2013 Topps update HTA jumbo – parallels

30 10 2013

The last few posts were the base cards, today I do the parallels.  You get 1 Emerald Foil parallel per pack out of the HTA jumbo box – so I got 10 of those cards.  Here’s 9 of them.

2013 Topps Update box emerald

Topps has done a similar type of parallel 3 years in a row now.  Diamond (silver), then Gold, now Emerald (green).  They also had blue this year with the Silver Slate mail-ins.  In 2014 Topps is going with Red Foil.  We’ll see how those look.

As they have for a number of years (someone who has been back collecting longer than me probably knows the exact number), Topps has gone with a gold parallel.    Got a Puig here – can’t complain about that!  Also, this card of Zoilo Almonte for some reason made me think of former Little League World Series pitcher with the same surname.

2013 Topps Update box gold

I don’t particularly like the Gold parallel concept, and all the colored parallels Topps has been using (Red Target parallels, Blue Wal-Mart parallels, etc.).  It’s not so much that I don’t like the cards, but I think it’s leading to a base-card trend that I don’t like.  Dime Box had a good post on this recently.  Basically, Topps has only considered a white border in recent years.  I think some of their more interesting years are when the flagship set has a different color border – like 1962, 1987, 1975.

  • White border – 46 years (counting 2014)
  • Colored border – 14 years (1962, 1968, 1970, 1971, 1975, 1987, 1990, 1998-2003, 2007)
  • Mixed border <white with some interruption> – 4 years 1953-1954 1963, 1986

That’s 10 of the last 11 years, however it’s not just that.  Some of the white border designs have noticeable internal borders that make it seem like a colored border.  Think 1972 or 1959.  But that wouldn’t go as well with a myriad of colored borders fit for parallels.  I hope Topps bucks this trend a bit in the future.

I did pull some numbered parallels – you have the option of camouflage (/99), pink (/50) or black (/63), and even the silk cards.  I got a black card of Adam Jones’ All-Star card that looks pretty nice.

2013 Topps Update black Adam Jones


I also got a pink card of Steve Delabar.  Delabar is notable – he pitched an immaculate inning this year against the A’s.  That’s 3 strikeouts on nine pitches.  His victims were Adam Rosales, Coco Crisp and Chris Young.

2013 Topps Update pink Steve Delabar


Stay tuned tomorrow for the other inserts I pulled.

2013 Topps Update – more base cards

29 10 2013

I did a postseason looking-glass for the past few Topps Update posts, here’s a look from an overall perspective.

There are quite a few subsets – the first one is the Record Chase / Checklists.  There’s 5 of these cards, though I’m not sure how some of them are considered “records”.

  • Yasiel Puig: Player of the Month.  It’s possible to consider this a record.  Puig was called up June 3rd, and won the Player of the Month award for June.  He’s not the first rookie to win the award, but he is the first to win it in his first month of MLB play
  • Tim Lincecum: No-Hitter.  Lincecum did throw a no-hitter, but that’s certainly not a record of any sort.  Homer Bailey threw one as well – and he had also been the most recent pitcher with a no-no when he threw his second one this year.  That’s only happened a few times, so it’s more notable.  But neither are records.
  • David Ortiz: Most hits by a DH.  Ortiz passed Harold Baines for this mark.  This one is legitimately a record.
  • Yoenis Cespedes: Home Run Derby champ.  It is notable that he wasn’t an All-Star when he participated.  But someone wins this every year – not a record.   And he’s got a Derby
  • Mariano Rivera: All-Star Game MVP.  Someone wins this every year, too.  And Mo was a sentimental pick anyways.

2013 Topps Update Record Chase

So only two actual records out of those 5 cards.  There were quite a few options Topps could have used instead that were true records.

  • Chris Davis tied Reggie Jackson for the most homers at the all-star break.
  • Davis and Miguel Cabrera both became the first two players with 30 homers and 90 RBI before the break.
  • BJ and Justin Upton became the second set of brothers to hit back-to-back home runs.
  • Jason Giambi became the oldest player with a walk-off home run in July. He then broke his own record in September.

There were some other records later in the year (A-Rod breaking the grand slam record is the most notable) but Topps wouldn’t have been able to get September accomplishments into this set.

