Complete 2015 Topps Series One Phillies Checklist and Review

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

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

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

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

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

Fred “Cy” Williams: Baseball’s Forgotten Slugger

I know a ridiculous amount about the history of the Phillies. Although I think this is true of most Phillies team collectors (how can you not learn about the team’s history when you’re collecting cards that were printed decades before you weWilliams052re born), I actually pride myself on the breadth and width of my Phillies knowledge. Though I’m certain that there’s plenty of minutiae about the Phillies 130+ year history I don’t know, I don’t expect anything I learn to take me completely by surprise. That changed yesterday when I read Frank Jackson’s tribute to Fred “Cy” Williams in “Song for an Unsung Slugger” over on The Hardball Times.

Now, I know quite a bit about Williams, and I’ve previously featured on this blog a few of his cards from my collection. I knew he was a late bloomer offensively, won three NL home run titles for the Phillies, was one of the most feared sluggers in the National League during the 1920s, and remains the oldest man to win a league home run title. Yet, Jackson managed to pass along a piece of trivia that caught me totally by surprise: when Williams retired, he was third all-time in career home runs — just one of three men (the others being Hall of Famers Babe Ruth and Rogers Hornsby) with over 250 home runs. Furthermore, after 1982 TCMA Williamsreading Jackson’s article, I went over to Williams’s page on Baseball-Reference and discovered that in 1926, at the age of 38, he was arguably the best offensive player in the National League — and he didn’t even win the home run crown that year.

Despite all the home runs, Williams never received serious Hall of Fame consideration, something Jackson’s article briefly addresses. Even though I’m a “Big Hall” kind of fan, I feel that Williams fell short of reaching borderline candidate status. Still, he was the eighth player to be awarded with a plaque in the Phillies Wall of Fame and deserved to be better remembered than he appears to be.

Collecting Leaf History of Baseball Cut Signatures

Although baseball cards remain the primary focus of my Phillies collection, I also try to obtain autographs of as many Phillies as possible. For what I feel are obvious reasons, certified autograph cards issued by the trading card manufacturers are the primary source of these in my collection and my preferred way of acquiring them. But, 2012 Leaf HoB Bartell030for the Phillies who haven’t been asked to sign such cards (or sign stickers to be placed on cards), I also collect baseballs and photos bearing signatures authenticated by the likes of PSA/DNA, SGC, GAI and JSA. While it isn’t an issue with baseballs, the one catch for me is that I don’t want photos or cards that picture the player with another team. Thus, I have no interest in Bruce Ruffin’s 1996 Leaf Extended Series autograph card, even though it’s the only certified autograph card ever issued for him. I also refuse to forgive Topps or Upper Deck for failing to issue a Johnny Callison Phillies autograph card before his passing; yet, they did respectively manage Callison White Sox and Yankees autograph cards — go figure.

This hard and fast rule of mine gets tested with Leaf ‘s History of Baseball cut signature cards that they issued over the past few years.

On one hand, there are no team designations on the card, so any former Phillies are potentially fair game. However, they do bear notable achievements on the card, often with a year that the accomplishment took place — such as a player’s sole All-Star Game selection. As a result, even though there isn’t a team designation I can research the player’s listed achievement(s) thus easily determining whether he was a member of the Phillies when the noteworthy event occurred. As a result, I stay away from the Leaf History of Baseball cards where the former Phillie’s achievement took place on another team.

For example, there is a 2012 Leaf History of Baseball signature cut card for Jim Kaat. If it listed his 16 Gold Glove awards as his accomplishment, I would have added it to my collection as two he won two of those awards while pitching for 2013 TriStar Kaat031the Phillies. Alas, the card only mentions that he was a three-time All-Star, and all those selection occurred before becoming a Phillie. So, this card was of no interest to me. Luckily, I found a 2013 TriStar SignaCut Baseball Honors card that used a Kaat cut autograph from a 1977 Topps card issued during his stint with the Phillies. So, I have a Kaat signature that meets my requirements after all. Interestingly, it lists his number of All-Star appearances and Gold Glove awards. Take that, Leaf.

