My Best Binder Page #2 – 1997 SP Buyback Autographs Ken Griffey Jr.

31 01 2016

1997 SP 96 Buyback Griffey Jr

It’s kind of amazing this isn’t the top card in my collection.  It’s close, but I think the story behind card #1 is pretty compelling.

This card is pretty amazing, too, however.

I’ve pulled a Jeter auto #’d to 5 out of 2008 Upper Deck Heroes, and a Prince Fielder SPX signed rookie card.  I’ve pulled a Hank Aaron autograph from 2012 Topps.  I’ve pulled a Nolan Ryan auto from 2001 Topps – and it made this top 9 countdown.

But nothing, and I mean nothing, beats pulling a rare card of your favorite player.  I found this card in 1997.  I had gone away from collecting for most of 1996 and 1997, however there was one exception.  I still collected Upper Deck SP.  I bought one box that year.  And I pulled this card.  Upper Deck had been inserting autographs into packs since 1990, but I had never pulled one.  And the buyback concept was very new.  It may have originated from this product, I’m not sure.  It was a good idea to me.  Unlike cards that were newly-made for the current product, buyback autographs seem more akin to getting an autograph at the ballpark.  If I could catch Griffey signing after batting practice – it would look something like this.

This card was from the year before – his ’96 SP card, and was #’d out of 312.  That was the highest print run of his buyback autos that year, but it is easily my favorite card I’ve ever pulled from a pack.

My Best Binder Page #4 – 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr.

27 01 2016

1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr

I’m into the top 4 from my “best binder page”.  The next 4 cards all have some particular meaning to my collection.

To me, there is a top 3 of iconic cards in the history of the hobby.  The T206 Honus Wagner.  The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle.  1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr.

Only one of those 3 is attainable for the average Joe.  And I have that card.  Actually, I have 2, but this is one I pulled from a pack about 20 years ago.  At the time, even this card didn’t seem attainable because it was selling for just under 100 bucks a pop.

In late 1988, through connections with a couple of California Angel players, Upper Deck was able to wrestle a 5th card license from Major League Baseball.  Their card/hologram connection was supposed to lessen the risk of counterfeiting which had become more common as the value of iconic cards like the Mantle or Wagner rose.

They were charging a whopping 99 cents per pack, which was 2.5x a Topps pack.  Their packs were “tamper-proof”.  They printed their cards on paper stock that seemed cleaner than cardboard.  They put color pictures on the back, and in general took a more fun approach to pictures on baseball cards.  They had a fresh card design.

And they picked a young rising star, Ken Griffey Jr., as the #1 card in their inaugural set.

In 1993 and 1994, I was going to at least 1 card show a month with my mom, probably more like every other week.  In addition to collecting cards from that year, I would usually buy one of two packs of cards when we left a show.  The first was 1993 SP, which I talked about with card #9.  It was probably going for 5 bucks at the time.  The other was 1989 Upper Deck, which probably cost the same, maybe a bit cheaper if you got the high numbered packs.  In one of those 89 UD packs, I pulled the holy grail, and I’ve held onto it ever since.  If I had pulled a second, I would have sold it, but I never did as a kid.  Years later, I bought a box and got one – that’s what’s sitting in my almost-complete set.  This card sits separately as its own piece to my collection.

Topps Cardboard Icons – Ken Griffey 5×7

27 04 2015

Griffey Topps Icon - Header

Topps has been coming out with various online-only products for quite a while now.  One of their best ideas is the Cardboard Icon series.  They take a Hall-of-Fame caliber player, blow up 5×7 reprints of their full run of Topps cards, throw a black border on each card, number it out of 199, and sell it on their website for 50 bucks a set.  You can also get gold border versions for $100.  The numbering is in the black border at the bottom of the card.  When you order a set – every card is numbered the same.  The set I bought is numbered 48/99.

This isn’t really in my collection wheelhouse, but I love Ken Griffey Jr.  He’s pretty much always been my favorite baseball player, and while I’ll never get too crazy collecting his cards, this seemed like a great way to get something showing off each of his Topps cards.  So I’ll scan each of these cards below and give the initial thought that I associate with that card.