Topps again has a subset for each of the 8 guys in the Home Run Derby.  Davis ended up the MLB home run leader and was the breakout story of the season.  David Wright was the home team favorite for the game in Citi Field.  But second-year stars Bryce Harper and Yoenis Cespedes stole the show.  Harper was the second youngest Derby participant ever (Griffey Jr.), and he lost in the finals to Cespedes, 9-8.

2013 Topps Update Home Run Derby

There is again a subset of All-Star players.  In almost every photo, you can see the All-Star logo on their uniforms (though I don’t think all of them), or they have a picture from Monday’s festivities.  It’s pretty cool that the photos are from the actual game or the previous day.  I love the one of Brandon Phillips where you can see he’s playing second with Troy Tulowitzki at short.

2013 Topps Update All-Stars

There’s also a rookie debut subset that isn’t a “base card” – a player could have a card in this subset and a regular card.  Notice the Montero – they show him in uniform for the Yankees, which is who he made his debut for in 2011.  I think these are all 2013 ML debuts (last year they had 2012 and 2011 debuts).  Will Myers is going to win the AL Rookie of the Year, and Jose Fernandez is likely going to win the NL award – though Puig could have something to say about that.

2013 Topps Update ML Debut

Of course they do have the standard rookies in the Update set.  Myers has his Topps rookie cards in the set – though they’d previously had quite a few Bowman prospect cards in prior seasons.

2013 Topps Update Wil Myers RC

Cubs phenom Junior Lake also has his rookie card – though he’d had a Bowman card in previous years, too.

2013 Topps Update Junior Lake RC

Gerrit Cole also has his rookie card – like the others, he’s had some previous cards.  For him that includes a plethora of Team USA cards.

2013 Topps Update Gerritt Cole RC

The most notable card in the set, though, is the Puig RC, though – and as you can see from the two subsets above, this is one of 3 cards he has in the set.  And he’s got three SP variations, too.

2013 Topps Update Yasiel Puig RC

There are plenty of “traded” vets, too.  Some of them are guys traded in the middle of the season – impressive Topps got quite a few guys from the mid-season deadline.

2013 Topps Update mid season trades

Of course, they always have some guys who are on their new teams from the beginning of the year.  Not surprisingly, the Yankees are well represented here.  And Michael Young isn’t even on his newest team – he got traded to the Dodgers mid-season.

2013 Topps Update offseason trades

Topps included a bunch of retro uniforms in this set, so that’s always pretty cool.

2013 Topps Update retro unis

Finishing it up, here are some of my favorite photos from the set.

2013 Topps Update favorite pics\


2013 Topps Update HTA jumbo box – World Series style

27 10 2013

The last two posts were the AL & NL sides of the playoffs – this post is Topps Update but now from a World Series perspective.  We’re on to game 4!  This is my attempt to spice up a Series between my two least favorite teams.

Game 1 started with controversy right off the bat.  The Cardinals had their ace, Adam Wainwright, on the mound.

2013 Topps Update Cards Wainwright

He got into trouble in the first inning.  With 2 runners on, a slow-rolling ground ball was bobbled by Pete Kozma in a hurry to turn a double play – but instead all runners were safe and Mike Napoli cleared the bases with a double three pitches later.

2013 Topps Update WS Kozma

In the second inning, Kozma had another error on a Victorino ground ball to load the bases for a second straight frame.  Dustin Pedroia singled in the next run.

2013 Topps Update WS Pedroia

And then Big Papi smashed a ball to right-center field, right about the same spot he did against the Tigers.  It looked like another Grand Slam, but Carlos Beltran had other ideas, turning a homer into a sacrifice fly, but injuring his ribs in the process.  He’d leave the next inning, and that was about the only thing that went right for the Cardinals all day.

2013 Topps Update WS Beltran

Later in the game, Ortiz hit one that wasn’t catchable, and the Red Sox piled on to support Jon Lester and win, 8-1.   2013 Topps Update Red Sox Ortiz

Game 2 starts off with one guy who isn’t on the Red Sox or Cardinals.  Mo Rivera had a cameo in this World Series – he threw out the opening pitch in game 2.  Enter Sandman was played in Fenway for the first time!

