Category Archives: Steve Carlton

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

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.

Taking the Time to Do It Right

Featured Card: 2013 Panini America’s National Pastime Majestic Marks #MM-LB, Larry Bowa; 2008 2008 UD Premier The Premier Card #(PCN), Steve Carlton

Yesterday, I described why it made 2013 Panini America Pastime MM Bowasense for Panini to use the 1922 American Caramel Series of 240 set as the basis for a retro-themed set. However, before Panini can do that, they need to improve their quality control. Admittedly, had I carefully examined the picture in the eBay auction before purchasing it, I would have saved myself the grief I experienced when this Larry Bowa autograph card arrived. However, under no circumstances should an autograph card in a premium product exhibit the problem shown on it.

Including the parallels, Panini only made 161 of this particular Bowa card. I understand that occasionally people will accidentally go outside the lines when signing autograph stickers. However, this problem can clearly be remedied be having the individual sign additional stickers just in case this occurs, and then don’t use the stickers where the signature has been cutoff — especially in a premium product! Actually, you shouldn’t be using stickers in a premium product at all, but that’s a rant for another time.

There really is no good 2008 UD Premier Premier Card Carltonreason for this type of error to occur. I assume that someone is supposed to be checking the stickers before they are applied to cardboard as well as the placement of the stickers on the card itself. However, I could be wrong about that, as this particular triple autograph featuring Steve Carlton, Gaylord Perry, and Phil Niekro proves that Upper Deck has previously had their own quality control issues in regards to autograph stickers. Yet, as much as I (and many other collectors) really prefer the cards to be autographed directly, I understand why the use of stickers is likely here to stay and accept them for what they are. Is it, however, too much to ask for some quality control when companies decide to use them?

(UD Premier autograph card image taken from eBay auction 161032536780.)

Odds & Ends, HOFer Edition

Featured Cards: 2005 Upper Deck Classics Classic Moments Materials #CM-SC, Steve Carlton; 2013 Panini Cooperstown Baseball Cooperstown Signatures #HOF-TPZ, Tony Pérez

Today marks the 30th anniversary of Steve Carlton’s 300th career win. Chris Jaffe did a nice little write-up of the event for The Hardball Times. He neglected to mention,2005 UD Classics CM Carlton however, that Carlton did this in the midst of a pennant race — when every win really mattered — and that this also occurred when he and Nolan Ryan were battling each other for the all-time lead in strikeouts. Ryan would eventually best Carlton by nearly 1,600 strikeouts, but at the end of 1983, Carlton was (briefly) the all-time record holder….

Yesterday marked my first game at Citizen’s Bank Park in over four years. There are a lot of reasons for this, but I am hoping that my next visit isn’t another four years away. It’s a shame they didn’t win, but, on the other hand, I was present for one of their only two wins in Nationals Park this season. More on my day there in a post later this week….

Have seen some of the new 2013 Prizm cards. While I appreciate the restraints under which Panini operates, their photo treatment is quickly getting tiring. They need to come up with way to make the actual player photos cleaner while removing all the logos and any of the background that can be used to identify where the photo was taken….

2013 Cooperstown Sigs PerezI love the fact that Panini decided to issue a Philadelphia autograph card for Tony Pérez in their recent Cooperstown Baseball release. However, my all-time favorite Pérez Phillies card will almost certainly always be his 2002 Fleer Fall Classic Phillies variation card. He played fewer games with the Phillies than any other team he played with in the majors, and he did nothing special in the ’83 postseason. Just why did Fleer decide to issue a Phillies variation for him in that set? Yes, I know he didn’t appear in the postseason for the Red Sox or Expos, but that still doesn’t explain why Fleer thought this variation was a good idea.

2013 Topps Archives: A Very Belated Phillies Collector’s Review

Featured cards listed at end of post.

This is only the second year that Topps has issued its Archives set in the current format, and it was already one of my most anticipated sets of the year. I’ve made no secret of my love for cards of current players in vintage designs, thus the very very nature of the Archives and 2013 Topps Archives RuizHeritage brands unquestionably makes them must-own sets. There is very little that Topps can do to actively ruin the experience of collecting those cards — not that they can’t make some very notable mistakes, but more on that I progress in this review.

