Thursday, September 30, 2021

Revisiting Tony's Topps rookie card...

To celebrate their 50th anniversary in 2001, Topps picked 50 cards to reprint in a large insert series. Naturally, they included Tony's "iconic" rookie card from 1983.

Card Number 752: Topps Through the Years, 2001; #36

Topps added a gold foil 50th Anniversary stamp to the front. Although it's instantly noticeable that this is printed on much better card stock than Tony's actual rookie cards ever were.

Ignore the number '482' on the back - that was the number of Tony's card in the 1983 set. There is a little line below the 1982 highlights that says it's card number 36 of 50.

I wish Topps still did a highlight for players on cardbacks. 

A few years later Topps dusted off the 1983 template again.

Card Number 753: Topps Archives, 2015; #201

This card is in danger of setting off the Anachronism Klaxon for having photos of Tony late on in his career in the design template from the beginning of his career. If the cameo photo looks familiar, it's because it had been used by Topps before, for example, on Tony's Allen & Ginter card in 2013.

The retro styling extended to the back with the little outline of the batter next to the number. However, by this point there was no room for factoids next to the giant stats box!

The card stock, however, was in keeping with the 1983 design.

I have a small but growing collection of reprints and reimaginings of this card (and the O-Pee-Chee version from 1983 as well). I won't be surprised if Topps print even more in future. 

Total: 753 cards

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Topps base completion, thanks to Richard

For a long time I have been aware of significant gaps in my collection. One of them was filled at the start of the month when Tony's Topps base card from 1996 arrived in the quantity of cards from Greg in France. And just a few weeks later, Richard's parcel contained the other missing piece - Tony's card from 2001.

Card Number 751: Topps, 2001; #220

This isn't the first time this card design has appeared on this blog. I have previously posted about the Opening Day and Chrome versions. But this is the first time I have posted this basic version.

It ticks all the usual boxes for a Topps base card, though. Tony is looking away from the camera. His name and number are barely legible. If it wasn't for the logo printed next to his name, this could be an unlicensed card.

On the back, Tony is sitting in a training top and the Padres logo on his hat is hidden behind his sunglasses. Again, this could be a logoless card. Tony is also sporting his salt-and-pepper stubble that he often has in photos taken around the turn of the millennium. 

Considering this was Topps 50th anniversary year, the cardback was quite dull. The red numbers in the stats box denoting times he led the league is effective though.

So now, thanks to Richard, I can happily proclaim this mission is complete. If I so desired I could create a 'carpet of cards' that looks like this...

Looking at that, I reckon about 10 - half of them! - don't show Tony's face clearly. However, I like the way Topps alternate the direction Tony is facing on their cards from 1995 onwards, with the exception of 1997 and 1998 when he facing to the right side of the card.

Completing the run of Tony's base cards has been a little 'side mission' for me, and I'm really glad to have finally ticked it off!

Total: 751 cards

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Tuesday Twins - Pinnacle's sneaky variations

In a follow-up email, Richard also gave me some notes on the cards he sent me. He pointed out that two of the cards he had included were variations that perhaps weren't obvious. He was right, because I had totally missed them when I looked through the cards!

The cards in question were the #1 card in the Pinnacle set from 1998. They look like this.

I already had this card in the Pinnacle folder, so put it to one side in the little pile of cards that I knew were duplicates. (There was some crossover between Richard selecting cards to send me and the parcel with over 100 cards in arriving from France, so there was a small overlap in contents.) 

If I had thought about it, though, I would have realised that I blogged this card along with Tony's other Pinnacle base cards back in July last year. Richard had checked my list on Trading Card Database, so he would have known I had this card already. I should have realised he would have sent me these for a reason. (Lesson - never doubt a supercollector!)

The differences are in the cardbacks!