2013 Topps Update WS Rivera

But the talk of the play on the field was the youngster starting for the Cardinals.  Michael Wacha has had the best start of a playoff career in my lifetime.  He nearly threw a no-hitter in his first start in the ALDS against the Pirates, and he won the NLCS MVP behind 2 7-inning performances where he didn’t give up a single run.

2013 Topps Update Cards Wacha_0001

Wacha was almost as good as that, but he did have one bad pitch that Ortiz knocked over the green monster in the 6th inning.  And John Lackey looked really good, and all of a sudden the Red Sox had a 2-1 lead.

2013 Topps Update Red Sox Ortiz

But the Cardinals bounced back.  Lackey let two runners on with one out in the 7th, and then Kozma and John Jay executed a double steal when Craig Breslow came in to relieve him.  This time the poor fielding was on the Boston side.  Breslow gave up a sacrifice fly to Matt Carpenter.

2013 Topps Update WS Matt Carpenter

The throw home got by the catcher Saltalamacchia, and Breslow fired an errant throw to third, allowing another run to score and the Cards to take the lead.  Beltran, playing with the bruised ribs from the night before, singled on the next pitch for his second hit of the game.  The Cardinals never looked back and won 4-2.

2013 Topps Update WS Beltran

Game 3 last night was started by Boston’s midseason acquisition, Jake Peavy.  Peavy is a former Cy Young winner, but he’s not just lacked postseason success – he’s been downright awful in his postseason career.  He wasn’t awful last night, but he wasn’t great either, giving up 7 baserunners and 2 runs in 4 innings.

2013 Topps Update Red Sox PeavyThe game was tied at 2 after 6 innings, but Breslow again came in and was ineffective – he’s now faced 5 batters in the World Series and gotten just 1 out, plus had the crucial throwing error in game 2.  A Matt Holliday double gave the Cards a 2 run lead, but the Sox came back in the  next frame to tie it up.

In the bottom of the 9th, Yadier Molina notched a single off of reliever Brandon Workman.  Uehara came in and gave up a double to pinch hitter Allen Craig, and Molina was sitting at third with 1 out.

2013 Topps Update WS Molina

That’s where this strange series got even weirder.  Craig, who hadn’t played in the 7 weeks before the World Series, came back as a DH in games 1 and 2, and probably won’t play in the field during this series.  He’s got a foot injury, so he’s not the ideal baserunner in this situation.

2013 Topps Update WS Alan Craig

But Molina was the winning run, so it seemed like it wouldn’t matter.  Not the case.  Jon Jay hit a ground ball to second, and Pedroia came home with the throw to nab Molina.  Saltalamacchia threw to third to nab Craig, but Will Middlebrooks couldn’t handle the throw.  Craig bolted home, but a good throw by Daniel Nava clearly beat him.  However, Craig was ruled safe on an obstruction call – Middlebrooks had interfered with Craig and was awarded home plate, ending the game.

It’s probably the strangest ending of a World Series game since Babe Ruth was caught stealing to end the 7th game of the 1926 Series.

Ruth Hornsby 1926 series

That gave the Cardinals their first World Series in the modern era (they had won a predecessor as a member of the American Association in 1886).  We’ll see how the rest of this series goes – there’s a few more guys in Topps Update I haven’t featured yet.

A worn down Clay Buchholz is Boston’s starter tonight, their best hope at staving off a difficult 3-1 series deficit.

2013 Topps Update WS Buchholz

Some other guys who could have an impact on the series – Shelby Miller won 15 games this year and could be a long relief man if one of the Cardinals starters gets into trouble.

2013 Topps Update WS Shelby Miller

With Craig limited to pinch hit or DH roles, Matt Adams is manning first, and he’s capable of a prodigious blast if a Boston pitcher makes a mistake.

2013 Topps Update WS Matt Adams

Slick fielding Stephen Drew hasn’t hit very well this postseason – if he gets out of his slump, he could help Boston get back into the Series.

