Monday, November 30, 2020

Modern Monday - Gold Label

Topps revived their premium card range called Gold Label in 2016. It's a strange set, with three different 'classes' of card released for each player, with a different photo on each one, which turns a 100-card set into a 300-card set straightaway.

I acquired these cards from Graham M in the UK collectors Facebook group.

Card Number 510: Topps Gold Label (class 3), 2019; #92

In 2019 the class 1 card showed Tony running, the class 2 card showed him batting in a 1984 uniform, and the class 3 card looked like this:

The second photo of Tony (behind the gold band) was the same on all three classes of cards. In addition to the three different classes of card, there were also coloured parallels released.

The backs were consistent for all the classes of card.

That is an incredible factoid on the back, about Tony's success rate in a 'two strikes' scneario, and something I wasn't aware of before reading this cardback. So that's a plus point for this set.

Card Number 511: Topps Gold Label (class 1), 2020; #81

I think all the class 1 cards in the set showed players fielding. This photo is from very early in Tony's career before he started wearing Oakley wraparound sunglasses in the outfield.

The comparisons on the back really show how Tony was in a complete class of his own in the second half of the twentieth century. There literally was nobody better at getting hits than him. 

The class 2 cards showed Tony in a batting stance. 

Card Number 512: Topps Gold Label (class 3), 2020; #81

And the class 3 cards show him on the move between bases.

Although the 'classes' is a bit gimmicky, I'm not going to complain if Topps are going to dig into their photo archive and use uncommon photos for these cards. There aren't many cards with Tony wearing the early 80s brown Padres uniform, so it's a welcome addition to the collection.

The cardback is exactly the same. I'm only showing it for the sake of completeness!

Sets like this are one of the reasons why the number of Tony Gwynn cards has proliferated over recent years. The multiple parallels of these cards are all counted as released cards on Trading Card Database, pushing the number of available cards ever-upwards. Add in some low numbered memorabilia cards as well and it's all more cards for collectors to collect!

Total: 512 cards

Sunday, November 29, 2020

One card only - Textbook Excellence

This is another card that arrived in the parcel that cost me an admin fee and got delivered to the wrong house

Card Number 509: Upper Deck, 1999; #T24

This was from a 30-card insert series in series 2 of Upper Deck's main release.

I like cards like this. It reminds me of the Big League Beat card that I blogged about before (but which was actually released a couple of years later).

There is an odd effect on Tony's sunglasses on the back, which makes him look futuristic.

There's a very nice summary on the back that manages to be a bit different. The word "grace" doesn't often appear in write-ups on baseball cards, but this is one where it does.

Total: 509 cards

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Yet more cards from the year 2000

If you feel like you have seen a lot of cards on this blog from the year 2000, then that's probably because you have! One of the nice things about Trading Card Database is that you can look at stats for your collection - including a table for year of release. Almost ten per cent of my collection are cards released in the year 2000. 

One of the reasons for that is simply down to there being a lot of companies with licences to produce cards at the time. One of those companies was Pacific, which was both prolific, and liked to include cards of Tony in all their sets.

Card Number 506: Pacific Vanguard, 2000; #96

These are eye-catching!

The cardback focuses on Tony's base-stealing, although by the year 2000, he was rarely stealing bases.

Card Number 507: Pacific Crown Collection, 2000; #239
This was one of Pacific's main flagship sets. Tony is running the bases.

Crown Collection was one of the ranges that Pacific issued in Spanish. There's an English translation for non-Spanish speakers.

Card Number 508: Pacific Omega, 2000; #122
It feels fitting to finish the post with an card from Omega!

The cardback highlights Tony's 3000th hit the preceding season, like the Crown Collection card did. In the picture, Tony's Oakley sunglasses are a bit skewiff on his hat.

Total: 508 cards

Friday, November 27, 2020

Laser confrontations!

Let's have a look at a brace of cards from the middle of the 90s to end the week. This was the season the Padres won the National League West with a winner-takes-all showdown against the Dodgers. Tony was the batting champion that year - his seventh title.

Card Number 504: Topps Laser, 1996; #43

The Topps Company is rarely an innovator. It's a follower not a leader, which is why when other companies started using laser die-cutting to slice bits out of cards, they soon followed suit with a set revolving around that gimmick. This is one of the 128 base cards. There were 48 laser-cut inserts as well. 

