I've come down off my Gene Hackman auto high enough to provide an overview of my two Allen and Ginter blasters and this year's product in general.
As you may know, I completed the A&G sets from 2008-13 and have only my lazy ass to blame for not finishing off 2014 already. (Order that last handful of cards now, night owl!). Around 2014, 2015, I started to tire of the set. I didn't like the zoomed-in images of 2015, some of the non-player selections were disappointing, and overall, the sameness of A&G that can turn off a collector if the quirkiness just isn't there caused me to step away for a couple of years.
I'm not saying I'm back now. I'm not saying I'm collecting this set. But '17 A&G is speaking to me like no other A&G set since probably the heady days of Gint-a-Cuffs (2009-10). And that's not just the Hackman auto talking.
A couple of features have bounced back after what I would consider off-years. There are multiple insert sets that I like a LOT and that doesn't happen every year or even every other year. The black-border minis look phenomenal again.
But let's talk about the base design because that threw me off at first.
I winced when I saw the design initially and stayed with that scrunched-up feeling for a while. Seeing the image confined within a circle seemed like a waste to me. While I didn't like the frame-filling shots of 2015 A&G, this went too much in the opposite direction. The image seemed confined, restricted.
Then I had a revelation. This is the cameo set! No, that's not a reference to the funk-dance Word Up! guys from my college years. And it's not the oft-used description of a player appearing on another player's card. It's something else.
These cards have the look of vintage cameo jewelry, well-known from Victorian times (which happens to match the time period of the original A&G cards). I can't say I'm a fan of cameo jewelry, but I appreciate what it does -- it showcases the subject within the oval or circle. In some ways it's similar to 1959 Topps, one of my all-time favorite sets.
And when I looked at it that way, and with the splashes of color emerging from inside the frame to the outer edges of the card, I suddenly liked these cards a lot more.
But that's enough words without enough pictures. It's time to show what appeared in the blasters. Astonishingly, I've scanned every card. We'll see if I show them all. I tend to get tired at the end.
OK, so here are a bunch of A&G cards with some more thoughts:
#125 - Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks
#225 - Ian Kinsler, Tigers
#WAD-43 - Adrian Beltre, Rangers, What a Day insert
This is the monster 100-card insert set for this year, focusing on a particularly great game for the featured player.
#WD-44 - Gardener Dude, World's Dudes insert
I don't know if I've ever loved a mini insert set more. Even the bird set from a couple of years ago with the owls can't top it (if it was a full insert set of owls then we would have something). This is a set showing old-timey "dudes" in various occupations. It's brilliant. I love the borders. And I know someone is going to persuade me to try to complete this.
#339 - Reynaldo Lopez, White Sox
No idea. But it's a short print!
#194 - A.J. Pollock, Diamondbacks
Outside of the garden dude, not anything terribly appealing. Moving on.
#84 - Ian Desmond, Rockies
Someone mentioned to me that there are a lot of Rockies in this set. This post will back that up.
#300 - Max Kepler, Twins
I know some people aren't going to like these cards because some stuff in the image get cut off. That doesn't bother me. It's called "cropping". Photographers, editors, etc., do it all the time. I crop almost daily at my job.
#RB-7 - Surrender of General Burgoyne, Revolutionary Battles insert
American history geeks rejoice! Here's your insert set.
#HR-20 - Bosnian Pony, Horse in the Race mini insert
Here is this year's animal mini set. Horseys! I don't think all of the horses featured race though.
#171 - Jose Canseco, Athletics
Topps pandering to everyone who was 7 in 1987 again. At least it doesn't look like '87 Topps.
#234 - Charlie Blackmon, Rockies
Shall we start counting Rockies? We shall. This is #2.
There you go. That is a fine base card.
#40 - Dansby Swanson, Braves
Can't say I'm very happy with the Braves right now.
#WAD-47 - Ted Williams, Red Sox, What a Day insert
There is something jarring about the caption "Too Legit To Quit" appearing below a 60-year-old image of Ted Williams.
#NNO - Kevin Gausman, Orioles, no-number mini
No-numbers used to be a bigger deal than they are now. All I know is I can't use this in my frankenset binder.
#341 - Mike Moore, Giants, SP
#214 - Nick Jonas, Musician
If this card appeared in A&G seven years ago, my daughter might be collecting A&G right now. Just a few years too late.
#177 - Valarie Jenkins, disc golfer
Disc golf makes a return appearance to A&G, I remember it showing up in 2010 or 2011. The back says Jenkins grew up in a "disc golf family." I'm having a difficult time imagining that.
#55 - Andre Dawson, Cubs
What a great card. Dawson is too good for one bat.
