Sunday, October 31, 2021

One Card Only - Silver Spx

Today's card kicks off an entire week of Upper Deck cards with a die-cut shiny card from one of Upper Deck's spin-off ranges. SPx was a follow-on from Upper Deck's SP range. When I opened the big box of cards that Richard sent me, I saw this card and mentally filed it as a dupe. But then I realised, it looked a bit different to the one I had already.

Card Number 814: Upper Deck SPx Silver, 1997; #SPX42

These cards are a nightmare to scan, even with the overhead scanner.

I had a few goes at different exposures!

What marks this as a silver parallel is the use of silver foil on the X. The card I blogged previously was blue.

The back is also a shiny scanning nightmare. The back is all silver, even the photo has been colourised to match.

You may have noticed a slight ripple across the bottom of the hologram on the front of the card. This is actually a minor blip on the card. However, when I looked it up on Trading Card Database, I noticed the picture on there also has a ripple in the same place. The person who sent me this card - Richard - also submitted the scan to TCDb! So I think this could be the very same card, or this weird effect happened on more than one card. 

Richard's scans are better than mine. I need to get some scanning tips off him!

Total: 814 cards

Saturday, October 30, 2021

A classic howler

Classic cards were ostensibly part of a trivia game, which always strikes me as a bit of a ruse to get around licensing agreements. Like all cards they evolved quickly in the early 90s, although they never really lost that flimsy card game feel.

Card Number 812: Classic Baseball, 1992; #61

Design note: It's the 90s. Let's stretch the year across the width of the card! This kind of kerning is a mark of a card being designed on a computer. 

I would argue this photo is quintessential early 1990s Tony Gwynn. Helmet and shades, watching the trajectory of a ball he has just belted up into the sunny sky, wearing the grey Padres road uniform that always looks a bit like pyjamas. The bright orange wrist guards match the orange in the San Diego name on his shirt. 

The back is a change for Classic cards. Gone are the old ropey-looking cheap card backs. Note the extended kerning for Tony's name again. Justified text! Plus, five questions for you to test your knowledge.

Over time, I have grown fonder of one line stats boxes. I also think it's incredibly cool that Tony only struck out 19 times in the season - what with that being his shirt number!

Card Number 813: Classic Baseball, 1993; #T41

This card was one of the 99 that came in the actual Classic game.

The photo in 1993 was not as good as the previous year. Tony's bat is occluding a background person's face in almost comical style. 

The back has one line of stats and five more questions to answer. Plus a major howler - instead of the Padres logo there is the Angels logo!

This error hadn't been previously noted on Trading Card Database. I've reported it now!

Total: 813 cards

Friday, October 29, 2021

Now & then & then & now

Two card companies. Same year. Pretty much the same name for an insert card series.

Card Number 810: Pinnacle, 1993; #289

This card marked Tony's tenth season in the Major Leagues. The photo from 1982 looks very familiar, but it obviously wouldn;t have appeared on a Pinnacle card. I think it might have been reused in a more recent release by a card company. I am absolutely certain the green background is a photoshop (or equivlent) job. The software debuted in 1990 and was adopted by the designers at card companies not long afterwards.

The back is relatively plain, just summing up Tony's career to date.

Did you notice the big trademark (TM) sign next to Now & Then? Having taken a project through the process to register tradmarks, I doubt that wording was ever a defendable trademark. Pinnacle's legal team could have tested it though, that very same year! Except Upper Deck switched the words around. 

Card Number 811: Upper Deck, 1993; #TN11

There were 18 cards in this insert series, which might have been the first time Upper Deck used holograms on their cards.

Trying to get a hologram to show on a scan is annoying. However, jiggle the card a bit and Tony appears!

Upper Deck were going through a phase of creating long blurbs to go on the backs of insert cards. There is another picture of Tony inserted as a watermark under the text. The write up includes how he just pipped Will Clark to a batting title - something I discussed when I blogged a card featuring both of them recently

Upper Deck didn't try to trademark the phrase 'Then & Now', even though they made much more of an effort with the logo for the insert series!

Total: 811 cards

Thursday, October 28, 2021

See through Skybox becomes foil Fleer

I'm not really sure where to file E-X cards. Trading Card Database lists them as both Fleer and Skybox ranges, which was the same company at the time. I think they just flipped a coin to see which company name got stuck on the cards in a given year.

Card Number 807: Skybox E-X2001, 1998; #13

I am dinging this acetate card a point for having a year in the set name that isn't the year it was released. Hunting it down on TCDb was a pain!

There were 100 cards in this set. The scanner has picked up all the blue in the silvery streak on the left. The right hand side is clear, but a bit yellow with age. This is the acetate version of the warping that happens to chromatised cards. 

