Completed insert set – 2011 Topps Lineage 3D

31 01 2012

Here’s another Lineage insert set I’ve completed – and this one may be my favorite (except for the 75 mini set – which I hope to complete some day, but I don’t think that will happen soon).

Info about the set:

Set description:  “Designed after the revered test-issue 1968 3D set, featuring 25 stars of today, utilizing life-like 3D technology.”  This is another tribute to a past oddball set.  The 1968 3D cards are pretty expensive to find, but is a cool set.  Here’s my previous post comparing the current set with the old set.  The set has a white border with a yellow player name and a pink oval with the team name.  The cards have (naturally) a 3D effect, and are blank-backed and unnumbered like the 1968 cards.  The old set had 12 cards, but this year’s version has 25 cards.

Set composition:  25 cards, 1:12 (2011 Topps Lineage)

Hall of Famers: None – only current players.

How I put the set together:

  • 4 cards from my two hobby boxes
  • 2 cards from trades
  • 1 card from a blaster
  • 6 cards from Check Out My Cards
  • 12 cards from Sportlots

Thoughts on the set:  Despite some flaws, I like this product, and this is my favorite insert set.  I like that this one was only 25 cards; it was a challenge to collect it, but unlike some of the other insert sets that are 50 cards, it’s not impossible.

Card that completed my set:  Joey Votto

This is one of 2 cards I got picked up from a Sportlots purchase.

Highest book value:  Albert Pujols & Derek Jeter

Best card (my opinion):  Troy Tulowitzki

This is the best action shot and has a good background, which lends well to the 3-D effect.

My Favorite Reds card:  Joey Votto

He’s the only Red in the set.

Jefferson Burdick collection at the Met – Breaking the color barrier

30 01 2012

My parents were in town this weekend – since I moved to New Jersey, this was only the second time they’ve been able to make it up here.  It was good to see them – we got to go to some nice dinners, they helped us finally take down the X-mas tree (yeah, we waited forever on that) and just hang out, which I now appreciate more since I moved much further away.  We also went down to NYC on Saturday.

When we’d visited New York before I lived close by, we almost always went to a Broadway show.  But Katie and I have been to plenty, and there isn’t one that we’re dying to see that my parents were.  So we checked something off the “Northeast bucket list” – we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  I’m not the biggest museum kind of person, but this museum is enormous and there were actually some very interesting areas.

Unknown to me at first, this is where Jefferson Burdick donated his baseball card collection and then spent nearly 2 decades cataloging it.  Burdick came up with the cataloging that we know of today for older sets (i.e., the Honus Wagner holy grail is in the “T-206” set).  They never have his whole collection displayed, but they tend to have a small showing of different cards at different times.  Right now they have a wall of his cards honoring the integration of baseball – “Breaking the Color Barrier”.  The display talks about Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson being the first to blaze this trail – and they had a 1914 Cracker Jack of Rickey as a player and a 1948 Swell Sport Thrills (a card I’d never heard of) of Jackie.

There was also a framed display of the 3 black players who initially broke the color barrier in 1948 – Jackie, Larry Doby (the first black player in the history of the American League) and Satchel Paige.  These are their 1949 Bowman cards.

There was also an impressive wall of 1951 Bowman cards – the most impressive being the Willie Mays rookie card.  I was surprised at how small the ’51 Bowman cards were – they’re bigger than Tobacco cards, but not nearly by what I’d thought.

And, there were a few early Topps cards as well.  There was a wall with ’54 Topps Aaron and Banks cards, but this frame of 1953 Topps cards caught my eye the most.

Completed insert set – 2011 Topps Lineage Rookies

29 01 2012

The real point of Lineage was the insert sets – most of which are fairly large and quite difficult to complete.  Except the Rookies set, which is only 19 cards and comes 4 per box.

Info about the set:

Set description:  “Twenty 2011 Rookies displayed on cards featuring the standard 1980’s rookie design.”  As with the other Topps Lineage products, this set is in tribute to an older oddball set from the past.  The design mentioned is also the same that was on the All-Star Glossy inserts.  There is a yellow oval with the year at the top, a red, white and blue banner with “Rookies” at the top, a white border and the player name in yellow at the bottom.  The Rookie sets these cards pay homage to started in 1987 as a 1-per card insert into jumbo packs, continuing for a 5-year stretch until 1991.  Starting with Jose Canseco as the big name, finishing with Frank Thomas.   They were 22-card inserts the first 3 years, then 33 cards in 1990 and 1991. 

