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Baseball Immortals: “Fun Cards” Tony Gwynn


What can be said about Tony Gwynn that hasn’t already been said? He never batted under .300 with the exception of 1982, when he played only 54 games. In the strike-shortened 1994, Gwynn hit at an amazing .394 clip. He finished his career in 2001 with a .338 lifetime average and 3141 hits, spending his entire 20-year career with the San Diego Padres.

Two special unnumbered 2014 TWJ cards

We said good-bye to one legend, and welcomed one back today. The passing of Tony Gwynn and the return of Pete Rose to the dugout are both commemorated by the 2014 TWJ virtual baseball card set on tumblr.

Tony Gwynn RIP

Pete Rose Bridgeport Bluefish

See more at TWJ cards on tumblr.

R.I.P. Tony Gwynn

(May 9, 1960 – June 16, 2014)

1985 Fleer Tony Gwynn

Baseball Hall of Fame outfielder Tony Gwynn passed away this morning at the age of 54. He played his entire career with the San Diego Padres, retiring in 2001 with a .338 batting average and 3141 hits. Gwynn sailed into the Hall of Fame in 2007 with a 97.6% of the vote, the seventh-highest percentage ever. He led the league in hitting eight times, hits and singles seven times, and was selected to fifteen All-Star games. In two World Series, he batted .371. After his playing career, Gwynn became the head coach for the San Diego State Aztecs baseball team.

I’m a little dumbfounded by Gwynn’s death. I watched him play. I rooted for him. He was an enjoyable player and a fan favorite, regardless of your team affiliation. He smiled a lot, hit a lot, and there was little reason not to like him—no scandals, no attitude problems. Tony Gwynn was a fine athlete, and from all accounts a classy person.

Score Dream Team Tony Gwynn

Don’t get a big head

The Junior Junkie just posted a 1990 Topps “Heads Up” he received featuring Ken Griffey Jr. I have a few as well, and they’re actually hanging on the wall in my basement…

Topps Heads Up

That is, from left to right, Craig Biggio, Tony Gwynn, John Franco (the only Red in the set), Bo Jackson, and Junior. I also had Dennis Eckersley and Mark McGwire at one point, but they weren’t worthy of inclusion on my Wall of Awesomeness.

This was a neat little set, and I wouldn’t mind picking up a few more for my wall if I found them on the cheap at a card show. Looking at the checklist the Junkie posted, I probably also wanted Gregg Olson and Jerome Walton back in the day. But alas, I never got them.

1986 Quaker Chewy Granola Bars Cards #1-9

In 1986 Topps teamed up with Quaker to issue a 33-card set full of superstars, including a nice handful of future Hall of Famers. Over the next few days, we’re going to look at the cards in the set, beginning with the first nine cards today…

1986 Quaker Chewy Granola Bars 1-9

In 1986, these guys were enormously popular, perhaps none more than Dwight Gooden. The man had just won the Cy Young Award in 1985 with 24 wins and a minuscule 1.53 ERA…at the age of 20. Willie McGee was the NL MVP, leading the league with 216 hits and a .353 average, and teammate Vince Coleman had just come of an outstanding rookie campaign setting the record for most stolen bases by a first-year player. He won the Rookie of the Year award unanimously, shutting out the game’s first 20-game winning rookie pitcher since the 1960s.

There are currently only two Hall of Famers among these first nine players: Gary Carter and Tony Gwynn, but reasonable cases can be made for Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, and Steve Garvey. If I had to choose only one of the three for Cooperstown, Murphy would get my vote. While Parker and Garvey dominated the 1970s, Murphy was one of the biggest stars in the 1980s. Say what you will about his short peak, that five-year period between 1982 and 1986 was a fantastic run. Perhaps his chances would have been better if he had retired after the 1991 season, but I will not hold it against him for trying to stick around for a few extra years. When you love something, you want to keep doing it.

Retired Numbers: #17 & #18 & #19

Jim Gilliam, Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers have retired only one uniform number in honor of a non-Hall of Famer: the very popular Gilliam, who served the team as player and coach during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Gilliam died in 1978 after suffering a brain hemorrhage and slipping into a coma. His uniform number was retired just two days after his death, prior to Game 1 of the 1978 World Series.

Dizzy Dean, St. Louis Cardinals

Mel Harder, Cleveland Indians

Ted Kluszewski, Cincinnati Reds

Billy Pierce, Chicago White Sox

Bob Feller, Cleveland Indians

Robin Yount, Milwaukee Brewers

Tony Gwynn, San Diego Padres

It’s not all about the Reds

I’ve done several “fun cards” in the past featuring non-Reds, and even did a few around the All-Star break last year for a guy that I thought should have been on the team but didn’t make the cut…

Little Tony, one of the snubs from the 2009 All-Star game. Maybe he wasn’t deserving, maybe I was putting too much stock into his name and not enough into his game, but I thought he should have been at the midsummer classic.

I struggled finding good photos of him in a Padres uniform, though. So my choices were pretty limited. I’m sure more photos will pop up as he starts to take MLB by storm next season. I did find one really cool photo though, and used it for an oddball “fun card”…

I doubt Little Tony will ever surpass Big Tony’s greatness, but hopefully he will turn out to be a solid player for a long time.

Adventures in Card Show Shopping

My son and I took a little trip north after church today for a card show at a Holiday Inn. It was free to get in, and by the time we got there several of the dealers had already packed up and left. It is NFL Sunday after all. But there were still a few around, and we got some pretty good stuff (in my opinion).

First, a few cards to knock off my set want lists…

And quite a few Cincinnati Reds cards for 5-10 cents (only a handful pictured)…

A cool little set featuring “The Big Red Machine” players…

A Kurt Stillwell card I had never seen before…

An Eric Davis “Collectible Plaque” (display easel included)…

(Trying to decide whether I should free this thing from the beat up packaging or not.)

And a box of 1990 Pro Set Series I…

The box is already busted. Took us less than 10 minutes to rip open all the packs. I’ll be honest, I was looking for the Jeff George draft pick card. I never got it as a kid, and it would have be sweet to pull it out of this box (even though it’s worthless). Alas, it was not to be found. Not in the box, anyway. I found it on eBay and overpaid for it, along with the Jeff George Falcons, Jeff George Patriots, and Keith McCants Falcons cards. We did get the whole Super Bowl subset out of the packs, but we’re missing a few of the base cards. I’ll be posting a wantlist as soon as I have them sorted for the Pro Set cards we’re missing from both Series I and II (I already had some of those in the closet).

After doing some Googling, I was surprised to see how many variations are in the set. There are probably even more than are listed there (for instance, there are two versions of Super Bowl card #22, one with a 1988 date and the other with a 1989 date…and we pulled both from this box).

Maybe this is why Pro Set disappeared after only a few years. I loved the cards, but there were so many errors and variations…it can be very disheartening for someone who wants to complete a master set. I haven’t decided yet whether we’re going to try to get all the errors and corrections or just one for each card number. What would you do?

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