The back is as odd as any other acetate card. Because of the see-through nature, Tony's disembodied hand looks a bit spooky.

There is limited space to fit in a stats box, so they have gone for one season's worth of stats.

Card Number 808: Skybox E-X Century, 1999; #4

1999, the year when everyone referenced the end of the century...

There were 120 acetate cards in this set. The clear bits on this card have also gone slightly yellow.  Fleer/Skybox used a similar font to the one used for Tony's name on this card on a few other ranges around about this time.

Again, because the back is see-through. the reversed out printed shape becomes an odd block. The one year stats line is bent on a curve to fit into the shape. 

Card Number 809: Fleer E-X, 2000; #4
Tony was number 4 in this set for the second year running although this was now a Fleer range, not branded as Skybox. Fleer stopped using acetate for their E-X range and went for foiled shininess instead. The ribbon effect of the X in the background is pretty.

On the back they made it look like an acetate card by flipping the image of Tony complete with a mirrored San Diego across his chest. 

Even though there was no need to put the stats line on a fancy curve, Fleer went and did it anyway.

Total: 809 cards

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Oddballs in the key of R

Both these oddballs were produced by Topps and sold in little packs of 33 cards through specific retailers in 1988.

Card Number 805: Topps Revco League Leaders, 1988; #1

It's not the most exciting picture on the front. I think the Revco logo is meant to be a little shopping basket. There is a history of Revco in this blog post by Fuji from earlier this year. One thing I learned from that is the regional nature of these sets. If you didn't live near a Revco store then you couldn't buy these cards. 

Tony's stats in 1987 made him worthy of being the first card in the set. 

I am always learning new things from cardbacks. In this case, that Tony led the National League in hits in 1986, but didn't win the batting title. 

Card Number 806: Topps Rite-Aid Team MVPs, 1988; #11

Unlike Revco, I've actually been in a Rite-Aid. On one of my visits to America, I needed a sticking plaster and bought a box of them in a Rite-Aid store. I'm not sure why, but I ended up bringing them home and had Rite-Aid sticking plasters in my first aid box for years.

The photo on the front is very similar to the photo on the front of the Revco card. The dug out in the background looks the same. There is a fan in a blue baseball cap standing up near Tony's right shoulder and the same fan is in the crowd on the Revco card on the edge of the picture, possibly talking to another fan. 

The back of the Rite-Aid card is more boring than the Revco card. Tony was relegated to number 11 in this set. 

Based on those figures for 1987, we can work out that Tony was left on base, forced out or picked off 99 times during the season. 1987 was the career high point of Tony's base-stealing as well, with 56 successful steals. 

Rite-Aid had a major part to play in the baseball card hobby about a decade later, when the founder of Rite-Aid, Alex Grass, bought Fleer and ran it for six years from 1999-2005. Alex had retired from Rite-Aid by then, and ran Fleer with one of his sons, Roger. Unfortunately, Martin Grass, the son who took on running Rite-Aid after Alex retired, got arrested for an accounting scandal that almost destroyed the company and ended up in federal prison. Alex and Roger dclared Fleer bankrupt in 2005 and sold the company's intellectual property to Upper Deck.

Although both these card sets were printed by Topps, I still class them as oddballs because of their limited availability and the way they were supplied in small complete sets. 

Total: 806 cards

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Tuesday Twins - 90s chrome

Rather than blogging two cards that look the same today, I'm going to blog the chrome versions of cards that have been on before.

Card Number 803: Topps Chrome, 1996; #97

I used the overhead scanner on this as Chrome cards don't come out very well on my flatbed scanner. The way the light caught it means the frame seems to fade away. But at least you can see Tony. Although, as I said when I blogged the ordinary version of this card, this is probably one of the worst cards of Tony produced by Topps in the 90s. I dislike the distorted cameo portrait along the bottom and it looks no better in shiny chrome.

The cardback has a different number but is otherwise the same as the normal cards. There were only 165 cards from the flagship set given the chrome treatment in 1996.

Card Number 804: Topps Chrome. 1997; #145

This is actually the fourth version of this card I now have in the collection. The other three were blogged as a trio last year. Again, the overhead scan has affected the shiny silver border.

Tony made the cut again in this 165-card set. Topps haven't always shown such restraint - some years they have chromatised the entire set!

As cardbacks go, it's not very exciting. The stats box is so big there is barely any room for a factoid.

Total: 804 cards

Monday, October 25, 2021

Modern Monday - platinum player

Card Number 802: Topps, 2021; #PDC-34

This die-cut insert card was a cheap purchase off eBay. The cut out shape is a big 70, marking Topps' platinum anniversary. Annoyingly there are only 50 cards in the insert series. They should have done 70.

