Category Archives: Chase Utley

Keeping Up With Topps Wall Art Issues

For roughly a year now, Topps has been issuing 5″ x 7″ sets (usually serial-numbered to 99) to coincide with each of their Wall Art releases. Ever since they came out with the 60th Anniversary Team Sets, I’ve been trying to keep up with 2014 Topps Wall Art ID Schmidtthem and add each to the Phillies Database as Topps adds them to its website. However, Topps also removes them from the website as soon as they sell out, and though I try to check the site regularly, I’m certain that I’ve missed a few over the past year. Unfortunately, Beckett has done a rather poor job of documenting them in its online checklists. So, if I didn’t see it on Topps’s site, then chances are pretty good that I don’t have the card listed (I have caught a few on eBay, after the fact.) As for acquiring the cards themselves, thankfully, there are dealers who are buying the 5″ x 7″ sets and breaking them up for team and player collectors. Otherwise, I know I would own rather few of the Phillies from these sets as I don’t have the money, time, or patience to buy each offering and then attempt to sell all the unwanted singles on eBay.

For those of you who are interested, Topps just issued another series of online exclusive team set that is very reminiscent of last year’s 60th Anniversary offering. The ’52 Tribute Team Sets are $19.99 and though the print run is still 99, they 2015 Topps '52 Tribute Rufincreased the set size to nine cards from five. Proving that Topps just can’t help themselves when it comes to parallel creep, they’ve also issued a Gold version that’s serial-numbered to just 49 and costs an extra $10. However, they did at least have the decency to include an extra card, Schmidt, in the Gold version. Because of the nature of my obsessive-compulsive disorder regarding my collection, I splurged and purchased the Gold, but I wasn’t very happy about it. Quite frankly, I didn’t see why Topps had to resort to the extra card gimmickry — the Gold version already differs in that the background for each player is yellow/gold, rather than green, blue or red as is the case with the regular set (which doesn’t use yellow/gold at all.) Both sets should have had the Schmidt card. Since I just submitted my order a couple days ago, I haven’t received my set yet. However, looking at the scans of the cards on Topps’s website, I’m already seeing lots of things to nitpick about. I’d list them, but honestly, what’s the point? Topps doesn’t clearly doesn’t care about the small details the way I do.

Nonetheless, I am still looking forward to the set for no other reason than I get to update the 1952 Topps design virtual pages I previously created. I’ll post a copy of the PDF once I have that completed.

2015 Topps Past Present Future PhilsIn the meantime, I’ll continue to add the 5″ x 7″ versions of the Wall Art that I like whenever I can — and some of them have been great. In particular, I loved the Past, Present, and Future card that Topps recently issued, as well as last year’s Call-Ups Postcards of Maikel Franco, which used the ’59 design. I was considerably less impressed with their Schmidt ’80s Throwback Thursday Postcard. I suppose Topps deserve credit for trying to make the card look like it was an ’80s issue, but the design looks like a reject for one of the 44-card box sets endemic to the era and they have used that particular photo so much that it should now be considered part of the public domain.

Finally, just because it gives me a way to tie this neatly end this post, Topps has also issued a 5″ x 7″ Series One team set. I assume they’ll do the same after releasing Series Two, but I won’t care if they decide not to. I just view them as oversized parallels and have no interest in them.

Complete 2015 Topps Series One Phillies Checklist and Review

It’s been a quite a while since I posted these type of checklists, and I don’t really have the time to do them in the old format. However, I did enjoy sharing my work, so I’m going to try a new method of posting checklists separately from the massive Excel file I occasionally update on this site. So, in the hopes of making this a regular feature (as far as anything is “regular” in regards to this 2015 Topps Utley Variationblog), here is the complete, to the best of my knowledge, 2015 Topps Series One Phillies checklist, in PDF format.

I feel that it’s much more thorough and helpful than the checklist officially issued by Topps — which actually wasn’t as complete as they would have you believe. I’ve supplemented their information with data from Beckett and with details I’ve gleaned from the cards I acquired and what I’ve seen on eBay. I’d also like to note that I haven’t actually seen everything on the list. This list contains all known parallels and variations for both the main set and all the inserts. I’m not guaranteeing it’s 100% complete, but it’s probably better than you’d find anywhere else — please excuse my lack of modesty on this.

