Category Archives: Kevin Stocker

2014 Topps Turkey Red: Bringing New Meaning to “Turkey”

1995 Fleer StockerThe truly ugly baseball card sets are an assault on the senses. After gazing upon them for just a couple of minutes you can’t help but feel you need to step away and start flushing your eyes out with Visine. Amazingly, Fleer managed to do this twice in just a five-year period, with two sets — the first in 1991 and the second in 1995 — which demonstrated that ugliness can be achieved in wildly divergent set designs. Whereas the blindingly yellow borders from the ’91 issue only required sunglasses in order to gaze upon them for more than a few minutes, one needs to drop acid in order to appreciate the design used for National League East teams in the ’95 issue. At least, that’s what I assume as I refuse to ingest it myself in order to test my hypothesis, but it’s the only method I can surmise that would allow anyone to enjoy those cards.

But, at least those nightmarish sets were completely original designs. True, they were abject, mockable failures. Yet, the Fleer designers responsible for those monstrosities at least exercised their creative talents — for evil, mind you, but creative nonetheless.

You cannot say 2014 Turkey Red Brownthe same thing about 2014 Topps Turkey Red.

I’ve given Topps some grief in the past in regards to its reuse of vintage designs. But in nearly every instance, my criticisms fall into the realm of being nitpicky in a manner that I wish Topps would embrace — a great example is my discussion of what was wrong with the Darin Ruf/Tyler Cloyd Rookie Stars card in the 2013 Topps Heritage set. With the extremely notable exception of their various efforts to create a 1973-style solo Mike Schmidt card — which The Phillies Room did a wonderful job of annotating — Topps generally puts forth a decent effort to properly recreate the original design when issuing its retro sets.

This was especially true back when Topps resurrected the Turkey Red design back in 2005. I loved the set and felt they did a wonderful job of resurrecting the design. In fact, my only real complaint was that they didn’t reprint more of the cards from the2005 Topps Turkey Red Dooin iconic original set. It was awesome to a have high-quality, standard-sized reprint of the Charles “Red” Dooin card alongside the 2005 Phillies team set, but it was also depressing that it lack accompaniment by similar reprints of Sherry Magee, William “Kitty” Bransfield, Mickey Doolan, & Dode Paskert.

As Topps continued issuing the brand in successive years, the design was tweaked slightly from year-to-year. However, unlike the Allen & Ginter designs, each of the Turkey Red sets were still recognizably using the same design elements from the original set (Wrigley Wax has a nice montage showing the evolution of the set over the years). Whatever your feelings may have been about the alterations, there was no denying that Topps was at least trying to maintain the spirit of the original set.

Then there’s 2014 Turkey Red.2014 Turkey Red Lee

I don’t know Topps’s reason for the utterly obvious laziness demonstrated by this year’s design. Maybe it’s the result of the fact that despite its comparatively high asking price, Topps knew the limited-edition product was almost certainly going to sell out — which it did. Maybe its because they decided to “modernize” the design somewhat. Regardless of the explanation, the design feels like someone just looked at the last seven years of product and attempted to reproduce it with as little effort as possible. The nameplate is completely gone, and there’s nothing about the border that suggests it’s supposed to be a picture frame. Furthermore, the only identifier on the front is the player’s last name — no team designation or first name. In previous years, Topps used either the player’s full name or the player’s last name and team designation. Using just the last name puts the final who-gives-a-fuck appearance to a product that just looks obscenely lazy, and to me that’s worse than ugly. Lazy suggests that no one gave a crap about what the final product looked like. There’s very little creativity in lazy — especially when you are trying to create something that is incredibly reminiscent of a previous product.

2014 Turkey Red HamelsIt gets worse for us Phillies collectors, however. Much like all the fans of National League East teams in the 1995 Fleer set, we have a special, albeit much more sublime, horror lurking for us in this year’s edition of Turkey Red. Look closely at the spaces in the “P” on the caps and inside any of the loops in the “Phillies” script on the jerseys. Your eyes aren’t deceiving you — that interior space is grey on the uniforms and blue/dark-grey on the caps. I can only assume that this is somehow the result of the computerized treatment designed to stylize the photos in some sort of retro, “drawn” fashion.* It doesn’t really matter, however, why it happened. The point is that it did, and once you notice it, it jumps out at you every single time. Mind you, this is not hideous in the manner of the retouching job on Roy Halladay’s 2010 Topps Heritage card, but nonetheless this type of production mistake is completely unacceptable. If there’s a silver lining to this mess, it’s that there are no Phillies autograph inserts. Completists such as myself don’t need to spend much money to assemble a master team set.

My only hope is that this marks the end of Topps’s Turkey Red sets once and for all. If this is what we have to look forward to with future releases, then I don’t want to see them. It takes a special effort to produce something as lazy as this, and I don’t want to reward Topps for it any further.

