Classic Rockies card: Vinny in '93

December 9th, 2021

As part of the celebration of the 70th anniversary of Topps baseball cards, we've asked fans (as well as our staff) to submit their all-time favorite baseball cards, and we've broken them down by team. We'll be revealing submissions regularly throughout the season, ranging from the famous to the weird, and everything in between.

Vinny Castilla, 1993 Upper Deck
If there was ever a card that captured a player’s personality, it’s this one. , to this day, always has a smile on his face when he’s on a baseball field, whether as a slugging third baseman or a coach for the Rockies.

Castilla’s first big year came in 1995, two years after this beautiful Upper Deck card was issued. But 1993 was the beginning of a very important new chapter in Castilla’s baseball career -- he would soon be an everyday player for the first time, and he took that opportunity and ran with it.

You couldn’t get a fastball past Castilla, as many pitchers who faced him over the years can attest. Castilla, incredibly, hit exactly .304 with 40 home runs and 113 RBIs in both 1996 and ’97. His biggest year was ’98, when he posted a .951 OPS (127 OPS+) with 46 homers. He was an All-Star that year in his home park, Coors Field, where he put on a show during the Home Run Derby.

But when you say the name “Vinny Castilla,” the first thing you think of is that big smile and contagious energy. -- Manny Randhawa

Ubaldo Jiménez, 2010 Topps
For a brief run, was one of the most dominant aces in baseball. Over the first two months of the 2010 season, Jiménez went 10-1 with a 0.78 ERA and pitched the first no-hitter in Rockies history on April 17. This card is from that peak, showing the Colorado right-hander locked in concentration just after he releases a pitch.

Todd Helton, 1993 Topps Traded
Technically, this card was released a couple years before was part of the Rockies franchise, but considering he never played for another organization, you can pretty much put any Helton card under the Rockies’ banner.

The '93 Topps Traded set was a year-end release that featured prospects, rookies and traded players in new uniforms.

Helton was attending the University of Tennessee on a baseball and football scholarship at the time. He was also a member of the USA Collegiate National Team, which is why he's wearing a Team USA uniform on this card.

Helton looks fearsome with a gold aluminum Easton bat in his hands, and he would prove to be a nightmare for college pitchers, winning the Dick Howser Trophy -- given to the national collegiate player of the year -- in '95, the same year the Rockies selected him with the eighth overall pick in the first round of the MLB Draft. -- Thomas Harrigan

Matt Holliday, 1999 Bowman
Before he became a seven-time All-Star and one of the best hitters in baseball, was a seventh-round pick in the 1998 MLB Draft.

While Holliday wouldn’t debut until 2004, Bowman included the slugger in its ‘99 set. The card features a cool pic of a baby-faced Holliday shot at an upward angle, the barrel end of his bat pointing toward the camera.

Holliday ended up spending six years in the Minors before joining the Rockies in ‘04. He went on to hit .319/.386/.552 with 128 homers for Colorado from ‘04-'08 before being traded to the A’s in a deal that brought back another franchise icon, Carlos González. Holliday returned to the Rockies for a brief stretch in ‘18 before retiring. -- Thomas Harrigan

Troy Tulowitzki, 2008 Upper Deck Baseball Heroes
This card was made right after a rookie led the Rocktober Rockies to the 2007 National League pennant.

Tulo was also the runner-up for NL Rookie of the Year that year, and his talent and flair on the field made him an instant Colorado fan favorite.

His 2008 Upper Deck card acknowledges his Rookie of the Year finish and portrays Tulowitzki mid-swing in his purple Rockies uniform.

Tulowitzki blossomed into one of the best shortstops in baseball in his Colorado tenure, making five All-Star teams, winning two Gold Gloves and two Silver Sluggers and placing in the top 10 of NL MVP voting three times.

Dante Bichette, David Nied and Andres Galarraga, 1993 Upper Deck
The Rockies were high enough on David Nied to make him the first overall selection in the '92 Expansion Draft, bringing the right-hander over from the Braves.

Nied went on to appear on this '93 Upper Deck card alongside and , forming a trio that is deemed a “Rock Solid Foundation.” That title would hold true for Bichette and Galarraga, but Nied posted a 5.47 ERA over 218 2/3 innings for Colorado and didn’t pitch in the Majors after '96.

Nied’s struggles notwithstanding, this is a cool-looking card, with the three players towering over the camera while a majestic snow-covered mountain sets the backdrop. -- Thomas Harrigan

Todd Helton and Larry Walker, 2003 Topps
The Rockies have had a lot of batting champions -- nine, to be exact. A lot of that has to do with Coors Field -- not so much the altitude in this case, but the cavernous outfield. This card features the first Hall of Famer in Rockies history, Walker, and potentially the second in Helton. And as a bonus, we get Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero Jr. sandwiched in between.

What’s funny is, none of them had the highest batting average in the NL in 2002 -- that was Barry Bonds, at .370. Maybe Bonds’ numbers were so far off the chart that Topps decided to give some love to the three guys behind him -- Walker (.338), Guerrero (.336) and Helton (.329).

Guerrero never actually won a batting title, but Walker and Helton did -- Walker led the league in batting average in 1998, ’99 and 2001; and Helton did in 2000.

In other words, the Rockies had the NL’s batting champ every year from 1998-2001. While Guerrero never officially led his league in batting average in a season, he got himself on an “NL Batting Leaders” card, which is pretty impressive. -- Manny Randhawa

Iconic Rockies card: Dante Bichette, 1996 Upper Deck Collector's Choice
"Bichette Happens." A great T-shirt. But how did the Bichette Happens shirts happen?

