Monday, August 31, 2020

Modern Monday - two from Topps

It's a bank holiday. Here are two cards from 2020 for you to enjoy today.

Card Number 310: Topps Decade of Dominance insert, 2020; #DOD-11

Dean from the Baseball Cards UK group on Facebook busted lots of Topps Flagship and sent me this.

It's a nice die-cut X.

Tony earns his place in the 1990s pantheon as a dominant batter because he rarely struck out at the plate. How rarely I hear you ask...

One in every 26.5 at bats, according to the cardback. Given that Tony would usually make around 5 plate appearances each game, that would mean you would only see him strike out one game in six. 

Card Number 311: Topps Decades Best insert, 2020; #DB-56 (#d Gold Parallel)

This was a whimsical purchase on eBay.

I didn't actually clock this was a gold parallel version of the card until it arrived. It has a slight gold sheen to it.

The way Topps have written 1990s in the coloured blocks there is probably the best bit of design in a Topps flagship product in the last five years. I'm happy to be corrected on that point, but I can't remember seeing anything else that was so bang on. It just screams "Now That's What I Call Music" albums from the start of the decade. (These were compilation albums released in the UK that featured chart-topping singles released over six months or so - everyone I knew had at least one "Now album" back when I was a teenager.)

There's a succinct summary of Tony's career in the 90s on the back. Note how his batting average for the decade was higher than for the previous decade.

You can also see there that this card is numbered out of 50. I doubt the person selling it realised it was a short print parallel because it didn't me cost very much. I like numbered cards so the numbering counteracts my usual disdain for parallels. 

Total: 311/394

Sunday, August 30, 2020

One Card Only - Tony's Idol

Card Number 309: Pinnacle, 1992; #591

In their 1992 set, Pinnacle included an 8 card series featuring the baseball idols of some well-known stars of the game. Tony was paired with Willie Davis, who played for the LA Dodgers for 13 years from 1960. (He was also very briefly a Padre toward the very end of his career.)

Tony was taken regularly to Dodger Stadium when he was growing up and saw Willie play, although it's doubtful he would have seen Willie in the World Series winning seasons of 1963 and 1965. He might have seen one of the games in Willie's 31-game hitting streak in 1969, though.

There is a lovely story that Willie Davis was invited to take part in an "old timers" game at the San Diego State University stadium when Tony was head coach for the Aztecs. According to this article, Stephen Strasburg helped arrange it when he was pitching for the Aztecs  (The date given in that article must be wrong because that was before Strasburg was born!). 

Tony was apparently too nervous to speak to Willie because he was still to much in awe of his idol. I like that story because it just shows Tony's humility - after all he had achieved in the game, he still felt shy about meeting one of his own baseball heroes. 

Total: 309/394

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Back to Base - Fleer Ultra at the end of the 90s

I haven't done back-to-back Back to Base posts before, but I've got a backlog of Fleer Ultra cards to blog, so this is my back-to-back Back to Base backlog blog post.

Card Number 306: Fleer Ultra, 1997; #283
Another photo of Tony swinging at the plate. There are a lot of empty seats behind him.

The swoosh of the name is quite attractive. 

The cardbacks have shifted from minimalist stats boxes to a full career box. 

The ghostly sepia version of Tony on the back is a look that I mentally class as 'Jedi Spirit Tony'. In the colour photo Tony looks spooked. Maybe Jedi Spirit Tony was only visible when the photo was developed! (Yes, I know I'm being silly!)

Card Number 307: Fleer Ultra, 1998; #108
Superficially, this card design looks a lot like the card from 1997, particularly the lettering on the player name. 

On the back the stats box is so huge Tony is having to peek over the top. It's almost as if he's standing on tiptoes to see.

This cardback has a new feature - factoids. The third one is new data to me - when Tony scored over 100 RBI in 1997, aged 37, he became the oldest player to achieve that for the first time in his career. That's testament to how he kept on doing new things, and also just how good he was for a couple of years in the mid-90s. In his career Tony rarely came close to hitting 100 RBI - his next best total was 90 in 1995 and he had a few seasons where he posted over 70 RBI. 

Card Number 308: Fleer Ultra, 1999; #59
After a couple of years with photos of Tony at the plate, in 1999, they showed him at the wall. That's a serious leap!

The design of the players name was even more elaborate this year.

The back saw another return to orange. It's a cheerful colour.

