2013 Card of the Year!!!

30 12 2013

2013 Heritage Real One Musial

Beating out my initial choice for card of the year winner was “The Man” himself – Stan Musial. Originally, I picked Darwin Barney’s base Topps card, and it’s an impressive card without a doubt.  But I’d forgotten about a card that I would love to own, but will probably never shell out the cash for.

This is the Real One autograph from 2013 Topps Heritage.  This card is amazing on many levels.  First, Musial passed away in January of this year, 2 months before Heritage had been released – in between signing this card and when you could first buy packs of Heritage.  So you could find an on-card auto of this legend after he’d passed away.  Kind of eery, but also something that makes it a cool piece of baseball history.

A second thing that I really appreciate relates to the design of the card itself.  Musial retired in 1963, and Topps didn’t make a card of him in 1964.  Most of the Topps Real One autos are reprints – but this is one of those “cards that never were”.  Those two factors put it above the Barney in my mind, even though the card itself is probably out of reach for me and most collectors.

Interesting note:  Ken Griffey’s Gypsy Queen auto was my winner last year.  That’s back to back years where the winning player was born on November 21st in Donora, Pennsylvania!

Here’s some of the other cards I considered.

  • Josh Reddick and Hanley Ramirez have some very cool photos in their base Topps cards.  I’m collecting the rainbow of the Reddick card.
  • Ted Williams got back into the Topps fold this year, and his Allen & Ginter card is pretty neat.
  • Two variation cards are pretty cool – David Ortiz (Boston Strong) in series 2, and Ted Kremer (Reds bat boy) from Update.
  • Topps Archives has a triple autograph card of three guys from the 1986 Mets’ world series winner – Mookie Wilson, Howard Johnson, and Darryl Strawberry.  It’s in a 1987 Topps design, which is appropriate.  I haven’t seen it on eBay, so not sure if all 3 guys actually signed the card yet.

2013 Card of the Year runner-up

29 12 2013

2013 Topps Darwin Barney

I picked this card as my card of the year about a week ago when I first wrote this post.  I figured for the second time in 3 years, I’d be picking a base Topps card depicting a walk-off home run as my annual winner.  In 2011, Jay Bruce beat out the competition, and I’ll freely admit that my bias as a Reds fan went into that choice (Ken Griffey’s Gypsy auto last year was my 2012 winner).  This year, to be honest, there just didn’t seem to be as much competition from other notable new names to the Topps allotment of players.  But then I remembered one card from Heritage that, in my mind at least, beats out this great Darwin Barney card.

The Barney card, which is #299 from Topps series 1, jumped out at me from the day I saw it back in February.  I’m not a Cubs fan, but I do live in Chicago, and there’s something about Wrigley Field and the lovable losers.  This card captures a cool moment in a baseball game in a way that is hard to replicate.  You can not only see Barney’s reaction mid-stride in clear-cut, HD-type fashion, but you can also see the reaction of the fans.  Cards like Bruce’s walk-off and the one Topps had last year of Tim Hudson don’t capture the background quite as well.  Plus, it’s so clearly at Wrigley Field from the bricks in the stands.  I know, if it’s a walk-off homer by a Cub – naturally it’s at Wrigley.  But the point is – you can tell it on the card, you can almost feel the emotion.  This card makes me wish I was at that game.

The game, by the way was on May 30, 2012, which was a day game between the lowly Cubs and Padres.  The Padres had led most of the day, but the Cubs tied it in the 8th and Barney hit a two-run homer to win it with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th off of Dale Thayer.

