A little detective work – 1998 Topps Kevin Polcovich

12 08 2016

I have done this a couple other times, and it’s always fun.  I love when I can figure out the exact play that is depicted in an action shot.  The card that I thought was the best action shot in 1998 Topps – well, it’s one of those cards!

1998 Topps Kevin Polcovich

Kevin Polcovich is far from a memorable name, however this is a really cool card.  It’s a great action shot – better than the 1998 Stadium Club card that is clearly taken half of a second later.  But the other cool thing is – it was doable to figure out the specific play this card depicts.  To figure out when the photo was taken.

It was fairly easy to narrow down for a number of reasons.  First, the player sliding into second – Larry Walker – is clearly identifiable.  Second, Polcovich didn’t have a long career.  He played for the Pirates in 1997 and 1998.  Since this is a 1998 series 1 set – I know it’s from 1997.  That’s a Rockies road uni and a Pittsburgh home uniform – so it was clearly in Pittsburgh.  So just find a game at 3 Rivers where Polcovich either turned a double play or forced out Walker on second.

Polcovich played in 4 such games in 1997, in a series from July 31st to August 3rd in Pittsburgh.  Walker, who was the MVP that year, naturally played in all 4 of those games.  This picture came from the game on August 2nd – it’s the only possibly play that fits with this picture.  Walker was a stone cold killer in that series – he went 3 for 4 with a walk in this particular game.

The play in question occurred in the top of the 4th.  Walker led off with a single, then Andres Galarraga grounded into a force out from Tony Womack to Polcovich.  They didn’t get Galarraga at first.

The Pirates actually won this game, 6-5, despite Walker’s epic performance.  Walker was often viewed as a “Coors Field” MVP, but this series sure argues against that.  In Three Rivers (4 games), he went 10-16 with 2 walks, 4 homers and 3 doubles.  Pretty good, no?





Completed set – 1998 Topps

9 08 2016

I caught up with almost all of my completed insert set posts.  I didn’t plan on getting into a hole of 40-50 sets, but I did and now I’m through almost all of it.  Now onto the really fun stuff – I’ve finished off 2 base Topps sets, which is awesome.

Fort this one, I haven’t finished off the “Master Set” yet – though I’m only a few insert cards away from that.  So it’s just the “complete set” post for now.  This is 1998 Topps.

Info about my set:

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How I put the set together:

  • 265 cards from the series 1 hobby box
  • 188 cards from the series 2 hobby box
  • 48 cards from trades
  • 2 cards from eBay

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

1998 Topps Jeter

I got this and Vinny Castilla’s card back as part of eBay lot in September of last year – so almost a year ago!

Set composition:  503 cards (433 individual ML player cards*, 16 Prospects, 10 Expansion Team, 12 Draft Picks, 4 Checklists, 1 Tribute, 10 Season Highlights, 7 World Series Highlights, 10 Interleague Play)

*The 433 individual player cards include 10 All-Star Rookies

Representation of ’97 MLB season:

8 of the Expansion Team cards are dual-player, and the Prospect cards all have 3 players on them.  9 players were in the set twice after being shown with their new team in series 2.  Doing the math, that’s 490 players represented in the set (433+48+18-9).

Of the 48 guys in the Prospect cards, 8 played in MLB in 1997 – meaning 40 didn’t.  The 2 guys on the single-player Expansion Team cards – Brian Anderson and Tony Saunders – played MLB in 1997 – but the other 16 didn’t.  3 more guys had regular cards but didn’t play in 1997 (all were expansion players).  That leaves 431 players who played in the majors.

The 431 players represent 38.4% out of the 1,123 players who played in MLB in 1997.

Earliest active player from this set:  #21 – Roberto Clemente, #200 – Dennis Eckersley (active players)

Just like 1997 Topps, there are two answers to this.  And just like 1997 Topps, Eck is the earliest active player.  He made his debut on April 12, 1975, pitching the last 1.2 innings of a 1-run Cleveland loss to Milwaukee.  Eckersley beats out Denny Martinez, who debuted in 1976.

1998 Topps Eckersley

Clemente is the earliest (and only) retired player – making his debut on April 17, 1955.

1998 Topps TRIB Clemente

Last active player from this set:  #254 – Adrian Beltre, #257 – David Ortiz, #504 – Alex Rodriguez, #360 – Bartolo Colon (all still active)

1998 Topps last active player

That’s quite a list.  Bartolo was the only one of these guys with a card in 1997, so he’s joined by these 3 in 1998 (for now).  A-Rod got his first Topps card in 1998 after not signing a contract with the company.  Beltre and Ortiz are in the prospect set.  It will be interesting to see who keeps going.  Ortiz has said he’s going to retire, but the other 3 plan to play next year if possible.

