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NOW that’s what I call generosity

When I returned to work after a brief getaway a couple of weeks ago, I was surprised to see a package from Patrick in my mailbox. Patrick and I trade stacks of cards from time to time, and I have given him several baseball books over the past few years after I have finished reading them. But we did not have anything set up for a trade right now, so the fact he left me a package blindsided me. More than that, what was inside that package left me absolutely speechless. I have since regained my ability to speak, and it is way past time to show off these goodies on the blog.

First up is the complete 2016 Topps Mini Reds set…

mini Reds

Topps recruited Rick Moranis to shrink both series 1 and 2. I believe these cards are the same dimensions as the 1975 minis, but I don’t have a ’75 card to compare them to. According to information online, there were only 1000 complete sets made.

Pretty good way to start the package, but there were some bigger surprises inside…

Reds opening day

That, folks, is the complete 15-card set of Reds from Topps NOW “Road to Opening Day.” These were available for a limited time during Spring Training last year, and only 52 sets were made for Reds fans. Thanks to this post-vacation surprise package, I am the proud owner of one of those 52 sets.

My favorite photo from the “Road to Opening Day” set is an easy choice:

Suarez

Eugenio Suarez, who the Reds practically stole from the Tigers for the Big Pasta a few years ago. Look at the size of that bubble. That’s what baseball is all about, my friends. This dude has fun on the field and had a great season last year. I can’t wait to see him in the All-Star Game in July.

But wait, there’s more

Players Weekend

The complete 5-card set of Topps Now “Players Weekend” cards, featuring photos from the weekend of August 25-27, 2017. Surprisingly, the date is not found on these cards. Only 103 sets were made for Reds fans. The players representing the Reds in the Topps NOW series were Joey Votto (“Tokki 2”), Zack Cozart (“Coach”), Billy Hamilton (“Bone”), Scooter Gennett (“Ryan”), Adam Duvall (“Duvy”). I loved the uniforms they wore, but wasn’t crazy about the nicknames on the back.

Votto

How about that for a surprise package? A complete set of 2016 Topps Mini Reds, 2017 Topps NOW “Road to Opening Day,” and 2017 Topps NOW “Players Weekend” cards. But wait…

THERE’S MORE

Reds Topps Now cards 2017

ARE YOU KIDDING ME? What you see above is nearly every 2017 Topps NOW card featuring a Reds player. Eighteen cards, from the superstars like Votto and Hamilton to the rookies like Rookie Davis, Stuart Turner, and Amir Garrett. I was completely floored by these cards.

My favorite Topps NOW card, and perhaps one of my all-time favorite cards, is this right here:

Cozart

Cozart with his All-Star donkey, given to him by Votto after Cozart was selected by the fans to start the 2017 All-Star Game at shortstop. I’m going to miss Cozart in Cincinnati this year, and I hope he has a phenomenal season with the Angels.

Patrick, my friend, thank you so much for these cards. I may no longer be speechless, but I am appreciate of your generosity and grateful for your friendship.

Fun Cards Submissions: Topps Now Pete Rose

Rose

A lot of people made a big deal of Ichiro Suzuki “passing” Pete Rose with his 4257nd hit earlier this month. They combined Ichiro’s professional Japanese League numbers with his big league totals, but ignored the fact that Rose had another 427 hits in the minor leagues, which is also professional. The Lifetime Topps Project did an interesting breakdown of players with more than 4000 professional hits, including not only regular season play in the majors and minors, but also postseason and All-Star appearances. One name stood out more than Rose, Ichiro, Ty Cobb, and Derek Jeter to me: Jigger Statz. Sounds like a guy that The Infinite Baseball Card Set should profile.

I am not denying that Ichiro’s accomplishment is a big deal. It is! But he is not the professional hit king. Pete Rose is, and probably always will be. Unless Ichiro sticks around for a few more years, which I highly doubt, he will not pass Rose’s professional regular-season mark of 4683.

Rose

TWJ contributor Patrick sent over a couple of great “fun cards” to remind us all that Pete Rose is still the Hit King, and with the Reds Hall of Fame induction happening this weekend, there is no more appropriate time to post them here. I see Ron Robinson, Tony Perez, Dave Parker, and Max Venable in that shot. Can you identify anyone else?

Ichiro’s achievement was commemorated by The Shlabotnik Report recently.

A pleasant surprise

When I went in to work Friday, there was an envelope in my work mailbox. The work mailbox is not used a great deal by me, other than to store my headset and some other random papers that may someday be important. So I was a little surprised to see an envelope inside.

