Completed insert set – 1998 Topps Focal Point

23 10 2016

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, grabbing one of my Elusive Eight cards finished off a 1998 insert set for me.

Info about the set:

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Set description:  These cards show current stars with a colorful raised foil background that reminds me of something Upper Deck would put in its SP product.  The right side contains close-up cutouts of portions of that picture.  The back has a write-up of the player.

Set composition:  15 cards, 1:36 odds (1998 Topps series 2)


Hall of Famers:  5.  Cal Ripken, Ken Griffey Jr., Frank Thomas, Mike Piazza, Greg Maddux.

Vlad Guerrero could join them next year.

How I put the set together:

  • 1 card from a trade
  • 11 cards from COMC
  • 1 card from Beckett’s marketplace
  • 2 cards from Sportlots

I didn’t get any from the 1998 s2 box I opened – I don’t remember being too frustrated at the time but from the odds I should have pulled one.  I pulled 2 Mystery Finest from that box – which are also supposed to be 1 per box – so can’t complain.

Thoughts on the set:  This and the Flashback set are up there as my favorite inserts from 1998 Topps.  In general, I liked the stuff they were doing from the late 90’s much better than today.  The background effects are cool – kind of like the rookie subset in 1995 Upper Deck SP rookie cards and/or Pinnacle’s Dufex effect.  15 cards is a good amount, as well.  Not too many, but not too easy either.


Card that completed my set:  #FP11 – Chuck Knoblauch

I got this card from COMC a couple of months ago.

Best card (my opinion):  #FP2 – Nomar Garciaparra


This was the photo crop that I thought best fit into the design of the set.  He’s jumping in the air about to throw out a runner.  Topps focused in on his glove, grip on the ball and his feet in the air.  Cal Ripken’s card was a close 2nd.

My Favorite Reds card:  There are none.


Here’s a scan of the full set – front and back.




Any other tidbits:  I find the break down of the photos is interesting in a set like this:


  • 7 batters in mid-swing
  • 3 batters starting down the first base line
  • 2 pitchers mid-stride
  • 1 fielder throwing
  • 1 fielder in ready position
  • 1 catcher cocking back to throw out a base stealer

Saturdays Suds: Baseball & Beer #71 Prohibition Pig You’re Killing Me Smalls

22 10 2016

I’ve been trying to catch up on Cooperstown Brewing Company beers from my trip to the Hall of Fame back in July.  I had or picked up four baseball-themed beers on that trip that weren’t from CBC.  The first was the .394 Ale from AleSmith (Tony Gwynn’s concoction), the 2nd was Grand Slam Homerun Beer from the Vermont Pub & Brewery.

This is the 3rd one.


Brewery:  Prohibition Pig, Waterbury VT

pro-pig-your-killing-me-smallsBeer:  Prohibition Pig You’re Killing Me Smalls

Description:  “A porter aged on cocoa nibs, graham cracker crumbs, and roasted marshmallows.”  I’ve seen it called a brown ale and a porter in a couple of different places, and can’t remember exactly what the restaurant brewery had on their menu (it’s no longer available).  To me it seemed like a porter.

Medium:  Draft is the only way to get this beer.  I got it in a mini howler on draft at the Prohibition Pig, which is a brewery & restaurant in Waterbury.  After Cooperstown, I drove through Vermont, heading to Stowe, VT to check out the new Alchemist Brewery.

How it’s related to baseball:  It’s named after one of the great quotes in baseball movie history, from the Sandlot.  It’s appropriate, for 2 reasons.  Pro Pig is known as much for the combination of great brews and great BBQ – and Ham Porter utters the quote.  Second, they brewed it with graham crackers, cocoa nibs & marshmallow.

Ham Porter:  Hey, Smalls, you wanna s’more?
Smalls:  Some more of what?
Ham Porter: No, do you wanna s’more?
Smalls: I haven’t had anything yet, so how can I have some more of nothing?
Ham Porter:  You’re killing me Smalls!  These are s’mores stuff! Ok, pay attention. First you take the graham, you stick the chocolate on the graham. Then you roast the ‘mallow. When the ‘mallows flaming… you stick it on the chocolate. Then cover with the other end. Then you scarf. Kind of messy, but good! Try some!


