Friday, August 4, 2017

Does 2017 Topps Allen and Ginter have enough to keep collectors on the ball?

Topps’ Allen and Ginter product has always been a source of mixed emotions for collectors. On one hand, it has perennially been a highly anticipated release due to its design and cultural variety; however, in the midst of a baseball season filled with an extraordinary amount of young superstars, those looking for a pure baseball play are growing frustrated with paying a premium to wind up with inserts of obscure celebrities and fishing lures.

For collectors who have embraced the widening scope of the set, 2017 Topps Allen and Ginter continues to deliver in the tradition of one of Topps’ most popular issues. Baseball die-hards will get their fix whether it is in the form of rookies from Aaron Judge, Andrew Benintendi, and Yulieski Gurriel, adored veterans Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, and Clayton Kershaw, or retired legends such as newly minted Hall of Famers Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell.

2017 Topps Allen and Ginter Aaron Judge / Topps
The part of the set that annually attracts both excitement and controversy are the non-baseball inclusions in the series. Remember when MySpace dominated the social media landscape? Well Tom Anderson, everybody’s friend, now has his own baseball card to boot. Media personalities Stephen A. Smith, Peter Rosenberg and his wife Alexa Datt, Jay Glazer, Sage Steele, and Jayson Stark made their Topps debuts as well.

Inserts for the set went well off the landscape of the diamond, paying homage to the World’s Fair, Constellations, Magicians, Famous Revolutionary Battles, and yes, Sport Fish and Fishing Lures. While Allen and Ginter has always been about showcasing a diversity of interests, when half of the inserts culled from the box provided for this review fell into the non-sport category, it deflated some of the excitement that preceded this release.

2017 Topps Allen and Ginter / Topps

Looking at the baseball inserts for 2017 Topps Allen and Ginter, it is clear that Topps played to its strengths. The What A Day inserts beautifully chronicle remarkable single-game performances, such as Kyle Schwarber’s dramatic 2016 World Series return, Bo Jackson’s three home run performance against the Yankees, and Ozzie Smith’s improbable 1985 NLCS walk-off home run. The sequentially numbered rip cards continue to be sought after, as they yield low numbered parallels and the choice of keeping or opening these inserts have them actively trading hands. Also, the framed autographs and cloth inserts provide a regal touch for collectors looking for an affordable card they can easily put on display.

Each box guarantees three hits in the form of an autograph, relic, printing plate, rip card, or book card. The box provided for this review yielded a framed autograph of actor Joe Manganiello and two relic cards of Ryan Braun and Javier Baez.


At a price of $120 per box, 2017 Topps Allen and Ginter is a proposition that could give collectors a pause before adding it to their shopping carts. If you hit it right, a box could yield some attractive inserts, on the other hand, one could be left with oddball autographs and relics of disc golfers and B-list celebrities. If collectors intend to open their wallets, they must be more than willing to accept and embrace the assortment of genres in 2017 Topps Allen and Ginter, otherwise they might be more content picking apart singles on the secondary market.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

How Jorge Posada was almost traded for Ivan Rodriguez

Jorge Posada was once dangerously close to becoming a member of the Texas Rangers. Going through recently-minted Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez's new book, "They Call Me Pudge," Rodriguez explains how right before the 1997 trade deadline he was going to be traded to the New York Yankees.

"I was sitting with Juan [Gonzalez] on the flight, and he was begging me to talk with team president Tom Schieffer," Rodriguez said. "I later found out that I was about to be traded to the New York Yankees for catcher Jorge Posada and pitcher Tony Armas Jr."

Posada / Rodriguez 2008 Upper Deck Card / Upper Deck
The next morning Rodriguez met with Schieffer and signed a five-year, $42 million contract, avoiding the exchange of franchise catchers. While the two would later become teammates with the Yankees in 2008, both Rangers and Yankees fans would have a difficult time imagining their franchises with out their star catchers at the peak of their careers.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Lee May, three time All-Star dies at 74

Reports have surfaced that three-time All-Star Lee May passed away Saturday July 29, 2017 in Ohio. He was 74.

May played 18 seasons in the major leagues for four teams, hitting 354 home runs with 1,244 RBIs. He made the All-Star team twice with the Cincinnati Reds (1969, 1971) and once with the Baltimore Orioles (1972).

Lee May








Thursday, July 27, 2017

2017 Topps Stadium Club Baseball is a beauty marvel for collectors

Due to the myriad of baseball card variations that is exist today, it is easy for collectors to lose sight of what is on the front of the card. In the quest to find limited inserts, parallels, and signatures, rarely do collectors stop anymore to savor the images of their cardboard heroes. With the release of 2017 Topps Stadium Club, Topps has given consumers more than a reason to slow down and pause when ripping through their packs.