2013 Topps Update WS S Drew

2013 Topps Update HTA jumbo box – American League playoff style

26 10 2013

Continuing my attempt to find this World Series more interesting through my box of Topps Update.  Here’s the base cards, done in a bit of a playoff style in honor of the MLB playoffs.  Yesterday was the National League.  Today is the Junior Circuit.

The Reds weren’t the only Ohio team that ended up a loser in the one-game format.  The Indians made the playoffs with a 10-game winning streak at the end of the year.  That included some heroics from Jason Giambi, who was actually considered to be a manager last year.  It would be awesome if he became a player-manager, but I think his playing days may be just about done.

2013 Topps Update Jason Giambi

Where the Reds just added on to their 5-game losing streak, the Tribe ran into David Price and an early home run by this guy, who signed with the Phillies in the offseason but was traded to Tampa mid-season.

2013 Topps Update Delmon Young

Now, I don’t want to leave the Rays with their only representation in this post as a guy not even shown in their uniform!  So let’s move on to the next series, where they faced off against their division rival Red Sox.  Unfortunately, their youngsters didn’t do so well.  Matt Moore led off the series getting shelled in a 12-2 loss, and likely Rookie of the Year Will Myers mustered just one single in the series.

2013 Topps Update Rays Myers Moore

On the other side of the AL playoffs, the A’s were back in the playoffs again, and again they had a tough first round loss.  I don’t know much about the A’s, except that their young.  I do know they went with a youngster in game 5 over their ace.  And that ace is featured on probably the most awkward card in the set!

2013 Topps Update A's Colon

This was a hard-fought series.  The Tigers brought in this year’s Cy Young frontrunner Max Scherzer in an unusual relief appearance to save the day and pull out a game 4 victory.

2013 Topps Update Tigers Scherzer

After Cy Young present won game 4, Cy Young past shut the door and ensured a comeback from down 2 games.

2013 Topps Update Tigers Verlander

The Tigers, however, didn’t quite have the answer for the Red Sox.  Their two big boppers, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, weren’t themselves.  Cabrera was still decent – he hit .273 in a pitching dominated series, but he was injured and his power numbers clearly suffered.  Fielder was much worse – he barely slugged .200 with only one extra base hit in the series.

2013 Topps Update Tigers Fielder Cabrera

The Tigers did take game 1 after a gem from Anibal Sanchez, and really looked like they were going to win game 2 after taking a 5-0 lead behind a dominant Scherzer.  But David Ortiz chose the right time to have one of his 2 hits in this series – he smacked a grand slam in the 8th off of Joaquin Benoit that cost them a 2-0 lead and probably the series.

2013 Topps Update Red Sox Ortiz

I’ll remember Torii Hunter’s dive after that ball – he literally dove over the wall tracking the Ortiz blast, barely missing the homer.

2013 Topps Update Tigers T Hunter


Koji Uehara came onto the National stage – he was the LCS MVP – but he doesn’t have a card in Update.  The Red Sox bullpen seemed to be the difference in this series.

2013 Topps Update HTA jumbo box – National League playoff style

24 10 2013

I don’t find this World Series particularly intriguing.  The Cardinals are my least favorite sports team on the planet, even more than Ohio State football.  And the Red Sox are probably my least favorite American League team.

However, I got a box of Topps Update last weekend from the LCS on Montrose Avenue, and opened it this weekend.  The contents are still on my desk, since I don’t have time to do a whole lot of baseball carding these days.  But watching the World Series has me putting work aside for a minute to do a few Update posts.

Here’s the base cards, done in a bit of a playoff style in honor of the MLB playoffs.  Today is the National League.

My Reds limped into the playoffs, led by these two guys:

2013 Topps Update Reds Choo Votto_0001

Choo and Votto both reached base 300+ times.  This almost never happens – it’s only occurred 2 other times since World War II.  Jeter and Bernie Williams did it in 1999, and the Astros tandem of Biggio and Bagwell did it as well.  Babe Ruth and Gehrig did it 4 times!

Unfortunately, the Reds 5-game losing streak became 6 games when they faced off against a very good left-hander whose battery mate decided to smack 2 home runs.

