Some vintage Devil Rays from a true saint (of the cheap seats)

November 28, 2008 at 1:54 am | Posted in Blogs, My Cards, Rays | Leave a comment

I’ve made a few trades over the last couple of months with Dan from the Saints of the Cheap Seats blog.  Not only does he have a very interesting blog, but he lives in my hometown of Rochester, New York.  Anyway, we’ve helped each other with a few sets that we’re both building.  Recently, Dan told me that he had a bunch of older Rays cards and he wanted to know if I was interested in them.  I’ve received just about every Rays card from the last couple of years in other trades, but I don’t have many from the early years, from 1998 until about 2005.  I really like getting (Devil) Rays cards from that era for two reasons.  It’s a good way to reminisce about the former players, and it familiarizes me with the card sets that were made in the years that I wasn’t collecting.

Dan told me that he’d send the cards to me sometime after Thanksgiving, so I was surprised when I received a package from him in my mailbox on Tuesday.  In the package, I found 47 Devil Rays cards, and almost all of them were cards that I didn’t have.  The players included Tony Saunders (the first pick in the expansion draft), Fred McGriff, Rolando Arrojo, Wilson Alvarez, John Flaherty, MIguel Cairo, Greg Vaughn, Joe Kennedy, Randy Winn, and Roberto Hernandez – all guys who were on the team when the thought of Tampa Bay reaching the World Series was just a ridiculous joke.  The cards were from a variety of sets that are now defunct, such as Donruss Fan Club, Fleer Authentix, Fleer Game Time, Fleer Genuine, Fleer Platinum, Fleer Tradition, Fleer Triple Crown, Pacific Aurora, Pacific Paramount, Pinnacle, Royal Rookies, Skybox Autographics, Skybox Dominion, Topps Total, Upper Deck 40-Man, Upper Deck MVP, and Upper Deck Ovation.

Here are some of my favorite cards from the package:

devil_rays_1997_fleer

This is an insert checklist from 1997 Fleer, the year before the Devil Rays first season.  From the back of the card:

“The Tampa Bay Devil Rays will begin play in the American League in 1998.  The Devil Rays will play in 45,200 seat Tropicana Field.  Tampa Bay’s 1997 Minor League affiliates include St. Petersburg (Florida State), Charleston (South Atlantic), Hudson Valley (New York-Penn), Princeton (Appalachian), and St. Petersburg (Gulf Coast).  Durham (International) will be added as their AAA affiliate in 1998 while Orlando (Southern) will become the AA affiliate in 1999.  Highly rated prospects include pitchers Matt White and Bobby Seay, and outfielder Paul Wilder.”

I guess that means they didn’t have a Double-A affiliate in 1998, which is strange.  Paul Wilder was the team’s first ever draft pick in 1996.  White and Seay were drafted by other teams in the first round, but because of a loophole, they were able to sign with the Devil Rays instead.  Bobby Seay was the only one of these guys to reach the majors.

1998 Pinnacle

1998 Pinnacle

This card is from the last year of Pinnacle and the first year of the Devil Rays.  I wonder if this was one of the cards that you could get from a can.  I actually bought a Devil Rays can of cards on eBay earlier this year when I first heard that they existed.  I never opened it though.  It’s sitting on my desk as a paperweight.

1998 Pacific Aurora

1998 Pacific Aurora

The Devil Rays picked a future superstar in the expansion draft, Bobby Abreu.  Unfortunately, they traded him that same day to the Phillies for the guy you see here, Kevin Stocker, who never accomplished much in Tampa Bay.  I have to say that this Pacific Aurora card looks absolutely horrible.  If this isn’t the ugliest card design ever, I don’t know what is…

1998 Pacific Paramount

1998 Pacific Paramount

This Pacific card at least looks half-way decent.  It features the current bench coach of the Rays, Dave Martinez.  I predict that he’ll become a manager in the major leagues someday.

2000 Upper Deck MVP

2000 Upper Deck MVP

This is a nice looking card of the Crime Dog, who I’m hoping will be the first player to wear a Tampa Bay hat on his Hall of Fame plaque.  I have a feeling it’ll probably be a Braves hat though.

2002 Fleer Tradition

2002 Fleer Tradition

Yes, that’s the same 1934 Goudey design that was used for Upper Deck’s 2008 Goudey set.  I had no idea that it had been used by Fleer in 2002.  The 2008 Goudey cards look a lot nicer and they’re closer to the original design.  Sadly, Joe Kennedy passed away suddenly at the age of 28 about a year ago.

2004 Fleer Platinum

2004 Fleer Platinum

Wow, if I had realized that these cards were made in 2004, I definitely would have collected them.  1984 Fleer is one of my favorite card designs of all time!  Not only did 1984 Fleer include a Don Mattingly rookie card, but they were the first non-Topps cards that I ever saw.  I remember seeing some of them in a friend’s basement in the mid-1980s and being shocked to find out that another card company existed.  I lost a lot of respect for Huff in his last couple of years in Tampa Bay when he was constantly complaining and sulking rather than showing any leadership.  He then became a Rays killer after he signed with Baltimore.  However, I regained some respect for him when I found out that he bought tickets right behind the Rays dugout at Tropicana Field for some of this year’s playoff games so that he could support his former teammates.

2004 Fleer Authentix

2004 Fleer Authentix

If nothing else, this is a unique card design – a baseball card that looks like a ticket.  This one says “Game 1”.  I wonder if there were parallels with other game numbers.  I’m sure that someone can fill me in.  Baldelli is a free agent now and I have mixed feelings about whether or not I want him to return to the Rays.  I’d hate to see him in any other team’s uniform, but his contributions are very limited by his mitochondrial myopathy.  I guess if he’s signed to a short-term contract with a lot of incentives, it couldn’t hurt to bring him back.

2005 Upper Deck ESPN

2005 Upper Deck ESPN

I’ve seen some of these cards before, but besides the ESPN logo on the card, how are these cards related to ESPN?  At least they could have included quotes from ESPN analysts on the back of the card or something…

2006 Upper Deck Ovation

2006 Upper Deck Ovation

I really like this card design and it’s one that I think could be successful today.  You can’t really see it in the scan, but the stitches on the baseball actually feel like real stitches on the card.  I think it looks great.  Why is Upper Deck putting out crap like Spectrum and Upper Deck X when they could be making cards that look like this?

2006 Fleer Tradition

2006 Fleer Tradition

Here’s a Fleer card made after Upper Deck bought the company.  It’s a nice looking card and it makes me wish that Upper Deck would do something with the Fleer brand name again.

Thanks to Dan for sending these cards.  I’ll be putting together a package of Indians cards to send his way.  And maybe I’ll meet up with him at a card shop the next time I visit my family in Rochester.

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