1989 Topps Traded – Cool rookie card, but not as iconic as the Upper Deck card.

Griffey Topps Icon - 1989

1990 Topps – Similar photo, All-Star Rookie Cup, signature taped black bat.

Griffey Topps Icon - 1990

1991 Topps – Topps 40th.  Great photo – like many other cards in this set.

Griffey Topps Icon - 1991_0001

1992 Topps – Horizontal, asymmetrical – but still phenomenal.  Has a gold parallel.

Griffey Topps Icon - 1992

1993 Topps – Photo fits well with the underrated design.  What happened to the black bat!

Griffey Topps Icon - 1993

1994 Topps – First really glossy Topps set.  And Griffey sure makes it look good!  The black bat is back.

Griffey Topps Icon - 1994

1995 Topps – Going to the opposite field!  One of Topps’ worst designs.

Griffey Topps Icon - 1995

1996 Topps – Photo that fits with the eccentric “duplicate face” Topps design.  Where’s the fielder?

Griffey Topps Icon - 1996

1997 Topps – Classic Griffey follow-through. Definitely one of his 49 homers from the previous season.

Griffey Topps Icon - 1997

1998 Topps – Another classic follow-through.  This time on a pretty crummy design.

Griffey Topps Icon - 1998

1999 Topps – Even Griffey can make a crappy gold border look good.  This won best card of the set in the prestigious Lifetime Topps awards.

Griffey Topps Icon - 1999

2000 Topps – I was in college when Griffey was traded to the Reds.  It made me feel like I was 10 years old again. This was clearly a spring training shot.

Griffey Topps Icon - 2000

2001 Topps – Topps 50th. The Reds’ sleeveless uniforms were excellent.  Not sure why they added the HTA logo.

Griffey Topps Icon - 2001

2002 Topps – Orange border = gross.  Same photo, different uniform as 1995 Topps.

Griffey Topps Icon - 2002

2003 Topps – Another great Griffey card.  Blue border > Orange/Gold Borders.  I love when Topps has lineage in their design (1953, 1963, 1973, 1983, 2003 and sort of 2013).

Griffey Topps Icon - 2003

2004 Topps – Probably my favorite Griffey card.  I can’t wait to bust open the boxes for this set.

Griffey Topps Icon - 2004

2005 Topps – Not sure why they did the first edition parallel.  Interesting photo – I wonder why there is an American League logo in the back.

Griffey Topps Icon - 2005

2006 Topps – Nice card – most Griffey cards are.  This looks like a sacrifice fly.

Griffey Topps Icon - 2006

2007 Topps – I sometimes forget his first name is George.  Black dice border.

Griffey Topps Icon - 2007

2008 Topps – Last Reds card.  New Era.  I wish Topps still did photos like this.

Griffey Topps Icon - 2008

2009 Topps – Junior with the White Sox just looks weird.

Griffey Topps Icon - 2009

2010 Topps – Back with the Mariners.  As it probably should have been.  Griffey’s last card.

Griffey Topps Icon - 2010

“Lost Cards”: The Year After, 2011

17 03 2014


2011 Topps Trevor Hoffman

Best Player to retire in 2010.   Ken Griffey Jr.

Did he have a 2011 card?   Yes, 2011 Obak.

2011 Obak Griffey

After returning to Seattle, Griffey had a decent 2009 season and helped the Mariners to their first winning record in a while.  He probably should have called it a career there, as he was ineffective in 2010 and retired mid-way through the season without a home run – which would have made him one of 5 players with a homer in 4 different decades (Williams, McCovey, Henderson, Vizquel).

Junior didn’t have too many cards in 2011 – he started making the Topps retired player circuit the next year.  He did have a card from 2011 Obak that showed his lifetime batting average and career hit total.

Apologies to:   Jim Edmonds.  Edmonds also didn’t have any 2011 Topps cards – in fact, he didn’t have any 2011 cards with his whole career line.  

Trevor Hoffman also called it a career after spending 2010 with the Brewers.  He did get a card in the 2011 Topps set with his full career stat line on the back.  He also had a card in Topps Heritage.

Griffey & the Mariners’ Hall of Fame

11 08 2013

I’m a Reds fan and have been my whole life.  But my favorite player of all time was and will always be Ken Griffey Jr. – and that was true well before he pushed for a trade to Cincinnati.  I remember when I was younger, the rare times the Mariners were on TV in Cincinnati – it was must watch TV for me.  I’d stop everything to watch him hit.  He was baseball’s Madison Avenue connection at a time when the game wasn’t doing as well as the NFL or the NBA – he was the Nike and Upper Deck spokesman.

