Customs Inspired By “Photo Day” And 1958 Topps

This past week was “photo day” for many MLB teams, and it’s usually a time of year when I enjoy poking through the photos taken, seeing what goofy shots are out there, and seeing relocated players in their new uniforms… their actual uniforms, not the money-grab Spring Training caps and jerseys.

This time around, Photo Day wasn’t quite as much fun as past years… it seems like all of the teams who dropped big cash did so on re-signing players or re-acquiring players they’d recently had.  We don’t need Photo Day to know what Aroldis Chapman looks like in a Yankees uniform.  Sigh.

And, of course, Matt Wieters signed with the Nationals after that team’s Photo Day.  Double sigh.   (By the way, I posted last Sunday about Wieters being unsigned, and then the Nationals signed him a couple of days later.  It’s nice to know that someone in the Nats organization reads The Shlabotnik Report… but it still won’t make me like the Nats).

All of this is not to say that I didn’t have fun looking at the pictures.  I also felt the urge to make some customs out of the pictures I ran across… but what kind of customs should I make?

I didn’t want to use my 1970 Kellogg’s “Hot Stove” template, because these images aren’t photoshopped like those were, and I want to keep those in separate custom sets.  I can’t make them 2017 TSR cards, because I’m still working on the design for those.

So the next best thing is to use a design from some past card set.  I mentally went through card designs, trying to think of something I haven’t done lately and, more importantly, Topps hasn’t done (to death) lately… and I thought of the colorful 1958 Topps set, and I said:

It’s been 10 years since 2007 Heritage, and I don’t remember Topps Archives using the 1958 design recently (maybe I’m wrong) so I figured that this made it an ideal design to use.

So I took an hour or so when I really should’ve been in bed sleeping, and whipped up a template and the first custom.  Yesterday I did the rest of the cards you’ll see here.

Unlike sets from the 1970’s and 1980’s, I’m not as much a student of the visual language of 1950’s sets, so if I screw up something that is part of the “visual logic” of 1958 Topps, please forgive me (and let me know, because I do want to know).

I did a custom of Kendrys Morales with the Jays earlier this winter, but it was a 1977 Topps homage with a hand-drawn Blue Jays logo.  Here’s Kendrys in an actual Toronto uniform.
I had to wing it on the “DES. HITTER” position, because this obviously didn’t appear on 1958 baseball cards.  Because the full team name would take up a good part of the bottom of the card, I did the 1958-ish abbreviation of “TOR. BLUE JAYS”.  Looking back on it, I should’ve put an extra space between “DES.” and “HITTER”, as well as between “TOR.”, “BLUE” and “JAYS”.

I might not have a custom of Wieters just yet, but I do have one of the guy the Orioles got to serve as their primary catcher.
I’m not sure, but I think to be true to 1958, I should’ve used a smaller font for a long name like “Wellington Castillo” rather that horizontally smoosh the letters as I did.  Then again, in 1958 this guy might’ve been listed as “Will Castillo”.  (And I’m making a mental note to never use this design when doing a custom of Jarrod Saltalamacchia).

With Aroldis Chapman back in navy pinstripes, the Cubs gave up Jorge Soler to get closer Wade Davis from the Royals.
I was about to make a comment about how the Cubs should hope that Davis gets the job done, but you know what?  Now that they’ve won a World Series, the Cubs have lost my “Mets and Cubs fans are in the same boat” empathy. Too bad, Cubs fans, your team is just another rival for my Mets.

Finally, I couldn’t resist using a scruffy R.A. Dickey headshot.  I became a fan of his during his time with the Mets and began to collect him as well.
As I’d mentioned before, I’m not what you’d call an expert regarding 1958 Topps – the set is not only before my time, it’s before my Mets’ time, and I don’t put terribly much effort into collecting pre-1970’s Orioles.  I always thought the colors in the set was more or less random with regards to teams, but there are an awful lot of Braves with green backgrounds.  This was the first custom I did in this batch, and I originally did it with a blue background, but then changed it to green before working on the next custom.

