Sunday, March 25, 2012

1998 Topps Phillies

1998 Topps #25, #123, #351 and #341
This post has proved to be one of the hardest in this series to compose so far.  Looking through the 1998 Topps set conjures up bitter memories of the summer I packed up and left home to go and work in Raleigh.  Nothing against the city of Raleigh, but I was homesick even before I made that fateful journey down I-95. I missed my family.  I missed going to Phillies games and watching the games on TV.  I missed Wawa.  I resented every single time I was referred to as the "yankee" from the North by my co-workers.  The years covered by these next few Topps Phillies posts will not be fun to revisit - both from a personal perspective and from the perspective of a suffering Phillies fan.  But as I've pointed out several times on this blog, it's living through and learning from the bad times that make the good times all the more sweeter.

1998 Topps #123 (Back)
The Set
Number of cards in the set:  Topps was creeping back up to a respectable set size with 503 cards in its 1998 set.  That's an odd number of cards for a complete set isn't it?  There were 282 cards in series one and 221 in series two.  Once again, there is no card #7 in the set in honor of Mickey Mantle.
My very brief thoughts on the set:  For the first time since 1990, Topps went with non-white borders and it works well.  Unfortunately, Topps was still on overdrive with its gold foil machine, and the player's names on the cards can be a bit tough to read at first glance.  The mini team logos behind the player's name make the card look a little busy too.  
Notable competition:  If I recall correctly, the most highly sought after baseball card set in 1998 was the Leaf Rookies and Stars set, which featured short-printed cards in the actual base set.  This is an idea that the card manufacturers would run with over the next decade.  My 1998 Phillies binder contains a ton of Pacific cards and although the cards are a bit garish, at least they were trying something new.  I referenced the necessity of tracking down the Pacific Online set in the 1998 Phillies Missing Links post a few days ago.  Overall, the baseball card manufacturers seemed baffled by what their consumers wanted.  We had cards issued inside a can (the appropriately named Pinnacle Inside), cards with coins inserted into them (Pinnacle Mint), numbered cards in base sets (SPx) and more bells, whistles, foil, and confusing set configurations than ever before.

1998 Topps #94, #412, #219 and #156
1998 Phillies
Record and finish:  The good news is that the Phils climbed out of the cellar, finishing in third place behind the Braves.  The bad news is that they finished 31 games out of first, with a record of 75-87.
Key players:  Third baseman Scott Rolen once again led the offense, hitting .290 with 31 home runs and 110 RBIs.  Rolen also won his first Gold Glove.  He was supported by first baseman Rico Brogna (.265, 20 home runs, 104 RBIs) and new right fielder Bobby Abreu (.312, 17 home runs, 74 RBIs).  Left fielder Gregg Jefferies (.294) also played well before his trade to the Angels in August.  With his 300th strikeout in his final start of the season, Curt Schilling (15-14, 3.25 ERA) became just the fifth pitcher in history with back-to-back 300-strikeout seasons.  Mark Portugal came back from arm injuries to record 10 wins.  The bullpen was anchored by a trio of work horses - Mark Leiter (23 saves in 69 games), Wayne Gomes (71 games) and Jerry Spradlin (69 games).
Key events:  Ed Wade took over the General Manager duties following the 1997 season, and his first order of business was to swap Mickey Morandini to the Cubs for new center fielder Doug Glanville and to send Kevin Stocker to the Devil Rays for Abreu.  (The Devil Rays had selected Abreu in the expansion draft from the Astros.)  Both deals paid off for the team.  Picking first in the annual amateur players' draft in June, the Phillies selected third baseman Pat Burrell from the University of Miami.

1998 Phillies in 1998 Topps
Cards needed for a complete team set:  There are only 12 Phillies cards in the 1998 Topps set, which represents the lowest total since there were only 10 Phillies cards in the 206-card 1955 Topps Phillies set.  Given the team's poor performance and the lack of any star power outside of Rolen and Schilling, I'm willing to forgive Topps for the low tally.
Who’s in:
  • Cards of the eight starting position players - 5 cards
#94 Mike Lieberthal (c), #123 Rico Brogna (1b), #25 Scott Rolen (3b), #341 Gregg Jefferies (lf), #351 Bobby Abreu (rf)

Center fielder Glanville and new second baseman Mark Lewis appear with their former teams in the set. Rookie shortstop Desi Relaford was left out of the set, but he did earn a card within the 1998 Bowman set (along with a bunch of other 1998 cards from the other card manufacturers.)
  • Cards of the starting pitching rotation - 1 card
#332 Curt Schilling

For the second year in a row, Schilling is the sole representative of the pitching rotation.  Tyler Green, Portugal, Carlton Loewer and Matt Beech were all left out.

