Bob is a longtime member of the Florida sports media, having served as a reporter and copy editor for more than 30 years. His true sports passion, however, is the history of the various games, exhibited by his in-depth book reviews and hobby of collecting cards and other sports memorabilia. He blogs for TBO.com on both subjects, transferring his work for the Tampa Tribune to the realm of cyberspace.
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Collect call: 2012 Topps Heritage Minor League baseball
Posted Sep 22, 2012 by Bob D'Angelo
Updated Sep 22, 2012 at 12:21 PM
Topps Heritage sets have always been tough to complete, especially because of all the short prints in the set. But the 2012 Topps Heritage Minor League baseball set offers a nice surprise — a hobby box that can nearly produce a complete set.
The main reason is size. Unlike the major-league Heritage set, which has 500 cards, the minor-league version has 200 base cards, 25 short prints and 25 variations. So, if you are a set builder, you have a good shot.
Topps Heritage Minor League also pays tribute to the 1963 Topps set. The difference from the original Topps set is that the circle in the lower right-hand half of the card is not a second photo of the player, but a logo of the team he plays for. You can tell which card is a variation however; those are the ones that have player photos in the circle.
This year’s set has 24 packs in a hobby box, with nine cards to a pack. Collation was just short of tremendous, as I received 197 of the 200 base cards. There was, however, one duplicate card. Topps seeds its short prints four to a hobby box, and that’s how many I pulled from the hobby box I sampled. If you are a set builder, the short prints are going to be the hurdle to completing the set.
There also was one variation — card No. 1, Pirates prospect Gerrit Cole, shown in the uniform of the Bradenton Marauders.
If you are a rookie and prospect collect, then this set is nirvana. The set includes sons of former major-leaguers — Delino DeShields Jr., Dante Bichette Jr. (this is a short print), Cutter Dykstra (Len’s son) and Brett Bochy (son of Giants manager Bruce Bochy). Also, former University of Florida star Matt Den Dekker is included, depicted on a Binghamton Mets card.
There are also some really great names here. Would love to see some of these guys in a major-league uniform someday. Try these names on for size: Sugar Ray Marimon (Wilmington Blue Rocks), Roughned Odor (Hickory Crawdads) and my favorite, Boss Moanaroa (Greenville Drive). Boss was born in Australia and is the son of New Zealand Maori parents. Oh, and his given name is Crew. Guess when this Red Sox prospect began to improve, he was promoted from Crew to Boss.
The other colorful aspect of the minor leagues are the team names, and there is a nice cross-section in Heritage Minor League: there are the Lansing Lugnuts and the Modesto Nuts, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, the Omaha Storm Chasers, the Beloit Snappers and the Montgomery Biscuits (the Rays’ Double-A affiliate).
Topps promises two autograph cards and one relic card per box (there are 40 different signatures to be found in the set, along with 15 different dual auto cards), and the hobby box I sampled hit that average. The first signature card was of Lakeland Flying Tigers outfielder Tyler Collins. The autograph is on a sticker and is nicely written in blue Sharpie (although Tyler needs to work on his penmanship a little bit — but he’s not the first athlete with that issue). The second autograph card is from Salem Red Sox second baseman Sean Coyle, Same description as Collins: sticker signature, blue Sharpie, hieroglyphic-like autograph.
There are 20 different relic cards and an additional 10 dual relics to be found in the set. The one I pulled was of minor-league base stealing king Billy Hamilton. The Reds prospect is shown with the Bakersfield Blaze (he was promoted to Double-A Pensacola later in the season). With 155 steals this season (104 at Bakersfield and 51 at Pensacola), Hamilton broke the minor-league record of 145 set in 1983 set by Vince Coleman.
As Paul Daugherty of Cincinnati.com recently wrote, “Billy Hamilton can run from first base to second twice, in the time it takes you to read this sentence!”
The relic is a nice blue swatch. By the way, if Hamilton makes it to the majors to stay, he will be the second base-stealing threat named Billy Hamilton. The first one played 14 season in the majors from 1888 to 1901 with the Kansas City Cowboys (American Association) and the Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Beaneaters (now Braves) in the National League. “Sliding Billy” wound up with 914 career steals.
The hobby box also contains six Prospect Performer inserts (there are 25 in the set) and three black bordered parallel cards numbered to 96.
This is certainly an intriguing set, since it’s a sure bet that some of these players could make it to the majors someday (or, in the case of Jean Segura, already have). So if you like rookies and prospects and like the price (somewhere in the mid-$60 range), Topps Heritage Minor League baseball is a good product to buy.