Even with the restriction I placed upon collecting these cards, I’ve managed quite a little collection of them. Without these bland cut autographs, I wouldn’t have autographs of former All-Stars Ray Culp, Grant Jackson, and Dick Bartell. I own signatures of Whiz Kids Dick Sisler and Stan Lopata thanks to these cards, and I sincerely2012 Leaf HoB Jackson032 doubt I’d own an autograph of 1947 batting champ Harry Walker if it wasn’t for these series of Leaf cards.

The best part about them is that they are relatively cheap. If you’re patient enough, you can get most of them from anywhere between $5-$15 each (I may have payed slightly more for the Bartell card). In an ideal world, one of the major card manufacturers would have already printed proper certified autograph cards for many of the Phillie autographs that are only in my collection because of Leaf History of Baseball, but I’ll take what I can get.

Quick Hits

For my first post of the year, a random assortment of items to get off my plate:

Congratulations to Pedro Martinez for replacing Mike Schmidt as the most recent former Phillie to make the Hall of Fame. That means the Phillies went a little over 20 years (early 1989 through late 2009) between fielding Hall of Famers. As John Stolnis recently pointed out over on The Good Phight, it’s2010 UD Bio Martinez hard to get into the Hall of Fame, and if any of the Hamels-Rollins-Utley-Howard-Lee Phillies core (Stolnis excludes Halladay from that group) during that awesome 2007-2011 run are going to gain entrance into the Hall, then it’s going to take a at least a few more years of excellence….

Pedro’s limited run with the Phillies resulted in a far fewer Phillies cards than you might think. I show only 32 cards in my database, but when you filter out the parallels and printing plates, the number drops to a mere 16. Furthermore, you filter out the cards where he’s pictured with either the Red Sox or Mets (but still denoted as a Phillie), the number drops to 11. What’s really astounding is that he didn’t appear in any of the Topps’s 2010 sets or the 2010 Upper Deck set (though he did appear on a few inserts for 2010 Upper Deck.) By way of comparison, my Phillies1993 Pacific Schilling collection contains 18 different 2014 Roy Halladay cards, and I own almost none of the more expensive/limited parallels or inserts….

I feel like I should briefly note that I thoroughly believe Curt Schilling is a no-brainer Hall of Famer and have every expectation that he will eventually get into Hall, which will retroactively mitigate that 1989-2009 gap. However, I really do think that sometimes he would really be much, much better off just keeping his mouth shut. Lost votes for being an outspoken Republican? There are so many things wrong with such an assertion that I don’t know where to begin….

Final thought regarding this year’s Hall of Fame voting: thank goodness that Chris Olds at Beckett doesn’t get a vote….

Circling back to The Good Phight, dajafi’s “The All-‘Wait, That Guy Was a Phillie?’ Team” struck me as both far too limited in its scope and included a head-scratcher. Its requirements, which included that the individual had to be on an opening day 1996 Donruss Van Slykelineup during the 1991-2014 period, meant the exclusion of Andy Van Slyke and Fernando Valenzuela — both of whom are far more deserving of inclusion than a few of the individuals who were included. In particular, Dale Murphy — who was actually with the club for over two seasons, which is far too long for such a list — had no right appearing on it. It would’ve been much more fulfilling if he had done a little research, expanded the timeframe, and included such luminaries as Hack Wilson, who I covered in the early days of this blog, Lew Burdette, who never received a Phillies card for his efforts, Dick Groat, and, yes, Michael Young (though he’s fresh in our memories, in 15 years his stint will be remembered as well as Andy Van Slyke’s)….

Finally, Slate coincidentally ran an article on the Topps Bunt app a few days after my post about it. Just thought it was worth mentioning.

