Archives Challenge Weekend: 1953 Topps And Another 86T

As I mentioned Saturday and yesterday, Topps Archives hits the shelves this coming week and I thought it would be fun to pick current players from the checklist (at least two for each design), make my own customs and hopefully when you’re opening packs of Archives you’ll pull certain cards and think “Shlabotnik did it better”.

Making customs of 1953 Topps is not something I’m tremendously confident about, in that I’m not as familiar with it as I am with sets from the 1960’s on, especially 1970’s and 1980’s.

To illustrate my point, I’m going to show you my entire collection of 1953 Topps cards:
1953 Topps Dom DiMaggio
Yep, that’s it. I actually have more 1953 Red Man cards than I have 1953 Topps and I’m not entirely sure how that came to be (other than I’ve always preferred the sets from the 1960’s forward… not completely shocking given that I grew up a Mets fan and my team didn’t exist in the 1950’s).

I’m a little afraid that I’ve missed some sort of detail running through the 1953 set, but I’ll lay my cards on the table (so to speak) and tell you what I do know about the “visual language” of 1953 Topps. I know that American League teams are represented by red boxes and National League by black. I know that, because of the way the cards were arranged on the printing sheet, you’ll have the colored boxes on the left and on the right (and I’m thinking as many of one as the other). Much (but not all) of the set is made up of close-up portraits, so that’s what I focused on for my customs.

Anyway, enough of my semi-educated nonsense. Let’s get on to the customs, after this short disclaimer for people who don’t read the first couple of paragraphs:



Manny Machado is card 53T-3 in my TSRchives set, and he’s #30 in 2016 Topps Archives
2016 TSRchives 53T-3 Manny Machado

Topps is clearly not going to use paintings instead of photos, and I don’t think anyone would fault them for that. Well, OK, some people might fault them for that, but I won’t. One thing about the paintings, though… The artist can select what kind of background the image has.

Well, I decided from the start that I would do something similar, so all of these customs have a background image that’s different from what the player was originally depicted in front of.

BTW, I think that if I were 100% true to the original set, Manny’s position should’ve been spelled out as “third base” rather than “3rd base”.

Josh Harrison is card 53T-4 in my TSRchives set, and he’s #91 in 2016 Topps Archives
2016 TSRchives 53T-4 Josh Harrison

Some ballparks just beg to be used as background in cards, and Pittsburgh’s PNC Park is one of them.  Actually, Baltimore’s Camden Yards is another one, but I’ve had that shot of the Orioles’ dugout that I’ve been dying to use, so no warehouse on Machado’s card.

Masahiro Tanaka is card 53T-5 in my TSRchives set, and he’s #99 in 2016 Topps Archives
2016 TSRchives 53T-5 Masahiro Tanaka

As much as I hate the Yankees, I love to see pictures of the original Yankee Stadium.  Failing that, I enjoy cards which feature the replicated frieze in Yankee Stadium Mark III.  There ought to be federal legislation introduced to force Topps to include the frieze in the background of a certain percentage of Yankees cards each year.

I went to the renovated Yankee Stadium several times in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, and after I got older and learned how much different the original one was, I feel a little cheated that I didn’t truly get to see “The House That Ruth Built”, but rather “The House That Was Renovated By People With Such 1970’s Style That They Probably Had Avocado-Colored Appliances At Home”.

David Wright is card 53T-6 in my TSRchives set, and he’s #43 in 2016 Topps Archives
2016 TSRchives 53T-6 David Wright
David Wright’s custom is the only one (so far) that didn’t use a “Photo Day” image for the portrait part. For some reason, many of the Mets’ Photo Day portraits were taken in front of this blue textured background that absolutely confounds all of my favorite Paint Shop Pro tools, so I instead used a nice shot of Wright from a recent day he spent sitting out a game.

I gave some thought to removing the Pepsi sign that dates the background image (Pepsi no longer sponsors the Mets), but I decided to leave it because it’s still a cool-looking sign.

