A blog about baseball cards... and the Padres

Monday, March 9, 2015

Top Ten Topps Sets

All right, I'm trying to make good on getting out of my posting rut by making a few lists.  Here's another one.

Since Topps has been around longer than anyone in the game, it's fun to make lists of "THE BEST TOPPS SETS OF ALL TIME".  While I'm far from an expert, I'm obviously pretty familiar with baseball cards, so why not have a list of my own, right?

I suppose the problem with this idea is that I am a niche collector, in that I collect almost exclusively Padres cards.  For a team that entered the majors in 1969, that means that there are 18 years of Topps cards that I would have a hard time judging.  In my eyes, can a card set really be that great without Padres?

While I've gotten familiar with those sets via "retro-themed" sets like Archives, Heritage, etc., I still am going to stick to what I know best - cards that have Padres on them.

With that in mind, here are my favorite Topps sets, from 1969 to the present.  Not the best, because I have found that I rarely like things that are "the best".  The Oscars were last night a few weeks ago, and as far as I know, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure and Ferris Bueller's Day Off didn't win any of those, so I my favorites rarely get classified as "the best" anyways.

Alright, let's dig in...
#10 - 1986 Topps
The '86 set was the first one to show the Padres in the only-brown-and-orange uniforms, not a trace of yellow.  The design is pretty basic, but I like the boldness of the name on top, coupled with the black and white two tone-ness of the card.  I dig when there's black in the border, as evidenced by another choice further down this list.  The set has some good Padres, including Garvey and Gossage, who has my favorite card in the set.

#9 - 1969 Topps - The Photoshopped Caps
I get that the '69 set doesn't have a lot going on, design wise.  But come on!   These are about as vintage as Padre cards can get (unless you go the Pacific Coast League route from the 50's, which are much more difficult to come by).  The major ding on these cards is that the majority of the Padres have blacked out hats or are hatless, since they were an expansion team, and the majority of the low-number cards show photos that were taken from the previous year.  But cards from the first year of the Padres existence?  Gotta be in the top 10.  Here's "Downtown" Ollie Brown, the Padres 1st choice in the expansion draft.

#8 - 1984 Topps
If you haven't noticed yet, there is a bit of sentimentality attached to a lot of these picks.  While I wouldn't say that I'm a huge fan of the '84 set overall, the fact that it shows the Padres first World Series team is a big bonus for me.  It was also the year that I was born, and though I wasn't collecting right out of the womb, I'm sure I'm not the only one who is attached to cards that are the same age as you.  Maybe it's just because I've looked at them for so long, but it's almost like the pink and orange work really well together.  Almost.  This was the oldest Gwynn I had in my collection for a while.  Now it's not, but I still love it.

#7 - 1977 Topps
Looking at all of these on the same post, I'm trying to see what similarities they have.  This is the second of three cards that have the word "PADRES" emblazoned at the top.  I guess I like easily knowing what team the player plays for.  The '77 set has some big names for the Padres, like Winfield and Fingers, and to a lesser extent, Randy Jones.  While Tito Fuentes probably has a better card than Rich Folkers, I can't resist a "Rich Folkers is throwing up in the bullpen" reference by Jerry Coleman.

#6 - 2011 Topps
This is the set that got me back into collecting.  Or it just happened to be the newest thing when I got into collecting.  I like the simple look of the nameplate, and the circle with the team logo is small, but not too small.  This Denorfia card is easily one of my favorite of all time - favorite player in a throwback uniform = hard to beat.  I've got a pretty complete rainbow for this one.

#5 - 2013 Topps
Like I said, I got back into collecting in 2011, and I liked that set, but 2012 was a mulligan for me.  The boring surfboard shape and too-zoomed in pictures weren't my style.  Though the photography was still pretty similar in 2013, I liked the design way better.  Either this one or this year's set will be my favorite of the 2010's so far.  Jedd Gyorko's rookie card is probably the most memorable of the set for me, but I also like this photo variation shot of Cameron Maybin.  At-the-wall shots are tough to beat.

#4 - 1992 Topps
This is one of the sets that got me into collecting.  My 3rd grade teacher, Mr. Seipel, had packs and packs of '92 Topps lining his room, and whenever a student did something worth praising, he'd get a stick and knock down a pack and give 'em a few cards.  That was pretty awesome.  I also like the set because of the card stock, which was of a higher quality than the previous '91 Topps set.  Little touches like the stadium photo on the back or the bat popping onto the border have cemented this set in my top five, though, obviously, nostalgia plays a huge part as well.

