1989 Topps At A Crossroads

This year, Topps got me thinking about 1989.

Seeing how this year’s die-cut minis and Archives set took some annoying liberties with the original design, it got me to look at the originals with fresh eyes.
1989 Topps Wade Boggs

…And those fresh eyes said “This set is really nothing special.”

No offense to those of you who grew up with 1989 Topps, and for whom this set holds a special place in their hearts.  Believe me, I know how that goes.  1974 will always be MY set, just like Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor will always be MY Doctor.

But I was in my mid-20’s in 1989, so my heart had long since been given away to another Topps set.  I collected the Topps set because it was Topps… but out of the five main sets that came out that year, I’d have to rank Topps in 3rd place.

…And the 1989 set you’re probably thinking of is not in the top 2.

What the heck, I may as well run down the rankings from 5 to 1. (And part of me wants to shout out “It’s Funny Five Time!”, except this top 5 was not voted on by Dementions and Dementites from coast to coast, border to border…)

Number Five…

In 5th place is the set that makes me want to listen to live Johny Cash albums or rattle a tin cup against steel bars… 1989 Fleer!
1989 Fleer Carl Nichols

For most of the 1980’s, I was a Fleer guy.  I appreciated that Fleer seemed to understand that baseball cards are supposed to be fun.  88F wasn’t a favorite, but I still got a factory set.  1989 Fleer was the first Fleer set where I said “Ehhhhrrrrrrrr… No thanks.”

Number Four…

#4 is the set I’m sure many of you were thinking I’d rank #1:  Upper Deck.
1989 UD Gregg Jefferies
This set was not aimed at me in the slightest.  Sure, the cards were head and shoulders above the competition in terms of printing quality and other factors, but they were far more expensive than anything else on the market.  The “Return On Investment” just wasn’t there for me.  It  may have been a nice set, but it was way too serious of a set.

Number Three…

The #3 set is, as I mentioned, 1989 Topps.

1989 Topps Kirk McCaskill

Number Two…
#2 is 1989 Score.
1989 Score Ron Darling
It wasn’t as nice of a design as their debut set, but I still liked it plenty.  For a novel change of pace, they actually got the team name on the front.

Number One…

I think that 1989 is the only year in the history of baseball cards where I could say that Donruss was my favorite set.
1989 Donruss Jamie Moyer
I’m not entirely sure why, to be honest.  It’s got the usual thin Donruss cardboard and the photos are printed kind of dark and a bit blurry, but something about it just strikes a chord with me.  Simple, yet colorful.


I’ve strayed off of my original topic, which is 1989 Topps being at a crossroads.  For years I intended to collect as many Topps sets as I could, but that goal is several years gone.  For now, I do have a long-term goal of completing at least one set from each year starting with 1973, but as I’ve mentioned, there are two sets in line ahead of 89T.

To be honest, there’s one little detail that keeps me from just going ahead and purging the set and being done with it… and that’s the fact that I have 774 cards from this set.  Yes, that’s right, I’m 18 cards away from completing it.

To be honest, though, completing this set wouldn’t really feel like an achievement for me.  I think that completing it would be a mild relief with regards to one fewer set to keep track of.  I can also accomplish that same relief by getting the one or two cards I would really want from the remaining 18, declaring the set a “TKO” and then going back and dumping all the Dale Mahorcic and Don Heinkel cards that do nothing beyond take up space in a monster box.

It’s a tough choice, but to get my collection to the size I’d like it to be, I’m going to have to make these tough choices…


I’ll be frank about this, I’ve been waffling on this for a couple of weeks now.

I also haven’t sat down with the set and gone through it… Maybe I’m forgetting something or missing something about the set that would make it worthwhile to keep.

…Or maybe it’s the prototypical junk wax era set that I could replace for $5 if I ever changed my mind.

Does anybody want to make an impassioned plea for or against 1989 Topps?

