Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Many more Michigan Men part 9: Barry Larkin

Previously: Part 1 (Chris Sabo)Part 2 (Kelly Dransfeldt, Scott Kamieniecki, Heath Murray, and Geoff Zahn)Part 3 (Mike Matheny)Part 4 (Steve Ontiveros)Part 5 (Drew Henson)Part 6 (Hal Morris)Part 7 (Charlie Gehringer and George Sisler), Part 8 (Jim Abbott)

A few months ago I embarked upon a project of scanning all of the cards in my collection of any other Michigan Baseball alumni not already included on my Player Collections page. That includes anything that arrived via trade, was already in my collection otherwise, or was part of a complete set (or set in-progress). As you can imagine it took quite a while to get everything done, but about 250+ cards later, I finally have something to show for it! These posts will show off new player collections or new cards for existing PCs. Some players will join the group that I supercollect and others will be guys I just pick up whenever I can. If you have anything I don't and feel like trading, please let me know as I'd love to build up these collections!

In many ways I like to think I saved the best for last, since Barry Larkin is without a doubt the best MLB player to come out of Michigan for quite a while, no offense to J.J. Putz or Jim Abbott, among others.  The man was part of a Wolverine talent explosion that led the Reds to a World Series title in 1990, was a 12-time All-Star and the 1995 NL MVP, and capped a 19-year career as one of the game's best ever shortstops with his 2012 induction into the Hall of Fame.  There's really no reason for me to add to that, plus the countless other words I've devoted to Larkin on both my blogs, so let's just fast forward to the meat of the post, shall we?

Unlike most of the other players in this series, Larkin is in no way a brand new PC for me, but that wasn't necessarily the main goal of these posts.  Part of what I was doing was showing off previously-unscanned cards of other Michigan Baseball alumni that were locked away in my collection of complete (or mostly-complete!) sets.  Barry was by far the biggest beneficiary of this project.  How much?  Well, I'll get to that in a bit, but first, here's 10 favorites out of all the cards I added to his PC:

