Thursday, September 15, 2022

Random Ray - 1994 Leaf MVP Contender

I am trying to only use base cards on my Random Ray posts, but for today I am going to use an insert card. I stumbled across a stack of these 1994 MVP Contender cards a few days ago and felt the need to reminisce in a blog post. These were really popular back in the mid 1990s and were inserted at just 1 per box and limited to just 10,000 copies.  Those numbers sounded super scarce back in the day.   

Not exactly a rare insert after all and these sell for roughly $1 on COMC and Ebay.  

I am going to go ahead and post the more exclusive "Gold" copy of the card, which is even more limited at only 5,000 copies. It's so limited that it will cost you an extra $0.50 to buy it. The Gold copies were actually a redemption card that you could get by mailing Leaf two of the regular MVP cards.  

This feels so exclusive.  

I like the overall design of the card with the National League logo in the back, done in greyscale, with a color photo of Lankford over the top. Maybe I am partial to the red, but I think the bright colors on the uniform actually help this card have a little more pop with the higher contrast. I also have a copy of the Andres Galarraga card from this same insert set, which is a good looking card, but lacks the color contrast with the black and purple Rockies uniform. 

Still a nice card, but you can compare the contrast between the two cards. Andres Galarraga was also briefly a Cardinal in the early 1990s.

I am not always huge on large text, but I actually do not mind the large MVP text on the side of the card.  

The back is a little thrown together with the National League logo tying together the two sides of the card. I like the gold letters on the top and side with the black and gray backgrounds. Good color contrast. I also like the effort on putting a full player photo on the back.  It feels like the just threw it on there. The write up on the bottom of the card is nice making a connection between Ray's 1994 season and Lou Brock's 1967 season. 

Small detail. I like the MLB logo that Leaf used on the side of the card. This is the logo that the players wore on their uniforms during the 1994 season.  

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

2022 Blake Snell Autograph Count: 6

It seems like it was just last month when the 2022 Blake Snell Autograph Count was only at 2. Hardly any of the newly added Snell signatures are from this current year. I am having good success in finding autographs from his time in Tampa with low prints runs. These cards were either too expensive at the time of their release, or I just never found one due to print run limitations.  

I do not know why I do not have a copy of this 2019 Triple Threads card of Snell that I found last week. I used to love this product, but have really gone away from it over the last few years. I have been down on sticker autographs, down on relic cards, and the little sayings on the card have gotten weird at times.  

This card seemed too nice to pass up.  

This Triple Threads autograph has a really low print-run at just 9 and it was an auction on Ebay. I really did not think I was going to win it, but here we are. I like the different colored patches on the front with the white piece, striped piece, and solid blue piece.   

The "Early Honors" phrase is explained on the back of the card.  

Neat little factoid about Blake Snell.  

I have seen this stat before. Interestingly, Shane Bieber of the Indians/Gaurdians also won a Cy Young Award in 2020 prior to turning 25 in 2020. The feat has also been accomplished several times in the National League over the past 40 years, with Clayton Kershaw, Dwight Gooden, and Fernando Valenzuela all winning before 25 and Corbin Burnes coming close at 26. 

"The Relics Contained On This Card Are Not From Any Specific Game, Event, or Season"  

Just reminded me of why I do not really care for relic cards.  

Monday, September 5, 2022

The Peak of Good Pitching

Remember that time NC State got eliminated from the College World Series in the middle of the night two years ago?

Yes, it was because of COVID.  

No, don't leave a comment about COVID below.  

Anyway, my Wolfpack reached the College World Series and was in a position to win the National Championship thanks to the efforts of pitcher, Sam Highfill who pitched a shut out against Vanderbilt opposite Rangers first-round pick, Jack Leiter.  

Highfill is from Apex, North Carolina, is best known for its abundance of trains and its cheesy water tower. It's also the town where I happen to live, just a few blocks from both the train tracks and the water tower.  Both are walkable from my house.  

The water tower has some art work on it and is stamped with the words, "The Peak of Good Living" and is located smack dab in the middle of the town. Nobody who lives in Apex is actually from Apex, but local legend has it that the water tower was built first and the town filled in around it.  

Seems plausible. 

Back to baseball. I am not going to rehash the whole reason as to why NC State was sent home from the College World Series at 2 in the morning, but the community rallied around Highfill and the mayor of the town started lighting up the water tower red at night.