2013 Topps Update Pirates Liriano Martin

The Pirates were baseball’s feel-good story of 2013, so I guess if the Reds had to lose, it might as well have been to them.  I was certainly rooting for them against the Cardinals.  Unfortunately, with a two games to one lead, they ran into Michael Wacha, and almost got no-hit, and then this guy dominated the clinching game 5:

2013 Topps Update Cards Wainwright

On the other side of the National League, the Dodgers faced off against the Braves.  As far as division champs go, Atlanta had a fairly boring season.  I honestly don’t know all that much about their year.  I know Craig Kimbrel was exceptional, Evan Gattis was the early Rookie of the Year favorite before a certain Dodger right fielder was, and Justin Upton was pretty good as a free agent signee.

2013 Topps Update Braves

Maybe the most amazing thing about their team was the amount of money not playing in this series – Dan Uggla ($60+ million contract) wasn’t even on the roster and the other Upton (B.J. – who signed for $90+ million) didn’t start.  Regardless, the Dodgers have even more salary to work with, and they had the better team.  Interestingly, two former Giants helped the Dodgers clinch this series.  Juan Uribe homered with one runner in the bottom of the eighth.  His 2010 World Champion teammate, Brian Wilson, was on the hill in the top of the inning and took the victory.

2013 Topps Update Dodgers Uribe Wilson

The Dodgers, however, couldn’t muster up enough against the Cardinals.  This series was America’s first primetime look at Yasiel Puig, and he showed much of what Dodger fans probably knew already.  A huge triple got LA off the snide in game 3, but a few poor fielding decisions aided the Cardinals in the game 6 blowout to wrap up the series.

2013 Topps Update Dodgers Puig debut

I’ll remember game 6 for an off-field event, though, when Scott Van Slyke had a really weird standoff with Cardinal starter Joe Kelly over who was the last to walk back into the dugout after the national anthem.

2013 Topps Update Dodgers Van Slyke


Kelly flinched first when the umpires chastised them, but the Cardinals took the game and the series. Ultimately, this was a coming out party for another 2013 mid-season call-up.  Michael Wacha followed his near no-hitter against the Pirates with two more dominant performances, winning 2 games and taking the NLCS MVP.

2013 Topps Update Cards Wacha_0001

Trade with Jeff’s Collections

23 10 2013

My second trade of September was with Jeff from the aptly named blog “Jeff’s Collections“.  Jeff lives in the UK and is a Cardinals fan – I won’t hold it against him – and he reached out to trade with me.  I had an assortment of Topps base and insert cards to offer him, as well as a fe Cardinals.  And he had quite a few Topps inserts for me.  It’s always fun to trade across the pond!

Trade with Jeffs Collections

Jeff also sent me some 2013 Topps and Heritage cards to put a dent in the base set.

Trade with Jeffs Collections_0001

Completed insert set – 2011 Allen & Ginter Ascent of Man

22 10 2013

I don’t go about finishing off Allen & Ginter insert sets all that fast.  At least, not quite at the pace I get Gypsy Queen or Heritage sets finished.  This is my 3rd full-size insert set finished from 2011 Ginter – and 6th overall since I first did Gint-a-Cuffs 2 years ago.  This is another of those kind that keeps Ginter weird – Ascent of Man.

Info about the set:

Set description: From the sell sheet: “A step-by-step illustration of the evolution of life on earth.  Cards can be placed side by side to form a timeline.”

This is true – and this set kind of sticks out when you pull one from a pack since the set is borderless and very colorful, compared to the muted tone from most Ginter cards.

Set composition: 26 cards, 1:6 odds (2011 Allen & Ginter’s)

Hall of Famers: None as it’s not a sports set.

How I put the set together:

  • 8 cards from 2 hobby boxes
  • 12 cards from trades
  • 4 cards from eBay
  • 2 cards from Sportlots

Thoughts on the set:  Some of the Ginter sets I’m fairly “so-so” on, but this is kind of cool.  The idea for Ginter is to get some different things in there, and a semi-educational card set isn’t a bad idea.  Not that I’m going to go into a bunch of detail reading the cards to my kid or anything, but it’s a neat assortment of images.

