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Wax Bombers: Phil Hughes

Each week I look back through my baseball card collection for a deep dive on beloved Bombers and past seasons.

  • Player: Phil Hughes
  • Set: 2010 Topps National Chicle
  • Card #: 184
  • Type: Base

Since launching his YouTube channel four months ago, Phil Hughes has become a baseball card-opening demi-god, amassing a following of 22,000+. When you open a $26,000 briefcase of baseball cards, you’re bound to turn some heads. It was only appropriate that I pull a Phil Hughes from the ol’ collection this week and look back at his time in pinstripes.

The Set

One of my favorite parts about Topps is their deep bench of curated designs that they recycle in fresh and dynamic ways. Topps’ Heritage and Archives sets are popular annual offerings, but the company also resurrects non-baseball sets to awesome effect. For their 2018 Throwback Thursday set Topps ran out old designs from 1989 New Kids on the Block, 1954-55 Topps Hockey, 1991 American Gladiators, and 1978 Jaws 2, among many others. 2010 National Chicle is another new spin on an old design.

National Chicle was a gum company out of Cambridge, Mass., that came out with the first football gum cards in 1935. Its distinct Art Deco design and pioneering history continue to make it a sought after set for football card collectors. Topps set out to mimic the style and commissioned 330 paintings of modern and past players. The design, though an interesting concept, fell short in execution. Topps used numerous artists, leading to the lack of a cohesive feel. While some Yankees like Granderson (#110), Mantle (#242), and Ruth (#255) fair well, Pettitte (#32) looks like the product of a promising 11-year-old artist.

But what makes this set truly strange are the short prints on which past stars are reimagined in modern uniforms. Johnny Mize (#289), and Mantle (#293) receive an updated look to odd effect. But Lou Gehrig (#279) is absolutely defiled with an objectively awful card. Add “seeing a soul patch on the Iron Horse” to the list of things I never want to see again. They took the Yankees’ ultimate symbol of class and grace and fitted him out for a Nickleback concert. How dare you, sir!

Phil Hughes’ card might be my favorite Yankee offering in the set. The bold stripes in the background and amazing detail of Hughes mid-pitch give his card a clean, classic feel. Unfortunately, the uneven execution of the artwork and objectionable reimagined stars ensured that National Chicle’s rebirth lasted just one year.

Best from the Back: Roy Hobbs League

The debate surrounding the best baseball film of all time will rage forever, as it should. Bull Durham. Field of Dreams. The Sandlot. Major League. It’s an impossible choice. The Natural is one of my absolute favorites. Roy Hobbs (Redford) looked like a real ballplayer, his team was from NY and wore pinstripes, and he materialized out of thin air and started mashing homers into the lights. Plus, Yankee home runs used to be accented by the movie theme’s crescendo blaring out of the Stadium’s speakers. Hughes’ artist, Chris Felix, played in a Roy Hobbs amateur league for guys over 30. I did not know that was a thing and now it’s all I want to do with my life.

Hughes in 2010

In ’09 Hughes moved to the pen after Chien-Ming Wang came off the DL. Several injuries among the relieving corps moved Hughes into the setup role for Mariano. He performed well, helping the Yankees to the AL East title and eventually the World Series. In ’10 he moved back into the rotation as the fifth starter and had his best season in pinstripes, earning his only All-Star appearance while winning 18 games (4th best in the AL).

He won his first five decisions before losing to the Mets, then won his next five decisions. On April 21 he carried a no-no into the 8th vs. Oakland. In his first postseason start in game 3 of the ALDS, he shut out Minnesota over seven innings to earn the win and help the Yanks sweep the Twins. He did not fare as well in the ALCS, losing twice to Texas as the Yanks dropped the series in six.

Hughes played three more seasons in the Bronx but couldn’t continue his 2010 magic, largely due to repeated stints on the DL. He left for Minnesota in 2014 and wrapped up his career in San Diego in 2018.


In raw (ungraded) condition, this card falls in the $1.00 to $1.75 range in recent eBay sales. There are no recent sales for a graded version.

Notable Yankees in 2010 Topps National Chicle

  • #11 – CC Sabathia
  • #14 – Mariano Rivera
  • #32 – Andy Pettitte
  • #36 Derek Jeter
  • #42 – Robinson Cano
  • #52 – Nick Swisher
  • #64 – Alex Rodriguez
  • #72 – Jorge Posada
  • #107 – Mark Teixeira
  • #110 – Curtis Granderson
  • #184 – Phil Hughes

Bonus Hobby Knowledge: Acetate

Acetate cards are printed on transparent or translucent plastic. They began appearing in the late 1990s as card companies sought to differentiate their offerings with unique products. Topps’ Tek sets from 1998-2000 and the Skybox/Fleer E-X sets were some of the most popular from that era. In 2014, Topps revisited the acetate card with High Tek, a set they’ve put out each year since. Topps has continued to expand its acetate stable with Clearly Authentic autographed sets that utilize old Topps designs to striking effect.

You can follow Dan on Twitter @waxbombers.