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: 2013 Topps Series 2 baseball
Posted Jun 29, 2013 by Bob D'Angelo
Updated Jun 29, 2013 at 02:08 PM
Topps’ Series 2 baseball continues its nice carryover of quality work from Series 1, but to me, the most notable card in the set is a variation. There are only four variation cards among the 300-card base set, but one of them is poignant.
Topps shrewdly chose to display David Ortiz in a horizontal shot, with the American flag behind him, as he delivered his “Be Strong Boston” speech. And to paraphrase (since I can’t drop F-bombs here), this was the April 20 ceremony in which Big Papi told the crowd that “this is my city!” In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, that was a powerful and acceptable statement.
That card was the variation I pulled from Series 2 baseball.
Once again, Topps’ sharp photography and picture selection makes this set a fun one to collect. And if you’re a set builder, doubly so, since collation is excellent and a hobby box will bring you very close to completing the set. For example, in the hobby box I sampled, I pulled 300 base cards — plus the Ortiz variation. That’s a 91 percent rate.
Getting back to the photos, a peek at card No. 649, for example, shows Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan in full stretch as the former Rollins College player tries to catch a pop foul. Or card No. 630, which shows Detroit outfielder Andy Dirks leaping above the fence and almost into the stands to rob some batter of a home run.
Topps manages to catch Rays closer Fernando Rodney in his arrow-shooting pose, and Card No. 514 shows Jonathan Papelbon bellowing after nailing down a save for the Phillies.
Of course, it’s easy to get great photography when you own the license to display major-league logos and nicknames, as Topps does. The company is not restricted like other card companies are when it comes to major-league baseball players. Such are the perks of having an exclusive licensing agreement. Still, it does take some imagination to think out of the box and look for some unusual shots. All of Topps shots are not unusual, of course; there are plenty of bat-swinging, infielder-tossing, pitcher-throwing shots. But there are enough interesting shots to keep a collector interested.
A hobby box for Series 2 baseball contains 36 packs, with 10 cards to a pack. There are parallels, including emerald foil, gold numbered to 2013, desert camo foil numbered to 99, black numbered to 62 (limited to hobby and jumbo boxes), pink (50) and 1/1 platinum cards. There are also four 1/1 printing plates for each card.
The hobby box I opened contained six emerald parallels, five gold and one desert camo.
Topps promises one relic or autograph card per hobby box, and in the second pack I opened I found it. It was a Chasing History relic card of Rafael Soriano, with a game-used uniform swatch that was a light gray color, as if from a road uniform.
There are a few holdover insert sets from Series 1. Cut to the Chase returns, and they display the same die-cut design of current stars and legendary players. As in Series 1, expect to pull three of these cards. The ones I found were Miguel Cabrera and Alex Rodriguez as modern stars, and Harmon Killebrew as a legendary player. Fun fact by Topps: Killebrew’s 2000th career base hit was a homer off fellow Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan on July 28, 1974.
Topps could not include all the details from the game (I mean, the card backs can only contain a certain amount of information), but I am geeky like that so I went to retrosheet.org to get the details. Here are some more fun facts: neither Killebrew nor Ryan started the game. In fact, Killebrew was pinch hitting for Tony Oliva in the eighth inning, and Ryan was called upon at that moment to relieve starter Frank Tanana as the Angels were leading the Twins, 8-7. But Killebrew delivered a solo homer off Ryan to tie the game. The Angels would score four runs in their half of the eighth and went on to win, 12-9, as Ryan got the win for his 13th victory of the season.
There are always interesting facts from a baseball game.
Chasing History also returns for Series 2, another 50-card insert set that averages one every four packs. True to form, I pulled nine of these cards from the hobby box I opened. One of the more amusing ones is that of Ty Cobb “chasing” a car. That goes back to the 1910 season, when the owner of the Chalmers automobile company promised a car to the player who won the batting title in each league. In the American League, Cobb held a slight lead over Nap Lajoie heading into the final two games of the season. While Cobb rested, Cleveland’s Lajoie played in a doubleheader against the St. Louis Browns.
Browns manager Jack O’Connor, knowing that Lajoie needed to go 8-for-8 to win the batting title, and, like the rest of the AL, hated Cobb, instructed his third baseman to play deep, allowing Lajoie to bunt for a hit — eight times.
After an appeal, American League president Ban Johnson intervened and ruled that since the Browns were messing with the integrity of the game, the batting title was Cobb’s. Chalmers decided to award cars to both players.
Another returning product is the 1972-style mini cards, which pays tribute to one of my favorites sets during my youthful collecting days. These also average nine to a box, and that’s how many I pulled.
The Elite insert is a thick card that is the same insert as The Greats in Series 1. There are two to a box on average.
Some new inserts for Series 2 are World Baseball Classic Stars, which showcases major-leaguers during the most recent WBC tournament; Chase It Down, which has some marvelous photography of players making great catches.; and Making Their Mark, a 25-card set that recognizes the game’s rising stars.
The Million Dollar Chase online interactive game returns for Series 2. Like Series 1, there are on average, six of these cards. Go to http://thechase.toppscards.com/and redeem the code on your card. You will receive a player.
Pick players you believe will get a hit. If they get a hit, your streak continues. The longer you keep your streak going, the more prizes you can win. And the first person to get hits in 57 consecutive games will win $1 million.
It’s sort of like fantasy baseball, as you are constantly juggling players to ensure a hit that day. Fun stuff.
Once again, Topps hits the mark with its flagship product. Typically, there is not a lot of flash and big ticket cards, but on occasion a big-money card will emerge. But for set builders and traditional collectors, this set remains a must-have.