Hooray For The Red, White And Blue!

I don’t often do holiday-themed posts, but it just so happens that I have several 1976 Kellogg’s cards and 1976 Hostess cards I’ve been wanting to share, and both have that Bicentennial red, white and blue thing going for it, so I figured “What the heck”.

1976 Hostess Lee May
Lee May had 354 homers and 1244 RBI over his 18 year career… In 1976 he lead the league with 109 RBI.

1976 Hostess Tom Grieve
Tom Grive was the 6th overall pick in the 1966 draft, but never established himself as a regular at any position.  In 1976 he played in 149 games, 96 as a DH.  He’s the father of former Major Leaguers Ben & Tim Grieve.

1976 Kelloggs Eric Soderholm
Eric Soderholm was the Twins starting third baseman in 1974 and 1975, but he missed all of 1976 with a knee injury.  He was the comeback player of the year in 1977, but that was after he’d joined the White Sox as a free agent.

1976 Kelloggs Marty Perez
Marty Perez split the season between the Braves and Giants, playing mostly at 2nd base.  He played for five teams over his career, including a 1-game stint with the Yankees at the beginning of 1977.

1976 Kelloggs Rick Wise
Rick Wise had a 19 win season in 1975 and a 19 loss season in 1978 (with the Indians).  In 1971, while with the Phillies, he hit two homers in the same game that he was no-hitting the Reds. 

1976 Hostess Graig Nettles
Graig Nettles lead the league with 32 homers in 1976, but it was the only year from 1975 to 1980 where Nettles was not an All-Star.  More notably, he’s a Yankee that this Mets fan doesn’t hate.  (Don’t tell anybody).

Ranking 15 Years Of Heritage, Part 3: 9 through 7

For those of you who missed parts 1 and 2 of this series, I’m ranking all 15 Heritage sets from 2001 to 2015, rating them based on a number of factors, including the original design being “Heritaged”, how successful Topps was in replicating the design and feel of the set, and whether the Heritage cards changed my feelings towards the original cards.

Part 1 is here;  Part 2 is here.

For those who didn’t click the links, here’s a list of #15 through #10:
#15 – 2001 Heritage (1952 design)
#14 – 2011 Heritage (1962 design)
#13 – 2009 Heritage (1960 design)
#12 – 2010 Heritage (1961 design)
#11 – 2004 Heritage (1955 design)
#10 – 2006 Heritage (1957 design)

Once more, into the breach…

#9:  2003 Heritage (1954 Design)

It sounds kinda stupid on the surface, and almost a little heretical, but I prefer the blatant “homage” of 2000 Fleer Tradition…

2000 Fleer Tradition Bo Porter

Yes, this is the guy who used to manage the Astros.

…to the legitimacy of 2003 Heritage.
2003 Heritage Pedro Martinez
I suppose that part of that is because 2000 Tradition came first and I really enjoyed it, but when 2003 Heritage came out just a couple of years later, I ended up with sort of a “Meatloaf again?!?” attitude.  Not Topps’ doing, but it still bit them in the butt.

It might also have something to do with the colors.  It’s a little hard for me to say definitively, since I only own two cards from the 1954 set, but some of the Heritage colors seem a bit dull and muted compared to the original (and absolutely dull when compared to 2000 Tradition).  What looks to be pea green in the original is more or less olive drab in Heritage;  what’s a reddish orange in the original is cantaloupe in the Heritage set.

The backs are nicely done and colorful.
2003 Heritage Pedro Martinez back

One thing I didn’t realize about 1954 Topps until 2003 Heritage came out was the fact that the color background goes off the top of the card, and the white border is only along the sides and bottom. It’s a little detail that I kinda like, even if I’m not 100% sure I understand it.

Like it’s two predecessors, 2003 Heritage has no subsets other than the checklist cards which aren’t really part of the set.