2015 Topps RuizAs for my thoughts on the set itself… For starters, I think it’s the most attractive set Topps has issued in a while, but that may be due to the fact that the player and team names are now in plain white text and not foil-stamped. Topps seems to have also pared down the number of parallels, but given their propensity for adding additional parallels and backfilling when issuing the second series, it’s too soon to say that they’ve cut down on that particular blight. I’m also pleased with the photo selection; in particular, Ruiz’s card and Utley’s variation card stand out in my mind. Having said that, the set vaguely reminds me of 1999 Upper Deck MVP, sans unnecessary foil lines. However, I do wonder if there can ever be a truly unique card design at this stage in the game.

Moving to the inserts… I’m glad to see that Topps has done away with the mini inserts. Some people really enjoyed them, but at the same time they really were kind of superfluous given Topps’s Archives brand. Unfortunately, Topps continued the ridiculously ponderous medallion cards, and because they are a pain to properly store2015 Topps Robbed Revere they can’t go away fast enough for my taste. I like the concept of the Robbed in Center insert set but hate the fact that Topps couldn’t be bothered to use a photo from the April 9, 2014 catch they reference on the back of Revere’s card. It shouldn’t come as a great shock, however — Topps never really has been a stickler for paying attention to that kind of detail. Given the sheer number of Ryan Howard Career High Autographs available on eBay, it certainly appears that Topps is trying to blow out their inventory of Howard autograph stickers while they still can. Speaking of blowing out the autograph sticker stock, Topps issued a Mike Adams autograph card via its Spring Fever dealer promotion, and I snatched up the very first one I saw that hit eBay. There are only 200 of them, which (assuming he doesn’t appear as a Phillie on any future autograph issue) makes Adams one of the harder Phillies to find a certified autograph issue for.

In all, I think it’s a decent start to the 2015 baseball card season. Solid, but nothing spectacular, which is what the Topps flagship brand should be.

2006 Upper Deck Escalade

Clearly, my stated intentions from a few months ago regarding a series of posts celebrating the addition of the card number 20,000 to my collection turned into a massive, deafening dud. Nonetheless, I did go out of my way to ensure that the card was something special, and I will post about it again in the coming days (I completely understand if you’re saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”) But first, I just wanted to share some information I discovered over the past week.

I’ve written before about how Beckett’s online database, as great a resource as it is, is filled with errors. Well, I found another one. For quite a while, thanks to the information I pulled from Escalade ChecklistBeckett, I have been looking for the 2006 Upper Deck Escalade Bobby Abreu card. I’m not the only one; Jim over at The Phillies Room has had it on his want lists for some time.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t exist, and I discovered this thanks to eBay.

Beckett can’t entirely be blamed for this. The back of the packaging on all the Escalade card and mini diecast vehicles contains the checklist Beckett used, and Bobby Abreu is listed as the representative for the Phillies. However, it appears that at some point during the production process Upper Deck decided to pull Abreu and replaced him with Chase Utley. They just forgot to fix the packaging.

(Quick rant concerning the Beckett checklist system: one of the things they do that drives me nuts is that they don’t differentiate between actual card numbers and numbers they’ve assigned. The 2006 Upper Deck Escalade set is one of many where Beckett uses the players’ initials in place of the actual card numbers, presumably because they somehow couldn’t get that information in its entirety. It would be helpful if, like Sports Collectors Digest, they either put the assigned number in parenthesis or employed some other method to convey that the number is not actually what appears on the card.)

2006 Upper Deck Escalade UtleyThe good news is that the card is worth the trouble in finding it. Although the card uses the design from that year’s Upper Deck set, the front and back use different pictures from Utley’s card in that set, and the text on the back differs as well. For those of you looking for the card, it bears the number DC28 on the back, but it’s probably easier to find one still in the original blister packaging. In fact, I may decide to find another one. As careful as I was in extracting this card from its packaging, the packaging itself was not in mint condition (though still unopened), and it appears that the upper right corner was dinged as a result of previous handling. Nonetheless, it’s nice to have it and I can move on to other cards in my want list.

The Countdown to 20,000 Begins

Featured Cards: 1968 Topps #39, Cookie Rojas; 2003 Upper Deck Finite #303, Chase Utley

It’s now as close to official as it 1968 Topps Rojascan get; card number 20,000 will arrive at my home sometime in the next week. In a manner typical in regards to how I manage many of my ongoing projects, my procrastinating on the necessary writing has gotten in the way of my big plans to commemorate the event on this blog. The original plan was that I was going to designate card numbers 19,981-19,999 to particular cards already in my collection, and then write something about each of them. They wouldn’t necessarily be my 20 favorite or most valuable cards, but each of these cards would represent something special to me, either as a collector, a fan. I would wrap this project up around the same time that card number 20,000 arrived at my home.

