Sunday, January 31, 2021

One card only - leading the league

The second card in the couple that Brian sent me was an insert card from the Topps flagship set in 1995. It's definitely a contender for cards with backs more interesting than fronts.

Card Number 578: Topps (League Leaders), 1995; #LL4

The front has a dark background and the Topps logo and Tony's name are in hard-to-scan foil.

However, on the back we have a colourful list of names and a graph!

Cardback graphs are usually poorly annotated. This one looks like it might actually be in proportion. 

Another odd quirk on this cardback is showing the batting leaders for the National League and the National League West. The other players in the NL West top 5 in 1994 were Bip Roberts, who was back in San Diego after two seasons with the Reds, Andres Galarraga who played for the Rockies that year, and Mike Piazza and Brett Butler who were both playing for the Dodgers. (As an aside, I always smile when I see a Bip Roberts card. It wasn't his given name though. His given name was Leon.)

None of those four players featured in the top 5 for the National League, where only Jeff Bagwell of the Astros came anywhere near Tony's post-war record batting average score, and even Jeff was some way behind.

A final note is the consistency of the font used for Tony's name on the back and the caption to the left of the graph. This is the font used for player names on the front of the base cards in the 1995 set. 

I appreciate the consistency in font use - bonus point for this card!

Another thank you to Brian for sending me these cards. Keep busting those wax boxes!

Total: 578 cards

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Unlucky All Star

I've been sent a couple of cards by Brian, who has been opening lots of cards from the late 80s and early 90s. He has kindly been sending me pictures of any Tony Gwynn cards he comes across and put any I didn't have to one side. That includes this card produced by Fleer in 1988 which would have come from a pack sold like a pack of cards rather than in wax packs. Fleer produced several sets like this in the 1980s.

Card Number 577: Fleer Baseball All-Stars, 1988; #13

It's semi-ironic that Tony was given card number #13 in this set considering he wasn't able to play in the '88 All Star Game because of injury. Somebody somewhere has probably done a list of discrepancies between these Fleer sets and the eventual All Star rosters. Fleer hedged their bets a bit by including 44 cards knowing there would be 60 players involved so the odds were they would have most of the actual All Stars in the set. 

There was no way Fleer could predict injuries, of course, and based on his previous year's form, Tony was a shoo-in for selection. On the back, Tony's figures for 1987 were incredible. 

I've accumulated a few cards from these standalone sets. The cards are generally a higher quality than the big flagship Fleer sets sold in wax pack. The blue and yellow stripes are eye-catching and make these look colourful and fun. Unfortunately this is the tenth card from this kind of range that I have picked up, so it will be sitting on its own for a while in my 9-pocket binder pages. For reference, the other nine look like this:

So I suppose the challenge is on now to fill a second page of these cards!

Total: 577 cards

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Tuesday Twins - X exclusive

I hadn't heard of Allen & Ginter X until Paul from the Facebook group sent me a picture of this card. Apparently it was an online exclusive version of Allen & Ginter. I have expressed reservations about the Allen & Ginter shebang a few times now. And yet, this is the fifth version of this card in my collection.

Card Number 576: Topps Allen & Ginter X, 2020; #128

The card is black. Classy.

Actually, to be fair, the three in a row look really nice sitting next to each other.

The main thing about the X card is that 'Gwynn' is much more prominent than on the regular base card or the chrome version. I thought the chrome was a definite improvement on the regular base. I'm almost of the opinion that the X is an improvement on the chrome. Almost.

The back looks like every other regular Allen & Ginter card.

I don't like the way Topps write out the numbers. I get that it's retro and trying to be quirky, but the charm has worn off for me. 

And just like that, I'm back on blogging break.

(Thanks again, Paul.)

Total: 576 cards

Monday, January 18, 2021

Modern Monday - Topps Tribute

Last week I signed off on hiatus with my 250th blog post featuring the last of my unblogged cards. I posted to the same effect on Facebook and Paul heeded my subtle cry for help and got in touch offering me some cards I didn't have. So, the hiatus didn't last long!