Player with the most cards in the set:  5 players with 3 cards:

Matt Williams is in the World Series subset and has 2 regular cards.  Gary Sheffield has cards in the World Series and Interleague subsets, Juan Gonzalez has a card in both interleague subsets, and Nomar Garciaparra and Tino Martinez were in the Season Highlight and Interleague subsets (in addition to their regular card).

The other 4 guys have an Interleague and is basically only 1 subset, with 10 season highlights cards.

Matt Williams – #12, #439, #280 (World Series)

1998 Topps most cards - Matt Williams

Gary Sheffield – #166, #279 (World Series), #483 (Interleague Preview)

1998 Topps most cards - Sheffield

Tino Martinez – #284, #269 (Season Highlight), #483 (Interleague Preview)

1998 Topps most cards - Tino Martinez

Nomar Garciaparra – #335, #268 (Season Highlight), #481 (Interleague Preview)

1998 Topps most cards - Nomar

Juan Gonzalez – #30, #273(Interleague Highlight), #482 (Interleague Preview)

1998 Topps most cards - Juan Gonzalez

First Card and the Hundreds: #1 – Tony Gwynn, #100 – Mike Piazza, #200 – Dennis Eckersley, #300 – Roger Clemens, #400 – Delino DeShields, #500 – Dustin Carr / Luis Cruz EXP

1998 Topps first card and 00s

Highest book value:  #257 – David Ortiz / Richie Sexson / Daryle Ward

1998 Topps PROS Ortiz Sexson Ward

The first Topps card for Ortiz slightly outpaces the A-Rod first Topps card below.  According to Beckett.

Most notable card: #504 – Alex Rodriguez

1998 Topps A Rod

After refusing to sign a deal with Topps for the first 4-5 years of his career, A-Rod was a late addition and Topps snuck him in as the last card in the set.

Best card (my opinion):  #146 – Jose Guillen

1998 Topps Jose Guillen

Really cool card with Clemente’s statue in the background.  It goes particularly well because Clemente was the “retired player du jour” honored in the set.  Guillen is from the Dominican Republic, whereas Clemente was from Puerto Rico.  But the Caribbean connection is cool

Second best card (also my opinion):  #287 – Brian Jordan

1998 Topps Brian Jordan

I had a tough time picking these top few cards.  I was between the Guillen card above, this card and the A-Rod card, which I feel is pretty high on the iconic scale.  I just love this card – Jordan hadn’t played football in a long time at this point, but it’s indicative of the creativity in some of the shots for this set.  For “best card” – I had to put the Guillen above because of the Clemente factor.  But I think this is a better/cooler pose in and of itself.

Best subset card:  #479 – Ken Griffey Jr. / Mike Piazza INTP

1998 Topps AS - front

The two guys who just went into the HOF together.  I was just there – and one thing that was cool was that Griffey and Piazza had incredible chemistry together.  Was really fun – I’m naturally a huge Griffey fan but I came away a Piazza fan after going to Cooperstown last month.

Favorite action photo:  #79 – Kevin Polcovich

1998 Topps Kevin Polcovich

There aren’t a ton of really great action shots in this set, but I got it down to two cards I was considering for this.  Todd Helton’s card was the one that didn’t make the cut.  Helton’s card features him following through on a swing on a day game.  The shadow effects are really cool in the batters box.  But this card of Polcovich – whose career was certainly forgettable compared to Helton’s – shows him levitating over a cloud of dust, after trying to turn a DP!

Favorite non-action photo:  #287 – Brian Jordan

1998 Topps Brian Jordan

As mentioned above – I think if you consider the pose alone, this card is a bit cooler than the Clemente card.

My Favorite Reds card:  #240 – Pete Rose Jr.

1998 Topps Pete Rose Jr

The only way a Pete Rose could get into a Topps set since 1989.  I also really like the Barry Larkin card.

Other Notable Cards:  Here’s some of the other cards I considered for some of the “accolades” up above.

1998 Topps other notable cards





Completed insert set – 1998 Topps Interleague Mystery Finest

4 06 2016

This set takes a concept Topps had used in 1996, another it had used in 1997 and merged them.  The idea of Mystery Finest cards first came around in 1995 in football, and had its first baseball application in 1996.  There weren’t any Mystery Finest cards in 1997, but there were cards made in honor of the beginning of interleague play.  This 1998 set combined those two “Finest” themes for the 1998 Topps Interleague Mystery Finest set.  That’s a mouthful!

