Sunday, February 12, 2012

1994 Topps Phillies

1994 Topps #380, #401, #323 and #504
After the improbable success of the 1993 season, things completely fell apart for the Phillies.  1994 marked the first of seven consecutive losing seasons as the aging team suffered through a rash of injuries.  On August 11, 1994, the baseball season ended prematurely due to an impasse between the players and the owners.  The players' strike that would go on until the following spring stained the game and sent away countless long-time fans, disgusted by the greed on both sides of the argument.

My baseball card collecting priorities also changed in 1994.  As a direct result of the strike, I became more focused on collecting vintage Topps sets, and much less focused on attempting to collect new Phillies cards.  It wasn't until much later in the '90s that I filled out my 1994 through 1998 Phillies collection, as the strike caused me to all but stop buying packs of new baseball cards for several years.

1994 Topps #504 (Back)
The Set
Number of cards in the set:  Topps went back to its magic number of 792, releasing two series of 396 cards each.  The traded series contained the now-standard 132 cards.
My very brief thoughts on the set:  I wasn't really that into this set at the time, although this is the set I still tend to associate with the 1993 National League Champs.  I believe this is the last Topps base set to not feature some sort of gold or silver foil element on the fronts of the cards.  Which means we've been straining our eyes and tilting the cards since 1994 in order to read the name of the player on the fronts of baseball cards.
Notable competition:  I've always loved the 1994 Fleer set.  It's very simplistic in its design and it features a lot of great photos.  (What happened to the Fleer design team between 1994 and 1995?)  The Collector's Choice set (from Upper Deck), the Pinnacle set and the Triple Play set (from Donruss) are also terrific sets with great designs.

1994 Topps #692, #57, #476 and #635
1994 Phillies
Record and finish:  The Phils finished the strike-shortened season with a record of 54-61 in the newly aligned five-team National League East.  They were 20 1/2 games behind the Montreal Expos when the season stopped.
Key players:  Darren Daulton was on his way to another solid season, hitting .300 with 15 home runs and 56 RBIs.  A fractured clavicle suffered on a play at the plate at the end of June ended his season early.  John Kruk (.302, 5 home runs, 38 RBIs) and Jim Eisenreich (.300, 4 home runs, 43 RBIs)  helped with their bats while Pete Incaviglia added 13 home runs.  Danny Jackson led the pitching staff with 14 wins and a 3.26 ERA, followed by the newly-acquired Bobby Munoz, who won 7 games with a 2.67 ERA.  The dependable 1993 trio of Curt Schilling, Tommy Greene and Ben Rivera spent the bulk of the season on the disabled list.  New closer Doug Jones saved 27 games and pitched to a very impressive 2.17 ERA, while Heathcliff Slocumb (2.86 ERA, 5-1) served as a very effective set-up reliever.
Key events:  Mitch Williams and Terry Mulholland, both key contributors on the 1993 squad, were traded over the winter to the Astros and Yankees respectively.  Kruk battled testicular cancer during the off-season and returned on the team's home opening day to a very lengthy and very loud standing ovation.  The cheers only intensified when Kruk doubled in the first inning to drive home the first run of the season for the Phils.  The Phils sent four players to the All-Star Game in Pittsburgh - Jackson, Jones, Lenny Dykstra and Mariano Duncan.

1994 Phillies in 1994 Topps
Cards needed for a complete team set:  There are 30 Phillies cards in the base set and another 6 Phillies cards in the traded set.
Who’s in:

  • Cards of the eight starting position players - 8 cards
#380 Darren Daulton (c), #401 John Kruk (1b), #692 Mickey Morandini (2b), #57 Kevin Stocker (ss), #476 Dave Hollins (3b), #323 Pete Incaviglia (lf), #635 Lenny Dykstra (cf), #504 Jim Eisenreich (rf)
  • Cards of the starting pitching rotation - 5 cards
#199 Danny Jackson, #102T Bobby Munoz, #53T Shawn Boskie, #266 David West, #142 Curt Schilling

1994 Topps #199, 1994 Topps Traded #102T, #53T and 1994 Topps #266
  • Base cards of players who played with the Phillies in 1994 - 14 Cards
#28 Tony Longmire, #86 Ricky Jordan, #238 Kim Batiste, #352 Ben Rivera, #419 Wes Chamberlain, #447 Mike Williams, #533 Roger Mason, #570 Tommy Greene, #597 Todd Pratt, #663 Mariano Duncan, #722 Milt Thompson, #5T Toby Borland, #43T Heathcliff Slocumb, #126T Doug Jones