The cardback contains a nice little summary of what makes Tony a Platinum Player.

I need one more card issued this year to reach 21 cards issued in 2021!

Total: 802 cards

Sunday, October 24, 2021

One Card Only - shiny map

Card Number 801: Bowman International parallel, 1998; #22

This very shiny parallel of Tony's Bowman card from 1998 has a map in the background instead of the crowd scene in the normal photo. The idea behind this parallel is the map shows a player's home town, which is why in this case they have taken care to show Los Angeles rather than San Diego. There was one International card in every pack of Bowman cards in 1998.

As a veteren in the set, Tony just got a stats box on his cardback. Rookie players got a full bio. If the rookie was born in a non-English speaking country, then their bio was in the language of that country. That makes them slightly more interesting than the average shiny parallel.

Total: 801 cards

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Two more cards from 1996 and a blog milestone!

For the previous three days I have blogged three cards a day from 1996. I still have more cards from that year and I've picked two today that will take this blog up to 800 cards.

Card Number 799: Pinnacle Zenith, 1996; #91

This is the pinnacle of scanning nightmares - a black shiny card. In retrospect, scanning it on a black background wasn't the smartest move. The display of fanned out bats in the background makes this card distinct.

On the back there is a 'hit location chart'!

Pinnacle made a point of doing data differently on their cardbacks. This visualisation is very informative. Tony didn't score many homers but they almost all went out beyond right field. He used to spray the ball all over the outfield, so clearly he just didn't quite have the power to get it over the wall in left field. This cardback is definitely worth ten bonus points.

Also, I'm not sure if this is deliberate, but the card number is the reverse of 19. 

Card Number 800: Pinnacle Zenith, 1996 #150

Another black shiny card! The last 20 cards in the 150-card set were the 'Honor Roll'. Tony had card number 150, which was the last card in the base set.

The other names listed on the Honor Roll all had cards in this subset too.

This is a nice card to illustrate Tony's place in the game during his 90s peak - his zenith, if you will - and also to show some of the cards produced during the baseball card industry peak as well. Pinnacle went to the wall a couple of years later as the hobby contracted, although it lives on now as one of Panini's many acquired brands. 

This brings me up to 800 cards on the blog. When I reached 700 cards back in July, I wasn't expecting to complete another century so quickly. But I still have lots of cards waiting to be blogged and am back into the daily posting routine which I hope to keep up throughout the winter!

Total: 800 cards

Friday, October 22, 2021

3 from 96 - DonRuss and Leaf

Continuing the theme of cards from the peak of Tony's career and the peak of the overproduction era of the card hobby, here are some cards from the same company issued under different iconic brands.

Card Number 796: DonRuss, 1996; #525

That foil panel between Tony's legs doesn't scan very well. It's a poor choice of placing for such a large graphic element. 

The back has a massive stats box and a photo of Tony. Both photos show Tony in the white pinstripes home uniform. They are from different games though, unless Tony changed his wristguards mid-game for some reason. 

Card Number 797: Leaf MVP Contender, 1996; #8

A very shiny card front.

A very complicated explanation on the cardback.

This was a redemption competition based around who would be named MVP in the 1996 All Star Game. Tony was named in the National League squad for the game, but didn't play. Mike Piazza won the MVP that year, so people would have had to send in a Mike Piazza version of this card to redeem it for one the special gold sets of MVP contenders. I wonder how many people did that.

Card Number 798: Leaf Preferred, 1996; #79
This 150 card set came with a "Steel" insert card in each pack. Steel was Leaf's version of Chrome. This is the regular base card. 

The photo on the front has an odd backdrop and it makes the card look very dull. It's almost as if Tony is in front of a giant sandstone block.

The photo on the back is gorgeous. 

I think that could quite possibly be my favourite photo on a cardback. Look at Tony's grin!

Combined with a simple stats box and a margin of bio-data, I can see why people would prefer this set of Leaf cards.

Total: 798 cards

Thursday, October 21, 2021

3 from 96 - Fleer

Another trio of cards from 1996 today. 

Card Number 793: Fleer, 1996; #567

For a couple of years Fleer printed their cards as full-bleed photos on unvarnished matt card stock. It's an unusual look for cards released in the 90s, as most card companies issued glossy cards. Tony's name and position are picked ou tin gold foil. 

The cardback includes an almost complete career stats box. They only had room for 12 rows so omitted Tony's statistics from 1982 and 1983. Tony looks a bit startled in the photo.