However, there’s no way I’m going to pull that off in the next week.

Nonetheless, I won’t allow myself to be deterred because I still love the idea. So, I’m going through with the plan anyway. However, I’m going to start at 19,991 (even though I possess “just” 19,980 as I write this), and continue until I reach 20,000. The card will certainly arrive before I have completed my post about card 19,999, but I this2003 Finite Utley is something I really want to do. Since it’s my blog, I get to do what I want, and my post about number 20,000 will wait until it’s turn arrives. I will continue the series after 20,000 in a similar manner, but with no particular endpoint in mind.

Since I suggested the possibility in my previous post, I decided to place an order for a special card that I am already planning to designate as card number 20,000. It’s a big occasion, and I don’t want the card to be one of the cards from the 2014 Topps Allen & Ginter. Nothing against the set – I like what I’ve seen online so far – but assigning the milestone number to one of those cards just didn’t feel right.

The good news is that the card that gets the honor is an impressive one, one worthy of such a designation. Better still, it comes with a story that I’m looking forward to sharing — as are many of the other stories that will come with the cards I intend to post scans of.

Friday Info Dump

2007 Ticket UtleyThose of you who followed this blog for long enough know that I regularly alternate between somewhat frequent posting for a few months with disappearing for a few weeks or months. So, going nearly three weeks without posting is really not all that noteworthy. However, I must state for the record that recent changes WordPress made to its image upload tool certainly aided and abetted in my most recent stretch of silence. In particular, they removed the ability to easily add frames and spacing to images, and I relied heavily on those functions when posting images of my cards to this page. Although I can still do so (as evidenced by this post), it takes a lot of time-consuming, manual HTML. While not completely to blame for the recent lack of posting, it certainly provided a lot of disincentive when time was at a premium. I will adapt — I’d much rather WordPress got its damn act together and reincorporated border and spacing options for images — but only because I hate the thought of transferring everything to a new site.

With that mini-rant out of the way, here’s comes a giant info dump of stuff covering the past few weeks…

I was both pleased and disappointed 2014 Topps Phillies Byrdwith the 2014 Topps Phillies Team Set. Based on the cards that overlapped with the offerings in the first series of 2014 Topps, there doesn’t appear to be any unique photos in this year’s team set — although we should withhold final judgment until we see both the second series and 2014 Topps Update Series. The lack of foil on the cards again confirms how unnecessary it is on the flagship product, so I like the look and feel of the Topps Phillies Team Set much better. Of particular interest, for now, are the Marlon Byrd and Freddy Galvis cards. Topps used an older picture of Byrd from his first stint with the team as opposed to digitally editing a newer photo — the opposite of what they did with Placido Polanco and Jim Thome in their second stints with the Phils. Aside from the completely natural look to the photo, the biggest giveaway is the number on his sleeve — 2014 Topps Phillies GalvisByrd wore “29” when he first played for the team. As for Galvis, this marks his first official Topps-issued MLB card (as opposed to his Bowman Prospects inserts, which we all know are not officially MLB cards, rookie or otherwise — wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more). Sadly, we don’t see his face, or The Rookie Card Logo. Without an explanation from Topps, I’m willing to bet that since the logo is jointly administered by MLB and the MLBPA, Panini gets credit for releasing Galvis’s official rookie cards back in 2012. Or, maybe, this is going to be a case where the is no “official” rookie card.

And now, for the blipverts portion of today’s post:

2014 Topps Museum RufWith the addition of his 2014 Topps Musuem Collection Autographs card to my collection, I now have 30 Darin Ruf cards in my collection, and 13 of them are autograph cards. In terms of combined cost and availability, his autograph cards may very well be the easiest to acquire of any current Phillie. There’s still one more Ruf autograph card on its way to my house: his 2013 Topps Supreme is currently enroute from Korea. One day, I’m sure I’ll look back on all his autograph cards in the same manner as I view Gavin Floyd’s or Marlon Byrd’s…

I’m still waiting for Phillies to start properly catering to the nostalgia of Gen Xers such as myself — i.e., for more than just one night per season. When it does, I fully expect to see the Phillies jersey from the ’70s & ’80s become a regular alternate home jersey for the club. I don’t care whether they use the home pinstripes or the road powder blues, so long as semi-regularly I see the classic maroon “P” on the front of the jerseys again…