Info about the set:

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Set description:  These cards have Finest-based technology, but when you pulled the cards, the fronts have a black coating.  There are 4 players on the back from 2 teams who played in interleague play in 1997, with a write-up about how they did in the series.  One of those 4 guys is the mystery player on the front – you need to peel the coating to figure out which player you have.  After you’ve peeled, the fronts have a silver background with stars in the design and the background faded.  The player’s name is on the bottom.  There are 20 cards – so only 5 matchups available.

Set composition:  20 cards, 1:36 odds (1998 Topps series 1)

Hall of Famers:  6. Cal Ripken, Greg Maddux, Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, Mike Piazza, Frank Thomas.

How I put the set together:

  • 1 cards from my series 1 hobby box
  • 9 cards from Beckett’s Marketplace
  • 7 cards from COMC
  • 3 cards from Sportlots

Card that completed my set: #ILM-16 – Tim Salmon

1998 Topps Interleague Mystery Finest Tim Salmon final card

I got this card from Sportlots in December, 2015, when I was going a bit crazy with Black Friday sales.

Thoughts on the set:  I’m usually a little bit wary with inserts in flagship that have the same name and technology as another Topps product.  But aside from that, this is a cool idea with the Mystery Finest.  When I opened my series 1 box from 1998, I got to peel a card.  It was like a little more fun after I was done opening packs.  The interleague info is interesting, and the design, while not my favorite, isn’t bad.  like the design, I like matching up players from two different leagues.  I like that the theme was very relevant at the time – Inter-league play was about to start.  In its first year, inter-league play matched up teams from the parallel division – so you’d have true rivals on these cards.  Remember when inter-league play first came out how awesome that was?  Cincinnati is matched up with Cleveland in the battle of Ohio.  Baltimore was matched up with Philadelphia – a natural rivalry 2 hours away!  Kansas City versus St. Louis – a rematch of the 1985 I-70 series!  Dodgers versus the Angels for LA supremacy!  And of course – Yankees versus the Mets!

Best card (my opinion): #ILM-20 – Albert Belle

1998 Topps Interleague Mystery Finest Belle

I sometimes forget Belle played for the White Sox, and was a helluva 1-2 punch with the Big Hurt.  I like this card.

My Favorite Reds card:  There are none.

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Here are both sides of the cards.  You can tell by the scan, the KC / St. Louis card is actually a refractor.  I ordered a regular card and got that, but I didn’t feel like sending it back to the seller for a rarer version🙂

1998 Topps Interleague Mystery set

1998 Topps Interleague Mystery set 2

1998 Topps Interleague Mystery set 3

Any other tidbits:  Here is a list of guys in both this set and the 1997 Interleague Finest set.  That’s 8 out of a possible 10, with the Yankees and Rockies being the teams with cards in the 1998 set who had different players in the 1997 set.  And Albert Belle was the Indians’ guy in 1997.

  • Frank Thomas
  • Sammy Sosa
  • Tim Salmon
  • Mike Piazza
  • Todd Hundley
  • Ken Griffey Jr.
  • Chipper Jones
  • Cal Ripken
  • Albert Belle (Indians in 1997)




Completed insert set – 1998 Topps Flashback

25 05 2016

Continuing on with the completed set posts.  This is my favorite insert set from 1998 Topps.

Info about the set:

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Set description:  These cards show veterans who have been around for a decade or more (counting 1998), showing a current picture on the front and a rookie-year photo on the back.  Each side has a different design.  The front has some serious foil effect over the background, while the back has more of an old-school feel.

Set composition:  10 cards, 1:72 odds (1998 Topps series 1)

Hall of Famers:  5.  Ken Griffey Jr., Paul Molitor, Randy Johnson, Cal Ripken, Tony Gwynn.

Actually, it’s 6 – Deion Sanders is in the pro football HOF.

How I put the set together:

  • 5 cards from COMC
  • 2 cards from trades
  • 2 cards from Sportlots
  • 1 card from Beckett’s marketplace

I didn’t get any from the box I opened – basically I got the “other” box as you got one in every other box.

Thoughts on the set:  As I mentioned above, this is my favorite insert from 1998 Topps.  Topps could take some note and do a few more like this – only 10 cards, so each cards is more meaningful.  Cool design, cool theme.  I can’t ask for more.

Card that completed my set:  #FB10 – Brady Anderson

I got this card from Beckett’s website in June of last year.  This was a tough set to finish off.

Best card (my opinion):  #FB2 – Paul Molitor

Molitor is the elder statesman in this group, so he has to win best card here.

My Favorite Reds card:  #FB7 – Deion Sanders

Imagine if they’d have thrown him in a Falcons uniform on the back!

