Shlabotnik Quality Assortment #2: Baseball Cards Selected By A World-Renowned Expert

You read that right, these cards were selected by a world-renowned expert!  Would you believe it?  World-renowned!

Well, would you believe the cards were selected by a local celebrity?

OK, how about a blogger and two sleeping cats?

Anyway these cards are here for no real reason other than I own them and this post is about them… and that’s why they’re in this post.

I’ve been slowly busting a wax box of 1992 Stadium Club Series 3, and this card is easily my favorite so far…
1992 Stadium Club Jose Rijo
If you lived through the 1990’s, how can you help but love those sunglasses?

A little while ago I found a dealer selling some loose cards from the 1980 Topps “Super” 5×7 set… I do love me some oversized cards, especially when they feature Dave Winfield wearing the brown ‘n gold.
1980 Topps Super Dave Winfield
It doesn’t look oversized in this post, but trust me, it’s four times the size of a standard card.

I got this 1962 Ed Rakow card off of COMC for the sole reason that a)  I didn’t remember having seen this Kansas City A’s road jersey before, and b) it was cheap.
1962 Topps Ed Rakow
The 1962 A’s were a bad team (72-90) and Rakow lead the league with 17 losses… but he also lead the team with 14 wins.  14-17 for a 90-loss team ain’t too shabby.

Oh, and it looks like the road jersey was a design that was limited to 1961… although I guess this could’ve been taking in 1962 spring training.

The other day Shane over at Shoebox Legends was sharing some autographs of less-than-household-name players, which put me in mind of this Mike Birkbeck I got for under a dollar.
1996 Signature Rookies Old Judge Mike Birkbeck
For an unlicensed card, it’s not too bad looking, and I kinda like Mike Birkbeck for some reason.  I should probably mention that this is a 1996 Signature Rookies Old Judge T-96 insert.

This card is actually something of a mini, although it shows up as pretty much the same size as the other cards in this post.

This card is a little washed out in the scan, but you can see quite clearly that it’s a 1981 Coke card, not a 1981 Topps card.  Most of the 1981 Coke cards were pretty much identical to the Topps equivalent (aside from the Coke logo in the corner, of course), but this is not one of those.
1981 Coke Red Sox Frank Tanana
In January, 1981, Frank Tanana, Joe Rudi and a third player were traded by California to Boston for Fred Lynn and Steve Renko, and as a result a Tanana power collector can have a field day with the wide variety of 1981 cards that resulted… There’s the base Topps card which shows him with the Angels; the base O-Pee-Chee card that has the Angels photo with a Red Sox border; this card where he’s photoshopped into a Red Sox cap (and has a mustache) and his Topps Traded card which has him wearing a real Red Sox cap (and without a mustache).

Moving along and wrapping  things up, we’ve got a 1970 Fleer Laughlin World Series card featuring Moose Skowron and the 1963 World Series between da Yanks and da Bums.
1970 Fleer Laughlin World Series 1963
Unlike the other cards, this was not a recent acquisition. I’ve had this card since the 1970’s, but it was one of a number of cards I’d rediscovered after they’d been filed away and their “hiding place” was eventually forgotten over the years.

This is one of the few baseball cards to depict Moose with the Dodgers, especially if you don’t count his 1963 Topps card that says he’s with the Dodgers but shows him capless and in Yankee pinstripes. Skowron was with the Dodgers for just the one year before being sold to the Senators.

…And the 1963 World Series is near and dear to my heart in that it provided us with one of the greatest baseball card “headlines” known to man:
1964 Topps Sealing Yanks Doom
I’ve posted this card before, but “Sealing Yanks’ Doom” just never gets old.

Hot Stove: One Last Box Of Cereal

Hey, everybody… Looks like this is the last time we’ll be having breakfast together on the weekends, at least for a while.

I did get a different cereal to try out this time…
Frank 'N Barry Cereal Box
Unlike the General Mills “Monster Cereals” that get trotted out every once in a while, I can assure you that Frank ‘N Barry cereal tastes the same as it always did!