Unfortunately, the change in performance for the team means a drop from last year in the number of Phillies in the base set. With only six cards (down from last year’s 11), there’s no real way to complain about the player selection. Ruiz was an All-Star last year, Schmidt is now a staple in all Topps sets in which he can realistically appear, and when Topps was first determining player selection, choosing each of the Three Aces was something of a no-brainer. Given Ryan Howard’s status in the hobby since his rookie season, selecting him to round out the Phillies made sense. Having said that, Topps did a terrible job when it came to properly scattering the six players across the four designs in the set — none of them appear in the 1985 design. This really is an unforgivable oversight. There are thirty teams, and each of the four designs in the base set contains 50 cards. So long2013 Topps Archives Halladay as a team has at least four players in the set, it should be represented in each of the designs. I was especially annoyed by this sloppiness in set construction as the 1985 set is one of my all-time favorites. My annoyance only amplified when I realized that both Howard and Halladay appear in both the 1972 design and the Topps 1972 Minis inserts to the regular Topps set. I’m not quite sure why Topps felt the need to give double-duty to the design this year, but as much as I love retro-themed cards, I really would have appreciated more variety in Topps’s efforts this year. (Because of this and the fact Topps does reuse photos quite frequently, I almost feel like I should applaud Topps for managing to avoid using the same photos in both the minis and the 1972 portion of the Archives set.)

Just as an aside, I feel like I have to give Topps credit for getting the color scheme right for the Phillies in the 1982 design. In the 2005 Topps All-Time Fan Favorites set, they rather amazingly used the wrong colors for the Bob Dernier card, listed his position as “3rd Base” (a position he never played in his entire professional career), and used a hatless photo to boot — something that typically only happened when a player had just changed teams. It’s almost as if they intended the card to be a Cubs card (it has the correct Cubs colors and Dernier did get traded to the Cubs after the 1983 season), changed their mind at the last second, and couldn’t be bothered to properly fix anything on the card’s border, other than the team name. This may well be Topps’s worst Phillies card ever.

2013 Topps Archives Hamels2005 Topps ATFF Dernier

As with last year’s set, all the retired Phillies in the high-numbered Fan Favorites SPs in the main set are really just non-autographed versions of the Fan Favorites autographs. With that in mind, it’s nice to see Juan Samuel finally receive a Phillies autograph card. By using the 1987 Topps design for it, Topps managed a rather subtle nice touch in that it also used the ’87 design for Von Hayes’s first Phillies autograph card in last year’s Archives set. It’s also nice to see the inclusion of Larry Bowa, 2013 Topps Archives FFA Bowa Autoeven though the slightly blurry, in-action photo on the card looks like it belongs in the 1973 set and not the 1978. Given his long-standing status with the team, I’m actually surprised he hasn’t shown up more often in such Topps sets. Furthermore, with only one other autograph card to his name, having more autograph cards is quite welcome. The same is not entirely true, however, for Daulton’s appearance. Yes, he is the epitome of “Fan Favorite,” but as I’ve stated before, there are a plethora of deserving retired Phillies who have yet to appear as a Phillie on an autograph issue, and Daulton has appeared on over a dozen different autograph cards to date. To add insult to injury, Topps continues to use the same crappy 1992 template it used with last year’s Mitch Williams Fan Favorites cards. The colors are too light — so much so that Daulton’s name is actually hard to read — and the font for the team name isn’t even close to how it looked on the actual 1992 cards.

1992 Topps Daulton2013 Topps Archives Daulton

(2013 Archives card on right — at least they used a picture of Daulton in an era-correct uniform for the card design, as opposed to previous efforts)

In the past, I’ve placed cards such as these in the same binder pages as the original cards. And while I will do so with the Samuel and Bowa cards, I won’t be doing it with this Daulton card.