1990s All-Decade Team

27 12 2013

My All-Decade team:

C – Mike Piazza, LAD-FLA-NYM (.328/240/768)

1B – Jeff Bagwell, HOU (.304/263/961)

1993 Topps Black Gold Barry Bonds2B – Craig Biggio HOU (.297/136/641, 362 2B, 1,042 R, 319 SB)

3B – Ripken, BAL (.278/198/827, MVP)

SS – Barry Larkin, CIN (.303/137/639, MVP)

OF – Barry Bonds, PIT-SFG (.302/361/1076, .434 OBP, 343 SB, 1,091 R, 1,146 BB, 3 MVPs)

OF – Ken Griffey Jr. SEA (.302/382/1,091, 1,002 R, MVP)

OF – Larry Walker, MON-COL (.313/262/851, MVP)

DH – Frank Thomas, CHW (.320/301/1,040, .440 OBP, 2 MVPs)


SP – Greg Maddux, CHC-ATL (176-88/2.54/1,764, 4 CY)

SP – Roger Clemens, BOS-TOR-NYY (152-89/3.02/2,101, 3 CY)

SP – Randy Johnson, SEA-HOU-ARI (150-75/3.14/2,538, 2 CY)

RP – John Wetteland, LAD-MON-NYY-TEX (37-32/2.66/655, 295 SV)

I’d say that Mark McGwire is easily my biggest snub here.  The guy led the majors in slugging and homers in the decade and broke the most famous record in the game.  But I don’t know how I’d put him ahead of either Jeff Bagwell or Frank Thomas.  Aside from that, I got creative with one position but didn’t do so in another place.  This was with Cal Ripken and Craig Biggio.  I could have argued for Biggio being a catcher – he played catcher for the first two years of the decade.  But the next 8 years he was at second base.  That was too much, and the positions are too different to put him at catcher just for the lineup spot.  Biggio was easily one of the best players of the decade, so I needed him in the lineup.  That meant Roberto Alomar got bumped – and Mike Piazza got included.  Piazza was only around for 7 years of the decade, but he was so good that I was happy to include him.

COMC Sept 2013 Griffey 95 Topps Spectra promoOn the other hand, I did put Ripken at third.  Ripken played 3rd base in ’97, ’98 and ’99.  Like Biggio at second, Larkin was clearly the best shortstop out of the guys who played the whole decade (I don’t think A-Rod, Jeter or Nomar were around quite long enough to bump him).  So it basically came down to putting Ripken, Matt Williams or Robin Ventura.  I think Ripken was the better player out of those 3, and since I felt like 3rd base was fair – he gets the nod.  The 1995 season when he broke Gehrig’s record was a seminal moment in baseball history, so he seems like a good fit here.

There were a lot of great pitchers in this decade – Tom Glavine and David Cone were excellent and pitched the whole decade, and Pedro Martinez was dominant in the second half of the decade.  But I don’t think you could argue the top 3.

I’d give Maddux a slight (but definitive) edge over Clemens for pitcher of the decade, and Bonds similarly nudges out Griffey for player of the decade.

1990s decade statistics

26 12 2013

All-Star Games: AL won 7 times, NL won 3 times     (no player won multiple AS-game MVPs in the 1990’s, but the Alomar brothers won back to back MVPs in ’97 and ’98)

World Series: The Yankees won 3 World Championships in the 90’s, while the Blue Jays won 2.  The Braves went to 5 World Series (winning just 1), while the Indians went to 2 World Series.

1990: Cincinnati Reds over Oakland A’s, 4-0

1991: Minnesota Twins over Atlanta Braves, 4-2

1993 World Series Game Six - Philadelphia Phillies v Toronto Blue Jays1992: Toronto Blue Jays over Braves, 4-3

1993: Blue Jays over Philadelphia Phillies, 4-1

1994: Cancelled

1995: Braves over Cleveland Indians, 4-2

1996: New York Yankees over Braves, 4-2

1997: Florida Marlins over Indians, 4-3

1998: Yankees over San Diego Padres, 4-0

1999: Yankees over Braves, 4-0


Multiple MVP: AL – Frank Thomas, 1B, White Sox (1993-1994)

Juan Gonzalez, OF, Rangers (1996, 1998)