Immediately, it is obvious that Topps saved some of its best photography for this set, with the vivid shots putting you right on the field of action. Enhanced by its borderless design, the set captures every pixel of real estate to put the game’s full range of emotions on display. Furthermore, the contrasting black and white tones of the legends included in Topps Stadium Club provide the proper context for the heroes of the past in their own element.


While 2017 Topps Stadium Club is a buy if not solely for its imagery and design, those looking for a chase will find it in terms of 50 base card variations, an array of colored foil issues, and chrome variations that come one per every box. Also pleasing the autograph hounds are the guaranteed two signed cards in each box, which also have their own subset of parallel issues.


The box provided for this review yielded rookie autographs of Mets infielder Gavin Cecchini and Giants pitcher Ty Blach. For those who are concerned about collation, mysteriously absent were the base cards of Aaron Judge, Yoan Moncada, Kris Bryant, and Mike Trout — a tough group to miss out on when opening an entire box.

Collation issues aside, Topps Stadium Club brings the action happening on the card to the forefront of the release ahead of the shiny insert of the day. Fans and collectors searching for a product that they can get continued enjoyment from by browsing through their cards will find it in 2017 Topps Stadium Club.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Horace Mann grad Bader turns heads in his major league debut

First Harrison Bader's dream was just to get drafted. Once the St. Louis Cardinals made that a reality, he turned his laser-like focus on making the major leagues. In just two short years, Bader rode the elevator all the way from A-ball to the major leagues.

Harrison Bader / via Allison Rhoades / Peoria Chiefs

When Cardinals outfielder Dexter Fowler went down with a forearm injury, the club reached into their minor league system and gave Bader his long awaited call. Making his major league debut July 25, 2017 against the Colorado Rockies, Bader wasted little time putting his signature on St. Louis' road to victory. 

Leading off the 9th inning, Bader doubled off of Colorado's Jake McGee for his first major league hit. After moving to third on a sacrifice bunt, Bader sprinted home when Jedd Gyorko lofted a sacrifice fly to right field that was just deep enough to plate him for the winning run.

While Bader's mad dash to home plate may not hold the same place in Cardinals lore as Enos Slaughter's, his hustling style of play surely has the Hall of Famer smiling in the heavens. For those who knew him here in the New York City area, Bader's on-field spirit and skill came as no surprise.

Back in 2015, I spoke with Bader shortly after he was drafted for metroBASEBALL magazine in the article pictured below. It was obvious after a few minutes into our conversation, that he had a professional mindset that was rarely demonstrated by a player fresh out of college. Now that he had made the major leagues, rest assured that Bader will continue to work and grind because it is the only way he knows how to do it.



Friday, July 21, 2017

2017 Topps Series 2 gives a nod to unforgettable moments for baseball fans

With their flagship base series product, Topps gives a nod to unforgettable baseball moments in their 2017 Topps Series 2 release. Focusing on their "Memorable Moments" subset, one groundbreaking debut jumped out of the box of cards provided for this review.

Winding up with a laser-eyed focus, Satchel Paige knew the cameras were on him as he stepped to the mound to deliver the goods for the Cleveland Indians on July 9, 1948. Topps captured the intensity of this moment in a colorized version of a classic photo of Paige rearing back to pitch for the Indians.

While Topps fills in many missing pieces to their 2017 Series One product, the real catch of this set are the inserts, specifically the aforementioned subset. In honor of Paige's debut, below is a piece that I originally wrote in 2012 about Paige's debut that includes interviews with players who appeared in that game.


Just two days after the record books said he turned 42, Satchel Paige made his major league debut with the Cleveland Indians on July 9, 1948 in front of a crowd of 34,780 at Cleveland Stadium. The sheer magnitude of the situation shouldn’t have fazed the legendary hurler, who once pitched in the championship game of dictator Rafael Trujillo’s league in the Dominican Republic under the threat of a machine gun toting militia. Yet, for Paige, toeing the rubber on major league soil brought a sense of high drama, shaking one of baseball’s most experienced moundsmen.

“I felt those nerves … they were jumping every which way,” Paige recalled.

Standing at the plate for the St. Louis Browns was 29-year-old first baseman Chuck Stevens, who entered the game sporting a .252 batting average with one home run, certainly not the type of numbers that would rattle fear into opposing hurlers. While Paige admitted his nerves, Stevens on the other hand saw a familiar target. Back in the late 1930s and early 1940s, Paige came out to Stevens’ California hometown of Long Beach to play winter ball. The two squared off many times before that fateful day.

“I played against him about ten times before that night. I played against him when he could really smoke it,” said the 94-year-old Stevens from his home in California. “When Satch relieved against us [in Cleveland], he was just spotting the ball around. [It seemed like] he had lost 60 mph off of his fastball. He threw his breaking stuff and he had great control so you knew he was going to be around the plate all the time. He wasn’t going to overpower you like I had seen him in his earlier days.”