The one thing I’d change – the images go in a line, so to best see the effect you’d put out all 26 cards in a row from left to right.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a great place to lay out 26 cards from left to right.  That would lead to a dog eating one or a baby trampling on all of them.  Aligning the backgrounds to look correct in 9-card sheets would be better in my humble opinion!

Card that completed my set: AOM11 – Amphibians (Acanthostega).

I got this card from a Sportlots purchase in September.

Highest book value: They all book for the same

Best card (my opinion): #AOM16 – Hominoidea

This monkey seems the most colorful of the primates in this set – so I like it the best!

2011 Allen & Ginter Ascent of Man

2011 Allen & Ginter Ascent of Man_0001

2011 Allen & Ginter Ascent of Man_0002

Completed set – 1996 Topps

20 10 2013

I finished up a few more sets in my “flagship” project – meaning the one this blog is titled after – a few months ago, and finally got the time to post the completion log for this one.  1996 Topps is the smallest set in this project – only 440 cards.

Like some of the others, I haven’t finished off the “Master Set” yet for this season.  This is just the “complete set” post for now.  1996 Topps isn’t a favorite from what I’ve read.  The small set size probably doesn’t help.  A lot of people don’t seem to like the sepia/slanted version of the photo reproduced in the front of the card.  And the photography isn’t bad, but it isn’t great either – there isn’t really anything that stands out.

Info about my set:

How I put the set together:

  • 199 cards from the series 1 retail box
  • 213 cards from the series 2 retail box
  • 1 card I already had from back in the day
  • 27 cards from trades

Card that completed my set: #58 – Scott Sanders (received in a trade from Nolan’s Dugout)

1996 Topps 58 Scott Sanders finished set

Set composition: 440 cards (365 individual ML player cards*, 4 Triple-A All-Stars, 16 Prospects, 28 Draft Picks, 3 Checklists, 22 Star Power, 2 Tributes)

*The 365 individual player cards include 10 All-Star Rookies,10 Future Stars and 10 Now Appearing cards

Representation of ’95 MLB season: 32.4%

Out of the 365 player cards, 6 players featured did not play in the 1995 season.  These were all youngsters.  Jay Payton and Jason Kendall were in the “sort-of-subset” called “Now Appearing” that looked like every other card but had an extra foil logo on it.  And 4 guys from the Future Star Subset hadn’t made the majors as of 1995 (Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra, Paul Wilson, Todd Greene).

That leaves 359 players.  But 5 players from the 2-player Triple-A All-Stars subset actually played in the Bigs in 1995, and 3 players from the Prospects subset did as well.  The 367 players represent 32.4% out of the ~1,133 players who played in MLB in 1995.  The set size is so small – that’s down significantly from earlier years I’ve looked at.

Last active player from this set:  #210 – Jason Giambi, 219 – Derek Jeter, #407 – LaTroy Hawkins, #428 – Bartolo Colon, #432 – Paul Konerko / Raul Ibanez RC, #13 – Todd Helton, #378 – Andy Pettitte

1996 Topps last active players

1996 Topps last active players_0001

There are 8 players in the set who were “active” at the end of 2013.  2 of them are on the same prospect card – hence I’m only showing 7 cards here.  Of those guys, 6 players intend to attempt to play in 2014 (or at least haven’t announced anything to the contrary).  Those 6 players have had some pretty impressive careers.  They range from an all-time great (Jeter) to two former award winners (Giambi & Colon) to two borderline Hall of Famers (Konerko & Ibanez) to a relief specialist who has managed to stick around for a long time (Hawkins).

Also, announcing their retirements were 2 more players with legitimate Hall of Fame chances – Todd Helton and Andy Pettitte.

If none of those players made MLB rosters in 2014 – which won’t happen, since at least Jeter and Colon will definitely both play next year – Colon would have had the last appearance when he lost game 1 of the ALCS on October 4th.  Ibanez, Konerko and Helton would both have the last regular season appearances, as they both played on September 29th.

Player with the most cards in the set: Cal Ripken with 3 cards.

Ripken is in the Star Power subset, and he also got a tribute card, so he’s the only one with more than 2 cards.