Card Number 749: Pinnacle, 1998 (Home Stats parallel); #1

Card Number 750: Pinnacle, 1998 (Away Stats parallel); #1

One card has Tony's stats in the games  played in San Diego and the other has his stats when on the road with the Padres. Pinnacle produced these parallel variations for all the players in the set.

Overall it didn't make much difference to Tony whether he was batting at home in the Jack Murphy Stadium or in ballparks all over the country. His career batting average differential at the end of the 1997 season was .002, from about the same number of games. He travelled well and hit well anywhere he faced a pitcher.

Thanks Richard for pointing this out and reminding me to always check the back of the card!

Total:750 cards

Monday, September 27, 2021

Modern Monday - colourful "DonRuss"

I've put DonRuss in scare quotes in the title, because this is Panini zombie brand DonRuss not actual DonRuss from back in the day. 

These cards were in the box from YoRicha that arrived at the end of last week.

Card Number 747: DonRuss 2020 Holo Orange Parallel; #218

Panini are unmatched in their commitment to parallels, and this is one of the colour variations available for the retro-looking insert series in last years DonRuss set that revived the classic design from 1986. (Blogged in June 2020!)

It's shiny. I like the design. You can barely tell it's unlicensed. 

The back is the same as the regular release and also looks quite retro. 

Card Number 748: DonRuss 2020 Holo Pink Parallel Name Variation; #218

And Panini unleashed a new level of parallel hell, by also making colour parallels of their name variation parallels. So, this is a parallel of a parallel. In shiny pink.

He is Anthony, not Tony on this one.

The back is marked as a parallel by the black baseball with the number in. Personally, I prefer that look for a card number. Also, it helps to distinguish it as a parallel. 

I realised halfway through this post that I should have used card number 747 for a "jumbo" card. But that wouldn't have fitted in with the Modern Monday theme. There's only so much co-ordination I can do with the numbering!

Total: 748 cards

Sunday, September 26, 2021

One Vid Only - Opening a box from Richard (YoRicha)

I have been very fortunate while doing this blog that other collectors have got in touch and sent me cards all the way from America. Tim from Pennsylvania, Jeff from North Dakota, and now Richard from Georgia

If you read the comments on here, Richard often comments on posts as YoRicha. A little while back he said he had some things to send me and late on Friday I picked up an unexpectedly large box from the post office after the postman stuck a note through my door telling me to go and collect it.

I decided to do an 'unboxing' video on my phone, just for fun. However, when I uploaded it to YouTube it would only load as a portrait video for some reason. YouTube has removed the functionality to rotate videos, which is irritating. I have wasted too much time trying to fix the problem, which I think is probably down to an old phone and incompatible tech. Oh, well. 

My suggested fix for you is to watch this video on a phone or tablet and physically change the orientation of the device if you want to see me the right way up!

There was a huge box of cards in the box. Here's a better look.

Richard also included a note:

That is such a nice thing to say. There are a few people who comment on the blog regularly and I appreciate them taking the time to leave a note (or do my research for me!). I'm really glad people enjoy it and with Richard's help I am going to be blogging throughout the winter at this rate!

Back when I started this blog I had almost 200 cards scanned waiting for me to write about them. I'd barely dented that when I acquired over 200 more cards, which I scanned and gradually worked my way through. Since the turn of the year I have been blogging on a more ad hoc basis, as cards arrive. However, with the parcel from France, the envelope of cards from Jeff this week, and now this massive box of cards from Richard, I'm going to be back on that daily publishing schedule. 

As long as I can carve out the time to write the posts, of course.

I did promise in that video that I would let you know what my grand total of Tony Gwynn cards is now. Well, I don't want to deal in spoilers, but the cards from Richard took me into four figures! So I have a lot of catching up to do with my blogging!

(Also, I was wrong about the coin - it wasn't a Topps coin. All will be revealed in good time!)

Thank you again, YoRicha!

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Sharing the Spotlight with Eddie Murray

This card was a challenge, but thanks to Google Image Search I was able to track down who was presenting Tony with a glass plaque, and why...