I’m planning to have another batch of these 1958’s next weekend, and then we’ll get into these customs (tease, tease, tease):

More 1993 Baseball Cards Magazine “Repli-Cards”

Back in 1993, issues of Baseball Cards (and later “Sports Cards”) magazine came with an uncut, unperforated sheet of ‘Repli-Cards’ done in the style of 1968 Topps… much like this year’s upcoming Heritage set is done a la 1968.

I’d previously featured some of these cards several weeks ago; here are some more…

In 1993, Larry Walker was coming off of an All-Star, Gold Glove & Silver Slugger season… but would follow it up with just a Gold Glove and a general slight drop-off in offensive numbers, but with an upswing in walks and stolen bases.

Last time I included a “Rookie Stars” card which featured Mike Piazza; this time around, I’ll show off his solo card.
Piazza was the 1993 NL Rookie Of The Year, as well as being an All-Star and a Silver Slugger winner.

Tony Gwynn was an All-Star in 1993, but didn’t lead the league in batting. In fact he hit “only” .358.
That same year, Andres Galarraga (Rockies) batted .370 and John Olerud (Blue Jays) hit .363.

One could make the argument that, in 1993, Chad Curtis was neither a rookie nor a star, but we’ll let that slide.  He went on to play 10 years in the majors, so I don’t want to slight him overly much.
Tim Salmon was the 1993 AL Rookie of the Year and despite having some big numbers – five seasons with 90+ RBI, for example – he was never an all-star, at least not according to  In retrospect that’s pretty surprising.

I know a certain blogger who should get a kick out of this card featuring Pawtucket Red Sox pitcher Aaron Sele, who, while pitching for Boston, went 7-2, 2.74 and finished a distant third in AL ROY voting.
I know changing the famous Red Sox “B” to a “P” might seem like a natural thing, but to me it looks like the logo embroidery machine ran out of thread.

“Mattingly, I thought I told you to trim those sideburns!”
Mattingly was 32, but just a couple of seasons away from the end of his career. He won a Gold Glove in 1993.

Kirby Puckett was 33 and just a couple of seasons away from retirement. He was an All-Star in 1993.

Since I mentioned 2017 Heritage at the beginning of this post, and given that Topps published the checklist the other day, I’ll share team base set checklists for my two teams (Mets and Orioles, for those who didn’t know).

2017 Heritage Orioles team set
6 Trumbo / Cruz / K Davis (League Leaders)
20 Adam Jones
52 Welington Castillo
74 Matt Wieters
159 J.J. Hardy
207 Chris Tillman
216 Baltimore Orioles Team Card
219 Pedro Alvarez
322 Jonathan Schoop
325 Chris Davis
351 Michael Bourn
353 Zach Britton
368 Manny Machado (All-Star)
396 Donnie Hart / Trey Mancini
420 Manny Machado (Short Print)
461 Mark Trumbo (Short Print)
497 Kevin Gausman (Short Print)

2017 Heritage Mets team set
7 Hendricks / Lester / Syndergaard (League Leaders)
23 David Wright
46 Lucas Duda
116 Asdrubal Cabrera
145 New York Mets Team Card
177 Gavin Cecchini / Robert Gsellman
232 Michael Conforto
246 Neil Walker
256 Matt Harvey
278 Jeurys Familia
332 Jose Reyes
342 Curtis Granderson
379 Noah Syndergaard (All-Star)
406 Yoenis Cespedes (Short Print)
421 Jacob deGrom (Short Print)
453 Jay Bruce (Short Print)
470 Noah Syndergaard (Short Print)

Proof that Topps hates us: The Heritage set remains at 500 cards, but the number of short prints goes from 75 to 100.  In the words of Nathaniel Rateliff and the Nightsweats, “Son of a bitch!”

A Scout Is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly…

…Courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent!