This was not a regular envelope, though. This was a small, padded envelope. The type used by baseball card collectors to send each other goodies. All that was written on the outside was my name, so I knew it came from someone who I worked with.

I tore it open, and this beauty fell out…

Hamilton

A Topps NOW card featuring Billy Hamilton, commemorating the Reds’ five single-inning stolen bases earlier this year! This was a very pleasant surprise, and I got busy trying to figure out the identity of the mysterious baseball card fairy. It did not take long, and the trail led straight to TWJ contributor Patrick. We no longer work in the same building, but we still exchange baseball cards, memorabilia, and books from time to time.

Such a great surprise on a Friday night! I’m very grateful to Patrick and his continued support and contributions to The Writer’s Journey.

A few words about Topps NOW…I’m not a huge fan of the process. And I’m not the only one. For me, it’s the price that bothers me. However, I noticed something on the Topps NOW website a few minutes ago:

prices

$3.99 or even $4.99 is a lot easier to swallow than $9.99. Of course, that is only if you are purchasing multiple copies of a single card. But what if the idea was extended to include multiple cards? Say I wanted to place an order for ten cards that were to be produced during the season. Obviously, I don’t know what ten cards I would want, but each day I could check the Topps NOW site, and if I decided I wanted one of those cards, I could click “add to cart” and the quantity. When I accumulate ten cards in my cart, they are then shipped to me. If there are additional slots in my cart at the end of the year, I automatically receive that quantity of the last card in the set (which will likely be a celebration of the Chicago Cubs’ first world championship in over a hundred years).

If I were buying individual cards throughout the year, that would run $99.90. But if I pre-purchased a ten-card package, it would only be $49.99. Or the twenty-card package for $79.99. That might be something I would be willing to do (if the Reds had a better team and I expected them to have 10 or 20 Topps NOW cards this season).

I like the concept of Topps NOW, I really do. But the price for a single card is way too high for this bargain-bin collector. I would love to see Topps make some sort of “subscription” like I described above available to collectors like myself.

Fun Cards Submission: 2016 Topps Now Reds Bullpen

Reds bullpen

I’m not sure what Bryan “Fisher” Price is trying to prove. It’s painfully obvious that the Reds’ bullpen is absolutely atrocious, so why not shake things up? Let a starter go seven or eight or (gasp!) nine innings. See if they can’t seal the deal from beginning to end. WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO THE COMPLETE GAME?

Last season, six major leaguers pitched four complete games. The last time a National League pitcher has reached double digits was last century. Randy Johnson, in 1999, finished 11 games. James Shields was the last American League pitcher to accomplish that “feat”—five years ago—and he was the first in the Junior Circuit since Scott Erickson in 1998. For three straight seasons in the 1970s, Hall of Famer Phil Niekro completed at last twenty games per season. In his 24-year career, Knucksie started and finished 245 games.

I know, not everything in “the good ol’ days” was actually good. But looking at Cincinnati’s bullpen performance this year, it’s hard not to long for a few complete games from the starters that are pitching well.

Thanks to TWJ contributor Patrick for reminding us how pitiful the Reds’ relief pitching actually is.

Fun Cards Submissions: 2016 Topps “Now” Tyler Holt and Billy Hamilton

Holt

Topps introduced a new type of baseball card this year, commemorating on-the-field achievements as they happened and making the cards available for purchase for just 24 hours on their website. The concept is called “Topps Now,” and the cards appear to cost $9.99 each. So far, David Ortiz, Bryce Harper, Trevor Story, Francisco Liriano, and the Kansas City Royals/2015 World Series trophy have been featured. Only the Ortiz is currently available for purchase.

I like the concept, but not the execution. This is the way the Upper Deck Documentary set should have been done a few years ago. A short write-up of daily events, with a photo from the actual game. But $10 per card? Not in this lifetime. I suppose I should be glad the Reds are not expected to perform well this year; that just means there are fewer Reds cards I will never add to my collection.

Hamilton

“Fun cards,” however, are another story. TWJ contributor Patrick saw fit to commemorate Tyler Holt and Billy Hamilton‘s spectacular ninth-inning defensive plays Monday afternoon that saved the Reds from an embarrassing start to what is expected to be an embarrassing season. Look at how fast Hamilton was moving when he dove for that ball! It’s like the Flash, so difficult to get a clear photograph because of his lightning speed!

Thanks for the great “fun cards,” Patrick!

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