Sunday, April 15, 2012

1999 Topps Phillies

1999 Topps #159, #181, #125 and #321
Living in Raleigh in 1999, far away from my family and the Phillies, there were two events that helped jumpstart my entrance back into the world of baseball card collecting.  I had never really left the world, mind you, but my collecting habits definitely waned between 1994 and 1998.

The first event was that I joined eBay.  I won my first on-line auction in January 1999, and eBay quickly became a mini-addiction of mine.  I was able to find old Phillies team sets and cards that hadn't been readily available through normal means (local hobby shops and baseball card shows) for years.  The second event was the realization that baseball card dealers in North Carolina were more than happy to practically give away their Phillies baseball cards.  If your last name wasn't McGwire or Sosa, and if you weren't playing for the Braves, these dealers almost snickered when asked if they had any Phillies cards for sale.  So living in Raleigh during these years wasn't a complete bust.  If nothing else, I was able to build upon my growing collection of Phillies baseball cards at very reasonable prices.

1999 Topps #125 (Back)
The Set
Number of cards in the set:  Number-wise, there are 462 cards in the 1999 Topps set.  Gimmick-wise, there are 598 cards in the 1999 Topps set.  To the best of my knowledge, this was the first year Topps blatantly introduced gimmick cards within its flagship set, featuring 70 different Mark McGwire cards for card #220 and 66 different Sammy Sosa cards for card #461.  There is a different card for each of the duo's record breaking 1998 home runs.  Personally, I added only one McGwire and Sosa card to my set and called it a day.  After a three year absence, Topps brought back its traded set, now known as the Traded and Rookies set.  There are 121 cards in this set.  Thanks to McGwire and Sosa, baseball fans started coming back to the sport and baseball card collectors were rewarded with more Topps baseball cards.
My very brief thoughts on the set:  I liked this set when it came out.  The fronts of the cards feature a very minimalistic design and the focus is clearly on the player's photo.  If it were up to me, I would have thrown in a team logo in the corner, right above where the gold line makes its turn.
Notable competition:  Along with Topps, there were three other companies manufacturing baseball cards at this point - Fleer, Pacific and Upper Deck.  Each of the companies seemed to benefit from the renewed popularity of baseball and there were actually quite a few nice sets released during the year.  My personal favorites are the Fleer Tradition, Pacific and Sports Illustrated Greats of the Game sets.

1999 Topps #33, 1999 Topps Traded #T93, 1999 Topps #427 and 1999 Topps Traded #T44
1999 Phillies
Record and finish:  Terry Francona's Phillies won two more games than in the prior year, finishing with a record of 77-85.  Once again, the team finished in third place, this time 26 games behind the Braves.
Key players:  Catcher Mike Lieberthal enjoyed a terrific season, hitting .300 with 31 home runs and 96 RBIs and capturing his first (and only) Gold Glove.  Bobby Abreu (.335, 20 home runs, 93 RBIs) and Rico Brogna (.278, 24 home runs, 102 RBIs) also had great seasons.  Doug Glanville hit .325 and Scott Rolen had another nice year with 26 home runs and 77 RBIs.  The Phillies featured four players in the starting line-up with at least 20 home runs and 75 RBIs - Lieberthal, Brogna, Rolen and Abreu.  On the pitching side, Curt Schilling (15-6, 3.54 ERA) started the All-Star Game and waiver wire pick-up Paul Byrd (15-11, 4.60 ERA) joined Schilling at the festivities in Boston.  Robert Person, acquired from the Blue Jays in May, won 10 games.
Key events:  The Phillies were competitive throughout most of the season, which was a foreign concept to us fans given what we had endured over the past five seasons.  The team's high water mark came on August 6th when their record was 61-48 and they were only 5 1/2 games out of first.  Unfortunately, they'd go 16-37 the rest of the way in what was a deflating collapse.

1999 Phillies in 1999 Topps
Cards needed for a complete team set:  Matching the output from 1998, there are only 12 Phillies cards in the base set.  However, we get 4 Phillies bonus cards in the Traded and Rookies set.  Sadly, one of those four extra cards belongs to Jeff Brantley.
Who’s in:
  • Cards of the eight starting position players - 6 cards
#159 Mike Lieberthal (c), #321 Rico Brogna (1b), #125 Scott Rolen (3b), #T93 Ron Gant (lf), #33 Doug Glanville (cf), #181 Bobby Abreu (rf)

This is quite an improvement over last year, as only starting shortstop Alex Arias got left out of the set.  The team's starting second baseman, Marlon Anderson, is featured on a multi-player Prospects card.