The laser-cut running man was the same on a streak of 25 cards in the set. There were different cuts on other cards.

I'd give this card bonus points for having interesting "Spotlight Stats" on the back. Even though I know that Tony was one of the greatest hitters of all time, it's still pretty amazing to think that he got safely on base in over three quarters of the games he played in a three-season period.

Card Number 505: Topps (Classic Confrontations insert), 1996; #CC-9

This was from a 15-card insert series in the Topps flagship set from 1996.

The back of the card shows how well Tony batted against the top pitchers that he faced. John Smoltz must have felt his heart sink every time he saw Tony come up to the plate.

I would like to see more of this kind of statistical breakdown on baseball cards, although with the way pitching has changed I doubt current players would be able to rack up as many at bats against individual pitchers.

Total: 505 cards

Thursday, November 26, 2020

An anachronistic trip to 2013

This week is turning into a bit of a series of posts featuring Topps cards, so why not continue on that theme?

In 2013, Tony Gwynn had already had cancer treatment and surgery for the mouth cancer that would lead to his death in 2014 at the young age of 54. He was still coaching the San Diego State baseball team, but was finding it difficult to maintain his duties while so poorly. The account of his treatments in He Left His Heart in San Diego is a difficult read.

Trading Card Database lists 307 Tony Gwynn baseball cards released in 2013, which is a surprisingly high number considering it was 12 years after he retired, six years after his induction in the Hall of Fame, and was the year before he died.

Of course, most of the cards in the 307 listed on TCDb are short print memorabilia cards. He appeared in a few Panini sets as they started to experiment with baseball cards and used their licensing agreements with the Hall of Fame to issue some sets, including one card with a picture of Tony's running spikes on

Topps also released quite a few cards featuring Tony across their various sets, including these two.

Card Number 502: Topps Archives 2013; #83-TG

Topps reused the template from the All Star cards in their 1983 set for certain players.

It's a very nice looking card. It triggers my anachronism radar, though. Tony wasn't an All Star in 1983. He was an All Star in so many seasons, they could have given this card to a player who was actually an All Star that year. (I mean, I'm not complaining that this Tony Gwynn card exists, but, well, you know what I mean...)

The back is similarly anachronistic as it talks about the All Star game in San Diego in 1978, which was the year Tony started college in San Diego, six years before his first All Star Game appearance. 

The losing pitcher was Yankees player, Rich "Goose" Gossage, who would later play several seasons alongside Tony as a Padre. 

I have a pennant for that All-Star Game pinned to the wall in my upstairs home office. It's in the room I have been working in since March, when my work team all started working from home due to the pandemic, so I get to see it every day.

I found this pennant quite randomly in an Oxfam charity shop several years ago, along with a whole load of other Major League Baseball pennants of a similar vintage. I wish now I had bought all of them, but I only bought this one and the Padres team one that they had. (And yes, I know, I probably shouldn't have pinned it to the wall, but hindsight is 20:20.)

Card Number 503: Topps Gypsy Queen, 2013; #287

As I've been blogging about Tony Gwynn cards I've been thinking quite a lot about the use of old-time tobacco brand names. This one is another jarring one, considering Tony was undergoing treatment for cancer caused by chewing tobacco the year it was released.

The baroque borders make this card look nice, but I have to admit I find the Gypsy Queen sets all tend to blur into one.

The back has a unique write up, though. I wonder if Greg Maddux knows he was singled out for scrutiny in this way.

Total: 503 cards

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Sharing the Spotlight - Tony and Albert

Today's card arrived via Brian from the UK baseball card collectors Facebook group. It was part of a bigger trade that is a longer story, which I might tell another time. 

Card Number 501: Topps, 1995; #389

For a couple of sets in the mid-90s, Topps paired up players from the All Star Game on cards. Tony shares this one with Albert Belle from the Cleveland Indians.

The photo makes me chuckle because it looks like Tony and Albert have had a spat. Tony has his arms crossed and looks like he's giving Albert the cold shoulder, while Albert defiantly sits there ignoring him in turn. 

On the back there's a seasonal breakdown for both players. You will notice that both their totals before and after the All Star Break are radically different. That's because the season ended in August when the players went on strike.