NL – Barry Bonds, OF, Pirates/Giants (1990, 1992-1993)

1993 Topps best subset Clemens Maddux AS

Multiple Cy Young: AL – Roger Clemens, SP, Red Sox/Blue Jays (1991, 1997-1998)

NL – Greg Maddux, SP, Braves (1992-1995)

Tom Glavine, SP, Braves (1991, 1998)

Both – Randy Johnson, SP, Mariners/Diamondbacks (1995, 1999)

Pedro Martinez, SP, Expos/Red Sox (1997, 1999)

Other Multiple Award Winners: AL – Dennis Eckersley, RP, A’s (CY, MVP – 1991)

Jeff Bagwell, 1B, Astros (ROY – 1991, MVP – 1994)


MLB Amateur Draft – notable selections:

Chipper Jones was the first pick of the decade.

1995 Bowman Chris WeinkeGuys who were better known for another sport – Chris Weinke (’90), Steve McNair (’91), John Lynch (’92), Hines Ward (’94), Ricky Williams & Tom Brady (’95), Antwaan Randle-El (’97)

Derek Jeter (’92) reached 3,000 hits.  Alex Rodriguez (’93) may or may not join him depending how things go with arbitration.

Manny Ramirez (’91), Alex Rodriguez (’93) both hit 500 career home runs.  Adam Dunn (’98) and Albert Pujols (’99) will likely join them soon.

Other notable draftees include Todd Helton, Roy Halladay & Carlos Beltran (’95), Michael Young (’97), C.C. Sabathia (’98).


Hall of Fame:


(’90) J. Morgan, J. Palmer, (’91) R. Carew, G. Perry, F. Jenkins, T. Lazzeri, B. Veeck (’92) T. Seaver, R. Fingers, H. Newhouser, B. McGowan (’93) R. Jackson, (’94) S. Carlton, L. Durocher, P. Rizzuto (’95) M. Schmidt, R. Ashburn, L. Day, W. Hulbert, V. Willis, (’96) E. Weaver, J. Bunning, B. Foster, N. Hanlon (’97) P. Niekro, N. Fox, T. LaSorda, W. Wells (’98) C. Sutton, L. Doby, G. Davis, J. Rogan, L. MacPhail (’89) N. Ryan, G. Brett, R. Yount, O. Cepeda, J. Williams, F. Selee, N. Chylak


Batting Leaders – best season, overall decade leader, most times leading league:

Avg. (season) Tony Gwynn 1994 SDP .394, (decade) Gwynn SDP .344

Gwynn won 4 NL batting titles, Edgar Martinez won 2 AL batting titles

HR (season) Mark McGwire 1998 STL 70 – MLB record, (decade) McGwire OAK-STL 405

1999 Topps series 1 box McGwire HR Record

Ken Griffey Jr. led the AL 4x, McGwire led the NL 2x (and the majors 4x)

RBI (season) Manny Ramirez 1999 CLE 165, (decade) Albert Belle CLE-CHW-BAL 1099

Andres Galarraga led the NL 3x, Belle & Cecil Fielder each led the AL 3x

R (season) Craig Biggio 1997 HOU 146, (decade) Barry Bonds PIT-SFG 1,091

Biggio & Jeff Bagwell each led the NL 2x, no player led the AL multiple times

SB (season) Marquis Grissom MON 78, (decade) Otis Nizon MON-ATL-BOS-TEX-TOR-LAD-MIN 478

Kenny Lofton led the AL 5x, Tony Womack led the NL 3x

H (season) Lance Johnson 1996 NYM 227, (decade) Mark Grace CHC 1,754

Paul Molitor led the AL 3x, Gwynn led the NL 3x

Pitching Leaders:

