Monday, July 25, 2016

So That Happened...

There it is: the plaque we’ve waited over 20 years to see. This past weekend I, like so many other Griffey fans across the world, watched from home as Junior gave the speech he was predicted to give way back before the Internet, cell phones, and even Inter-league play. On Sunday we finally got to hear the speech we’ve been due for so many years.

It came as no surprise that Junior’s speech was very much family-first. He had something sweet and personal to say to everyone, even ol' Craig. Those of us who have seen him speak know the Kid is an emotional guy. It’s always touching to watch him do that “aw, shucks,” tilted head, right hand to his brow thing he does. It’s a level of humility few Hall-of-Fame-level athletes can express. He even managed to make my wife well up (which is a feat, believe me – it might happen once a year, tops).

Junior was generous with his praise of other players and his fans, even mentioning one fan by name – Rob (lucky, lucky Rob), who travelled 6000 miles to see the Kid’s induction. He gave big kudos to his friends Barry Larkin and Edgar Martinez (“He deserves to be in the Hall”), but one of my favorite moments was when he called on his longtime friend and Kingdome outfield buddy Jay Buhner. Something about that moment felt particularly special to me. Maybe having spent years collecting their cards and seeing them time and time again horsing around and giving us wacky poses – it just felt very real to me. We all need that Jay Buhner friend.

There was a moment when he was talking about his Dad when he said simply, “We hit back-to-back home runs.” He said it quickly, like he wanted to hurry and get it out before a sob. Then he paused a pause I don’t believe was planned, like he was trying to overcome the emotion of the moment as well as the power of that statement. The crowd was, too. A wave of cheers came after a few seconds of silence as Junior regained composure. The crowd was sending him as much support as they could while at the same time saying, “Heck, yeah, you did.” What an awesome moment.

He went on to list some of the most memorable moments of his career, and most of them were his; but a lot of them weren’t: Randy Johnson’s no-hitter was mentioned as was Larkin's first grand slam and Buhner hitting for the cycle. He was celebrating other guys’ accomplishments in his freaking Hall of Fame speech. Who does that? He even spoke fondly of his short time wearing #17 for the White Sox, proud that he got to play in meaningful games every day. Griffey fans don’t like to talk about his cup of coffee in Chicago, but he made it sound like one of the best times in his life.

Junior’s speech showcased all the reasons we love Griffey. He was humble, honest, genuine, and modest throughout. And as superhuman as he may have looked so many times when wielding a bat at the plate or climbing an outfield wall, yesterday he looked relatable and human. At one point he had trouble getting through a particular sentence and had to stop and tell himself out loud, “Slow down,” like a nervous, well, Kid. We are all this man.

I didn’t cry – not once – until he put on that damn backwards cap. That got me, guys. It really did.

And did you see his suit?

A friend of mine was at the house as we watched the speech, and at one point when they cut to Ken, Sr. barely keeping it together, not even looking up at his son for fear of breaking down completely, I mentioned to her that he has a World Series ring and Junior doesn’t. She replied, “Yeah, but Junior got in the Hall of Fame. Which is better, really?” Touché.

I wore my dark blue Mariners jersey and a backwards cap the entire day. For the rest of the afternoon we (my friend, my wife, and I) would randomly interject “Griff-ehhhh” (similar to the way Peter Griffin said “SpongeBob” in that one episode) into every conversation possible. Moments of silence, moments of celebration – every kind of moment got a “Griff-ehhhh.” We all celebrate in our own way.

So many Griffey guys...

I really wanted to be in Cooperstown for the big event, but in addition to shelling out a pile of cash and travelling on multiple planes with a four-month-old, it would have required skipping my annual family camping trip which I haven’t done since it began 25 years ago (around the same time The Kid won his first Gold Glove). I settled for streaming it on my phone and airplaying it to the TV which worked beautifully. Thanks, MLB, for making it available online.