2009 UD Signature Stars BlantonI was surprised to see Joe Blanton’s sudden retirement. I never imagined I’d be able to pull his jersey out of my closest this quickly. Yes, he really wasn’t good for the past couple years, and I attended a couple games he pitched against the Nationals which made me question my decision to get his name and number on my one and only (so far) alternate home jersey. However, I will always appreciate what he did for the Phillies in 2008 — especially in Game 4 of the World Series. In a related development, I’m very happy to see that I will need leave the Randy Wolf jersey on its hanger for just a little while longer (screw you, Mariners front office)…

I need to give proper credit to Uncle Chris, who provided me with the 2007 Phillies ticket featured at the top of this post. While I catalog them in the database and treat these types of tickets as cards, they are very low priority on my want lists. When I received this one yesterday, it came as a pleasant surprise — my uncle gave me no advance warning that it was coming in the mail…

2009 MLB Fan PakFinally, I will post an updated version of the Phillies Baseball Card Database sometime early next week. I want to properly incorporate all the information from Topps Heritage, Topps Gypsy Queen, Topps Museum Collection and (2013) Bowman Chrome Mini releases before posting it. However, I must admit that I’m glad to say that amongst the various updates is one delightful oddball set that recently came to my attention and that is now prominent in my wantlists: Enterplay’s 2009 MLB Fan Pak. More about that set in a future post.

Featured Cards: 2007 Phillies Season Ticket Holder Ticket Stubs (no #), Chase Utley; 2014 Topps Phillies Team Set #PHI-2, Marlon Byrd, & #PHI-15, Freddy Galvis; 2014 Topps Museum Collection Autographs #AA-DF, Darin Ruf; 2009 Upper Deck Signature Stars #125, Joe Blanton; 2009 MLB Fan Pak #56, Jimmy Rollins

2014 Donruss: Renewing a Love Affair

During the 1980s, Donruss was my favorite 1988 Donruss BB Best Parrishcard manufacturer. Please don’t misunderstand, I didn’t think that they released the best set of cards every year. My feelings were more the result of the fact they were the ones attempting to modernize baseball card designs (at least, on the front of the card.) Some of the them were hideous, especially the 1988 Donruss Baseball’s Best which replaced the blue in the borders of the regular ’88 set with orange, thus providing a look so horrifying that the set should’ve been released on Halloween. But as I said in my review of 2014 Topps Turkey Red, I’d rather the card companies try something different and fail miserably than be absolutely lazy and boring. However, there’s no such issue with Panini’s resurrection of the Donruss brand. In fact, the 2014 Donruss set, the first in nearly 10 years, now makes Panini my favorite card manufacturer.

That’s quite the feat considering that they don’t have a license from MLB. However, over the past year in particular, Panini has shown exceptional adroitness, flexibility, and growth in figuring out how to properly remove team 2013 Panini AP Carltonlogos and insignia from the photos they use. I didn’t write a review about their 2013 America’s Pastime offering (although I did write about why I felt the John Kruk & Carlos Ruiz dual autograph card was by far the best Phillies autograph card of the year), but in my opinion it was actually the best high-end set of the year. In addition to assembling a complete team set, I also acquired as many of the inserts as I could. I’m sure my ability to purchase nearly every base card and insert was enhanced by the fact that so many collectors are turned off by the lack of MLB licensing, by I viewed that as their loss and my gain. In my opinion, if Panini continues issuing sets that exceed those produced by Topps, then collectors will force Topps and MLB to take notice.

2014 Donruss LeeAfter the release of 2014 Donruss, Topps and MLB should take notice. This is what a low-end set should be. Let’s start with the bast set. As other collectors have noted, the design uses elements of the 1987 set with a cursive script for the team’s home city. I’ve seen a couple different collectors refer to the script as reminiscent of that used on Topps’s 1978 set, and while I understand the sentiment, I don’t entirely agree. If you look closely at the script on the ’78 Topps cards, it is a different cursive font — all cursive fonts look vaguely similar. Really, the city name font on 2014 Donruss is the same script Panini used on America’s Pastime, only slanted and italicized. They’ve brought back the logo Donruss employed from 1982 through 1985 — though it’s much more prominent than it ever was on previous sets — and the backs look fairly similar those throughout the ’80s, though for some reason 2014 Donruss Lee BackPanini chose to only list 2013 stats and career totals, rather than list the last five seasons of stats in the manner Donruss did 20 years ago. I also couldn’t help but notice that Panini jettisoned the “Contract Status” and “How Acquired” information from the design Donruss faithfully employed for nearly 10 years, starting in 1983. Beginning a theme that will start running throughout the insert sets, Panini mixed design elements from different year by coloring the backs blue like the 1986 sets, rather than the gold used on the back of the 1987 set.

