Sunday, February 28, 2021

One Card Only - Clearly the king of swing

My mum is a big fan of Disney's The Jungle Book and so I had a certain tune running through my head while scanning this card.

Card Number 604: Fleer Ultra Swing Kings, 2000; #4SK

This is an acetate card, similar to the Fleer Ultra Seasons Crown cards from 1996. Clearly Fleer liked the idea of clear cards.

I am surprised that Swing Kings hasn't been used more often for insert series.

The back is amusing because the printing has to fit into Tony's outline. The little write-up is straight from the Weird Skybox Cardback Write-Ups catalogue. The person responsible for Fleer Ultra in 2000 didn't mind dipping into their sister-brand's style guide of addressing their comment to the player on the card. In an awkward way.

"You've already got 3,000 hits, Tony, so the next one should be a given, right? Because you never think that, it always is."

I understand what they mean. I don't understand why they chose to say it like that.

Anyway, back to the King of the Swingers, my mum had a significant birthday recently and we adopted her an orangutan at a nearby zoo in honour of King Louie from the Jungle Book. We also gave her a cuddly King Louie from the Disney Store. Here he is just before being shipped. (We added the party hat!)

On that totally unrelated personal note, I will say goodbye for today!

Total: 604 cards

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Questing for gemstones

A couple of Upper Deck cards from my recent eBay trove today. First up, another Starquest card to add to my sub-collection.

Card Number 602: Upper Deck Collector's Choice Starquest, 1998; #65

I present what is becoming the usual double-scan of a foil-heavy card. First the flatbed scan.

Then the overhead scan.

It's rare that a foil-tastic card like this has readable text on it when scanned on the flatbed, but this one does. I initially thought I had this Starquest card and was quite surprised when it arrived and I checked my collection and found I didn't have it.

On the back we have some uniquely curated stats relating to Tony's batting performance in specific scenarios. A bit of work has gone into this cardback factoid. I'd give it some bonus points but the hyphenation of short words triggers me slightly, so points would be dinged for that and that means the card comes out honours even.

There's only one year in the stats box, but that's OK. 1997 was the last year that Tony won a batting title - so it's perhaps not surprising he led the league in batting averages when runners were in scoring position and when the bases were loaded. His 119 RBI was a career high, by some margin. It was the only time he topped 100 ribbies, and 1997 accounted for just over ten per cent of the runs he batted in over his entire career.

And just because it's fun to see cards in context, here are the three Starquest cards from 1998.

Card Number 603: Upper Deck Gold Reserve 24 Karat Gems, 2000; #K14
That's not how you spell carat.

Another shiny card. Another brace of scans.

Gold Reserve was a set with 300 base cards that were versions of the regular Upper Deck flagship set, with the words 'Gold Reserve' printed on them. This caused me some considerable confusion back in June 2020.

However, the insert cards were different to the flagship set, so this card was only available in Gold Reserve. Although the players depicted were "24-Karat Gems", there were only 15 cards in the set. (This annoys me. It's a set called 24-Karat Gems - why not pick 24 players?)

The write up on the back is succinct, refreshingly free of hyperbole, and printed in one of the worst faux-handwriting fonts ever used on the back of a baseball card. 

Upper Deck have also stuck a #19 on the front and back of the card, with no context or explanation. It's on Tony's armband on the front, but otherwise it looks like they just decided to add it because they felt they had to add something. On the back it balances the tiny Padres logo, so I suppose that's something. 

Total: 603 cards

Friday, February 26, 2021

Kicking off my seventh century of cards

A couple of weeks back I had a message from Glenn, asking if I was interested in a relic card from 10 years ago. My collection is a bit thin from around that time, and I'm unlikely to turn down a relic card. 

Card Number 601: 60 Years of Topps Relics, 2011; #T60R-TG

Weirdly, this card arrived the same morning as my first 2021 card, which felt ironic as that card celebrated Topps's 70th anniversary and this card was issued to celebrate Topps's 60th anniversary.

It's hard to make out on the front, but this card was issued  commemorating the players in the National League with the most multiple-hit games since 1920. Tony was fourth on the list and the second one-club man after Stan Musial. There is a lot of arbitrariness to the selection of this statistic - why that particular statistic, and why only after 1920?

And for that matter, the front says this little swatch of white cloth is game-used memorabilia, but there is a disclaimer on the back that says "The relic on this card is not from any specific game, event or season." Make of that what you will.