W (season) Bob Welch 1990 OAK 27, (decade) Greg Maddux CHC-ATL 176

Tom Glavine led the NL 4x, Roger Clemens led the AL 2x

K (season) Randy Johnson 1999 ARI 364, (decade) Johnson SEA-HOU-ARI 2,538

Clemens and Johnson both led the AL 4x (Johnson also led the NL once and the majors in 1998 when he was traded)

Curt Schilling, John Smoltz and David Cone each led the NL 2x (Cone led the majors in 1992 when he was traded)

ERA (season) Greg Maddux ATL 1.56, (decade) Maddux CHC-ATL 2.54

Clemens won 5 AL ERA titles, Maddux won 5 NL ERA titles

SV (season) Bobby Thigpen 1990 CHW 57 – MLB Record, (decade) John Franco NYM 268

Randy Myers, Lee Smith and Franco each led the NL 2x (Myers and Smith also led the AL once), no player led the AL multiple times

Completed master set – one last look at 1991 Topps (post #1,001)

23 12 2013

Following up my post from yesterday – thanks for the kind words people have had.  I figured I’d follow that up, not with a summary of 1990’s statistics (which is where I’m at in my “lifetime Topps” cycle) – but with a Master Set post.  I finished up 1991 somewhat recently.  I’ve already done this post for the 1991 base set, but I recently finished the “Master Set” when I got the last All-Star Glossy card (Al Lopez, who was the AL team captain in 1990).

I’ve said it before – THIS SET IS AWESOME!  This is quite possibly my favorite Topps set of this project.  1980, 1983 and 1987 are up there for completely different reasons, but this set has a solid design, and more importantly – great photography.  It’s amazing how much better a set can get in one year, and the card stock didn’t improve or anything.  But going through this set one card at a time, I realized how many great cards there are.

Info about my set:

How I put the set together:

  • 426 cards from the wax box
  • 292 cards from a box of rack packs
  • 29 cards I already had from back in the day
  • 45 cards from trades

Card that completed my set: #710 – Kent Hrbek (one of 2 cards received in a trade from Scott Crawford on Cards that completed the set – one of 3 sets Scott got the last card to me for!)

Read the rest of this entry »

Post #1,000

21 12 2013

1000th post

I was looking at my scheduled posts today and realized that I was coming up on a pretty big milestone.  So I’d like to apologize to those of you who have figured out my posting cycle as I go through the Topps project.  I’m sorry, but you’ll have to wait a few more days for the 1990’s statistical summary :).

This is my 1,000th post on this blog.  I started this blog nearly 4 years ago – March 2010.  A lot of things have changed since then.  I’ve lived in three cities over that time frame – moving from Columbus to New Jersey to Chicago.  Since we’ve lived in two houses in Chicago, I guess I’ve moved 3 times over that span.  My wife gave birth to my first son since then – and he’s getting a pack of baseball cards with his custom picture on 2012 Topps design as his present this year!  Over that time, I went at work from being a financial statement auditor (Columbus) to working at my company’s HQ (NJ) to back to being an auditor in Chicago.  Funny thing, I was miserable at work on the bookends, but we’re from the Midwest, so my wife and I didn’t have that many friends or family in New Jersey.  We had each other, though, and had some fun while we were there.

Over that time, the blog world that inspired me to do this has changed quite a bit, too.  Of the two blogs that really got me into this, 1 is basically isn’t blogged any more (stale gum – Chris is a twitter guy these days) and the other is going strong and continues to be the best blog out there.  I read a lot less blogs now, but I’ll continue to read Greg’s posts until he stops – even if I ever stopped collecting myself.  A number of other blogs have come and gone, too many to count or name out loud, but Dinged Corners, Cardboard Problem, Daily Dimwit, and Crinkly Wrappers are all blogs I miss reading.  Some of my favorites from back then – Nachos Grande, Writer’s Journey, Cardboard Junkie, Play at the Plate – are still going strong.  You can still find a bunch of blogs on the sports card blogroll.  That was cool in 2010 when I started, and it’s cool now!