"There was a comedian in town using it for his routine," said former Rockies slugger Dante Bichette, who was the inspiration for the shirt. "He was selling them outside the ballpark and I took some pictures with him and got some shirts."

Bichette just happened to be wearing one of these awesome shirts when Upper Deck came by Coors Field for a 1996 Collector's Choice photo shoot. And the rest is history -- an iconic card was born, one Rockies fans have become very fond of since it was issued 25 years ago.

Bichette and his incredible 1995 season at the plate formed the inspiration for the shirts printed up by Chip Chinery, and it was only a matter of time before some of them got to the man himself. Just how good was Bichette in '95? He not only hit a walk-off home run in the 14th inning of the first game ever played at Coors Field, but went on to lead the Majors with 197 hits and 128 RBIs while leading the National League with 40 homers, a .620 slugging percentage and 359 total bases.

Despite leading the league in so many offensive categories, Bichette finished second in NL MVP Award voting in 1995. He may not have been awarded MVP honors that year, but his Upper Deck Collector's Choice card from the next year is certainly MVP worthy in our hearts.

As NL pitchers knew all too well in 1995, long before the T-shirts were printed up, Bichette happens.

Bryn Smith, 1993 Upper Deck

Smith spent the final season of his 13-year career with the Rockies during Colorado’s inaugural 1993 season and recorded an 8.49 ERA over 29 2/3 innings. It was a rather rough ending for a pitcher who had a solid arm (lifetime 3.53 ERA) for much of the 1980s, but hey, at least he got this sweet card out of it.

How many pitchers, or position players for that matter, have a card showing them fielding a ground ball through their legs? -- Thomas Harrigan

Andres Galarraga, 1996 Upper Deck Checklist

Checklist cards can be pretty great, and this one for the 1996 Rockies gives us a fantastic factoid about the "Big Cat:" He hit three home runs in three straight innings against the Padres in San Diego on June 25, 1995, setting a Major League record.

Galarraga is one of the most beloved former Rockies, with his thousand-watt smile and cat-like reflexes at first base making him an instant fan favorite when the Rockies were born in the early 1990s.

1990s throwback card: Larry Walker, 1998 Fleer Metal Universe

Fleer’s Metal Universe line was a unique experience. Introduced in 1996, the set featured foil cards that incorporated fantasy and outer space elements

The 1998 set differed in that most cards included real-world scenery from the city or state the player represented. However, there also was a 15-card Hardball Galaxy subset with caricature cards depicting each player as a fictional superhero and highlighting a “superpower” that was based on their actual on-field talents. The cards were illustrated by graphic artist Dan Lawlis, who worked for Marvel at the time.

This is Walker’s card from that set, showing the Rockies right fielder hurling a baseball so fast that he has created a flame trail behind it. We also love the description on the back of the card: “The Government is very aware of the rocket launcher that resides in right field in Denver. One of the most dominating outfield arms in the majors, baserunners know they are in trouble when they see Walker wind up and a colorful flame trail, otherwise known as the baseball, heads towards the base of their choice.”

Walker played like a real-life superhero the season before these cards were released, winning the 1997 NL MVP Award after hitting .366 with 49 homers, 130 RBIs, 33 steals, 143 runs scored and a 1.172 OPS, not to mention 12 outfield assists. -- Thomas Harrigan

Eric Young, 1995 Donruss

Young is one of the most beloved players in the history of the Rockies franchise. Not only was he the club's first starting second baseman but also hit perhaps the most memorable home run in its history -- he launched a homer in the Rockies' first home at-bat on Opening Day in 1993 at Mile High Stadium.

E.Y. was also known for flying around the bases, and this was never more evident than when his helmet flew off as he tried to stretch a double into a triple or score on a close play at the plate. That's what we have with this card, showing Young blazing on the base paths.

The card is beautifully designed -- the 1995 Donruss set featured an action shot of the player with a headshot in the top-left corner, a perfect way to capture the essence of Young's game. And an autograph is always nice. -- Manny Randhawa

Justin Morneau, 2014 Topps Update
It's difficult to picture in anything other than a Twins uniform. And then you remember that not only did he play for the Rockies, he won a batting title with them.

Morneau signed with Colorado entering the 2014 season and promptly hit .319 to lead the National League. He played only two seasons and hit 20 home runs with the Rockies -- nothing compared to his 11 years, 221 homers and four All-Star seasons in Minnesota -- but he was still plenty good in Colorado.

And what's really good is the photo on this Morneau Rockies baseball card. It captures the lefty slugger in a high one-handed follow-through on his swing, the bat twirling behind his head.

Larry Walker, 1998 Pinnacle
participated in the Home Run Derby three times, and he came closest to winning at the ‘97 Derby in Cleveland. While Walker lost to Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez in the finals, he actually led all players with 19 homers.

The following year, Pinnacle had a subset of 10 cards featuring every player who participated in that Derby, including Walker. Each card shows an image of the player from the Derby with Cleveland’s park in the background. The subset is titled “Goin’ Jake” after Jacobs Field, the name of Cleveland’s ballpark before it became Progressive Field.

It's different than any other Walker card you're going to find, with the Hall of Fame slugger sporting a National League All-Star jersey rather than a Rox uni. -- Thomas Harrigan