Beyond the regular 2014 Donruss DK Utleybase cards, Panini also properly included Diamond Kings and Rated Rookie subsets, though the design of the Diamond Kings subset is clearly borrows from the 1984 set rather than the 1987. Unfortunately, Panini didn’t pay for original artwork for use on the Diamond King cards and instead relied on a photo treatment to make the photos appear vaguely like artwork. I suppose that’s just a sign of the times (Topps currently isn’t any better), but it would’ve been nice to see artwork, even if Dick Perez was either unavailable or too expensive. There are no foils or gimmicky variations to increase interest, and while parallels, as such, didn’t exist in the ’80s, the ones Panini issued — Press Proofs, Career Stat Line, and Season Stat Line — properly reflect the parallels created by Donruss before it lost its MLB license in 2005.

Panini continued paying 2014 Donruss Rookies Rupphomage to various Donruss designs from the ’80s with the insert sets. The Team MVP set, which includes Mike Schmidt and Ryan Howard, is nearly identical to the 1989 Donruss Bonus MVPs, with the MVP text moved from the bottom of the card to the top. The Rookies, which Donruss originally issued as a self-contained box set, interestingly utilizes the color-scheme of the 1988 Donruss set and the name plate from that year’s Diamond Kings subset to create another design that is both new and retro. The same applies to the No-No’s set, which superimposes 1989 Donruss border colors onto the basic 1986 Donruss design.

But it’s the Game Gear relic set that may possess the most interesting amalgamation of Donruss designs. It appears to use a variation of the 2002 Donruss Originals What If 19802014 Donruss GG Brown as the basic design, and then takes the team name font from the 1981 set for the Game Gear set name. I only call this one the most interesting because someone at Panini possessed enough knowledge about the history of the brand to make a connection to the What If 1980 insert set. Too bad someone at Topps wasn’t showing this level of creativity on this year’s Turkey Red set. The two remaining insert sets containing a member of the Phillies, Hall Worthy and Breakout Hitters, don’t appear to have any analogues to previous Donruss issues, but I’m willing to admit that it’s possible that my ignorance of such sets, certainly inserts of some sort, results from the lack of a Phillie in the originals.

In a set chock-full of things to love, I do have a few very minor quibbles with the final product. First, the main set is too small. At a minimum, the set should’ve been 660 cards, since it was Donruss, along with Fleer, who established that as an acceptable minim2014 Donruss Byrdum for a comprehensive, modern set. Second, while I loved seeing each and every single one of the variations on Donruss designs from the ’80s, I personally would have loved to see Panini slowly tease them out over the course of a few different sets. On the other hand, it might be better that Panini issued the overt homages to Donruss’s en masse so that with future releases it could move the set forward in a new direction. Finally, I also noticed that the year was missing from its place next to the Donruss logo. Although Donruss stopped incorporating the year in such a manner in the mid ’90s, I always thought it was a nice touch that provided collectors, both new and old, with a very easy way to immediately identify the year the set was released.

However, those quibbles detract in any discernible fashion from my enjoyment of 2014 Donruss. It’s a wonderful reintroduction of the brand, and its creative homage to its past works quite nicely. Panini manages the neat trick of issuing a low-end set that contains the requisite parallels and inserts that many modern collectors expect, and Panini does this by employing designs for the insert sets that make it clear which set they accompanied — something that’s not always true with insert sets. Aside from my nitpicky criticisms, the only thing that could’ve made this set better was an MLB license. Alas, we have a Topps monopoly on that until the year 2020. It really is a shame we have to wait that long for Panini to potentially receive one — that lack of license is standing in the way of the hobby properly embracing these sets.

One Final Note: I couldn’t find a way to properly work it into the review, but Utley’s base card appears to have an uncorrected error: the back of his card lists his name as “Chase Cameron Headley.”

Featured cards: 1988 Donruss Baseball’s Best #184, Lance Parrish; 2013 Panini America’s Pastime #123, Steve Carlton; 2014 Donruss #111, Cliff Lee; 2014 Donruss #19, Chase Utley; 2014 Donruss The Rookies #11, Cameron Rupp; 2014 Donruss Game Gear #39, Domonic Brown; 2014 Donruss #151, Marlon Byrd

2014 Topps Turkey Red, Revisited

2014 Turkey Red HalladayOver the weekend, I gave some more thought to what I wrote about the newest iteration of Topps’s Turkey Red brand. My opinion on the set remains the same, and I wouldn’t retract or change a single word. However, it did occur to me that if Topps was indeed attempting a modern take on the Turkey Red design — one of my suggestions for why the set looks the way it does — then they managed to completely overlook a direction suggested by their own designers approximately 15 years ago: the 1997 and 1998 Gallery sets.

