Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Running through the 1988 Star set part 1

In the large parcel of cards that Richard sent me was an 11 card oddball set made by Star. As a card producer, Star normally stuck with minor league sets. In 1988 they issued 28 different sets related to minor leagues or minor league teams - everything from the Carolina League All-Stars to the Tampa Tarpons. If someone wants a Miami Marlins set from before the Miami Marlins became a Major League franchise, then there is a Star set of the minor league outfit from 1988.

Star also produced player-specific sets, with 29 different small sets released in 1988 alongside their minor league cards. Typically these sets had 11 cards in, with some players getting more than one set. Mark McGwire had three sets in 1988. Tony had one solo set and another set that he shared with Wade Boggs, both of them getting five cards each in the latter set.

According to Trading Card Database, this set was limited to a print run of 5000, with a glossy parallel set limited to 1000 of each card. I don't know if the set Richard sent me is the regular set or the glossy parallel. I suspect the regular because it doesn't seem very glossy. There were also 500 autogaphed versions of the first card in the set available - all serial numbered. This might have been one of the first time Tony's autographed cards were made available to collectors in a set.

Anyway, let's kick on and enjoy some shonky oddballness. I'm going to split the cards over the next couple of posts as well. 

Card Number 843: Star Tony Gwynn "Padre Hitman", 1988; #1

A couple of things to be aware of as we go through this set. Firstly, I think most of the photos were taken during the same game. Secondly, the production levels aren't high. These were sort of licensed cards but that's a home-drawn San Diego logo on the front. 

Spoilers! This first card in the series is a checklist. Have a read to anticipate what's coming up.

Also, even though this says Star '88 on the front and it's confirmed by TCDb as being released in 1988... nobody at Star bothered to update the copyright notice from whenever they last used this card template. It still says 1984.

Card Number 844: Star Tony Gwynn "Padre Hitman", 1988; #2

The series kicks off with a series of stats cards. Tony's minor league stats get profiled first.

I am reasonably certain they could have written 'Pacific Coast' next to Hawaii and Las Vegas. Often Tony's 17 games in Las Vegas in 1983 get forgotten. He was recovering from an injury and spent a few weeks getting back to full game fitness.

Card Number 845: Star Tony Gwynn "Padre Hitman", 1988; #3

I can see why Star would print this photo in landscape orientation. The catcher's hand reaching in forlornly just as Tony makes contact with the ball makes this image. However, not switching the template around so the fake logo is sideways is lackadaiscal design.

Even though this set was released in 1988, it only shows Tony's major league stats up to the 1986 season.

Card Number 846: Star Tony Gwynn "Padre Hitman", 1988; #4

Batting donut picture! Time to check Fuji's post of a dozen Tony Gwynn cards with batting donuts... and this one isn't one of Fuji's dozen! 

Tony had one season's worth of post-season stats to go on this card.

And on that statistically spartan note... I will bid you adieu. More of the set tomorrow.

Total: 846 cards

Monday, November 29, 2021

Modern Monday - at school with Snoop Dogg

Card Number 842: Topps Project70, 2021; #504

I'm still not a huge fan of Project70 as a concept. But I like this card, drawn by rapper Snoop Dogg, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it's artistically very good. Secondly, it draws on part of Tony's life that is often overlooked in these Topps projects and establishes a personal connection with the artist. Snoop Dogg attended the same high school as Tony, Long Beach Polytechnic in Los Angeles. There are several photos of Snoop posing with a car in front of the school in the way Tony is depicted here. Snoop has drawn himself alongside his high school's famous alumnus, almost genuflecting towards him.

Would Tony and Snoop have been friends in high school? Maybe not, actually. Another celebrity who attended Long Beach Poly, Cameron Diaz, claimed that she bought weed off Snoop, who was a year above her when she was at the school. I doubt Tony would have hung out with anyone who was selling drugs. However, Tony did have a musical side. He sung some backing vocals on one of his daughter's records. So, who knows, maybe he and Snoop would have collaborated if they had been classmates.

The back of the card contains none of this, and the bio for the artist is rather sanitised.

I had decided not to buy any more Project70 cards. My resolve was weak when it came to this. It's also the 21st card released in 2021 that I have added to the collection, which has a nice synchronicity to it.