As for the baseball cards in the box…

I was hoping that the Mets and Orioles would make a big splash in the offseason just so that I could have someone to photoshop into a new uniform… and both teams did make a big splash, but it was by re-signing a player. There’s no need to photoshop Chris Davis or Yoenis Cespedes, everybody knows what they look like in their respective uniforms. I thought about doing Neil Walker, but even though he’ll be important to the Mets in 2016, I wasn’t sure he qualified as quite a big enough of an acquisition to appeal to non-Mets fans… Which is not to say that he may not show up in a different custom soon…

So in absence of photoshopping someone into an Orioles uniform, I photoshopped someone *out* of an Orioles uniform. I never expected Wei-Yin Chen to return to the O’s, but I was thinking he’d end up with the Dodgers or Nationals, I didn’t expect the Marlins.
2015-16 TSR Hot Stove #8 - Wei Yin Chen
I hope he knows what he’s getting in to… Or is satisfied with the 80 million reasons he has to not care. Given the Marlins’ track record, I would not be surprised to see Chen traded or invoking his post-2017 opt-out.

Meanwhile, the Twins took a smaller gamble and signed slugger Byung-Ho Park, who was a two-time MVP in Korea.
2015-16 TSR Hot Stove CFL-2 Byung-Ho Park
I have him listed as a first baseman, but he might end up being a DH; I guess we’ll see.

As with the other customs using the 1965 Topps CFL design, I did not photoshop the image of Byung-Ho Park; this was a promotional picture issued by the team.

So that’s most likely it as far as these two sets go… I have some more off-season customs coming next weekend, but those will be in the 1976 Topps Traded design and will feature simulated airbrushing and goofy faux headlines.

…And won’t come in a box of cereal. You’ll just have to wait until after the 2016 World Series for more of those.

Using MS Office To Convert Topps’ PDF Checklists To More Useful Formats

Now that 2016 Topps baseball has hit the shelves, it seemed like as good a time as any to share some of the various formatting tricks I’ve learned while trying to make use of the information found in the checklists off of the Topps website.

Because I track my collection in an Access database, I’m always looking to get that downloaded checklist information into a format I can upload into my database.  From playing around with these online checklists, I’ve got it down to something of a science.

Some of you might find some or all of these tricks helpful, even if you don’t track your collection the same way I do.

Now bear in mind that this is going to get a little wordy and technical, and what I’m going to tell you is done in Windows 7 with Office 2013.  You may need to make adjustments for your own computer… and the format I use isn’t necessarily what you would want. Nevertheless, I’m sure many of you can leverage what I do and suit it for your own purposes.

OK, first off, Topps’ checklists are on their websites in PDF files.  This gives them a uniform format on the website, but pose some minor challenges.  When you pull up a PDF checklist in your browser, you could just right-click on the checklist, chose “Select All” and then right-click and select “Copy”, but I’ve had mixed results with this method.  If you do get your information this way, I recommend scrolling all the way to the bottom of the PDF so that the entire document is in the browser’s memory (It does seem to make a difference).

What I prefer doing is to download that PDF file to my computer, go to the Downloads folder, open it up (assuming you’ve got some version of Adobe Acrobat or some other PDF viewer installed) and work on it that way.  I get better results, and if I ever want to go back and reference the original, it’s right there on my laptop.

OK, once I’ve got the PDF opened, I do a ctrl-A to select All, and then a ctrl-C to copy.  Now the text of the checklist is in the computer’s clipboard.

At this point, I go to Word and do a Paste/Keep Text Only (how you do this depends on the version of Word you have.  Older versions it’s something like Paste/Special).

At this point, your text looks like this:

13 Drew Hutchison Toronto Blue Jays®
14 Michael Taylor Washington Nationals® Rookie
15 Gregory Polanco Pittsburgh Pirates®

Now the format I need requires a tab between each “data element” in the line – between the card number and player name, between the player and team name, and also between the team name and any Topps notes like “Rookie” for Michael Taylor above. Right now we don’t have tabs, we have spaces.

This is where we use the “Replace” option.  I bring this up by doing Ctrl-H, but it’s also available through menus and the Word “ribbons”.  As with anything computer-y, there are several different ways of doing it.  I’m all about the keyboard shortcuts, so I tend to think of actions that way.