Updating the Elusive Eight for a 6th & 7th time

20 10 2016

This is the sixth time I’ve had the chance to cross off something on this elusive card list.  And this time, I got two cards through a purchase, which isn’t quite as exciting as a trade, but I’ve been stalking COMC, Beckett and eBay for this card and it finally popped up:

2012 Topps Archives Combos – #58-CK – Cabrera/Kaline


I still have one more card in this set, which has definitely proved to be “elusive”.

1998 Topps Focal Points #11 – Chuck Knoblauch


Same thing with this card – I’ve been looking for it for quite a while.  It’s not as expensive or rare as the card above, but it’s just been so long that I’ve been trying to get it – I’m glad it’s off the list.  Also, this one completes the set.


Here’s the updated Elusive Eight, just in case anyone has these cards available!  Remember – the pictures are the photos I have of other cards in the set.  Since I don’t have them, I don’t have actual photos yet!

1995 Topps Pre-Production Spectralite #PP5 – Travis Fryman

1995 Topps Pre-Production Spectralite Sandy Alomar

This was one of 4 cards on the original Elusive Eight that has stayed on the whole time and I’m still yet to obtain, and to me is the one that might prove the toughest.  I’m guessing that whenever I turn over the full original list – it will be this card that gets me there.

1996 Topps Masters of the Game #15 – Kirby Puckett

96 Masters of Game

Another EE original – I am surprised I haven’t found this guy yet.  The hunt continues…

2012 Topps Archives In Action #82IA-JE – Jacoby Ellsbury

Trade Night Owl June 2012 Archives

This is another original list card that I just can’t seem to find.  As a retail-only set, these aren’t common by any means, but I’ve seen the other cards in this set so much more frequently.

2013 Gypsy Queen #218 – Adam Wainwright

2013 Gypsy Queen Gwynn

This was on the original list, but unlike the others this is a card I could go out and buy now if I wanted to.  I just haven’t had the burning need to complete the Gypsy Queen set from 2013.  It’s not something I need to pounce on, but hopefully I get this by end of 2016.

2012 Topps Archives Combos – #58-YE – Yaz/Ellsbury

2012 Archives Combos Bench Votto

So this card was on the 2nd list, and has been on there ever since.  I had 2 needs for this set, so couldn’t fit it into the original, so once I got one of the originals, this card and its counterpart replaced…

2012 Allen & Ginter Giants of the Deep #14 – Bottlenose Whale

2012 Ginter mini Giants Deep Bottlenose Whale

So technically this was on the original list, but not continuously on.  I think I’ve bumped it off two times.

1998 Hall Bound #1 – Paul Molitor

1998 Topps s1 box HallBound Bonds

I had been at 2 cards in this set for quite a while – and I found one of the cards on COMC, so I’m down to just the Molitor to complete this set.

2002 Topps Traded #5 – Tyler Houston

2002 Topps Traded Tim Raines

This is the card I’m adding to replace the Cabrera/Kaline card above.  I’m going to do this going forward – keep 1 of these 2002 Topps Traded cards on my list.  See, it’s going to be the hardest base set of this Lifetime Topps Project for me to complete.  Topps short printed the first 110 cards and they now go for $3-$5 a pop.  I’m hoping this helps me focus on these.


Here are some other cards that would be knocking on the door to make the list.

1998 Clemente Finest Reprints #13

1998 Milestones  cards #3 (Dennis Eckersley) & #4 (Juan Gonzalez)

2001 Topps MVP redemption set – a very expensive set, I have about 10 of the 25 cards

2003 Topps Nolan Ryan Record Breaker – 5 very difficult cards to go

2003 Topps Traded – 5 cards to go

2004 Topps – 5 cards to go

2012 Topps – the Bryce Harper 661 card

Finding a new promo card – 1995 Topps Shawn Green Proof

18 10 2016

I saw this card back in July while surfing around on COMC.


I recognized the photo, and you can tell from the writing that it was a 1995 Topps card. But it had a full bleed border and some weird set name on COMC.  The photo is from the Rookie of the Year Contender set, but the back is the same as his regular Topps card except the number is excluded.

1995 TT ROY Contender - front

I was able to negotiate a $6 price, whatever the card was, and picked it up.  Here’s what I read about it from Beckett:

“Little is known about these cards, the one sample we have has a photo of Shawn Green used on his 1995 Topps Traded card but the back is the one used in the regular 1995 Topps set. There may be more cards so all additional information is appreciated.”

Well, I’ve got this one, and it’s going in the promo card binder by some other 1995 Topps cards!

