Category Archives: Dave Hollins

Set Naming Conventions

Featured Cards: 2005 Sweet Spot Sweet Spot Signatures Autographed Baseball Leather #SS-GF; 2005 Sweet Spot #102, Chris Roberson; 1996 Fleer Ultra #526, Kevin Sefcik; 1993 Finest #23, Dave Hollins

I reached a rather important landmark in the evolution of the Phillies Baseball Card Database, the newest version of which is now online: it finally contains all the cards and items in my collection. Every single card, coin, sticker, team-issued Phan Photo set — it’s all in there now. A 2005 Sweet Spot Signatures Gavin Floyd card was the last item in my collection to make it, and although there’s still a lot of work that needs to go into the database, one of the primary reasons for my 2005 Sweet Spot SSS BL Floydembarking on this project is now completed. It feels good to have reach this point; really good.

This Sweet Spot signature card of Gavin Floyd coincidentally allows me to write a little bit about one aspect of the database that I feel is unique to it: the naming convention. Anyone who has spent lots of time pouring over the Beckett and SCD annual baseball card catalogs know that the two of them occasionally differ in how they refer to various sets. In fact, I’ve referenced such differences in the past when I’ve posted checklists for various sets. Although both companies included statements regarding the identification of sets in their respective catalogs, I personally found these explanations somewhat vague and rather unhelpful in regards to modern issues, of all things. The reason for this is simple: frequently the way they name a set is inconsistent with the set name as shown on the card.

Take another look at the Gavin Floyd card above. According to Beckett, this is a 2005 Sweet Spot Signatures Red Stitch Blue Ink #GF. SCD, on the other hand, lists it as a 2005 Upper Deck Sweet Spot Signatures Red Stitch Blue Ink #GF. However, based on the information given on the card, and the way that the set was marketed by Upper Deck, I list the card in the database as 2005 Sweet Spot Sweet Spot Signatures Autographed Baseball Leather Red Stitch, Blue Ink #SS-GF.

2005 Sweet Spot Roberson FrontHere’s the rationale behind the name. First, and most importantly, the primary set name, the set with which Upper Deck issued this card, should be “2005 Sweet Spot.” Although the Upper Deck logo appears on all their products, it’s not actually included in the name of all their products, and that’s an important distinction. In the case of 2005 Sweet Spot, Upper Deck incorporated neither their logo nor name into the Sweet Spot logo or name. This is true on the front of the cards, the packs, and the boxes. Therefore, in my opinion, it shouldn’t be part of the name. However, the knowledgeable reader will note that the back of all the cards in the base set all say “2005 Upper Deck Sweet Spot Baseball” on the bottom. This actually highlights a small issue with my methodology — sometimes the card manufacturer is inconsistent with the name of their own product. When this occurs, I choose the name that most accurately reflects how the set was marketed. I’d like to believe that my decisions reflect some sort of consistency in situations such as this, but given that this database is over three years in the making (so far) it’s possible that I’ve inadvertently allowed a few inconsistencies. Therefore, I find SCD’s use of “Upper Deck” in the set name understandable, even though I didn’t use with it.

The second part of my methodology 2005 Sweet Spot Roberson Backregards the naming of insert sets. Basically, all inserts are named with the primary set name listed first. Therefore, given that “Sweet Spot Signatures” appears to be the name of this particular insert set (the set title on the card is not listed simply as “Signatures”), by my methodology the full name of this particular set is 2005 Sweet Spot Sweet Spot Signatures. However, I didn’t stop there because of additional language on the card. Upper Deck issued versions of this card that used manufactured bat barrels and glove leather, and, very importantly, Upper Deck altered the text on the front of each version of the card accordingly. Rather than resort to shorthand, as Beckett and SCD did, I included all the pertinent naming information. Thus, “Autographed Baseball Leather” is included in the set name for this particular Floyd card. Finally, even within the baseball leather version of the card, Upper Deck introduced parallels that differed in the stitching and type of ink used. Those descriptions make up the final portion of the set name; hence, “2005 Sweet Spot Sweet Spot Signatures Autographed Baseball Leather Red Stitch, Blue Ink.” My previous post on the matter of card numbering explains the final difference between Beckett’s, SCD’s, and my designations for this card.