The point is, a lot has happened in my life since then, but this blog has always been a fun outlet for me.  I started the blog when Upper Deck effectively stopped producing baseball cards, and I thought I’d chronicle an attempt to collect the Topps base set from the year I was born until the most recent set – 2009 – which was a round 30 years.  4 years later, I’m basically two-thirds of the way there.

I did have more time for the blog back when I lived in NJ.  Now with a baby, a really tough job (that I’m hoping to leave in April) and being closer to friends and family, the posts have been and will continue to come a little slower.  That’s OK, though.  I’m still planning to finish my project – it just might be another 2-3 years.  Maybe I’ll have post #2,000 be the wrap up of the project!

Thanks to everyone who reads this blog, used to read this blog, has traded with me or will trade with me in the future.  I would have never thought I’d post 1,000 times – but I’m glad I have, and with that said, here’s a look back at this blog’s beginnings, the first post – for me (and anyone else) to re-read!


Hello, this is my baseball card blog. For the purpose of this blog / project, please see the next post. If you would like to read some of the background, see below.

In the past 6 months, I’ve started collecting baseball cards again after being an on-and-off collector (mostly off) since 1995. I’m doing so in Columbus, Ohio, but I originally hail from Cincinnati – so I’m a big reds fan, and a bigger Ken Griffey Jr fan. The years I collected cards as a kid were primarily two periods. From 1986-88, I pretty much bought a bunch of Topps cards (the wood-grain 1987 set was my likely my most frequent purchase). I also remember buying the ’88 Score set when it came out, and my brother’s friend swiped my Bo Jackson dual card right out of the factory box.


At the time, Eric Davis was my favorite player. Chris Sabo was right up there as the ROY and our representative to the all-star game at Riverfront – which I attended with my dad. The Reds seemed to get 2nd place every year with Pete Rose as their manager. Full disclaimer – I loved Charlie Hustle growing up. Hometown hero, all-time hits king, non-stop hustle, blue-collar living legend. Today, I hate the guy. That may be for a later post. I also loved Rickey Henderson, so I was strangely torn during the 1990 World Series – which I also attended with my dad for game 2.

Anyways, when I picked collecting back up from 1993-96, Upper Deck had changed the hobby, and I loved their cards in comparison to all the others. 1993 was a big year hobby-wise: three of the five big baseball manufacturers at the time came out with super-premium sets that had face values around $4-5 a pack. I remember Topps Finest seeming completely untouchable, as its price per pack was going for more like 20 bucks than the suggested retail. Fleer came out with the super-thick Flair set (I did buy a number of packs of this). And Upper Deck came out with what is probably my favorite set of all-time, SP.

This was the scene when I came back to the hobby; my mother and brother and I went around to card shows. My brother was a fan of Barry Bonds, and he also collected Leaf. My mom would buy up Roberto Alomar cards just to keep busy while we ran around the shows. I decided at the time that my goal was to buy every single Upper Deck baseball card in existence. Consider the time-frame: in 1992, this would have been an attainable goal. In 1993, the new sets coming out made it more difficult for a 13-year old on an allowance and lawn-mowing money. I remember when Collector’s Choice came out in 1994, the full-set Gold Signatures being introduced at 1 per box pretty much smashed any thought I had. So what I settled on is what I’ve been doing since I sort-of left the hobby in 1995. My overall collecting goal has been to collect each year’s SP Authentic set. This became more and more difficult when they started including numbered cards in 1999, so I’m collecting it as I can. I’ve also always tried to put together the base upper deck set, though I really didn’t do this from ’96-’08.