Card Number 745: Upper Deck, 1998; #15

Cards 9-18 in Upper Deck's flagship set were a subset called 'Ken Griffey's Hot List'.

Upper Deck went through a phase of using quirky photos on cards (Tony's base card in 1997 showed him with a fish!), but annoyingly there was nothing on the back of this card to explain what this presentation was about.

The Internet came to the rescue! I uploaded my scan to Google Image Search and found this picture is one that Getty Images has for sale. The complete blurb on the Getty website says:

12 Jun. 1997: Anaheim Angels Eddie Murray gives San Diego Padres Tony Gwynn a crystal plaque commemorating the Padres playing there [sic] first interleague game against the Angels at Edison Field of Anaheim. (Photo by John Cordes/Icon SMI/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
This image is for sale, so if I wanted to create my own card using this same picture, it would cost me $375. I'm not going to do that but it's nice to know I could if I wanted. 

"Steady Eddie", as Murray was known, spent 11 seasons at the Orioles before moving around several teams. 1997 was his final Major League season at the age of 41. He played most of the season for the Angels although he also played a handful of games with the Dodgers. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2003.

Althought the cardback doesn't mention Eddie, it does have a superb cardback factoid about Tony hitting an inside-the-park Grand Slam in June 1997.

The stats box is also a bit different, comparing Tony's stats in All Star Games, World Series, and so on.

Tony had multiple cards in the Upper Deck set in 1998. Here's a bonus one, which was in the envelope from Jeff that arrived earlier this week.

Card Number 746: Upper Deck, 1998; #458

Upper Echelon was a ten card subset in Series 2 of the Upper Deck flagship set. This has a factoid on the front - I'm presuming the 24 September was Tony's 67th and final multi-hit game of the 1997 season. But maybe it wasn't. The factoid is unclear. 

The back has a different photo to card #15 - this time it captures the retro Swinging Friar arm patch really nicely. There is also a visible blur on the bat as it's swung.

The factoid on the back of this card is also different to #15. Like the factoid on the front, it is also about Tony's haul of multi-hit games.

Tony played 145 games in 1997, so his 67 multi-hit games means he had more than one hit in almost half the games he played. He actually recorded 220 hits that season on his way to a .372 batting average, his second highest total in his career.

Total: 746 cards

Friday, September 24, 2021

Leader of the Team

Card Number 743: Fleer Team Leaders, 1992; #7

This was another one of the half dozen cards from Jeff that arrived on Tuesday. It's green. It's got a bit of foil on it. It's really nice. (I find green cards really attractive for some reason.)

These cards were inserted into Fleer's rack packs at a rate of one per pack. Tony is making a catch on the warning track. Somebody's not getting a home run!

On the back, Tony is described as "Primre Padre" - I've not seen Spanish on a Fleer card before! (Although it's a bit weird because it means 'First Father' if translated literally. Maybe they would have been better with "Jefe de Equipo".) 

In the write up, he is described as a "franchise player", which Fleer claim is a term that is "used in baseball lingo". (It feels like they should have added "Honest it is! No, really!")

Reading cardbacks like this from halfway through Tony's career are always slightly overshadowed by knowing what came next. He was already an all-time Padres leader in a number of statistics, but there was so much more to come. Another four batting titles. A string of seasons posting over .350. Eight more All Star Games. The .394 season.

Also in this write up there is a really lovely turn of phrase when whoever wrote this managed to go poetic, rhyming 'nation' and 'rotation'. 

For this post, I've paired this card up with one that arrived in the parcel from France a few weeks back. 

Card Number 744: Fleer Team Leaders, 1994; #27

These inserts could be found at a ratio of one in every six packs. The front is a good example of how computer aided design changed the look of baseball cards in the early to mid-90s, with two photos and the logo arranged artfully on an orange and teal background. So nineties!

On the back, Tony's hitting is described as pillaging. 