Recap – Completed decade, a last look Topps in the 1990’s

16 10 2016

Just like recapping my top 10, I put together one post that summarizes everything I just did from the 1990’s decade in Topps.  I still have plenty of inserts to finish up to wrap a complete bow on the decade, but the main part of my Lifetime Topps project is done for 1980-1999.  This is the 2nd of those 2 decades.

The majority of the information below is stuff I’ve covered previously – this is just a summary.  If you want the greater detail for some of this, click on “Topps 1990s” over in the right hand column.

Info about my decade:

How I put the decade together:

A total of 8,976 for the decade, including the Topps Traded sets.

  • 5,058 from wax boxes
  • 1,109 from trades
  • 376 from other forms of original Topps packaging – 292 from a ’91 rack pack box, 84 from a ’90 blister
  • 781 from purchasing the Traded boxed sets
  • 150 cards I already had at home in good condition
  • 25 single card purchases – 12 from card shows, 6 from eBay, 4 from Beckett Marketplace, 3 from Sportlots

Card that completed my decade:  1998 Topps #160 – Derek Jeter (from an eBay lot)

1998 Topps Jeter

Decade composition (number that are from Topps Traded in parentheses if applicable):

  • 7,023 individual player cards (946 from the Traded sets, 515 from the ML Debut sets)
  • 241 Draft Picks
  • 111 Prospect multi-player cards
  • 74 Team USA (all from Traded)
  • 54 Coming Attractions
  • 36 Expansion Prospect
  • 30 On Deck
  • 4 Triple-A All-Stars
  • 1 Russian Angels
  • 106 Managers
  • 16 Tribute cards
  • 130 All-Stars
  • 60 Season Highlights
  • 14 Record Breakers.
  • 12 ROY Contenders
  • 12 League Leaders.
  • 11 All-Topps Team
  • 9 Measures of Greatness
  • 5 Turn Back the Clock.
  • 5 Strikeout Kings
  • 2 Anatomy of a Trade
  • 58 checklists.

Representation of the decade:  The 1990-1999 Topps sets should, in theory, tell the story of the 1989-1998 MLB seasons.  Since I’m including 1999 Topps Traded, it also includes rookies from the 1999 season.  So it isn’t quite the decade of the 80′s when you do this comparison – it’s 11 years instead.

During those 11 seasons, 2,954 different players graced the fields of Major League ballparks.  2,069 of them had a Topps card from some time in the 1990’s.  That’s 70.0%.

Last active player from this decade:  Players still active as of today are included below with their first card of the decade:

  • Carlos Beltran – 1995 Topps Traded #18
  • Bartolo Colon – 1996 Topps #428
  • Adrian Beltre – 1998 Topps #254
  • Jayson Werth – 1998 Topps #493
  • Matt Holliday – 1999 Topps #442
  • Matt Belisle – 1999 Topps #438
  • C.C. Sabathia – 1999 Topps Traded #T33

Only Beltran, Beltre and Werth are still playing in the postseason.  Belisle was left off the Nationals postseason roster.

The following 2 guys are free agents who intend to come back next year, but may be finished based on a lack of interest.  We’ll see.

  • Josh Hamilton – 1999 Topps Traded #T66
  • Carl Crawford – 1999 Topps Traded #T75

Also, David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez are still technically active as of today, however both have announced their retirements.

Earliest active current player from this decade:  Nolan Ryan – 1990 Topps #1, 1991 Topps #1, 1992 Topps, 1993 Topps #700, 1994 Topps #34

92 Topps Nolan Ryan

Earliest active retired player from this decade:  Babe Ruth – 1995 Topps #3

1995 Topps TRIB - front

Player with the most cards in the set:  Ken Griffey Jr. & Barry Bonds – 22 cards each

Take a look at this post for the details.

First Card and the Hundreds:  Cal Ripken – 5 cards

I actually didn’t do this in an earlier post, but Cal Ripken has the most “special number” cards.  He has the most with 5, which seems pretty low to me as it’s only half the decade.  Ripken has a special card number from 1992-1994 and 1996-1997.

Nolan Ryan, Kirby Puckett, Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco, Don Mattingly and Bo Jackson all had 4 such cards.

Highest book value:  1993 Topps #98 – Derek Jeter DP RC

93topps Rookie Jeter

1994 Topps Traded #98 – Paul Konerko DP RC

1994 Topps Traded 112T Paul Konerko DP RC

Both of these book for 20 bucks.  Though I’m positive the Jeter sells for more than the Konerko in the real world.