Total: 842 cards

Sunday, November 28, 2021

One Card Only - Dial-a-Stat

I was away from the blog longer than I thought I would be. Sorry about that.

Back in September Jay sent me an Upper Deck card that featured in a Sunday 'One Card Only' post. A couple of weeks back he messaged me to ask if I wanted the Tony Gwynn card from an insert set he had bought. Like me, he is a player collector and he wanted the Roger Clemens card from this set. So, it helps him to be able to move on other cards, and it helps me because this is the sort of thing that never crops up over here in the UK.

Card Number 841: Pacific Prism Dial-A-Stat, 2000; #8

This has a wheel on it that spins. As it spins it reveals Tony's top ten batting averages during his career though a hole in the card. The default setting is his batting average for 1994. We all know what his average was that year, don't we!

When the wheel is set to 1994, the image of Tony printed in the reverse of the wheel is aligned with the rest of the back of the card.

Of course, such a device could be left untouched. But that's not really how I function as a collector.

The ten years work around in order, starting with Tony's tenth best average in 1986

Then 1989

Then it jumps a decade to 1999

Back to Tony's first ever batting title

Then to 1996

At which point the wheel is halfway round and the card back looks quite weird.

Contuinuing on we get to 1993


A brief return to the 80s, with Tony's highest average from that decade

Before Tony's second highest ever average in the last year he won a batting title

And then the wheel has gone full circle back to 1994 and .394.

It really stands out to me how Tony's batting averages improved in the second part of his career. Tony won the batting title in 1988 and that doesn't even feature here. Instead there are six seasons from the 1990s and four of the five highest career totals are from that decade.

There were 10 dial-a-stat cards to collect as inserts in the Prism range, which was one of several sets released by Pacific in 2000. The main inserts were various coloured shiny cards known as Prisms. Of course, Tony features in thos inserts. He was also the player featured on the packets of Prism cards as well.  

Thanks again Jay, for sending me this. Good luck with the Clemens PC!

Total: 841 cards

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Tuesday Twins - lookalikey Leafs

In the 1980s Leaf was DonRuss's imprint for the Canadian market. Leaf cards were near-identical 'twins' of DonRuss cards.

Card Number 839: :Leaf, 1986; #41

Tony is watching his team-mates batting to try and suss out the pitcher's arsenal of throws. His look of concentration here would translate into a tendency to swing and make contact with the first pitch he faced when he went up to the plate. 

The back of the card also follows the DonRuss template, but with some French on there for the bilingual Canadian market.

There is mention of a wrist injury in 1985 that hampered Tony's attempt to defend his 1984 batting title. DonRuss / Leaf liked to mention this wider context to explain the figures. Tony had quite the list of injuries catalogued on their cardbacks. 

Card Number 840: Leaf, 1987; #235
The famous "tyre tread" design got reused North of the border.

This card illustrates something called "poor centering". This is very common in cards from the 80s.

The cardback doesn't have all the same information at the DonRuss cards because of the space needed for the French translation. Some of the career highlights carried over from one year's card to the next. It's always interesting to see what they dropped and what they felt was worth repeating.

Total: 840 cards

I am very busy at the moment so will be taking a short break from blogging. I hope to be back in action before the end of the month!

Monday, November 8, 2021

Modern Monday - shiny Donruss

Card number 837: DonRuss "Tony Gwynn Tribute", 2015; #2

I've already blogged about four fifths of this shiny little insert set. The fifth and final shiny card is about Tony's induction in the Hall of Fame.

This is the first of these cards that I have scanned using the overhead scanner, which properly captures it's sheer shininess!

If you've ever watched the video of Tony getting the call to say he was in the Hall of Fame, you can see how much it meant to him, and how nervous he was. According to He Left His Heart in San Diego, Tony thought he might not have done enough in his career to get elected. He is quite obviously overcome by emotion when he actually takes the call.

Card Number 838: DonRuss Optic, 2017; #164

'Optic' is the Panini-era DonRuss version of Chrome. Although this comes as a standalone set, it's basically the same cards as the regular DonRuss set with a shiny coating. 

There is also an Optic logo on the front and a different card number on the back. They chose an interesting vignette from Tony's career for the factoid. 

