Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Holograms before the holidays (and 900 cards!)

A new milestone and a couple of fun holograms to help us get there.

Card Number 899: Upper Deck SP Special FX, 1996; #40

Holograms are fun to scan. And by fun, I mean, they never look like they do in real life... anyway, here is the flatbed scan.

And here is the overhead scan that captures a bit more of the foil sheen of the card front. But captures less of the hologram. 

And here is the back. For some reason the way the card blurb starts "As usual..." made me chuckle. Like, it was just so boring talking about how Tony kept winning batting titles, man.

There are a couple of unusual stats in there - including the date of Tony's first career grand slam on 22nd August 1995. He scored that relatively late in his career and added two more to his career total before he retired. Data visualisation tends to earn cards bonus points and the two little baseball park diagrams there defnitely count on that score!

Card Number 900: Upper Deck SPx Gold, 1996; #49

Die-cut, gold parallel and a hologram? A worthy milestone card!

Again, we start with the flatbed. The hologram scanned an eerie blue colour.

The overhead scan worked much better - even picking up the colours in the hologram. The gold really stands out on this scan as well.

The back is quite nicely set out as well. Although I would ding it a point for hyphenating "batting". There's another injury to add to the 'cardback injuries' list as well - a "nagging foot injury".

The cardback mentions a game-winning homer on 5th June. It was against the Cardinals. The Padres won 6-4. They then lost the next 8 games straight. They only had 9 wins from 28 games the entire month of June that year. They still won the NL West that season, before losing in the first series of the post-season... to the Cardinals!

I feel like 900 cards is a really good place to pause the blog for just a short while. Christmas is coming up and I will be spending time with family, so I will bid you adieu until the New Year. Blogging will resume in January, all being well. Until then, I hope everyone stays safe and has a lovely festive season.

Total: 900 cards! 

Monday, December 20, 2021

Modern Monday - Fire (but no chestnuts roasting!)

There are a surprising number of references to fires in Christmas songs. And the background of this card makes it look a bit Christmassy to me, because it reminds me of a stained glass window. This card was an early Christmas present from Mark Benn - thanks Mark!

Card Number 898: Topps Fire, 2021; #162

Topps Fire doesn't seem to have fans like their other sets. Mark, who sent this to me, is the only person I know in the UK collectors group who opened any packs of Topps Fire.

I like this design. It's colourful. It looks a bit different to other sets put out this year. True, Topps are doing their usual thing of not showing the player's face clearly and, apart from the San Diego logo on Tony's helmet, this may as well be an unlicensed card considering the pose they have chosen. But it's still a nice card. And yet the set doesn't seem to be appealing to many collectors. 

I have no complaints about the cardback either - for a retired player, one factoid is all that's necessary. I am obviously interested in the 1994 season and postulates about what Tony might have achieved if the season had not been cut short. In He Left His Heart in San Diego, a mathematicican called Michael Schell calculated that if Tony had continued on the streak he was on when the season was prematurely halted, he would have broken .400, and might even have beaten Ted Williams's .406 batting average. This choice of stat on the cardback supports that theory.

Total: 898 cards

Sunday, December 19, 2021

One Card Only - shiny Summit!

Card Number 897: Pinnacle Summit (foil parallel), 1996; #134

The regular version of this card has already been a "One Card Only" card. This is the super-shiny foil parallel. Under the overhead scanner it pops!

On the flatbed it comes our rather dark, although Tony's features are a bit clearer.

This is now probably one of my favourite cards; definitely in my top ten. It is a beautiful protrait photo of Tony. And so, so shiny!

I discussed the back when I blogged the regular version. Pinnacle cards give mid-90s Leaf cards a good run for their money in terms of having the best cardbacks. 

So front and back, this is an absolutely solid card. Which is why it was worthy of having a blogpost all to itself!

Total: 897 cards.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

He's making a list, he's checking it twice

We are a week away from Christmas, and this song lyric has been in my head. So it seems an apt title for a blog post about Tony's appearances on checklists.

Some player collectors don't count checklists. That's their prerogative. I think they're missing out.

