Sunday, March 3, 2013

2003 Topps Phillies

2003 Topps Traded #T107, 2003 Topps #457, #531 and #3
This year was a turning point for the Phillies and their fans.  First, a new ballpark was on the horizon as Citizens Bank Park began to rise in the shadow of the Vet.  2003 was to be the final season in Veterans Stadium and the Phillies marketing crew did a fantastic job of filling each home game with nostalgic looks at the past.  It was fun to go to the games again.

Second, free agent Jim Thome, coming off a 52-home run season with the Indians, signed a six-year deal with the Phillies in December 2002.  The fact that Thome wanted to come to Philly to play for a winner sent shivers down my spine.  We didn't know it at the time, but it was the very beginning of perhaps the best era in Phillies history.

The Set
2003 Topps #160 (Back)
Number of cards in the set:  The first and second series contained 720 cards with the Traded & Rookies set adding 275 cards.
My very brief thoughts on the set:  In my last post, I mentioned that I couldn't recall what the 2003 Topps set looked like.  Revisiting the cards now, I realize it was probably my favorite Topps design of the early 2000s, and perhaps all of the 2000s.  The dark blue border is fantastic and the card fronts contain a second player photo, which I've always liked.  Add in a team logo and the player's position, and I'm a happy camper.  I don't even mind the use of gold foil on the fronts of the cards. 
Notable competition:  Fleer, Playoff and Upper Deck were all still churning out dozens of sets.

2003 Topps #160, #604, #485 and #466
2003 Phillies
Record and finish:  For the third straight season, Phillies fans could hold their heads high and relish in the knowledge that at least we were witnessing competitive baseball from the home team.  The Phils finished in third place again with a record of 86-76.  They seemed to be heading for a postseason berth, but a post All-Star break swoon cost them.
Key players:  Thome delivered a monster season, hitting 47 home runs and driving in 131.  Bobby Abreu (.300, 20 home runs, 101 RBIs) and Mike Lieberthal (.313, 13 home runs, 81 RBIs) also had great years at the plate.  Pat Burrell, fresh off a new six-year contract extension, flirted with the Mendoza Line all season and finished with a .209 average.  New third baseman David Bell (.195) also struggled mightily.  Four Phillies starting pitchers had at least 14 wins, led by Randy Wolf's 16.  Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla and Brett Myers all had exactly 14.  Jose Mesa saved 24 games, but also earned the ire of Phillies fans by failing to hold onto several late inning leads throughout the season.
Key events:  Millwood threw a no-hitter against the Giants on April 27th and I was lucky enough to be there with my Dad.  This was the season that manager Larry Bowa's intensity started to wear thin with many of the players.  Following a rough road trip in late August, Bowa tore into the team for their lack of intensity.  A player revolt followed that led to several players dying their hair blonde for some reason and the release of Tyler Houston, who was seen as one of the main instigators.  On a positive note, the last series at the Vet was dubbed the Final Innings and despite the Phillies losing two out of three to Braves, was one of the most memorable weekends of baseball I can remember.  The All Vet team was unveiled on the final Saturday.  Following the final game of the season on Sunday, a cavalcade of former Phillies was introduced during an emotional closing ceremony.  Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton and Tug McGraw were featured prominently in the closing ceremony.  Schmidt rounded the bases one more time, and called out Thome to join him in his curtain call - a moment Topps would commemorate this moment with a card in its 2004 set.  (The photo at the very bottom right of this post is from right before Thome and Schmidt met at home plate.)

2003 Phillies in 2003 Topps
Cards needed for a complete team set:  There are 14 Phillies cards in series one, another 14 in series two and 7 in the Traded & Rookies set.
Who’s in:
  • Cards of the eight starting position players - 7 cards
#117 Mike Lieberthal (c), #T107 Jim Thome (1b), #531 Placido Polanco (2b), #3 Jimmy Rollins (ss), #604 David Bell (3b), #160 Pat Burrell (lf), #457 Bobby Abreu (rf)

Regular center fielder Marlon Byrd had to share his card with Jorge Padilla on a multi-player Future Stars card.
2003 Topps #76, 2003 Topps Traded #T79, 2003 Topps #260 and #620
  • Cards of the starting pitching rotation - 5 cards
#T79 Kevin Millwood, #260 Vicente Padilla, #76 Randy Wolf, #620 Brett Myers, #37 Brandon Duckworth
  • Base cards of players who played with the Phillies in 2003 - 9 cards
#86 Terry Adams, #165 Jose Mesa, #428 Ricky Ledee, #466 Jason Michaels, #485 Tomas Perez, #572 Todd Pratt, #592 Dan Plesac, #615 Tyler Houston, #T98 Mike Williams
  • Base cards of players who didn't play with the Phillies in 2003 - 7 cards
#155 Marlon Anderson, #242 Robert Person, #296 Il Kim, #484 Bud Smith, #T38 Aaron Myette, #T175 Elizardo Ramirez, #T262 Jay Sitzman

