Monthly Archives: October 2012

Pieces of Shea

How the hobby remembers 45 years of Mets history

On April 17, 1964, the New York Mets finally had a home to call their own.  After spending two years at the Polo Grounds, the Mets began their 45-year stay at Shea Stadium.  It may not have been the fanciest stadium around, but it hosted one All-Star game, four World Series, and a fair number of Hall of Famers.  Unlike the stadium celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, Shea’s era couldn’t go on forever.  In 2008, fans said a final goodbye to the only Mets home many of them had ever known.

A bittersweet part of any stadium demolition (or sometimes even renovation) is the selloff of anything that can be unbolted or torn off.  In the old days, wooden stadium seats would find their way into museums and private collections (and later baseball cards, as seen in this year’s Heritage and Gypsy Queen).  Until its demise, Shea had never been cut up and stuck into cards.  This changed with 2009 Topps Heritage, which featured Shea Stadium memorabilia in its American Heritage Relics insert set.  For the first time ever, fans would be able to buy a tiny piece of their home stadium (if they thought that $100 or more for a plastic seat back was a bit too steep).

The stadium memorabilia of choice in this case was padding from the outfield wall.  The big question though would be who to put on the cards with tiny pieces of blue wall embedded in them.  Mike Piazza had previously appeared on game-used wall cards, but for other stadiums; this of course made no sense because Piazza was a catcher, but that didn’t really matter for these cards.  For Shea though, it wouldn’t do to put the faces of players from other teams alongside the last remnants of the Mets’ former home.  So who would make sense?

Lenny Dykstra immediately comes to mind.  His crashes into the outfield wall earned him the nickname “Nails” (and probably a bit of brain damage), so how could you go wrong with Lenny on an outfield wall card?  Dykstra was flying high as a financial genius at the time, right before filing for bankruptcy and landing in jail on every kind of non-violent felony charge you could imagine (and maybe a few not so non-violent ones).  OK, so we dodged a bullet there

How about the 2000 World Series starting outfield of Benny Agbayani, Jay Payton, and Timo Perez?  Could there be a more unlikely starting outfield in the World Series?  This story would probably play out better if they won that one, but it’s still worth a thought.

You could just go with a big star who played in the outfield at Shea and Willie Mays is about as big as they come.  Despite spending only the very end of his career with the Mets, he is still featured on plenty of cards in blue pinstripes.

There’s always Darryl Strawberry, who still holds several team records (at least until David Wright breaks them).  Or maybe Carlos Beltran, one of the best Mets from the 2008 team.  There are countless stars and fan favorites who could have worked..

Forget all that, there’s only one Mets player who should be on a card with a piece of Shea Stadium’s outfield wall.  The Catch.  For most baseball fans, that phrase is associated with Willie Mays.  To Mets fans though, The Catch is synonymous with Endy Chavez and his picture-perfect home run-robbing catch in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS at Shea, right in the middle of an AIG ad that said “The strength to be there.”  The Catch was such a significant baseball moment that it was even featured in 1 and 1/3 of a second of Fox’s two hour 25th anniversary special this year.  It was just meant to be.

Which is why it never happened.  So who would be deemed worthy of this honor?  Not Mays or Chavez.  Not Dykstra or Strawberry.  Not Benny or Timo.  Not even Beltran.  The winners were Joe Namath, Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, President Bill Clinton, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Namath actually played at Shea for most of his career, but what the heck do popes and politicians have to do with the outfield wall at Shea?  Apparently the criteria for selection ended somewhere around “visited the stadium at least once.”  And I guess they couldn’t get the rights to The Beatles.  Worse though is that Endy’s catch, while widely covered in photos, went unrecognized in baseball cards.  Until now (or a few months ago to be precise).

And we finally get to the point of this piece, the 2012 Topps Gypsy Queen Glove Stories card that commemorates The Catch at long last.  It took almost six years, but we finally have a cardboard reminder of one of the best postseason plays in recent history.  If only this could have been combined with the Shea outfield wall cards…

Product Spotlight: Topps Tier 1, Tier One, Tier 1 One, Tier Whatever

Finally, a product that is honest with itself

Look, I don’t buy boxes of premium products.  If I’m going to drop hundreds of dollars on cards, I either want a good number of cards (preferably enough to build a set) or just the premium inserts that I want.  I’m not in this for the gambling, so missing out on a slim chance at a big score is worth it if I can get the cards I want at a reasonable price.  In the case of 2012 Topps Tier One, I spent less than the price of four boxes and got cards that are better than could be expected from four boxes, which is a win in my book.

Base Card

So beautiful

Got ya, there are no base cards!  If there’s one thing that I hate in sports card products, it’s filler.  No, not those blank cards that are used to thicken packs to make it harder to find high-dollar cards by feel.  It’s the base cards in those one-big-ass-hit-per-pack products that seem the most pointless.  I mean, how do you collect base cards when the packs cost $100+ each?  Mix in a few levels of parallels and some inserts to thin things out and you have, at best, some singles you can get a few dollars for because the people who want them aren’t going to drop a few thousand dollars to pull one.  That’s why it was refreshing to see Topps basically say “Look, this is a pure gamble, there’s no collecting to be done here, just a big win or a big loss,” with 2012 Topps Tier One.  Each box contains one pack that in turn contains just three cards, two with autographs and one without (plus a bonus relic in every fourth box).  Based on the Twitter buzz about this product, you would assume that there was a 1/1 bat knob in each pack, but that of course was not to be.  There was still a lot to like about this product, when purchased on the secondary market of course (good advice for any premium product).