Card Number 894: Upper Deck, 1995; #Checklist 2 

This card takes me to 500 cards over my original target of 394 cards!

These shiny checklists were basically insert cards.

On the front there's a reference to Tony's famous batting average in 1994.

I enjoy reading the list of names on these checklists. Among all the really famous names are players who have been long-forgotten, like Chuck Carr and Pat Rapp. 

Card Number 895: DonRuss, 1994; #440

DonRuss used this checklist to commemorate Tony's reaching the 2000 hit milestone.

Some of the random forgotten players on here include Phil Leftwich and the frankly amazingly named Hipolito Pichardo!

Hipolito pitched 350 games in a ten year major league career for the Royals, Red Sox and Astros. He also had 103 baseball cards in his career, according to TCDB. Phil Leftwich had 39 cards, which is actually more than the number of games he pitched in the major leagues (34 games in 3 years for the Angels).

Card Number 896: DonRuss, 1993; #660

This is really a 'cameo card'. It's not about Tony per se - DonRuss put a photo of  different teams on their checklists. But Tony is in the photo walking behind Gary Sheffield. There seems to be a giant patting Gary on the head as well. That guy must be about 6 foot six.

The winners in the peculiar names category this time around are on the front - Chuck Crim and Scott Scudder both sound like low rent villains from a comic book. They're joined on the back by William Pennyfeather! But the name that really stood out on the back was Tony's brother, Chris Gwynn, who was #657 in the set.

I could count this in the number of Tony's cards where Chris gets a mention somewhere. Chris had 118 cards of his own, and may well have been mentioned on a similar number of Tony's cards. (That's another project when I run out of cards to blog!)

Total: 896 cards

Friday, December 17, 2021

Return to 80s week - a couple more from Fleer

Back on Wednesday I blogged five Fleer cards taken from the small 44-card sets that Fleer produced in 1988. The following year, Fleer issued some more sets.

Card Number 892: Fleer Heroes of Baseball, 1989; #20

The soft focus fade on the edge of the photo and the colourful border make this a striking card design.

Tony often had a card around number 19 in these sets. This time his card was #20. The back keeps the soft focus cut out in the centre. The stats box is in pink and white candystripe columns - one of Fleer's preferred colour schemes for these sets.

Considering they have bothered to include the three minor league teams Tony played for before his call up to the majors in 1982, it's a bit odd that they left Tony's stint in Las Vegas at the start of the 1983 season out of the stats. This is a good example about how card companies seem to forget about the games in Vegas. Maybe the idea that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas applies to baseball stats too.

Card Number 893: Fleer Superstars, 1989; #21

The greyish stripes on this card makes it visually similar to the flagship Fleer set from 1989.

There is a change of orientation on the cardback. And a truncated stats box just covering the preceding four seasons. And yellow!

These little sets all had their own quirks. It's fun seeing them all next to each other.

And that's the end of this week of cards from the 80s!

Total: 893 cards

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Return to 80s Week - Sportflics Big 6

After yesterday's splurge on Fleer cards, there's just one card in today's post. It features six players, although you can't see them all at the same time. 

Card Number 891: Sportflics, 1986; #181

Sportflics cards were lenticular. That makes them horrible to scan.

There are three players stacked lenticularly on the top and bottom halves of the card. If you tilt the card, each player comes into focus. Here's Tony!

Catch it wrong and you can make a mash up of various players. Tilt this card back and forward just a fraction and Tony's gains, then loses, then gains, a magnificent moustache.

On the back, we find a reason these six players are grouped on one card - they are the six players posting active career batting averages over .300. Of the six, Tony is posting the highest average by some margin.

I have often pointed out how Tony's batting average improved towards the end of his career. He retired on a career average of .338. One day I will look through all his career averages and see if at any point he wasn't the player with the highest active batting average. I suspect he would have been.

But in the meantime, I have plenty of cards to blog about before embarking on a research project like that!