Albert was a consistent selection for All-Star teams for five years in a row (1993-97) during his eleven-year Major League career. He was a noted power hitter and is the only player to score 50 doubles and 50 home runs in the same season. He averaged 120 RBI a season and was the first player to sign a $10,000,000 contract. And, of course, he got to share a baseball card with Tony Gwynn!

Thank you for the card, Brian!

Total: 501 cards

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Multiple Milestones - 200 blog posts and 500 cards

Somehow I have managed to co-ordinate this so that this blog post features my 500th card in my 200th blog post. I have posted every day since launching on Tony's birthday on 9th May. Back then I had 195 Tony Gwynn cards in my collection and I was less than halfway to my target of 394 cards.

Last week I took delivery of a parcel that caused me some stress. First of all on the Monday, I got a dreaded grey customs charge notice through the door. I had purchased some cards from a US-based seller on eBay and managed to wangle free delivery. However, the receiving mail house had noticed my purchase was a fraction over the £15 limit for avoiding VAT. In fact, they charged me as if the dollar value of the package was in pounds, calculated VAT at just over £4 then added an £8 administration fee on top.

Not only was I being overcharged, I was being charged extra for the privilege of being overcharged. Anyway, I took the path of least resistance, logged in online and paid the fee. That part of the process was surprisingly easy. I received an email saying my package would be redelivered on Wednesday. 

But Wednesday came and went and there was no package.

On the Thursday afternoon, after the package didn't arrive with the morning post, my wife went on a mission to the sorting office to find out what was going on. She actually met our regular postman down there who confirmed the package had been delivered, but he couldn't find out where it had been delivered. Cue an early morning phone call to the management office in the sorting office on the Friday, where they were able to confirm it had been delivered to a house a few streets away from us.

Although they told my wife that they would go and find the package and deliver it correctly, she took matters into her own hands and knocked on the door herself. I was working when my phone beeped and there was a WhatsApp message from her saying "Look what I've found!" and a picture of the parcel.

According to our friendly postman, who wasn't on duty when this went to the wrong house, three different people will have sorted this wrongly for it to go where it did. My address was visible enough on the packet - so much so I've blacked it out on the photo just in case! I still feel narked that I got charged an administration fee and then it was administered to the wrong house.

The cards inside were a mix of inserts and base cards from hard to find sets. Today's card was in the parcel and it links back to the 80s week theme from last week. 

It took a lot of hard work to get it here, but here is the 500th card on the blog:

Card Number 500: Topps Rookie of the Week, 2006; #22

In 2006, Topps had a 25-card insert series where they recreated a rookie card for baseball stars, using the template of the player's original card and new photos. Well, I say new... 

If that main photo looks familiar, that's because last week I showed Tony's "glossy All-Star" card from 1985. Which uses the same photo. Here's a reminder:

The picture on the card from 2006 is much crisper, probably because it was printed to a higher level of quality.

The card back has two numbers on it. Ignore the #482 - that was Tony's card number in Topps's 1983 release. 

The real card number is up the side. 

I have no objections to Topps reusing good photos of Tony on new cards. This is better than just reproducing his original rookie card again (complete with the photo that is centred on his bottom). It's a very nice card and worth the extended hassle caused by the post office.

It's also the first card from 2006 to feature on this blog - it only took 500 cards for me to find one from that year!

Total: 500 cards

Monday, November 23, 2020

Modern Monday - face of the franchise

There's no doubt that Tony Gwynn is the face of the San Diego Padres franchise. He is "Mr Padre" after all. Here's a couple of recent cards that confirm his status. 

Card number 498: Topps (Franchise Feats insert), 2019; #FF-23

I have to admit, reading those "feats" feels a bit underwhelming. Although they are currently the only Major League franchise still in San Diego, the Padres used to be one of three. Both the Clippers, who drafted Tony out of college the same day he was drafted by the Padres, and the Chargers, who shared occupancy of Jack Murphy Stadium the entire duration of the Padres' 24 years located there, have both moved to LA now. (In fact, Jack Murphy Stadium is still the only stadium to host a Super Bowl and a World Series in the same year: 1998.)

The other Padre to win a batting title was Gary Sheffield. No Padre has been a batting title contender since Tony's final title in 1997. The Padres have won two divisional titles since Tony retired.