Looking at my collection stats, this is the third card I've acquired from 2011 and the seventh material relic card. I haven't yet reached the point of feeling jaded by these little cloth patches and this card was interesting enough in terms of marking a niche statistic to make it worthy of kicking off my seventh century of Tony Gwynn cards!

Many thanks again to Glenn for sending me this card.
Total: 601 cards

Thursday, February 25, 2021

My 600th card - glittering stars

Another blogging milestone today as I list my 600th card. I know this definitely is my 600th card unlike other milestones on the blog that were affected by a miscount. (I blogged about that here.

It has taken me a little while to get here, with more blog posts to cover the 100 cards since my 500th card than for previous centuries. That's mainly because I am now blogging cards as they arrive rather than working through a backlog so there are a lot more single card posts (and, shockingly, even some posts with no new cards at all!)

Today's card was in the recent eBay lot that arrived. I decided to save it for this blog post as it's a bit special.

Card Number 600: Topps Power Boosters, 1996; #1

The plain, non-glittery version of this card featured on the blog in June last year. I noted then that the font for 'Star Power' was the same font used in the film Demolition Man. It's a very 90s font. 11 of the first 12 cards in the Topps 1996 set were in this 'Star Power' theme, and all 11 got the 'Power Booster' parallel treatment, along with 14 draft pick rookie cards that were numbers 13-26 in the base set.

The back is exactly the same as the non-glittery version. There's something about Tony's jawline in that photo that reminds me of Brad Pitt every time I see it.

This feels like as relevant a point as any for a self-indulgent look at some of the other "star" cards in my collection so far. 

Starting with one of my all-time favourite cards...

"Stars" include actual astronomical objects...

...and little design motifs!

And how about this star hidden in the background of the photo?

Well I found looking at them fun! Thank you to everyone who has played a part in helping me to reach the 600-card mark!

Total: 600 cards (obviously!)

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Flaming great

There are some tales to tell around this card. I bought it in an eBay mix-up where I thought I could combine postage on singles from the same seller but couldn't. This was the first card of several that I planned to buy and I ended up just buying this one. 

But what a card to buy by mistake!

Card Number 599: Pacific Crown Royale Pivotal Players, 1999; #21

I showed this card to Cathy when it arrived and she said "That doesn't look very safe!" Well, maybe not, but it looks amazing. Although anyone who has run across Pacific cards from the late 90s would expect a Pacific insert series to be both visually appealing and utterly over the top.

There were 25 players selected as 'Pivotal Players' in this insert series. They all got a background of flames reaching to the heavens. 

The flames are toned down slightly on the back. I like this photo of Tony jogging onto the field with his glove at the ready. 

The factoid is about how Tony helped the Padres reach the 1984 World Series. This card set was released the year after the Padres had reached their second World Series, in 1998.

Another reason to like Pacific cards is the helpful way they include a notation about exactly which card set this is from. In the yellow circle around the number are all the details needed to find this beauty on Trading Card Database. More card companies should do this.

The tale of this card wasn't over after I accidentally bought it. It was getting shipped across the Atlantic and such journeys do take a while. However, this card may have gone via mainland Europe if the shipping label is anything to go by.

Instead of saying UK, it was addressed to the Czech Republic. Over the last year or so I have become more involved with the campaign for Wales to be an independent country and I have sometimes written 'Republic of Cymru' on the back of parcels - mainly as a joke to people in England. I can confirm it's not on my eBay address though! 

What's extra-weird is the shipping note inside clearly lists my address as UK, not Czech Republic. The rest of my address was right. And it got here eventually, which is the important thing!

Total: 599 cards. Tomorrow's post will be another milestone!

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Glamorous insert cards

Fleer cards got a bit weird around the turn of the Millennium. 

Card Number 597: Fleer Triple Crown Glamour Boys, 2001; #11

It might just be me, but 'Glamour Boys' sounds slightly suspect.

This holofoil insert card scanned green on my flatbed scanner.

So I had a couple of goes with the overhead scanner to try and get a better image.

That third attempt kind of works!

The 'shopped shadow behind Tony's head on the back looks odd. He also has grey stubble.

I'd query the write up on the back. In his 'Complete Baseball Player' book, Tony freely admitted that he would sometimes chase balls that were out of the strike zone because sometimes it was easy to get a hit that way.  

Card Number 598: Fleer Tradition Lumber Company, 2001; #5

'Lumber' is used in several card set names as an alternative word for wood. 