I'm fine with Anderson and Person earning cards.  They had only recently become free agents upon the release of series one.  The inclusion of the group of prospects always bothered me.  Of the group of five, only Ramirez played with the Phillies, appearing in just 7 games with the 2004 team.
  • Phillies appearing on multi-player Future Stars cards - 1 card, #322 Marlon Byrd and Jorge Padilla
  • Phillies appearing on Prospects cards - 2 cards, #682 Chase Utley and Gavin Floyd, #T135 Taylor Buchholz
What's the difference between a Prospect and a Future Star?
  • Phillies appearing on League Leaders cards - 1 card, #346 Pat Burrell
  • Draft Pick card - 1 card, #671 Cole Hamels
  • Manager card - 1 card, #283 Larry Bowa
  • Team card - 1 card, #651
2003 Topps #322, #117 and #682
Who’s out:  Topps did a great job with player selection in this set, omitting only a few key relievers.  Carlos Silva (62 games), Rheal Cormier (65 games, 1.70 ERA) and Turk Wendell (56 games) all got left out.  Byrd was the team's regular center fielder, but he had to share space on a Future Stars card.
Phillies on other teams:  All three veterans appearing on Phillies cards in the traded series appear on their original team in the base set - #64 Mike Williams (Pirates), #71 Jim Thome (Indians) and #219 Kevin Millwood (Braves).
2003 Topps #671
What’s he doing here:  I guess Topps gambled and thought Aaron Myette would be part of the Phillies bullpen in the second half of the 2003 season.  The Phils acquired Myette from the Indians on July 9th, and he played only 11 games with the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons.
Cards that never were candidates:  There actually aren't many good candidates this year, which is a refreshing change.  I'd give Byrd and Utley solo cards and relievers Cormier, Silva and Wendell should also have cards.
Favorite Phillies card:  There are a lot of great action shots in the set, but the most important Phillies card is that of the team's 2001 first round draft pick - Cole Hamels.  His card features him standing on the field at an empty Veterans Stadium, daydreaming about one day being the World Series MVP.

Other Stuff
Recycled:  The Topps Opening Day set returned for another year, this time with bluish-gray borders.  Topps also used the design, albeit with all white borders, for its new Retired Signature set, which featured retired players.
Blogs/Websites:  I believe I'll retire this particular line item in these Topps Phillies posts.  I'll bring it back if and when anyone ever starts a blog dedicated to any of the Topps sets of the 2000s.
Did You Know?:  Not so much of a "did you know," but rather a "check this out," here is a mini gallery of photos taken during the Final Innings games at The Vet.  (Click to enlarge.)


Section 36 said...

Great pictures!

Steve F. said...

You were lucky to have been there for the Millwood no-hitter. I was lucky in a way, as I was living in the Bay Area and the game was against the Giants, so I was watching it live on TV (with a friend who is a huge Giants fan, by the way).

There was something funky going on with the video contrast on the broadcast that day. It was dialed up too high or something so that the Phillies uniforms looked bizarrely bright, like a "transfiguration" on the diamond. I don't know what the cause was, but we really noticed it watching it live, and you can see it here as well (although it's not quite as bright as I recall it):

Anyway, I was at the Mulholland no-hitter in 1990, so it is great to get lucky like that and to be there when lightning strikes.

Steve F. said...

Oh yeah, and I also meant to add, remember when rookie cards were valuable? I guess they still are, but not the ones in the Topps base sets anymore. I see the Hamels rookie can be had for a Buy It Now price on eBay for 99 cents, and a 15-card lot of the Utley one sold for $9.99, so about 66 cents each.

Jim from Downingtown said...

The All Vet team was unveiled on the final Saturday.

That was a great ceremony. I taped it that day (along with the entire baseball game, if I recall correctly.) [We may have already had this conversation, back when you posted the Mike Rogodzinski card.]

I was at the first Saturday game at the Bank, and took a picture of the Veterans Stadium Rock Pile (to steal a name from the Wilmington Blue Rocks) beyond the scoreboard.

Jim said...

Steve - I definitely remember when rookie cards are valuable. They're still valuable, but only if you have a chrome/short-printed/numbered/autographed version of a rookie card.

Jim - It was a terrific weekend all around!