How Heritage affected my opinion of the originals:  It wasn’t until a year ago that I said “Hey, I don’t own a single baseball card from 1954, what’s up with that?”  Part of what’s up with that is that I don’t often spend much time hunting for cards from before my Mets existed, but the Heritage set gets a tiny bit of blame for not igniting a fire underneath my butt.

2003 Heritage cards in my collection: 56 cards out of 430 in the set (13%)

#8:  2015 Heritage (1966 Design)

I don’t think there’s any question that this year’s Heritage set suffers from following a set based on the classic 1965 design. It’s not like I don’t care for the 1966 design in use this year, but it still suffers by comparison.

Even so, the design is still one I appreciate in a “Less is more” sort of way.
2015 Heritage Neil Walker

…And I do think that Topps did a decent job of re-creating the original, with some notable exceptions like inexplicably changing the color of the lettering on Cubs cards. They did fine on most of the other teams, and the backs are pretty nicely done …even if the card numbers are a little hard to read, but that’s a mix of the pink being a shade too light and it not being a great idea to begin with.
2015 Heritage Neil Walker back

I think one of the reasons why this year’s Heritage is a little more “meh” than it had to be is because of the photograph selection. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the photographs used are bad, they’re largely fine taken on a case-by-case basis. My problem is that, as a set there’s an awful lot of sameness to it. Candid shots of players, “Photo Day” poses, the occasional standard action shot. Someone in the MLBPA needs to train these guys on how to strike appealingly fake-y baseball poses like this:
1992 Stadium Club Gary Scott
Maybe they should buy a few pizzas and have a “lunch and learn” on the subject.

Team cards were a somewhat controversial subject with this set; The original team cards featued a photo of – imagine that! – the team. This year, they have subsituted generic crowd shots which remind me of the Fleer “NFL In Action” cards of the 1970’s.
2015 Heritage Cardinals Team card

This Cardinals team card has a halfway-decent photo, but several of the others have a shot which is basically just the backs of several players.  If it were something they could get away with, it’d be kind of fun to feature the 5th place teams as dejectedly walking off the field after yet another loss… that’s probably just the downtrodden Mets fan in me doing the talking.

Anyway… If this is the future of Heritage team cards, I’d just as soon they be done away with.  Some of you might be saying that they can’t axe the team cards because they were in the original set.  I say that ship has already sailed… You don’t see any Heritage checklist cards, do you? Huh? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Before I wrap up, I’d like to call attention to this particular card (Wainwright/Kershaw).
2015 Topps Heritage NL Aces
It’s not a tremendously great photograph, but it is a notable 21st century combo card… Both players are more or less facing the camera, and both players were photographed in the same place at the same time.  It’s not two different photos digitally combined into the same image, it’s not a photo of two players who were brought into proximity of one another during the course of a game, these guys are actually together… on purpose.  It happens so infrequently anymore that I felt I had to bring some attention to it.

How Heritage affected my opinion of the originals:  2015 Heritage made me doubt my fondness for 1966 Topps, and that can’t be a good thing. I did go back and spend some quality time with my cards from ’66 and yeah, I still like them.

2015 Heritage cards in my collection:  This is kind of pointless in that the numbers will change as soon as I buy another pack or blaster, but… 121 / 500 (24%)

#7:  2008 Heritage (1959 Design)

For the longest time, I’d never really thought of 1959 Topps as my kind of set… I prefer cards where the photo takes up a larger percentage of the real estate.
2008 Heritage Mike Piazza
By the time 2008 rolled along, I’d gotten into something of a Heritage habit, plus there wasn’t much in terms of non-foil-y, non-glitzy 2008 sets to compete with Heritage. That turned out to be a good thing, because it gave the 2008 Heritage set time to grow on me.  The more packs I bought, the more cards I thumbed through, the more I understood their appeal.

I grew to appreciate the colorful borders, the “friendly” lower case lettering at the top, and the fact that the “spotlight” design necessarily limits the type of photos that Topps could use…  The border draws the attention to the player while only allowing space for a portrait, or maybe a fake swing of the bat.