#3 - 1993 Topps
While the '92 set was what got me into collecting, the '93 set was when I was really at my collecting peak.  When my mom sent a huge box of cards to me after moving to Texas, this was the set that I had the most cards from.  While it gets a lot of flack (deservedly so) for the stats on the back, which are vertical instead of horizontal (and difficult to read), I love this set.  I was really psyched to see that the design was used as an SP in Topps Archives a few years ago.  Very classy looking, in my opinion.

#2 - 1971 Topps
From '90s junk wax to '70s vintage.  I'm not really a fan of the '72 set and it's really loud colors, so maybe it makes sense that I like the clean, classic look of the '73 set.  The backs are great too (also vertical, like the '93 set), and I like the details, like the colors in the nameplate and the position player guy (if I did top eleven, I'd probably include the '76 set, which has a similar feature).

#1 - 1971 Topps
It was always you, '71 Topps.  Topps has used this design a LOT in it's retro-themed sets lately, but it doesn't matter; I will never get tired of this design.  I'm a big fan of black bordered cards in general ('92 Pinnacle is my all time favorite set), and the boldness of the team name plus the colors is just perfect to me.  A knock on them is that with frayed edges, the black print on the cardboard makes imperfections more noticeable.  This only adds to how much I like this set.  Very few of my cards from this set are in good condition, and it's like saying "Hey!  Look how old this card is!  Isn't it awesome?"

Well, I'm almost positive that few will agree with my choices, but that's why the card collecting hobby is pretty rad - there's not really a wrong way to do it.  I'd like to think that my way of doing it is pretty fun.

Any here that you would also include in your top 10?  Any here that you can't imagine anyone besides me enjoying?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Mercy


I found out via Twitter yesterday that one of the favorite basketball players of my youth had passed away suddenly.  I haven't yet been able to find out the cause of death, but a quick google search showed me that Jerome Kersey had been active in the past few days in being active in the community, going to schools with other former Trail Blazers to talk about Black History Month.

It sounds weird saying that Kersey was one of my favorite Blazers.  Pretty much everybody vied for that number two spot behind Clyde Drexler.  Still, growing up, we didn't have cable, and the times that I could watch Blazer games were at a premium, so I lived Blazer basketball through two ways: basketball cards and the box score in the paper.

I was still more of a baseball card guy, but I had a few basketball cards, and Kersey always had a good enough looking box score, so despite never watching him play (basically), he became the number two guy in my head.  Kinda weird I guess, but that's how it works when you're eight.

I got a ton of Blazer cards from Kerry over at Cards on Cards a while back, and here's a full page of more Kersey's (I have 19 in all).  I am one of the least qualified to talk about Jerome Kersey, but from what I can tell, he seemed like a good guy, and definitely somebody who left the world earlier than others would've liked.

RIP Jerome.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Top Ten Freds


As you may or may not have noticed, I've been in a bit of a posting funk lately.  Partially attributed to Maxwell (child #3), partially to it not quite being baseball season yet (although it's coming soon!), and partially to just not having much to write about.

While some people doodle when they're bored, I tend to make lists.  So, to get myself out of the funk, I'll be posting some lists, hopefully on a more frequent basis.

Today's list is my top ten favorite Fred McGriff cards.  I'm focusing only on his Padre cards, though I dig some of his Blue Jays cards as well.

#10 - 1992 Score
I have an irrational love for lots of card sets from 91-94, which were my prime card collecting years (I was 7-10 years old during that span).  Score was one of the first sets that I remember getting a lot of.  I love the neon colors and the way the image pops out onto the frame, and (though I love the Padre brown) the blue Padres pinstripes look killer here, along with a smooth McGriff follow-through.

#9 - 1993 Upper Deck "Homerun Heroes"
Normally, a card with a kid on it would've landed a lot higher, but that's how much I dig the rest of these.  I imagine that this is little Erick McGriff, Fred's son.  Making the bat look small, even as a kid!

#8 - 1993 Donruss "Long Ball Leaders"
It's a little detail, I guess, but I like that Donruss added (what I can only assume is) the length of his longest home run in 1992.  Plus, it's been so rare that a Padre has been among the league leaders in home runs that I really like cards that make mention of it.