This year’s version actually has 19 cards – 20 were originally intended, but card #15 was not released.  My guess is some player was going to be included but didn’t get the call up to the majors like Topps has expected.  While the earlier sets contained rookies from the previous year, this year’s set contains players who are rookies in the 2011 season.

Set composition:  19 cards, 1:6 hobby odds (2011 Topps Lineage)

Hall of Famers: None – only current players.

How I put the set together:

  • 8 cards from my two hobby boxes
  • 1 card from a group break I bought on eBay
  • 5 cards from trades
  • 5 cards from Sportlots

Thoughts on the set:  In general, I like this product because of the throwback to older oddball Topps sets.  This is probably not my favorite design – but I’m definitely glad they included it.  I wish some of the other sets were more like the size of this one – as opposed to a bunch of 50-card insert sets!  Also, since this product came out a little later in the baseball season, I wish they could have gotten surprise rookies like Mark Trumbo and Ivan Nova into the set.

Card that completed my set:  #TR1 – Freddie Freeman

I got this in a trade from reader Kyle at about the same time I bought the 5 cards from Sportlots.

Highest book value:  #TR8 – Craig Kimbrel

We’ll see if this holds up.  The other Rookie of the Year – Jeremy Hellickson – is a starter and I think will have more staying power.

Best card (my opinion):  #TR2 – Chris Sale

This is easily the best action shot from a set that doesn’t have many

My Favorite Reds card:  #TR4 – Aroldis Chapman

The only Red in the set.

Topps Porcelain cards

28 01 2012

During the mid 1990’s, R&N China issued a bunch of “reprint” or “parallel” versions of various Topps cards.  Some of the porcelain cards created were reprints – for example, they did a full run of all 26 of Nolan Ryan’s cards.

They did a 12-card “Dream Team” set of 1950’s cards of various Hall of Famers – from Satchel Paige to Casey Stengel to Whitey Ford.  This set isn’t connected to my Lifetime Topps project in any way – but here’s a photo I found from a lot on eBay:

A set of old Topps Mickey Mantle cards was created at some point, as well.  This was a full run of 23 of his cards from 1952-1969 – it was numbered /2401 (the number of games he played).  I think this includes Bowman cards.  I’ve also seen what looks like a similar set for Roberto Clemente (#/3,000) and Willie Mays (#/660) cards while looking around eBay.  And I’ve seen quite a few Ripken cards (82, 82 Traded, 83, 92, 95 Traded) – so they may have done a full set of his cards as well.

Some of the reprints would fall into years that I collected – obviously 15 of the full run of Ryan cards would be included.  They also did what I think is a 6-card set of Ryan – containing his 1990 base card, his 1989 Topps traded card, and the 4 subset cards from 1990 honoring his 5,000th strikeout.  This set was numbered /10,000.

I’ve also seen a set that must have been around 1994 called “Tomorrow’s Hall of Famers” – here’s a picture below.  It’s probably around 1994 or 1995, since it has Piazza but also has Winfield and Ozzie.

They also definitely did porcelain versions of the 1998 Topps “Hall Bound” insert set.

There’s also a Babe Ruth set that has the 10 Ruth cards from the 1962 Topps set and 4 cards from the 1933 Goudey set

In addition to the ones noted above, here are some of the other “reprints” of cards from 1992 and before that I’ve found on a quick scan of eBay (at least of those since 1980):

  • 1980 Topps Rickey Henderson
  • 1983 Topps Wade Boggs
  • 1983 Topps Ryne Sandberg
  • 1984 Topps Darryl Strawberry
  • 1985 Topps Eric Davis
  • 1985 Topps Mark McGwire OLY
  • 1985 Topps Traded Vince Coleman
  • 1986 Topps Traded Will Clark
  • 1986 Topps Traded Jose Canseco
  • 1986 Topps Traded Bo Jackson
  • 1987 Topps Kevin McReynolds
  • 1987 Topps Mark McGwire
  • 1987 Topps Andy Van Slyke
  • 1987 Topps Traded Greg Maddux
  • 1988 Topps Chris Sabo
  • 1990 Topps Sammy Sosa
  • 1991 Topps Frank Thomas
  • 1991 Topps Dave Justice
  • 1991 Topps Cecil Fielder

They also did quite a few of “parallel” versions of current cards in the mid-90’s.  I’ve read some things that claim that a full reproduction was done of the 1993, 1994 and 1995 sets, but read other things saying that a full parallel being done is very unlikely.  Looking around on eBay seems to support the latter – though it may be they were all produced but only distributed if ordered.  So stars would have more cards in circulation.  There are certainly quite a few porcelain reproduction cards from the 1993 set.  Here’s what I’ve seen from 1993 and on – that would fall in the category of “parallel” as opposed to reprints.  This is just after a quick scan of eBay – obviously there are many more.