Many of you have probably used Replace to replace one word with another, for example, but how do you do this with non-printing characters like tabs and Paragraph marks?  You can’t just type them in, it doesn’t work that way.  This is where we start to play with Control Codes, which is a sort of Microsoft shorthand for these special characters. These Control Codes all involved the caret character (^), which is the character you get when you hold down shift and hit the number 6 your keyboard. The caret with a lower-case T following it (^t) represents a tab, and the caret with a lower-case p following it (^p) represents a paragraph mark you find at the end of most lines.  Sometimes the way the original document was generated means the line ends with a “new line” mark, which is represented by ^l… that’s a lower-case L, not an upper-case I.

Using “Find And Replace” combined with these control characters will let you do a lot of funky little replaces.

But the thing is, that you don’t want to go ahead and replace all of the spaces with tabs; if you do that, you’ll get a tab between “Michael” and “Taylor” or between “Washington” and “Nationals”.

What you’ll want to do instead is leverage the formatting that Topps uses for these checklists. To get a tab between the player name and the city/team name, you can replace the space before the city name with a tab by doing something like this:

PDF checklist - replace space city with tab city

Now it’s not completely obvious from this image, but in the “Find what” field there’s a space before the word Toronto.

When you click on the Replace All button, it will take all of the instances of a space and Toronto and replace them with a tab and Toronto.  That will put a tab between “Drew Hutchison” and “Toronto Blue Jays” in the line below.
13 Drew Hutchison Toronto Blue Jays®

Since this is tedious to do for every city in MLB, what I’ve done is to set up a Macro – essentially a little computer program – to do this for every city. That way, once I’ve got my checklist pasted into Word, I can just run my “tab-before-city” macro and within a second or two it puts a tab in the document before every city I have set up in the macro (My macro includes every MLB city, plus those from the past and other sports… Brooklyn, Montreal, California, Edmonton, Green Bay, etc.) I’m not going to teach you how to create and run macros – that would make a long post really really long – but I just wanted to point out that this is an option.

OK, so how do you do put a tab after the card number? This time, you take advantage of the fact that the last digit of the card number is followed by a space, so you replace “1 and a space” with “1 and a tab”, “2 and a space” with “2 and a tab” and so on. Again, macros aren’t essential but they make life easier.
PDF checklist - replace 1 space with 1 tab

And again, you can’t see it in the image but the “1” in the “Find What” box above is followed by a space.

If you’re annoyed by the little copyright logos and you don’t need them because you’re using this data for your own private, non-commercial use, here’s another little trick. Select one of the little characters and THEN bring up your “Replace”. Word will assume that the text you have selected is what you want to replace.

PDF checklist - replace copyright

Click on the Replace All button and – POOF!  Goodbye, registered copyright.

By the way, to completely get all of those characters, you’d have to do a similar Replace involving the ™ character.

You might notice that I’m replacing the ® symbol with a tab. Why would I want to do that? Why not just whack the stupid little character and be done with it?

Well, lines like this are why:
14 Michael Taylor Washington Nationals® Rookie

For the Drew Hutchinson line, having a tab at the end doesn’t make much difference, but for the above line, my Replace will get a tab between the team name and “Rookie”… This also works for other little notations Topps makes like “Checklist”, “League Leader”, “Short print” and so on.

After we’re done, we have tabs where we want tabs… Here’s a screen shot where I have the “Show/hide control characters” feature set to “Show”.
PDF checklist - with tabs

We’ve got tabs in there now… So now what?

Well, if we copy the lines with tabs and just paste it right into an Excel spreadsheet… voila!
PDF checklist - Excel spreadsheet
Excel uses tabs as an indication where to break the data into different cells, so we get nicely-formatted spreadsheet!

FYI, Upper Deck and Panini already have their downloads available in an Excel format (XLS).

Having the checklist in a spreadsheet is useful enough as it is, but I also take those spreadsheets and upload them into my Excel database. There’s a pretty decent amount of busywork involved, but the end result is worth it to me.