Here is the famous/infamous water tower. Note the railroad crossing sign in the foreground.  

While half of that College World Series team is now playing in the Minors, since Highfill was only a freshman, he is still in college at NC State. He missed most of this past season, but did manage did manage to appear last summer in a few games for the USA Baseball National College team.  

The inclusion of Sam Highfill cards is part of the reason I have been opening packs of the USA Baseball cards. Unfortunately, there have been no sightings of good Sam Highfill cards. A few base cards, but nothing too exciting. 

The town of Apex gets a nod at the bottom of the back of the card on the right side.  I like the green frame around the edge of the card and the green box used on the back as well.  More on the use of the color green later in the post.  

I just bought a pair of his autographs from Ebay from less than $10. Highfill is a well-thought of college pitcher, but I am not sure he's high on the board for the MLB Draft. Not quite the same energy level as when Carlos Rodon was at NC State.  

First up, the base autograph. Yes, it's a sticker autograph, which is a bit of a bummer. It is also the autograph of a college kid that cost less than $5. Panini has started using on-card autographs for the college players in Donruss Elite, so I thought they might change the USA Baseball cards too. Guess not.  Do you think that USA Baseball has to pay the college kids for autographs now that they have NIL rights?

Just curious. 

Hopefully Sam got paid some money for signing these cards.  

Notice that Panini went away from the green for this card with only the green bar at the bottom for the team name and another at the top as part of the design around the card brand logo.  

Next up, is a relic/autograph card.  

I like this card much better than the first one. The USA Baseball set has a lot of green included on the packaging this year, as the primary color of both the packs and boxes. Plus, green also shows up on the border and backs of the base cards. Feels like a good move, especially considering that their facility is very green with all of the trees around the field. Green is a prominent color.  

I wish Panini had used the green background on the base autograph as well.  The green on this card also has a star pattern, which actually lightens up the background quite a bit in places. They should have gone simple here and just used the dark color.  No matter, it's still a much better looking card than the first Highfill autograph, but both are welcome additions to the collection.  

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

2022 Blake Snell Autograph Count: 5

Another Blake Snell autograph card that I did not buy when it was first released.

Today's card is from the 2020 Topps Tribute set and features one of those jersey swatches with a sticker. These are always intriguing and I love looking up the authentication sticker to see what happened during the game.  When I see authentication stickers, I always expect to type in the number and end up getting a game where the player is sitting on the bench.  


Blake Snell sat on the bench for a few hours while he was wearing this jersey!  

Here is the card....

The overall design of the card is fine. It's a decent effort by Topps. Kind of what you expect out of a card from this type of product. It's not like I avoided this card due to design back in 2020. I am certain that it was more a matter of price. However, I found this copy for less than $10. 

Now to the swatch.  

I typed in the authentication number and ended up with a jersey from the 2019 season worn during a Yankees and Rays game.  Snell actually started the game, pitched into the sixth inning, and struck out 12 Yankees batters.  I found a wire news service photo of Snell from the game.  

The Rays only scored 1 run, Snell allowed 2, and ended up taking the loss in the game.  The Yankees ended up scoring 7 runs, with 5 of the runs coming in the last two innings against Ryne Stanek and Austin Pruitt.  

Not Snell's fault that the Rays lost the game. 

Back of the game.  

The standard card back.  

Overall, quality card and I was pleasantly surprised by the results of the authentication sticker.  

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Pujols Parade - 2002 Donruss Studio

Flags and baseball cards generally make a really good combination. For example, Topps used city flags on an insert set in 2022 Topps, which look really sharp.  This Arenado is easily one of my favorite Cardinals cards that I have picked up this year.  

Great looking card.  

My Pujols card for this week uses the American flag as part of its design.

You are probably expecting to see something classy, but think again. These cards were likely inspired by the pants of the Tae Kwon Do instructor from Napoleon Dynamite.  

It's not a very good card.  

Here is the front. 

Large American Flag. 

School film strip of the Gateway Arch, sorry no play-along cassette tape. 

Donruss Studio ended up using city skylines in 2004, but with no American flag.  


Back to the 2002.  

Where is the effort? 

Where is the love? 

The Blue Jays and Expos players also have American flags, so do non-American players.  

This is the type of set that would slap an American flag on a card of Joey Votto.  