  • 1993 Topps Ken Griffey Jr.
  • 1993 Topps Mark Lemke
  • 1993 Topps Joe Carter
  • 1993 Topps Jeff Conine
  • 1993 Topps Lenny Dykstra
  • 1993 Topps Paul Molitor
  • 1993 Topps Joe Oliver
  • 1993 Topps Steve Reed
  • 1993 Topps Sandy Alomar
  • 1993 Topps Jim Tatum
  • 1993 Topps Paul Assenmacher
  • 1993 Topps Charlie Hayes
  • 1993 Topps Jay Howell
  • 1993 Topps Tommy Greene
  • 1993 Topps All-Stars – Larkin / Fryman
  • 1993 Topps Traded Mike Piazza
  • 1994 Topps Ken Griffey Jr.
  • 1994 Topps Frank Thomas
  • 1995 Topps Ken Griffey Jr.
  • 1995 Topps Frank Thomas
  • 1995 Topps Greg Maddux
  • 1995 Topps Tim Salmon
  • 1995 Topps Eddie Murray
  • 1995 Topps Babe Ruth Commemorative
  • 1995 Topps Brett Butler
  • 1995 Topps Tony Pena
  • 1996 Topps Frank Thomas
  • 1996 Topps Rickey Henderson
  • 1996 Topps Omar Vizquel
  • 1996 Topps Orel Hershiser
  • 1996 Topps Albert Belle
  • 1996 Topps Raul Mondesi
  • 1996 Topps Greg Maddux (Star Power)
  • 1997 Topps Ken Griffey Jr.
  • 1997 Topps Greg Maddux
  • 1997 Topps Andruw Jones

I found some good info on this from two related posts – good reads if you find this interesting:

Clyde’s Stale Cards

Collecting the Cubs

If anyone has anything to add about these – I’d certainly love to hear!  I’ve updated some of my older posts to point this out.

1994 Season – statistics

27 01 2012

All-Star Game: AL over NL, 8-7 (10) at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA     (Fred McGriff, MVP)

Home Run Derby: Ken Griffey Jr. 7     (AL over NL, 17-11)

World Series: Cancelled due to MLBPA strike


MVP: AL – Frank Thomas, 1B, Chicago White Sox (.353/38/101, .487 OBP, .729 SLG, 106 R)

NL – Jeff Bagwell, 1B, Houston Astros (.368/39/116, .750 SLG, 104 R)

Cy Young: AL – David Cone, SP, Kansas City Royals (16-5/2.94/132)

NL – Greg Maddux, SP, Atlanta Braves (16-6/1.56/156, 202 IP, 10 CG, 3 SHO)

RoY: AL – Bob Hamelin, 1B, Kansas City Royals (.282/24/65, .599 SLG)

NL – Raul Mondesi, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (.306/16/56)


MLB Amateur Draft:

Paul Wilson, P, NYM (1st overall pick)

Nomar Garciaparra, SS, BOS (1st #12) – 1997 AL RoY, 6x All-Star, 2x Batting Champion, .313 career AVG

Paul Konerko, C, LAD (1st #13) – 5x All-Star, 396 career HR, 1,200+ career RBI, 1,000+ career R … and counting

Jason Varitek, C, SEA (1st #14) – 3x All-Star, Red Sox Captain

Aaron Boone, 3B, CIN (3rd #71) – Aaron (bleep)ing Boone!!!

Javier Vazquez, P, MON (5th #140) – 1x All-Star, 165 career W, 12 straight seasons with double-digit victories

Placido Polanco, INF, STL (19th #540) – 2x All-Star, 1,900+ career H

J.D. Drew, OF, SFG (20th #564 – did not sign) – 1x All-Star, many time disappointment

Michael Young, INF, BAL (25th #699 – did not sign) – 7x All-Star, 2005 AL Batting champ, 6 200-H seasons, 2,000+ career H, 1,000 career R … and counting

Eric Gagne, P, CHW (30th #845) – 3x All-Star, 2003 NL Cy Young, 2x 50-SV seasons

Hines Ward, OF, FLA (73rd #1646) – 4x NFL Pro Bowler, Super Bowl XL MVP, nearly 1,000 career receptions


