Thursday, May 2, 2019

Cardboard confirmation


It's been a little more than a year since Max Muncy was called up to the Dodgers and proceeded to become a regular in the starting lineup, hit 35 home runs, and strike one of the most memorable World Series winning blasts in Dodgers history.

He still doesn't have his own Topps flagship card.

Oh, it probably doesn't matter to most people. Muncy does have this 2019 Opening Day card, which I'm pretty sure will look just like his first flagship card in Series 2, just without the OD logo. He also has his own card in 2019 Heritage and Gypsy Queen, as well as a host of Panini cards. He also appeared on a 2019 combo card with Cody Bellinger in flagship, but that doesn't count. And he has a home run derby card in 2018 Topps Update but that doesn't count because I know that's just Topps trolling (really, why didn't he have his own card in Update???).

Then there are all the online exclusive Muncy cards and if I wasn't so stuck in the past, I'd care about those. But there is no time to care about those. Who in the world has time to care about those?

No, the first time Muncy will appear on his very own flagship card -- I am assuming -- will be in Series 2. And sometime after June, I will have my first Muncy Dodgers flagship card.

That is pretty late to obtain the first card of a notable acquisition by my team. Even back when I was a kid and there was just flagship and that was it, you had a good shot of pulling the first card of an established player traded to your team by June.

This was always exciting to me. Yeah, the first cards of your team's rookies were interesting, too, but that's a whole other category. No, the cards that were most exciting were those known players, that you saw rack up great stats with other teams, that you wished could play for your team, and suddenly, by some miracle, they were ON YOUR TEAM!!!

Then the waiting began. Where is a card of that player in a Dodgers uniform? When would I get one? Oh, I want one so bad!!

Before the years of Traded sets, it took a long time. Over a year in many cases, like Max Muncy.

Each year I'd look forward to cards of established players who had joined the Dodgers. It's still interesting to me. And Topps Now doesn't really cure my curiosity. I need that flagship card, that cardboard confirmation.

I decided to look back on my collecting history and pick out the notable new Dodgers for each year since I started being aware of such things. I'm not including any rookies here, so there will be no cards of Bob Welch or Fernando Valenzuela or Mike Piazza or Hideo Nomo. The excitement here came because these players were known stars and now they were on the Dodgers!

The Dodgers didn't acquire players like that every year, so I've skipped some years. It's kind of a haphazard list, but this is what I have.


1976: Dusty Baker

Baker was part of the first trade that I ever knew. On Nov. 17, 1975, Baker was traded to the Dodgers from the Braves along with Ed Goodson for Jimmy Wynn, Lee Lacy, Jerry Royster and Tom Paciorek. I remember reading about it in the newspaper.

In '76, Topps released a Traded set, which was quite unusual for the time and I had my Baker card much more quickly than I would normally for this time. The first card of Baker in an actual Dodgers uniform didn't arrive until the 1977 Topps set.



1977: Reggie Smith

Reggie Smith was acquired by the Cardinals in June of 1976. Time moved more slowly then, so I tend to think of the Dodgers acquiring Baker and Smith at the same time. They proved critical to the Dodgers' back-to-back World Series appearances in the late '70s.



1978: Rick Monday

Acquired in the deal that sent Bill Buckner to the Cubs.



1980: Jerry Reuss

It's time for me to look in my box of Dodgers dupes to find a cleaner version of Reuss' first card in a Dodger uniform. Reuss came over from the Pirates. This was still when the Dodgers could swindle teams in deals.



1981: Don Stanhouse and Dave Goltz. (Also, Ken Landreaux in what's considered Topps' first Traded set)

The 1979-80 offseason signings of Stanhouse (from the Orioles) and Goltz (from the Twins) were disastrous. It made me leery of free agent signings for years (I probably still am).



1984: Rick Honeycutt

We skip a few years, possibly because the Dodgers were so wounded by outside players coming in back in 1980, but also because the Dodgers relied on a number of rookies to fill open positions during the early '80s. I remember being very excited when the Dodgers acquired Rick Honeycutt from the Rangers in August, 1983. What a great addition to their pitching staff during a pennant race. Of course, I didn't realize that the player the Dodgers gave up -- Dave Stewart -- would be such a force.



1985: Al Oliver (traded set)
1986: Bill Madlock

Oh, man, if only this were 1978. Oliver and Madlock were on the way down when the Dodgers picked them up (from the Phillies and Pirates, respectively). But given their histories I was still happy to see them in Dodger blue.