The career highlights are cool little factoids again. They chronicle Tony's hit off Roger Clemens in the 1998 All Star Game in Denver, and Tony recording his 1,000th career RBI the previous season as well. He managed his only RBI century season in 1997, as we know from his 1997 Fleer Ultra cardback, and so it's no surprise it had taken him a long time to amass 1,000.

(As an aside, I've heard people say "Ribby"when talking about RBI. I always pronounce the letters - ArBeeEye - which is correct?)

Unlike the career highlights, the 'Did You Know?' factoid goes all the way back to Tony's college days and his achievements on the basketball court. That information crops up several times on cardbacks, so it was probably much more likely that people would know it compared to the bullet point about RBI.

That closes out the Fleer Ultra decade. I'm missing one card, right from the middle, and have added it to my wants list. I'm sure it will appear on this blog at some point in the future.

Total: 308/394


Friday, August 28, 2020

Back to Base - Fleer Ultra 91-94

Fleer Ultra was Fleer's other big card range for just over a decade, surviving the transition of ownership to Marvel, the merger with Skybox, Marvel's bankruptcy fire sale, and the restoration of the company in the late 90s. It was a range that competed in the Upper Deck / Stadium Club market, although all flagship products were soon featuring the fancy elements that set those ranges apart, like photos on the back and foil embellishments. 

Card Number 302: Fleer Ultra, 1991; #303

I was tempted to put this selection out of chronological order so that this card number matched up to my numbering system.

Fleer had quite a thing for grey at one time, and considering this was their exciting "Ultra" range, it's a dull framing colour.

The back makes up for it.

That colour scheme right there? That is 1991! I am getting flashbacks to Global Hypercolor t-shirts, alcopops and cassette singles just looking at it. 

I've mentioned awarding points to cards. This would get a bonus point for having the year in the set name on the front. I'd also give it four bonus points for having four photos, and for them all showing a different action - batting, base-running, throwing from the outfield, and posing all cool like. 

Card Number 303: Fleer Ultra, 1992; #277

Fleer upped their game in 1992 and Ultra aped Stadium Club's borderless look.

I often wonder about the crowd in the background in early 90s baseball cards - there must be someone somewhere who gets this card out to show people how they were on a baseball card once. That guy in the red hat really stands out. 

I'm not sure what's going on with the graph paper background on the cardback. Although it is a card from 1992 and that does look like turquoise, the trend colour from 1992!

I'd also award points, if I awarded points, for sensible statting. This is a slimmed down stats box, which is OK by me. I have an all-or-just-last-season attitude to stats boxes. The bio data text is printed way too small though. That's the size font that should only be used for boilerplate text. about copyright. 

Card Number 304: Fleer Ultra, 1993; #472

Another Stadium Club-esque card. The baseball in the logo is on fire!

This looks like Tony is jogging either to or from the outfield at the end of an innings. 

They ditched the graph paper on the back and there is a drawing of a baseball diamond instead. It's less futuristic and that makes it look less dated 27 years on.

Card Number 305: Fleer Ultra, 1994; #280

There's a bit of foil on this card to make it a bit more flashy.

The fronts of Fleer Ultra cards are a bit samey between 1992 and 1994. Thankfully the backs are all really different. This year they went back to bright orange!

The smaller cut out photo is a bit unusal, showing Tony poised and alert on fielding duty.

If you want to see another Fleer Ultra card, you can see one in last Friday's post. Otherwise, you're going to have to wait until tomorrow!

Total: 305/394

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Hitting 300!

Today's post marks the 300th card featured on this blog. It seemed cool to mark it with a card from a series that was all about .300.

In their 400-card set in 1996, Pinnacle introduced their 300 series, starting at card #300 and then interspersed with regular base cards. The card numbering aligns with the batting average of the player on the card. So, for example Edgar Martinez was card #313, Mike Piazza was #322 and so on. Tony's was the highest numbered card in the "300 series" because his .336 brought him the batting champion title.

Card Number 300: Pinnacle. 1996; #336

In terms of photography I feel it was an odd choice not to have a batting photo on the front of a card all about batting average. They made up for it with the photo on the back.

Pinnacle threw in a whole lot more stats of Tony's batting average under certain conditions on the back for good measure.

The alignment of card numbers in the set with the batting averages that players achieved gives me a slight geeky thrill. If I was awarding cards points, this would definitely be a multiple point winning idea. I haven't seen it replicated anywhere else, even though it's such a good idea. 

This being Pinnacle, of course, you get the opportunity to enjoy it more than once!

Card Number 301: Pinnacle. 1996 (foil parallel); #336

The foil parallels really glimmer in hand. You'll have to take my word for it.