Hall of Fame: Steve Carlton, SP, Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals (1st ballot)

Leo Durocher, MG, Brooklyn Dodgers*, New York Giants, Chicago Cubs (VC)

Phil Rizzuto, SS, New York Yankees (VC)

* – I was shocked to learn Durocher is pictured with Brooklyn not the Giants on his plaque


Batting Leaders:

Avg. (AL) Paul O’Neill NYY .359, (NL) Tony Gwynn SDP .394

HR (AL) Ken Griffey Jr. SEA 40, (NL) Matt Williams SFG 43

RBI (AL) Kirby Puckett MIN 112, (NL) Bagwell HOU 116

R (AL) Thomas CHW 106, (NL) Bagwell HOU 104

SB (AL) Kenny Lofton CLE 60, (NL) Craig Biggio HOU 39

H (AL) Lofton CLE 160, (NL) Gwynn SDP 165

Pitching Leaders:

W (AL) Jimmy Key NYY 17, (NL) Maddux ATL / K. Hill MON 16

ERA (AL) Steve Ontiveros OAK 2.65, (NL) Greg Maddux ATL 1.56

K (AL) Randy Johnson SEA 204, (NL) Andy Benes SDP 189

SV (AL) Lee Smith BAL 33, (NL) John Franco NYM 30


Trends and Stats:

Remember – this was a shortened season with only ~115 games

11 players above .330 AVG, 5 above .350 AVG, 1 above .380 AVG

10 players above 30 HR, 2 above 40 HR

5 players above 100 RBI

2 player above 50 SB

0 players above 200 H

0 pitchers above 20 W

1 pitcher above 200 K

8 pitchers below 3.00 ERA, 1 below 2.50 ERA, 1 below 2.00 ERA

0 pitchers above 250 IP

0 pitchers above 40 SV


Read below for my All-Star selections and the silver slugger winners for the year.

Read the rest of this entry »

1994 Cincinnati Reds season

26 01 2012

As with most seasons, the Reds Opening Day was the first game in baseball.  Unlike previous seasons, it was actually a night game that was played on Sunday, April 3rd.  This was kind of controversial, but to be honest, as a Reds fan, I was just glad they still gave us the first game.  We don’t get that any more (but we still get the first time slot on Opening Day, with usually one game the night before – and I’m happy with that, too, to be honest).

Despite losing that 1994 season opener, the Reds showed some serious promise in 1994.  They’d had down seasons in the odd years for nearly a decade, and they again did well in an even year in 1994.  After letting Eric Davis, Paul O’Neill, Chris Sabo and many other cogs from their 1990 championship, the Reds had some rejuvenation in 1994.  They’d hired Davey Johnson in 1993, and though he hadn’t fared well finishing off that season, he led the Reds to a first place finish in 1994.  They had a 2.5 game lead at the All-Star break and at 66-48, had a half-game lead over the Astros when the strike hit.  Given that NL MVP Jeff Bagwell had just broken his hand, there was a good chance the Reds would have won the division in 1994.  Unfortunately, that was left open for conjecture only.

Kevin Mitchell had a great year for the Reds – he hit 30 homers in the shortened season, on pace for over 40 if they’d played the full 162 games.  Hal Morris (.335) again hit well over .300, as did new second baseman Bret Boone (.320), who’d been acquired from the Mariners in the offseason.  Reggie Sanders and Barry Larkin were again solid – though their career years were certainly not 1994.  A mid-season trade for 2-sport star Deion Sanders made headlines, but didn’t really help or hurt the Reds in the wins column.

The Reds pitching was decent.  They got one last good year from Jose Rijo – but his record again didn’t quite reflect how well he’d pitched.  Cowboy Jeff Brantley (15 SV) was the main closer, but they really had a bullpen by committee as 3 guys had 5+ saves.

The strike was the story, though – and yet again a player’s strike cost the Reds a postseason appearance.