Most notable card:  1999 Topps #220 – Mark McGwire HR

1999 Topps McGwire HR 70

Notable doesn’t necessarily mean good, and this card carries a lot of notoriety in a negative manner.  Topps was capitalizing on the record setting home run chase between McGwire and Sosa.  They gave each player a tribute card with a number for the home run on the back.  If you wanted to, you could put together a collection with all 70 homers by Big Mac or all 66 long balls by Slammin’ Sammy.  McGwire was the record breaker, and his card was in series 1.  At the time, these cards were a popular chase.  However, many collectors lamented including intentional variations in the base set – and it sure led the way for the abundance of this type of thing today.


The other card I really considered was Mickey Mantle’s 1996 Topps card.  Mantle passed away the year before and Topps pretty much put up the entire 1996 product as a big Mantle tribute.  They had done a few tribute cards before this, but not to this extent.  The Mantle reprints became extremely popular and led to including retired players in insert sets.  And Topps “retired” that card #7 going forward.

Thir, fourth and fifth on this list for me would be:

  • Frank Thomas’ 1990 rookie card which had a variation that drove collector’s batty
  • the first Topps card of Alex Rodriguez (1998) after he refused to sign with them for the first 4 years of his career
  • Jeter’s 1993 Rookie Card

Best card (my opinion):  1994 Topps #180 – George Brett

1994 Topps George Brett best card

Second best card (also my opinion):  1990 Topps #414 – Frank Thomas FDP RC

1990 Topps F Thomas DP RC

Best subset card:  1996 Topps #96 – Cal Ripken 2131

1996 Topps 96 Ripken best subset

Favorite action photo:  1991 Topps #170 – Carlton Fisk

1991 Topps Cracker Jack Fisk

Favorite non-action photo:  1993 Topps #52 – Bobby Bonilla

1993 Topps best card Bonilla

My Favorite Reds card:  1995 Topps #350 – Barry Larkin

1995 Topps 90 Reds Larkin

Saturdays Suds: Baseball & Beer #70 Cooperstown Induction Ale

15 10 2016

Another Cooperstown Brewing Co for this Saturday’s post.  I’m going to do as many “Saturday Suds” as possible from this brewery when the appropriate day of the week comes around.  Have a few more.  This is Cooperstown Brewing Company beer #6, and it’s a special one – the Induction Ale.

CBC tap bar

I posted about the brewery itself about a month ago.

Brewery:  Cooperstown Brewing in Milford, NY

cbc-induction-aleBeer:  Induction Ale

Description:  “Limited Release. Rye malt along with bitter orange peel provides a subtle twist of spice and citrus. Collectors Series label.”

It sounds like CBC is going to brew this every year, and every year it’s in a different type of bottle.

When I was in Cooperstown for the Griffey/Piazza Hall of Fame induction, you could find this all over the city.  And it was the best beer I had from CBC.  Other than the AleSmith Tony Gwynn IPA – it was the best beer I had in Cooperstown.

Medium:  It comes in a 12 ounce bottle.  You can get it on tap at the brewery at the right time of year – but only then.

How it’s related to baseball:  All of CBC’s beers are baseball themed; they’re built around the idea that a brewery around Cooperstown should focus on the baseball part of the town.  This beer is specially made for the Hall of Fame induction.  This year’s bottle has the numbers 24 and 31 on the label for Griffey and Piazza.

Recap – best 10 Topps cards of the 1990’s

13 10 2016

Here’s my full list of those top 10 cards from Topps sets in the 1980’s.  Tomorrow I’ll do a recap of all the other stuff I did from t he perspective of completing the decade, but this first one is to show all of my top 10 cards in one post.  Here they are in order, from Honorable Mention to #1, with no words, just pictures!

1990 Topps Nolan Ryan

1998 Topps Jose Guillen

1993 Topps 2nd best card Puckett

1991 Topps best action Fisk

1991 Topps best pose Clemens

1992 Topps Griffey

1992 Topps Ripken

1996 Topps 297 Marquis Grissom best card

1991 Topps best card Boggs

1993 Topps best card Bonilla

1990 Topps F Thomas DP RC

1994 Topps George Brett best card

For whatever it’s worth, none of these cards made the Topps 60 list that was voted on as part of the Topps 60th anniversary.  That’s OK.  My criteria were quite a bit different.  Also, there were only 2 cards from the 1990’s on that list – Derek Jeter (1993) and Manny Ramirez (1992).