I like the backs, but I wish I’d scanned a card which had a cartoon.
2008 Heritage Mike Piazza back

Too late, I’m not going back.  You should’ve thought of that before we left the gas station.

The subsets in 2008 Heritage fall into the category of “A little busy for my tastes, but damned if it doesn’t work”.
2008 Heritage Carlos Gonzalez
It would’ve looked a little better if they came up with a fake name that’s longer than “Topps News”… it doesn’t fill up the card as nicely as “Sporting News” did… but that’s a minor quibble.

Take everything I just said about the Rookie Stars subset and apply it to the All-Stars subset.
2008 Heritage Justin Morneau AS

Last-minute update:

I also very nearly forgot to include these, but I like the combo cards in this set, even if they do illustrate the very “Photoshopped together” combo card I was kvetching about above:
2008 Heritage Young-Zimmerman combo

How Heritage affected my opinion of the originals: This is kind of a tricky situation.  I really like the Heritage set quite a bit, but I never went back and bought large quanties of 1959 Topps as a result.  I have just 6 cards from the original.  As with all sets from before 1962, it suffers from not having any Mets to chase and no large wantlist that gets me diving into that section of my favorite “Bargain Bins”, but I also think that this is a case where I like the Heritage set better than the original.  Maybe at my next show, I should go through the 1959’s from my favorite dealers and pick up some Orioles and “Guys who would eventually be Mets” and see if it even things up a bit.

2008 Heritage cards in my collection: 326 / 722 (45.2%)

Coming Attractions

We’re coming down the home stretch, next week will feature #’s 6, 5 and 4.  I’d tease it a bit more than that, but that would require my being able to remember which sets those are.  Don’t remember, I’ve got it written down… somewhere around here…

An Odd Little Set Of 7-Eleven Cards

Several months back I bought a box full of cards which had apparently spent the last 20 years gathering a lovely musty smell in someone’s basement… or basements, because the labeling on the box made it clear that the previous owner had moved at least once.

I’m still working through some of those cards, and I recently came across something interesting from 7-Eleven.

What I found isn’t lenticular Slurpee discs that you’ve probably seen before…
1984 Slurpee John Denny

…or even Slurpee cups.  This isn’t a set sponsored by 7-Eleven, it’s a set featuring the convenience store chain.

I’ll go ahead and throw all the images at you, then I’ll be back with some comments, musings and the like.

There’s a card featuring the exterior of a 7-Eleven store…
7-ELEVEN set_0001

A card featuring a heartwarming scene where a small child makes a donation while mom and the helpful 7-Eleven clerk look on…
7-ELEVEN set_0002
“I was feeling good! I even dropped a sand dollar in the box for Jerry’s Squids…. for the halibut.”

Fresh coffee!
7-ELEVEN set_0003

Clean, well-lit stores!
7-ELEVEN set_0004

All of these cards have identical backs which tout the benefits of working for the 7-Eleven team.
7-ELEVEN set_0005

When I first ran across these cards, a classically-trained British actor in my head proclaimed “What a perfectly odd little set!”  (The accent is important in conveying the bemusement I felt.)

And I use the term “set” loosely, because I have no clue whether this is a full set. The facts are few, the conjecture could fill a room.

These cards came from a box that contained mid-1990’s cards, which would seem to indicate that these cards are also from the mid-1990’s… but that’s a pretty weak evidence.

I have these four distinct, unnumbered cards. That doesn’t mean there aren’t more. They were found together within a box filled with numerous junk wax sets and inserts, and there were no duplicates. That would seem to indicate (that phrase again) that the cards came to the owner all at once.

But as to how the cards were distributed, I can only guess. Were they inserts within packs? Were they given out with card purchases? Sitting on the counter? Free if you provided a SASE?  Available individually or as a set?