Bonus custom #1:

Speaking of the Mets…

The Mets are celebrating a “1986 Weekend” to honor the 1986 World Champion Mets, and I thought it appropriate to add 1986 Topps customs to my weekend of Archives customs.

2016 TSRchives 86T-6 Bartolo Colon

Bartolo Colon pitched pretty well last night and made a nice catch of a come-backer, Clayton Kershaw pitched better, both got no-decisions.  Note to Terry Collins… I don’t get to see the Mets play every day, so take my opinion with a grain of salt, but… it seems to me that Jeurys Familia doesn’t pitch well in non-save situations.



Archives Challenge Weekend: 1991 Topps And Other Customs

As I mentioned yesterday, Topps Archives hits the shelves this coming week and I thought it would be fun to pick current players from the checklist (at least two for each design), make my own customs and hopefully when we’re able to compare my customs to the actual Archives cards, I’ll be the one dropping the mic.

Again with the disclaimer for people who don’t read the opening paragraph…



Adam Jones is card 91T-4 in my TSRchives set, but he’s #214 in 2016 Topps Archives. The font I’m using for the player name & position isn’t quite right, but (sob story ensues) I don’t have the resources that Topps has, I’m just a poor, amateur custom card guy. (boo hoo)
2016 TSRchives 91T-4 Adam Jones

When I made my first batch of 1991 customs, I forgot to replicate an important part of the 1991 “design language” – I neglected to have part of the player’s body overlap the borders (at least the inner border). I will direct your attention to Adam Jones’ glove and (just barely) right hand. That first batch of customs got scrapped and redone before I shared them back in March.  I’ll bet a pack of 2013 Panini Triple Play that Topps won’t get this detail right in Archives.

Anthony Rendon is card 91T-5 in my TSRchives set, but he’s #290 in 2016 Topps Archives.
2016 TSRchives 91T-5 Anthony Rendon
One of the reasons I did a Rendon custom was because I wanted to use the Expos color scheme while using the Nationals’ wordmark. I put a fair amount of work into making this template and I want to make it clear that it’s almost entirely recreated and not just borrowing elements from the original cards.  I did use parts of the originals for the logo in the upper left hand corner, but that’s it.  Everything else was redone.

By the way, Topps uses the 1991 design for cards #201 – 300 in the upcoming Archives set, and from the presale material it looks like the wrapper will be based on the 1979 Topps wrapper:

1979 O-Pee-Chee Baseball wrapper

…This is the O-Pee-Chee version, but close enough.

I will be back tomorrow with some 1953 Customs; The 1953 design is used for cards #1 – 100 in 2016 Topps Archives.

I’m still working on my 1953 customs, so if you want me to tackle a particular card, let me know and I’ll do what I can… but please, keep it to current players who are on the checklist from cards 1 to 100 (But if you ask nicely and if I have time, I might fulfill your request anyway).

Bonus custom #1:

I’m going to give you a parallel that Topps does not: Here’s the “1991 Cracker Jack” version of my Adam Jones card.
2016 TSRchives 91T-4 Adam Jones Cracker Jack

Bonus custom #2:

The Athletics’ Khris Davis is not on the 2016 Archives checklist, but Gary from Coco Crisp’s Afro asked me nicely, so I created a 1991 custom for him.
2016 TSRchives 91T-6 Khris Davis

Bonus custom #3:

The Mets are celebrating a “1986 Weekend” to honor the 1986 World Champion Mets, and I thought it appropriate to add 1986 Topps customs to my weekend of Archives customs.

2016 TSRchives 86T-5 Asdrubal Cabrera

Cabrera didn’t do anything of note in last night’s ugly loss to the Dodgers, but it was the best photo available for a player I hadn’t yet given the 1986 treatment.

Archives Challenge Weekend: 1979 Topps And Other Customs

Topps Archives is out this coming week, which means that it will be the 9th product this year that we can all agree is better than Topps flagship. It also means that I’ll make a trip to Target every day or two until I find some packs.  (“Holy crap, I’m out of… um… plastic forks!  Yeah!  Need ‘em real bad”)

This year’s Archives set is primarily based on Topps designs from 1953, 1979 and 1991, and the checklist has been released… which means I also have one last opportunity to attempt to out-do Topps with my own TSRchives customs.