#130 - Renato Nunez, Athletics
Pale purple seems to be the default background color for these. I'd prefer something more colorful (After all, A&G is the first full-color trading card set). I've never done a color breakdown with anything other than 1975 Topps, but I'm tempted to do so with this set. Of course, that would require me to collect the set.
#SFL-6 - Largemouth Bass and Soft Plastic Worm, Sport Fish & Fishing Lures insert set
I don't fish, but there is a big Bassmasters tournament taking place in my neck of the woods right now and it's pretty cool that I pulled the bass card.
#346 - Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners, mini, regular back
I pull this guy's cards a lot and I don't think I've seen him pitch. At least there's a spot for him in the frankenset.
#242 - Luke Weaver, Cardinals
#230 - Kyle Seager, Mariners
#205 - Alex Bregman, Astros
#WAD-1 - Kris Bryant, Cubs, What a Day insert
#85 - Dave Winfield, Padres, A&G back mini
If you want to disappoint me, make a retro card with Winfield as a Yankee, Angel, Blue Jay, Twin or Indian. Winfield is a Padre. (In this case he's a 1980 Padre as was established on Twitter yesterday). Well done.
#350 - Jeff Bagwell, Astros, SP
Last card in the set!
#16 - Garrett Richards, Angels
#267 - Dellin Betances, Yankees
#WF-3 - The Atomium, Brussels 1958, World's Fair insert
This insert set is cool, too. The Atomium sounds like a crazy amusement park ride, but it's just a giant sculpture.
#216 - Michael Conforto, Mets, mini
Conforto completes another mini page in my frankenset binder!
#MR-ARI - Anthony Rizzo, Cubs, framed relic
Pretend you didn't already see this. And, next year, when I pull another Rizzo relic out of A&G, pretend it's not the third year in a row I've done that.
#256 - Andy Katz, basketball analyst
The ESPN logo was erased from Katz's microphone, which is appropriate as Katz was one of many employees laid off from ESPN in the spring. Being current in the trading card business is hell, even with non-players.
(Packs with framed hits contain just five cards).
#142 - Tom Anderson, Myspace co-founder
Like the Nick Jonas card, this seems several years too late. Maybe a retro card for tech fans? I never got into Myspace. I wish I could say the same for Facebook, but it's too late.
#283 - Chris Davis, Orioles
Digging the yellow frames.
#WAD-18 - Mashiro Tanaka, What a Day insert
#73 - Starlin Marte, Pirates, black-border insert
These are awesome. Black borders are BACK!
#336 - Kenley Jansen, Dodgers, SP
Yay! The first Dodger! Yay! It's an SP! Yay, I don't have to chase this SP all over God's green earth like I'm still doing with Heritage! Yay!
#297 - Troy Tulowitzki, Blue Jays
#206 - Aaron Nola, Phillies
#53 - Brandon Belt, Giants
Isn't that funny? Belt is making the exact same face I make when I pull his cards.
#SFL-12 - Saltwater Grouper and Diving Plugs, Sport Fish and Fishing Lures insert
#209 - Mitch Haniger, Mariners
I should've counted Mariners instead of Rockies. Good golly.
#91 - Nomar Mazara, Rangers
#160 - Michal Kapral, Joggler
He is exactly what you think he is.
OK, that's blaster one. Still with me? While I take a moment to grab a drink and fight off the urge to organize these cards by color, prepare yourself for blaster two!
All right! Here we are at blaster two! I think the first blaster was rather successful and you know the second blaster will be the same. But let's see what else is in there besides the Hackman auto.
#237 - Andrew Benintendi, Red Sox
Here is a guy who is really good but no one is freaking out because everyone must hit home runs.
#98 - Stephen Piscotty, Cardinals
#WAD 40 - Gary Sanchez, Yankees, What a Day insert
Oh, calm yourselves. It's not Judge.
#WD-40 - Park Avenue Dude, World's Dudes mini insert
Duuuuude! Let's stroll to the Waldorf! ... That's basically what the back says.
#315 - Willie McCovey, Giants, SP
#128 - Tyler Glasnow, Pirates
All right, those of you who remember all the way back to the first pack of blaster one, notice anything familiar? Yup, the pattern for each first pack was the same: base card, base card, What a Day, World Dude mini, SP, base card.
Let's see if I can get matches for the rest of the packs.
#36 - Edwin Encarnacion, Indians
#46 - Chris Archer
#RB-8 - Battle of Cowpens, Revolutionary Battles
Nice horse butt.
#HR-1 - Friesian Horse, Horse in the Race mini insert
#159 - Yoenis Cespedes, Mets
#67 - Allie LaForce, model & sports reporter
Ohio's sports news darling. A former Miss Teen USA and one of those charmed people with looks, smarts and ability. She now does basketball for TBS, which means I never see her. (The TBS logo was shopped off her microphone, too, although she still has her job, as far as I know).