Enough of my conjecture. Has anybody seen these before?  I’m pretty curious about these (as if you couldn’t tell).

Blog Bat-Around: My Wacky Regret

This post is part of a “Bat Around” question posed by the esteemed proprietor of the Garvey Cey Russell Lopes blog:

What cards have you owned that you regret are no longer in your collection?

I have to admit, I didn’t think I’d be taking part in this because I couldn’t think of any cards that really were worth writing about. I haven’t done a whole lot of trading or selling, and most of it has been either duplicates or card I had no interest in keeping.

Just as I was about to punt, I thought of another angle on the subject, and then most of this post formed in my head before I had a chance to attempt to write it all down…

Back when I was a kid in the mid 1970’s, there were a lot of different toys and games and collectibles to occupy the youth of America, but there was one thing that united everybody in my school (and many other schools)… It seemed like every kid, boys and girls alike, spent some of their allowances on Topps Wacky Packages stickers, commonly known as “Wacky Packs”.
1979 Topps Wacky Packages Gyppy Pop

For those who aren’t familiar with Wacky Packs, they were stickers that featured parodies of common products of the day… but they weren’t gentle little parodies, they were like Mad Magazine in a pack…. funny, subversive and very nicely illustrated by professional artists.
1970's Topps Wacky Packages_0004

But they were stickers… and if you’re a kid, what do you do with stickers? You stick them on things.  (Joe from 1975 adds “That’s what stickers are for.  Duh.”)

Unlike many of the sticker sets that would follow in later years, there was no such thing as a Wacky Packages album, so we were left to stick them wherever we saw fit.
1970's Topps Wacky Packages_0001
Like many kids, my preferred target for my Wacky Packs was the looseleaf binder I used for school. I eventually had the entire binder, front and back, inside and outside, covered with Wacky Packs. That binder eventually got too beat-up to use, but I hung on to it because, well, it had all my Wacky Packs on it. When it started to fall apart, I kept the two main pieces and I still have them…. somewhere.
1970's Topps Wacky Packages_0003

With the exception of the “Gyppy Pop” which I got late last year, the Wacky Packs I’m sharing here are “doubles” I had… No point in sticking them on my binder when I’ve already got the same one on there, right?

…But if I’d only saved my Wacky Packs like I’d saved all of my baseball and football and hockey cards… or even like I’d hung on to my small assortment of “Welcome Back, Kotter” cards… I’d have a really nice collection enshrined in 9-pocket pages, rather than a pair of battered pieces of a looseleaf binder, lost in a box that’s buried in a closet.

Before I close this out, I’d like to thank GCRL for reviving the Bat-around concept. Back several years ago when bat-arounds were more common, I would always enjoy reading them and I’d think “Man, if I had a blog, I could have a lot of fun with these”…. and because of the way things go, I started my blog too late to participate in one…

…until now. Thank you!

Think Too Much

Sometimes I just work too hard at this stuff…. Ranking, researching, analysis, comparisons, themes…

So I’m just going to throw a bunch of cards at you, generally ones I’ve acquired within the past 9 months or so, and toss in a few comments…. and there’s a song at the end.

Hope you like ’em.

Here’s the 2014 Pro Debut card of the Mets’ more-often-than-not-these-days starting catcher, Kevin Plawecki. There’s been talk that perhaps he, and not Travis d’Arnaud, is the Mets catcher of the future. I guess the brass is getting a good look at him, anyway.
2014 Topps Pro Debut Kevin Plawecki
For what it’s worth, 2015 will be the last year for the Savannah Sand Gnats… The team will be moving to Columbia, SC for 2016 so go out and buy all your Gnat merchandise while you still can!

I got this 1996 UD Collector’s Choice card in a repack and kept it because I just like it…
1996 UD Collector's Choice Andy Benes
Back in 1996, Collector’s Choice did it’s part in restoring my faith in card manufacturers. In 1995, coming off of a labor dispute, baseball manufacturers pulled out all the stops in the name of “LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME!” 1996 CC was a breath of fresh air, just a nice, simply designed set with decent photography.