I thought it would be fun to pick current players from the checklist (at least two for each design), make my own customs using my homemade – excuse me, *artisan* – templates, put them out here and later on, once Archives comes out, see whether a self-taught amateur with 10-year-old software can out-Archive the people who do this for a living.

By the way, I’ve done two similar posts before (here and here), but they were done before Topps published the 2016 Archives checklist. I thought it would be fun to challenge them head-on, card by card.

OK, disclaimer time for the short attention span people who didn’t read the lead-in…



And on with the show…

David Ortiz is card 79T-2 in my TSRchives set, but he’s #125 in 2016 Topps Archives.
2016 TSRchives 79T-2 David Ortiz

By the way, I tried to select photos which I felt were at least somewhat 1979-like.

Also by the way, the 1979 design is used for cards #101 – 200 in 2016 Topps Archives.

Felix Hernandez is 79T-5 in my set, #145 in 2016 Topps Archives.
2016 TSRchives 79T-5 Felix Hernandez

I stand by my comments in the earlier posts that 1979 Topps is one of the easiest Topps sets to replicate, and I will be merciless with Topps if they screw it up.

Jay Bruce is 79T-4 in my set, #121 in 2016 Topps Archives.
2016 TSRchives 79T-4 Jay Bruce

I will be back tomorrow with some 1991 Customs;  The 1991 design is used for cards #201 – 300 in 2016 Topps Archives.  I’ll wrap it up with 1953 on Monday.

By the way, I haven’t actually made the customs for the next two posts yet, so if you are one of the three people reading this on a holiday weekend and want me to tackle a particular card, let me know and I’ll do what I can… but please, keep it to current players who are on the checklist, and using the design listed on the checklist (But if you ask nicely and if I have time, I might fulfill your request anyway).

Bonus custom #1:

As it turns out, one of the cards I did for a previous post corresponds to the actual Topps checklist, so I’ll include it here and point out that this is not a new custom:

2016 TSR 79T Max Kepler
Kepler is #105 in 2016 Topps Archives. Obviously, their card will have a “Rookie Card” logo on it.

Bonus custom #2:

The Mets are celebrating a “1986 Weekend” to honor the 1986 World Champion Mets, and I thought it appropriate to add 1986 Topps customs to my weekend of Archives customs.

So even though I don’t believe there are any 1986 cards in 2016 Topps Archives, here’s a card of Curtis Granderson as he trots around the bases after his walk-off homer against the Dodgers last night.

2016 TSRchives 86T-4 Curtis Granderson

Granderson gets uni-points for making an effort to align his jersey stripes with his pants’ stripes, as well as going high-cuffed (although it would obviously be better with stirrups rather than solid blue socks).


Shlabotnik Quality Assortment For May 27

In true “Shlabotnik Quality Assortment” style, today’s four cards are largely arbitrarily selected.

I’m too early for Canada Day (July 1st) but it’s never too early for an awesome 1963 Post CFL card:
1963 Post CFL Leo Lewis
Before I found this card I didn’t even know there was such a thing as Post CFL cards… Just goes to show it pays to broaden one’s search every now and again.

Leo Lewis was named one of the All-Time Top 50 Canadian Football League players, and former Vikings and Winnipeg Blue Bombers coach Bud Grant once said that Lewis was the greatest player he’d coached in either league.  His 8,861 career yards stood as a team record for over 40 years.  Lewis won four Grey Cups (CFL Championships) with Winnipeg, is a member of the Canadian Football Hall Of Fame, the Blue Bombers HOF and the Manitoba HOF.

I scanned and uploaded this Ichiro card several years ago, and ever since then it’s been an image in search of a post. I got tired of looking at it in my “Unused images” draft, so here it is.

I love this card, but could never think of anything to say about it that would match the card itself, so feel free to add your own comment.