Unlike the Daulton card, there’s lots to love about most of the other inserts. Understandably, Topps paid special attention to the 1983 set with its 1983 All-Stars and Dual Fan Favorites inserts. The All-Stars subset in the 1983 Topps set is wonderful design, and it’s nice to see it used with Schmidt in an (again) era-correct uniform (the lack of patch of his left sleeve means that it must be from before 1983). The Dual Fan Favorites is a nice tweaking of the Super Veteran subset from the ’83 issue. However, while they look nice, I think I would have preferred to see Topps leave the Super Veteran concept completely intact. It’s hard to believe, but Jimmy Rollins has been a Phillie for a longer period (2000-2013) than Schmidt was when he appeared in this subset back in ’83 (1972-1983). Just imagine how a Rollins Super Veteran card would have looked.

1983 Topps SV Schmidt2013 Topps Archives DFF Samuel Rollins

No slight intended towards the Samuel & Rollins card that Topps issued — it’s a great card — I just think a Rollins Super Veteran card would’ve been even nicer.

In a similar manner, Topps reworked the 1960 design for its 1960 Relic inserts. As with last year’s 1956 Relics inserts, Topps did a nice job of editing the design to make it work as a relic card. The 1960 Relic inserts contain Ben Revere’s first relic card as a Phillie, but it’s something of a stretch — the relic is clearly from a 2013 Topps Archives 1960 RevereTwins jersey. In fact, there’s almost no way it could have contained a Phillies jersey unless Topps somehow placed a Phillies jersey on him sometime during the winter and then used that for the cards (after all, Topps makes no guarantees about the jersey coming from any particular event or season.) Personally, I wish that Topps would just use relics that actually match the team designation on the card. Luckily, some of Revere’s relic cards contain a swatch with a shade of red similar to that used by the Phillies in the ’70s and ’80s, so I acquired one of those. Unfortunately, completing my 1960 Relics insert set looks like it will be a challenge as the Ryan Howard card appears to be super short-printed.

Of the inserts, the most pleasant surprise was the Stadium Club Triumvirates. At this point, Topps possesses a very rich history of baseball set design across its many brands over the past 60+ years, and Archives is the perfect place to celebrate all of them. In fact, there should be more of this in future Archives releases. Stadium Club, Finest, Gallery, Tek, Stars, Gold Label, Bazooka, modern Bowman releases and all of the inserts associated with those sets should be fair game for the Archives set. In fact, Topps is limiting itself by relying solely on designs from the Topps flagship set over the years — some of the other designs should find their way into the base set itself.

2013 Topps Archives Triumvirate

Given the rich history of baseball set designs at this point, I am a little confused and disappointed by Topps’s decision to use its 1965 football design as a basis for the Mini Tall Boys inserts. While there’s no real need to move into the other sports to attempt this kind of crossover, I suppose that the Archives set is the place to try out this kind of experimentation. However, for me it just didn’t work. It probably doesn’t help that with a few notable exceptions I don’t 1983 Topps Glossy AS Carltonparticularly enjoy non-standard-sized cards. Since there was already a focus on the 1983 set, the Glossy All-Star Set Collector’s Edition (the mail-in set of 40) would’ve made far more sense as an insert than the Mini Tall Boys.

In the end, despite all the easily avoidable flaws and questionable choices Topps made with the set and its inserts, I still loved this year’s Archives release. I really do wish that Topps would hire some people whose job would essentially entail being as attentive to detail as collectors such as myself (to avoid really obvious mess-ups such as the details on the 1992 design and using the 1972 design in two different sets this year), but at the same time it’s obvious that Topps has an opportunity to put together a truly special brand for years to come — if they properly leverage their full history. Whether Topps has the desire and/or wherewithal to do so remains to be seen, but I certainly hope that they realize some of the potential the Archives brand truly holds.