Ripken – #96 (2131), #200, #222 (Star Power)

1996 Topps Ripken cards

First Card and the Hundreds: #1 – Tony Gwynn STP, #100 – Frank Thomas, #200 – Cal Ripken, #300 – Barry Bonds, #400 – Manny Ramirez

1996 Topps 1st and the 00s

These are a whole lot of the same guys as last year.  And these cards are a good example of how good the photography is here.

Highest book value: #7 – Mickey Mantle TRIB (see below), #25 – Sean Casey RC

1996 Topps 25 Casey most valuable

Most notable card: #7 – Mickey Mantle TRIB

1996 Topps 7 Mantle

Mantle passed away before Topps issued the 1996 set, and he became the focus of this product.  Topps gave him card #7 and eventually “retired” that number going forward.

Best card (my opinion): #297 – Marquis Grissom

1996 Topps 297 Marquis Grissom best card

There’s a lot of cool going on with this card.  It looks like Grissom just went through the Sahara desert just to get to second base.  Unfortunately, he was not successful.  And the disappointment of the failure, particularly after days without food water, is evident on his face.

Second best card (also my opinion): #150 – Randy Johnson

1996 Topps 150 Randy Johnson best action shot

The Big Unit hurtling a baseball right at you.  That can make even a grizzled veteran John Kruk scared stiff.

Best subset card: #96 – Cal Ripken 2131

1996 Topps 96 Ripken best subset

Not much competition here – this beats out the Mantle card, which I don’t think is particularly well done, and any of the Star Power subsets.

Favorite action photo: #150 – Randy Johnson (see above)

Omar Vizquel has a pretty good card where he’s turning a double play, as does Brett Boone (see my Reds pick below).

Favorite non-action photo: #189 – John Smoltz

1996 Topps 189 John Smoltz best pose

This set if fairly devoid of good pose cards, so Smoltz waiting on deck with some color in the background is pretty cool.  The color is courtesy of the United Paramount Network.

My Favorite Reds card: #162 – Bret Boone

1996 Topps 162 Bret Boone best Reds card

There aren’t a whole bunch of good Reds cards, and this one is easily the best.  I didn’t like it when I was younger, but the familiarity of the outfield wall at Riverfront Stadium is something I can appreciate when I see it on cardboard these days.

Topps Reprints and others:

  • 2001 Through the Years – Greg Maddux
  • 2001 Archives – Andre Dawson, Lee Smith, Ozzie Smith, Don Mattingly, Kirby Puckett
  • 2001 Archives Rookie Reprints – Geoff Jenkins
  • 2005 Rookie Cup Reprints – Hideo Nomo, Ray Durham, Chipper Jones, Garret Anderson, Shawn Green
  • 2010 CMT – Cal Ripken, Manny Ramirez, Jones
  • 2011 60YOT – Mickey Mantle, Derek Jeter

This is the first set I’ve done a completion post on where there weren’t at least 2 reprints of one card.

Other Notable Cards: There is a pretty cool card of Andruw Jones and Vlad Guerrero in the prospects set, but other than the cards above, there really aren’t any “notable” cards in this set.

Saturdays Suds: Pubs near the Park #2 – Merkle’s

19 10 2013

Today is the second of my new version of “Saturday Suds”.  In addition to the previous posts where I looked at a specific beer related to baseball – now I’m also going to look at specific bars near Major League parks.  At first, most of these will be close to where I live – which means close to Wrigley Field!  The first I did was Skybox on Sheffield, which is one of the rooftop bleacher options.

But Wrigleyville is also famous for the number of bars nearby where you can’t peek over the outfield wall into the ballgame.  The biggest concentration of these establishments is down Clark Street – and that’s where I’ll go for today’s post.

Establishment:  Merkle’s Bar and Grill

Ballpark:  Wrigley Field in Chicago

Location: 3516 N. Clark St. (about 1 block from Wrigley)


Beers served:  WAY too many to name!  Merkle’s has a great beer selection – one of the reason’s it’s my favorite Wrigleyville establishment.  They have about 15 on tap – which is a good number, but they have at least 100 different options.  Their beer menu changes a bit seasonally, too – so you’ve got some options rotating in and out.  This summer they had a club you could sign up for to try them all (or maybe it was 100 – I can’t remember).  I wanted to sign up myself, but the missus shot that down!