Team MVP & Best Pitcher: Kevin Mitchell (.326/30/77)

Best Pitcher: Jose Rijo (9-6/3.08/171)

Award Winners:

Barry Larkin, Gold Glove


Larkin (injured)

Rijo (injured)


1994 baseball season in review

25 01 2012

Highlights and Events:

In 1994, MLB planned some change in the offseason.  After adding two teams the year before, baseball implemented realignment in 1994.  MLB went to a 3-division format with 14 teams in each league – the two West divisions had the easier road with only 4 teams.  A wild card format was instituted, adding an extra round, two extra teams, and giving the team with the best record after the division winners a playoff berth.  A team like the 1993 Giants – who didn’t make the playoffs despite having the 2nd best record in baseball by a full 6 games over the 3rd team – would now make the postseason.  “Traditionalists” didn’t like these changes, saying it diminished the regular season.  On some level, that’s true, but to me that was old fogies who couldn’t see that change was needed.  The bigger loss from realignment to me was some of the rivalries like Pittsburgh-Philadelphia and a strange but often relevant one I’d always really loved – the Dodgers-Reds.

The Blue Jays were attempting to become the first “three-peat” World Series champions since Oakland 20 years earlier, and only the third franchise ever to accomplish that feat.  Unfortunately, as MLB sported patches celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Cincinnati Red Stockings as the first professional baseball team, the Jays wouldn’t even get the opportunity – as the players’ strike canceled the World Series and became the dominating sports story of 1994.

The season started off with some other news by a guy with his own “three-peat”.  NBA champion Michael Jordan retired from hoops at the end of the 1993 season – and signed a contract with the minor league Chicago White Sox in February, 1994.  Jordan was criticized for his attempt at baseball – he hit only .202 with 3 home runs and 30 stolen bases for the AA Birmingham Barons.  Jordan was showing signs of improvement in winter league ball in the Arizona Fall League, but came back to basketball at the end of the 94-95 NBA season.  Interestingly, he was managed by future 2x World Champion skipper Terry Francona in Birmingham.

There was another interesting debut – Chan Ho Park of the Dodgers pitched his first game in April, 1994.  He only pitched 2 games at the major league level that year, spending most of his season at AA.  But he was the first Korean-born player in MLB history.

Two new ballparks opened in 1994, making that 6 total in the 1990’s if you count the temporary homes of the expansion Rockies and Marlins.  Both new parks followed the lead of 1992’s Oriole Park by incorporating a retro theme to their design.  On April 1st, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington opened to an exhibition contest between the Mets and the Rangers.  The Rangers held unlimited promise at this point in time – they had two young budding stars in Pudge Rodriguez and Juan Gonzalez, they had traded for Jose Canseco, and they signed Will Clark from the Giants in the biggest offseason move.  In my opinion, this is an underrated, great ballpark – as it gives nods to many historic parks that came before it.  There is a roofed home run porch in right field similar to what old Tiger Stadium had (home to many a Josh Hamilton home run).  The white steel in the outfield is definitely reminiscent of Yankee Stadium.  The Red Brick build on a large field in Arlington, with bas-relief images of Texas history, is something unique to this park, however.  The first official game at the ballpark was played on April 11th – Kenny Rogers started and took a 4-3 loss to the Brewers.  David Hulse has the first hit in the new ballpark.

Jacobs Field in Cleveland was the other ballpark to open up, with the first game played on April 4th.  The revenue from this park – which is the head-scratcher that I still haven’t been to despite living in Columbus for 7 years – it’s hard to like the Tribe if you’re from Cincy, I guess – helped the Indians to become one of the most competitive teams in the late 90’s.  The first game at “The Jake” featured a first pitch from current President Bill Clinton and also ended in a 4-3 ballgame.  This one, however, was won by the home team over Seattle in 11 innings.  Dennis Martinez threw the first pitch, Eric Anthony had the first hit (a homer) and Eric Plunk won the game in relief.

The Cubs made headlines early in the season.  Tuffy Rhodes hit 3 homers – in a loss – on Opening Day.  I remember thinking how he was on pace for 486 home runs (little did I know that the Cubs would only play 113 games, so that pace was actually 339).  After a slow start for the team and their most famous player, Ryne Sandberg went the way of the other famous Chicago #23 and had his “first retirement” in June.

1994 saw promise for some of the better statistical seasons in recent history end with the strike.  Matt Williams ended the season with 43 home runs – right on pace for the 61 Roger Maris hit.  Ken Griffey Jr. wasn’t far behind, leading the AL with 40.  Jeff Bagwell, Barry Bonds, Frank Thomas and Albert Belle were all just behind those sluggers with at least 36 homers.  Bagwell and Kirby Puckett were both over 110 RBI, on pace for 160+.  Thomas took home his 2nd MVP with a fantastic .487 OBP and .729 SLG, while Bagwell won the NL award after slugging .750.  The strike probably saved that MVP for Bagwell – he had broken his hand just 1 game before the strike halted games.