My inner number-nerd let out a slight "Squee!" when I saw Tony's strike-out total for the 1993 season. How many players strike out to match their shirt number!

Total: 744 cards

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Wax Pack Wanderers

Two days ago an envelope arrived all the way from North Dakota containing six Tony Gwynn cards that I didn't have before. They were sent by Jeff who blogs at Wax Pack Wonders, along with a note.

Jeff says 'Believe it or not' - well, I believe! And I'm really grateful to be able to give these wanderers a home!

One of the cards was from my favourite ever Leaf set, and in a change to normal practice I'm going to show you the back of the card first.

Card Number 742: Leaf Gold All Stars, 1993; #9

You can tell this is the cardback because it has the copyright notice up the side. On Saturday I blogged about another card from the Leaf 1993 set which had a brilliant cardback featuring a map of upstate New York. The base cards from the 1993 set also had spectacular backs with cityscapes in the background. Tony's brother, Chris, got a card in the Update series of that set too. 

This could have been a "Sharing the Spotlight" post, which is what I do when Tony features on a card with another player. These All Star cards had a National League All Star on one side and an American League All Star on the other. Tony was paired up with none other than Jose Canseco.

The vivid blue background in the photo of Jose really makes that picture look a bit special - more so than the picture of Tony. With the floaty fuzzy clouds and the sunlight striking him, he looks like a demigod. Not a bad cardfront, even if the real interest, for me, is on the cardback!

Thank you Jeff, for this great addition to my collection, and for the other cards too, which I will be blogging soon!

Total: 742 cards

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Cards for kids

I have read there was some concern about the way the baseball card hobby was going in the early to mid-90s. Cards were becoming more expensive and with inserts, parallels, relics and autographs, kids - the collectors of the future - were being priced out of the hobby. In an attempt to rectify this the major card companies launched sets designed for younger collectors. These never really took off that well, but they have left collectors with some quirky cards to hunt down.

Card Number 740: DonRuss Triple Play, 1994; #187


Tony looks almost like he is yelling or laughing in the photo. This card gets a bonus point for including the year in the set logo. I also like the effect of the see through 'cut out' letters.

It's a fairly boring cardback for a range aimed at kids, particularly compared to the Triple Play cards from 1992 and 1993. DonRuss had obviously decided that what kids really wanted was a massive stats box. 

Card Number 741: Upper Deck Fun Pack, 1994; #119

Not to be outdone by their competitors, Upper Deck also had their own range aimed at kids, selling packs of fun cards called Fun Pack!

"Ruh Roh!"

I would love to know what Tony has seen in that photo. A ghost in the outfield, perhaps? Maybe he's just feeling a bit dizzy, which is why he is surrounded by swirls.

Fun Pack cards lived up to their name with the cardback. Instead of a photo there's a little charicature of Tony. At this point he only had four batting titles, although he had come mighty close to five the previous season. He would collect his fifth title the year this set was released. 

Both card companies discontinued these sets after 1994. One theory I have seen is that kids felt these sets were condescending, and preferred to chase after the valuable insert cards in the regular sets. But these sets were also released just before the 90s baseball card bubble popped and the hobby went through a very difficult period of readjustment. Now they are relics of an era of desperate market differentiation when card companies tried as many different angles as possible to sell pictures of baseball stars to as many potential customers as possible.

Total: 741 cards

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Tuesday Twins - Shiny Leafs

I have started scanning the shiny cards that arrived in the parcel from France, using my overhead scanner. It's slow work because ideally I need daylight to scan the cards in, and I don't have much daylight left after finishing work. However, here are two shiny cards that got scanned last night.

Card Number 738: Leaf Limited, 1996; #53

Even with the overhead scanner the full shininess of the card isn't quite captured. This is lovely in hand. Unfortunately it also suffers from the common affliction of 90s shiny sports cards - there's a slight warp to it now, a quarter of a century later.

