2005 Leaf Baseball Review

With Topps dominating the baseball card market, the pickings are a little bit slimmer than what I hear is usual.  I’m still in my first full year back into collecting after exiting around 1997-98, so I don’t have much to compare it to.  Honestly, I kind of like that there aren’t that many products out.  Sometimes it’s tough rationalizing the card spending I do already, so I can’t imagine what it might be like having to keep up with extra brands.  I’d have to pick and choose what to buy, instead of trying out a little of everything, which would lead to having to go back to the stuff I missed sometime down the road.  That doesn’t sound too great.  Now, ideally there would be about this many products from different manufacturers, but all of this is a discussion for another time.

What I’m getting at with this roundabout introduction is that because there aren’t all that many new products coming out, and because they are all Topps, I am going to start buying some older stuff from the ghosts of baseball card manufacturers past.  This is going to be stuff that I missed out on while I was away from the hobby;  Stuff that may not always have guaranteed hits;  Stuff that will most likely be loaded with Maddux possibilities.  After all, as they used to say, if I haven’t seen it, it’s new to me!

First up is a box of 2005 Leaf.  I got this for somewhere around $40 shipped through an ebay auction by mega-seller Kruk Cards.  I haven’t seen one offered by anyone on ebay since, which is a shame.

I decided to get this box for a couple reasons.  1)  Almost all of the insert sets had a Greg Maddux somewhere in there to pull, so my odds of getting at least one were looking good.  2) This set has the Sportscasters insert set AND they came roughly 6 per box!  I fell in love with this insert set the first time I saw them.  And you’ll see them too a little later.  These classic reviews are going to work a little different than the recent product ones.  I’ll spend less time on being hyper-critical and more time showing off the goods as it were.  If it were still readily available, I’d go more in depth to tell if you it was worth it.  Anyway, let’s get to it.

24 packs per box, 8 cards per pack

Very blue examples

Main Set
I am not impressed by this design at all.  I picked poor examples, I suppose, but the name and position sections are color coded to match the teams.  Other than that, it’s about as plain as plain can be.  The photos are full-bleed, but don’t stand out visually.  Every single card has a full-body shot of the player as isolated from the game as humanly possible.  The fact that you see an out of focus person behind A-Rod is the exception to the rule.  This lack of creativity and lack of photographic diversity makes for a very boring set.

As you can see, the card backs are equally drab.  That’s the same photo you see in the front of the card.  Sure there are diagonal lines, but that’s not eye catching next to the never-ending parade of gray on the bottom half.  It’s gloomy and the storm cloud coloring makes my knee hurt.

SPs - The "S" does not stand for "Special"

The set consists of 300 total cards.  200 like you saw in the first picture and 100 SPs.  These are divided into three groups:  50 Prospects, 20 Passing Through Time, and 30 Team Checklists.

I think it’s sad that the checklists are considered SPs.  There are pictures on the front, but they look exactly like the other cards from the regular set.  I only really noticed it was a checklist when I turned it around to sort what I had.  Just because it’s a different picture of Jeter, that doesn’t mean it should be an SP.  Make it look a little different, please.  But, making different things isn’t what this product is good at.  Take a look at the Passing Through Time examples.  The Thome is the front and the Bernie is the back (2 different cards, just illustrating the look of both sides).  That front side looks an awful lot like everything else we’ve seen, too, doesn’t it?  Maybe if they did something different with the name/team info…  The concept behind this subset is okay.  You take a veteran player and show a then and now type of thing.  The execution is ho hum.  The changes in the players aren’t that drastic, and something about the purplish hue on the smaller player photo on the back of the card rubs me the wrong way.

I don’t have much to say about the prospect cards other than they, too are bland and most of them will not be playing anymore.

Drop the bat, Mike!

Now we’re getting to the good stuff.  This is the main reason I bought this stuff after all.  There are tons of different sets I could have come across.  The ones I didn’t see in my box (not counting jersey/auto parallels, etc) were:  Clean Up Crew (1:49), Four Star Staffs (1:48), Cornerstones (1:37), and Shirt Off My Back (1:111).  Despite that I think I did quite well.  I think I may have had a hot box.  I’ll give you the odds when available

Orel Hershiser Cy Young Winners (1:31)
Tom Seaver Cy Young Winners
Roger Clemens Cy Young Winners – Gold #/350
Mike Piazza Alternate Threads (1:18)
Mark Mulder Alternate Threads
Dontrelle Willis Alternate Threads – Holo Foil #/150
Mike Piazza Picture Perfect (1:20)
Ichiro Picture Perfect
Mark Prior Picture Perfect

Piazzas galore!  And I got a Prior, which would have been much more thrilling back then.  The Dontrelle came out of the pack nicked up, sad to say, but it still looks nice.  Ortega, it’s yours if you want it.  I also have to say that the Cy Young and Threads parallels look much better scanned than in person and the non-refractory versions look much worse in scan form.  In person, it’s pretty hard to tell the difference between the two.  I honestly didn’t know the Clemens was anything unusual until I saw the serial number on the back.

But hey, I’m beating the odds all over the place, assuming they’re correct.  I’m not even guaranteed one Cy Young Winner and I got 3 (1 of them numbered).  3 Picture perfects and 3 alternate threads (1 #’d).