Total: 891 cards

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Return to 80s Week - Five Fleer cards from 1988

Fleer issued lots of small 44-card sets in the 1980s. Tony appeared in lots of them. 1988 was a particularly good year for both the sets and cards featuring Tony.

Card Number 886: Fleer Baseball's Best, 1988; #17

This set was divided into 'sluggers' and 'pitchers'. Tony was (obviously) a slugger.

The bright green and yellow of the border on the front is carried over onto the back, which is a little bit dull. But nobody bought these card sets to look at the backs. 

Card Number 887: Fleer Baseball's Exciting Stars, 1988; #17

This photo looks visually very similar to the one in the 'Baseball's Best' set. The Blue border with bold red stripe makes the card look quite different overall though.

The blue and red carry on over to the back of the card. This has pretty much the same information on it as the Baseball's Best card, but is marginally more interesting to look at.

Card number 888: Fleer Baseball's Hottest Stars, 1988; #15

Its stands to reason that if you are one of baseball's most exciting stars then you will be one of baseball's hottest stars too.

Tony is taking off for first base in this photo. That background looks very similar to the two previous cards in this post. 

The yellow and red border brings the heat to this card -suitable for one of baseball's hottest stars.

The cardback swaps the order of the white and pink stripes on the back of the Exciting Stars card - almost exactly! Just to mix things up, they also moved the biodata.

Card Number 889: Fleer League Leaders, 1988; #16

This says "League Leaders '88" but it featured the players who led the leagues in 1987.

A change of scenery for this card set, with Tony standing in front of the grottiest concrete wall backdrop imaginable. The paltry number of fans behind him seem uninterested in the game. This is one of those rare cards where closer cropping would have made the photo look a whole heap better. At least to remove the buttcheek of whoever is sitting on that plastic folding chair in the background.  

The back is pink and white again on the back, with some of blue-on-blue stripes from the front as well.

And finally...

Card Number 890: Fleer Record Setters, 1988; #17

As with the League Leaders, this set features players that set records in the previous season.

A real change of scenery this time, with Tony in the outfield!

The back has a big red bar and  grey stripes on the stats box for a change as well. 

And that's this blogpost's fifth and final Fleer card from 1988!

Total: 890 cards

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Return to 80s Week - DonRuss Tuesday Twins

The first card in today's 'twins' post is probably the least exciting twin featured on this blog. Apologies. 

Card Number 884: DonRuss (factory set), 1987; #64

This was in the recent bundle of cards that Richard sent me. It's the factory set version of Tony's 1987 base card. The way you can tell is by turning it over - the cardback is oriented the other way. Here is a comparison of the two cardbacks with the fronts facing up. 

Yes, I know it's a boring variation. But it's still a variation. And the card is a still a really solid, classic design from the 80s. Can you ever have enough of that tyre tread pattern?

Card Number 885: DonRuss Baseball's Best, 1989; #42

This was another 'factory set', with 336 cards in the DonRuss template for 1989. However, this is different to Tony's base card in the regular set.

You get more of Tony on this card. The photo on his regular base card is more closely cropped. The DonRuss card template in 1989 isn't one that anyone ever raves about. It's probably the least memorable card template ever released by the company. 

The back is totally different to the regular flagship product as well. 

Total: 885 cards

Monday, December 13, 2021

Return to 80s Week - Topps trio

In November 2020 I ran my first "80s week". In the spirit of 80s movie sequels, here is the Return to 80s Week! Our week kicks off with some Topps cards. 

Card Number 881: Topps Baseball Champion Superstars, 1986; #13

This photo is from the same overly-lit photo-shoot that featured on Topps's Glossy All-Star Card in 1986. This card was sold in a complete set of 33 cards of "Baseball Champion Superstars", which sounds like one of those multiple word team names in pastiches of Japanese manga.

The back is a minimum effort job, even by Topps' standards.

I've seen stickers with better backs than this.

Card Number 882: Topps League Leaders Minis, 1988; #74

This card has a rare photo of Tony bare-headed. This is such an odd photo. Is he trudging back to the dug-out having failed to get on base?