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

1998 Topps Flashback complete

1998 Topps Flashback Brady Anderson

1998 Topps Flashback complete back

1998 Topps Flashback Brady Anderson back

Any other tidbits:  Three of the ten players were on the same team on the front and back – Griffey, Gwynn and Ripken.





Completed insert set – 1998 Topps Mystery Finest Bordered

17 05 2016

I’m caught up with those posts about parallel sets.  I’m kind of sad that I can’t keep going, but I haven’t opened the 2005 boxes yet, so I don’t know who I’m going to collect for those parallels.  Next up on this blog – I need to keep getting caught up on completed set posts.  I just checked, and I have over 25 sets that I’ve completed but not posted about yet.  Mostly inserts, but a few Topps base sets.  So that’s what will be on here for the most part over the next month or so.  Until Topps series 2 comes out, at least.

Info about the set:

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Set description:  Topps had a new take on Mystery Finest cards in series 2 of the 1998 set.  Unlike previous years, where the “mystery” was which player out of 3 you could find, you could tell which player you were getting by looking at the back of these cards.  However, the “mystery” in this case was which version of the card you pulled.  There were 4 versions – bordered and borderless cards, and a refractor version of each type.

I went for the bordered version of this set, which is the easiest to pull.  The front has a full-body shot of the player, with the background obscured by a giant translucent baseball that has lines emanating out from it.  The back has another color picture with a write-up about the player’s 1997 season.

Set composition:  20 cards, 1:36 odds (1998 Topps series 2)

 

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

And a few more guys who might make it in over the next few years.

How I put the set together:

  • 2 cards from my series 2 hobby box
  • 7 cards from Sportlots
  • 8 cards from Check Out My Cards
  • 3 cards from Beckett’s Marketplace

Thoughts on the set:  I don’t like this design quite as much as the series 1 Mystery Finest cards.  But the idea is cool – when I pulled one in my 1998 box, it was cool to do the peel and see which version I got.  Also, I think this design actually lends itself a little more to a base set than an insert set.

Card that completed my set:  #M-20 – Ken Griffey Jr.

1998 Topps Mystery Finest Bordered Griffey Jr

I got this from Beckett Marketplace last September.

Best card (my opinion):  #M-2 – Chipper Jones, M-18 – Andruw Jones

1998 Topps s2 Mystery Finest bordered

The two “Jones brothers” to me have the 2 photos that work best with the design for this set.  I couldn’t pick between the two.  It was actually tough to pick this over Griffey when he was at the height of his powers – but these photos work great.

My Favorite Reds card:  As was often the case for inserts from this era – there were none.

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Here’s the scan of the full set.

1998 Topps Mystery Finest Bordered complete

1998 Topps Mystery Finest Bordered complete 2

1998 Topps Mystery Finest Bordered complete 3

Any other tidbits:  The write-ups on the back had some interesting factoids about the players’ 1997 seasons.  The most interesting point I read was on the back of the card for Greg Maddux.  Maddux walked 20 batters in the 1997 season – barely above his win total (19) for the year.





1998 Topps parallels – Barry Larkin (some hunting left to do)

8 05 2016

1998 Topps

Card I selected:  #302 – Barry Larkin

In 1998 I picked a player from my favorite team, only my 2nd Cincinnati in these parallel attempts.  There were a few more cards to get in 1998 – Topps went back to inserting a parallel in the base set called “Minted in Cooperstown”, and they had a special factory set made to sell at both parks of the 2 expansion teams.  There were 2 jumbo cards again – the Topps SuperChrome and its refractor version.  And Opening Day made its debut offering.

I’m back to not having the full complement of these cards.  I’m missing the Opening Day card, which I’ll be able to get pretty easily someday.  More difficult is the SuperChrome Refractor for Larkin, which I feel will be very difficult to come by.  I’ve never even seen it for sale.  So while I hope to redo this post someday, it may be a while.

# of cards (including the Topps card):  9

The parallel sets in 1998 include:

  • Minted in Cooperstown
  • Inaugural Diamondbacks
  • Inaugural Devil Rays
  • Opening Day
  • Chrome
  • Chrome Refractors
  • SuperChrome
  • SuperChrome Refractors

Scans:

1998 Topps #302

1998 Topps Larkin

1998 Topps Larkin back

1998 Topps Minted in Cooperstown #302

1998 Topps Minted in Cooperstown Larkin

1998 Topps Larkin back

This parallel set was called “Minted in Cooperstown”.  The cards have a bronze Hall of Fame stamp on them – and all the cards were printed in Cooperstown using a portable press.  The back is exactly the same as the regular card.