Foil here! Get yer Foil here!

Jim Thome Leaf Certified Materials Preview (doubles) (1:21)
Manny Ramirez Leaf Certified Materials Preview – Blue #/100
Miguel Tejada Home (1:22)
Roger Clemens Gamers (1:13)
Kevin Cane Gold Leaf Rookies (1:24)
Alex Rodriguez Gold Stars (1:27)

I have to say that it was pretty disappointing to get two of those Thome Preview cards.  There are 15 different players on the checklist.  I like Thome just fine, but I like other players, too!  That sting was soothed somewhat with the arrival of my third insert parallel of the box in that Manny #/100.  The blue looks really good on this card.  The Tejada comes from my least favorite insert.  Each player has both a “home” and “away” version.  Remember back in the mid-90s when Fleer would put one insert in every pack and there was always that one you got way too many of even though it never should have been made in the first place?  Yeah, that’s the Home/Away cards.  I’m glad I only got one.  I got another Clemens (different team this time), a failed rookie and an A-Rod gold star.  Those gold foil cards look better in person too.

Hot Damn! Sportscasters! (Oh, and others)

Carlos Beltran Press Proofs – Gold #/25
Carlos Beltran (Team Checklist) Press Proofs – Red
Jorge Sequea Prospect Press Proofs – Red
Andruw Jones Press Proofs – Blue #/75
Randy Johnson Sportscasters – Teal Pitching Ball #/35 (overall Sportscasters odds 1:4)
Steve Carlton Sportscasters – Teal Pitching Glove #/30
Ken Griffey Jr. Sportscasters – Beige Running Ball #/25
Don Mattingly Sportscasters – White Batting Ball #/65
Ryne Sandberg Sportscasters – Beige Fielding Glove #/25

I forgot to mention there are parallels to the main set in the form of Press Proofs in Red, Blue and Gold.  There are also autograph parallels with color variables, but forget about those.  I don’t know how lucky I was to get two of the numbered variations, but I do consider myself lucky that they are players that were/are stars.  And it turns out that this box isn’t just great for Piazza and Thome fans, but it’s also great for Beltran fans (Belfrans?).

So, below those are the Sportscasters cards I was hyping so much.  There are 50 different players on the checklist — all of them big names from the past & present.  The design comes from an old 1977 set of the same name.  I also recognize the design from this oversized send-away thing that my parents got us as kids, but instead of sports figures, it had historical information.  It was sort of like an encyclopedia on massive index cards.  They were color-coded by subject (people were one color, government stuff was another color, etc).  As far as I know, they were available only through the mail and additions would come to our house every once in a while.  I don’t know which came first, the sports one or the non-sports one, but my guess is the former, as I grew up in the 80s.

The only downside I see to these is that there are so many damn variations.  For each player there are different color and icon combinations you potentially have to worry about.

Overall, I like the inserts.  There’s tons of variety, which I have come to expect and occasionally appreciate, and they look different from one another.  Yes, there is a lot of foil, but the designs hiding behind the darkened scans are easily distinguishable from the rest.  That’s not something you can always say about current Donruss/Panini products.

The bat in the picture is a different color. But the back says the piece I have is his.

I think I was lucky.  I actually got 2 hits.  I don’t now if even one is guaranteed in this thing.  The Game Collection insert falls 1:118, so not too shabby.

Then there was this….

Whomever's playing Hangman is about to lose!

Yes, an auto!  Boo, not sports!  That is a funky signature.  I don’t know what he was trying to draw, but I think it’s a guy trying to carry too many groceries.  The regular fans of the game inserts are seeded 1:24.  The autos have no odds listed, so this is a major hit apparently.  Perhaps this is a sign that I, like Stella, will be getting my groove back.  Sorry, had to be said.

Left: Maximum Effort, Right: Not so much

While, not technically “hits,” they are to me, because I was on the hunt for Maddux and I got two of the suckers!  One is the SP, which is fantastic (although I didn’t get the base card).

The other was a great surprise and made the box all worthwhile to me.  I got a Sportscaster of Maddux!  What are the odds?  I know I could figure it out, but I’m lazy.  But, it gets better.

My encyclopedia cards were not serial numbered, for what it's worth

Yes, that’s right, it’s numbered out of 45.  You may or may not know that I’m only actively seeking cards (through trades or purchase) #’d 50 and higher, so pack pulling something lower than that is fantastic.  It means this may be the lowest Maddux card I will own for a very long time.  I am okay with this.  I happily place it in the collection.

So there you have it.  Oh, I forgot one more reason I bought this stuff.  3) Trade bait.  I have no desire to try to collect this set.  I really only need the Maddi (and I’m going to hang on to that Sandberg, too), so EVERYTHING else is for trade.  Piazza and Beltran collectors come on down!  Taye Diggs lovers, right this way!  Berkman Bat Boys, barrel on through (tried to keep the alliteration going for the Killer B)!

For those of you interested in such things, I ended up with 148 out of 300 cards in the set, 16 of those were SPs.  I have 17 doubles and 1 triple.  So, although it wouldn’t be the easiest set in the world, the SPs are relatively common.

Design – **
Set Collecting – ***
Inserts – *****
Hits – ***
Overall – *** (out of 5)

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