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For the man who basically invented the insert

When The Lost Collector sent out his package a couple of weeks ago, he added this Hideo Nomo insert with a note attached that said it was one of his favorite inserts of the '90s.

High praise, yes.

And it made me think about what my favorite Nomo inserts were -- because I must focus on Nomo, none of this inclusive stuff.

As I was formulating a post plan, my friend Greg from Twitter mentioned that one day I should do a post on the best Mike Piazza inserts from the late '90s. "Hmmm," I said. "I'm already thinking about doing a similar post for one of his teammates." That was two signs now that this apparently was meant to happen.

Today, it's Hideo Nomo's birthday. So now I have to write a post about my favorite Nomo inserts. Everything is pointing me in that direction.

Nomo is a special figure in the hobby. Not only did he become an international sensation at the same time the hobby was exploding with variety, but the man basically invented the insert. Sure, there were other inserts around prior to Nomo, but consider this:

In 1995, the year he arrived in the majors, he had not one, but two five-card insert sets ...

... devoted solely to him.

That's crazy talk. I don't know if that had happened ever before. And, then, the year after his rookie season, inserts went through the roof. 1996 was the year the insert went Hollywood. In fact, we're still paying the price for it today. So maybe we should be dumping all our modern collecting troubles at Nomo's feet.

But, heck, I give this guy a pass. Because collecting his inserts is so much fun.

Here are the 10 inserts of his I like the most. Hopefully I haven't shown every one of these here already:

10. ESPY Award Winners, 2005 Upper Deck ESPN, Card 8 of 20

The most recent insert on the list. The 2005 UD ESPN base set is not attractive in the least. But a number of the inserts look great. This is one of them. This will be the only good thing you will hear me say about the ESPYs.

9. Etch-A-Sketch, 1998 Topps, Card 5 of 9

Seldom does an insert blow your mind, but we're not talking about any ordinary pitcher here. The set salutes the etch-a-sketching talents of Geoge Vlosich in what is probably one of the best ideas for an insert ever.

8. Marquee Matchups Red, 1996 Upper Deck SP Championship, Card 2 of 20

This is the diecut parallel version of the Marquee Matchup blue cards. The cards revive the technique made popular by 1980s Fleer by matching up two cards with each other, this time in a batter vs. pitcher showdown. I don't even know who is paired up with Nomo. I'm guessing it's Ken Griffey Jr., as he's the first card in the set.

7. Showstoppers, 2005 Fleer Authentix, Card 9 of 15

I've never been to Las Vegas. I don't think I'd be too influenced now, but if I was there when I was 20, there's no telling what those flashing lights would do to me. I love the neon. You know that part of "It's a Wonderful Life" where George Bailey is horrified by what his town had become? Every time, I think "look at the flashing lights! Pretty."

6. Express Delivery, 2003 Upper Deck MVP, Card 9 of 15

I probably like this card too much for my own good. It's one of the first Nomo inserts I received upon starting this blog. It's an incredibly well-designed card with a simple and clean concept.

5. Gallery Of Heroes, 1998 Topps, Card 14 of 15

You put a stained-glass effect on a card and you've won me over. This card is outstanding and probably would be the No. 1 card for some people. It's a little too busy for me, especially when a light isn't shining on it, which in the Northeast is all the time.

4. Season Crowns, 1996 Fleer Ultra, Card 7 of 10

Ah, here's AJ's card now. How many insert sets were in '96 Ultra? 750? Anyway, the coat-of-arms theme is always popular and works very well here, especially on some clear acetate. I'm always tempted to devise my own colored parallels with the scanner with these, but I'll refrain here.

3. All-World Team, 2002 Topps, Card 22 of 25

This insert marks Nomo's return to the Dodgers after four years in exile (you will note there are no Mets, Brewers, Tigers or Red Sox inserts on this list). It's quite a fantastic one, too. I love maps, and I love slightly thicker-than-normal cards (note: I said slightly). This has it all.

2. Superheroes, 1998 Skybox Dugout Access, Card 6 of 10

I nearly fell over when this card appeared in a trade envelope. Pairing superheroes with players? Genius! I'm not even 1/15th the comic book fan that half of the hobby is and I love this. I think spin-offs on this theme would be endlessly popular.

1. Stained Glass, 1996 Studio, Card 9 of 10

Stained-glass cards are great, but can get a bit busy for my taste, such as the Gallery of Heroes cards or the Beam Team cards from Stadium Club a few years back. They're nice, but I like big, colorful and simple. With giant monstrous logos that light up. And a pensive ballplayer. This has all that. And you can see through part of it. Sort of.

There are no doubt many, many fascinating Nomo inserts that I do not own or have never seen. But I have too many interest to focus on just one man. As evidence, AJ sent a few other cards that appeal to me:

There is no doubt that pink card would be on the top 10 if Nomo was featured (although I think this is a parallel, not an insert).

Happy 48th birthday to Hideo Nomo!

Where would we be without him?

Yeah, I know, we'd have more money.


You're welcome. Glad you enjoyed these cards!

Some great inserts featured, indeed. Can't argue with #1.
Billy Kingsley said…
The first single person insert I'm aware of was in the 1991-92 Upper Deck NBA set.
BobWalkthePlank said…
These are right up my wheelhouse. Nomo has so many great cards.
Commishbob said…
Nomo's unique 'style' certainly is a part of this. I can't imagine what the hobby would have looked like had Fernando Valenzuela made his debut in the crazy insert era of the mid-90s. Fernandomania was just nuts.
AdamE said…
I always thought of the Topps Glossy All-Star cards as the first inserts.