As it's a 2019 card, I suppose having Manny Machado's transfer from that year on it makes sense. It's a bit of a dull feat, though.

Trevor Hoffman has been inducted to the Hall of Fame since I visited it in 2016. But I saw Dave Winfield's plaque along with Tony's in the hall.

Card Number 499: Topps Chrome Update (Greatest Seasons insert), 2019; 150C-24

In 2019, Topps celebrated 150 years of professional baseball with this series that featured 25 legends of the game.

Even though this card is in an insert series about "Greatest Seasons", the write up on the back doesn't mention a specific season. 

It's a nice card though.

Total: 499 cards

Sunday, November 22, 2020

One card only, sorry, one sticker only, to end 80s week

I still have a few cards from the 80s to blog about, but I'm going to close off 80s week for now with a sticker!

Card Number 497: Fleer Star Stickers, 1987; #52

There were 132 stickers in this set and they were ordered alphabetically, starting with Don Aase of the Baltimore Orioles and finishing with Robin Yount who had sticker number #130. The final two stickers in the set were checklists with a couple of players on them.

I really like the border design on this card. It looks Christmassy. 

Although this is a sticker, it's the same thickness as the card. The instructions on the back say to bend and peel. 

The design of the cardback is practically the same as the cardback on Tony's Fleer base card - which I blogged about on Monday. It's a different colour scheme, as you can see, below.

So that's the end of 80s week on Point 394. I hope you've enjoyed it. We have a Modern Monday post tomorrow and then a major blog milestone post on Tuesday!

Total: 497 cards 

Saturday, November 21, 2020

80s week: Young Superstar, Big Hitter

Tony's cards from the 1980s, as he was breaking on to the scene, are a great resource for building a picture of him as a player before he became the legendary figure of "Mr Padre". It's weird to think that at one point he was a hot rising star. In a strange way the hitting machine of the 1990s with his powerful mature physique has eclipsed those early days. I find it hard to imagine him as a young man.

And yet here he is, heralded as a young superstar.

Card Number 495: Kay-Bee Young Superstars of Baseball, 1986; #17 

Like the Fleer cards I posted about yesterday, these cards were sold in self-contained sets of 33 cards. They were made by Topps and sold exclusively in K.B. Toy Shops. (The little toy soldier logo is really cute!) 

You can tell these were a high quality product for Topps at the time because there was a photo on the back and a write up that is actually about the player.

The way they describe Tony's college career is a bit misleading. He attended university on a basketball scholarship and was allowed to play baseball after one of his high school contemporaries with a baseball scholarship badgered the baseball team's coach into asking him to play, and even then initially the basketball coach said no.

Although this card was manufactured by Topps, I regard it as an 'oddball'. Our second card today is also a Topps card, but one they manufactured for a bakery.

Card Number 496: Drake's Big Hitters, 1985; #14

As the card says, this was the fifth series of Drake's cards. It was also the final one with Topps. The sets produced for Drake's after that were produced through Michael Schechter Associates (MSA), who created a lot of 'oddball' sets. 

There were 44 cards in this set, which were included in Drake's products.

The back just tweaks the cardback from the Topps regular sets, except with the addition of the Drake's logo by the upper right corner of the stats box and the addition of Drake's Bakeries to the boilerplate text underneath the box. However, compared to the regular Topps set this cardback is much more readable.

This is the regular Topps cardback from 1985 which must be a nightmare for people who are colourblind.

(I mean, red on green? Seriously?)

So, here we are, almost at the end of 80s week. I've decided it's going to be an 8-day week with a bonus card tomorrow as well.

Total: 496 cards

Friday, November 20, 2020

80s week: super Slugger cards

Back in the 80s Fleer used to sell little self-contained sets of 44 cards. I have blogged about a couple of them before. They aren't hugely expensive but they can be lovely cards, printed on glossier stock than regular cards of the time and featuring some nice photos. 

One of the annual sets was called Best Sluggers Versus Pitchers and featured 22 players who were renowned for their batting and 22 cards of top pitchers. The word 'slugger' to me conjures up images of players hitting the long-ball and powering home runs out of the ground, which wasn't Tony's game. Fleer included him in their sets anyway. And looking at Tony's ability to hit the ball means he was most definitely a 'slugger'. 