1981 Donruss was very much a slapdash “We just need to get this out on the shelves” kind of set, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t nice cards in the set.  I particularly like this one:
1981 Donruss Luis Tiant
Nice 81D cards may be few and far between, and they might bring to mind certain sayings about blind squirrels, but they do exist.

…And finally…

I felt like I needed a fourth card for this post, and there was this Roberto Clemente image just floating around, so…

1968 Topps Game Roberto Clemente

Off the top of my head, I think this is one of just four vintage Clemente cards I own… and only one of them (1973) is a traditional base card.  The remaining two are 1964 Topps “Giant” and 1972 Topps “In Action”.

Confessions, Part 1:  I have never seen “Top Gun”.  (Full disclosure:  I am an American male who was 20 years old when it was released 30 years ago.  In other words, I have no excuse).

Forgotten Franchises: The ABA’s Spirits Of St. Louis

It’s been a while since my last “Forgotten Franchises” post, but this one took a while to get all my notes organized, because there was a lot of stuff going on off the hardwood for this former ABA franchise.

Spirits Of St Louis logo

The Spirits Of St. Louis was (or maybe wasn’t) the final incarnation of a franchise that spanned the entire history of the ABA. The team started as the Houston Mavericks, spent a few years as the Carolina Cougars (a regional franchise that was based out of Greensboro, NC) and then became the Spirits… At least technically. As Cougars coach Larry Brown and most of the roster went elsewhere, there are some who regard the Spirits as an expansion team.

However you want to regard the Spirits, they brought basketball to St. Louis for the first time since 1968, when the St. Louis Hawks moved to Atlanta.  The team name comes from “The Spirit Of St. Louis”, the airplane that Charles Lindbergh used to make the first non-stop trans-Atlantic flight in 1927. That original airplane is preserved in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

In their first season, the Spirits went 32-52 but finished third and made the playoffs.  After upsetting the 58-26 New York Nets in the Semis, they lost in 5 games to the Kentucky Colonels in the Eastern Division Finals.  In their second and final season, they improved to 35-49 but missed the playoffs.

Notable players included Marvin Barnes, M.L. Carr, Caldwell Jones, Maurice Lucas, Moses Malone (who was purchased from the Utah Stars after that franchise folded) and Steve “Snapper” Jones.
1975-76 Topps Basketball Steve Jones
Steve Jones played 8 years in 7 cities during his ABA career, and capped it off with a year with the Portland Trail Blazers. He was a three-time ABA All-Star and has worked as a broadcaster on Blazer’s games and on NBA TV.

There’s another notable name associated with the Spirits, one who never set foot on the court or touched the ball.  For the team’s first season, the play-by-play announcer was a 22-year-old who dropped out of Syracuse University to take the job.  That college dropout was Bob Costas.

After the Spirits’ second season, the ABA merged with the NBA.  When the merger came, the Nets, Spurs, Pacers and Nuggets went to the NBA and the other two remaining ABA teams, the Spirits and Kentucky Colonels, were bought out.  However, the way that the Spirits were bought out would have a long-lasting effect on the NBA and especially on Spirits owners Daniel and Ozzie Silna.

Instead of getting a $3 Million buyout like the Colonels did, they negotiated a $2 Million sum, plus a percentage of the TV revenue for the four teams that did go to the NBA… In perpetuity.  As TV revenue grew in importance for the NBA and all sports, this became a tremendously valuable buyout.  The resulting revenue stream amounted to $300 Million as of 2014, and then they got another $500 Million from the NBA to buy them out of the contract.  Talk about having a long-lasting impact on the sport…



Kiss The Binghamton Mets Goodbye… In A Way I Hadn’t Expected

For the past 25 years, the Mets’ AA team has called Binghamton, NY its home.  Over the past 10 or so years, and despite winning a league championship in 2014, the Binghamton Mets’ attendance has been declining, often ending up down at or near the bottom of the Eastern League in average attendance.