Chuck Knoblauch was leading the American League with 45 doubles and both Larry Walker and Craig Biggio had 44.  This was a pace for well over 60 doubles – which wouldn’t have broken Earl Webb’s record, but certainly would have put them close.  Kenn Lofton had a decent shot at a 100-steal season, and for around 230 hits.  But the biggest loss from the strike was for Tony Gwynn, who was also on pace for about 230 hits.  More importantly, he ended the season at .394, which is still the highest batting average since Ted Williams posted the last .400 season in 1941.  If Gwynn ended the season with the 580 at bats he was on pace for, he would have needed 232 hits to reach .400.  This would have required a .416 average over the last month-plus of the season.  Something difficult – but certainly not out of the realm of possibility for the game’s best pure hitter.

The other potential casualty out there was “the streak”.  Cal Ripken passed the 2,000 mark for consecutive games played just before the strike.  The risk of having replacement players was out there, threatening Ripken’s assault on Lou Gehrig’s record.

Some teams had breakthrough seasons, as well – 1994 could have been the changing of the guard.  The Expos had the best record in baseball at the time of the strike, led by a horde of young stars that would end up with great careers – but almost all of them did so elsewhere.  Walker was mentioned above, but Moises Alou (.339) may have been the best hitter, along with Marquis Grissom, Wil Cordero and even 21-year old Cliff Floyd.  None of the starting lineup was older than 28.  Ken Hill led the NL in wins, while Pedro Martinez, Butch Henry and Kirk Rueter were all under 25, and top-notch closer John Wetteland was 27.  The strike came at an awful time for this team – it is often credited as the primary influence on the downfall of the franchise in Montreal.

After nearly a decade and a half of finishing middle of the pack, the Yankees had the best record in the American League (70-43).  Longtime Yankee great Don Mattingly was staring at his best chance to make the postseason.  Two new additions to the club finished 1-2 in the batting race (Paul O’Neill .359, Wade Boggs .342), Danny Tartabull provided some power, and young Bernie Williams was continuing to build on his promise.  Jimmy Key went 17-4 and was runner-up to Kansas City’s David Cone for the Cy Young award.

The White Sox, Cleveland, Kansas City and Baltimore all had between 63 and 67 wins, and the 4 of them would have vied for the Central Division title and the Wild Card.  Cleveland had a dream lineup that led the majors in runs scored and was nearly as young as Montreal.  That lineup consisted of an outfield of Lofton, Belle and Manny Ramirez, and infield of Carlos Baerga, Paul Sorrento, Omar Vizquel and Jim Thome.  Catcher Sandy Alomar (28) and DH Eddie Murray (38) were the veterans of the group.

The AL West was a little different, and showed the potential flaw of this system – Texas was leading the division at the time of the strike despite being 10 games under .500.

My Reds and Houston were locked in a battle for the Central division.  With Bagwell’s injury – I think the Reds would have had a real shot at the crown.  The Braves had the 2nd best record in the league and would have likely locked up the Wild Card if they couldn’t overtake the Expos.  They had their usual group – Greg Maddux won his 3rd straight Cy Young leading the best staff in baseball, Fred McGriff had 34 homers, and Dave Justice had 19.

The Dodgers were leading the Giants by a couple of games behind a great sophomore campaign from Mike Piazza, a surprising 23 homers from 36-year old Tim Wallach, and .306/16/56 from Rookie of the Year Raul Mondesi (the team’s 3rd in a row).

Though the offensive explosion from 1993 continued, there was still time quite a few no-hitters in 1994.  In the first week of the season, Kent Mercker threw the second no-no of his career – this time he threw the whole game instead of helping in relief.  Before the month was over, Scott Erickson no-hit the Brewers in Minneapolis.  Despite losing that first game in the new park in Arlington, Kenny Rogers had a very good year, going 11-8 and pitching the 14th perfect game at home against the Angels at the end of July.  Like Len Barker in 1981, he threw that perfect game less than a month before a players’ strike.

Sadly, one of the more intriguing seasons baseball had ever seen was put on pause on August 12th when the MLBPA refused a salary cap proposal from the owners and voted to strike.  A month later, that pause button hit stop when the owners voted 26-2 to cancel the season, and the World Series.  It was the first time the World Series hadn’t been played since 1904 when John McGraw and the Giants refused to play the defending champion Boston of the young American League.  McGraw claimed the title of world champions that year; you could argue that 1994 was the first time U.S. baseball hadn’t crowned a professional champion since those 1869 Red Stockings first started playing professionally.