Longmire's card is futuristic "Future Stars" card, complete with some sort of green computer chip background.
  • Base cards of players who didn't play with the Phillies in 1994 - 4 Cards (with new teams listed)
#114 Mitch Williams (Astros), #170 Terry Mulholland (Yankees), #294 Tyler Green (minors), #328 Donn Pall (Yankees/Cubs)
  • Phillies appearing on 1993 Topps All Stars cards - 1 card, #388 Lenny Dykstra with Ken Griffey, Jr. (Mariners)
  • Phillies appearing on Measures of Greatness cards - 1 card, #608 Darren Daulton
I've always thought this was a bizarre subset.  Daulton's career-to-date stats are measured against Roy Campanella and the average stats for all Hall of Fame catchers.  Topps concludes that with several more years like 1992 and 1993, Daulton's power numbers would be "truly Cooperstown-ish."  At the time, I thought it was a silly comparison and the cards in this subset took away from players who should have had cards in the set.  All these years later and my thinking hasn't changed.
  • #1 Draft Pick card - 1 card, #742 Wayne Gomes
  • Phillies appearing on Coming Attractions cards - 1 card, #786 Kevin Foster and Gene Schall
  • Ryne Sandberg Commemorative card - 1 card, #130T Ryne Sandberg
Gomes made his debut with the Phillies in June 1997, and he'd become the team's full-time closer for a portion of the 1999 season.  Foster was shipped to the Cubs at the start of the season for Boskie.  Schall played in parts of two seasons with the Phillies in 1995 and 1996.  And Sandberg appears here on his first "official" Phillies card as part of a two-card subset commemorating his retirement part-way through the 1994 season.  Sandberg would change his mind and come back to play in 1996 and 1997 for the Cubs.

1994 Topps Traded #126T, #43T, 1994 Topps #663 and #86
Who’s out:  Topps did a really nice job with player selection for the Phillies this year.  Of the returning players from 1993, only Larry Andersen was completely omitted from the set.  He appeared in 29 games for the 1994 club.  Lefty Andy Carter, who pitched in 20 games, would have been a better choice for the Coming Attractions card over Foster.
Phillies on other teams:  Bobby Munoz (#144 with the Yankees), Shawn Boskie (#177 with the Cubs) and Doug Jones (#334 with the Astros) appeared in the base set with their former teams before getting Phillies cards in the traded set.  These guys weren't so lucky - #26 Billy Hatcher (Red Sox), #175 Fernando Valenzuela (Orioles), #417 Paul Quantrill (Red Sox), #427 Tom Edens (Astros) and #541 Jeff Juden (Astros).  Valenzuela, who appeared in 8 games for the 1994 Phillies appeared in (I believe) 9 cards with the Phillies, none of which were produced by Topps.
1994 Topps #175
What’s he doing here:  Topps jumped the gun a little by giving Green his third base card in as many years.  Green appeared in 3 games with the 1993 Phillies and he spent all of 1994 in the minors.  When Topps was going through player selection for the set, I'd imagine this final spot for a Phillies card came down to Green versus Andersen and the prospect beat out the veteran.
Cards that never were candidates:  Andersen and Carter are deserving, and Hatcher, Valenzuela and Quantrill should get Phillies cards.  I'd also make a Coming Attractions card for Mike Lieberthal and Ricky Bottalico, who both made their debuts during the season.
Favorite Phillies card:  Eisenreich has always been one of my favorite players, and he's got a great 1994 Topps card featuring him taking a warm-up swing with the sun on his face.

Other Stuff
Recycled:  Topps used the 1994 Topps design for Daulton's card in its 2004 All-Time Fan Favorites set. The design is also featured on Bobby Abreu's 2006 Topps Wal-Mart card.
Blogs/Websites:  Lifetime Topps Project recently concluded its look at the 1994 Topps set.
Did You Know?:  The Phillies adopted all-blue hats for home Sunday games in 1994.  Besides the fact that the hats clashed badly with the team's uniform, many players deemed the hats to be unlucky once the blue-hat Phils went 0-3 over the first three home Sundays.  A meeting was held between team captain Daulton and General Manager Lee Thomas and it was decided that the hats would only be worn during the remaining afternoon home games.  The blue hats completely disappeared after the season.


Jim from Downingtown said...

The players' strike that would go on until the following spring stained the game and sent away countless long-time fans, disgusted by the greed on both sides of the argument.

Ahh yes, the 1994 strike:

1) I didn't follow baseball from the strike until the latter part of the McGwire/Sosa homerun race.

2) If I recall, my first post-strike Phillies game didn't occur until the last month of the final season at Veterans Stadium.

3) I didn't buy any baseball cards from 1994 until AFTER the Phillies had won the 2008 World Series. Then it was just Phillies' team sets from the mid/late 2000s, as well as working on the 1966, 1965, and 1970 Topps sets.

Kevin said...

Going through this exercise, you can see when computers take over the design process and I would say 1994 is when it happened for Topps.

These cards are very busy...too much going on design wise...its as if Topps discovered photoshop or some other computer graphic program and used all of the features possible.

I wonder if there is great future value in cards from about this year onward, as I rarely see cards this late in garage sales now, so that tells me these aren't as common as the 1986 to about 1993 cards.

Jim said...

Jim - It was a miserable time for a baseball fan, wasn't it? I just didn't want "new" cards from 1994 until maybe 1999/2000.

Kevin - You hit the nail on the head. The designers should have been reigned in. There are too many gradients, competing styles and even competing fonts.