Friday, July 1, 2016

Complete sets: 1998 Upper Deck Griffey Most Memorable Home Runs

After showing off UD's Cal Ripken collection, including the boxed set version, earlier this week, I thought I'd come back with another such set centering on one of my PC players today:  Ken Griffey Jr.  Upper Deck had plenty of reason to fete Griffey after his outstanding 1997 season:

  • 56 HR, a career high he'd match the following year, and a total that led all of MLB
  • Also led the A.L. in:
    • Position player bWAR:  9.1
    • Offensive bWAR:  7.6
    • Slugging:  .646
    • Runs:  125
    • Total bases:  393
    • RBI:  147 (led MLB)
    • Extra-base hits:  93
  • His 8th straight All-Star appearance and Gold Glove
  • Oh yeah, he won the A.L. MVP that year too
Many who saw him in his prime remember Griffey as one of the game's greatest all-around players and his career stats bear that out.  But despite being a guy that didn't sell out for power--he crossed the 100 strikeout mark just five times in his 22 seasons--Junior is often thought of as a prolific home run hitter.  His 630 career dingers say that's fair, and the Kid had actually hit 294 of those after just nine seasons when this set came out, making folks wonder if he'd be the one to break Hank Aaron's record.  Obviously he didn't after the 2000s saw injuries rob Griffey of his skills.  But back in '97 nobody knew what was to come and anyway it was time to celebrate some of Junior's biggest bashes.

Enter UD's "Ken Griffey Jr.'s Most Memorable Home Runs" 3.5x5 boxed set.  The manufacturer also highlighted each of his 56 HR in 1997 with its Ken Griffey's Home Run Chronicles insert in '98, but this one took a wider view at his career and chose 10, well, memorable home runs!

Here's a look at the box:
As it notes, autographed versions of each of the 10 cards were available, each numbered to just 10 copies.  There was also some sort of redemption for when Griffey hit his 300th homer the following year, though I don't have that in my box here so I don't know what happened to it.

Anyway, each card front features a photo of the monumental home run (or at least a related scene) in a kind of black-bordered pentagon.  Most of the rest of the front is made up of gold foil with vertical lines, though the bottom of the pentagon has a black baseball field with Griffey's name in gold foil caps plus a white diamond with a white number in the middle.  That number has some significance that's explained on the back.  Rounding out the front in--you guessed it!--more gold foil are the name of the insert up top in all caps (sitting inside a black box), the UD logo in the bottom-left, and Seattle's logo in the bottom-right.

Meanwhile, the backs start with a smaller, related photo from the home run in question, inside of a white-bordered...shape...all of which is inside a black box that takes up about 2/3 of the card (along with Griffey's name in white caps and the card number in white in the upper-left corner).  The bottom third is again a gold foil background, and in black text we get the date of the homer and a description, that season's stats, and Griffey's career numbers to that point (his first nine seasons).

UD chose some fairly obvious and/or reasonable moments to highlight including Junior's first homer, going back-to-back with his dad, and getting to 50 for the first time in '97.  The set shows a nice progression of Kenny's power and growth, plus Seattle's various unis, and it gives the collector some very nice shots of what I consider my favorite swing in baseball history; no word can better describe it than "sweet."

So check out this Griffey-centric set and let me know what you all think!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Completed sets: 1996 Upper Deck Ripken Collection

As many of you who are old enough to recall the 1990s may remember, 1995 and '96 were probably the height of Ripkenmania.  On September 6, 1995, Cal broke what was once considered baseball's most unbreakable streaks by playing in his 2,131st consecutive game, passing Yankees legend Lou Gehrig.  This feat was seen as a major healing moment between the sport and fans jaded by the strike that wiped out parts of the 1994 season--including the postseason--and some of '95 as well, robbing fans of possible record-breaking moments, the World Series, and most simply, the game they wanted to continue watching.

All the major card manufacturers feted Ripken for that achievement and/or his career in general in some way with a bevy of cards and promotions.  Upper Deck, for one, put together a cross-product insert highlighting Cal and some of his major moments over 22 cards (plus an informational "header" card).  These cards could be found in flagship Upper Deck (#s 5-8 and 13-17), Collector's Choice (1-4 and 9-12), and SP (18-22).

The set starts with the 2,131 moment and then works its way back through Ripken's career, all the way back to his 1981 MLB debut.  A couple cards feature photos of specific moments, including the Streak and leading the All-Star voting in '95, but mostly they include action shots of the HOF SS/3B in the field or at bat.

Below the full-bleed photos the fronts have a horizontal silver bar with a pattern of black orioles running across.  Beneath that are Cal's name in orange capitals along with "Baltimore Orioles" in a smaller silver font, and finally an Orioles logo in the bottom-right corner.  There are slight differences between the source brands; besides each displaying its logo in the upper-left or -right, Collector's Choice has a "basic" look, UD's cards have a reflective foil look, and SP has a hard-to-explain background pattern.

Backs start with a black border/background covered in orioles.  Atop/inside that is a dark green rectangle with a white/black/orange border.  In the top-middle of (and partially sticking out of) the green area is an inset photo of Cal inside an oval; the same picture can be seen on all 23 cards.  His name again appears in all caps, this time in white, and below that we get a orange horizontal bar separated by another Oriole logo.  The write up is done in a script-like white font, and that sits just above a year's worth of stats, with the categories inside an orange box and the numbers inside a white one; some years are repeated while others get skipped, and this seems to depend on what moment or year the card is highlighting.

While these are pretty easy to acquire now they used to carry a nice premium, especially the tougher-to-pull SP versions out of that more expensive product.  Fortunately for me it's been a while since I finished it, so now I'm finally showing it off as part of my drive to get my major player collections scanned.

I hope you all enjoy a look at this set!

Bonus round:  Jumbo boxed set!
Upper Deck also released these cards in another version as a boxed set (minus the header card).  They differ a bit from the inserts as they're 3 1/2 x 5 inches, making them jumbos.  There's three other significant differences:  the individual product logos are replaced by a regular UD logo; they're all done in the same basic style since they weren't inserted into different products; and they each feature a gold foil--excuse me--elegant gold foil stamp of Cal's signature.

Here's a card from each version for comparison:
I've scanned each of the 22 cards from the boxed set but won't be posting them here since they're not different enough to warrant that.  However, if you'd like to check them out just head over to the album for my Ripken collection.

Stay tuned for much more from those aforementioned PCs as I finished up scanning the Griffey/Gwynn/Maddux/Ripken cards from my complete sets and will be ready to show those off soon!