Stevens wasted no time getting acquainted with his old friend. He promptly laced Paige’s offering into left field.

“The ballgame in Cleveland was not a big deal for me because I was just hitting off of Satch," he said. "I singled into left field, between [Ken] Keltner and [Lou] Boudreau. … I always had pretty good luck off of him.”

Stevens dates his success against Paige back to a meeting they had a few years prior, just as he returned from his service in World War II.

“One of the longest home runs I had ever hit in my life was off of Paige," he said. "I had just gotten out of close to four years in the service, and we played an exhibition game in Long Beach and Satch pitched against our ball club. The ball I hit, I guess it must have been well over 400 feet. I wondered where all that power came from when I was rounding the bases.”

Stevens’ teammate Ned Garver was a 22-year-old rookie relief pitcher. Only in the major leagues for two months, he found himself right in the middle of this historical event.

“There was never a time when there wasn’t a bunch of hoopla around Satchel because he was such a colorful guy,” said the 85-year-old Garver from his home in Ohio.

Garver pitched two and one-thirds innings of scoreless relief for the save that day, but his clearest memories from that game started before a pitch was even thrown.

“We had a man on our team who hit cleanup and played left field [Whitey Platt]. He was from Florida. He told the manager he wasn’t going to play,” Garver recalled. “Zack Taylor was our manager, and you know back in those days, you didn’t tell somebody you weren’t going to play. You didn’t get away with that kind of crap. [Taylor] said, ‘No, you’re gonnna play.’ So he put him in the lineup.” Platt wasn’t a happy camper to say the least, and when he batted against Paige, he let him know it. “The first pitch Paige threw to him, he threw his bat at Satchel, and it whistled out there about belt high. He just wanted to show that he did not like that situation.”

Paige fooled Platt so badly for strike three with his famed hesitation pitch, that his bat once again took flight, this time flying up the third base line. Looking to extract some sort of revenge for Platt’s first toss of the bat, Garver said Satchel pulled one from his bag of tricks to finish the deal.

“If he threw a bat at Satchel like he did, Satchel was not going to look on that with favor, so he was probably going to give some of his better stuff along the way. To strike him out gave him some satisfaction.”

Paige pitched two scoreless innings that day, quickly shaking whatever nerves he had when Stevens stepped to the plate. He finished the season with a 6-1 record and helped the Indians get to the World Series, where he made one appearance in relief. Even though his best days were behind him, he still had enough left to outsmart major league hitters and give fans a taste of what the major leagues missed in its prime.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Why 2017 Topps Tier One is a good money bet for collectors

Seeking to live up to quality one expects by its name, 2017 Topps Tier One has selected the upper echelon of baseball for inclusion in this year’s set. With each three-card box guaranteeing two autographs and one relic card, the odds are favorable that a superstar autograph is waiting behind a foil sealed pack.

2017 Topps Tier One / Topps
A quick look at the checklist for the Tier One autographs reveals the likes of Barry Bonds, Bryce Harper, Derek Jeter, Hank Aaron, Ichiro, Kris Bryant, Mike Trout, and Sandy Koufax to name a few. The dual and triple autographs are equally as tantalizing. Over one-thousand home runs with Bonds and Ken Griffey Jr. on the same signed card? Yes, I’ll take that. How about three potential Hall of Famers from the same generation with Bryant, Harper, and Trout signing together? Sir, can I have another?

For those searching for the next wave of MLB talent, Tier One has that covered with their Break Out Autographs set. Upstarts such as Alex Bregman, Miguel Sano, and of course, Aaron Judge are the headliners. Conspicuously absent is Cody Bellinger; however, I am sure Topps will make up for his demand later in the season.

2017 Topps Tier One Miguel Sano / Topps
Curiosities such as signed and unsigned bat knobs (numbered 1/1) add to the intrigue of Topps Tier One. A card with parts of Aaron’s or Ty Cobb’s bat makes for interesting discussions amongst collectors. One-of-one cut signatures from deceased Hall of Fame legends Joe DiMaggio, Roger Maris, and Willie Stargell also give collectors more vintage items to track down.

The box provided for this review yielded autographs of Steve Carlton (#/25), Miguel Sano (#/90) and a Zach Britton relic (#/331). The two signatures display nicely on both cards and the copper tinged signature of “Lefty” Carlton makes his deliberate autograph stand out amidst the wave of blue sharpies in collections everywhere.

2017 Topps Tier One Steve Carlton Copper Autograph / Topps
It is quite understandable that some hobbyists might not want to take a $125 chance on only three cards, as Topps’ guaranteed hit products tend to appeal to a niche segment of the hobby. While Topps can’t guarantee a dollar-for-dollar return on your investment with 2017 Tier One, it’s a good bet that collectors will walk away happy after a purchase.