The Unfortunate Boomer And Other Hostess Airbrushings

In a post last week I was singing the praises of the airbrushing job done on this 1977 O-Pee-Chee card:
1977 OPC George Scott

Yesterday I was poking through my folders of scans and I ran across the “What could’ve been” example in my Hostess folder.  As good as the airbrushing on that OPC was, that’s how… um… not good the airbrushing on this 1977 Hostess was:

1977 Hostess George Scott

Same year, same traded player, very different results.

…And if you were wondering why I’m featuring this card now instead of a few days ago when I featured the OPC card, I’ll just say “That’s part of the stream-of-consciousnness fun you get with The Shlabotnik Report!”

….Which sounds better than “I’m somewhat disorganized and always writing posts at the last minute!”

To continue the theme of “Airbrushings one might not include in one’s portfolio”, let’s move on to this 1975 Tug McGraw.  The logo isn’t bad, but the perspective is wrong, the shade of red is wrong, the lack of pinstripes is wrong…

1975 Hostess Tug McGraw

The Mets traded Tug to the Phillies in December, 1974 for… you know what, we’re not going to talk about that right now… (Full disclosure:  I’m a Mets fan)

Continuing with 1975, here’s another one where the logo seems to “float” over the cap…

1975 Hostess Bobby Murcer

As an up-and-coming young player, Murcer had been touted as the “Next Mickey Mantle”, and while he was a fine player, nobody should be labeled as the “Next” anybody.  The Yankees traded Murcer to the Giants for Bobby Bonds in October, 1974.

On this 1978 Hostess card, Bruce Bochte has the look of a man who knows his uniform is going to be poorly airbrushed…

1978 Hostess Bruce Bochte

No trades were involved this time, Bochte had signed with the Mariners as a free agent.

1976 SSPC #2 – Tom House (Braves / Red Sox)

1976 SSPC #2 Tom House

Tom House… was a relief pitcher for 8 years in the majors, but that’s the least of what he’s known for. On April 8, 1974, House was in the bullpen and caught Hank Aaron’s 715th home run. After his pitching career, House was the pitching coach for the Texas Rangers and introduced some unconventional techniques, including having pitchers throw a football as a drill.  Whenever you see a junk wax era card of Rangers pitchers throwing a football, that’s Tom House behind that.

He continues to work with pitchers as well as some big-name quarterbacks.

As a left-handed reliever, House pitched for the Braves, Red Sox and Mariners, going 29-23 with 33 saves and a 3.79 ERA

In 1976, Tom House… pitched for the Red Sox after having been traded straight-up for Rogelio Moret.  He made 36 appearances and finished with a 4.33 ERA and a 1.328 WHIP.

Shea-o-meter: Many of the photos in 1976 SSPC were taken in Shea Stadium; Every team came through Shea because the Yankees were temporarily playing in Shea while Yankee Stadium was being renovated. “Can two Major League teams share a ballpark without driving each other crazy?”

This photo was taken in Shea, near the 1st base dugout
Shea: 43
Pretty sure it’s Shea: 7
Can’t tell: 10
Not Shea: 6

SSPC vs. Topps: Tom House appeared in the 1976 Topps set as a Brave, and was airbrushed into an iridescent Red Sox cap for the Traded set.

1976 SSPC #2 Tom House back

Beautifully Poor – 1959 Topps “Danny’s All-Stars”

I was going through a dealer’s bargain bin at a show not too long ago, when I ran across this card from 1959 Topps:
1959 Topps Danny's All Stars

This card seemed to be in pretty nice condition for a bargain bin, not to mention that it featured Ted Kluszewski as well as original Met Frank Thomas. I turned it over to see what might’ve been wrong with the back… and that’s when I discovered the result of some child’s boredom:
1959 Topps Danny's All-Stars back
As someone who “double-bags” in 9-pocket sheets, I like vintage cards that have writing on the back, because it brings the price down in a way that I don’t mind… but I have to admit, I kinda liked this piece of original “colored pencil on cardboard” artwork. At least they stayed within the lines.

These two guys weren’t Danny’s All-Stars for very long. Frank Thomas was traded to the Reds before the 1959 season, and Big Klu was traded to the White Sox that August.