Oh, and a big shout-out to Mike Piazza. He gave a long and beautifully-assembled speech whose eloquence I admit I was not expecting. Not bad for a 62nd-rounder.

But this is what I watched for.

Congratulations, Kid.

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Thin Red Line: 2010 Bowman and Bowman Chrome

In terms of Bowman sets from this year, Griffey only appeared in two: Bowman flagship and Chrome. The other Bowman sets, Platinum, Sterling, and Picks & Prospects, included no Griffeys at all; and between the regular and Chrome sets he only made it onto one insert – the rest is base cards and their parallels. So while I usually cover one set per post, today we’re going to squeeze out a two-plunker with 2010 Bowman and 2010 Bowman Chrome.

2010 Bowman #40

While many suspected this would be Junior’s last season, nobody knew for sure. That being said, the Kid’s final Bowman card is light years better than his Topps flagship base card. The Topps photo is kind of far-away, taken at a funny angle, and doesn’t really capture the character of the Kid; but this Bowman card is bright, fun, and joyful. It wasn’t his first season back in Seattle, but he just looks so happy to be wearing that uniform again. It’s a sunset card I can live with.

He would retire suddenly a few months after this photo was taken, but for now he's right at home.

Design-wise I like how simple this year’s sets were. Bowman kept with the now-retired color-coded borders (I believe it was red for veterans, blue for rookies, and green for prospects) that began back in the 90’s. It’s arguably the simplest design we've seen from them this century, and it works. Strong blurb, too. The word "selective" was an interesting choice.

Here's a bunch of parallels:

2010 Bowman #40 Gold

2010 Bowman #40 Blue #/520

2010 Bowman #40 Orange #/250

Bowman loves colored parallels as you probably know. While I am technically missing the red 1/1 and the printing plates, I don’t count 1/1’s among the gettable cards for this set. For our purposes, my 2010 Bowman flagship Griffey set is complete.

2010 Bowman 1992 Bowman Throwbacks #BT62

This is the only Bowman insert Junior made an appearance in this year, and it’s pretty damn awesome. Everyone loves the cringeworthy ‘90’s fashion show that was the 1992 Bowman rookie roundup. Personally I’d have waited for 2012 when the set was 20 years old, but for some reason they did it at 18 years. Regardless it looks great, and they absolutely nailed the back. Love that portrait. A very cool tribute to one of the best Bowman sets ever made.

I know what you’re thinking: how would those base cards look if they were shinier with a permanent bend?

2010 Bowman Chrome #155

Design-wise Bowman Chrome is exactly like regular Bowman with a different photo, specifically another awkwardly-angled swing away photo much like the Topps base card. It appears to be an homage to Junior's sweet swing. It’s not a bad card, but it’s not a great one, either.

All the 2010 Bowman Chrome cards had a permanent bend or “bowing” which you’ve probably seen if you’ve ever stacked 2010 Bowman Chrome cards together with other cards in a long box. There’s nothing you can really do about it, either. Just consider it part of the charm of this set.

Here's the refractor which I imagine looks pretty cool in those colored parallels:

2010 Bowman Chrome #155 Refractor

One thing I’d really like to have seen is a Chrome version of the 1992 Throwback insert. With all the white in the original design they would have been super shiny, not to mention the refractors. Oh, well - missed opportunity.

Here are the Griffeys I need from 2010 Bowman and Bowman Chrome:

2010 Bowman #40 Red 1/1
2010 Bowman #40 Printing Plate (four 1/1’s)
2010 Bowman Chrome #155 Blue #/150
2010 Bowman Chrome #155 Gold #/50
2010 Bowman Chrome #155 Orange #/25
2010 Bowman Chrome #155 Red #/5
2010 Bowman Chrome #155 Superfractor 1/1
2010 Bowman Chrome #155 Printing Plate (four 1/1’s)

I included the 1/1’s but I have no plans to ever own them. Maybe a colored refractor or two will find its way here someday.