Top Shelf Relics / Autographed Relics

If one is boring, three is, um, also boring

Single Relic: Numbered to 399 or 150
Double Relic: Numbered to 50 or less
Triple Relic: Numbered to 25 or less
Autographed Single Relic: Numbered to 99
Autographed Double Relic: Numbered to 25
Autographed Triple Relic: Numbered to 1

Mets: David Wright (Autographed Relics have not been seen)
Non-Mets: Eddie Murray (Relics only), Gary Sheffield (Autographed Relics only)

These are the filler relic cards, with even Wright’s triple relic commanding less than $10.  If you pulled one of these as your non-autographed card, well, my condolences.  And stay away from the slot machines.  Like last year’s cards, these are largely forgettable and don’t really get any better with more material.  The usual boring gray jersey swatches don’t help much either.  How long has it been since we’ve seen a pinstripe jersey card from Wright?  Autographed versions may exist for some players, but the checklist doesn’t match up with what has been seen.

Prestigious Patches Relics / Autographed Relics

The thin blue line makes a crappy patch

Relic: Numbered to 10
Autographed Relic: Numbered to 10

Mets: Dwight Gooden, Rickey Henderson (Autographed Relic only), Eddie Murray (Autographed Relic only), David Wright (Autographed Relic only)
Non-Mets: Willie Mays (Relic only), Nolan Ryan (Relic only), Tom Seaver (Relic only), Warren Spahn (Relic only)

A better relic pull would be one of these jumbo relics.  Most of these are patches, but Wright has large pieces of gray jersey with blue piping instead (Topps and I clearly have different definitions of ‘patch’).  Gooden and Murray have nice big Mets patches, which at least explains why Murray is shown as a Met here.  In general, I’m really getting tired of seeing Murray, Henderson, and Ryan shown as Mets, but I’ll allow it if the purpose is to match the material in the card.

Bat Knobs

Numbered to 1

Mets: Gary Carter, Jose Reyes, Tom Seaver
Non-Mets: Carlos Beltran, Rickey Henderson, Eddie Murray, Gary Sheffield, Duke Snider, Darryl Strawberry

And here’s the real relic draw.  With going rates around $800 for most players, a bat knob pull would make up for a few boxes of garbage.  It is also extremely unlikely (odds are 1 in 204 packs).  Pulls of a lifetime tend to be somewhat rare.  But they sure look nice.

Crowd Pleasers Autographs

Blue: Numbering Varies
White: Numbered to 25
Silver: Numbered to 10
Gold: Numbered to 1

Mets: Ike Davis, Ed Kranepool, David Wright
Non-Mets: George Foster

On the autograph side of things, you have several mostly identical insert sets.  Crowd Pleasers are landscape-oriented cards featuring on-card autographs in either blue ink on a white background or White/Silver/Gold ink on a black background.  These are some sharp-looking cards and have ink colors that you don’t really see much anymore now that Sweet Spot is gone.  The player selection is fairly standard but better than most products, with David Wright and Ike Davis representing the current Mets and Ed Kranepool representing retired Mets.  It’s always nice to see more Kranepool, but some more variety would have been welcome.  Luckily, there are plenty more autograph insert sets to work with.

On the Rise Autographs

Blue: Numbering Varies
White: Numbered to 25
Silver: Numbered to 10
Gold: Numbered to 1

Mets: Jon Niese
Non-Mets: None

These are essentially the same as Crowd Pleasers, only with portrait orientation.  Jon Niese is the lone Mets representative here.

Top Tier Autographs

Blue: Numbered to 50
White: Numbered to 25
Silver: Numbered to 10
Gold: Numbered to 1

Mets: Nolan Ryan
Non-Mets: Willie Mays

Same as above, more or less.  Of course they throw in Nolan Ryan here as a Met…

Everything Else

Top Shelf Relics Legends

Single Relic: Numbered to 50
Double Relic: Numbered to 15

Non-Mets: Willie Mays

Clear Rookie Reprint Autographs

Numbered to 25

Non-Mets: Willie Mays

Mays never stops signing autographs apparently.

Double Autographs, Triple Autographs, Cut Signatures, Elevated Ink

Nothing worth noting.


There’s some nice stuff here, but it feels awfully redundant sandwiched between Museum Collection and Triple Threads.  It was refreshing for Topps to drop the pretense that anyone is buying these for anything other than the big hits, but what does that say about this product’s identity?  For Mets fans, this product is all about the autographs, but even that is only a draw because of how little variety there’s been in other products.  Outside of Archives, there’s been little to choose from in on-card autographs beyond Wright and Ryan, and even Tier 1 only adds Kranepool, Niese, and Davis (plus some very nice parallel ink colors).  Beef up the autograph offerings in the other products and Tier 1 becomes completely unnecessary.  Next year, Topps should drop the non-base cards from this product and come up with some new ideas.  How about autographs on manufactured material, has anybody done that yet?