Category Archives: Kevin Millwood

2013 Topps Gypsy Queen: A Phillies Collector’s Review

Featured Cards: 2013 Topps Gypsy Queen #32, Darin Ruf; 2013 Topps Gypsy Queen Mini #29(b), Cole Hamels (photo variation); 2013 Topps Gypsy Queen #189(b), Cliff Lee (photo variation); 2013 Topps Gypsy Queen #288, Jim Bunning; 2012 Topps Archives Fan Favorites Autographs #FFA-JKR, John Kruk; 2013 Topps Gypsy Queen Autographs #GQA-JK, John Kruk; 2012 Topps Five Star Silver Signatures #FSSI-JK, John Kruk; 2013 Topps Gypsy Queen Relics #GQR-MSC, Mike Schmidt (bat variant); 2013 Topps Gypsy Queen No-Hitters #NH-KM, Kevin Millwood

2013 Gypsy Queen Ruf FrontIn an off-handed way, I started reviewing this set when I posted about Topps’s Photoshop mishaps with the Ben Revere and Delmon Young cards. Although those were the first to Phillies from the set I owned, I actually acquired them at the beginning of my efforts to build a complete set — a separate endeavor from my collating a nearly complete master team set covering all the SPs, inserts, & basic parallels. Given how much I loved the 2011 & 2012 Gypsy Queen sets, seeing those two cards dampened by enthusiasm as I waited for my eBay purchases to filter in. Now that I have them all — or, at least, enough of them to feel comfortable in writing a full-fledged review — I can honestly state that the Revere and Young cards were an unfortunate harbinger of what I saw as a Phillies collector. But, before I continue talking about the set, I feel the need to recap a couple things Topps did with their 2011 and 2012 sets. In particular, the way they previous handled photo variations and the mini parallels.

While I understand the appeal of the minis2013 Topps Gypsy Queen Mini Hamels Var Front to a certain segment of the hobby and they certainly make sense in the context of the Allen & Ginter’s and Gypsy Queen products, I overwhelmingly prefer my cards standard-sized. In 2011, I was a little disappointed to discover that the photo variations were only available in the mini parallels. If it hadn’t been for those variations, I never would have bothered collecting a Phillies team set of them as well. However, in 2012, Topps decided to include photo variations in the primary set. Furthermore, these variations served as the SPs, thus making Gypsy Queen, from both the team collector and the set builder standpoints, a very attractive alternative to Allen & Ginter’s. True, the minis still had a couple exclusive variations, but the fact that most of them were available in standard-size as well made me far more forgiving to Topps for feeling compelled to assemble the mini team set as well. Despite my aversion to minis, I actually loved everything about the way Topps handled them, the SPs and the photo variations.

2013 Topps Gypsy Queen Lee Variant FrontFor this year’s Gypsy Queen set, unfortunately, Topps decided to take a step back and primarily relegate the photo variations to the minis and reintroduce non-variant SPs to the primary set. Worse, the SPs are scattered throughout rather than clustered together in the high numbers, as they are in the Heritage set. Even worse still, the few photo variations that they did include in the primary set are incredibly rare/expensive super short prints. Given the small number of Cliff Lee variants that have appeared on eBay thus far, I feel fortunate in acquiring one and being able to afford it. Finally, just to rub a little metaphorical wax stain to the whole endeavor, this year’s set contains the smallest number of Phillie photo variations to date. Quite frankly, I was disgusted by the whole change in approach by Topps, whom I felt had done a marvelous job with last year’s Gypsy Queen offering.

Then there was the glass-shatter moment. For those of you who don’t watch How I Met Your Mother, or don’t recall the specific episode of the show where the concept was introduced, the glass-shatter moment is when someone points out an irritating habit, heretofore unnoticed by you, exhibited by the person you love. Once it’s made obvious, 2013 Gypsy Queen Bunning Frontyou cannot help but be annoyed by this flaw every time you see it. This occurred when I read the following from the recent “Beauty and the Beast” post over at Night Owl Cards: “I still think the 2011s look very nice. But since then, GQ has overdone the border motif, increased the size of the border frame…” He’s absolutely right. While I disagree with him on most of his other criticisms of the set, once he pointed out the increased border size on the cards I couldn’t help but continually notice the meager amount of space allocated to the photo. Furthermore, as much as I loved last year’s set, at the time it came out I actually stated, “when you compare the 2012 set to other cards issued during the 19th century it certainly seems as if the border is just a little too ornate.” That problem is only worse in the 2013 set. Please keep in mind that I wanted to love the 2013 set, and it actually pains me to acknowledge all of its drawbacks.