Tony had a good season in 1994. In addition to his post-war record batting average, he also nabbed the winning run in the All-Star Game. It was the first time the National League won the game after six defeats on a row. You can watch Tony's game-winning slide on YouTube - it starts at 4 minutes, 52 seconds on this video!

Panini get a bit of stick for their unlicensed baseball cards issued under various 'zombie brands', but their cards are a decent level of quality and their attention to detail in terms of factoids is very good as well. It's nice to read about something a bit different on a cardback!

Total: 838 cards

Sunday, November 7, 2021

One Card Only - penultimate O-Pee-Chee

Card Number 836: O-Pee-Chee, 1993; #94

For many years O-Pee-Chee reprinted Topps cards, but then for a couple of years in the early 1990s they produced their own sets. This was the penultimate set O-Pee-Chee produced before they ceased printing cards after the 1994 season.

Tony is about to hit that ball that is flying towards him in the photo. The players sitting in the dug-out behind him look like they are in Mets uniforms. 

As this card is "Inprime au Canada", the factoid on the back is in French as well as English. O-Pee-Chee borrowed a Topps approach to factoids, by talking about a season 10 years previously. 

The player to Tony's right, with just his shoulder in the picture, has a name beginning with H and the top of a 4 visible. It's the same blue uniform. In 1992. Tony's team-mates included Greg Harris (46) and Bruce Hurst (47). They were both taller than Tony, so the fact he is looking up at them isn't a clue as to which one it might be. 

Total: 836 cards

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Saying goodbye to Upper Deck week

After lots of Upper Deck cards this week, what better way to sign off than some of the cards produced when Tony signed off his career?

Card Number 832: Upper Deck Tony Gwynn Celebration of 20 Seasons, 2001; #unnumbered
This one-sided 'thank you' note to the fans acts as a 'header card' for the five card set. Trading Card Database lists these cards as an insert series in Upper Deck's 2001 set, but Baseballcardpedia does not. These cards feel like they were given out as freebies somewhere, based on what this card looks like.

The back of the card is totally blank. I have made the rare decision not to show the cardback because there is literally nothing to show.

Card Number 833: Upper Deck Tony Gwynn Celebration of 20 Seasons, 2001; #1
This card has the same design template at the Upper Deck 2001 set. Tony's base card from that set was the 267th card that I blogged about. 

Considering this was a 'tribute' series, the massive stats box on the back feels a bit unnecessary, particularly when it was replicated across all the cards in the set (which it was!)

The factoid kicks off the series with the best known statistic about Tony Gwynn - his .394 batting average in 1994.

Card Number 834: Upper Deck Tony Gwynn Celebration of 20 Seasons, 2001; #2

While I would never want to underplay Tony's achievements, it feels a bit odd to read the claim on the cardback that Tony "flourished" in the post-season. Tony only played in the post-season three times, which amounted to a National League Championship defeat and two World Series defeats. 

The Padres lost both their World Series without taking the series to game 7. In 1998 they lost 0-4 to an absolutely dominant Yankees team. 

Tony's personal post-season records weren't particularly spectacular by his exceptional standards - with the exceptionof the 1998 World Series when he posted .500. He Posted .368 in the national League Championship season in 1984. but only .263 in the World Series - well below his career average. 

There was then a 12 year wait for Tony's next post-season appearances, in 1996. The Padres crashed out in the divisional series and Tony posted a .308 batting average. The three post-season series in 1998 saw him build up to that .500 World Series average. In the four games of the divisional series his batting average was a measly .200, and in the Championship series he posted .231.

In total, in 27 games in the post-season, Tony posted an overall batting average of .306, which is well below his career average. It's not really what I would describe as "flourishing". (Although, he still has more World Series appearances as a Padre than anyone else who has ever played for them!)

Card Number 835: Upper Deck Tony Gwynn Celebration of 20 Seasons, 2001; #5
I'm missing number 3 and 4 in this little set!

This is easily the best photo on the cards I've got from this set. Tony always seemed to take really good "candids".

I'm not sure on the timing of this card set release because this refers to Tony's retirement in the past tense.

As I remarked about the first card, having the massive stats boxes on all these cards seems daft. 

Total: 835 cards

Friday, November 5, 2021

End of a century - 4 from 1999

Getting towards the end of Upper Deck week, here are four cards from the end of the 20th century, the last year starting with 19 - 1999.