Personally, if I was designing the 2002 Donruss Studio cards, I would have gone Jasper Johns American flag.  

Something a little classier.  

Back of the card. 

What is going on with the filmstrip?  

What an odd choice.  

The write-up about Pujols is decent.  

Flags and baseball cards are just generally a slam dunk. I feel let down, so I am going to share a few cards that did a better job with flags, outside of the one I did in 2 minutes.  

First, we have Trevor Rosenthal and Missouri.  

Trevor is from Lee's Summitt, so we are going to pronounce that "Missour-ee", not "uh". 

Next up is Ryan Zimmerman with a North Carolina flag.   

Ryan is from Washington, North Carolina.  

Last up, we've got Shelby Miller and a giant Texas flag.  

See, flags and baseball cards make a good combination, unless we are talking about the 2002 Donruss Studio set. I did not even post any 1997 Bowman cards. I should have just made a post about flags and baseball cards.  

Thursday, August 25, 2022

I Am So Sick Of 1952 Topps Remakes, Right?

We are all tired of 1952 Topps remakes, which is why I am really enjoying the 2021 Topps Chrome Anniversary set. I featured a few cards from the set a couple of posts ago. The cards came out a year late and are the latest in a seemingly endless carousel of 1952 Topps remakes/rehashes.  

When I see the 2021 Topps Chrome Anniversary cards on Ebay, COMC, or Facebook trade groups, I want to be mad that this is the 20th time (seemingly) used this design for a modern baseball card set. I just can't do it.  The cards look too nice.  

This Scott Rolen card is tremendous and I apologize for nothing.  

First, it's Chrome, so it's a shiny object. 

Second, it's signed by Scott Rolen, who should be in the Hall of Fame.  

Maybe I am drawing a blank here, but this is my favorite Cardinals card I have added to my collection in 2022.  I might as well go out and find a bunch of other autographs from this set.  

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Random Ray - 1999 Topps Finest Refractor

Do you know how many late 1990s and early 2000s Topps products have the same photo of Ray Lankford? Several others are similar enough that you have to wonder if they came from the same game, maybe even the same at-bat.  

It's worthy of its own Random Ray post one of these days.  

This is the picture, which is on a Topps Finest Refractor for today's post.  

Did Topps only have one or two photos of Ray Lankford available for their 1999 baseball cards?  

The answer appears to be yes.  

Give me a photo of Ray Lankford wearing a gray Cardinals road uniform in the follow-through of his swing and I will guess 1999 or 2000 Topps (insert the name of product). Given where his head and eyes are looking, I am guessing he hit the ball somewhere.  The astroturf around the home plate area leads me to believe this photo was likely taken in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, or Cincinnati. The number of stadiums with artificial turf in 1998 was limited to a few remaining cookie-cutter parks.  

The design is fine. I am happy it is minimal and the main focus of the card is the photograph of the player. We have got the protective coating thing on this card. I left this one on the card.  

Back of the card.  

I like the small photograph of Ray clapping in the top corner.  It's something different from the front of the card, always a positive.  

The Finest Moment and Finest Career Achievement both have nice write-ups. As a person who saw Ray Lankford hit for the cycle in-person, I love all the baseball cards that mention that game.  As a person who enjoyed watching Ray Lankford as a player, I am going to have to disagree for the Finest Moment from 1998. 

I would have actually picked out Lankford's eighth inning home run against the Cubs on the night of Mark McGwire's 62nd home run. Lankford was the lone left-handed batter stuck in the middle of McGwire, Ron Gant, and Brian Jordan. McGwire walked frequently, Lankford did a great job of making teams pay for putting Big Mac on base. 

The night of McGwire's 62nd home run, the Cubs walked McGwire to pitch to Ray Lankford with the score tied at 2 in the 8th inning. The result.....

The McGwire years were also Lankford's best years.  He set career highs in a lot of offensive categories outside of stolen bases. Ray stopped running after the Cardinals dropped him into the middle of the lineup. This moment felt a lot more emblematic of Ray Lankford's 1998 season than some random game against the Expos where he went 4-4.  

The home run was even on a low fastball over the middle of the plate. Ray Lankford did not miss low fastballs.  

Overall, a solid effort here by Topps. I just wish we could have more than one photo of Ray Lankford on their 1999 baseball cards.