1996 Fleer Ultra SefickUnlike this particular example, most naming decisions are much easier to make — especially in regards to the primary sets. In the case of nearly every Fleer Ultra set, the Fleer name is incorporated in both the Ultra name and logo. Furthermore, until 1998, Fleer did it in a manner that did not reflect the way that they normally displayed the Fleer name and logo. Therefore, it should be part of the set name. In fact, there is only one Ultra set which did not incorprate the Fleer name or logo, and that was the 1998 set. You’ll note that the ’98 set is the only one listed in the database simply as “Ultra.” Topps’s Stadium Club sets harbor a very similar issue. For the first half of the brand’s life, the Topps name was incorporated into the name of the set, and Topps frequently did so in a manner that was different from its typical use of the Topps name by itself — this was really notable in its 1995 and 1996 Topps Stadium Club sets. Topps didn’t market the set as simply “Stadium Club” until 1998.

As I noted before, 1993 Finest Hollinsnot all decisions were easy to make, and there are always exceptions to the rules. The 1993 Finest set is a perfect example. Taking a look a the boxes, packs, and even the cards themselves, the set should actually be listed as “Baseball’s Finest.” However, for a variety of reasons that I won’t actually get into at this time, I decided that the prudent decision for this particular set was to follow typical naming conventions within the hobby. Truthfully, I’m still not 100% certain I was right in doing so, and I reserve the right to change my mind at a future date, though it is highly unlikely I will actually do so.

Even though it now contains my full collection, I will continue to expand upon the database and post periodic updates. Furthermore, I’ve incorporated a system that allows me, moving forward, to post both a complete updated file and a file containing just corrections and additions for those who are already using the file. You will note that the newest version includes a new tab in which I give credit to those who have provided corrections and additions — even though the database itself is still a work in progress, I welcome both of them.

Advertisements

1993: The Last Great Year for Basic Baseball Cards?

Featured Cards: 1993 Bowman #104, Kevin Stocker; 1993 O-Pee-Chee #169, Dave Hollins; 1993 Donruss #224, Mickey Morandini; 1993 Fleer #100, Darren Daulton; 1993 Score #289, Bob Ayrault; 1993 Topps #585, Ricky Jordan; 1993 Upper Deck #267, Wes Chamberlain; 1993 Pacific #240, Terry Mulholland

I’m going to sound like something of a curmudgeon, but I’ll just put it right out in front: 1993 was the last great year for basic baseball card design (and no, this has nothing to do with the ’93 Phillies). This is a huge deal because by 1993, I was 21 years old and these were not the sets of my youth — the type for which a significant percentage of collectors feel the most nostalgia. By then, I shifted all of my collecting efforts into assembling a Phillies-only collection, and outside of those acquisitions I saw very little else. In fact, back when these cards appeared in ’93 I don’t think I was thinking that much at all about the design of those cards in comparison to what came before and after.

However, this part summer an old friend gave me his baseball card collection, which was overwhelmingly comprised of ’90s and early ’00s issues. As I sorted through and cataloged them, I gained a whole new appreciation for the 1993 Donruss, Fleer, Score, Topps and Upper Deck base sets. The overriding reason was simple: collectively, they were the last gasp of the basic baseball card design as we knew it. That was the last year we saw a large array of clean, traditional borders, no foil stamping or special finishes (other than a basic gloss applied to both the front and the back), very few parallels, and sets large enough to portray the entire starting lineup, starting rotation, and a handful of relievers & reserves. It also simultaneously, somewhat paradoxically, marked the first time that all the major manufacturers, in unison, finally designed proper full-color backs. Not all the sets were good ones — there were certainly a couple designs that were lacking. However, as a group, they did provided a strong presentation of card design before full-bleed photos, high-gloss, foil stamping, foil printing, oodles of parallels and SPs went rampant throughout the hobby. Here’s a quick review of the base sets that year.

1993 Donruss

Simple design on the front, but it’s the back that made this a wonderful departure for Donruss. Donruss went full color on the backs in 1992, but despite the addition of a portrait photo, the backs were still basically recognizable as a variation on the ones Donruss produced for the previous 10 years. However, back of the ’93 sets was a real change for Donruss. True, they still only gave five years of stats, but the portrait layout and larger photo represented the first truly new Donruss backside layout since the 1982 set. Unfortunately (from a traditional perspective), this set was also the last time that Donruss would issue base cards using traditional borders of any color until 2001.