OK, were you keeping track? Pack 2 of blaster two was the exact same as Pack 2 of blaster one: base card, base card, Revolutionary Battles insert, horse mini, base card, base card.
#145 - A.J. Reed, Astros
#163 - Wesley Bryan, pro golfer
#WAD-97 - Jacob deGrom, Mets, What a Day insert
#C-4 - Scorpius, Constellations insert
I admit I was bewildered by this when it first fell out of the pack. The front appeared to be missing a picture and when I turned it over, I initially interpreted the yellow pattern as some sort of printing residue -- obviously this card had been mangled in the printing process and accidentally inserted into the pack!
Ah, but that is where A&G is too quirky and wise for you.
The front of the card is the constellation shown on the back but it only shows up in the dark! It glows in the dark!
Not the greatest image in my darkened room, but I think you can see the pattern. That is pretty fantastic.
#326 - German Marquez, Rockies, SP
Hey! There's another Rockie!
#246 - William Shatner, actor
Obviously one of the highlights of the set.
The pattern continues for the Pack 3s. Each one was: base, base, What a Day, funky mini (no-number and glow-in-the-dark), SP, base. Hmmm.
#281 - Yoan Moncada, White Sox
#22 - Albert Almora, Cubs
#14 - Robert Gsellman, Mets
So far we have 3 players with an average MLB playing time of 1 1/2 years.
#SFL-4 - Freshwater Bass and Hula Popper, Sport Fish and Fishing Lures
#301 - Trey Mancini, Orioles, mini SP
#264 - Robinson Cano, Mariners
Outstanding facial projection.
Another pack match! Both Pack 4s are: base, base, base, sport fishing insert, SP mini and base.
#95 - Dee Gordon, Marlins
#12 - Corey Bellemore, Beer Mile runner
Bellemore is the world record holder in the beer mile, in which you run a mile while chugging beer. This is a thing that has been around for more than 25 years. No surprise it was invented by Canadians. A complete surprise that I'm learning about it for the first time.
#WAD-9 - David Price, Red Sox, What a Day insert
#149 - Mike Piazza, Mets, A&G back mini
#312 - Raimel Tapia, Rockie No. 4
There's no way that hat is staying on.
#82 - Bobby Abreu, Phillies
Another card of a recently retired guy. I don't understand the purpose of including players like Abreu and Roy Oswalt in modern sets. Not enough time has passed for nostalgia to set in, they were playing like five years ago. And for the love of god, where are the retro cards of Garry Maddox and Ralph Garr and Ellis Valentine and Ron Cey????? Give me something I haven't seen in the last five years!
Pack 5s extend the pattern: base, base, What a Day, A&G-backed mini, SP, base. Had I been aware that this was happening when I was opening them, I would have known to look for a hit in Pack 6!
#248 - Wilson Ramos, Rays
#WF-9 - Sunsphere, Knoxville 1982, World's Fair insert
#115 - Carlos Rodon, White Sox, mini
#AGA-ND - Gene Hackman (as Norman Dale) autograph
There it is again! The pattern called it!
#191 - Jay Glazer, sportswriter
The Pack 6 patterns match right down to a sports media person being the final card in the pack. Base, World's Fair, mini, framed hit, sports media member!
#132 - Corey Seager, Dodgers
#121 - Randal Grichuk, Cardinals
#WAD-55 - David Wright, Mets, What a Day insert
#21 - Eric Hosmer, Royals, black border mini
#345 - Lance McCullers, Astros, SP
#60 - Nolan Ryan, Rangers
Pack 7 patterns match: base, base, What a Day, black border mini, SP, base.
One pack to go.
#285 - Hunter Renfroe, Padres
#26 - Matt Wieters, Nationals
#SFL-14 - Saltwater Giant Trevally and Stickbaits
That's a mean-looking fish.
#163 - Wesley Bryant, pro golfer mini
The only person for which I pulled both the base and the mini.
#287 - Elvis Andrus, Rangers
#32 - Peter Rosenberg, radio DJ
No idea. Too old to care.
Pack 8s are the same: base, base, sport fishing insert, mini, base, guy I've never heard of.
Getting two "matching" blasters means I missed out on a couple of items I was looking forward to -- including the Required Reading minis. But it also means I avoided any duplicates.
Opening these was a hell of a lot of fun (heightened by the hits, of course) and the reason why I like A&G. It's colorful, it's quirky, it's intelligent, you learn stuff, you have a good time.
I've kind of missed that from A&G the last couple of years.
I'm glad it's back.
Even if it makes for epic long posts on the weekend.