1988: Phil Garner

If I paid attention to Traded sets at this time, I'd be mentioning Kirk Gibson and Jesse Orosco. However, I do recall being quite amused (and a little excited) that Scrap Iron was on my team. I grew up with his A's and Pirates cards. A bit weird to see him without the bushy mustache, but also weird that he was a Dodger.


1989: John Tudor

Epic, epic card, even though he barely did anything with the Dodgers and wasn't even with the team anymore when collectors were pulling this card. The card still does capture the excitement of that August, 1988 trade with the Cardinals.

Notable pickups Eddie Murray and Willie Randolph are in the Traded set, which I had no idea existed in 1989.



1991: Juan Samuel (flagship), Darryl Strawberry (traded)

Dodger fans may note me skipping some years and notables, such as 1990 and Kal Daniels. This is partly to save time but also to pretend that the Dodgers Kal Daniels era never existed.

Same could be said a bit for Samuel (last with the Mets) and Strawberry (also last with the Mets), but they at least contributed a little bit. (Also apologies for not scanning the Brett Butler Traded card).


1992: Eric Davis (traded set)

Gary Carter from the flagship set is also worthy of being mentioned here, although he showed up in 1991 sets, too.



Yes, I am skipping all the way to 1999.

The Dodgers' dealings for veteran players during the mid-to-late '90s were not terribly interesting or satisfying. A quick list goes like this: 1993, Tim Wallach; 1994, Cory Snyder; 1995, Delino Deshields; 1997, Greg Gagne; 1998, Todd Zeile. Not all that exciting, unless you are (*ahem*) a Tim Wallach collector.

Then came the Fox Television era and shipping Mike Piazza to the Marlins.

Add all of that wheeling and dealing together and some other wheeling and dealing and the veterans making their first appearances on Topps flagship cards in 1999 goes something like this:

1999: Kevin Brown, Todd Hundley, Mark Grudzielanek, Jeff Shaw, Charles Johnson, Devon White, Gary Sheffield.

Yowsa, how do I pick the chief notable out of all of that? I guess it has to be Sheffield as he made the greatest dent as a Dodger among that group.



2000: Shawn Green

What the heck, let's add another superstar onto the pile.



2004: Fred McGriff and Robin Ventura

The Dodgers settled down a bit after their turn-of-the-century consuming. They dealt for some veterans of somewhat minor note from 2001-03, people like Brian Jordan, Marquis Grissom, Andy Ashby and Terry Mulholland. But 2004 was wild because -- WHAT? -- Fred McGriff in a Dodger uniform??????

Add the Traded set with Brad Penny, Steve Finley and Jose Lima and '04 was a bonanza for old-veterans-as-new-Dodgers.


2005: J.D. Drew, Derek Lowe and Jeff Kent.

Probably the least-pleasant acquisition of veterans by the Dodgers since the 1980 Goltz-Stanhouse fiasco.


2006: Rafael Furcal

The Furcal card was the most exciting one to me in '06 if only because Braves fans seemed perturbed that Raffy was now a Dodger. But the best Braves-to-Dodgers transition of 2006 (by way of the Cubs) was:


Greg Maddux in the Traded set. Isn't that fake Dodger uniform and cap to die for?



2008: Manny Ramirez

The period after 2006 was a bit depressing as far as bringing veterans to the Dodgers. They spent like hell with not much to show for it. Luis Gonzalez, Juan Pierre, Randy Wolf and Jason Schmidt were all Dodger card newbies in '07. Then, to add insult to injury, Andruw Jones made his big, fat, Dodger debut in 2008 Topps. Emphasis on fat.

Fortunately, Manny saved everything. I still love his '08 Traded card. It sums up the excitement of his arrival in L.A., how successful he was immediately, the fan frenzy that I had not seen that high since Fernandomania. This is one of my favorite first Dodger cards for a veteran player.


2010: Jim Thome

Not much of a Dodger contributor since he barely played the field and the NL has no DH, but it was so worth it to be able to get a card of Thome in a Dodger uniform the next year.


2013: Zack Greinke

Skipping ahead again, past the arrivals of Juan Uribe, Hanley Ramiez, Mark Ellis, etc. 2013 also marks the arrival of Adrian Gonzalez's first Dodger flagship card.