The figures on this card don't include Tony's hits from his final season. He recorded 33 hits in 2001 and finished his career with a total of 3,141. His average didn't change.

This is a very orange card, front and back.

The opening factoid on this cardback feels about 15 years too late. Watching video replays was a big deal when Tony started doing it in the mid-1980s. (Before he was nicknamed Mr Padre, he was called Captain Video for his pioneering study of taped performances.) By 2001, it was surely quite common for batsmen to incorporate video into their training.

However, I like the rhyming line "A tough man to fan". The little photo on the cardback looks like it was taken at a press conference. 

Total: 598 cards

Monday, February 22, 2021

Modern Monday: my first card from 2021

People have been ripping packs of the new Topps flagship product and I've seen a few Tony Gwynn cards surface in the Facebook groups I frequent. There are 8 different Tony Gwynn cards on the checklist, including a cut signature 1/1 card, which I doubt will ever feature on this blog!

I had an unofficial competition running over who would be first to send me a card from 2021. The winner was Gawain, who has sent me a large proportion of the cards that have featured on this blog. In a serendipitous coincidence, I was on a video call to Gawain when the mail arrived with this card in it!

Card Number 596: Topps 70 Years of Topps, 2021; #70YT-24

Topps have produced this 70-card insert set with a card representing each year, using the template from that year. This is the 1974 template. The set is a mix of current stars and famous retired players. This is a lovely posed photo of Tony from the mid-80s and it's not one that I remember seeing on a Topps release before. 

If I was going to make one complaint about this set, it's that using retired players in anachronistic retired templates irritates me a bit. Tony was in high school in 1974, not the major leagues. 

The cardback explains Topps release schedule in 1974 and names Dave Winfield as the stand-out rookie from that year. Sadly, Dave isn't in this set. It would have made more sense to have him on this card template.

This isn't the first time Topps have released a card with Tony in the 1974 template. They released one last year in the Topps Archives set.

This year's 1974-style card is better!

Total: 596 cards

Sunday, February 21, 2021

One Card Only - foundational SPx

Card Number 595: Upper Deck SPx Foundations, 2001; #F11

Some cards just speak for themselves!

(This is the kind of card that makes me glad I have an overhead scanner! The flatbed did it no justice.)

Great cardback write up. Succinct summary and bullet points!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Total: 595 cards

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Milestones and Masterstrokes

In the grand tradition of Sesame Street, today's blog post is brought to you by the letter M.

Card Number 593: Topps Milestones, 1998; #MS6

A beautiful blue holofoil insert card from Topps.

There are a few similarities here with a Pinnacle card I blogged yesterday - same year, same blue holofoil and clouds design, and on the back a reference to how close Tony was to his 3000th hit.

Tony didn't get a ninth batting title and finished his career tied with Honus Wagner on 8 National League titles. 

Card Number 594: Leaf Studio Masterstrokes, 1996; #1

There were 8 cards in this insert series, printed on canvas effect card with the images put through the 'paint effect' feature of Photoshop.

Studio cards were released by the DonRuss company under just the name 'Studio' for a while, before being released as Leaf Studio for a couple of years, and then finally as DonRuss Studio. Tracking the use of the brand name shows how the company was positioning its premium brands. 

On the back there is another reference to Honus Wagner. In 1996, Tony was yet to catch him up.

At the bottom of the cardback is the serial numbering. This is number 701 out of 5,000. While that's only half the number of limited edition serial numbered Diamond Kings cards from the same year, it's still a high number of cards to consider a 'limited edition'.

The paintbrush and blob of blue paint confused me at first glance. I thought Tony was flipping away a bat. It's a nod to the idea of brush strokes on a masterpiece painting. It feels like by the mid-90s card companies were running out of words to use on insert series. Leaf chose Masterstrokes, even though that doesn't really mean anything to do with art or painting. 

Total: 594 cards

Friday, February 19, 2021

Scanning Nightmares - Pinnacle holofoil horrors

Pinnacle are one of the 90s card brands that are no longer with us, although it sort of lives on as one of the many 'zombie brands' owned by Panini now. Pinnacle was a company that loved shininess back when it was alive. That means lots of gold foil and then holofoil printing. 

Hence Pinnacle cards are lovely to look at, and horrid to scan.

Card Number 591: Pinnacle Zenith All-Star Salute, 1995; #6
This is the scan off the flatbed scanner. 