Featured Cards: 2013 Topps Archives #162, Carlos Ruiz; 2013 Topps Archives #8, Roy Halladay; 2013 Topps Archives #58, Cole Hamels; 2005 Topps All-Time Fan Favorites #115, Bob Dernier; 2013 Topps Archives Fan Favorite Autographs #FFA-LB, Larry Bowa; 1992 Topps #244, Darren Daulton; 2013 Topps Archives #240, Darren Daulton; 1983 Topps #301, Mike Schmidt; 2013 Topps Archives Dual Fan Favorites #DFF-SR, Juan Samuel & Jimmy Rollins; 2013 Topps Archives 1960 Relics #BR, Ben Revere; 2013 Topps Archives Triumvirates #s T-3A, T-3B, & T-3C, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, & Roy Halladay; 1983 Topps Glossy All-Star Set Collector’s Edition #36, Steve Carlton

My Irrational Love for 2012 Topps Museum

Featured Cards: 2012 Topps Museum Collection Green #89, Steve Carlton; 2012 Topps Museum Collection Signature Swatches Autographed Dual Relics Gold #SSADR-CHA, Cole Hamels; 2012 Topps Museum Collection Momentous Material Jumbo Autograph Relic #MMJAR-RH, Roy Halladay

2012 Museum Green Carlton FrontI’ve made no secret that I hate high-end issues, but I don’t think I’ve quantified how much I hate them. Think about the amount of hate Gollum has for Bilbo Baggins for “stealing” the ring — well, that pales in comparison to what I feel every time Topps announces yet another high-end product. If I had Nazgûl at my disposal, I would have dispatched them to the Topps corporate offices for the Five Star set. I long for the return of another manufacturer so that can more easily ignore product shipped in packs that cost far too many multiples of my hourly wage; I devoutly wish that my compulsion to maintain as thorough a Phillies collection as possible would wane for me enough to not acquire any high-end cards at all — even when I find such cards at prices I can easily fit into my budget.

So, you can imagine my surprise when I found myself falling in love with 2012 Topps Museum Collection. It’s totally irrational, but it’s there. The cards are just so attractive and, compared to other high-end offerings from Topps, relatively affordable. While I 2012 Museum SS Hamels Frontwasn’t getting caught up in the parallel game (really, does anyone actually care whether they get a regular, Masterpiece, Gold or Platinum version of what in every other discernible fashion is the exact same card?), I found myself acquiring as many of the Phillies memorabilia inserts as possible. Before I realized what came over me, I even purchased a couple autograph-memorabilia redemption cards. The moment I did that is when I realized that my irrational love affair with the set had gone too far — I needed to reign it in.

For the past few months, I had managed to do so. However, I hadn’t completed my set of Material Jumbo Relics — somehow, I previously neglected to find an Utley card at a price I was willing to pay. So, treading carefully onto eBay, I went in search of one, and that’s when I inadvertently let my love for the set get the better of me again.

2012 Museum MMJAR Halladay FrontNo, I couldn’t just content myself with looking for an Utley Material Jumbo Relics. I had to see if any of the really rare Phillies inserts were available, and that’s when I saw the Halladay Momentous Material Jumbo Autograph Relic. I posses very few cards with a print run of 10 or smaller — which probably fed into the sudden need to have it. Before the sensible portion of my brain could throttle the reptilian section that demanded instant gratification, I negotiated with the seller, blew my budget, and within a week was holding the card and calling it, “My Precious.” Interestingly, even though I am now in position where I’ve blown through over two months worth of my baseball card budget and will likely need to sell a few select items to properly justify the purchase of this card, I have no regrets. That is what a deep, irrational, non-abiding true love will do for you.

It should be noted that my particular quest with this set is still incomplete. Although I am now content with what I have acquired and will not be attempting to find any of the Phillies Dual Jumbo Lumber Relics, Momentous Material Dual Jumbo Relics or Museum Collection Autographs, I am still waiting on Topps to deliver the Hunter Pence Signature Swatches Autographed Dual Relic card for which I submitted the redemption back in July. If it comes back as a Giants card, Topps will need to wish that I do not find a way to hire some Nazgûl.