…But I’m not talking about that kind of scout today… Not the Boy Scouts, although I was one for a number of years. Nope, I’m sharing a number of cards from the Kansas City Scouts, a former NHL team that currently exists as the New Jersey Devils… but you knew that from reading my “Forgotten Franchises” posts about the Scouts and the NHL’s Colorado Rockies, right?

We’ll start off with coach Bep Guidolin. Bep needs an exclamation point like Jeb Bush had.

…And check out that jacket! The 1970’s in action, ladies and gentlemen!

In 1942, Bep! became the youngest player in NHL history, making his debut a month shy of his 17th birthday. Bep! played for the Bruins, Red Wings and Black Hawks, and would coach the Bruins and Scouts. Bep! would only make it partway through his second season with the Scouts before losing his job. Without knowing much about the situation, I find it hard to believe that Bep! was at fault… In the mid-1970’s there were over 30 teams between the NHL and WHA, and there wasn’t the European presence we have now.  As a result, talent was spread thin.  The Kansas City Scouts were a really bad team.

Here’s Dave Hudson skating against the Capitals. As bad as the Scouts were, they weren’t as historically bad as the Caps. Yay, Scouts.
Hudson, as I’ve mentioned in this blog before, was acquired in two different NHL expansion drafts. The Islanders drafted him from Chicago, and the Scouts drafted him from the Islanders.  40+ years later, you can almost hear Dave Hudson crying “Aw, crap, not again…”

Ed Gilbert played for the Scouts, Penguins and the WHA’s Cincinnati Stingers.
I kinda like the Scouts’ uniforms from a distance, but up close there’s a bit much going on.

Jim McElmury was a rarity in the 1970’s NHL: He’s American.  McElmury was born in Minnesota, played college hockey at Bemidji State, and was a member of the 1972 Silver-medal U.S. Olympic hockey team.

And finally… I don’t want to completely mislead you with the Boy Scout references.  Here’s a crooked scan of the back of my BSA membership card from 1976.


O, Wieters, Where Art Thou?

For me, one of the more interesting and overlooked story of the off-season involves Matt Wieters…
…2016 All-Star (and three times before that) Matt Wieters…
…Two-time Gold Glove winner Matt Wieters…
…30-year-old starting catcher for a playoff team Matt Wieters…
…Fifth-overall draft pick Matt Wieters…
Unemployed Matt Wieters…
…”My former team has already moved on” Matt Wieters…

How can it be that Matt Wieters still be looking for a job?  Did he and his agent set his expectations (and price tag) too high?  Are teams trying to wait him out to see if they can get him at a discount?

I didn’t expect him to be back with the Orioles… hell, I didn’t expect him to be back with the Orioles last year.  But I figured he’d be somewhere by now, working out with the Braves or Rays or Angels or Rockies or White Sox… somebody.

I usually reserve my “41st Man” customs – which represent how I would do an unlicensed set – for guys who are on the fringe rather than 4-time All-Stars, but Matt Wieters is somehow both right now.

One guy who is a “traditional” 41st Man subject is pitcher David Rollins, who has had a winter where he has no shortage of teams which are interested in him… up to a certain point.

This past November, Rollins was put on waivers by the Mariners and was claimed by the Cubs. The Cubs tried to pass him through waivers, but he was claimed by the Rangers. The Rangers tried to pass him through waivers and he was claimed by the Phillies. All of this happened in just over three weeks, and isn’t the end of it.

Rollins stayed with the Phils for the better part of December before they put him on waivers and he was claimed for the second time by the Rangers. The Rangers tried to pass him through waivers and he was claimed again by the Cubs. The Cubs hung on to him for (gasp!) over a month before designating him for assignment.  This time they successfully got him through waivers and assigning him to AAA with an invite to Spring Training.

Prior to his time with the Mariners, Rollins had also been in the Blue Jays and Astros organizations, so I’m sure he’ll be happy to find a more permanent home, ideally in the Major Leagues.  I’ll be following Rollins over the next few weeks and wishing him the best.