As far as who were the best players in baseball – this was a transition year… For a bunch of guys except THE best player in the game.  Barry Bonds had another year that deserved MVP consideration, and distanced himself from other guys from his “generation” like Will Clark, Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire and Kirby Puckett.  Youngsters were replacing many of those guys as potential competition for Bonds’ crown.  Bagwell, Biggio, Belle and Piazza all looked like they had some promise.  Frank Thomas and Ken Griffey Jr. were the clear 2nd and 3rd best players in the game.  But make no mistake, Bonds was still king – and it still wasn’t close.

After 3 straight Cy Young awards – Greg Maddux had also distanced himself from the pack as far as pitchers go.  There really wasn’t any pitcher anywhere near Maddux as far as consistency over multiple seasons at this point.

Since there was no postseason – I’m done with this post a little earlier than usual for 1994.

Trey Griffey commits to Arizona Wildcats

24 01 2012

This goes in the totally non-baseball card department – but I read about this on ESPN just now – Trey Griffey has committed to Arizona to play Wide Receiver for the Wildcats.  That’s Trey Griffey as in the son of Ken Griffey, Jr.  Trey is a 3-star wide receiver out of Orlando who apparently wasn’t on the college football recruiting radar until he transferred high schools for his senior season and had a breakout year with nearly 900 yards.  After that, and after a great performance at an Under Armour All-American game, he got even more notice.  Before that, he was ranked just better than the 100th best receiver in the nation.  He’s Rich Rodriguez’s first bigger name recruit.

I got a pennant signed by the 8 members of the Big Red Machine a few years back, and I remember Griffey Sr. was sitting with his wife (aka “Junior’s mom”).  It’s often a little awkward at those signings – I never know exactly what to say – and Senior was by no means surly but he wasn’t super-friendly, either.  Even though Senior is the dad of one of my 2 all-time favorite athletes (Jalen Rose is the other) I just figured I’d move on to the next Red, who I think may have been Tony Perez, without asking him much.  But my wife was with me, and she asked “are your grandchildren playing baseball”.  That kind of perked both of them up – definitely Mrs. Griffey.  She said “oh, he loves football much more”.  Ken kind of chuckled and said something to the same effect – but it was interesting to see how asking about their grandchildren (by my wife, not by me the creepy 25-year old guy who wanted autographs 🙂 ) got them much more interested.

Junior never did a ton of interviews – he’d do them with Joe Nuxhall if he was star of the game, and he did a good one with Dan Patrick on Dan’s last day on ESPN radio.  I read he turned down most that wanted to ask him about his place in the game and things about his career – but he’d always answer questions if you wanted to talk about his kids.  I have admittedly foggy lenses when thinking of Griffey, Jr. – we named our dog Griffey – but I always respected that about him.  I wish Trey the best for his time at Arizona!

1994 Topps Traded

23 01 2012

Topps again issued a 132-card “Traded” set in 1994 the same as previous years; cards were numbered separately from the base set with a “T” suffix as #1-132.  The set contains cards of rookies, draft picks, free agents and traded players (no new managers this year) and a 2-card tribute to Ryne Sandberg, who retired in the middle of 1994.  The design is the same as the base set.

1994 Topps Traded Box

The set was issued again as a factory set, but the box design was no longer quite as square – this year it was only available in a colorful blue and black flat box with 3 rows for the cards once you opened it.  There were actually 140 cards in the box – there was an 8-card “Topps Finest” insert set of 6 MVP and 2 Rookie of the Year candidates.  They did OK in “guessing” these – they got Raul Mondesi for the NL RoY and Frank Thomas for the AL MVP, while Griffey (2nd) and Lofton (4th) were up there in the final MVP tally.  But they missed on the unanimous Jeff Bagwell for NL MVP.  Matt Williams was close (2nd); but Maddux (5th) and Piazza (6th) weren’t really.  They also missed on Bob Hamelin for Manny Ramirez.  Ramirez was 2nd, but it wasn’t a close vote.  I like that the Maddux card shows him batting.

After a lot of cards in the previous seasons, there is only one cards of Reds 1990 World Champion members.

  • Chris Sabo signed as a free agent with Baltimore in the 93/94 offseason.

There are 6 (was 3 initially) Hall of Famers in the set.