Card Number 575: Topps Tribute, 2020; #59

This isn't a set I saw that often in the Facebook card groups. The base cards are printed on 2mm cardboard so they are hefty!

There is a pearlescent sheen to the border on this, which means it scans very nicely. The photo is classic Tony-at-bat, presumably not his first at bat in the game given the muddy leg from a knee slide. The pinstripes and blue helmet combination means this is from the early-mid 90s. 

The back is impressive. There are four factoids and three of them are ones I didn't know before reading the back of the card. That's three bonus points for this card right there!

I think it's testament to Tony's prowess with the bat and his demeanour approaching the game that he didn't let a strike faze him. Even if he did give up a strike he would still make a hit over three times in every 10 at bats. 

However, there's a reason I didn't know that second factoid. It didn't actually happen like that. The only game when Tony struck out three times was on the 14th April 1986 against the Dodgers. (The pitcher was Bob Welch.) In the tenth inning, Tony reached second base on an error and then ran in the tying run off a John Kruk single, but it was Bruce Bochy who hit the home run that won the game for the Padres in the eleventh inning. Here's an article all about the game.

So, only the two bonus points. I have a feeling I should go and check the other statistics but I don't really want to be that guy.

Many thanks again to Paul, who also sent me a card to be featured tomorrow!

Total: 575 cards

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Short Print Legend

This was one of those late night 'see a card on eBay and make an offer which gets immediately accepted' purchases that arrived a couple of days ago. It's a short print from Topps flagship release last year when they subbed in "legends" to replace some other players.

Card Number 574: Topps (Short Print), 2020; #248

This is an unusual photo of Tony. I'm not sure what the booklet is that he's holding. It could be a game programme, with a loose piece of paper in. It's also unusual to have an advertising hoarding in the background. I'm a little surprised Topps didn't airbrush that out. At least it's for Coca Cola and Diet Coke rather than Marlboro!

Apparently if you look at the serial numbers in the legalese, that will tell you this is a short print. The regular card numbered 248 was Hunter Renfroe's card, which showed him as a Padre even though he had been traded to Tampa Bay. (He has recently been traded to the Red Sox so I wonder if Topps will show him a Red Sox uniform next year and his sojourn in Tampa will go unrecorded on Topps cards.)

Topps stuffed their Series 1 with short print and super short print variations, but I haven't found a figure for how short a short print was. I asked in the UK collectors group on Facebook and Andy M replied saying that short prints were available in fat packs in a 1:18 ratio and in retail packs in a 1:38 ratio.  Given that the "Advanced Stats" insert cards were serial numbered to 300 and their appearance ratios were about treble the short print ratios, Andy suggested that short prints probably mean a print run of about 1000.

However, Beckett has different ratio figures, which if true would make the short prints even smaller print runs. Beckett describes them as "pretty tough" to get. However this card had sat on eBay for a while, so much so my offer at just above half the asking price was accepted without quibble.

Total: 574 cards

A quick note: This is my 250th blog post, and I have run out of cards to blog. From now on I will blog as I add new cards to the collection, so this blog is going to be intermittent. (I took my first break last Sunday after 246 daily posts.) Of course if someone sends me a large number of cards I don't have, I will take up the daily schedule again!

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Sharing the Spotlight - with Fernando in the Gallery

This card came via Andrew T in the UK collectors Facebook group. Andrew offered me first dibs on it and I said yes. 

Card Number 573: Topps Gallery, 2020; #MA7

There were 10 cards in this "Master & Apprentice" insert series in Topps Gallery.

Fernando Tatis Jr has really made the headlines in the last year or so, and his rookie cards have been very popular. In fact, as a Padres collector, the chase for rookie cards featuring "El Nino" made Padres cards more expensive than usual recently, and slightly harder to get. Suddenly people wanted the Padres in box breaks. What is this popularity thing? 