2015: Justin Turner

It used to be a lot easier to acquire veteran players who would go on to exceed everyone's dreams while in a Dodger uniform. It doesn't happen as often anymore but it did happen with Justin Turner. I couldn't see Turner in a Dodger uniform on a baseball card fast enough.



2016: Chase Utley

That's for you Mets fans. Hugs and kisses.



2018: Chris Taylor (flagship set); Manny Machado (update set)

Chris Taylor, like Max Muncy, took foreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeever to appear as a Dodger in a flagship/update set. I think Topps depends on Topps Now to placate collectors who want to see veteran players in their new digs, but Now doesn't cut it for me. You've got to get that guy in a regular card I can buy in a store ASAP.

While Taylor was an under-the-radar deal that paid greatly for the Dodgers, Manny Machado was that big, flashy signing that didn't last long. At least I got a couple Dodger cards out of it.

So, that's my history of anticipating the first Dodger card of a new acquisition. Max Muncy probably doesn't qualify like the rest of the players do as he was barely known as a player who was still having trouble escaping the minor leagues when the Dodgers signed him. But 35 home runs takes care of all of that and -- dammit, where is my Muncy flagship card???

As for 2019, the only player I can think of that qualifies here is A.J. Pollock, who is now injured and who knows if he'll squeeze his way into Update.

Of course with the way Topps operates now, it may be 2020 -- Series 2 -- before I see my first flagship card of Pollock as a Dodger.

11 comments:

  1. Good or bad, there is still a lot of great cardboard there.

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  2. Wow, I completely forgot Thome ever played for the Dodgers!

    As for the Utley baiting...well, I don't think I'll comment how I want to. You know what I think. However, as a team collector, he was an important pickup for your team, and yes, he should be represented with your team. (And I know, if I were buying packs of the set that came from, that I would somehow amass a small pile of Utleys.)

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  3. Muncy had an amazing knack for photo bombing his way onto other peeps cards over the last year...

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  4. I remember most of the big names playing for the Dodgers, but McGriff and Ventura were news to me. Between guys like Muncy and Ethier... the A's are kinda like your minor league team. But that's okay. I'd rather see them succeed as Dodgers than the Yankees any day of the week.

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  5. I'd forgotten about Eric Davis being a Dodger. He was a helluva ballplayer.

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  6. When I was a kid, the Mets only traded AWAY top talent, so I guess I didn’t have that experience much! OK, if I ever pulled Willie Mays as a Met that would have been awesome, but I don’t think I did. By the time the Mets were bringing in big talent in he 80s I was getting away from the hobby, but there must have been a moment when I first got a Keith Hernandez as a Met. (I don’t think I got a Gary Carter as a Met until I came back to the hobby.)

    But it’s a nice feeling, you’re right...it was fun to pick up my first Mets card of Robinson Canó recently.

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  7. I've noticed that Topps would include 'traded players' in their new team uniforms for most of the sets they had from 1951 up through the '70's. They stopped at some point, I believe in the '60's (I'll do a post about it in a few weeks), and then did a lot of airbrushing through the '70's. Around '78 or '79, this stopped for the most part, because the Traded sets came out, and they just waited until then to update the photos.
    Many people that make custom baseball cards do there cards by having a player pictured in the uniform of the year the card set was produced. I have always made mine in 'yearbook style', where the players are pictured in the uniform of the year before the card set. I think this is because when I started collecting in the late '80's and early '90's, the Traded sets took on the role of showing players in new teams, and the first set that started doing this in the regular Flagship set was the 1998 set (mainly because of the '97 Expansion Draft). Topps has produced a Traded set ever since 1999, and has also put players (mostly) in their new uniforms in the Flagship set ever since as well.
    The things you learn from making all of these missing player checklists....
    But, as you said, they are all about the ToppsNow/buy it now!!! stuff, that many players have missed their first card with a new team until a year or so afterwards.

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  8. I still love collecting cards of Manny Ramirez on the Dodgers. I remember feeling mixed emotions when he was traded away from Boston in exchange for Jason Bay.

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  9. I recently picked up the 1981 Dodgers Police set. Rookies of Fernando and Dave Stewart. And also a SP Landreaux. Nice looking set

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  10. Who knows? You might get a Series 2 Joe Kelly card.

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  11. I forgot all about Maddux and Thome being with the Dodgers in their HOF careers.

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