Because of that, I wasn’t surprised early in 2014 when rumors surfaced that a deal had been worked out to move the franchise to Wilmington, Delaware (as well as moving the A-ball Wilmington Blue Rocks to Kinston, NC).  At the time I would’ve bet you a blaster or two that the Mets AA team would be in Delaware for 2016.  Without getting into the legal details, the deal fell through.
1992 UD Minors Bobby Jones
The B-Mets did eventually get sold to another group whoare working to making baseball succeed in Binghamton.  Even though the player development agreement with the Mets has been extended through the 2020 season, the team wants to jettison the “Mets” name for something with more local significance.  As the old ownership tarnished the team’s reputation by repeatedly denying the team was for sale when it became quite apparent that it was, I can’t blame the new owners for doing everything they can to distance themselves from the prior bunch and get some publicity in the process.
1998 Blueline Binghamton Mets John Gibbons
Now before I get into the six name candidates announced for the team, I want to point out that naming the team has a lot more significance than just what shows up on the scoreboard and the player’s chests.

Merchandising can have a profound effect on a team’s bottom line, especially when the name and/or logo appeal to people outside of the area.  I’ve got an Albuquerque Isotopes shirt and hat, despite the fact that I live 2000 miles from Albuquerque, have never been to New Mexico and have no fondness for the current or prior parent club… I just think it’s an awesome name and logo.
2000 Blueline Binghamton Mets Ty Wigginton

It can also be important to have a team name which appeal to kids (and the parents of kids).  There are a number of youth baseball leagues who use minor league team names and logos because it’s more cost-effective than using the Major League equivalents.  I’ve seen T-Ball players in my area wearing the logos of minor league teams from around the country (Muckdogs, Volcanoes, Sand Gnats, etc.)

Naming a team also has some trademarking challenges.  One of the steps in a “name the team” contest is always checking trademarks to make sure that none get infringed, or even tread somewhat within the vicinity.  I don’t know this for sure, but I would imagine that if one decided to call a minor league the Vikings, you’d get a call from the Minnesota Vikings’ lawyers.  Even if the football team doesn’t have a case, is that a fight you even want to get into?  Again, this is non-legally based conjecture on behalf of a blogger who knows nothing about nothing (and is willing to admit it).

One last factor that I’ll bring up is the promotional aspect… A good branding company and front office can use the team name as a jumping-off point for many things, including ballpark food items, between-innings entertainment, mascot races, and so on.
2002 Choice Binghamton Mets Heath Bell
And with that in mind, here are the six candidates for the name of the Eastern League franchise based in Binghamton:

Bullheads, Gobblers, Rocking Horses, Rumble Ponies, Stud Muffins, Timber Jockeys.

None of them jump out at me, but it seems like every minor league team which has a “name the team” contest goes through something like this… Names are announced, people get apoplectic, things settle down.

A bullhead is a kind of catfish native to the local river…. This is probably the most traditional of the six names, but the owners should take note:  “Bullheads” can easily be changed to “Buttheads”.  Use this name at your own risk.

“Gobblers” is a reference to the turkey hunting which takes place in the area.  The other four names are supposedly derived from the fact that Binghamton is the “Carousel Capital Of The World”, although I haven’t been able to find out what “Stud Muffins” has to do with carousels.  Perhaps one of you fine people can enlighten me.
2002 UD Minor League Jose Reyes
I do have some words of mild reassurance to any B-Mets fans who may be reading this.

First off, anyone who says “We’ll be the laughingstock of the league!” hasn’t been paying attention.  The league has RubberDucks and Flying Squirrels.  The team in Reading, PA has a relatively non-goofy name (Fightin’ Phils) but features an ostrich named Rodrigo in it’s logo.  The rest of the league is not going to be laughing at you.  Your young players are also not going to feel emasculated by a goofy team name;  they’ve already been on or played against other goofy team names at a lower level.  Been there, done that, got the t-shirt (figuratively if not literally).

Some of the media is having fun with the team name candidates, but they’ll move on once they find something else to talk about… in about another 14 minutes.