One more thing… I’ve had checklists, like a Bowman checklist from a year or two ago,  that were formatted in such a way that when I pasted it into a Word document, the information didn’t come out on lines but instead came out with each bit of information on its own line, like this:
Dominic Smith
New York Mets®
Kohl Stewart
Minnesota Twins®

This is where we leverage the ^p Control character, which represents the “Paragraph” mark that usually comes at the end of a line.  (Again, sometimes you’ll have a “new line” character at the end of a line;  in those cases, go with ^l – that’s a lower case L – rather than ^p).

So we replace all of the “paragraph” characters with tabs…

PDF Checklist bowman paragraph to tab

That puts everything on one very long line.  Once again, we leverage the copyright at the end of the line to replace that character and a tab with a paragraph mark.

PDF Checklist copyright tab to paragraph

The end result is this:

PDF checklist bowman final result

…And you know where to take it from here!

BTW, if in this Bowman example you wanted to separate the BDPP prefix from the card number, all you’d need to do is replace BDPP with BDPP^t.

I should point out that even though you’re ready to start attacking PDF documents with this plan of attack, it’s not immune to failure.  Multiple players on one card can cause issues, as can insert cards where the “card number” doesn’t end with digits (TA-AL, BGA-BG, 66B-MS).  My main objective of this post was to get people started down this road, and hopefully you’ve got enough knowledge to sort things out on your own.

Of course, if you have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer them for you!

2016 Topps: Well, That Certainly Simplifies Things

Found 2016 Topps, bought blaster, ripped several packs in my car.

My first card:
2016 Topps Mark Melancon
For the most part, I had been withholding my opinion on the design until I held cardboard in my hands. Now that I’ve seen the cards, I can tell you that I don’t really have an opinion.

…Which is to say that I don’t love this design and I don’t hate this design. There’s really nothing wrong with it, I’m just completely without passion (positive or negative) regarding it… It simply *is* (in the same sense that Mount Everest *is*… or that Alma Cogan *isn’t*) (Been a while since I dropped a fairly obscure Monty Python reference).

2016 Topps Jake deGrom

And, truth be told, I’m fine with that. Going into 2016, I wasn’t sure what course of action I was going to take regarding the new sets. One could make the argument that it would do me well to stop buying cards for a while and just make a major push to organize what I have. The only thing is, I really enjoy busting wax of current players. It’s not even the lottery aspect of it… You can take away the inserts and variations and I’d still enjoy it. The fun of looking at new pictures of current major leagues is what got me into this hobby, I’m not stopping now.

But it certainly wouldn’t hurt to scale back on my buying… and here’s an opportunity served up on a golden platter.

Don’t get me wrong… I will buy more of these. I will buy some Series Two, I’ll probably buy Update.

2016 Topps Darnell Sweeney

…But I will not buy a factory set of this, nor will I even entertain the thought of completing this set.  Team sets? Absolutely. Tracking down certain players? You betcha. Raiding dime boxes? Sure, why not.

…But I’m hereby declaring “Topps Update Rules” to be in effect. I buy packs of Update, but I disregard most, if not all, of the subsets (unless the players on the cards fall into a team or player collection).

To be honest, having Update Rules in effect is kind of liberating. In the absence of any pretense of collecting the set, I can completely ignore 28 of the 30 team cards.
2016 Topps Yankees Team Card

I can also disregard league leader cards…
2016 Topps AL RBI Leaders
…well, OK, not THIS one because it has an Oriole on it… but otherwise, I can disregard them.

The inserts I pulled were largely uninteresting, but I did have comments on two of them…

This MLB Wacky Packages promo is just odd. I don’t know what else to say.
2016 Topps Cardinals Wacky Pack

My blaster came with “one commemorative MLB Debut medallion card”. I generally have little interest in medallion cards or manu-patches, so before I even opened my little one-card pack, I was hoping to pull something that might sell on COMC, or which I could trade to someone.

And then I got screwed up because I happened to pull Cal Ripken…
2016 Topps Debut Medallions Cal Ripken
…And I collect Cal… And Mrs. Shlabotnik (who’s been a fan of Cal since he looked like he does on this card) likes this card, so it looks like this one is going in the Cal binder.