And this is the scan using the overhead scanner. I tried illuminating this from the side. The dark bar under Tony's bat is the reflection of the overhead scanner in the card. 

At least on this second scan the Pinnacle set name and Tony's name are legible. This scan almost captures the actual colour of the card as well. 

I had another go using daylight. It got a bit washed out. 

On the back we get a close up 'hero pose' photo and a little write up about Tony's All-Star appearance in 1994, even though this card was commemorating the 1995 All-Star game. In fairness to Pinnacle, they didn't have much to say about Tony's All-Star performance in 1995 - he was hitless in two plate appearances and then replaced by Reggie Sanders.

1995 was the middle year of a hat-trick of All Star victories for the National League. So even though Tony didn't contribute much to the game, he was on the winning side.

Zenith was Pinnacle's last release of the year, which is why they had cards about that season's All-Star Game in it. I have blogged a couple of other cards from Zenith. There's one in this post about cards from 1995. Interestingly, when Playoff bought the assets of Pinnacle, it also included the Zenith brand name, which Playoff used as part of a DonRuss release. I've blogged about the name Zenith being used by two different manufacturers here.

Pinnacle's love affair with holofoil continued right up until their abrupt demise in 1998, as can be seen by this card.

Card Number 592: Pinnacle Plus Lasting Memories, 1998; #29
Lasting Memories was a 30-card shiny insert series.

Holofoil and die-cut, but dark on the flatbed scanner!

The ripple edges of the die-cut don't really show on the black background of the overhead scan (below), but this picture shows the holofoil effect in terms of shininess. The card doesn't look anything like this in normal light.

I had another go. Although this third attempt is darker, this is more colour-accurate capturing the silver and blue colours of the card. The black bar on the right is the reflection of the overhead camera. 

So, I waited and had a go in daylight and the results were tons better. (This scan was straight too!)

The blue on the front is repeated on the back with a faint image that makes Tony look like a Jedi Force Ghost in the sky.

I think this is one of the earliest references to the looming 3000-hit mark, given this was issued some time before the end of the 1998 season. Tony didn't reach the 3000 mark that year - he recorded 148 hits, 72 short of the amount Pinnacle said he needed.

Total: 592 cards

Thursday, February 18, 2021

The one club man in two hitting clubs

Back to the joblot that arrived from eBay and a rare 'theme post'. Usually I group cards by make or year, but sometimes there are slightly less obvious connections as with these two cards today. As I extracted them from the envelope I realised there was a fun similarity.

Card Number 589: Leaf 300 Club, 1995; #13

The 300 Club was an insert series in honour of the active players in 1995 with a career batting average over .300. 

In 1995 Tony was second on the list with .333, behind Wade Boggs who had .335. However, Tony would go on to finish his career with a batting average of .338, elevating him into the top 20 all time career batting averages. He is the only player in the top 20 born after the Second World War. Wade Boggs meanwhile saw his batting averages tail off in his final seasons in the game, and he finished with a career average of .328 - which is still very, very good, of course.

The rest of the list includes some famous names - Kirby Puckett, Mike Piazza, Paul Molitor, Ken Griffey Jr, and at the bottom, Tony's one-time room-mate at Walla-Walla, John Kruk.

These kind of cards are a great snapshot of who was dominating around that time. There were some very good batsmen competing with Tony for titles in the mid-90s. 

Leaf put Tony in the 300 Club. A few years later Fleer went a digit better.

Card Number 590: Fleer Ultra 3000 Club, 2000; #unnumbered

The joy of collecting cards from the 90s and the turn-of-the-Millennium includes trying to find the things on Trading Card Database. Fleer did their best to hide this one, but I found it in the end. There were '3000 Club' cards inserted in all the Fleer ranges in 2000. There were 2 or 3 cards each in Fleer Focus, Fleer Mystique, Fleer Showcase, Fleer Tradition, and Tony's cards were hidden in packs of Fleer Ultra. 

The card is also a snazzy die-cut!

The middles of the zeroes aren't punched out. Unlike some other card companies (*cough* Topps *cough*), Fleer have got the date of Tony's 3000th hit right.

There's also a nice little write-up that avoids any weird superlatives and is probably one of the best summaries of Tony's playing style - not flashy, just consistently productive. I'd say the same for this card design, with it's big numerals and rounded edges.

This was around the time when Fleer added the year below their logo, which is very handy and earns this card a bonus point. Not that it needs too many bonus points as it's pretty special already.

Total: 590 cards