1992 Topps Griffey

Last night Griffey was inducted to the Mariners’ Hall of Fame.  5 years ago, I would have dropped everything to fly out there to see such an event.  These days, I’ve got a 1-year old, a move going on, and I have to travel for work to Orlando today (the exact opposite side of the country from Seattle).  So life has kind of pushed things like that to the back burner, but I have other ways to celebrate something like that for my favorite player.  For instance, we named the dog Griffey – only because my naming my son after Griffey was frowned upon 🙂

Griffey Dog

The nice thing is there are things like MLB.TV where I can watch the game on delay.  He spoke in the booth in the 4th inning, and they thankfully had a good chunk of the ceremony on the game cast.  Junior talked well past his allotted time, but everyone seemed fine with that.  His speech was about what I expected – he’s always been fairly self-deprecating, and first and foremost he is known as an even better family man than he was as a ballplayer.  It wasn’t too bad, but Griffey got a little bit of a worse rap than he deserved at times with the media.  He’s been described as standoff-ish and not a good teammate, but if you do your homework and read between the lines, this was far from true.  I always found it strange that people could find fault that a guy would rather talk about his kids than his 600 home runs – isn’t that the kind of thing we should look up to?

Trey Griffey

My favorite story about Junior involves another Cincinnati sports hero.  Joe Nuxhall passed away in November, 2007.  That’s the offseason for baseball players, and one active Red came back to Nuxhall’s funeral – Griffey Jr.  If you’ve been a Reds fan for 30 years like I have, you’d know that Joe Nuxhall embodies what the city is all about more than any other Red (save possibly for Pete Rose, though I appreciate how Nuxie represented his hometown far more than Rose).  Junior recognized that, and that’s why he flew back from Florida that day.

Congrats Griffey!  Just a few more years and you can give a speech in Cooperstown – I’ll certainly be making the trip for that one!

Griffey Jr Gypsy

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!

Griffey in Topps next year – excitement and a little sad

29 11 2011

Topps made a pretty surprising announcement yesterday that it has signed Ken Griffey Jr. and will include his cards in its 2012 products.  This is a pretty big deal – right up there with adding the notoriously difficult signer Koufax last year – for a few of reasons.  One is that it’s kind of hard to get Griffey signatures through means not facilitated by Upper Deck – the best way in the past has been by purchasing something from Upper Deck Authenticated or on an Upper Deck insert card – I don’t know of him ever signing at a show or anything.  So his autograph is pretty valuable, period.  Also, this is the first time you could get a Griffey card in a Topps product.  The biggest reason is just what Griffey represents – to baseball card collectors, Ken Griffey Jr. IS Upper Deck.

I think I’ve got a bit of a unique perspective on this – I’m a huge Ken Griffey Jr. fan.  Griffey wasn’t the first athlete I idolized, but he’s my favorite.  When I was 12, I remember staying up late to watch his at bats every chance he was on TV.  When I went to college, I hoped against hope that it would be him and not Mark McGwire in 1997 and 1998 that would break Roger Maris’s record.  I have a 3-year old Dachshund named Griffey, most because I don’t think my wife would be OK with me picking that name for our first-born son. 

I can remember the excitement when he was traded “home” to Cincinnati.  To have your favorite player traded to your favorite team is pretty awesome.  I still have the article in the Cincinnati Enquirer that describes the trade and compares it to the Babe Ruth Sox-Yankees deal.  Obviously nothing on that level materialized, but I appreciated being able to watch him play for nearly a decade and seeing about 10 of his 630 home runs live.  Even when he was older and produced less, I didn’t want the Reds to trade him.  There’s something about having your childhood hero on your hometown team (even after you’re not a kid any more) that even trumps giving that team the best chance to win.   

So, on that level, I’m really excited that I can find Griffey Jr. in next year’s products.  Plus, the card above looks amazing!  I hope they do some cards with him in a Reds uniform, but I also hope Topps doesn’t go completely overboard – having too many Griffey cards could make me go a bit overboard.

In another way, though, this is a little sad.  Griffey’s rookie card is one of the most iconic cards in all of sports history.  If you asked me, it’s behind only the ’52 Mantle and the T-206 Wagner as the most influential baseball card of all-time.  A surprise pick as the #1 card in a fledgling set that changed the game (kind of like Topps said it’s going to do in 2012 :}), and a photo that captures the essence of “the Kid”.  This kind of signifies the nail in the coffin to Upper Deck’s run in baseball – and I’m sure that fact isn’t lost on Topps.  From everything I’ve read, Upper Deck kind of deserves it, but as someone who collected their products in the mid-90’s, I can’t help but be a little sad.

A sad day…

2 06 2010

Griffey into wallHe wasn’t the first sports icon I remember, and he won’t be the last, but there won’t be another quite like him. I sure feel a lot older after hearing the news today; I’ll miss you on the diamond “Kid”…