1998 Topps Inaugural Diamondbacks #302

1998 Topps Inaugural Diamondbacks Larkin

1998 Topps Larkin back

1998 Topps Inaugural Devil Rays #302

1998 Topps Inaugural Devil Rays Larkin

1998 Topps Larkin back

Just as they’d done in the expansion year of 1993, Topps also produced 2 special factory sets for sale at both the Diamondbacks’ and Devil Rays’ team stores.  The cards are stamped with a logo of the respective team.  The back is exactly the same as the regular card.

1998 Topps Opening Day #198

1998 Topps Opening Day Larkin

1998 Topps Opening Day Larkin back

Topps issued the first “Opening Day” set in 1998.  This 165 card set was retail only, and features the same photos from the base set.  The border is silver instead of the gold that the base Topps cards have, and there is an Opening Day logo instead of the Topps logo.  Naturally, the back has a different number and it has a silver background unlike the gold in the regular Topps set.

1998 Topps Chrome #302

1998 Topps Chrome Larkin

1998 Topps Chrome Larkin back

Topps Chrome was back for the 3rd year.  This time it was a full version of all 503 cards in the regular Topps set, released in 2 series.  The front of the card reproduces the base set using Topps chromium technology and of course the logo is the Topps Chrome logo.  The back of the card is the same as the regular set except for the logo, slightly different copyright wording, and hollow block letters spelling “REFRACTOR” that are filled in when the card is a refractor.

1998 Topps Chrome Refractor #302

1998 Topps Chrome Refractor Larkin

1998 Topps Chrome Refractor Larkin back

Inserted every 12 packs of Topps Chrome were refractors. A plastic diffraction effect that gives refractors a colorful, reflective shine.  The block letters mentioned above are filled in on the back so you can tell it’s a refractor on the back as well.

1998 Topps SuperChrome #6

1998 Topps SuperChrome Larkin

1998 Topps SuperChrome Larkin back

1998 Topps SuperChrome Refractor #6

COMING SOMEDAY TO A BLOG NEAR YOU

Topps came out with giant jumbo cards that were their own product called SuperChrome.  These cards came in 3-card packs that retailed for $4.99.  The front is the same as Topps Chrome except there’s a SuperChrome logo and the cards are 4-⅛” by 5-¾”.  The number on the back is different since it’s a smaller set.  There’s also a refractor version, which came 1 in 12 packs just like regular-sized ones, though the refractor wording on the regular sets is nowhere to be found.

The “Rainbow”:

COMING SOMEDAY TO A BLOG NEAR YOU

Any sets I didn’t get:  That’s all of them you could get.

Other cards I would have liked to do:  The Jim Edmonds card (making an overhead catch) and Tom Glavine’s card (running the bases in a jacket) are very cool.  Also, A-Rod had a notable card since it was his first Topps card.  Finally, getting Sosa or McGwire in the year they had the historic home run chase would have been cool.  I was limited to the 36 guys in the SuperChrome set, and since I really like this Larkin, that was my choice!

Hopefully I can find that SuperChrome refractor someday!





Completed insert set – 1998 Topps Etch-a-Sketch

27 03 2016

I completed another insert set from 1998 Topps.  This is the Etch-A-Sketch insert.

Info about the set:

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Set description:  This nine-card set features drawings by artist George Vlosich III done on an etch-a-sketch and put onto cardboard.

Set composition:  9 cards, 1:36 odds (1998 Topps series 1)

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

More than half the set, which is pretty good for a 1998 set.

How I put the set together:

  • 1 cards from my series 1 hobby box
  • 1 card from a trade
  • 1 card from Beckett’s marketplace
  • 2 cards from Sportlots
  • 4 cards from COMC

Thoughts on the set:  Really cool idea.  I have to give credit for thinking outside the box.  There’s a guy who’s awesome at Etch-a-Sketch.  Topps used his drawings to make a set of cards.  Honestly, it seems like better ideas than they have in today’s world.

Card that completed my set: #ES6 – Mike Piazza

98 Topps Etch front

I got this card from COMC last March.  So this completed set has been a year in wait!

Best card (my opinion): #ES2 – Barry Bonds

1998 Topps s1 Etch a Sketch Bonds

This is 2 straight 1998 sets where I’ve picked Bonds as the best card.  Somehow it seems like this could be a bad idea.  But I think the drawing of the Golden Gate Bridge in the background is really cool, plus the drawing really looks like Bonds where some of the others are a bit “sketchy”.  This is also the card I got in my box – maybe that helps!

My Favorite Reds card:  There are none.

Here’s the scan of all 9 cards:

1998 Topps Etch a Sketch complete

Any other tidbits:  The kid who started doing this is no longer a kid, and he’s still at it.  Here’s his website.