When you look at those sets, it’s clear that they contain the same basic design elements employed by the original Turkey Red set. Both the ’97 and ’98 Gallery sets contain the picture frame and nameplate motifs, and both sets actually employ multiple variations of it in each year. Remove the foil and the gloss from

1997 Gallery Jefferies1997 Gallery Schilling1998 Gallery Rolen1998 Gallery Schilling

the cards, and you essentially have Turkey Red sets with frames embodying a much more modern appearance. Topps could have taken this direction, and even potentially created a “Gallery” parallel set that used foil, gloss, and the Gallery logo. While I typically avoid parallels and find most of them to be utterly banal and superfluous, I would’ve applauded Topps for updating a retro design and paying homage to a brand that they’ve let lay fallow for quite some time now (and I’m not just saying this because I came up with the idea.)

One other thought regarding the 2007 Turkey Red Utley2014 Turkey Red set: who the hell thought that new photo treatment looked attractive? I can accept that paying artists to do original artwork for baseball cards can become quite pricey and that it’s more cost effective to apply some kind of filter to an existing photo to make it appear like artwork — even though original artwork is what made the 2007 Turkey Red set arguably the best of the series. However, the new filter they used on this year’s set was just awful — even if they did manage to correct the error that caused coloration problems on the Phillie script on the jerseys and the “P” on the caps. Why the change from the one they used on all the other Turkey Red sets? If they felt such a change was essential, there were better filters available, such as the one they used on the 2007 Bowman Heritage sets.

2007 Bowman Heritage IguchiComing back to my primary complaint about the 2014 Turkey Red set, this boils back down to an overall lack of attention to detail at Topps. I know that once you take into account all its other sports and non-sports brands, Topps creates and distributes an ridiculous number of sets per year. That type of production schedule must be difficult to maintain, as evidenced by the fact that the release date on this year’s Heritage offering was pushed back to March 14 from March 5. Because Topps is a privately-held company and therefore isn’t required to publish annual earnings statements, there’s no way for me to know Topps’s profit margins for 2013. However, are their earnings so slim that they can’t hire one person — an expert on both the details of baseball card design throughout the product’s history and baseball history in general — 2009 Turkey Red Ibanezwhose job it is to ensure that such inattention to detail doesn’t occur? Or is this a case of a company that actually doesn’t care all that much about what its customers think, so long as they somehow maintain their current profit margins?

In the end, I just wish that Topps showed that they care as much about the minutiae of the final product as collectors such as myself do. The key here is that we want to unabashedly love these sets — that’s why we purchase them and write about them in the manner we do. Out criticism stems not from a desire to berate the product but from the understanding that it could be made significantly more enjoyable without much in the way of effort. Deep down, however, I know that Topps will show no inclination to address these flaws so long as I, and collectors such as myself, continue to purchase such product  despite our complaints. However, I will continue to voice such objections in the hopes that one day Topps may actually start listening to them.

Featured cards: 2014 Topps Turkey Red #83, Roy Halladay; 1997 Gallery #23, Gregg Jefferies; 1997 Gallery #54, Curt Schilling; 1998 Topps Gallery #74, Scott Rolen; 1998 Topps Gallery #127, Curt Schilling; 2007 Topps Turkey Red #56, Chase Utley; 2007 Bowman Heritage #162, Tadahito Iguchi; 2009 Topps Turkey Red #TR129, Raúl Ibañez

Oddball Game Card Week, Post #4: Wrapping Up

1992 MVP Game BackI must admit that when I first conceived the idea for this themed week of posts, I didn’t actually search my collection to see how many sets I could potentially cover. I just had this strong impression that there were a large number of such sets — even after my completely arbitrary decision to focus on truly oddball products and avoid game cards that were produced by the major manufacturers and/or marketed in some fashion to the hobby. Well, although I had enough for a series of posts, I didn’t have as much material as I thought, so this series will conclude with just four posts.

1992 MVP Game CarltonThe first of the two sets that will close this series is the 1992 MVP Game. SCD doesn’t list it in The Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards, and Board Game Geek has no information on the game either. All I know about it is the information given by Beckett in its database. At the risk of sounding like a CD stuck on repeatedly playing the same two seconds, like so many of the other game cards in this series, I have no idea how this game was played. Given the fact it only contained 18 cards, measuring 2¼” x 3716”, it’s hard to fathom how such a game would’ve worked. Interestingly, retired players — most of them Hall of Famers — comprise the entirety of the game deck.