Featured cards: 1995 Fleer #405, Kevin Stocker; 2014 Topps Turkey Red #45, Domonic Brown; 2005 Topps Turkey Red #14, Charles “Red” Dooin; 2014 Topps Turkey Red #41, Cliff Lee; 2014 Topps Turkey Red #59, Cole Hamels

* Which, by the way, is also an obscene failure when you compare it to the artwork shown in the Dooin reprint.

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Random Phillies Card of the Day

Featured Card: 1996 Score #414, Kevin Stocker

1996 Score StockerAh, the mid ’90s. I didn’t truly appreciate it at the time, but Score and Collector’s Choice were the last remaining large sets attempting to maintain something of a classic approach to card design. The border frames and full-color, glossed backs were definitely modern, but when you compared them to the other sets of the time (as well as all their successors), the intent behind the sets was such that if they were produced today they would almost be considered retro. I would personally love it if Topps or any of the partially-licensed companies produced a similar set that kept the parallels and inserts to a minimum. Don’t tell me that Topps Opening Day fulfills this role. It doesn’t count because it’s, in essence, just a partial parallel of the regular Topps set.

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.

1993 Score Select Rookie/Traded ’93 All-Star Rookie Team

Set Type: Insert
Card dimensions:
2½” x 3½”
Additional Information: Inserted in packs of 1993 Score Select Rookie/Traded. Beckett and SCD both list the set as “1993 Select Rookie/Traded All-Star Rookies.” More information about this card can be found in this 14,000 Phillies post.

4 Kevin Stocker

The Galvis-Stocker Simulacrum

Featured Cards: 2009 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions #100, Chase Utley; 2009 Bowman Chrome Prospects #BCP149, Freddy Galvis; 1993 Score Select Rookie/Traded ’93 All-Star Rookie Team #4, Kevin Stocker

As a Phillies fan, I don’t think I need to get into any real detail concerning yesterday’s news about Chase Utley. All I’m going to say about it is that my biggest fear this past off-season was that the Phillies were an old team and old teams have a very disconcerting track record of succumbing to injuries. Thankfully, the Phillies have a great starting rotation that is capable of carrying a team with a league-average offense. However, having both Utley and Ryan Howard on the DL to start the season means that there is no margin of error. An injury to any of their other starters puts the season on a course that frighteningly parallels the Titanic’s in 1912.

From the perspective of a Phillies collector, the ancillary news that Freddy Galvis will likely start the season as the team’s second basemen means that I am now attempting to acquire his 2008 Bowman Signs of the Future card at what I consider to be a reasonable price. While my policy of refusing to purchase autograph cards of any Phillies prospect until an appearance in a  regular-season Major League game seems imminent has saved me lots of money over the past 10 years, situations such as the current one show its one drawback. Back when the card came out, I could’ve easily purchased Galvis’s Signs of the Future for around 10 dollars. Now that I am interested in purchasing one, it looks like eBay sellers are trying to get roughly $50 per card. I don’t expect that to last, and I’ll exert as much patience as necessary. I know that price will not hold, and I hope to have the card in my collection sometime within the next month or so for much less than that.

Part of the reason why I can calmly wait is that I’ve had experience with this situation before. For those of you who didn’t collect Phillies card in 1993, it may be hard to believe that Kevin Stocker’s rookie cards were incredibly hot at the end of that season. In particular, no card was hotter than the Stocker card you see here. Shortly after it appeared in dealer’s display cases, this insert was booking at around $50 (nearly $80 in today’s cash). Even though I my desire to maintain as complete a Phillies baseball card collection as possible probably crosses over into the realm of obsessive-compulsive disorder, I never once considered buying the card at anywhere near that price. Luckily for me, a dealer near where I went to high school in Maryland quickly got the card and immediately priced it at full book value. Unfortunately for him, this was pre-Internet and his store wasn’t quite close enough to Philly to properly cash in on the Stocker rookie-craze. It sat in one of his cases for three years (I know this because I checked whenever I came back into town every three months or so) until I finally offered him $10 for it — which I believe was paying double book price at that time. He apparently never bothered to update the price of the card during the three-year interval. After initially trying to get me to pay more, I flatly stated to him that I had waited three years, pointed out what the card was then booking at*, reminded him my offer was double book price, and finally said if he wouldn’t take it, then I would return in three months with a lower offer. Luckily, that brought him to his senses and I walked out of the store feeling like I had a won a major victory, even though I still grossly overpaid for the card.

In my mind this Stocker card and the Galvis 2008 Signs of the Future card have a lot in common. Part of the reason I never bought into the Stocker rookie card hype was that I knew his minor league stats, and there was nothing in them to suggest that he would ever come close to repeating his 1993 Major League numbers. The reason I’m not buying Galvis’s first autograph card is that there is nothing in his minor league numbers to suggest that he will have the type of career that justifies paying $50 for the card. I can be patient. I’ve been in this position before, and I suspect that I’ll be in it again.

* The 2011 Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards lists the card at $1.00.