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From ESPN to McDonald's: Reviewing Hobby Happenings

by Paul Angilly
April 26, 2005

If you're among the die-hard ESPN devotees who feel their night isn't complete until after watching "Sportscenter," then a recent announcement from Upper Deck and the Bristol-based sports entertainment giant should make you happy.

ESPN and Upper Deck have reached a multi-year agreement to produce an ESPN-branded trading card collection in baseball, basketball, football and hockey. The series launched with a baseball set released last month, sold at mass retailers and hobby stores with a suggested retail price of $2.99 per pack.

The 90-card base set for the baseball issue is relatively attractive, although the ESPN logo really didn't need to be quite so large (but then, does ESPN ever do anything low-key?). Inserts include: ESPN Ink (an autographed card series that includes several ESPN announcers), ESPN The Magazine Covers, ESPY Award Winners (a nice 20-card series featuring past winners), Sports Center Swatches, Sports Century (a nice 15-card series highlighting all-time greats), Sports Century Signatures (autographs from 14 players not included in the regular Sports Century series), This Day in Baseball History and Web Gems. There are also 25th anniversary parallels serially-numbered to 25 copies.

Expect ESPN brand offerings in football, basketball and hockey (assuming the NHL ever plays again) to follow a similar design, both in terms of card appearance and set content.

McDonald's commemorates Red Sox: McDonald's restaurants in Southeastern Connecticut, Eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and selected places in Vermont and Maine are offering a series of three trading card sheets commemorating the Boston Red Sox' 2004 World Series championship. The set of three sheets has been selling on eBay for about $10, plus shipping.

Each perforated sheet includes nine standard-sized cards, a 3x5 header/checklist card, a 3x5 team schedule card and two coupons. The fronts of the cards have a color player photo superimposed over a blue-tinted stadium background, with the Red Sox logo in either the upper-left or upper-right corner. The photos (both player and background) fade to white near the bottom of the card, where the player's name and position appear. Backs include a small head shot, basic personal info (height, weight, etc.), a short write-up and statistics from the past three seasons and career.

Each of the three sheets has a different background image, which is seen on both the header cards and the individual player cards: The first sheet shows the Fenway Park field; the second shows the left field wall, including the scoreboard and "Green Monster" seats; and the third shows the front of the park from the outside.

The checklist includes: sheet 1 - Manny Ramirez, Curt Schilling, Tim Wakefield, Alan Embree, Mike Timlin, Kevin Youkilis, Bronson Arroyo, Bill Mueller, World Champions celebration card, Johnny Damon, Jason Varitek, Keith Foulke, Gabe Kapler, Doug Mientkiewicz, Orlando Cabrera, Pokey Reese, Curtis Leskanic, Wally the Green Monster (mascot), Doug Mirabelli, Trot Nixon, Mark Bellhorn, Derek Lowe, David Ortiz, Mike Myers, Dave Roberts, Pedro Martinez and manager Terry Francona.

Barry, many cards: Beginning with the recently-released 2005 Topps Series 2, Topps is celebrates Barry Bonds' historic home run chase by commemorating every one of his blasts in a three-part insert set called "Home Run History."

In Topps Series 2 packs, collectors can find cards for home runs 1-330 inserted 1:4 packs, with each card featuring specifics of that particular home run on the back. The series will continue in 2005 Topps Traded & Rookies, in which collectors will be able to find home run cards 331-660. The set will be brought up to date with the release of 2006 Topps Series 1, which will feature home run cards 660 to whatever his career total is after this season.

Next month, Topps will launch "The Barry Bonds Trading Floor," a special web site dedicated exclusively for collectors who wish to trade cards from the insert series.

Disappointment for Whalers fans: Last month I mentioned that a new set due out this week, In The Game's NHL Franchises U.S. East edition, will feature five former Hartford Whalers players in the base set. The company recently made a full checklist available for the series, including an extensive list of autographed and memorabilia cards, but there are no Whalers featured in those insert sets.

The complete Hartford Whalers checklist for the product is: base cards 352-356 (Bobby Hull, Dave Babych, Tiger Williams, Mark Howe and Mike Liut) and a Whalers logo box-topper insert. Former Whaler Paul Coffey is pictured as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes in the "Single Memorabilia" and "Complete Jersey" inserts, as well as an autographed card.

The insert checklist is especially disappointing because many of the autographed cards and two of the memorabilia cards from the Canadian edition of the set pictured members of the Quebec Nordiques and Winnipeg Jets - two other former WHA teams that entered the NHL and have since moved.

WNBA card web site up: Also last month, I mentioned that Rittenhouse Archives will be issuing WNBA trading cards beginning this summer. Recently the company launched a new web site devoted specifically to its WNBA trading card line:

Currently the site consists of just one page, a press release describing the new card set. But included with the release are photos of three autographed cards from the set, including UConn alums Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird.

According to the site, Rittenhouse Archives' first WNBA set will include more than 120 player cards, with two autographed cards per box. Later in the season, Rittenhouse will add cards to the set featuring game action photos and cards commemorating significant events during the 2005 season. A custom-designed WNBA collector's album including exclusive bonus cards will also be available.

About the author
Paul Angilly is a sports reporter for The Bristol Press in Connecticut, and has been collecting sports cards and memorabilia for 30 years. He is not a dealer, nor does he make a profit from buying and selling cards. His weekly sports card and memorabilia collecting column appears each week in The Bristol Press and several other daily newspapers in Connecticut.

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