Our last card for the 2008 Sports Equation Utley Frontseries of posts isn’t actually a game card — it’s a math flash card. It’s one of the newest additions to my collection, and I discovered it only a few weeks ago. It’s not in the current online version of the database, but it will be when I post the next updated version within the next few days (the updated version will also contain complete checklists for 2014 Turkey Red, 2014 Topps Heritage, 2014 Topps Tribute, & 2014 Donruss). The company that made them appears to be defunct already, but I did find some marketing information still residing in the dark recesses of the web. Beyond that, the only information I can find on the oversized (3¼” x 5⅛”) 2008 Sports Equation Math Flash Cards comes from a post by Collecting the Cubs back in 2011. Collecting the Cubs provides a complete checklist, and the set apparently contains one player from each team, with Utley repres2008 Sports Equation Utley Backenting the Phillies. There are two versions of his card, one bearing an addition problem and the other a multiplication problem. Beyond the header, question, and answer, the two cards are otherwise identical. For this reason, I only picked up the addition version of the card.

Although I didn’t have as much material as I would’ve liked for this particular series, I have a couple other ideas for future theme week posts. When I decide to do the net one, I’ll do a better job of planning the posts in advance to ensure that I have plenty to highlight and discuss.

Oddball Game Card Week, Post #2: MLB Trade Up

2007 Trade Up BackWriting about the various Phillies Uno cards yesterday was easy. It’s a game that nearly everyone is familiar with, so I didn’t feel the need to explain how to play the game. Furthermore, I had complete sets for the two different Phillies versions, so I could easily reference and explain the purpose of the specialty “Acquisition” card. Unfortunately, I own just the Phillies cards for the remainder of the oddball game cards I’ll feature this week. I don’t know anything about the merits of the games themselves, but I’ll share whatever information I can.

2007 Trade Up RollinsToday’s oddball game cards come from Snap TV Games and were distributed in 2007 as part of the MLB Trade Up DVD/board game. Like so many of the other oddball game cards in my collection, I only discovered this particular set when running through my many eBay searches, and when I did find the cards it was a few years after the game originally hit toy store shelves. They’re not listed in the Beckett online database nor were they listed in SCD’s Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards. However, I do believe that I have all the Phillies from the set listed in the current version of the Phillies Baseball Card Database.

Like the Uno cards I wrote about yesterday, the MLB Trade Up cards are fully licensed by both the MLBPA and MLB. However, they are standard-sized, unlike the Uno cards, which were just 2316” x 3⅞” — a point I accidentally neglected to mention in the Uno post. With either 2007 Trade Up Utley52 0r 60 cards in the overall set — it’s hard to tell based on Board Game Geek’s description of the game’s contents — the Phillies are quite well represented with the inclusion of Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, & Ryan Howard. Of the three, the most fascinating of the cards is certainly Utley’s. You just don’t see very many baseball cards of players in midair while transitioning into a head-first slide. Even more interestingly, though he’s wearing a home uniform, based on what we can see of the field he’s clearly not at Citizen’s Bank Park, nor is it a spring training photo. Instead, based on the writing on the blurry fence in the background it looks like this photo was almost certainly taken during the 2006 MLB All Stars tour of Japan. Assuming that is the case, and I don’t see any reason why it’s not, that makes the photo the coolest on any Chase Utley card thus far.

2013 Pinnacle: A Phillies Collector’s Review

Featured cards listed at end of post.

2013 Pinnacle HamelsAs I’ve stated before, I want to see Topps’s monopoly on MLB-sanctioned card broken (even if it won’t happen until 2020, at the absolute earliest), but I can’t bring myself to stop collecting their cards because of what it will do to my collection. Thus, the only way to make my displeasure known is start spreading some of my collecting budget around to the sets that only bear MLBPA approval. Yes, I’m going to have to live without MLB logos and team names, but such cards have been around for over 40 years now. In fact, some of my personal favorite oddball Phillies releases were produced by Michael Schecter Associates, the longtime, indisputable king of such sets from the ’70s through the mid ’90s.