#7 - 1993 Pacific
This selection has little to do with the actual photo or design, and more with the fact that it is in Spanish.  Being fluent in Spanish (though a little rusty since I don't get a lot of practice), I always enjoy reading something in espaƱol, even if it's as short as "Primera Base".  This was before the people at Pacific fired all their boring designers and hired people who were certifiably insane.

#6 - 1992 Topps Kids
Topps Kids was such a great set!  I love this card more than probably anybody in the world, if only because I can't imagine anybody else getting worked up over it.  Pink!  Purple!  Yellow!  Green!  More colors!

#5 - 1992 Leaf Black Gold Preview
Not a big fan of extra color?  Hard to go wrong with a sleek, black border.  Even though it seems like a set named after four random nouns, I really love this card.  One of the "harder to find" cards from the early 90's, though that's really not saying much.  Anyways, yeah, Leaf's preview cards are pretty rad - one of my favorite Gwynn's is from the '91 Leaf Preview set.

#4 - 1993 Select
My opinion of the '93 Select set kinda varies from time to time.  Some cards look great with the green border, but other times… I dunno, it doesn't do it for me.  But this is a flat out great card, can't think of any way to improve it.

#3 - 1993 Topps Marlins Inaugural Set
Again, like Topps Kids, I probably love '93 Topps (and '92, for that matter) more than most collectors.  It's one that I cut my teeth on, and blah blah blah nostalgia, etc.  Anyways, like the Leaf Preview cards, it's a little more on the "harder to find side", though again, it's far from impossible.  There's also a Rockies Inaugural set that I wouldn't mind adding to my collection, but I need to take a break from eBay for a bit because I've been splurging on 2015 Topps Series 1 parallels (gotta chase those Cashner's).

#2 - 1993 Triple Play "Nicknames"
It feels weird not having this one at number one overall, to be honest, but it was pretty close.  As far as I'm aware, this is the only card that ha's Fred's nickname on the front.  Nice and big, too, and in foil that's not hard to read.  While the photo leaves a lot to be desired (also, only the second one on the countdown to feature him using his glove), uh… it has CRIME DOG WRITTEN ON IT.  Case closed.

#1 - 1993 Topps Black Gold
If I'm talking about treasured baseball cards, this is easily in my top ten in my whole collection.  For one, this card has only had one owner - me, when I pulled it out of a pack as a nine year old.  Secondly, scoring a card like this was a pretty big feat for me - I know it seems like inserts ran amok in the early 90s, but to pull one of my favorite player?  I was over the moon.  I love the combo of black and gold here, and heck, this is even a card I used in my first post on this blog.  Love.  This.

Well, there you have it.  Of my 79 Fred McGriff as-a-Padre cards, these are my favorites.

Probably not a lot of Padre fans who have McGriff as one of their all-time favorite players, due to his short stint in San Diego (coupled with the fact that he was traded away literally one of the worst trades in baseball history), but that short stint coincided with my formative years, so it is what it is.  If he had been here longer, no doubt he would've been the greatest first baseman in Padres history (sorry Nate Colbert, Adrian Gonzalez, and… uh… Ryan Klesko?)

Long live Fred McGriff, Hall of Famer in my heart.

Friday, February 13, 2015

I Still Love You Fred

Today is my 1st grade class' Valentine's Day party.  On the three days a year when we have a designated "party" time (last day before Christmas Break, Valentine's Day, and the last day of school), it's usually pretty fun, though I feel kinda bad for my students.  Most of the other teachers (women) have cute party-type things that they are doing, complete with goody bags and games.  Me?  Well, I kinda have those too, but I feel like they're subpar.

My strengths as a teacher include things like… teaching.  Making things look pretty?  Further down on the list.

However, on this "special day", I'd like to give some Valentine's Day love to my man Fred McGriff.  While I almost never don't usually ever show McGriff cards if he's not wearing a Padre uniform, this is one that I just needed to have:

Alright, technically he could be wearing a Padres batting helmet.  No way to tell with those photoshopped no-logo cards.  I'll give Panini the benefit of the doubt that this is from his days with Atlanta.

Anyways, when the Hall of Fame voting was announced and my man Fred McGriff was shafted again, I went digging around to see if there were any cards of his I could add, and I came across this one.  "Awaiting the Call"?  Yes, definitely an appropriate way to describe the Crime Dog.  I'll take it.

