Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Larry happy belated birthday to Chipper

Larry Wayne "Chipper" Jones turned 40 yesterday (April 24) and celebrated in style with his third HR of the season en route to another Atlanta victory.  I may be a day late posting this, but considering that the 2012 season is the career Brave's victory lap, there's not a day that goes by that a Chipper post wouldn't be appropriate.  I'll leave the bulk of those to the excellent Braves-centric bloggers out there, but today I wanted to highlight the career of one of the greatest players of my generation by showing off some of my favorite cards of him in my collection.  And this list goes to 11!

1998 Donruss Preferred Title Waves (#0143/1995):
Remember when inserts were generally harder to come by and weren't throwaway parallels or endless permutations of reprints?  Donruss got into the #d insert game in the 90s and really did some nice things with them.  This card is an excellent example of that:  the die-cut waves, the set name's play on words, the serial numbering to the year of the significant accomplishment.  Besides looking great, this card is apropos of Chipper's career since it highlights his one Series victory in three tries.  Just a beautiful card, and if you haven't seen one of these in person, I hope you get a chance sometime. 

 1999 Topps Gallery Gallery of Heroes:
There's been a handful of stained-glass-style cards in the history of the hobby, and in general I'd say they've come off very well.  This translucent, die-cut beauty is enhanced by the appealing "glass" background pieces comprising the Braves' team colors.  "Hero" is a very appropriate title for Chipper, too--he's certainly earned it in his career-long stint with Atlanta, putting up some huge numbers and coming through in the clutch more often than not.

2000 Stadium Club Chrome Refractor:
Stadium Club full-bleed photo goodness + Refractor technology + Chipper Jones = 100% awesome.  I remember buying a few boxes of these closer to when they came out and pulling Refractors and other quality inserts of some excellent players:  Griffey and Jeter come to mind, and there may have been more.  I don't know, there's just a huge appeal for me when a Refractor is a full-bleed photo instead of a Finest or Bowman Chrome card with a distracting border.  God, I miss Stadium Club.  BRING IT BACK, TOPPS!
Bonus from the card back:  "In 1999 [Chipper's MVP season], Chipper became the first player in Major League history to hit .300 with at least 40 home runs, 20 steals, 100 runs, 100 RBI, 100 walks and 40 doubles."  There's one of your top five greatest switch-hitters ever, people.

1997 Bowman's Best Mirror Image:
I'm not sure how many of you are either old enough to remember or if you were even collecting at that time, but Bowman's Best's debut release in 1994 was broken up into veterans, rookies and "mirror image" cards combining one of each.  Those eventually evolved ("Topps" and "Intelligent Design" belong in the same sentence exactly as much as "Intelligent Design" and "public school" do) into this double-sided four-player version.  Whoever picked the four players on this one did all right for themselves, Russell Branyan and his all-or-nothing swing notwithstanding.  In the early-to-mid 90s, Matt Williams was a great player to be compared to if you were an up-and-coming star, and Adrian Beltre's had a very nice career for himself.  I don't say this often, but between the design and player choice, nice job, Topps!

1997 Upper Deck Ticket to Stardom:
Remember when I was asking earlier if anybody remembered the 90s when inserts were generally something more special than they are today?  Well if you want a warm fuzzy story that reminds you of the true spirit of collecting, I'll tell you that my brother pulled this card from a pack in our Easter baskets (yeah, we still got them at that point, and my mom got us cards because she's the best) and we both thought it was the coolest thing ever.  It ended up being a pretty nice day for us if I recall correctly, because I'm pretty sure that's also when we pulled a redemption for a Frank Thomas Firebrand insert, which was also beautiful but took forever to arrive.  Colby assembled the set so I'm swiping his image, which is totally fair since I'm writing a post 100% about the Braves.
Ok, now I can actually discuss this card.  First off, the scan simply doesn't do it justice, but it's just too foil-y and reflective to be as photogenic as it should be.  In-person, it's a pleasant gold-ish kind of color, Wonka ticket-style.  Upper deck did a nice job with the theme of the design, making it look quite a bit like a ticket.  According to the back, "Still only 24 and excelling in each phase of the game, barring injury, Chipper seems destined to be one of the game's best."  Very prophetic--injuries sapped quite a bit of the second half of his career, but he'll definitely be remembered as one of the greats as a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. 

1997 Studio Hart Hats (#3737/5000):
Who doesn't love acetate cards?  Robots and communists, that's who.  This outstanding design is another great example of Donruss' excellent creativity and execution at the time.  Besides the card back stating that "Chipper is a classic dirty-uniform player who brings to the ballpark a work ethic that matches his skill.  He took extra bases on 66.7 percent of his opportunities in '96, fourth-best in the NL," I love that the front of the card shows him about to bunt, a classic blue-collar, hard hat sort of play that captures the attitude of a player unselfish enough to do so despite being a feared hitter with power.  Well done, Donruss.

1991 Bowman RC 
 1991 Topps RC
1991 Upper Deck RC:
Here's a trio of rookie cards of your 1990 MLB draft #1 overall pick (Todd van WHOpple?).  It's definitely fun to see him looking so young when you consider it's now the day after (or later, depending on when you read this) his 40th birthday.  The UD is my favorite because of the cool action shot, although the Topps has the better of the two posed photos.  These may be from the junk wax era and there may be enough in the world for everyone to have 10, but they're still a treasured part of my collection.

 2001 SPx Winning Materials jersey/bat:
I've certainly had this guy for a while; I don't think I picked it up in 2001 but it couldn't have been much later than that.  Hailing from a time when relics were still a bit of a novelty, this is one I've come to appreciate for the simplicity but effectiveness of its design.  UD didn't always have winners on their hands with the Winning Materials sets, but they did very well for themselves in '01, and they even capped this card off with a sweet shot of Chipper's sweet swing.

2002 Fleer Box Score All-Star Lineup quad jersey:
Here we've got a great quartet of great players on another concept/design I like very much.  It's possible all four guys here will end up in the Hall (not 100% sure on Helton but I'd vote for him) as Alomar's in, Chipper's a no-brainer and A-Rod probably gets in as long as something crazy doesn't happen.  What I like about all that is that Chipper's still the best player on the card as far as I'm concerned--at this point I'd take him over any of the other guys any day, and wouldn't you know it, he's clearly got the best relic piece on the card, a gorgeous Braves red (scarlet?  I dunno, I just do primary colors...) swatch with stitching at the bottom.  A sweet card in which Chipper is in good company.

Although I'm not a Braves fan, I truly wish Chipper well on his farewell lap of both leagues, but no matter what happens, he goes out a winner in my book, and it won't be long before we're talking about him as the next great Hall-of-Famer of our time!  Hats off to you on a legendary career, Larry.

4 comments:

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    1. Thanks--I don't cover Chipper as much as I should for a guy I grew up watching, but it was fun going back and looking over some of my favorites of his, not to mention looking at his awesome career stats again.

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  2. Agreed, great post!
    I don't know if I hadn't seen or didn't remember seeing the 1999 Topps Gallery Gallery of Heroes, but I just snagged the only copy of Chippers on ebay for 5.95. I'm so excited for that and my other purchase today!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks--thought you'd be as interested as anybody when I wrote this. Nice job scoring the Gallery card, and that's a real nice pickup you posted yourself!

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