The cardback is exactly the same as the regular base version.

That target of 394 cards is looking very attainable now!

Total: 301/394

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Tony Gwynn, Superstar...

Apologies if the thread title has given you a musical earworm. 

Occasionally I ask the question, when is a baseball card not a baseball card? How about when it's the back of a sticker? Topps Stickers were released in the late 80s. The stickers could be stuck into an album, but the sticker backs were little trading cards in their own right. 

To make things even more fun each sticker came with different possible cardbacks, so if you were collecting both, you could end up with needing just the sticker or just the cardback, making swapping stickers more difficult because you would ideally be checking the front and the back of the ones you were swapping to see if you needed them both. 

Card Number 297: Topps Stickers Superstar Cardback, 1988; #16

The sticker this card backs on to is #159, a foil sticker of Wade Boggs.

This sticker also appeared with three other cardbacks, of Andre Dawson, Tim Raines and Mark McGwire. Tony's sticker in the set was #115 and is available with Superstar cardbacks of Gary Carter and Mark Langston.

Card Number 298: Topps Stickers Superstar Cardback, 1989; #50

Tony's waiting for his turn in the batting cage in this photo. (Is my guess!)

Both this card and the previous one list Tony's weight at 199 lbs. Usually trading cards round to the nearest 5 lbs.

The stickers on the reverse are #29 - Rick Mahler from the Atlanta Braves, and #269 - Floyd Bannister of the Kansas City Royals. 

Rick and Floyd's alternative cardbacks were Kirby Puckett, Dave Stewart and Barry Larkin. Tony's sticker in 1989 was #109 and his Superstar cardbacks were Paul Molitor, Dave Henderson and Mike LaValliere.

Card Number 299: Topps Stickers Superstar Cardback, 290;  #15

Tony's weight has crept up to 205 lbs.

The stickers on the other side are #138 - Todd Benzinger of the Cincinatti Reds, and #292 - Dan Gladden of the Minnesota Twins. 

Unlike in other years, this sticker of Todd and Dan only appeared with Tony's cardback. Tony's sticker was #101 and was produced with two different cardbacks - Mike Sciosa and Rick Reuschel.

The Superstar cardbacks are all smaller than a standard trading card and slightly smaller than "Topps mini" cards that were for sale around the same time. Collecting all the different sticker and cardback combinations that Tony is in would be a real challenge. I'm going to file that idea away for now!

Total: 299/394

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Another Topps Tuesday Triple

It's not that long since I blogged about Topps confusing me by reusing their 1997 template in later years. Today's trio of cards were all released in the same year - 1999 - and are effectively the same card delivered in three different sets.

Before I start though, here's a bit of personal card collecting history. I recently found a spreadsheet of my Padres cards that I'd last updated in 2008. It was lurking in an old email folder. Looking at it was quite amusing because back then I only had 16 Tony Gwynn cards. Two of those cards are in today's post!

Card Number 294: Topps Opening Day, 1999; #43

There was a time when Topps would differentiate their Opening Day set with different coloured borders and a foil stamp, unlike more recent times when they just photoshop an Opening Day logo onto the base card and say "That'll do." 

There isn't really much to be said about this card. As photos go, it's okay. 

The stats box on the back is huge. The photo is a more unusual pose and therefore more interesting than the one on the front.

Card Number 295: Topps, 1999; #75

The base card has a gold border instead of silver.

The back has a gold border too. The set number has changed as well. But everything else stayed the same.

Card Number 296: Topps Chrome, 1999; #75

Topps Chrome is one of those card ranges that exist solely for the people who really love shiny cards. Like all shiny cards, they don't scan very well on my scanner. 

The chromatic effect makes Tony appear 3-D.

The cardback is the same as the base card, except the Topps logo has been changed to the Topps Chrome logo. 

That's today's triple. I like having these cards together in a row in my Topps binder as they progress from silver to gold to shiny!

Total: 296/394 (less than 100 to target!)

Monday, August 24, 2020

Monday Mixer, Topps Edition

Three cards to brighten your Monday, sort of continuing the faux vintage theme from the weekend.

Card Number 291: Topps 206, 2002; #47

This is from the same set as the mini relic in yesterday's post. The front has been made to look like it's been drawn through the application of a Photoshop filter.

Given Tony had just retired at the end of the previous season, this choice of picture is very apt. It's as if he is raising his cap to the fans and saying goodbye.

The cardback follows the same theme, describing Tony leaving the game.

