was the sort of thing you'd use to pick your teeth. Tony started using a bigger bat and bagged four batting titles in a row starting in 1993. The cardback also talks about Tony's propensity for stealing bases and his fielding awards, but those aspects of his play became less important during the middle era of his career. He picked up his last gold glove in 1991 and the base-stealing dried up with only 11 steals after 1997.

Total: 212/394

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Return to the Studio

I like the Studio range of cards. Here are three more of them, showing an interesting evolution in who owned the studio!

Card Number 209: Studio. 1994; #132

Tony is sitting in the clubhouse here. Or so we presume. But if that's his shirt in the background, what shirt is he wearing? Also, can't the club afford something better than a ratty old wire coathanger to hang the shirts on?

The back claims Tony wintered in Poway, California. That may have been the case in 1994, but I think even then he had got into the habit of spending the winters in Indianapolis, where his wife owned a recording studio. He had season tickets to watch the Indiana Pacers, and used to enjoy going to watch them play in a town where nobody recognised him. He even engaged in a publicity drive for the WBNA team that became the Indiana Fever, buying the 3000th season ticket for the women's team shortly after hitting his 3000th hit.

This card was produced by DonRuss and they have laid out his career stats really nicely here. I appreciate informative graphics and these are easy to read and capture the essential information about the player.

[In 1995 Studio produced a range of cards that looked like credit cards. At some point I will create a wants list and Tony's Studio 1995 card will be on it!]

Card Number 210: Leaf Studio, 1996; #145

The Studio range was branded as a Leaf product in 1996. Leaf was now part of DonRuss. Tony has a bit of salt and pepper stubble in the portrait photo on the front, and an odd expression in the inset.

I like how the O in "Studio" is used as a cameo inset on the cardback.

This looks like a four photo card, but the cameo is the same photo that was used on the front. The factoid is about Tony's college basketball achievements. He is still, in 2020, the all-time San Diego State record-holder for assists.

Card Number 211: DonRuss Studio, 1997; #124

DonRuss took the Studio range back from Leaf in 1997. This is a very stylish card. It's a lovely portrait photo and the silver stripes look classy.

The cardback is still all about Tony's college career and his drafting by both the NBA Clippers and the MLB Padres. His entire subsequent career is summed up as "The rest is baseball history."

DonRuss was actually part of the Pinnacle empire by now, although there is no mention of that on this card. A Studio set was produced in 1998 before the range went on hiatus until a set was released bearing the name in 2005. Studio is yet to return since DonRuss and associated brands have been acquired by Panini, which is a shame, because these cards with their portraits and interesting card backs are something different and have great appeal.

Total: 211/394

Friday, July 24, 2020

Smells like Victory

(Apologies for citing one of the most famous Apocalypse Now quotes. Don't worry, there's no napalm here.)

Victory is an overlooked card range from Upper Deck. Like other card companies at the turn of the Millennium, Upper Deck were experimenting with new sub-brands to attract the attention of collectors who were all getting a bit fazed by it. The original collecting bubble had popped a few years previously, the people who had piled into the hobby to build up investment portfolios had piled out again, and a number of collectors had grown disaffected and given up.

So, in 1999, Victory was launched into this unpromising landscape. The brand was used on ice hockey and football cards and for five baseball seasons. Upper Deck also issued 'Victory' ranges for Japanese baseball, but I think they were only sold in Japan.

Like a lot of the Forgotten Fleer, Victory cards tip up in joblots infrequently enough to feel like they are hard to find.

Card Number 205: Upper Deck Victory, 2000; #338 (Big Play Makers insert)
Tony was one of 20 players designated a "Big Play maker" within the set.

This is definitely a contender for the most yellow card in my collection. The yellow tint makes Tony's face in close-up look a bit odd.

Tony's yellow-tinted face is also on the back. The cardback mentions Tony passing the 3000-hit mark and says he "shows no signs of slowing". Actually, he was slowing down quite a bit in 2000, with a lot fewer appearances due to injury.

Card Number 206: Upper Deck Ultimate Victory, 2000; #76
Ultimate Victory was a spin-off set from Victory. Upper Deck were trying to build sub-brands within sub-brands, Inception-style.

This is blue and very shiny in real life. It did not scan well. It is basically Tony's Victory base card, except in blue foil. (No, I don't have the base card...) 120 of the Victory base set were also given the Ultimate Victory treatment.

The back has a stats box with a watermark of a ballpark in the background. It look like the same image was used on every Ultimate Victory card, and I don't which stadium it is.

Card Number 207: Upper deck Victory, 2001; #459
At last! A regular base card!

There is nothing particularly good or bad about this card. It is what it is.

The back is dull. I noticed that it listed Tony's weight as 225lbs. Most cards printed his weight as 215 or 220lbs. His weight was probably even higher than what's printed here at this stage of his career, although he did lose some weight in his final couple of seasons.

There was space on there for a factoid. Or a photo. Or something.

Card Number 208: Upper Deck Victory, 2001; #646 (Victory's Best insert)
The last 50 cards in the set were the Victory's Best insert series.

This insert is an uninspiring as the base set, really. Just the words "Victory's Best" repeated in the background.

The prominent number 19 on the back is a little bit irritating as it feels like it's pretending to be the card number.

The factoid mentions that he had become the National League record-holder for consecutive seasons batting over .300. (So there was a factoid they could have used on the base set.)

Total: 208/394