I like cards that have Tony's number (19) as their number in the set. But this comes close, with number 53, which is the number Tony wore in Spring Training with the Padres in 1982 and features on his Topps rookie card.

Apart from the set number, the back isn't particularly noteworthy although it does feature a stat I'd not seen before, about Tony's run of seasons posting over .350. That means he was hitting at a rate of more than 1 in 3 at bats, reaching base 7 times for every 20 times he went up to the plate. For all the hitting power in the current Padres line-up, they could really use some consistency like that.

Card Number 739: Leaf Limited Gold, 1996; #53

The gold parallel version of the Leaf Limited is incredibly shiny!

Leaf changed the colour on the cardback to gold as well. This is what I would call a proper parallel, with the card looking different front and back.

These high end cards may be rascals to scan, but they are lovely to look at. I have quite a pile of shiny cards to work through if I can catch some daylight hours over the next week. This may affect my blogging schedule but I promise I will post them all - and they will brighten up some gloomy winter days in the coming months!

Total: 739 cards

Monday, September 20, 2021

Modern Monday - slightly anachronistic All Star

This is a card freshly pulled from a Topps 2021 Series 2 pack, and sent to me by Gawain. He has sent me a brand new card two weeks running now!

Card Number 737: Topps 35th Anniversary All-Star, 2021; #86AS2

This is a really nice looking card, using the template of the All Star cards in the set that Topps released in 1986. There are a few things that trip the Anachronism Klaxon, though!

The obvious thing that sets off the klaxon is that Tony didn't have an All Star card in the 1986 set. He had one at bat in the 1985 game but wasn't deemed worthy of a card. 

That uniform is wrong for a card in 1986 as well. The Padres ditched the classic brown, yellow and orange after the 1984 World Series and went to white pinstripes. 

And then there's the back...

Topps have put Tony's stats from 1994 on the back of this card that replicates the 1986 card design. It's odd, even by Topps's standards for doing odd things. Yes, that was an amazing year in terms of Tony's achievements - this blog is called "point 394" because of that season - but why highlight that season on this card? Who knows? Like the Almighty, Topps moves in mysterious ways far beyond the understanding of mere collectors. 

However, this is a really nice looking card and I can tune out the klaxon. It is also particularly noteworthy because it is the 19th card from 2021 to make it into my collection. 19 is a very special number around here. Thank you Gawain for sending me this card!

Total: 737 cards 

Sunday, September 19, 2021

One Card Only - Topps Tek

I occasionally mention the glut of parallels in the hobby currently. Okay, I mention it more than occasionally. But it's not a new phenomonon. Today's card is from perhaps the most overblown set ever produced in terms of the sheer number of parallels. 

It's well over the top. It's Topps Tek.

Card Number 736: Topps Tek (pattern 22), 1998; #23

There were 90 base cards in this card set which was printed on acetate, and each card was printed with 90 different 'patterns' on the acetate. That's 8,100 different cards, if anyone was committed enough to try and collect them all. But then there were also 'diffractor' versions of each pattern of each card as well - another 90 parallels of the 90s cards, and another 8,100 cards in the set! 

That set bloat might explain why there are only 1.1% of the images on Trading Card Database. This card wasn't pictured on there, so I have submitted it.

Compared to some of the other designs, this is a lot less snazzy. It's a ripple effect. 

Because it's acetate, they've flipped the image of Tony on the back to match the shape of his head and bat. We have yet another serious photo - hey, it's a card from 1998. That's what they did.

The cardback threw me a bit because it had milestones for Tony in 1999 and 2000. But this is definitely a card from 1998 - I have triple-checked! (Thank you, YoRicha, for uploading some pictures on to TCDb!) So I think those were Topps trying to predict when Tony would achieve the milestones. 

Tony reached 3000 hits in 1999, and hit his 500th double the same year. The target of 1,500 runs was aspirational, and Tony didn't manage to reach it in 2000, or at all. He finished his career on 1,383 at the end of the 2001 season. I guess two predictions from three isn't bad.

