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!

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