The back is colourful with a little photo of Tony. He was the league leader for both batting average and hits in 1987, but only 4th in runs. Seems like he got marooned on base more often than some other players then. 

Card Number 883: Topps Big, 1989; #58

These cards are anoying because they don't fit in my binders. I mean, I could ram them in if I really wanted to have them in there. But it's not ideal. 

The front is a nice combo of action photos and close up. 

On the back we get cartoons. Is that chap with the letter meant to be Tony? Or the chap passing the basketball? Because, er, there's a slight tonal dissimilarity between those cartoon people and Tony.

Because this is such a big card, there is room for some fielding stats as well. Always a bonus!

Total: 883 cards

Sunday, December 12, 2021

One Card Only - Dynagon!

Today's one card only is for Richard (YoRicha) because I know how much he loves Pacific cards.

Card Number 880: Pacific Dynagon Diamond, 1999; #19

This was one of 20 cards in an insert series in Pacific's flagship set in 1999.

It's bright shiny green foil with a whirly swirly background. 

This card gets 19 bonus points for being the 19th card in the set. Pacific were one of the card companies that paid close attention to card numbering. Another reason why the card hobby was poorer when they ceased trading.

The background of this card does make it feel like a baseball is flying straight at your face! Best read it quick!

Total: 880 cards

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Topps in Y2K x 4

The sheer volume of cards being produced at the turn of the Millennium means there are loads of cards in my collection from the year 2000. Here are some from Topps.

Card Number 876: Topps Opening Day, 2000; #2

I know I could have waited and put this in a 'Tuesday Twins' post, but hey, it's in this post instead. 

The Opening Day set had a silver border around it and the foil stamp saying opening day. I wish Topps would go back to foil stamps instead of photoshopping in Opening Day logos. 

This card has the same number as the regular flagship set, which doesn't always happen with Opening Day sets.

The back is uninspiring.

From a cheapie parallel set to something a bit odder.

Card Number 877: Topps Finest Moments refractor, 2000; #FM3

There were only 4 "moments" commemorated in the Topps Finest set in 2000. Chipper Jones winning the 1999 National league MVP, Ivan Rodriguez winning the American League MVP, Wade Boggs recording his 3000th hit, and Tony recording his 3000th hit. In a freaky alignment of events, Tony hit his 3000th hit the day before Wade hit his. Two 3000th hits on consecutive days! 

The back talks about Tony's 3000th hit and notes that it was just one of four hits for him in that game. 

Also, a bonus point for Topps actually putting the word 'refractor' on the back under the set number. That's the handy information that often gets left off cards. 

Card Number 878: Topps Gallery, 2000; #118

Tony had another card in the Gallery in 2000, as well as this card in the "Masters of the Game" subset. (The other card is blogged here.)

Topps used a similar photo on their Magic Moments cards in the flagship set from 2000.

The back has a confusing array of fonts and, frankly, looks a bit of a mess.

Reading the question on the back, it was kind of easy to guess the answer. Of course it would be A. Any kind of question where one of the options is a ridiculously low number of strike outs in a season, the number of strike outs is always lower than the other thing it's being compared with. Always.

Card Number 879: Topps Stars, 2000; #60

I have worked with a number of graphic designers in my career and I feel I am able to interpret the intentions of designers fairly well, even when they don't work out. I think the idea here is that the player is illuminated by searchlights, like a film star would be, and that is casting the player's shadow. It doesn't quite work because Tony is running a base path and there is a person in the background in the photo, but Topps have never let the results interfere with their vision. If the card ends up looking like there is some kind of interdimensional rip in space-time going on, then, well, print it anyway.

Having said all that, I quite like Topps Stars. On the back we get a batting donut picture, again. That's been a recurring theme this week! Weirdly Fuji lists the other Tony Gwynn card from this set in his list of cards featuring batting donuts. So, again, that's two cards from the same set with a picture that includes a batting donut - as was the case a few days back!

I blogged the other card that Tony had in Topps Stars in 2000 back in September.

And that's it for Topps cards from 2000... for now!

Total: 879 cards