1998 Topps #332, #60, #163 and #192
  • Base cards of players who played with the Phillies in 1998 - 3 cards
#60 Mark Leiter, #163 Ricky Bottalico, #192 Garrett Stephenson
  • Base cards of players who didn't play with the Phillies in 1998 - 2 cards (with new teams listed)
#156 Kevin Stocker (Devil Rays), #219 Mickey Morandini (Cubs)
  • Phillies appearing on '97 Season Highlights cards - 1 card, #476 Curt Schilling
1998 Topps #37
Who’s out:  As already mentioned, Relaford and 4/5 of the pitching rotation were left out.  
Phillies on other teams:  Newcomers Glanville (#37 with the Cubs), and Lewis (#412 with the Giants) appear with their former teams.
What’s he doing here:  Given the low number of Phillies cards in the team set, there aren't any strange inclusions.
Cards that never were candidates:  I'll limit this to ten cards, although I could list twice that many - Lewis, Relaford, Glanville, Portugal, Green, Loewer, Beech, Gomes and utility guys Kevin Jordan and Kevin Sefcik.
Favorite Phillies card:  I'll pick Lieberthal's card by default, which shows him making contact at the Vet and features a nice shot of the Jackie Robinson commemorative patch that all teams wore during the 1997 season.

Other Stuff
Recycled:  Topps would reuse this design, but with a silver border, for its 1998 Topps Chrome set and its inaugural Topps Opening Day set.  There was also a 1998 Topps Superchrome set, which features an over-sized Rolen card.
Blogs/Websites:  There aren't many bloggers waxing nostalgic about the 1998 Topps set that I could find, so here's a self-serving link to a past post on one of my favorite baseball cards from 1998 - the 1998 Topps Stars Reprint of Mike Schmidt's rookie card.
Did You Know?:  As of this writing, I have 517 different Phillies baseball cards in my collection from 1998.  212 (roughly 41%) of these cards feature Scott Rolen while another 97 (roughly 19%) feature Curt Schilling.  The next most featured player is catcher Bobby Estalella with 42 (roughly 8%) different cards.  So perhaps the reason I spend so little time enjoying my 1998 Phillies binder is because almost three-quarters of the cards belong to Rolen, Schilling and Estalella - three players who aren't going to win any Phillies popularity contests any time soon.

1998 Topps #476, 1998 Topps Chrome #25, 1998 Topps Opening Day #18 and #159


Kevin said...

My two cents...more awful cards, this stretch from 1994-1998 has to be the worst stretch in Topps history, I think I remember what the 1999's looked like as I think I started collecting again about then and they get away from the over the top designs using every feature available in photoshop.

Something I didn't know that you posted here, cards issued in cans? Really? Is that a joke? No wonder pinnacle isn't around anymore, who was buying cards inside of cans. Were they like soup cans or sardine cans?

Jim said...

Sadly, it's not a joke. Do a quick Google Images search for "pinnacle inside can" and you'll see what I mean.

I can't wait to move on from this era of Topps cards and get into the 2000s.

Kevin said...

That is unreal, I would like to have heard the pitch meeting where the cards in a can idea came about.

OK, kids are not collecting cards like they were even 5 years ago. Research finds they are now into video games and Pokemon. What can we do to get the younger collectors back in the fold?

Two words: soup cans...soup cans are going to be hot in the upcoming decade. Kids don't know it yet, but they will love to play with soup cans.

You know how we used to attach cards to our bicycle spokes and make the motorcycle sound on our bikes (breaking character: I really never knew anyone who really did that), well kids now ride scooters, and can tie cans to the back of their scooters and it will make a loud rattling sound while they ride down the street. The children will want our soup cans with pictures of their favorite players on the side.

Jim said...

As a postscript, Pinnacle was out of the business of making baseball cards in 1999.