The major lure of Stadium Club has been its photography. The product was a big hit when it made its debut in 1991 as a 600-card set. Topps made use of full-bleed photography and high gloss to produce one of the nicer sets of the 1990s.
The product ran through the 2003 season and took a five-year hiatus before re-emerging in 2008. After another six-year stint on the sidelines, Stadium Club returned in 2014 and is back for a second consecutive year.
The design utilizes both horizontal and vertical shots. And while I am a traditionalist in the sense that I enjoy vertical photography, some of the horizontal stuff looks really good. For example, Jared Weaver (card No. 132) is caught in the aftermath of his delivery, and the effect is very strong. Billy Hamilton (card No. 104) is extending himself horizontally to catch a line drive. Carlos Baerga (card No. 168) goes airborne in the classic double play relay to first base .
Even non-action shots look good in the horizontal format. Cal Ripken Jr. (card No. 33) is engulfed by a sea of hands as he signs autographs. And Fernando Valenzuela (card No. 1) is also surrounded by autograph seekers.
Detail is a key element in a lot of the Stadium Club photos, and viewing a photo of Drew Stubbs (card No. 175) getting drenched by Gatorade is surprisingly not cliché-looking. You can see the ripples of water, and that’s impressive.
Once again, several Hall of Famers are shown in black-and-white photography, which gives those cards a stark, almost elegant look. They really provide a nice contrast to the "newer" players.
Hall of Famers I pulled from the hobby box Topps supplied included Jackie Robinson, Monte Irvin, Orlando Cepeda and a dual shot of Larry Doby with Robinson. One of the more interesting shots shows Frank Robinson in front of his locker, reading a newspaper.
For this year’s Stadium Club, Topps is promising two on-card autograph cards and an insert or parallel in every pack. The base set contains 300 cards. I pulled 110 base cards, eight gold foil parallels and two black foils parallels. It’s easy to miss a parallel, but look closely at the Stadium Club logo; in base cards it is stamped in silver foil, while parallels show the logo (and players’ names) in the parallel’s color.
The first pack I opened when I began sampling this hobby box yielded the first of two on-card autographs — Athletics pitcher Kendall Graveman, who displays a very bold, streamlined signature.
The second auto was even nicer — a wonderful script from Angels pitcher Garrett Richards. Very bold and readable. Impressive.
Contact Sheet inserts are new to the product and resemble those old photography contact sheets used before digital cameras and phones came into vogue. I pulled two of those cards.
Legends Die-Cuts is a 10-card insert that spotlights some of the game’s biggest names. I pulled a Ty Cobb card, but others include Hall of Famers like Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Ted Williams, Roberto Clemente and Babe Ruth.
The Triumvirate inserts return. This is one of Stadium Club’s more intriguing inserts. Die-cut cards in this 30-card set are grouped into 10 sets of three cards. Those three cards interlock and can be put together like a small puzzle. These cards fall one to a box; the card I pulled was of Pirates star Starling Marte.