Oh, before I forget… My blaster (which came from Target) included a booklet of coupons for future Topps purchases, and one of the packs included a promo card that also has a coupon on the back for 50 cents off “Select 2016 Topps Products”… so you might not want to automatically pitch those cards.

So, that’s about all I have to say.

And so, in conclusion, I leave you with a question…

When does Heritage come out?

Cards And A Playlist: Don’t… Just Don’t

Today, for no good reason at all, I’m featuring vintage baseball cards combined with songs that have a title beginning with “Don’t”…And the only thing that the cards have to do with the playlist is that I DON’T have anything in particular to say about these cards.

Where there are numerous versions of a given song, the artist listed is my own preference.

(Don’t Fear) The Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult
(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville – R.E.M.
Don’t Ask Me – Joe Jackson (B-side)
Don’t Ask Me Why – Billy Joel
Don’t Be Good – Chantal Kreviazuk
Don’t Be That Way – Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong
Don’t Bother Me – The Beatles
Don’t Bring Me Down – Electric Light Orchestra
Don’t Bring Me Down – Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers (covering The Animals)
1969 Topps Milt Pappas
Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You – Sugarloaf
Don’t Cha Stop – The Cars
Don’t Come The Cowboy With Me, Sonny Jim! – Kirsty MacColl
Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow – Frank Zappa
Don’t Ever Think (Too Much) – The Zutons
Don’t F*** Me up (With Peace and Love) – Cracker
Don’t Get Me Wrong – The Pretenders
Don’t Give Up The Fight – The Magic Numbers
Don’t Go Home – Kirsty MacColl
Don’t Gotta Work It Out – Fitz And The Tantrums
1970 Topps Ken Henderson
Don’t Hang Up – 10cc
Don’t Hang Up – The Orlons
Don’t Hate The Ones Who Bring You Rock And Roll – The Good Rats
Don’t Knock It ‘Til You Try It – The Hooters
Don’t Let It Break You Down – Graham Parker
Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood – The Animals
Don’t Let Me Down – The Beatles
Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me – Elton John
Don’t Let’s Start – They Might Be Giants
Don’t Misunderstand Me – Rossington-Collins Band
1971 Topps Steve Renko
Don’t Panic – Coldplay
Don’t Pass Me By – The Beatles
Don’t Pay The Ferryman – Chris de Burgh
Don’t Set Fire (To The Ones I Love) – Godley And Creme
Don’t Set Me Free – Ray Charles
Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen
Don’t Take My Car Out Tonight – The Hooters
Don’t Talk – 10,000 Maniacs
Don’t Talk (Put You Head On My Shoulders) – Beach Boys
Don’t Touch Me – The Drongos
1972 Topps Jim Hickman
Don’t Try Suicide – Queen
Don’t Try To Explain – Keb’ Mo’
Don’t Walk Away – Zebra
Don’t Wanna Be Like That – Joe Jackson
Don’t Wanna Fight – Alabama Shakes
Don’t Wanna Fight – The Hooters
Don’t Worry About The Government – Talking Heads
Don’t Worry Baby – The Beach Boys
Don’t You Feel Small – The Moody Blues
Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing – Stevie Wonder
1962 Topps Felix Mantilla

Other notable songs which begin with “Don’t”:
Don’t Dream It’s Over – Crowded House
Don’t Get Around Much Anymore – Nat King Cole
Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue – Crystal Gayle
Don’t Mess With Bill – The Marvelettes
Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree – The Andrews Sisters
Don’t Sleep In The Subway – Petula Clark
Don’t Stand So Close To Me – The Police
Don’t Stop – Fleetwood Mac
Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey
Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright – Bob Dylan
Don’t Worry, Be Happy – Bobby McFerrin
Don’t You Want Me – Human League

1966 Topps Ron Taylor

Hot Stove: Cinnamon-Toasty Apple Jacksons

The Hot Stove set is winding down for another winter… The whole point of the set is to give everybody a “sneak peek” of what players will look like in their new uniforms, but once Spring Training starts, there’s no need for photoshopped images when the real thing is running around under the warm sun, being photographed by countless photographers.