Nice little write up.  Emphasis on "little" - I can hardly read that!  I sincerely dug the 2013 Pinnacle set, from which this card originates, but man, talk about a misuse of space.  If you're not even going to include stats, how about utilizing the space a little better, huh?  Still, I was really bummed when Pinnacle didn't come back (again) in 2014, it was my favorite brand as a kid, and it would've been great to see it progress again.  With inserts like this one, I know I'd rip a few packs.

So, anyways, there you go Fred.  Happy Valentine's Day.

Don't open your goodie bag until you get home, some of these kids are allergic to peanuts.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A NEW (late) GWYNNsday

As you can tell, it is obviously not Wednesday, when my sporadic GWYNNsday posts pop up.  However, I received this card in the mail yesterday, so I'm sharing a belated GWYNNsday with you.  Man, this is only my 9th post of the year, and we're about the middle of February.  I'll blame this one on  the three kids that are three or younger (though the oldest turns four next week).

Anyways, the newest addition to my Gwynn binder, and Gwynn card number 562 (if my calculations are correct), is from this year's Topps series 1:

I almost complimented Topps for not using an image that they'd used before, but that would've been incorrect.  This picture also appears on the only Padre card in last year's Stadium Club release.  Granted, it looks a little different with the wordy-background, but this is still a recycled image.  Regardless, I still think it looks pretty good, love how the brown and orange works with the background color.  And Tony's wristband game is on point.

The back is a lot less exciting, but here it is anyways.  I've always loved hearing about Tony's ability to "hit it where they ain't" i.e. the "5.5 hole".  I'd be interested to see how he'd fare in today's game that uses fielding metrics to gauge the probability of where the ball will be hit.  I imagine that the 5.5 hole would be plugged up, but TG would probably find a way to poke it through somewhere else.

I remember a time that I was getting fed up with new Tony Gwynn cards to "have" to chase down, but I've definitely changed my tune.  Finding Gwynn's in modern sets is great (especially if it's a new image, but still nice even if they're not).  I know that I'm not the only one who enjoys it.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

2015 Topps: A First Taste

Well, the day I posted that I hadn't been able to find any Topps Series 1 was also the day I finally got some.  My wife went to bed a little earlier than usual, and not having much to do, I went searching.  I feel like a drug addict typing this, but at the third Walmart I went to (about a 20 minute drive away), I finally found some.

It's interesting to me that people show the first card they saw, when they ripped a pack, but mine has never been noteworthy enough to post.  This was no exception (I think it was a Met, for what it's worth), but I did snag a pair of Padres right of the bat, so that was pretty cool.

Not just any Padres, but my favorite Padre, Andrew Cashner, as well as a prospect I really like, Rymer Liriano.  Like last year, I'll be chasing a Cashner rainbow, and I've already snagged a few of them off eBay (rainbow foil, gold, purple) because I'm crazy.  I'm toying with the idea of doing the same with Liriano and Cory Spangenberg, but only if they "fall into my lap" so to speak.  Other than that, I don't need to go parallel crazy (well, anymore so than I already am).

 I bought a blaster and a rack pack, and this was the rest of the Padres yield.  Eight out of the twelve in the team set?  I'll take that.  The unfortunate thing about the incredible Padres offseason is that four of the players on the Series 1 checklist are no longer on the team (Rene Rivera, Jesse Hahn, Everth Cabrera, and Yasmani Grandal).  Not crazy about any of the photo selections so far for the Friars, but I'd probably give Yonder Alonso the nod as the best shot, though I kinda like how the camouflage jersey of Tommy Medica kinda works well with the colored border.

Here's a pair of current Padres in enemy uniforms.  I guess I'm kind of a fan of the Matt Kemp shot (pretty similar to the Alonso one above, but having your back arm cut off by the border just seems a little odd.  On Twitter yesterday, Chris from View From The Skybox showed a bunch of 1993 Upper Deck cards, and man, those looked great.  As it stands, I really dig the two-tone-ish border.  Also very cool that they included the team name, logo, and position without looking crowded.