The 'Master & Apprentice' phrase feels a bit Star Wars-ey to me. And that is a slight niggle about this card. As far as I know El Nino never actually met Mr Padre, or was coached by him. (One of Tony's students at San Diego State was Stephen Strasburg, the 2019 World Series MVP!)

Another discrepancy is that the players have been painted with Petco Park in the background. Now, while Tony did go to Petco Park after he retired, he never played at the Stadium. For his entire career the Padres played their home games at the Jack Murphy Stadium (most recently known as the SDCCU Stadium), which is apparently being demolished right now. (Bang goes my plan of a pilgrimage there when the pandemic is over!)

But apart from that anachronism, it's clear why Topps paired Tony and Fernando on this card - they are both exemplary hitters. Fernando is a great batsman and despite the nonsense last season about him having to apologise after hitting a grand slam when Texas were already trailing in a game, he's clearly one of the most exciting players in a currently very exciting Padres team. So, a worthy young player to share a card with Tony.

I didn't know until reading this card that Fernando's batting average in his rookie year was higher than Tony's. Whether it will be a similar "springboard" to batting titles and an eventual place in the Hall of Fame is impossible to know right now. Hopefully he has a long and mega-successful career ahead of him, particularly in Padres colours, but these things are totally unpredictable. Whatever happens, Fernando will always be remembered as a contributor to the "Slam Diego" grand slam streak of 2020 that really lit up the season.

Topps have included the artist's name on this card. On his website John Giancaspro says he was six years old when he first saw a DonRuss Diamond Kings card and realised he wanted to be a sports artist. John uses photos as a base for his art, which is fairly common on these kinds of "illustrated" cards. He started doing portraits when he worked as a bat-boy or the New York Mets in 1991-92 - there's a fun photo album on his website - and he also designed some cards for the Diamond Kings series in 2012.

I like learning about the artists whose drawings of Tony Gwynn feature on baseball cards, so Topps get a bonus point from me for including the artist's name like this. 

Total: 573 cards - this is the 27th card in the collection released in 2020.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Tuesday Twins - shiny Allen & Ginter

Like they did with Stadium Club, Topps gave their Allen & Ginter range the Chrome treatment at the extreme end of 2020. And like he did with Stadium Club, my friend Gawain opened a few boxes and along the way found me some Tony Gwynn cards!

These work as 'twins' in two different ways. They are the same as each other and the same designs as the regular Allen & Ginter non-chrome release.

Card Number 571: Topps Allen & Ginter Chrome, 2020; #128

Although this is the same card as the base range, the Chrome effect makes it look a lot more impressive. (Judge for yourself by comparing with the original version I blogged about two months ago.)

The cardback is exactly the same as the regular Allen & Ginter release. As ever, I feel it's a bit pretentious writing out the numbers as words.

As in the regular release, all the base cards were produced as 'mini' versions as well. And one tipped up in Gawain's ripping adventure.

Card Number 572: Topps Allen & Ginter Chrome (Mini), 2020; #128

This also looks a lot more impressive as a Chrome card than the regular release. The picture has been cropped but is exactly the same image as the normal-sized card.

The back is the regular cardback shrunk to fit. However, the version of this I own from the regular release has a parallel "A&G" cardback, so this cardback is different to the one I had previously.

Even though there is nothing particularly new about this release, these are very nice cards, and are an improvement on the normal set. I'm very grateful to Gawain for putting these to one side for me as he was opening the cards. I already owe him several beers and one day, when we are allowed to meet up on the other side of this pandemic, I think I owe him yet another one!

Total: 572 cards

Monday, January 11, 2021

Modern Monday - Stadium Club Chrome

Tony was card #160 in the Topps Stadium Club release in 2020, and Chrome parallels were included in that set. However, Topps also released an entire set of Stadium Club Chrome at the end of the year. My friend Gawain "busted some product" and it's my good fortune that he found Tony's card in his box.