Doppelgangers: 1994 Score/Collector’s Choice Greg Myers

For a while in the 1990’s, I had a sort of sub-collection going of cards that featured the same play but different photos. I didn’t stop collecting these types of cards as much as the supply (or my awareness, anyway) dwindled as the number of sets declined.

I’ve been meaning to share some of these pairs for a year or two; Now’s as good a time as any to start with this lovely pair of Greg Myers cards from 1994 Score and 1994 Upper Deck Collector’s Choice:
1994 Greg Myers Score and Collectors Choice
At first glance, it looks like the same photo, but when you look closer you can see that the photos were taken from slightly different angles… but at the same moment.

Despite the way we’ve been conditioned for the past dozen years, this particular #34 with the Red Sox is NOT David Ortiz… rather it’s 3rd baseman Scott Cooper.

I think I figured out which play is involved. Since two different card companies used similar photos in 1994, I feel comfortable in saying that the photo is from 1993. If one looks at day games involving the Angels in Fenway, and then eliminated games where Greg Myers did not play, Scott Cooper didn’t get on base or scored only on home runs, then that leaves Sunday, May 2nd. In the 3rd inning Cooper is on third, John Valentin on 1st and Tony Pena hits into a 5-2 fielder’s choice. Despite the FC, the Red Sox would go on to score 3 runs that inning and won the game 4-3.

Does anybody know of any other “doppelgangers” like these?
I’ve got a few more pairs to feature, but I’m sure there are more out there than the ones I’ve stumbled across. Please let me know, and I’ll add them to my collection and feature them here.

Stuff I Like: 1974 Topps Fran Healy

I like this card for a bunch of reasons:

1974 Fran Healy

It’s a horizontal 1974 card.

It’s a cool action shot.

Thurman Munson is the player sliding home while Healy waits for the throw.

Fran Healy would back up Thurman Munson in 1976 and 1977, and for one game in 1978.

Other Fran Healy tidbits:

After retiring in 1978, he would be a Yankees broadcaster through 1981.

His middle name is Xavier.

He was the 28th player taken by the Royals in the 1968 Expansion Draft.

His uncle, Francis Healy, who was also a catcher and also born in Holyoke, MA, played with the NY Giants and Cardinals.  Both Francis and Fran were on World Championship teams (1934 “Gas House Gang” Cardinals, 1977 Yankees) but neither made an appearance in the World Series.

There’s yet another Fran Healy who is the lead singer and songwriter for the Scottish band Travis.

Contrast And Compare: 1977 OPC/Topps George Scott And Cecil Cooper

Of all the photo differences between 1977 Topps and O-Pee-Chee baseball, this is one of my favorites just because of the attention to detail by the airbrush artist.

First we have the Topps George Scott.  “Boomer” came up with the Red Sox but was part of a 10-player trade after the 1971 season.  Scott would play with the Brewers from 1972 to 1976
1977 Topps George Scott

In December, 1976, George Scott and Bernie Carbo were traded to the Red Sox for Cecil Cooper. I think everybody should take a moment to appreciate this impressive airbrush job.
1977 OPC George Scott
Not only does the Red Sox logo actually look like a Red Sox logo, but the artist attempted to duplicate the glare on the helmet and – this is the part that really gets me – also the reflection of the logo on the brim of the helmet. That is the kind of detail you don’t often see on Topps airbrushings.

I should also mention that a powder-blue Brewers road jersey was converted to a white Red Sox home jersey. Despite everything going on, it doesn’t scream “AIRBRUSHING!!!!”

..and as long as I’m pointing out every little detail, the signature on the Brewers card is laid out vertically (first over last name), while the Red Sox card signature is horizontal.

Ah, the heck with it, as long as I’m at it, I may as well share the other end of this deal. Here’s Cecil Cooper with the Red Sox…
1977 Topps Cecil Cooper

…and here he is airbrushed as a Brewer. Not as good of a job, but still nothing to be ashamed of.
1977 OPC Cecil Cooper

This trade worked out better for the Brewers, as Cecil Cooper would play 11 years for the Brew Crew, make the All-Star team five times, win three Silver Sluggers and two Gold Gloves, and twice lead the AL in RBI.