1993 Fleer

Fleer embraced proper, full-color backs in ’91, and it’s ’92 set was actually better than this one. The gray borders make the set look somewhat dingy, and I really would’ve loved to see what they would have looked like with white borders and a simple, thin black frame around the photo and the team name/player/position line. However, like Donruss, Fleer kept the design simple and clean, and while the poster-like font and presentation on the back of the card bordered on overkill, they did a nice job of incorporating an action photo onto the back of the card. In ’94 Fleer would produce arguably their best set ever, but some tasteful, judicious foil stamping placed it outside the realm of traditional design, and they wouldn’t release a traditional-style set again until the release of 2000 Fleer Tradition.

1993 Score

Although all the major base sets employed a very simple design, this set was almost certainly the least inspired and most boring of the major base sets in ’93 (the very stolid font used on the front of the card certainly didn’t help). Score was at the forefront of full-color backs bearing pictures back in ’88 and as was the case with Fleer, their massive, 893-card ’92 set was actually much better. In fact, the only Score set worse than this one is the 1990 issue. To their credit, despite embracing parallels and modern card design elements in their other offerings, the Score flagship set continued to employ solely traditionally design elements right up through the demise of the company in 1998.

1993 Topps

Although Topps finally issued cards bearing full-color backs in ’92, it was really done half-assed. The backs did not contain pictures of the players, and Topps did not apply any kind of gloss finish to the backs. That changed with its ’93 release. However, the design of the card was somewhat schizophrenic; the relatively simple front design (which inexplicably did not include the player’s position) was offset by a much-busier back design that doesn’t readily appear to use any of the same design elements. Nonetheless, the total effect made it one of the better Topps flagship issues of the decade. Sadly, the ’94 set marked the last time Topps did not make use of foil stamping on the base set. Nowadays, Topps’s retro sets (Heritage, Allen & Ginter & Gypsy Queen) are the only place you can find them employing solely traditional design methods, but even then Topps has to muck the sets up with SPs and parallels out the wazoo. Interestingly, although Topps arguably started the practice of parallels in ’92 and were the only ones to issue a parallel with their base set in ’93, the company didn’t fully embrace parallels the same way their competitors did later in the decade.

1993 Upper Deck

Like Score, Upper Deck used full-color on its backs starting with its debut issue in 1989. However, Upper Deck did very little to differentiate the designs on any its releases during the following three years. That changed with its ’93 release. Although it uses a cursive script on the front and the design elements overlap the picture rather than frame it, the design is still basically traditional — especially when compared to Upper Deck’s follow-up release the following year. Like Topps, Upper Deck would never again issue a set under its flagship line that did not employ some sort of foil stamping or special finish. Although, I will gladly argue that the five-year run of its Collector’s Choice brand, which eschewed the foil on the base cards, starting in 1994 actually continued in a traditional manner the legacy of the original Upper Deck brand — without getting stuck in some in the same design rut.

And that’s just the five big flagship sets. In addition to these, as well as the ’93 Bowman and ’93 O-Pee-Chee at the beginning of this post, we had a slew of other sets which eschewed SPs, high-gloss, foil cards, foil stamping, full-bred photography, parallels and all the other bells and whistles that are now considered normal for so many modern issues. Most notably, Pacific debuted that year with a set that looks right in place with all the others sets already covered.

It’s interesting to look back and realize that 1993 marked a real demarcation in the way modern baseball cards are made. We tend to think of iconic sets or the introduction of certain brands as moments where the hobby underwent some sort of shift. There was none of that in ’93. However, what we did see, without anyone realizing it at the time, was one last collective effort to simply produce cards. Yes, there was still a plethora of product and inserts galore, but the sets themselves were much simpler. Looking back at those sets, I realize just how much I miss when cards were issued in the manner demonstrated by the major manufacturers in their flagship brands.

It Wasn’t Always This Way: The 2002 Phillies

Featured Cards: 2002 Topps Post #14, Scott Rolen; 2002 UD Authentics #157, Randy Wolf; 2002 Leaf Rookies & Stars #112(a), Curt Schilling; 2002 Studio Spirit of the Game Hats Off #SG-22, Brandon Duckworth; 2003 Topps Total #510, Joe Roa; 2002 Donruss Originals #76, Jimmy Rollins; 2002 Nabisco-Acme Phillies (no number), Dave Hollins; 2002 Donruss Originals Signature Marks #SM-42, Jeremy Giambi; 2002 Flair #129, Nick Punto

Like most other Phillies fans at this moment, I am trying hard not to hit the panic button. This year’s edition is arguably the best squad assembled in franchise history, and regardless of whether or not they are just playing out the season until the playoffs start, they are not supposed to lose six straight games — especially at home, and with four of those losses coming against the Nationals. This is not part of the plan! However, while worrying about whether the club can turn the intensity knob back to “11” is an understandable response, it’s worth noting that the Phillies haven’t played this long a stretch of meaningless games since the end of the 2002 season.