Card Number 570: Topps Stadium Club Chrome, 2020; #160

This is a different picture than the one used in the regular Stadium Club release (as blogged back in October 2020). It's a picture from earlier in Tony's career. The pinstripes and brown jacket and helmet date this to between 1985 and 1991. I would estimate it being from about 1986-7, based on Tony's moustache.

Apart from a blue tint to the background, the cardback is exactly the same as the regular Stadium Club set.

I've read different opinions of Topps's release of Chrome versions of their sets. Some collectors see it as a 'cash grab', although that could be applied to just about every Topps release. If they didn't think it would make money then they wouldn't release any sets. To me, their use of a different photo, and using one which I personally haven't seen used in other sets recently, makes this much more than just a chromatised reissue. 

Total: 570 cards

Saturday, January 9, 2021

And another Tony Gwynn...

I'm reaching the end of my cards to blog, so thought I'd do something a bit different today. Here are some cards featuring Tony Gwynn's son, Anthony Keith Gwynn Jr, also known as Tony Gwynn Jr.

I recently watched the MLBTV documentary about Tony Gwynn (thanks to Daniel in Chicago who recorded it for me), and Tony Jr shares several stories in that, including how at college he went in to bat in his first game, went 0-4 and decided he would be known as Anthony Gwynn Jr for the rest of the year. Being Tony mark II was not easy, particularly as he was at San Diego State where his dad was a legend.

Tony Jr was drafted by the Brewers after college, playing for them for three seasons from 2006-2008. He then moved to the Padres for a couple of seasons before signing for the LA Dodgers. Tony Jr's uncle, Chris, had also played for the Dodgers, and it was the team Tony Jr's grandfather, dad and both his uncles supported. Chris Gwynn also played for the Padres, so Tony Jr was the third Gwynn to play for them. 

After a year out of the game, Tony Jr had a return to the Major Leagues in 2014 with the Phillies, playing 80 games for them. He was on the road with the Phillies when he got the news that his father had passed away.

I've got cards of Tony Jr playing for three of the Major League sides he represented.

Tony was still with the Brewers on this Upper Deck card in 2008.

He appeared on these three cards in Upper Deck's 2010 set. The "Season Biography" card mentions how he moved to San Diego in 2009.

His base card in 2010 shows him diving to make a catch. I think he really looks like his dad in that photo.

One the back, we get a note that this is an unlicensed baseball card. Topps had been given the monopoly, but Upper Deck went and put out this set anyway. Topps sued them and, to date, this remains the last baseball card set released by Upper Deck.

Tony was also on the team checklist, along with Chase Headley, who played for the Padres for 7 and a half seasons before moving to the Yankees, returning to San Diego for a final season in 2018.

The back of the checklist helpfully reminds everyone of a not very good Padres season.

By the time Topps released their 2012 set, Tony was with the Dodgers. In the photo he is just about to dive to try and reach base. 

The cardback mentions him diving to catch balls as a fielder.

Looking at his stats on that latter card, it's clear Tony Jr wasn't as attuned to hitting as his dad. He had an 8-year career in the Major Leagues, which would be considered very successful in other families. It does feel, however, that Tony Jr was always going to be playing in his dad's shadow.

Tony Jr now does a lot of media work in San Diego. He's a very watchable studio presence and seems very personable. Like the rest of the Gwynn family, he has done a lot to maintain his father's legacy, and he is a great ambassador for baseball.

I don't count any of these cards as "Tony Gwynn cards" for the purposes of my collection, but I do keep them as part of my collection. 

I'm taking a break tomorrow and plan to be back on Monday with another Modern Monday post. 

Friday, January 8, 2021

Serially printed Stars

This card was in an eBay purchase. It was only when it arrived that I discovered it was serially numbered.

Card Number 569: Topps Stars (Silver Parallel), 1998; #75

The difference between this and the regular card is that Tony's name is printed in silver instead of red. The silver parallels were issued sequentially numbered to 4,399. The regular, red-letter versions were also all sequentially numbered to 9,799. There were bronze parallels also numbered to 9,799 and gold parallels that were only numbered to 2,299, and the rarest of all, "Gold Rainbows" numbered at just 99 of each card. So basically, five cards with the names in different colours. 