However, the playing field has changed 2013 Pinnacle Rufsomehow since sets bearing the MSA copyright freely roamed the land. MLB is paying much closer attention than they used to. Back in the ’70s and early ’80s it wasn’t uncommon to still see the use of team monikers on such issues, even if it wasn’t completely legal. Furthermore, MLB’s legal team is making harder for the MLBPA-approved sets to bear photography that links the photograph to a facility in which MLB games are played. True, today’s digital photo manipulation technology makes it easier to perform all the tasks necessary to keep the MLB lawyers at bay, but it’s hard to escape the end result: regardless of quality, the photos in the cards just seem to lack a vibrancy found in even the blandest Topps issue. As a result, one needs to judge the MLBPA-sanctioned issues with a different set of criteria.

2013 Pinnacle Ruf BackWith that in mind, there’s quite a lot to like about Panini’s revivial of the Pinnacle brand. It works as a decent low-end set, a kind of throwback set I alluded to a couple days ago: no foil or other printing gimmicks, a limited number of parallels and no SPs. Furthermore, Panini designed the fronts to reflect the designs of the original Pinnacle releases; most notably, the all black borders, and rookie cards grouped together in a subset. Even the parallels are resurrections of the original sets’ parallels: Artist’s Proofs and Museum Collection. Unfortunately, the backs look nothing like the backs of the 1992 & 1993 sets which fronts of the 2013 edition clearly evoke. Most notable is the absence of player portraits on the back, and it would’ve been nice to see Panini make such an effort on this release. Beyond that, it just looks like a different design aesthetic altogether, which is 1993 Pinnacle Bell Backa shame given that the fronts of the 2013 set make it look like a natural predecessor to those earlier releases.

As for the Phillies player selection, the huge emphasis on rookies, which encompasses fully ¼ of the whole 200-card set, leads to Darrin Ruf and Tyler Cloyd pushing out a couple Phillies who probably should’ve been included instead — most notably, Cliff Lee. In addition, I’m not sold on the inclusion of Michael Young in the set, but clearly both Panini and Topps both felt that his presence in many sets this year was more important than the inclusion of Jimmy Rollins, whose status seems most impacted in sets hovering around this size. With just four other cards in the set, it’s hard to quibble with the remaining player choices: Chase Utley, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Ryan Howard.

2013 Pinnacle Auto CloydThere are two really notable aspects to the set’s inserts. First, we get Tyler Cloyd’s first autograph card properly showing him in “Philadelphia” attire. Topps still hasn’t issued a Cloyd autograph card — though to be fair, I think that is a borderline defensible position from Topps’s standpoint as Cloyd really is little more than a AAAA roster filler material. So, at this time this is the closest you are going to get to a true Cloyd Phillies autograph card. (His only previous autograph card, also a Panini release, shows him in either minor league or collegiate attire and looks even less like “real” Philadelphia card.) Second, Chase Utley gets a lot of insert attention in this set and is the only Phillie with multiple inserts, checking in with three. This is a refreshing change from what I’ve seen this year from Topps, who seems to have largely forgotten that even with all his injuries over the past few seasons, he’s still produced as one of the game’s elite second basemen.

However, one of 2013 Pinnacle CV Utleythose insert sets, Clear Vision, is a real puzzler. There’s no explanatory text whatsoever on any of these cards whatsoever, so without seeing the marketing material, I cannot make any sense of why players were selected for this insert. Additionally, I am unable to discern neither the rationale behind the various parallels for this set; the parallels each bear a different word on them — in the case of the pitchers, they are “Complete Game,” “No Hitter,” “Win,” “Shutout, and “Perfect Game.” Furthermore, are the parallels printed equally or in varying numbers? Once again, we have an insert set that serves no purpose whatsoever (not even a thinly applied one), other than to provide an excuse to print more cards of star players. At least thus far Panini hasn’t reused the same photo of Utley in any of its sets — though, admittedly, that’s a little easier for them since they don’t product as much product as Topps.

2013 Pinnacle HowardGiven the restraints the lack of MLB approval placed upon Panini, 2013 Pinnacle is a fairly decent set. Although it will never become a set collector’s will look fondly upon, it works well in the low-end segment of the hobby that the manufacturers really neglect since it’s not a huge money maker. Furthermore it provides an interesting glimpse into what Panini or Upper Deck, when they finally come around to issuing their first new baseball cards in three years, might produce should either of them decides to issue a comprehensive set of baseball players who play at the highest professional level in America. I, for one, am hoping such a set comes out sooner than later.

Featured Cards: 2013 Pinnacle #112, Cole Hamels; 2013 Pinnacle #161, Darin Ruf; 1993 Pinnacle #566, Juan Bell; 2013 Pinnacle Rookie Autographs #TY, Tyler Cloyd; 2013 Pinnacle Clear Vision Triple #CV50, Chase Utley; 2013 Pinnacle #139, Ryan Howard