Card Number 493: Fleer Baseball's Best Sluggers vs. Pitchers, 1986; #15

This photo is so washed out with light, you can almost feel the San Diego sun on your skin.

The average on the front (.325) was his career average rather than from the previous season. 

The back isn't particularly exciting. No factoids or cartoons.

In 1986, the year this card was released, Tony led the National League in hits (211), runs (107 - the only time he led the league in runs) and had a batting average of .329. That wasn't high enough to win him a batting title that year. Tim Raines of the Montreal Expos was the National League leader that year with .334, while Wade Boggs was overall champion with .357 in the middle of his streak of five American League titles in six years.

This was before 'slugging percentage' became a thing, but that has since been calculated at .467 for 1986. That's lower than would be expected for his number of hits, but Tony always hit a lot of singles, which brings the slugging percentage down.

Card Number 494: Fleer Baseball's Best Sluggers vs. Pitchers, 1987; #17
The border design is more colourful giving this card more pop than the 1986 version.

Tony's successful 1986 season helped him move his career average up a percentage point. Keen observers will note that Tony's final career batting average was another 12 points higher at .338. He is one of very few players who actually batted at a higher average in the second half of his career.

The back is a bit jazzier too, if minimalist.

1987 was a superlative season for Tony. His batting average of .370 was a new post-war record at the time and brought him his second batting title. He also led the leagues in hits (218) and scored more runs than the previous year (119). He must have spent a good amount of the season on base.

It was also one of the few seasons where he broke .500 in slugging percentage, with .511. He wouldn't top .500 again until his famous .394 season in 1994.

In conclusion, I think Fleer were right. Tony was one of Baseball's Best Sluggers!

Total: 494 cards (100 cards over my original target!)

Thursday, November 19, 2020

80s week: Classic debut and Pacific confusion

I own some Classic Baseball cards for other players, but didn't have a Tony Gwynn one until the joblot that prompted me to launch 80s week. So this is a debut for a card company that hasn't featured on the blog yet. 

It's also unusual because it actually comes from a board game. According to Baseballcardpedia, the Classic Baseball trivia game was produced by a company in Alabama called Game Time, and the game was sold in toy shops as well as through card dealers. Later Classic sets were released as supplemental sets for the game.

I have blogged about a number of cards that have a game element to them, but this is the first time I have blogged about a card that has been removed from an actual game.

Card Number 491: Classic Baseball, 1987; #26

The cardback includes some trivia questions to ask while playing the game. There's also a box for the card owner to collect the player's autograph.

Someone somewhere must have an autographed version of this card.

And now on to another 'debut', this time a card released by Pacific... or so I thought.

Card Number 492: Pacific Cards & Comics Big League All Stars, 1989; #19
This card confused me. I initially thought it was an early release from the company that would become Pacific, but the Pacific Company was based in Lynnwood near Seattle, and this card says the publisher was in Los Angeles. 

The Trading Card Database lists Pacific Cards & Comics separately to Pacific, who were also issuing sets around this time. The Pacific Legends sets released the same year have a company logo on them, which is another reason why I think this is a different 'Pacific'. 

(There was a comic publishers called Pacific that operated out of San Diego in the early 1980s that had a chain of stores. I doubt this is linked to that company either as 1989 is a few years after the publishers went bust, but one of the shops might have carried on trading.)

Regardless of who produced them, these cards show what could be done without a license back in the day and they get 19 bonus points for giving Tony the 19th card in their 20 card set.

It's a really nice photo. It would have been even better if the photographer had waited a few seconds for the chap in the blue cap in the background to walk past.

The back is basic, with just a tiny reference to the manufacturer.

One of the eternal mysteries of card collecting is wondering how a joblot of cards got grouped together. How did this end up in with a bunch of Topps, Fleer, and DonRuss cards?

I simply have no information about how many of these cards were produced, or how they were distributed. Until I started researching this blog post I thought I would have been writing about the Pacific Trading Card Company (and there are lots of stories to tell, like how they might have accidentally outed Manny Ramirez for using a corked bat when they cut a bat up for some of their relic cards). Instead, I can show you a card that I am none the wiser about!

Total: 492 cards