Yes, you read that right: 2002 marked the last time the Phillies played this many games with no division title, wild card spot or postseason seeding position on the line. It may seem hard to believe, but from 2003-2006, the Phillies were often picked to compete for the division title, and despite under-performing preseason expectations each year, they were usually vying for some sort of playoff position until the last week of the season. Furthermore, the final standings in 2009 and 2010 hide the fact that the division wasn’t clinched until the final week of the season — the big final leads were often the result of the Phillies playing ridiculously well right up until the end of the season. Knowing all this, I’m sure that all Phillies fans would rather face the anxiety we’re now experiencing rather than the dreary close that we witnessed back in 2002, the last time the Phillies closed a season with over 10 relatively meaningless games.

Aside from noting the 80-81 mark The Fightins compiled nine years ago, it might be helpful to recall some rather notable things about that season. Most notably, it was the year that Scott Rolen got run out of town by Larry Bowa and the very vocal, neanderthal segment of Phillies fans. Once it became obvious that upon reaching free agency he would never sign a long-term contract to stay with the Phillies, the club made the best of a bad situation. In retrospect, given Rolen’s injury issues, the Phillies might have gotten lucky. However, at the time, the front office looked very unprofessional in the way it let the situation unnecessarily spiral out of control. It certainly didn’t help that Rolen became the second big name star to leave Philly in just over two years — something the card manufacturers weren’t letting Phillies collectors forget. That year, they issued four different Curt Schilling Phillies cards, most notably a short print variation in the Leaf Rookies and Stars set. In fact, despite going to Arizona in 2000, the manufacturers produced at least one card of him as a Phillie every year through the 2005 season. There ought to be a rule against that, at least in regards to active players.

As for the actual pitching staff that season… well, Randy Wolf gave the Wolf Pack plenty to cheer about and gave the best effort of his Phillies career. Furthermore, Vicente Padilla showed flashes of why the Phillies might not regret the Schilling trade. Unfortunately, this was also the year Brandon Duckworth started 30 games. To be fair, his AA & AAA numbers suggested decent middle-of-the-rotation potential, and that is where he was slotted. However, his performance at the end of the 2001 season may have raised expectations too high, and he never tapped into the potential he showed. Amazingly, he’s still pitching at Boston’s AAA affiliate (he also pitched in Lehigh Valley last season), but it’s probably safe to say his big league career ended in 2008 with the Royals. However, given the way the Red Sox have been playing lately, maybe they should give The Duck one last chance — it certainly couldn’t hurt.

If you based your knowledge of the 2002 squad solely on the baseball cards produced that year, you would think that Eric Junge was a major contributor to the club. The card manufacturers were at the height of their rookie card madness and producing mass quantities of just about every prospect and suspect in the game. Although he appeared in just four games, providing a grand total of 12⅔ IP, the manufacturers produced over 50 different cards of him (that number includes parallels). By contrast, Joe Roa, who started 11 games for the Phillies that season, didn’t appear on a single card that year — not even the Phillies Team Issue set. If it hadn’t been for the 2003 season, he may never have appeared on a card as a Phillies. Even then, that year’s Phillies Team Issue and Topps Total sets marked the only time he appeared on a card as a member of The Fightins. Just talking about the likes of Junge and Roa are enough to ease the sting of the current squad’s six-game skid.

Apropos of the number of Junge cards that season, don’t get me started on Anderson Machado and Jorge Padilla and the ridiculous number of cards they received during the 2002 & 2003 seasons.