As a reflection of what I posted yesterday about Tony's second career peak, the factoid is about how in 1995 he became the first player to record a batting average over .350 for three years running since the second world war. Tony's batting average in the last ten years of his career was a good wedge higher than in the first ten years. He hit over .350 in 1996 and in 1997 as well. 

Card Number 794: Fleer Update, 1996; U224
Encore was a subset towards the end of the Update set, featuring the bigger stars of the game.

This card is printed in the same way as the flagship set, but with a bold blue tint in the background. 

The cardback has the same stats box, but a different photo and factoid.

We will have to take Fleer's factoid writer's word for it that Tony was ecstatic about chasing a division title, as he looks focused on hitting the ball in the photo. However, it's on record that Tony was ecstatic about the Padres winning the NL West that season - especially as his brother Chris hit a 2-RBI double in the eleventh inning of the final game of the regular season, which meant the Padres won the Division. It was a winner takes all game against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium as the Padres pipped them to first place. 

Card Number 795: Fleer Road Warriors, 1996; #2

There were 10 cards in this insert set. (Which makes me think of Mad Max 2!)

As I mentioned when I blogged about the Pinnacle cards with Tony's home and road stats on, it didn't seem to make much difference where Tony was playing. He hit the ball in every park. The same wasn't true about stealing bases, though. 

Although the purple font for the title is attractive, I'm dinging a point off this card for having an awkward lay out for the text on the back. 

Total: 795 cards

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

3 from 96 - Score

1996 was the mid-point of Tony's second career. He had an impressive start to his career in the 80s, winning the batting title in his second full season as the Padres went to their first ever World Series. He then had a couple of years where he was affected by injury before winning a trio of batting titles from 1987 to 1989. His form then dipped a bit in the early '90s. There are stories of problems with team-mates and at one point he apparently almost left San Diego. 

However Tony re-emerged in the middle of the 1990s as a contact hitter without parallel, getting progressively more impressive towards the end of the century.

  • 1993 - batting title runner up (with an average that would have won him the title in several years) and recorded his 2000th hit
  • 1994 - posted the modern day record batting average of .394  and won his fifth batting title  
  • 1995 - sixth batting title
  • 1996 - seventh batting title and the Padres won the divisional pennant to play in their second ever post-season
  • 1997 - eigth batting title and 5th season in a row batting over .350
  • 1998 - Padres reached their second World Series
  • And, of course, in 1999, Tony recorded his 3000th hit.
Taken like that, 1996 is about the middle of Tony's dominance of 1990s batting. It was also the peak of the overproduction era in the baseball card industry. There were more card companies producing more insert sets with more sales gimmicks than ever before. Happily the combination of Tony's peak performing years and the peak of the baseball card hobby means there are lots of cards from this time period for me to collect!

Card Number 790: Score Dugout Collection, 1996; #15
'Dugout Collection' were coloured parallels of a selection of Score's flagship set, in which Tony had card #464. These parallels appeared at a ratio of 1 in every 3 packs.

The card is a shiny bronze colour so I scanned it on the overhead which is why the picture looks a little grainy. The disembodied hand that Tony is shaking makes me smile. It makes the photo stand out.  

The back has a watermark saying Dugout Collection 96. Tony has a neatly trimmed beard in the photo on the back. It was a very fashionable style for facial hair in the mid-90s. 

Card Number 791: Score Diamond Aces, 1996; #23
This is another insert series. These cards were only found in jumbo packs of cards and at a ratio of 1 in 8 packs. 

That cardfront is both very 90s and incredibly modern. It might be the font, it might be the timeless photo of Tony in a 1984 uniform, but I wouldn't be surprised if this was actually a Topps insert from the last couple of years. It's a cracking retro photo.

The back is an equal to the front in terms of looking like it could have been released much more recently instead of 25 years ago.

My only, very minor, criticism of this card is that I'm not sure that is a photo from Tony's rookie season which is mentioned in the little blurb. It's close though, with that old school yellow jacket. 

Card Number 792: Score Gold Stars, 1996; #6
The Gold Stars insert cards appeared in Series 2 of Score's flasghip set at a rate of 1 in 15 packs. 

Two photos on the front with a sepia photo of Tony catching that is awkwardly juxtaposed with his backswing at the plate. 

An 'underarm' use of the bat on the back! 

The cardback mentions Tony playing with a broken toe in the 1995 season. Somewhere there must be a list of all the injuries Tony suffered in his career. It seems like he was playing through pain more often than not. 

More cards from 1996 tomorrow.

Total: 792 cards - this is a bit of a milestone. The big Topps sets of the late 80s went up to 792 cards so I have literally blogged the equivalent of an entire Topps set now.