1999 Topps #385, #428, 1999 Topps Traded #T91 and 1999 Topps #447
  • Cards of the starting pitching rotation - 1 card
#385 Curt Schilling

There were no cards for starters Byrd, Chad Ogea or Person and Randy Wolf is featured on a multi-player Prospects card.
  • Base cards of players who played with the Phillies in 1999 - 2 cards
#336 Desi Relaford, #T91 Jeff Brantley
  • Base cards of players who didn't play with the Phillies in 1999 - 2 cards
  • Phillies appearing on multi-player Prospects cards - 2 cards
#427 Marlon Anderson, #428 Randy Wolf
  • Phillies appearing on multi-player Draft Picks cards - 1 card, #444 Pat Burrell and Eric Valent
  • Phillies appearing on Strikeout Kings cards - 1 card, #447 Curt Schilling
  • Phillies appearing on 1998 All-Topps cards - 1 card, #453 Scott Rolen
1999 Topps #336, #444 and #453
Who’s out:  As mentioned above, Arias and three of the five primary starting pitchers were omitted.  Kevin Jordan, Francona's favorite utility player, appeared in 120 games with the Phils.  However, Topps rarely included bench guys in their sets during this era.
Phillies on other teams:  #131 Ron Gant (Cardinals), #162 Jeff Brantley (Cardinals)
What’s he doing here:  While I was happy to see the return of the traded set, I was unhappy that Topps delivered on the new set's name with a ton of unneeded rookies.  Draft picks Burrell and Valent were already featured on a combo card within the base set, but Topps added two stand-alone cards for these players in the traded series.  I suppose I can understand Burrell's inclusion, as he was the hot Phillies card in 1999.  Valent, however, was still a few years away from the Majors and I felt his inclusion within the Bowman, Bowman's Best, Finest and Stadium Club sets was sufficient.
1999 Topps Traded #T45
Cards that never were candidates:  I'll limit the list to ten players - Arias, Jordan, Byrd, Ogea, Person, Carlton Loewer (2-6 in 13 starts), Wayne Gomes (19 saves), Steve Montgomery (3.34 ERA in 53 games), Kevin Sefcik (.278 in 111 games) and Rob Ducey (.261 in 104 games).
Favorite Phillies card:  He won't win any popularity contests in The Phillies Room, but Schilling has a cool card in this set.  It features the power pitcher at The Vet getting ready to deliver during an afternoon game.

Other Stuff
Recycled:  Topps used the same design for its Opening Day and Chrome sets.
Blogs/Websites:  Anyone?  Hello?  Bueller?
Did You Know?:  Living in Raleigh during the late '90s/early '00s had one other benefit - I saw a ton of minor league games at Durham Bulls Athletic Park in downtown Durham.  In fact, it's safe to say I saw every single game played by the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons, whenever they came to town during my sojourn in the south.  Here's a past post featuring a card I had autographed by former Phillies reliever, and current pitching coach of the Gulf Coast League Phillies, Steve Schrenk, during one of his visits to Durham.


Kevin said...

I would vote for this as the best Topps set of the 1990s. They got away from the crazy photoshop experiments and had excellent photography throughout this set, which is what kills the 1990 set for me. This was also the first set I started collecting again. I had disposable income for the first time in my life in 1999, but not so much to collect every set out there...this was when I first got my idea to create a set of players in other sets not in the base or traded Topps sets.

Jim said...

It is a nice set, and I can appreciate that Topps took a step back and tried to make their flagship set "classy" again.

Steve F. said...

I don't know that I've mentioned it before--probably I did because I spout off a lot--but these year-by-year Topps posts and also the Missing Links posts are great stuff! You do a public service with them. Thanks, and please keep them up!

And if you ever wanted to work backwards on the Missing Links posts after you are up to the present, that would be much appreciated. I'm sure it's not easy to put those together though....

Jim said...

Thanks Steve! I think I'd like to go back and do 1980-1989 at the very least.