A little while ago I posted a couple of customs from a faux mid-20th-Century card set I called “Floatyhead Gum”.  The response the first time was crickets, but I remain undaunted.  Here are two more Floatyheads featuring players who are very happy to be with new teams.



Finally, the World Baseball Classic starts up in just over 2 weeks, and as promised last fall, I’ll be doing a set of customs based on 1980 Topps.  To whet your appetites, I created a collage of “promo cards” for this upcoming custom set.


Since 1980 Topps has already been “Topps Archive-d” twice, I’ve been working on ways to sort of shake things up a tiny bit and make these customs a little bit more than another 1980 rehash.  This preview image contains some clues regarding things I’ve got planned… and I’m still trying to figure out a way to work the “Burger King Pitch Hit & Run” cards into this.

Also, for those of you who didn’t vote for 1980 Topps, I do plan on making “inserts” out of the more popular runner-up designs.

Remember to ask your virtual retailer for 2017 TSR World Baseball Classic cards!

The Guy Before The Guy #2: Two Soon-To-Be-Retired Numbers

This is the second (obviously) in a series of post about the players who wore a notable uniform number for a team just before another player would make that number their own.

This time around, I decided to tackle two players who, it was recently announced, would have their numbers retired this summer.

Last month, the Red Sox announced they would retire David Ortiz’ #34 in June.

2006 Topps David Ortiz

Before Big Papi wore #34, the number belonged to pitcher Rich Garces, who wore it from 1996 to 2002.


During his 7 seasons with the Bosox, Garces went 23-8 with 5 saves in 261 relief appearances.  In 2002, Garces racked up a 7.59 ERA in 26 appearances, leading towards the team releasing him at the end of August.  David Ortiz, meanwhile was with the Twins and for a variety of reasons was released in December, 2002.  Garces signed with the Rockies but never play for them.  Big Papi signed with the Red Sox and the rest is history.

Also last month, the Mariners announced that they’d be retiring Edgar Martinez’ #11


(This is a 2002 MLB Showdown card, by the way).

Before Martinez wore #11, the number belonged to catcher Bob Kearney, who wore it from 1984 to 1987.


Kearney was named to the 1983 Topps All-Star Rookie Team and  was the Mariners’ starting catcher for a couple of years before falling below Scott Bradley and Dave Valle on the depth chart.

Edgar Martinez won the AL’s Designated Hitter Of The Year Award five times, and the league would rename it the Edgar Martinez Award in 2004.  David Ortiz won the Edgar Martinez Award eight times, including this past season.  And, because it happened to catch my attention, Hall Of Famer Orlando Cepeda was the very first DH of the Year in 1973, his one season with the Red Sox.

Just as a side note before I wrap this up… It’s been nearly 2 months between this post and the one before it;  I’m going to try to make these a bit more frequent than that, but it takes a while to do research and find the cards to scan for these posts.  I also got majorly sidetracked by something very interesting I found out while researching potential subjects for these posts… For now, I’ll just say that the attitudes towards uniform numbers were clearly different in the past than they are today.



Oddball Odyssey: Three Players “Exclusive” To The 1980 Burger King Phillies Set

This post was going to be a “Contrast And Compare” post where I would share several Topps-created 1980 Burger King cards along with the corresponding flagship Topps card from the same year… But then I realized that, for three of the players involved, they did not appear on any other cards in 1980, and I figured that was as good an angle as any.

I had to look up John Vukovich because I was curious as to why someone who had not been on a Topps card since 1975 made the cut for the 1980 Burger King Phillies set. I was further intrigued when I found out that he played for 10 years in the majors despite never having batted higher than .211 or played in more than 74 games in a single season.
He was an excellent fielder, but to call him a “good clubhouse guy” would seem to sell him short to a great degree. “Vuk” was beloved by teammates, fans and everyone around him and would later become the longest-term coach in Phillies history, coaching with the team for 17 seasons. I’m sure there must be Phillies fans out there who can give a better insight than I as to what he meant to the Phillies.

