Friday, October 30, 2015

The 1990s Baseball Card Face-off - 1998 Topps Stars vs. 1999 Bowman's Best

Check this post to see my methodology.

In case you don't go back and check my methodology here's a brief recap. I started with 256 different card sets issued in the 1990s. I randomized the sets, and broke them into four 64-card divisions, Babe Ruth, Mike Schmidt, Ted Williams and Nolan Ryan.  I'm pitting cards against each other in a bracket system, breaking each division into quartiles. We're currently working on the 2nd Quartile of the Babe Ruth Division. Here's where we left off last week.

Today we've got

1998 Topps Stars vs. 1999 Bowman's Best.

1998 Topps Stars #38 Johnny Damon

1998 Topps Stars #103 J. T. Snow

Also known as Topps Stars Red, this is the 150-card base set of yet another set with multiple levels. After Red you have Bronze, Silver and Gold. Note that even the base set is serial numbered to 9,799. The Bronze set is also numbered to 9,799, the only difference being the color of the printing at the top of the card. Silver and gold are numbered to lesser amounts. Someone commented on my 1998 Topps Gold Label post about Topps gimmick cards of the 1990s which was my thought exactly. Topps did a lot of this in the later part of the decade. Think Topps Lazer, Topps Tek etc. This card is kind of attractive in person. What doesn't come through in the scan is that the card front is embossed with parallel lines running from top to bottom.

1999 Bowman's Best #3 David Justice

1999 Bowman's Best #168 Nick Johnson

This 200-card set featured either a gold front (for veterans) or a blue front (for prospects) overlaid with a heavy gloss. The color scheme continues on the back. This was in the days when the card companies could pluck a player out of the minors and call him a rookie. I like the backs but really don't like the fronts. I'll grant that they look much better in person but I'm not a big fan of cards showing action photos over top of some abstract background. The center diamond is a foil rendered continuation (probably) of the photo but I don't like that either.

The Result: As you can probably tell I'm not a big fan of either of these cards but I dislike the Bowman's Best more so, 1998 Topps Stars wins this round.

Friday, October 23, 2015

1998 Topps Gold Label

The other day, 1998 Topps Gold Label defeated 1998 Pinnacle in my contest to determine the best set from the 1990s. This was despite the fact that I didn't own a single card from the set. Since I got a few good comments about the set I decided I better own some in case the set goes far in the contest. Single cards from the set are going on eBay for $1 and up. But I found one auction offering 89 cards from the 100-card set for $13.35 (including shipping). That works out to about 15 cents a card. I'm guessing that these cards cost more than a dollar apiece in packs in 1998.

The cards scan very nicely but are better looking in person. Each card has a chrome refractor look to them except that the finish is harder. The cards appear to have 3 plies. I think that the front and back are actually reverse printed acetate. This is a complicated set. This is the Class 1 variation and should be considered the base set. The pitcher cards feature 2 photos, the foreground shows the pitcher in his delivery while the background photo shows the pitcher in his windup.

The batter cards have the batter at bat in the foreground photo and the player on defense in the background. All the cards feature the player name in gold foil on the front. The abbreviated stats on the back are in a team-color coordinated box.

The Class 2 cards have sparkling silver foil with 2 photos, the same foreground photo as the Class 1. The hitters background shows the player on the base paths. The pitcher cards have the pitcher before his windup in the background.

The Class 3 cards have a sparkling gold foil and also two front photos. I haven't seen enough of them to tell what photo variations are used.

There is also a Red, a Black, and a one-of-one variation for each class.

Here are a few more.

By this selection of cards you can see that Topps varied the ratio of the foreground and background photo sizes. This leads to some unfortunate juxtapositions like the Finley card and especially the I-Rod card where it looks like Ivan is battling an 8-foot clone of himself. This is really my only complaint about the set which may impact a future head-to-head matchup.

Another issue, which could be considered a design flaw is that some of the cards (5 or 6) had a residue on the surface of the cards. This was easily removable with a soft cloth. I've seen similar, and worse, examples of this in Topps Chrome cards from the era. 

With only 100 cards, the set is mostly star players of the day. There are some, in retrospect, errors in some rookie cards, but all in all a solid player selection. Of the 11 cards I'm missing, the only two I would have wanted are Derek Jeter and Cal Ripken, which happen to be the first and last cards of the set.

There were 5 Astros cards in the set but only 2 Phillies cards.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Beards Part 2 - Yes there are more

Yesterday I asked the question "Are there more beards in baseball". Then I showed a bunch of baseball players wearing beards on 2015 baseball cards. That didn't really answer the question however. The answer is yes, there are more beard wearing players in baseball than ever, at least according to the evidence presented in baseball cards. Here's the data.

Total players is the number of different players from each year I had scanned cards for. I think we can safely extrapolate this into the future and say by 2030, every player will have a beard.  Let's look at some bearded players from past years.


Most beards in the past seemed to me smaller and neater than today. Sure you had your full beards but they tended to look more like this.

And you had your Jeff Reardons

But beards tended to lean more toward goatees.


The hair might be long and scraggly but beards were still mostly limited to goatees.

With the occasional mountain man.


Again, goatees predominate

I'm not sure what look Klesko was going for here. Some sort of muttonchops/goatee combo.
But I think Jeff Bagwell pretty much had the worst beard of the year.


Full beard but trim.

By 2005, even Junior was sporting a beard.

Of all the beards I looked at, I only found two examples of a pure chin strap beard. Here's one.

Since I started blogging in 2008, I have a lot more cards scanned. That's why I have a lot larger sample size for 2010 and 2015.

Even in 2010, still mostly goatees.
2010 Topps 206 had lots of players posed in front of forest fires for some reason.

Here's the other chin strap beard from 2010.
From that simple chin strap grew a beard that threatens all of Werth's face.

Of course, baseball is just a microcosm of society as a whole. Here's a New York Post article from 2014 that explains that more men then ever have beards.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Baseball Beards Part 1

Is it my imagination or are more baseball players wearing beards these days than ever before?  I don't think it's my imagination and tomorrow I'll present some more data. Today, we're just going to look at beards in 2015.  I tediously counted beards in my 2015 baseball cards. I do this kind of thing so you don't have to. I have 2015 cards for 639 different major leaguers. I didn't count prospects, former players or managers. Of this 639, 373 have beards of one kind or another. That's better than 50%. Every other guy in a baseball game has a beard.

What kind of beards to these guys have? Pretty much every kind. According to there are 11 kinds of beards. But there are a lot of combinations of different types of beards in MLB.

Full Beard

There's a lot of this going on.

Full Beard Mountain Man

Chin Curtain

Chin Curtain with a Chin Strap

Mutton Chops

Friendly Mutton Chops
Goatee and Mustache


Extended Goatee

Chin Strap

Goatee with Chin Strap


Soul Patch
Soul Patch with Mustache