I wish the pain would end there, but alas, that is not the case. I’ve grown to accept that in regards to retired players Topps doesn’t want to spend any more than necessary to acquire rights to photos it hasn’t used before, and that it will readily reuse a photo ad nauseum. But, is it too much to ask that they do a better job on rotating the photos they use on the autograph issues? I have four John Kruk autograph cards from 2012 & 2013, and three of them use the same photo.

2012 Topps Archives Auto Kruk Front 2013 Gypsy Queen Auto Kruk Front2012 Five Star Kruk Silver Auto Front

Come on, Topps, you issued a few dozen different Kruk cards featuring different photos during the first half of the ’90s. You certainly could recycle a few of those photos again.

Yet, while I am disappointed by many aspects of the set, there is still much to love. The number of Phillies relic and autograph cards, which includes Darin Ruf’s first fully-licensed autograph, is manageable in both number and2013 Gypsy Queen Relic Schmidt Front quantity, thus making it relatively painless to acquire them — with the notable exception of Mike Schmidt’s jersey and bat relic cards. Furthermore, Topps continued its tradition of using the primary set’s design for those cards, thus making them a rather attractive extension of the set itself, as well as using different photos for those cards (that is, different from the photo used in the primary set) — I really do wish Topps would do more of this with their other issues. In addition, while I certainly think the border takes up too much space, I like the intent of the design and find it nicely reminiscent of the 1909 Ramly (T204) issue. I don’t think the similarities in border colors are coincidental. Finally, Topps once again did a great job with the insert sets — in particlar, the Dealing Aces and No-Hitters sets — while ensuring that although the borders are different, there is no question what set they were packaged with (this would be true without the Gypsy Queen name sprawled across the front of the card).

2013 Gypsy Queen NH Millwood FrontSo, while I am not as happy with this year’s set as I was its two previous predecessors, I actually am hoping to see Gypsy Queen return next year. Although I sincerely doubt it will happen, nothing would please me more than to see Topps make an effort to produce a set similar to what I described a couple years ago: a variant of the original Gypsy Queen border in conjunction with sepia-tinged photos of players posed in early 20th century style uniforms. Yes, I understand that many of today’s teams don’t have a history that goes back that far, but many of those same teams have find away that issue with throwback uniform days. Topps could certainly figure something out as well.

10 Years Ago, Today: Estrada for Millwood

Featured Cards: 2003 Donruss Team Heroes #396, Johnny Estrada; 2003 Donruss Studio #166 Kevin Millwood

2003 Donruss Heroes Estrada Front

It really seems hard to believe that this trade took place 10 years ago. At the time, it seemed like Christmas came early to the Phillies and their fans — the Phillies received a potential All-Star for their backup catcher — and the trade heralded the beginning of a new era of Phillies baseball. The team had just spent lots of money to acquire Jim Thome and David Bell to join an existing nucleus comprised of promising young talent (Marlon Byrd, Brett Myers, Randy Wolf, Vicente Padilla, Jimmy Rollins & Pat Burrell) and talent in its prime (Bobby Abreu & Mike Lieberthal). Millwood’s arrival made many of us believe that a run of playoff appearances was surely at hand.

Yes, a new period in team history arrived, but it was a disappointing one. Although Millwood provided Phillies fans with one amazing thrill on a warm, late April afternoon, he never lived up to the promise he showed while with the Braves. This mirrored the disappointing four-season run that started in ’03, in which the team failed to live up to preseason expectations in every year. Of the aforementioned group, only Myers, Burrell and Rollins remained when the Phillies finally made the playoffs in 2007. Amazingly, however, the four key members of that rotation were all still pitching elsewhere in the majors in 2012.

I won’t get into the background/genesis of the 2003 Donruss Studio Millwood Fronttrade or who “won” it — the Hardball Times posted a wonderful examination of the trade earlier today which did that, calling it “one of the strangest and most seemingly inexplicable trades of he 21st century.” Rather, I’ll take the anniversary of the trade as a reminder of how lucky all Phillies fans were to experience the run of playoff appearances from 2007 through 2011 — because even when a team makes all the right moves during the winter, there are no guarantees about the coming season.