Card Number 828: Upper Deck View to a Thrill insert, 1999; #V24

It's a shiny card! I gave it a couple of passes on the scanner.

That second one is a bit over-exposed. It's tricky to get this right. 

Design notes - hexagons are unusual. I've always liked them ever since watching Doctor Who in 1984 when the interior of the TARDIS was made of white hexagons. Red always looks good on baseball cards too. The red foil on the front isn't as bright as the red on the back, somehow.

This insert series is reminiscent of the last James Bond film to feature Sir Roger Moore in the role, A View to a Kill. That was also released in 1984 and featured a theme song by Duran Duran. None of that has anything to do with this card, of course. But it's funny how certain cards trigger all kinds of tangential thoughts.

Card Number 829: Upper Deck Challengers for 70, 1999; #73

Remember the power hitting contest between home run sluggers seeking to break all kinds of records for home runs, which later was revealed to be fueled by steroids? Upper Deck got caught up in the hype and released an entire 90-card set about the 'race for 70 home runs'. Depsite never, ever, being a big hitter of home runs, Tony got a card in the set comemmorating his home run in the World Series the previous year.

I'm a fan of cards that refer to Tony's World Series appearances, even if they are in weird cash-in sets like this one. Upper Deck were skimping on the photos in this set, with the same picture appearing on the front and the back.

I've mentioned before how David Wells was on the mound for San Diego the night I went to my first ever Padres game. I didn't know then that he was the pitcher that Tony hit his home run off in the World Series in 1998. I might not have ever seen Tony play, but I saw David Wells, so that gives me a personal connection to this factoid.

Card Number 830: Upper Deck MVP, 1999; #S4
Shiny insert!

"Swing Time" gives me an earworm of that song 'Springtime' from Mel Brooks's The Producers. Which is unfortunate. I love pseudo-sciencey diagrams on baseball cards. This looks like a blueprint. They add to the technical manual look on the cardback.

The write up for point 2 uses the phrase "as much as" twice in one sentence. That repetition is below Upper Deck's usual standards for cardback factoids.

Card Number 831: Upper Deck Ultimate Victory, 1999; #93
I've previously blogged three of Tony's cards from the Victory set in 1999. This is the 'Ultimate Victory' foil version of Tony's Victory base card... which is the one card I don't already have! There were 470 cards in the Victory set, but only 180 were included in the Ultimate Victory parallel set. 

It's a nice card with a posed portrait photo. The back is absolutely rammed with information including a write up of the Jack Murphy Stadium and a breathless summary of Tony's career below a truncated stats box. They have not wasted any space at all!

And that's the end of the blog post about cards from the end of the century!

Total: 831 cards

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Back to Base in Upper Deck week

You might be thinking, surely there aren't any Upper Deck base cards Jon hasn't blogged yet? Well, you'd be surprised...

Card Number 825: Upper Deck Collector's Choice, 1998; #480

This card is from the last year of  'Collector's Choice'. It became UD Choice in 1999 before being lost forever. As a swansong, that is a fantastic card photo.

On the back we have Tony reaching up to sign autographs. He was well-known for signing autographs, often staying behind long after his team-mates had disappeared into the changing rooms. Any regular readers of this blog will know the 'Did you know?' factoid. I comment on it a lot! (It's still remarkable.)

Card Number 826: Upper Deck Encore, 1999; #77
Encore was a parallel set that Upper Deck released, with shiny versions of their base cards from that year. (This could have been a Tuesday Twin card.) As is sometimes the case with these random sets, I've already blogged the two much rarer insert cards from this set. It's nice to add the base card!

The front is practically the same as the card from the regular set but has an additional 'Encore' on it. The back has half an additional 'Encore' on it. (At the top!)

Card Number 827: Upper Deck Ovation, 2001; #51

This completes my run of Tony's base cards in the Ovation sets, as I've already blogged the cards from 1999 and 2000. The central motif of these cards was the baseball 'stitching', which was embossed. The stitiching isn't in red on this card, but the embossing marks are quite clear on the back. 

Tony looks disappointed in the photo. Maybe it's because he knew this would be his last year in the Ovation set. The stats box has his figures from the previous two years. It's as if the years before Ovation sets don't count. 

Total: 827 cards