Phillies and the Topps Prime Numbers

Featured Cards: 1983 Topps #70, Steve Carlton; 1982 Topps #100 Mike Schmidt; 2004 Topps #1, Jim Thome; 2010 Topps #500, Brad Lidge

Over the weekend, Joe Posnanski had a fun little post focusing on the past 50 years of “Topps Prime” card numbers — numbers ending in 00 or 50, which Topps tends to reserve for superstars and major stars, respectively. He also pointed out how card #1 became quite the ultimate honor starting in the early 1990s, when Topps ended its decades-long practice of using it to honor the previous year’s World Series champs, league leaders or record breakers and instead gave it to Nolan Ryan. The post played a but with how Topps treated HOFers over the years, and there was one tidbit that stuck out like an incredibly sore left thumb when I encountered it:

“Steve Carlton also appeared on only one Topps Prime card — in 1973, right after his extraordinary 27-win season for a dreadful Philadelphia Phillies team. At least he got a 00 card — he was No. 300.”

1983 Topps Carlton FrontLet that sink in for a moment… the man who is one of the greatest left-handed pitchers of all-time got the star treatment from Topps only once in his career. In 1983, the year after becoming first pitcher ever to win four Cy Young Awards, Topps gave him card #70. Admittedly, that is still a star number of sorts, but one typically handed out to lesser stars. However, that was par for the course for Topps — in the years following his two previous Cy Young campaigns, he received card numbers 540 and 630, respectively. Interestingly, in the 1983 set, Topps handed out #50 to Bob Horner, #250 to Bill Buckner, #450 to Ted Simmons and #650 to George Hendrick.

Here’s some other fun facts regarding Topps’s treatment of the Phillies in their star numbering system:

  • In 1967, Topps honored Dick (don’t call him “Richie”) Allen as the first Phillie to receive a Topps Prime, with card #450. He also received a card ending in 50 in 1969.
  • Mike Schmidt did not receive 1982 Topps Schmidt Fronthis first Prime number until 1982, when he was awarded card #100. That was the first of five straight years with a card ending in 00. Amazingly, in 1987, the year after winning his third MVP Award, Topps demoted him to card #430. He received 00 cards in the ’88 and ’89 sets.
  • In 1983 and 1984, Topps assigned 00 numbers to both Schmidt and Pete Rose.
  • In 1992, Topps assigned #200 to Lenny Dykstra. Yes, he had a really nice season, but giving him a superstar number seems a little out of line.
  • Dykstra would be the last Phillie to receive a Prime card until 2004 when Topps made Jim Thome the 2004 Topps Thome Frontfirst and still only Phillie to receive card #1. It’s worth noting that Thome received card #1 in the 2004 Topps Heritage set as well.
  • In the following year, Pat Burrell received his first and only Prime card, #450, an honor Jimmy Rollins has never received.
  • Despite being the NL ROY in 2005 and the NL MVP in 2006, Ryan Howard received card #330 in the 2007 Topps set. Interestingly, Chase Utley received card #350. Topps rectified this oversight in 2008 when Howard became the first Phillie since Dykstra to receive a 00 card.
  • Despite winning the World Series in 1980, no Phillie received a Prime card in the 1981 Topps set. However, following their 2008 victory, Utley and Howard received 00 cards and Cole Hamels received a 50 card. If you count the Steve Carlton veteran variation, four different Phillies received Prime cards in the 2009 set.2010 Topps Lidge Front
  • In an example proving that Posnanski’s point that Topps was maddening inconsistent with this system, Brad Lidge received card #500 in the 2010 set — the year after posting a 7.21 ERA and leading the majors with 11 blown saves.
  • Although it probably shouldn’t count, Roy Halladay’s first card as a Phillie in the 2010 Topps Update Series was card #100, which was also used for a Robin Roberts veteran variation. Halladay has received Prime numbers in each successive set, though that will likely end its run 2013.
  • Schmidt’s 2011 veteran variation was assigned card #50, which had not been assigned to a Phillie in the base set.
  • Cliff Lee held down card #100 in the 2011 Update Series, marking the second year in a row that Topps assigned the card in that set to a Phillie.

Given the year the Phillies and so many of their players had in 2012, it’s unlikely that any of them will receive the Prime number treatment in the 2013 set. Hopefully, the 2013 season will give Topps reason to assign a couple Phillies a Prime number in the 2014 set.