2004 Bazooka Adventures Relics

Set Type: Insert
Card dimensions: 2½” x 3½”
Parallel: Refractors, serial numbered on back of card to 25. Beckett’s Online Guide refers to these as “Parallel 25.” SCD’s 2011 Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards makes no mention of these parallels.
Additional Information: Seeded in packs of 2004 Bazooka. All the Phillies in the set bear jersey swatches. Beckett gives scarcity grades in its online checklist for the set, but doesn’t provide any meaningful explanation as to what they mean. In the checklist below, the scarcity grade of each player’s card is listed in parenthesis after his name.
14,000 Phillies Commentary: Whoever put together Millwood’s card has an awesome sense of humor. The look on his face suggests that he is most certainly not having fun in Philly. In fact, it looks like he can’t wait to leave.

Jim Thome (C)
Kevin Millwood (E)
Marlon Byrd (C)
Pat Burrell (E)

One Year Later…

Featured Cards: 1979 Topps Burger King Phillies #22, Greg Gross; 2004 Upper Deck R-Class #23, Kevin Millwood; 2005 Upper Deck Sweet Spot #98, Carlos Ruiz; 2007 Upper Deck/Majestic Phillies Alumni Night Vintage Phillies #VP-7, Garry Maddox; 1939 Play Ball #37, Virgil “Spud” Davis

Exactly one year ago, I started this blog in anticipation of adding the 14,000th Phillies card to my collection. My plans were to engage in the typical activity of most team-oriented baseball card blogs: share my collection, talk about my favorite sports team on the planet, tell some personal stories about how I compiled my collection, and offer up my opinions about new baseball card releases as they arrived. I feel comfortable with my progress on all those fronts, and I will continue to do those things.

However, I made a decision in the middle of February that completely changed the overall complexion of 14,000 Phillies, and I am happy I did so. One of the things that quickly frustrated me after actively returning to the hobby in 2009 after a six-year semi-hiatus — during which I still collected a few select sets and inserts, but overall didn’t pay much attention to the hobby as a whole or many of the developments in the industry — was the difficulty in finding the specific information I wanted about all the Phillies cards I missed out on over the years. Until my hiatus, I obsessively maintained a rather extensive series of Excel spreadsheets that cataloged both every Phillies card I owned and every other known Phillies card in existence. With the ridiculous number of sets and the even more ridiculous numbers of inserts and parallels of all stripes, I found it very difficult to fill in those gaps to my liking. Yes, there were numerous reliable sources to gather much of this information, but frequently I found the need to cross-reference to confirm information and even then occasionally I was unable to find the information I wanted.

This is what fueled my decision to create The Phillies Database Project. While virtually any collector can find online nearly all the information I’ve compiled, there’s no one source that contains all the pieces of information I assemble. If something like this is/was already being done for Phillies collectors, I couldn’t find it. I like the idea that I might be helping others by freely putting this information out there, in this format. Unfortunately, the Project is not a simple matter of just posting checklists online — while I do use templates, some of the HTML formatting and can be problematic and/or tedious. It’s going to be a long slog — especially given how quickly I have to work just to keep up with the new sets as they appear. However, I feel as though I’ve hit a comfort zone with the rate at which I post the checklists. That doesn’t mean I have any idea how long it will take before I have everything online. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me to find that I am still playing catch-up when 2020 rolls around.

There is one additional slight change I am contemplating as to how I post the checklists, and it involves the “Additional Information” portion, wherein a try to give helpful information that might not be readily accessible to casual/new collectors. Thus far, I’ve mostly stuck to factual information and mostly avoided commentary. However, the posting of a checklist is often when I notice things about a set that strike me as worthy of comment. I could continue to just post those thoughts as separate posts, but I find intriguing the idea of inserting a new section in each checklist which I utilize just for that purpose. I would try to keep the commentary brief (no more than a few sentences), and if I am unable to do so, then I would likely separate it into its own post.

Finally, in a not entirely unforeseen coincidence, as of this afternoon my collection actually stands at 15,999 cards. I received card 14,000 in the mail on May 5, 2011 and there’s an incredibly good chance that 16,000 will arrive in the mail tomorrow. Yes, that will mean I added 2,000 cards to the collection in just one year. I attribute this mainly to the period where I took a far more low-key approach to collecting. Over the past year, I’ve been busily acquiring a significant number of cards issued from 2004 through 2009. In addition, I’ve been reacquiring a large number of vintage cards that I had to sell for financial reasons in 2004 and then in 2007. Keenly aware of the current count and the upcoming anniversary, I did increase my buying a little more than I should have over the past few weeks in an effort to make this happen. Now that it has, I plan on being content for the next few months with just keeping up new material. I blew the budget (by more than I care to admit) to make the 2,000-card mark for the year, so ratcheting back the spending is something of a necessity. That, however, will not have any impact on my ongoing work on The Database Project.

Tomorrow, provided it arrives in the mail, I’ll post card #16,000.