30 July 2011

Dave Winfield - Travelling Man (Part 2): California Bound

     Fast forward 10 years to 1990, and Dave Winfield is making his comeback to baseball after missing the entire 1989 season due to back problems. After a dismal start (hitting just .213 in 20 games) to what would undoubtedly be his last season in pinstripes, the Yankees decided to get something out of him before he became a free agent and in May, dealt him to California for Mike Witt.  Witt was once part of what should have been a great starting pitching staff for the Angels with Chuck Finley, Mark Langston and Jim Abbott, but was now decidedly on the downswing of a surprisingly short career. Witt would do very little for the 1990 Yankees, and even less in 1991. Witt would then miss all of his 1992 season and be released by the team in 1993 and be out of baseball.

     Winfield on the other hand, seemed to find some spring in his step with the move to California, out from under the influence of George Steinbrenner, and would turn his season around with the Angels, hitting .275 with 19HR over 112 games. That revival would earn him Comeback Player of the Year honors. Big Dave went on to sign with the Angels for the 1991 season and have his best power year since 1983, with 28 home runs. Not bad for someone who the Yankees had written off. By 1990, there were now several players in the baseball card market, so Winfield's only real trade was covered by all the major update sets; 1990 Fleer Update, 1990 Score Rookie & Traded, Topps Traded and Upper Deck's High # Series.

     Donruss, although not actually having an update or traded set in 1990, did produce the last of their Baseball's Best sets (which had evovled from the 1987 Opening Day set) in the form of separate Best of the American League and Best of the National League sets.  These sets were released mid-season and were updated to reflect team changes since the previous year.  As a result, Donruss also had a 1990 card showing Winfield in his new duds:

12 July 2011

1994 Chicago Cubs Old Style team issue photo card - Karl Rhodes

      Arriving from Seattle today is this blank-backed, 3.5"x5.5" black & white photo card, featuring the Cubs greatest opening day lead-off hitter of all time, Karl "Tuffy" Rhodes.  This was in a lot of four, including Shawon Dunston, Jose Bautista and Willie Banks, so I'm dating this "set" to 1994, the only year those four were Cubs at the same time.

      Often called just "photo cards", these types of cards have been issued for over 70 years, usually by the teams themselves, frequently displaying a sponsor's logo.   These cards were long a staple of fan packs (those goody bags sent to fans who wrote to the team begging for handouts), and in the last 30-40 years have been issued in tandem with autograph signings at the ball park or other fan events.

    The Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards does a pretty good job of documenting these types of sets before 1980, mostly thanks to the persistence of Bob Lemke, but they don't seem to have much interest in tracking the more modern issues.  In some cases, the designs can be identical from year to year.  As a result, it can be very difficult to pin down to exactly when they were issued unless one is able to find several that are easily identifiable as being from the same year.  Then the players in question have to be compared to team rosters to see which years they shared a roster.

     These are difficult to track down, especially without already having been signed.  I passed up a chance at a signed copy for $20 last year.  While I was fortunate enough to find this lot of four cards on eBay, I was even more fortunate that it didn't include Mark Grace, Ryne Sandberg or Sammy Sosa, otherwise it probably would have ended well out of my price range.  Here are the other three cards:

*** Checklist Update ***

     Having seen more of these pop up on eBay, I thought I should go ahead and start compiling a checklist for this particular issue.  The year of issue is now completely in question as the recent discoveries don't all tie into the 1994 team.  I'm just going to call these 1994(?) Chicago Cubs Old Style Photo Cards (in alphabetical order):

Willie Banks
Jim Bullinger
Frank Castillo
Shawon Dunston
Jim Frey
Danny Jackson
Wayne Messmer
Mike Morgan
Karl Rhodes
Tom Trebelhorn
Turk Wendell
Curtis Wilkerson
Billy Williams
Mitch Williams
Don Zimmer

Shawon Dunston
Mike Harkey
Les Lancaster
Vance Law
Greg Maddux
DeWayne Staats
Billy Williams

----------  UPDATE  -----------

After seeing a few more of these, I now think these are two different sets.  The Old Style logo is different on the Dunston, which matches several others I've seen.  I've broken the known cards in to the two separate types.  There is also a third version with a 1990 Chicago All-Star Game logo. I'll list those below.

1990(91?) All-Star Game logo
Joe Girardi
Mark Grace

----------  UPDATE  29 June 2020 -----------

Thanks to a tip from a fellow collector, I can now confirm cards of Shawon Dunston and Mike Morgan in the 1994 set.  When searching eBay's completed items I also found an autographed Billy Williams in that set, as well.

03 July 2011

Dave Winfield - Travelling Man (Part 1)

       While Dave Winfield is probably most recognized as a San Diego Padre or a New York Yankee, he was no stranger to the late-season traded set. He first saw action in 1981, when Topps first set forth to formalize the "traded" set they had dabbled in over the course of the 1970s. His first mainstream card as a Yankee was in that inaugural Topps Traded set. Even at this point, Topps should have just called it an update set since a good chunk of the set were rookies who had shared cards with other rookies in the base set or free agents who were signing with new teams. Probably less than half of the set were players who were involved in actual trades. That would actually be the most common reason for Winfield's appearances in these sets, free agency. For this first official Traded set, Topps simply continued the card numbering where the base set left off. As a result, Winfield's card is #855, near the end of the set.

       In 1980, Dave Winfield was the most high profile free agent in baseball history. He signed with the Yankees for the highest salary in baseball history to that point, reported to be around $16 million for 10 years. Thanks to a cost of living clause, the contract would turn out to be worth closer to $23 million. Dave had an impressive decade for the Yankees, picking up a 8 consecutive All-Star appearances, 5 Gold Gloves and 5 Silver Slugger awards. However the 1980s would also be bittersweet for Winfield, as his post-season performaces were less than stellar and he would spend most of the decade feuding with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner over money and contract stipulations. He would also end the decade on the disabled list, missing all of 1989 to a back injury.

       20 years later, as Topps was completely running out of ideas for new sets, they were reprinting almost every card of every star player in their past inventory. As a result, this 1981 Topps Traded card resurfaced in no less than 4 new versions in the 2001 Topps Traded retread set:

     The first was a nice, clean reprint, on modern white card stock, with the "Topps 50 Years" logo in the upper left corner.  The white stock provided a medium that allowed for a slightly sharper photo than the original card.   The backs of all of these are nearly identical to the original, only much easier to read and having the 2001 copyright notice at the bottom, along with the new card numbering for the 2001 Topps Traded set.

     Next, Topps gave the same card the gold foil treatment around the border, and "limited" the production to 2001 pieces, as indicated by a gold stamped serial number on the back.

      Then, Topps went the next of their favorite gimmicks and issued the same card in Chrome, which was the style they pioneered with the Topps Finest set in 1993.  Chrome cards don't show up very well on LiDE (LED indirect Exposure) scanners, which don't actually shine light directly on the surface of the card, so most of the time, it just shows up as very dark, instead of demonstrating the silver, mirror finish of the background and border.

     Topps also issued the set in their other favorite gimmick, the chrome refractor, which bounces the reflected light back at different angles, resulting in the rainbow effect when looking at it.  Interestingly, refractors show up much better in scans on LiDE scanners but, alas, I have yet to find a copy of the refractor version of this card for my collection.