Here are some non-Padre associated cards, for you who don't root for my Padres.  The George Springer card was my favorite base card of the bunch.  With the high socks, the Topps Rookie Cup, and the "Future Stars" label (in foil, hard to see at the top) make this a pretty great card in my opinion.  It's probably the only non-Padre base card I'm holding on to, so if you have a base card want list, point me to it.  The "First Pitch" inserts are a pretty cool idea, though I'm not much of a fan of any of them.  If I was more of a fan of The White Stripes, I'd dig this one, but I'm more of a Black Keys guy.  This one is  already set aside for Dimebox Nick.  The "1st Home Run" inserts are pretty ugly, but Paul Konerko is one of my all time favorite players, so I'm holding onto it.

While it was really cool seeing Cashner and Rymer in the first pack, the highlight of the pickups was this Alexi Amarista insert.  Easily the most surprising card of the set.  Alexi Amarista is a polarizing figure in San Diego baseball.  Most love him (me included) because he's awesome, but others who are into saber metrics say that he's a waste of space.  This makes me sad.  I think he's a decent (if not very average) shortstop, though when he's in the outfield, I do cringe a little.  Love this card though, looks like something that you'd see in a mid 90s Pinnacle release.

All in all, like many opinions I've read, this is Topp's best flagship release in years.  I'm actually a big fan of 2013's design, and I'm a little sentimental of 2011 since that's when I got back into collecting.  Other than those two years, I haven't really liked a Topps set design since '93, so this is one of my favorite non-vintage Topps sets.

I should really do a countdown of Topps sets, but I don't think it'd be as legit as everybody else's.  I might only be able to do a top 10, and it would for sure include '92 and '93, which I know aren't really a big deal to many others, so if I do it, don't laugh, alright?

Anyways, I'm glad I was able to track these down.  I went to the Walmart close to my house last night, and they still don't have Series 1.  Sheesh.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Not 2015 Topps

Well, it's Thursday, and there's still no 2015 Topps in my neck of the woods.  There's about five times a year when I stop by the Walmart everyday until I can find some new packs of cards, and really, it's either a day early or about a week late.  Usually late.

I've seen most of the Padre cards on eBay, though, because I'm weak.  It'd be nice to be surprised by the design/pictures, etc, but the checklist is already online and it's so easy to check.  Thankfully, I have the blogosphere (and Twitter, to a lesser extent) to help me out with pictures and opinions, but until they make it to central Texas, I'll have to settle for "old" stuff.

I've been so lax in blogging this year that I'm falling behind and forgetting what I've picked up/received in packages, since I've just catalogued it and put it in binders.  With the addition of the baby, I find that I still have a decent amount of time, but hauling the scanner out of the garage is a little more of a pain than usual.

Here's a card from a set I hadn't heard of until I saw it on eBay.  "National Treasures"?  Didn't see any Nick Cage relic cards, but this one was pretty cool in my book.  Odrisamer Despaigne has the distinction of being able to rearrange the letters in his name to spell "San Diego Padres".  The only other card I have of him from 2014 is a minor league card (San Antonio Missions) and from a set called "Classics" (another Panini brand - thanks Tom O!).

Not only is it a fancy auto/jersey swatch combo of a relatively unknown pitcher who made his debut last year, but the most interesting thing about this card is the clear plastic that Odie signed his (last) name on.  Haven't seen that before, kind of a cool look.  

There are a few variations of the Odie auto/relic (bigger swatches w/patches), but this is a pretty cool looking card.  I don't own this one, as it's still a little out of my price range, but I'm kinda surprised that this is the first I've seen of the Padres camo uniforms on a relic card.  I really dig this.  Too bad Jesse Hahn isn't a Padre anymore, but Derek Norris is a good consolation prize.

This "old" card is much older than the other cards, but it is even better than those previous cards - it's of "Mr. Padre", and it wasn't bought - it was sent to me by my buddy Mark over at This Way To The Clubhouse…  He sent me a few others, but my wife re-arranged my card section of the garage to make room for baby stuff, so who knows where those are now.  I love this card though.  Thanks for thinking of me Mark!

To be honest, my interest in blogging has been lagging a little bit lately because I've been missing actual baseball so much.  That, coupled with the fact that the Padres look to be really interesting this year, I've been trolling the internet for baseball news.  Twitter has been my newsfeed, a virtual goldmine of baseball links and information, and it's so easy to do on my phone.  Still, I need to get back to more blogging - because I really enjoy it!


Thanks for reading.  Keep ripping those 2015 packs for me!  Go Padres!