02 February 2010

Upper Deck 2010 Series 1 Baseball

Those of you who know me know about my love of baseball. But what you may not know is that I don't just enjoy watching and scoring the games or collecting autographs. I also collect baseball cards, and my collection is getting to be pretty decent now. My main collection includes a LOT of Arizona Diamondbacks autographed and game-used cards from players like Randy Johnson, Matt Williams, Justin Upton, Chris Young, Matt Kata, Conor Jackson, Brandon Webb, Dustin Nippert, and others. I also do a little bit of set-building (trying to get one of every card in the set of cards) for 2009 Topps Allen and Ginter, Upper Deck 2008 and 2009 A Piece of History, Topps Mayo Football, 2001 Pacific Baseball, and 2009 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions. I'm actually very close to having complete base sets for most of these products, and all I need are the inserts and hard-to-find cards.

Every year, when the new sets come out, I like to buy a few packs of the ones I can afford and see if I like the designs enough to try to collect the set. Today, my local card shop, Hot Corner Sports Cards in Mesa, AZ got in boxes of 2010 Upper Deck Series 1 cards. This poses an interesting tangent. You see, Major League Baseball, in its infinite wisdom, last year awarded Topps, Inc. the exclusive rights to produce baseball cards using the MLB insignia and trademarks, thereby granting them basically a monopoly on baseball cards. Upper Deck, the only other major company in opposition to Topps, retains a contract with the MLB Players Association to allow players to be featured on Upper Deck cards, but without making mention of teams and using those trademarks.

Well, within the last couple of weeks, Upper Deck released sample photos of the 2010 baseball cards, which MLB Properties alleged were in violation of anti-trademark infringement policies because the cards show the photos of MLB logos in the photos of the players playing baseball. Apparently MLB wanted Upper Deck to airbrush/photoshop out all the MLB logos from the photos (such as the Athletics "A," the Indians "red man," or the MLB patch logos on players' sleeves). And thus, MLB sent a letter to a bunch of retailers asking them to not sell the 2010 Upper Deck cards (two or three different products) until the issue could be resolved. Upper Deck replied saying that retailers could sell their cards, since there's no law on the books regarding their claims. And thus, the MLBP sued Upper Deck.

So, as I was saying, these boxes of UD 2010 Series 1 cards came in today, and since my shop had the product, was never told by anyone to NOT sell it, and since it was supposed to be for sale starting today, I got my hands on 5 packs of the product. And to be honest, I can't see what MLBP is complaining about. I have pulled several cards below from my five packs to give my fellow readers a taste of what 2010 UDS1 looks like, and YOU be the judge regarding logos and trademark infringement!

First up, the base cards. I pulled three Diamondbacks from my five packs (Doug Davis, P; Max Scherzer, P; and Brandon Allen, rookie 1B). The design is clean, crisp, and looks nice enough for what would be classified among collectors as a low-end product, meant more for set-builders and kids than some of the more hardcore $300-per-box products. Allen's base card:
If you notice, the picture has been strategically picked to show as little of the "DBacks" logo on his jersey, although for his, it is still visible. I noticed this with almost every one of the 72 base player cards in my five packs. There was always a glove/bat/arm "strategically placed" over the player's chest logo when his back wasn't turned completely (showing his number, but no logos). For catchers, they are all in their gear, so they have chest protectors and shoulder pads, and pitchers aren't viewed from any sort of angle where their logos are prominent and obviously infringing on anything.

Even the backs are devoid of any identifying marks: no team names, just a city (including Chicago's Cubs and White Sox, Los Angeles' Angels and Dodgers, and New York's Mets and Yankees... each card doesn't say a team name, leaving it to you to figure out whether the player belongs in pinstripes or halos).
That brings me to where the rookie cards differ from the veterans. The backs of the rookies tell a little about them, while the vets have just their prior years' statistics. Also, rookies are marked with a "2010 Star Rookie" logo at the bottom while veterans have their photo in black-and-white next to their position and city of origin.
For comparison's sake, here are Davis' and Scherzer's base cards, card backs, and b&w photos:
Okay, so the first 540 cards are of players (on average, 18 players from each of the 30 major league teams). I believe there are 600 cards in the base set, with cards 571-600 being team checklist cards. But I REALLY like cards #541-570! They're STADIUM cards, featuring each of the thirty teams' home stadiums! And of course, I pulled Chase Field, the home of the 2001 World Series Champion Diamondbacks as one of my cards today (along with AT&T Park - Giants, Comerica Park - Tigers, and Yankee Stadium - Yankees)!
Ah, now THAT'S a pretty piece of architecture! The back of the Chase Field card says,
Phoenix, Arizona
401 East Jefferson Street, Phoenix, AZ 85004
First Game: March 31, 1998  Seating Capacity: 48,652
Postseason Titles: Division Titles 4, League Pennants 1, World Series Championships 1
With a retractable roof to keep the rain as well as the scorching desert heat out, Chase Field also showcases a swimming pool in right-center field where fans can cool off as they take in a contest. During a break in the action, the Cox Clubhouse is also a popular attraction as it contains memorabilia from the Baseball Hall of Fame. The first Major League stadium to pair natural grass with a retractable roof, the turf of choice in Arizona is Bull's Eye Bermuda.

C'mon, how cool is that?! And I love the little touches, like the address and the postseason titles counts for each team.