My personal favorites are Three Floyd’s Gumballhead (on tap), Breckenridge Agave Wheat, and just about anything from Grand Teton!

Menu (if applicable): Standard bar food – and very good bar food by my estimation.  Their wings are excellent – not quite my favorite in the city, definitely top 5 (and I’m something of a buffalo wing connoisseur).

Their burgers are good – though I always get the wings, so I’ve just had a bite when my wife orders one.  She likes the California chicken sandwich, too – for a bit of a lighter order.  Also, they have an interesting sandwich called the Hog Wild Bacon Sandwich that pays tribute to their status as an Iowa Hawkeye bar – the bacon is from pigs raised in Iowa!  It’s a sausage sandwich with bacon that I’ll have to try some time!

Is it baseball-themed?  Or is it just close to the ballpark?   YES!  If you know the history of Fred Merkle – then you knew that already.  But that history is exactly why I first stopped in this establishment!


When I first moved to Chicago, my wife took our newborn home to Ohio for a week to stay with the family while I worked.  We didn’t even have cable set up yet, so I was scouring the streets for a place to watch Monday Night Football.  I walked down Clark Street and saw a sign for Merkle’s and thought – NO WAY!  As a bit of a baseball history buff, the appropriateness of this bar being in Chicago was immediately apparent to me.  Here’s the short version of the story.

In 1908, the New York Giants, and Chicago Cubs were in a three-team struggle for the National League pennant (along with the Pirates).  The Giants had a lead on the defending champions, but during a game at the Polo Grounds on September 23, 1908, Merkle singled with two outs to put runners on first and third in the bottom of the 9th inning of a 1-1 game.  The next batter, Al Bridwell singled home the run in what seemed like a walk-off victory for the Giants.

Fans stormed the field celebrating the win, and Merkle darted off the field to beat the mob – before touching second base.  The Cubbies had other ideas, however.  Johnny Evers (allegedly) retrieved the ball, and tagged second base in front of umpire Hank O’Day, who ruled Merkle out and the game still tied.  The league office eventually upheld the ruling, and the game was replayed when – of course – the Giants and Cubs ended the season tied in the standings.  Chicago won the replayed game, and went on to take the World Series that year.

Unfortunately for the city of Chicago, that still stands as the last World Championship for the lovable losers on the North side.  So last September, it was not lost on me how fitting it was for a bar named for Merkle was a block away from Wrigley Field!  Of course, I entered, had a few beers and a few more wings, all while I watched the Seahawks dispatch the Packers.  I’ve been a happy patron ever since!

Description:  This is a fairly small bar, especially compared to some of the other establishments nearby like Deuce’s, Sluggers or Cubby Bear.  But it’s my favorite in the area.  It’s not a dive bar – too nice for that – but it’s a great combination of a crowded bar on Cubs games but a place you can go grab a bite when they aren’t in town.

The bartenders are friendly, and they have a statue of Colonel Sanders (who they’ve dubbed “Colonel Merkle”) all decked out in the white suit of KFC fame.


They have a good list of promotions – like the 100 beer challenge I mentioned, and there are dollar bills pinned to the wall around the bar area.  A great atmosphere – my kind of place, and a perfect place to go after the game if you’re ever at Wrigley!

Trade with Swing and a Popup

17 10 2013

I haven’t done all that many trades lately.  With my son getting older, trades are going to be fewer and farther in between.  I did finish up two trades in September, though – and this is the first one.  It’s with Bert from Swing and a Popup.  I had a bunch of old Leaf cards sitting back at my parents house (1992 and 1993).  I think they may have been my brother’s from back in the day – he used to collect a ton of Leaf cards.  Bottom line, they were doubles and triples and then some – so my parents are always happy when I take a few cards with me.  These ones helped Bert with his wantlist, and I also got some Gypsy Queen and flagship Topps cards he needed.

In turn, Bert sent me some inserts for my wantlists – always appreciated to find some of these bad boys!  Here’s the highlights, this puts another small but significant dent into those checklists.

Trade with Swing and a Popup

Also, I got 3 more cards toward the 1994 Topps set – which is slowly getting down to the end.

Trade with Swing and a Popup_0001