Topps Bunt

Maybe it’s just a product of my age, but I’m not entirely sold on Topps Bunt. I setup an account earlier this year, and I’ve attempted to remember logging in on a daily basis so that I don’t actually spend any money on the cards. Over that time, I’ve picked up a few things that look interesting, but nothing worth mentioning. For the most 2014 Topps Bunt Luzinskipart, I just let my son run wild with my account and allowed him to make any trades he wanted between my account and his — so long as he didn’t deprive me of any of the Phillies I managed to pick up.

That changed a little bit this morning when I got a Greg Luzinski 1980 World Series card. I like the look of it, but even after taking a screenshot of my phone and then emailing myself the photo, it just doesn’t feel the same as owning cards produced from dead trees. I know I was nowhere near as excited about the Luzinski card as if I would’ve been if I pulled it out of a pack of physical cards. I understand that Topps is doing quite well with the app, but I just don’t see myself attempting to compile a digital Phillies collection with it — especially if they continue predominantly make digital duplicates of the physical Topps cards, as was the case with this year’s offering. I’m aware that the 2013 set did in fact look different — if Topps did something similar with next year’s offering, I might muster more interest. Until then, meh.

That Special Time of Year, Again

It’s the middle of December, which can only mean one thing: this year’s Leaf Memories Autograph Buybacks are now appearing on eBay. Unlike last year’s offering, which included eight different Phillies on a total of twelve different cards, it appears that this year’s offering is much more like the 2012 Leaf Buybacks in that there’s only two Phillies to chase. 2014 Leaf Auto GrimsleyIt’s hard to be certain as Leaf did not issue checklist for these particular cards. As was also the case with the 2012 autographs, Roger McDowell is one of the two Phillies available; thus leaving Jason Grimsley as this year’s only recipient of his first Phillies autograph issue.

Depending on how you choose to look at it, the decision to issue another McDowell autograph card be either a positive or a negative. Because the cards are serial-numbered to the player’s uniform number, McDowell signed only 13 of each card in each year. Furthermore, this year’s Buyback is of his 1991 Leaf card and the 2012 Buyback was of his 1990 Leaf card, so completists such as myself can own two different autograph issues for McDowell. Given the limited pool, this gives a few more Phillies team collectors an extra chance to grab a certified autograph for him. However, there are plenty of Phillies who appeared on Leaf issues over the years who still haven’t appeared on a certified autograph issue, and it really would’ve been nice to see such a card for the likes of Bruce Ruffin, Pat Combs, Tommy Greene, Dave Hollins, Andy Ashby, Kim Batiste, Kyle Abbott, Mariano Duncan, or even Ruben Amaro, Jr (just to name players who appeared 2014 Leaf Auto McDowellon the 1990-1992 sets, which is where Leaf concentrates its efforts with these particular cards.) I especially love the idea of an Amaro autograph given how much he’s now despised by the fan base for the current state of the franchise.

Nonetheless, I still love the cards — especially since Leaf seems to continue issuing autographs for players that Topps typically ignores, while eschewing stickers and having the players sign the cards directly. Along similar lines, I know Panini has announced plans to resurrect Recollection Collection autographs for next year’s Donruss offerring(s), but given the team’s playoff chances next season, I know I should expect few, if any, Phillies to appear. However, I can always hold out hope that Panini might just decide issue a Dick Ruthven, Marty Bystrom, Larry Christensen, Luis Aguayo, or Al Holland autographed buyback card. That would be awesome.

Thank You, Jimmy, For Everything

I didn’t think it was still possible for the trade of a baseball player to make me sad, but there it is. I know the team is going through a rebuild, but I was really hoping he’d be a lifetime Phillie. Hopefully, he puts up enough numbers over the rest of career to ensure his path to Cooperstown and maybe even gets one more World Series ring before he’s done.

More later sometime later this week.

2014 Topps Museum Jumbo Rollins

2008 Topps 07 HL Rollins Auto2014 Topps SV Relic Rollins

2008 Triple Threads Auto Relic Rollins