Bob Tillman grabs a bat or two.
1971 Topps Bob Tillman
The world would be a better place if more baseball card photo sessions started with “Hey, Bob, go in the dugout and grab a bat”.

I really need to keep track of instances where I see a card on a blog that I want to get, because once I get those cards and post them, I want to thank the person who made me aware of it, but by then it’s long forgotten.

So whoever posted this Cal Ripken card – the cartoon on the back is priceless! – Thank you very much.
1994 Stadium Club Dugout Dirt Cal Ripken back

The card has a front as well, but it’s just another card of Cal (1994 Stadium Club Dugout Dirt insert, if you’re keeping score at home).
1994 Stadium Club Dugout Dirt Cal Ripken

A cool card from 1978/79 Topps Hockey.
1978-79 Topps Hockey Dave Forbes
Is the guy on the ice a Cleveland Baron? I think so, but I’m not sure.

1961 Topps Sports Cars. Ten cards in (out of 66) and I still freakin’ love this set.
1961 Topps Sports Cars Jaguar XK-150

I got this Jeff Francouer from the 2012 Sega CARD-GEN set, not so much because of Frenchy, mainly because I felt like I should own at least one of these cards.
2012 Sega CARD-GEN Jeff Francouer
The back is just slightly more cryptic than your typical Japanese baseball card.
2012 Sega CARD-GEN Jeff Francouer back

This is a card I’d shared 2 years ago, but I’m sharing it again because that post is getting a couple of hits in the wake of the Phillies managerial situation.
1977 OPC Pete Mackanin
This is a 1977 O-Pee-Chee card, by the way. The 1977 Topps card used a different photo (and I don’t have a readily-available scan).

Paul Simon’s “Hearts And Bones” album didn’t sell all that well, but it’s been a favorite of mine for many years… and I can identify with the song “Think Too Much”.

2015 TSR: Be vewwy vewwy quiet…

For today’s virtual pack of my TSR custom cards, I wanted to highlight a number of guys who are quietly getting the job done this season and being a league leader.  For the most part, it’s “quiet” because it’s happening in smaller markets…. FOR THE MOST PART (later in this post you’ll realize why this is emphasized).

2015 TSR Series 2 Wrapper

By the way, all stats are as of the morning of Sunday, June 28th, 2015.

Dallas Keuchel leads the Majors in innngs pitched (116.1) and leads the AL in Batting Average Against (.194), On Base Average Against (.249) and Wins Above Replacement (4.1). He’s also tied for the Major League leads in complete games (3) and shutouts (2).
2015 TSR #168 - Dallas Keuchel
I’m happy to say that the Orioles have his number… relatively speaking. In two starts against Baltimore, he’s 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA.

Chris Archer leads the AL in ERA (2.01) and WHIP (0.95).
2015 TSR #163 - Chris Archer

Jason Kipnis leads the Majors with 24 doubles and leads the AL with 100 hits and a 4.7 WAR.
2015 TSR #167 - Jason Kipnis

Who is tied for the Major league lead with 24 saves? These two guys.
2015 TSR #166 - Glen Perkins

2015 TSR #164 - Mark Melancon

Who would you expect to lead the leagues in extra-base hits? Cabrera? Trout? Harper? Stanton? Wrong.