Okay, anyway. That's the base set. 600 cards, each one with a legal statement on the back that they are NOT authorized by Major League Baseball or its member teams. On to the inserts! The inserts are much like other UD products of the past, featuring the big names and big events in baseball history for 2009. In just five packs, I received 7 different types of insert cards. Biography cards, such as the Clayton Kershaw card below came two to a pack, and feature a particular player and a particular accomplishment (Kershaw's fifth consecutive win depicted below on July 18, 2009 set a record for left-handed starters with three or fewer hits and one or fewer earned runs on four consecutive games).
Other cards from this insert set included Ken Griffey, Jr.'s return to Seattle, Jason Kendall's 2,000th career hit, Ichiro's 2,000th career hit, and Jim Thome's 550th career home run.

This next insert I got is a little wierd. In 5 packs, I only got the one, called "Celebrity Predictors" - two cards joined by a perforation in the center (presumably you can separate them into two different mini cards). While there are no celebrity names on either half of the card, I'm pretty sure it's a cartoon-ized version of Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart from the teen vampire flick "New Moon" that came out in '09. Um... okay then. Not really my thing, but if Megan Fox from "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" is also in the checklist somewhere, I'm okay with it.
Next up, the "Baseball Heroes" inserts. Like the last one, I only got one of each of these in five packs, and they're reminiscent of the 1990's-era cards that I used to collect (hoard?) back when I was a little kid and had my collection in a really, really old shoebox. Here's the regular Baseball Heroes card of Joe DiMaggio...
And the comparable Baseball Heroes 20th Anniversary artists' card of Chipper Jones:
The fifth insert of the seven, of which I got two, are these Upper Deck Portraits cards of Chone Figgins (shown) and Scott Feldman. The backs of these inserts have an old-timey tobacco card feel to them, saying simply in stylized lettering "Upper Deck Portraits / One in a series of 100 subjects." I like them. Simple. Classy. Old school. My kind of cards.
Then you go from classy and old school to retro, as the die-cut cards are back in these packs. Most people I've talked to like die cuts; I'm not a huge fan. The first one is a "Pure Heat" Troy Tulowitzki card, which isn't really bad. I like the flames, and the caption on the back is talking about how the Rockies (powered by Tulowitzki) had a 17-of-18 game win streak in June, 2009. I would have thought that "high heat" was reserved for power pitchers, but I kind of admire using a card like this for similar power performances.
The final insert, and also a die cut, is this nifty "All World" Carlos Beltran card. The All-World set of inserts, I assume (although I only got one of them today) features non-US-born players who've made an impact on the game. For example, the caption on Beltran's card here is about how though he couldn't speak English when he arrived in the Minor Leagues, he let his game "speak for itself" and earned the 1999 Rookie of the Year honors. How do you not like a card featuring planet Earth so prominently, I ask you?
Finally, although I didn't take a photo of it, I also received a game-used jersey card of pitcher Randy Wells, whom I've never heard of, but that's okay. The jersey card is standard stuff, and if I get the chance, I'll post a pic of it in a separate blog post later on.

All in all, to recap, I got 72 base player cards, four stadium base cards, and four team checklist cards (for the Orioles, Astros, Cardinals, and Nationals), 10 Biography inserts, 2 UD Portraits inserts, two different Baseball Heroes inserts, and one each of the Celebrity Predictors, All World, and Pure Heat inserts.

I really like the way this product turned out despite the company not being able to use MLB trademarks. It's actually a really nice low-end collector-friendly product, although I think if you're only crazy about getting the "hits" (autographs or game-used cards) you're probably better off sticking with the more expensive stuff. I could easily see myself being very happy opening a few boxes of this stuff (in my dreams, since I'm still watching my dollars while I look for work) and finding the nice inserts and obtaining all 600 base cards.

Good job, Upper Deck. This is a nice product.


  1. My friend, I am amused. Personally I am a little put off that they would waste time with silly cartoon celebrity cards, but then again if kids are buying them, they will like them. Maybe that initial series will be worth more due to the lawsuit; especially if they get pulled for any reason. Too bad that card shop doesn't have a position open right now, right?

  2. Uh, it's not Topps that's suing Upper Deck, it's MLB for using their properties (logos) on the cards without their permission. While you may not have pulled any cards like that (though I can see the Dodgers logo on the Kershaw insert), there are plenty of them evident out there on other blogs.

  3. Thanks for the clarification, handcollated. You're right - I changed my post to reflect that Major League Baseball Properties (MLBP) is bringing the suit. But either way, I don't think it's appropriate to ask a company with an MLB Players Association license to sit there and have to remove every single logo from every single picture. These are baseball players, and the cards should reflect those players in uniforms, which are by nature going to have team insignia on them. If Upper Deck were putting logos and MLB trademarks on their cards (such as the Diamondbacks' "A" logo) as a style feature of the card, like next to the team's city at the bottom, that would be one thing. But suing them for using a picture of a player in uniform? That's quite another.

    And as I said, yeah, you CAN see some of the team logos in the photos above and on other cards in the set, but a great many of them are obscured either totally or partially, and none of them are, in my humble opinion, worthy of MLB bringing a lawsuit against Upper Deck.

  4. I'm glad I finally got a peek at your pictures of the 2010 Upper Deck baseball set. I was a bit leery of buying some of them tonight at a local Wal-Mart and bought a pack of Topps instead. I wondered what could be brought to a card that had to duck and weave to avoid infringement. Obviously they just got creative. Hats off to Upper Deck. Who wants just one baseball card manufacturer anyhow?