2000 Ultra Swing Kings:
Checklist: Cal Ripken Jr., Nomar Garciaparra, Frank Thomas, Tony Gwynn, Ken Griffey Jr., Chipper Jones, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez
I think this is one of those sets where I opened a box/packs and pulled a few of an insert set, then acquired the rest via trades and purchases. I just liked the look of the set (the see-through element is pretty cool) and the player selection at the time was phenomenal. Nowadays Garciaparra being lumped in with these guys would elicit a "WTF?", but these guys were pretty much the cream of the crop back in 2000. I give it three thumbs up (out of two, natch), for featuring three of my all-time favorites--Ripken, Griffey and Gwynn.
1996 Zenith Mozaics:
- Braves: Ryan Klesko/Greg Maddux/Chipper Jones
- Rangers: Ivan Rodriguez/Juan Gonzalez/Will Clark
- White Sox: Ray Durham, Frank Thomas, Robin Ventura
- Giants: Osvaldo Fernandez, Barry Bonds, Matt Williams
- Mariners: Alex Rodriguez/Ken Griffey Jr./Randy Johnson
- Cubs: Mark Grace/Ryne Sandberg/Sammy Sosa
- Angels: Garret Anderson/Jim Edmonds/Tim Salmon
- Orioles: Mike Mussina/Cal Ripken Jr./Roberto Alomar
- Red Sox: John Valentin, Mo Vaughn/Roger Clemens
- Reds: Hal Morris/Barry Larkin/Reggie Sanders
- Cardinals: Ray Lankford/Brian Jordan/Ozzie Smith
- Rockies: Andres Galarraga/Dante Bichette/Larry Walker
- Dodgers: Raul Mondesi/Mike Piazza/Hideo Nomo
- Brewers: Kevin Seitzer/Greg Vaughn/Ben McDonald
- Blue Jays: Joe Carter/Carlos Delgado/Alex Gonzalez
- Marlins: Jeff Conine/Gary Sheffield/Charles Johnson
- Expos: Rondell White/Henry Rodriguez/Moises Alou
- Indians: Carlos Baerga/Albert Belle/Manny Ramirez
- Twins: Chuck Knoblauch/Kirby Puckett/Paul Molitor
- Padres: Wally Joyner/Tony Gwynn/Rickey Henderson
- A's: Mike Bordick/Mark McGwire/Scott Brosius
- Yankees: Wade Boggs/Paul O'Neill/Bernie Williams
- Pirates: Jay Bell/Jason Kendall/Orlando Merced
- Mets: Paul Wilson/Rico Brogna/Jason Isringhausen
- Astros: Derek Bell/Jeff Bagwell/Craig Biggio
Anyway, this is a set I wasn't aware of upon its release because I didn't bust Zenith packs--they were kind of expensive and I don't recall being interested in the base set. But when I started seeing these at shows and online, I fell in love with the theme and player selection and had at it. It took me a little while, but not too long, to secure all of these.
My favorites, of course, are the Mariners (probably the best three-player combination here) and Orioles (not far behind, plus big points for Ripken). Still, there's quite a few well-done trios, including the Indians card, which highlights while they were so successful around the time this set was made. The Yankees one is another great example, considering that team won it all that year (but it's funny to see a Yanks team card without featuring Jeter). And maybe best of all, there's a card that celebrated Houston's "Killer B's" (pre-"Operation Shutdown" Derek Bell).
I think the biggest misses are the A's (a flimsy excuse for a McGwire card considering his cohorts), Pirates (if Kendall's the best of the bunch, you're not looking so hot) and Brewers (I liked Vaughn and McDonald, but not enough not to be pissed off at the Tigers' exclusion considering their presence).
Just a great set that mainly needed the rest of the league to be considered perfect.
1997 Score the Franchise:
Checklist: Ken Griffey Jr., John Smoltz, Cal Ripken Jr., Chipper Jones, Mike Piazza, Albert Belle, Frank Thomas, Sammy Sosa, Roberto Alomar.
Honestly, if it's the day before the 1997 season, this is a starting nine you wouldn't pass on in favor of chopped liver. A look at their 1996 seasons:
- Griffey: .303 AVG, 49 HR, 140 RBI, 16 SB, an All-Star Game appearance, a Silver Slugger and Gold Glove (so, basically, your standard Griffey year)
- Smoltz: 2.94 ERA, 24 wins and 276 Ks (led league in Ws and Ks), pitched Atlanta to the World Series
- Ripken: 26 HR, 102 RBI and an All-Star appearance as a SS (before those stats were really the norm, of course)
- Jones: .309 AVG, 30 HR, 110 RBI and 14 SB, an All-Star appearance AND he was 4th in the NL MVP voting in only his second full season (the year after winning ROY)
- Piazza: .336 AVG, 36 HR, 105 RBI, All-Star, Silver Slugger, 2nd in the MVP voting for the NL (fairly typical year for Piazza too)
- Belle: .311 AVG, 48 HR, 148 RBI (led the AL), All-Star, Silver Slugger, 3rd in AL MVP voting, best asshole played named Joey in the AL
- Thomas: .349 AVG, 40 HR, 134 RBI, most intentional walks, All-Star, somehow only EIGHTH in AL MVP voting (not that they made the playoffs, of course)
- Sosa: 40 HR, 18 SB, not a lot else but, hey, he was popular
- Alomar: .328 AVG, 22 HR, 94 RBI, 17 steals (all as a 2B, mind you), All-Star, Gold Glove and Silver Slugger for the playoff-bound (and Maier-screwed) Orioles
So there you have it: a few of my favorite insert sets, all completed and on display for your entertainment. I hope you enjoyed a look at these, and I promise I'll put more up when the time comes. Between now and then I hope to have more, you know, actual content, so I'll keep working on that.