So that’s my background as a collector. I’m still trying to fill those goals, but will do so a little bit more slowly now, as a new idea has popped into my head…

1990’s Cincinnati Reds decade

20 12 2013

The Reds started the decade free of the controversy that Pete Rose’s involvement in gambling that had placed over the team in 1989.  And there was also some other good off-field news.  Joe Morgan was elected to the Hall of Fame in his 1st year on the ballot.  They went wire-to-wire to win the division championship in 1990, and they shocked the heavily favored A’s to win the World Championship that year.  The Nasty Boys were the story of that team – the 3-headed monster kept a balanced team in contention in almost any game.

nasty boys

They didn’t do well defending their title, winning just 74 games in 1991 after injuries marred their season.  They won 90 games the next year, but couldn’t wrestle the division title back from the Braves.  In 1994 they were in the heat of a division battle and looked poised to make the postseason when the strike derailed their chances.  The team made headlines when they traded for two-sport star Deion Sanders.

In 1995 baseball had realignment, they became the first champions of the NL Central and won the first NLDS in history.  Barry Larkin had a banner year, winning the National League MVP award, Reggie Sanders had a breakout campaign and Pete Schourek was the Cy Young runner-up.  They couldn’t get past the eventual champion Braves, though, in the Championship Series.

Larkin Gant

In 1996 Larkin was arguably even better, as he posted the first 30-30 season by a shortstop in MLB history.  But the team didn’t fare as well.  Unfortunately, 1995 was the last postseason berth for the team until 2010.  They started off slow and finished .500.  Jeff Brantley was a bright spot, though, winning the Rolaids Relief Award as the league’s best reliever.

Injuries plagued their 1997 season, and the Reds stumbled to 76 wins.  Jeff Shaw kept the Rolaids Relief Award with the team, though – he was the bright spot with 42 saves.  In 1998 the team wasn’t much better as they were in a bit of a rebuilding mode.

They did have something historic in the game on September 27th of the season.  The lineup that day featured Barry’s brother Stephen Larkin playing the only game of his Major League career, starting at first base and batting third behind his brother.  Bret Boone hit cleanup, playing 2nd base, with Aaron starting at third and batting sixth.  It’s the only time in Major League history that an all-brother infield was featured.

The 1999 season seemed to hold promise for the franchise.  Marge Schott, who had been embroiled in controversy for most of the decade, finally sold her interest in the team to Cincy businessman Carl Linder.  They also ended their “no facial hair” clubhouse rule.  And the team was stellar, winning 96 games behind Larkin, Greg Vaughn, Sean Casey and an excellent bullpen.  That left them tied with the Mets for the wild card, but they wilted in the 1-game playoff against Al Leiter and just missed the playoffs.  Still, a young team held promise for the future.

Decade MVP – Barry Larkin (.303/137/649, 266 SB, 834 R, 1,447 H, 8 AS, 7 SS, 3 GG, 1995 MVP)

Pitcher of the Decade – Jose Rijo (72-43/2.74/955 K, AS, WS MVP)

All told, in the decade, the Reds won a World Series (Jose Rijo – WS MVP), had one MVP (Larkin ’95), had 24 All-stars, 1 All-Star starting pitcher (Jack Armstrong – ’90), a Rookie of the Year (Scott Williamson – ’99), 2 Rolaids Relievers of the Year (Brantley, Shaw),

I gave out an “award” in each write-up I did for MVP and best pitcher, here’s the breakdown of the award winners:

MVP: Barry Larkin 4x, Chris Sabo, Jose Rijo, Bip Roberts, Kevin Mitchell, Jeff Shaw, Sean Casey

Best pitcher: Rijo 5x, Pete Schourek, Jeff Brantley, Shaw, Pete Harnisch, Scott Williamson

Here’s my “all-decade team”:

C – Eddie Taubensee (closely over Joe Oliver)

1B – Hal Morris

2B – Bret Boone

3B – Chris Sabo

SS – Barry Larkin

OF – Reggie Sanders

OF – Eric Davis

OF – Paul O’Neill (outfield was a revolving door)

SP – Jose Rijo

SP – John Smiley

SP – Tom Browning

SP – Pete Harnisch

RP – Rob Dibble