But don’t worry about that just yet, not when I’ve run out to buy a big ol’ box of Apple Jacksons cereal!
Apple Jacksons Cereal Box

The last winter or two I’d always keep a Hot Stove slot open for some big Mets or Orioles acquisition, but this winter each of my team’s biggest moves was to re-sign one of their own.

Instead, we’ve got notable players leaving, including former Met Daniel Murphy, who signed with the rival Nationals as a free agent.
2015-16 TSR Hot Stove #7 - Daniel Murphy
Murphy had been with the Mets since making his Major League debut in 2008, and I will miss him, as will many Mets fans…  But I also think that letting him walk was the right move, and I wish him isolated success with a divisional rival (who will hopefully disappoint yet again).

As I’ve pointed out before, the customs I make up using the 1965 Topps CFL design are ones where I did not “photoshop” the player into his uniform. In this case, I ran across a nice image of Paul Goldschmidt wearing one of the Diamondbacks’ new uniforms.
2015-16 TSR Hot Stove CFL-5 Paul Goldschmidt
I don’t love these uniforms… far from it… but I have less of a negative reaction now than I did when they were first unveiled.

Getting back to the clock ticking on the Hot Stove cards… I’m definitely doing a post next weekend, and then after that I *may* do one more… depending on whether I have players I want to “photoshop” and an idea for a cereal box.

Truth be told, I really need to get working on my 2016 TSR design. I’ve got a number of prototypes in the works, but none of them have yet to make me sit up and say “Yeah, yeah, that’s it…”

But in the meantime, if you have any special requests for someone you’d like to see on a Hot Stove card before the curtain drops on another set, just leave a comment and I’ll see what I can do. It doesn’t have to be a star player, so if you want to see Doug Fister with the Astros or Corey Dickerson with the Rockies, just let me know.

All It Takes To Brighten My Day Is Some 1984 Donruss

Last month I was at a show in another state, and when I travel a couple of hours just to get to the show, I do what I can to maximize the time spent looking at tables.  Hungry?  No time for overpriced convention center food, that’s why there’s trail mix in the backpack.  Need to sit?  Find a dealer’s table with chairs.  Need a bathroom break?  How badly do you need it?

After 5 hours of shopping I was burned out and bleary-eyed, shuffling down the aisles, unintentionally doing my best impersonation of a “walker” from The Walking Dead.

I was making my final pass through the floor, thinking that I should just get in my car and head home, when I saw it…

…a dime box…

…a dime box with a large quantity of 1984 Donruss!

1984 Donruss Gorman Thomas

O, frabjous day! Callooh!  Callay!

1984 Donruss Jeff Reardon

I’ll be honest, I didn’t think much of 1984 Donruss back in 1984. At the time, Donruss regularly finished a distant third to Fleer and Topps. And in many ways it’s really not that great of a set, it’s just another Donruss set with dark, uninspired photos.

1984 Donruss Jerry Koosman

…But I also didn’t see a lot of 84D back in 1984, and since it’s relatively scarce by Junk Wax Era standards, it’s fun to look for them now.

1984 Donruss Willie Randolph

I wouldn’t even think about completing the set, but I couldn’t resist filling out some team and player collection needs.  Plus I got some other cards that I just liked, such as this Bill Russell…

1984 Donruss Bill Russell

…And Bobby Grich…

1984 Donruss Bobby Grich

Padres fans will recognize this next guy, although the mustache might throw them off a bit…  And I’m still surprised that he’s not the Nationals’ manager in 2016.  No slight intended towards Dusty, but I thought hiring Bud Black was as close to a no-brainer as you’re going to get with a managerial hiring.

1984 Donruss Bud Black

I love the way the crowd is distorted in this picture;  too bad that Concepcion himself is backlit.

1984 Donruss Dave Concepcion

This Davey Lopes is a nice shot, and would’ve been a great shot if his face weren’t in shadow.

1984 Donruss Davey Lopes

And I’ll wrap things up with another former Met… A very young Frankie V on the verge of his breakout season.

1984 Donruss Frank Viola

I got a bunch of Mets and Orioles as well, but I’ll share them another time.