Tony has dropped to 21st on the all time list for hits since this card was printed. He has been overtaken by Albert Pujols, Derek Jeter, and Adrian Beltre, but Topps's claim that he was 17th is mysterious. Everyone else on the list retired before Tony did, apart from Cal Ripken Jr who retired the same year. I think this is a mistake by Topps and they forgot that Cal Ripken Jr had more hits than him.

Card Number 292: Topps Turkey Red, 2005; #310

Nowadays Turkey Red is an insert series in Topps's flagship product, but back in 2005 it was its own set of 330 cards. 

The back has a tidy summary of Tony's career, probably the best one to be found on a Topps cardback. 

Card Number 293: Topps Stars, 1999; #48

And now let's take a trip back to the late 90s. From 1997 - 2001, Topps released Topps Stars sets. They were small sets, never more than 200 cards, and had lots of things like foil parallel versions. This, however, is an ordinary base card.

That front design looks almost as dull as a turn-of-the-century Fleer single-season set.

The back has a bit more character, including star ratings across a number of metrics.

Two stars for speed seems a bit harsh. Tony was 39 when this card came out and no longer a spring chicken. They have also ignored Tony's career batting average figure in favour of the higher numbers for slugging and on-base percentage. Slugging percentage is calculated by giving hits different values - home runs are four times as valuable as singles, because, obviously they always deliver at least one run. Anything above .450 for slugging is a decent return. Tony achieved his percentage the hard way, with a lot of hits, as he was never a prolific scorer of home runs. 

That's the Topps Edition of the Monday Mixer. I hope you enjoyed it. See you tomorrow for a Triple Tuesday!

Total: 293/394

Sunday, August 23, 2020

One card only - mini retro relic

Continuing on from the retro theme of yesterday, here is another example of a card company producing a retro card that borrows its look from another company. This time it's Topps who replicated the classic T206 design that was printed by British American Tobacco from 1909-1911 and distributed in various products of the company. 

The original T206 cards are highly collectible. One thing they didn't have was relics.

Card Number 290: Topps 206 Relics (Season 3), 2003; #TR-TG

It's a 'mini' card that's more the size of the original tobacco cards, and comes in a frame.

Where this differs from most other relic cards is the tiny piece of fabric can be seen from the back of the card as well.

There's a holograph on the back as well as a mark of authenticity. Unlike the original T206 cards, though, there wouldn't be much money to be made in forging this one. Trading Card Database currently values it at $1.67.

There are three different versions of this card, and as this is from 'series 3' it might explain why the copyright notice is for 2003 when the set is listed as 2002 on Trading Card Database. I'm listing it here as a 2003 card because that's what it says on the card and while I'm used to cards being copyrighted in the previous year to the set being released, it feels silly to list this as a 2002 card when it's copyrighted a year after that.

Total: 290/394

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Faux vintage

The trend for releasing cards that look like older cards really kicked off around the turn of the Millennium. Despite being the card company that released the original cards that inspired the retro-looking cards, Topps were a bit slow to the party. Other card companies were quite happy to borrow their vintage looks though.

Card Number 287: Upper Deck Vintage, 2001; #287
Totally unintentional alignment of my numbering system with the set number!

This is sort of a rip-off of the Topps 1963 design.

Tony is smiling at someone. It's a slightly strange, forced smile. 

The back is one big stats box. There's a nod to the cartoons that were on the backs of Topps cards in 1963 with the little drawing of a dude swinging a bat. Tony's weight is listed at 225 pounds, here, which is the upper limit of his published weight on a cardback that I've seen.

Card Number 288: Upper Deck Vintage, 2001; #297
Tony's on this card (among all the other disembodied heads) so I'm counting it.

Wow! Fifth place! Not bad!... wait a minute...

There are a couple of notable names on the back. Adam Eaton listed here is a different Adam Eaton to the World Series winner currently playing for the Washington Nationals. They've listed Phil Nevin as the batting average leader, although Tony's average was .323 in 2000 - however, Tony only played in 36 games (with 140 plate appearances).

Card Number 289: Upper Deck Vintage, 2002; #234
This set was a homage to the Topps set from 1971.

Tony had retired at the end of the 2001 season, but still got to be on the Padres team checklist.

It's a great photo and it would have been a shame not to use it. This was the motorcycle presented to Tony during the ceremony to mark his final game for the Padres.

As checklists go, this is an improvement on the previous year's, because it has the card numbers for the different players. Comparing checklists from two consecutive years really shows how the team roster changed from one year to the next. Only three Padres players had Vintage baseball cards in 2000 and 2001.

Total: 289/394