Getting a Topps Tek card for the collection had been one of my aims for a while. Collecting all 90 is very unlikely. 

Total: 736 cards

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Hall of Famer - 14 years early

In 2007 Tony Gwynn was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, in the first year he was eligible for the ballot. However, two card companies made an early case for his election, fourteen years previously.

Card Number 734: Leaf Heading for the Hall insert, 1993; #2

I really like the logo for this insert series with the little road heading towards a line drawing of the Hall of Fame. There are some sparkles under his name as well. 

The back is outstanding. Leaf had fantastic cardbacks in their 1993 set and this insert series is no different. The combination of the picture of the National Baseball Museum that houses the Hall of Fame, a map of the area and a mocked up plaque shows some exceptional care from the designers.

Here's what the actual plaque looks like, of course!

On that map you can see Lake Otsuga. Nobody ever really mentions Lake Otsuga when they talk about Cooperstown. This is a photo of it that is also my desktop background so I see it every time I write blog posts!

My wife Cathy and I spent two nights in Cooperstown on our road trip in 2016. I would happily say that the day in Museum and Hall of Fame was one of the best days of my life so far. It probably makes the top 3! 

There was an exhibit in the museum about the player's strike in 1994 that cut the season short. That was the season when Tony was tantalisingly close to breaking .400. (Which is why this blog is called .394!)  That exhibit has one of Tony's shirts from the 1994 season in it.

I also met another very famous celebrity from San Diego!

Anyway,. that's enough about the wonderful experience of going to the National Museum and Hall of Fame. Let's get back to baseball cards. Pinnacle were also considering future contenders for Cooperstown back in 1993...

Card Number 735: Pinnacle Cooperstown Card insert, 1993; #20

One day I am going to count up how many cards I have of Tony in this pose, preparing to sprint to first base, with his discarded bat disappearing off the edge of the card.

There's no map on the back, just another photo in his familiar anticipatory batting stance. 

Pinnacle felt Tony was "well on his way to Cooperstown". He added another four batting titles before he finally got there. 

It feels like both these card companies recognised Tony's greatness well before he retired and was officially inducted into the Hall of Fame. That is a genuine indication of his ability and attitude at the height of his career.

Total: 735 cards 

Friday, September 17, 2021

Eat cake by the ocean

Well, that's what the Padres hoped to be doing this year. It feels less and less likely to happen.

But talking of the ocean, here's a couple of Pacific cards from the last year the Padres got to the World Series.

Card Number 732: Pacific Crown Collection, 1998; #427

Somehow this card design manages to look both fancy and still very clean. The logo and player name are in gold foil. 

Pacific's USP was targeting Spanish-speaking collectors. They also included the English translation on the back. That didn't leave much room for any stats. Somehow they managed to fit everything in, including Tony posing with one of his bats. 

The orange background locates this firmly in the late 1990s. As ever, Pacific get a bonus point for putting the detail of the set name in the little circle with the card number. It's a great help to collectors like me over two decades later!

Card Number 733: Pacific Aurora, 1998; #191

Such a green card!

The 1990s was the decade when PhotoShop became a thing and this card design is almost Photoshopped to death. I appreciate the halo around Tony's head in the top right image. 

Also, you may have noticed this just says San Diego on the front. It repeats that on the back. The Aurora range was only licensed by the Player's Association so they didn't include franchise names. I presume Pacific had a license from MLB to print a limited number of sets, or perhaps there was a stipulation in their contract that they could only produce Spanish language sets - and this is just in English. 

There is a trivia question on the back about how many seasons Tony recorded more than 200 hits. To save readers from craning their necks, here's the answer.

Tony didn't record a 200-hit season after 1997 so that answer (5) is still the correct answer. 

The photo on the back is quite similar to the one on the back of the Topps Stars card I blogged about yesterday. Serious cardback photos must have been the fashion in 1998!

Total: 733 cards