I really like the use of actual stars in the background of this card. That's an idea for a future blog post - cards that feature stars.

The back has an unflattering picture of Tony. His weight went up considerably at one point in the 90s and he seems to be carrying quite a bit in this photo, unfortunately.  

This card has the sequential number 4,202. Nothing particularly springs to mind as significant about that number. 

The cardback also gives aspects of his game star ratings. Whenever this sort of rating system is applied, I always wonder what they are basing it on. I doubt there are objective standards of comparison for each of these. Clearly he was a five-star hitter. The others are all more subjective. 

Unfortunately, I don't have card #76 to answer the quiz question. So, does anyone know which player hit more than 20 home runs in a season and scored more home runs than times they struck out?

Total: 569 cards

Thursday, January 7, 2021

A new title for Tony

So far on this blog, Tony has been a Diamond King a few times. Topps decided to take that a step further and in 1999 hailed him as a 'Lord of the Diamond'. 

Card Number 568: Topps, 1999; #LD12

This card is a die-cut and super-shiny. It scanned reasonably well on the flatbed. The die-cut points at the top of the card are actually a bit sharp. 

With some (badly applied) illumination for the overhead scan the card really explodes with light.

One the back we have yet another euphemism for hitting the ball. Tony was "rapping" a batting average of .368 over a five year period. 

That half decade was the best by a batter since the Great Depression - yet another way of showing how Tony was literally the best batter in baseball not just in his generation but probably for three generations of players. No wonder he's smiling in the photo on the back.

NB -  this is one of those annoying cards that has a copyright year on the back which is different to the release year. But it is most definitely from Topps's 1999 set.

Total: 568 cards

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Shining light

Today's card prompted an unexpected  comment from my wife, Cathy, when I showed it to her. You should know that she is the least likely person to ever say anything crude, so it was quite a surprise that she said what she did.

Card Number 567: Upper Deck, 1998; #539

This was a 'Season Highlights' card in Upper Deck's flagship set. The silver cross background may have been meant to be a searchlight or floodlight. Cathy commented:

"It looks like a light is shining out of his butt!"

You can really see the effect on the overhead scan, which really captures the shiny silver foil!

On the back we read about Tony's excellent 1997 season, when he hit his second highest batting average of his career and won his eighth and final batting title.

This card also doubles up as a checklist and satisfyingly, Tony's base card (#500) is one of the cards on the checklist. As ever, looking at the list of names provides a real mix of recognisable names and long-forgotten bit players.

Hopefully this post hasn't lowered the tone of the blog too much!

Total: 567 cards

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

By the book

Another insert from Fleer Ultra (which, for now, empties my Fleer folder of cards to blog).

Card Number 566: Fleer Ultra The Book On, 1999; #13BO

(BO is an unfortunate couple of letters to follow a number on an insert series.)

The cut out figure of Tony on the front of this card is embossed, as are the rings on the top of the notepad design running behind him. Considering this insert series was called 'The Book On', Fleer made an odd choice to have the series name obscured by Tony's feet.

The embossing leaves some rather odd imprints on the cardback, which show up in the scan.

The superlatives mount up in the cardback write up, and it's nice that they continue beyond descriptions of Tony's batting skills and mention his attributes as a fielder as well. As I've mentioned a few times that's an aspect of Tony's play that is often overlooked.

Total: 566 cards

Monday, January 4, 2021

Modern Monday: Project 2020

On New Year's eve I received the last addition to my Tony Gwynn collection for 2020, and it was, fittingly, a Project 2020 card.

Topps ran Project 2020 throughout 2020, asking 20 artists to create versions of 20 'iconic' rookie cards. One of the cards was Tony's rookie card from 1983. 