Also, more likely than not, you’ll get used to whatever name you end up with, and maybe even grow to like it.  A lot depends on what kind of logos and such come afterwards.  Questionable names have been rescued by excellent logos and uniforms.  Conversely, cool names have been sabotaged by awful branding.  Even if you don’t care for the name, any minor league front office worth their weight in Dippin’ Dots will make sure that there is team merchandise that emphasizes Binghamton over the team name.
Jeyrys Familia - Binghamton Mets
As for any New York Mets fans who are concerned about the turn that the AA team is about to make… Admit it, once people have moved on from this story, you’re never going to use the team’s nickname anyway.  You probably already refer to the AAA team as “Vegas”, you’ll keep keep referring to the AA team solely as Binghamton.  You and I never refer to the AAA team as the 51’s, so it really doesn’t matter.

2013 Choice B-Mets Jacob DeGrom

Given the events of the last 18 months, the fans in Binghamton might want to leave well enough alone, but considering the alternatives it’s a win for baseball in the tri-cities.

Shlabot-Notes: We’ve got another new lowest print run for Topps Now: Card #79, Evan Gattis’ 11th inning go-ahead homer, sold only 212 copies, selling slightly less than the previous low of 215 for #67 Chris Ianetta. How low can it go?

2016 TSR – This Pack Was Going To Have A Theme… But It Doesn’t

You don’t need a themed pack anyway, right?

That’s what I thought.

2016 TSR wrapper series one thumb

Sean Manaea is one of two players the A’s got from the Royals for Ben Zobrist last July. His first three MLB starts were a bit… ugly… but he got his first Major League win this past Monday. That’s not why he’s here, though. He’s here because I like the slightly crazed look  he has in this photo I used for his custom.
2016 TSR #10 - Sean Manaea
Supposedly Manaea is called “Baby Giraffe”, but that can’t be right, Brandon Belt is the Baby Giraffe! Only one Baby Giraffe per Bay Area, please.

Martin Prado is among the MLB leaders in batting average… and thanks to Gabriel Iglesias, every time I see his name I think “MarTEEEEEEEEEEN!”
2016 TSR #76 - Martin Prado
It seems like Prado has been around a long time, but he’s only in his 11th season. …”only”…

Time for a TSRchives card! Noah Syndergaard is deep in thought, trying to remember the next time the Mets and Pirates wear their excellent throwbacks.
2016 TSRchives 86T-3 Noah Syndergaard
Note to Noah: Tomorrow, Sunday May 22nd. Look for more of these next weekend.

Jackie Bradley Jr. has achieved something absolutely remarkable.
2016 TSR #77 - Jackie Bradley Jr
I’m not talking about his active 25-game hitting streak or his tied-for-the-MLB-lead 4 triples. I’m talking about the fact that I picked him up off of waivers for my fantasy team over a week ago, and he’s still playing well! Normally being acquired for my team is the kiss of death for hot players.

To say that Pete Mackanin’s Phillies are playing beyond expectations is a mild understatement.
2016 TSR MC-1 Pete Mackanin
They were supposed to be in the depths of the NL East along with the pathetic Braves (good luck, Brian Snitker), but instead are in second place (ahead of the Mets, gosh darnit!) with a 24-18 record despite being outscored 171 to 137. I have yet to see them play, but they seem like a fun team to watch.

One more insert, plus a BONUS insert, freshly created just for this pack! How can you not love that?

Inbee Park took advantage of an off week on the LPGA tour; she made a trip to Seattle, met with fellow South Korean and Seattle Mariner Dae-Ho Lee, and threw out the first pitch before the Mariners game.
2016 TSR CFP-3 Inbee Park
I knew virtually nothing about Park before coming across this image. She’s currently ranked #2 in the world, has 17 career victories, 82 Top 10’s, and a bunch of other impressive-sounding accomplishments that I don’t fully understand because I don’t follow or play golf.

So inspired was I by Ms. Park that I whipped up a new template based on the 1990 Pro Set PGA Tour set.
2016 TSR Faux Set Inbee Park
…And decided that, in the future, any professional athlete who gets featured on one of my “Ceremonial First Pitch” inserts will also get an appropriate custom for their sport.

…And also decided that I need to get some golf cards for my “type” collection,