  • As mentioned, Ryne Sandberg retired in the middle of 1994 and had a 2-card tribute set.  This was pretty cool – they had him pictured as a Phillie for the first time on a Topps card.  The backs of the cards match the front – his Phillies stats are shown on the first card and his Cubs stats on the 2nd card.
  • After being sent from the A’s to Toronto and contributing to the Blue Jays’ second straight World Series title, Rickey Henderson signed back with Oakland in the offseason for his third stint with the team.
  • Eddie Murray signed as a free agent with Cleveland in the 93/94 offseason.  He would have 2½ solid seasons as the Tribe’s DH, and he picked up his 3,000th hit with the team in 1995.
  • Pedro Martinez is in the anatomy of a trade subset – see the picture further down in this post.
  • Jack Morris is in the set after leaving Toronto for a final season in Cleveland.
  • Lee Smith is in the set after signing with Baltimore after spending 1993 with both the Cardinals and Yankees.

There’s also an NFL Hall-of-Famer: see anatomy of a trade cards below for more info.

Topps didn’t feature players from Team USA after doing so in the previous 3 Traded sets.  They did have a number of Draft Picks from the 1994 summer draft.  Paul Wilson was actually given the #1 card.  I didn’t know that Ben Grieve had a brother drafted the same year as him – kind of interesting.  Ben was in high school, while his brother was 4 years older, so that’s what led to this.

There are also some other “rookie” players worth showing here.  The biggest by far – and the only one that really gives this set any “value” – is the Paul Konerko rookie card.  He’s starting to get into borderline HOF territory – and I remember when the Reds had him very briefly!  Jason Schmidt has a rookie card – it’s the only card dressed as the Top Prospects subset in the Traded set.  The biggest rookie at the time was probably Chan Ho Park.  I remember when he was a big deal – the first Korean born pitcher to make the big leagues.  Park pitched in the majors last in 2010 for the Pirates.  He pitched in Japan last year and issigned to pitch in the Korean major leagues next season.

There were some big free agent / traded players in this set.  I remember Will Clark being the biggest name – though he only had a couple of good seasons in Texas and left in his career.  Palmeiro and Vizquel had the most left – it will be interesting to see if Omar hangs on for another year (he’s 150 hits from 3,000).  Ellis Burks and Bret Boone both had some near-MVP seasons left, though Boone’s best came when he went back to Seattle.  And the Reds got Gant for very cheap in the middle of 1994 after he was hurt in a motorcycle accident and the Braves got out of the big contract he’d just signed.  He won the Comeback PoY and helped them to the 1995 playoffs.

There were also the typical guys who were really hanging on to long – though El Presidente did have a couple of decent seasons with Cleveland and Lee Smith did the same with Baltimore.

Topps added a few subsets to this Traded set – like the Sandberg, Draft Pick and Prospects cards shown above.  They also had one Future Stars card of Paul Shuey, who didn’t end up fitting that bill.  The most interesting subset was the “Anatomy of a Trade”.  This was 2 cards that looked at trades between Montreal/Los Angeles and Cincinnati/Atlanta.  It’s interesting – both were trades that helped each team, though the DeShields trade wasn’t nearly as good for LA in the long run.  And if Pedro had become as dominant in LA, they would have had a much better chance signing him long-term.  I remember when the Reds got Neon Deion – it was pretty exciting.

Lastly, Shawon Dunston is in this set with the Cubs.  I find this interesting because he doesn’t fit the bill for a Traded set in any way.  He played for the Cubs in 1993, and he was still with them in 1994.

1994 Topps inserts

22 01 2012

Topps again included a Black Gold insert set as its primary insert set.  The cards come 22 per series, with the American League in series 1 and the National League in series 2.  The insert set has a totally black background with a gold foil team name on the top, the player name in gold foil at the bottom, and white outline around the player.

Black Gold (44 cards, 1:72)

There are also some winner cards possible – though I didn’t pull one this year. Just as the year before, there were 7 different winner cards possible – 4 different 11-card winners, 2 different 22-cards winners, and a full set winner.

Randy Myers is a 90 Reds World Series member who has a card in this set.   I don’t have it yet – so I can’t display it.

Finest Pre-production (40 cards, 1:36)

Topps capitalized on the popularity from its finest brand from the year before by inserting preview cards into series 2.  I believe the pictures are exactly the same as their base cards for Finest.

Spanish Leyendas (10 cards, included in Spanish Factory set)

Topps issued a bilingual factory set paralleling the base set with Spanish writing as well.  The factory set included a 10-card “Legends” insert set of retired Latin stars.  I’m going to try to get the insert set eventually, but don’t have any at the moment.