1994 Bowman's Best (with Jeter)
A multi-player veteran/prospect card that actually lives up to its billing?  With the prospect actually outperforming the star in many ways?  Is this real life?  I imagine Topps' first Bowman's Best offering is a bit polarizing, but I like it, partly because of the fun Mirror Image subset, which eventually found its way to being a standalone insert.  It's enjoyable enough as it is, but as a rare example of a good dual-player card, I thought it deserved an extra thumbs-up here.
1996 Leaf Preferred Steel
'96 Leaf Preferred was a fairly unique product that I actually purchased not long after it arrived that year.  Thanks to the fact that the boxes weren't ridiculously expensive, plus a few side purchases, it didn't take me too long to complete the Steel insert set.  Better yet, I eventually shed the "OMG don't take it out of its package!" mentality and peeled every single one of them, making them better looking, and a bit easier to scan, though they still end up looking a bit dark, as you can see.  Larkin easily justified his entry into this set by winning the NL MVP the previous season.
1996 Zenith Mozaics (with Morris, Sanders)
I showed off this complete set way back in 2011 (with a couple others), and it remains one of my favorites to this day.  It was a typically well done Pinnacle insert with a fun concept and generally good player selection (I covered my complaints in that post).  I love that Larkin is the centerpiece here, and it's even cooler that one of his cohorts is fellow Michigan alum Hal Morris.  Reggie Sanders actually makes sense as the third player thanks to an All-Star 1995.
1997 Fleer (#296)
I still haven't done an entire post devoted to my all-time favorite Fleer set, but I will someday because it certainly deserves it.  It's funny to me that Fleer's 1997 flagship product set itself apart from the rest that year with a non-glossy card stock since it was only a few years removed from that being the norm.  Besides the large set size and interesting subsets, I've always admired what Fleer did for a few years during that era, stamping accolades like "All-Star" on the base cards instead of creating superfluous subsets.  Lastly, this is an excellent action shot of the three-time Gold-Glover (in an era dominated by Ozzie Smith at the position) in the field.
1998 Studio Portraits 8 x 10
Barry was the penultimate subject of Donruss' second offering that included these fantastic 8x10 portraits.  When I showed off the full set in May of 2011 I called for a quick entrance for Larkin to the Hall, and I didn't have to wait very long, fortunately.  I consider this version a nice improvement on the pretty good 1997 version, with the simple white border and excellent action shot background a step up from the gray stripes the previous year.
1999 Upper Deck Retro
'99 Retro was a very cool set thanks to Upper Deck taking the retro concept and running with it.  From the card stock choice to the set arriving in the form of a lunch box to the mix of stars old and young, it's always been a winner in my book.  What puts this card over the edge for me, though, is the sweet white with red pinstripes and black sleeves Reds jersey.  That's actually the style of jersey I grabbed when Ken Griffey Jr. headed to Cincy the following year, and I still wear it from time to time!
 2001 Donruss Rookie Reprints (#1354/1987)
In looking back at my post covering this complete set, I'm once again noting that the '87 set dominates the 2001 Reprint issues with eight cards, better than the two subsequent years, which total five each.  It's no surprise, though, since Larkin is part of the legendary 1985 draft class, the first round of which included B.J. Surhoff, Will Clark, Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmerio; Randy Johnson would follow in the second round and Tino Martinez in the third, to give you an idea of the staggering amount of talent involved.  Anyway, Donruss was celebrating turning 20 and managed to pick a pretty nice array of rookies to reprint, then serial-numbered them to the year of the card's issue--a manufacturer after my own heart.
2001 Stadium Club
I already said '97 was my favorite all-time Fleer set, and to that I'd add 2001 as my favorite ever version of Stadium Club.  I've often had a soft spot for the annoyingly defunct Topps offering, and I think that reached its pinnacle with the 2001 set, which features absolutely gorgeous cards like this one.  The epitome of what a horizontal card should look like, we get an amazing full-bleed photo with a highly attractive section featuring the player's name, position and team, plus the year in a box matched with the team's primary color.  This is a flat-out beautiful photo, too, with Barry in the previously-mentioned awesome uni having made it safely to second in a cloud of dust, calling time (or asking the audience if they're not entertained?) while the White Sox's Jose Valentin looks on.  Ok, great, now I'll have to do a whole post on 2001 Stadium Club too!
2001 Topps Combos (with Morgan, Griffey, Bench)
I wouldn't say this insert set itself is among my favorites, but I do have fond memories of Topps' 50th anniversary flagship set that year, and regardless, this is a great card that came out of it.  Topps' Combos insert featured some "what-if?" cards, of sorts, like this one, featuring a lineup that probably would have won about 10 straight titles.  Due to their 1970s Reds and Cincinnati connections, the card was titled "Big Red Machine," but I'd argue that "Strong Up the Middle" would be just as appropriate thanks to the HOF double-play combo and catcher to go with a future HOF CF!  This one also scores points for being a fairly well done art card.
2003 Diamond Kings
And speaking of artistic cards, our final subject today is very appropriate since Barry truly was one of the kings of the diamond.  This beautiful set was in its second year as a base set after being a featured insert starting in the early 90s, and of course a favorite base subset beginning in the 80s.  The 2002 set looks amazing itself, and that makes me want to grab a copy of Larkin's card, but this one is very well done, including an excellent portrait highlighted by a border featuring a bit more than a corner of Cincinnati red, playing off the colors on Barry's hat and jersey.

These 10 are great, but they're just a small fraction of the total I added to Larkin's PC thanks to this project.  How small, you ask?  Well, in total, I was able to bump his collection up to 201 cards, making what's most definitely a huge milestone one a blog that likes to celebrate much smaller ones.  In fact, Larkin is only the second player in my Michigan Baseball collection to reach 200 (with the other being Rich Hill, of course).  It's a collection that doesn't yet rival that of Chris over at Nachos Grande (who's way ahead of me and appears to have plenty more not even posted yet!), but if nothing else I'm glad to be in good company with such a devoted collector.  And I do have a FEW more to show off from recent purchases, so there's that.

In summary, Barry Larkin is awesome, his cards are awesome, I have a ton of them, and Chris has lots more, so yay Barry Larkin and yay collecting!

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