In an effort to keep this post under 1,200 words, I’ll try to keep the rest of my thoughts and that season and the cards issued that year brief:

  • Check out Jimmy’s ‘fro on his Donruss Originals card that year. Not quite Oscar Gamble-esque, but pretty awesome for the time. I don’t know if he knew/suspected he was likely to go bald as his career progressed, but if he did, then kudos to the man for growing it out long while he could.
  • Only three players from that squad were still with the team when they finally won the World Series: Rollins, Pat Burrell & Brett Myers. Interestingly, there were two members of the ’93 squad on that team as well: Dave Hollins and Todd Pratt (although, both were on their second stint with the club).
  • The ugliest set of baseball cards that didn’t appear on a box of butter was a stadium giveaway that season: the 2002 Nabisco-Acme Phillies. Thin cardboard stock, crappy print quality and photos that look like they were taken with a disposable camera. Scans don’t do the cards justice. On second thought, it might very well be uglier than the 1986 Keller’s Butter set.
  • It was the year of another wrong brother sighting. In his only season with the Phillies, Jeremy Giambi hit 12 home runs in 82 games, putting up a 162+ OPS in the process. As far as wrong brother acquisitions go, this was possibly the franchise’s best. I remember the astonishment of finding out during the following off-season that the Phillies weren’t going to bring him back and that they traded him for Josh Hancock. At the time, I thought he was surely worth more than that in trade (although, they did get him by trading John Mabry). The Jim Thome & Kevin Millwood acquisitions quickly allowed me to disregard that particular trade.
  • It was also the year I felt really bad for Travis Chapman. He had a career year at Reading that year, and given the instability at third following the Rolen trade, I never understood why the Phillies didn’t just give him a shot that September. His only big league appearance came in 2003, but at least he could say that he did make The Show — and appeared on many different baseball cards (many of which bear his signature).
  • The antithesis of Chapman’s professional baseball experience has to be Nick Punto’s. The minor league numbers shown on the back of his Flair card are those of a player who shouldn’t be let near a major league field, at least not without paid admission. Yet, he’s still in the majors today, despite a career 75 OPS+ compiled over nearly 3,000 plate appearances.

On that note, for now I’ll stop talking about bad Phillies squads. Another loss tonight will likely force me to write a post about the 1983 or 1993 team in an effort to exorcise any negative karma I possibly created with this post and the one about the 1996 squad.

A Recent Set I Thought I’d Never Complete

Some team sets are easy to acquire and others take lots of time, patience and sometimes quite a bit of money. With most modern issues, it’s pretty easy to get a complete team set, thanks predominantly to eBay. However, occasionally a set does surface that causes me some fits and requires a lot of time and patience on my part to put together. Case in point: the 2007 Upper Deck Phillies Alumni Night Vintage Phillies insert set.

The basic set was easy enough: the Phillies gave out a complete of them to everyone in attendance on its Alumni Night that year. However, unlike nearly all the other team issues and one-night giveaways over the years, this set contained a 10-card insert set of Phillies alumni: Robin Roberts, Tony Taylor, Dick Allen, Dallas Green, Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Garry Maddox, Greg Luzinski, Dave Hollins & Rico Brogna. However, only one Vintage card was included with each set. (It’s also my understanding that some autographed cards of Adam Eaton, Green, Jamie Moyer and at least one other Phillie were randomly inserted in a few of the sets, but I’ve never encountered one and don’t intend to try to track one down.) So, when I purchased my set off of eBay that summer, I didn’t think I would ever actually track down all 10 of the Alumni inserts.

Well, thanks to some patience, willingness to buy nearly 10 sets off of eBay over the years (in particular, those that listed the Vintage card that came with the set), the generosity of Jim over at The Phillies Room, and a little dumb luck last week, I finally have that insert set completed. Here is the missing card for the collection: # VP-9, Dave Hollins. Outside of making a few obvious selections (Schmidt, Carlton and Roberts), I cannot fully comprehend what the rationale behind the selection process of the remaining seven Phillies might have been. Clearly, all 10 were still living at the time of the sets release, which probably explains the exclusion of Richie Ashburn. And while I understand the inclusion of Luzinski, Allen and Green, the addition of Maddox and Taylor strike me as the type of thing you do when filling out a set. Instead, that role is handled by the inclusion of Hollins, and most inexplicably, Brogna.

I sort of get Hollins — even though he’ll never make the Phillies Wall of Fame, you need someone from the 1993 squad, but Brogna? I’m not trying to denigrate him, as he was a fan favorite for a couple years. However, no one ever thinks of him as a great player and I sincerely doubt he’ll ever been considered for the Phillies Wall. Furthermore, I can quickly name at least a dozen other Phillies that would have been better additions to the set — and none of them would be Wall of Fame nominees either.

Anyway, the important thing is that the set is now complete and I can go focus on some other things now — such as trying to get a friend of mine to go to Citizens Bank, purchase the new team issue set and send it to me.