Todd Frazier leads the Majors with 46 extra-base hits (21 2B, 1 3B, 24 HR) and 178 total bases.
2015 TSR #160 - Todd Frazier

Brian Dozier leads the AL with 42 extra-base hits (23 2B, 3 3B, 15 HR).
2015 TSR #161 - Brian Dozier

Gerrit Cole leads the majors in wins and has quietly (at least it seems that way to me) pitched his way to a 11-3 record and a 2.16 ERA.
2015 TSR #165 - Gerrit Cole

Admit it, you’d never heard of Chris Heston before he no-hit the Mets.
2015 TSR #162 - Chris Heston No Hitter

And to wrap up the “quietly getting the job done” theme, we have a guy who certainly would never have qualified for that theme in pretty much any previous year:
2015 TSR #169 - Alex Rodriguez
Sure, he’s operating out of the spotlight because both the Yankees and the media regard him as persona non grata, but he’s been playing well, achieving (tainted) milestones and seemingly keeping a low profile (although that might be the media again). So congratulations, Mr. Rodriguez.  For keeping your head down and your mouth shut and playing baseball, you’ve achieved the status of a non-mocking custom TSR card.

Crimes against baseball
My virtual pack is light on inserts, so I’ll give you a preview of the Draft Picks inserts from the upcoming third series (due in early July).

The Diamondbacks drafted shortstop Dansby Swanson first overall… Swanson played for Vanderbilt… Vanderbilt wore some horrendously fugly alternates in game 1 of the College World Series, and I cannot let them slide.
2015 TSR DP-1 Dansby Swanson
Head-to-toe black is bad enough, but when you add gold pinstripes to an all-black uniform? Yeowch. (And since this middle-aged guy hates the uniform, that probably means that the Vanderbilt players loved them).

Pack Animal: 2015 Stadium Club

True confessions:  I’m not really much of a Stadium Club guy.

I like the cards just fine, but the value’s not there for me.  They cost – what? – a little more than twice as much per card as regular Topps?  The thing is, I don’t like them twice as much.  Sure they’re nice, they often have nice photography and are glossy glossy… but I don’t see them as being twice as nice. As a result, I generally don’t buy many packs.

Let me put it this way… Only once have I ever bought a wax box of Stadium Club.  It was a box of these…

1992 Topps Stadium Club Series 3 Pack

…And I bought it earlier this year.

…For five bucks.

I keep a couple of packs in my car for when I need a pack-bustin’ fix during the work day.

But this week at work has been… Well…. Let’s just say that it’s been a bit short on stimulation and fulfillment.  I needed something a little more exciting than 23-year-old packs… even if those 23-year-old packs contained “SUPER PREMIUM PICTURE CARDS”.

So, off to Target I went.  I bought a repack (which I’ll tell you about in a few days) and I bought this:
2015 Stadium Club pack
What the heck, y’know?  See what the excitement’s about.

It’s a loose pack from Target, I’m sure the pack feelers have already been and gone, but we’ll see what happens.

First card:
2015 Stadium Club Steve Pearce
Sweet!  An Oriole I would’ve been looking for anyway.  Steve Pearce made a nice catch yesterday in Boston, one that clearly irritated David Ortiz (who’d hit the ball).  Anything which annoys Big Papi is worthwhile in my book.

The card design – such as it is – is OK, but it most likely will fail my “can I read it while it’s in a binder?” test.

The backs are pretty nice.
2015 Stadium Club Steve Pearce back

Second card:
2015 Stadium Club Oswaldo Arcia
Oswaldo Arcia does an impression of the Salt Vampire from the original Star Trek.

Third card:

Tanner Ro-ark of the Nationals (at least that’s how the Nats broadcasters say it).
2015 Stadium Club Tanner Roark
Down at the bottom of the card, where they’ve got the photo sort of faded out, it looks sort of like he’s got his pants hiked up and not wearing any socks.

Fourth card:
2015 Stadium Club Justin Morneau
Justin Morneau of the Rockies… something I’m still not quite used to.

Fifth and final card:
2015 Stadium Club George Brett
George Brett, and he’s surrounded by The Ood.  (Hey, as long as I’m making nerdy references…)

…And I’m already done. 

I had more fun with the repack.

Unless one of these cards is a short print, that’s not much return for $3.  And this is why I don’t buy packs of Stadium Club.  But what the heck, it served it’s purpose and gave me a little bit of fun after a less-than-fun day.