The print run for these cards depended on the number that were ordered. The first few cards had a print run of a couple of thousand. Then interest exploded and the one that I've recently bought second hand was part of a print run of 31,030. Being part of the bigger print run worked in my favour as I bought it for less than its original cost.

Card Number 565: Topps Project 2020, 2020; #94

The card comes in a black packet, which I scanned. 

Inside the card comes in a mag-holder card-protector sealed with a little Project 2020 label. As I didn't have my overhead scanner set up, I scanned this on the flat-bed. The mag-holder made it a little blurry.

The back was blurry also.

One of my other hobbies is Lego, and I have grown skilled at removing a Lego sticker to reposition it if it has been stuck on a bit wonky. As an uncle I have been regularly asked by my nephew to help him with his Lego stickers, many of which were stuck already. This has become quite a skill, and I applied it to the Project 2020 seal and was able to open the mag-holder quite easily. Transferable hobby skills for the win!

This is what the card looks like outside its plastic box.

The card is printed on 3mm foamboard. I know it's 3mm because I measured it while I had it out of the mag-holder. I think it's made from the same substance as the manufactured relic reprinted rookie card that Topps released in 2020.

On the back we have a little write up about Project 2020 and about the artist in question, Efdot.

This is an attractive card and, to date, it's the most expensive card I have ever bought. I like the palm trees and the inclusion of the Swinging Friar, who wasn't on the original rookie card, but was the logo for the Padres in the era this card was released. 

I still have some questions about this rookie card. Tony is not wearing number 19 in the card and I have yet to find an explanation why. I am working on a couple of possible theories about it. But those are for a future blog post. 

This card is also the 23rd card released in 2020 to feature on this blog. That's an incredible amount of new cards considering it is almost two decades since Tony retired.

Total: 565 cards

Sunday, January 3, 2021

One Card Only - clear Fleer

This is another card that arrived via eBay. 

Card Number 564: Fleer Ultra Season Crowns, 1996; #2

There were ten acetate cards in this insert series. I wasn't sure which was the best background to scan them on. Here it is scanned on white background.

And scanned on a black background...

The heraldic shield in the background is presumably something Fleer dreamt up for fun. I'm not aware of baseball bats and baseballs being used in actual coats of arms. But who knows, maybe one day they will. 

Having the coat of arms in the background renders an odd shape on the reverse of the card. The printing style also makes it hard to read.

There is another entry for my log of different ways Tony is described on the cardback - ""the game's premier "Batman"..."

Acetate cards are still quite unusual, and this is a fun inclusion in my collection.

Total: 564 cards

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Pieces of history

Today's theme is history, with some personal history at the end of the post. 

Card Number 563: Upper Deck Piece of History, 2002; #82

"Piece of History" was a high end, relic-heavy 132-card set. This is the base card from the set and it's a very red card.

The century timeline on the card-front is essentially meaningless as there is no reference as to when in the century Tony was active. 

I think this is one of the chronologically earliest cards in my collection that repeated the same photo on the front and the back. 

Tony's career summary is intersected by a one line career stats box. I prefer stats boxes like this on cards issued after Tony retired, but I'm ambivalent about the positioning here.

And now the personal history. I've mentioned before how when I was a kid I went on a holiday to America with my family, where I bought my first baseball cards. I missed some school while on that holiday and the deal was that I had to keep a diary of my experiences and read it to classmates when I came back. 

I recently found that diary, which is mainly a list of things we did and what we ate. One entry covers something else - I think it is the first time I bought baseball cards, in which case I can date that to the 25th March 1987, in a 7-Eleven in Orlando, Florida.

"After Tea we went to a shop called 7eleven where we bought a cool box and some ice and cola to go in. We Bought some sweets and a packet of Baseball cards and a sack of Oranges." [sic]

This is probably the 7-Eleven that made such an impact on me that I've reminisced about it on this blog before.

The next day we went to the EPCOT Center in Walt Disney World. But I was more excited reading about buying baseball cards!

Total: 563 cards