Keith Moreland played in 1,306 games over the course of 12 seasons, so I was a bit surprised that his sole 1980 card came in the Burger King set… but I forgot that, going into 1980, he’d only played 15 games for the Phillies.  This is his “pre-rookie” card.
Moreland would get more playing time in 1980, and would go 4-for-12 in the 1980 World Series, but he’s better known to fans of 1980’s baseball as a Cubs outfielder who regularly hit double-digits in home runs and had 106 RBI in 1987.

Like Keith Moreland, Lonnie Smith was a young Phillie who would get a major increase in playing time in 1980 and would achieve (arguably) more fame with other teams.
In 1980 Lonnie Smith played in 100 regular season games and batted .339, which got him enough votes to finish 3rd in N.L. Rookie Of The Year Voting (behind winner Steve Howe and runner-up Bill Gullickson).  Two years later with the Cardinals, Lonnie was an All-Star who lead the league with 120 runs.  Over his career he played in five different World Series for four teams (Phillies, Cardinals, Royals and Braves).

A Classic Case Of Confusion 

…or, “How a PWE lead to an unexpected amount of research”

I got this card in a recent PWE from Shane of “Shoebox Legends”:
It’s a nice card that made me think that I should keep an eye out for more Classic cards… which then made me realize that I don’t have any wantlists for Classic because I don’t have the sets loaded into in my personal database.  All I had is the list of cards I owned from back in the 1990’s  (i.e. 1991 Classic:  cards 98, 100, 110…)

So I started getting information ready to load into my database. 1987 and 1988 are relatively straightforward… There are four distinct sets with four different border colors, but they’re all numbered consecutively so it’s all good.

It was when I got to some of the later sets that I started to realize I might have to do a bit of digging.

As an example, I’ll go with 1990.  There are three sets with three primary border colors:  Blue, pink and yellow.  However, the Blue set is numbered from 1 to 150, the Pink set is numbered from T1 to T50 and the yellow set similarly numbered from T1 to T100… So when I look at my old inventory list and see something like “1990 Classic #44”, it could be from any of these three sets.

Wait, it gets worse.  Take the pink 1990 Classic set.  The packaging for the pink set calls it a “Travel Edition”, my Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards calls it “1990 Classic Series 2”, the Trading Card Database calls it “1990 Classic Update” and COMC covers all the bases and calls it “1990 Classic Update Pink Travel Edition”… and my inventory list just says “1990 Classic”.


I did get it largely sorted out and will lay my findings out for you – with a disclaimer that even though I spent a couple of hours working on this, but I don’t consider this exhaustive.  Too much of it came from other sources rather than first-hand knowledge.

Now for those who don’t know, these cards are meant to be part of a baseball trivia game; each card has several questions of varying difficulty which (if I’m understanding this correctly) will get you a single, double, triple or homer when you correctly answer the question… Kind of a baseball version of Trivial Pursuit.

The key thing to understand is this:  First off, there are Classic sets which were issued with a full-blown board game in a board-game-sized box.  These sets are generally 200 cards or so, weren’t issued every year, and the ones from 1991 and 1992 came in serially-numbered boxes and called “Collector’s Edition”.  There are also smaller sets which were often, but not always, called “Travel Edition”.  These came in smaller boxes (cardboard at first, then plastic clamshell) which one could bring to a friend’s house or with you on vacation or whatever they had in mind with “Travel”.

Once I got an understanding of this, the rest more or less fell into place.

By the way, I don’t have examples of all of these sets in my collection, so I’m going to try to use images from COMC… something I’ve had mixed results with in the past, so if you get a little blank space instead of a card image, then either COMC or I did something wrong.

1987 Classic is fairly straightforward… A 100-card green-bordered set which came in a full board game box…

…followed by a yellow-bordered Travel Edition numbered from 101 to 150.  The Travel Edition came in a smaller cardboard box.

According to the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards, about a third of these sets were printed with green backs instead of the intended yellow;  these erroneous (?) parallels carry something of a premium.

1988 Classic is a continuation of the 1987 set with different colored borders; Red (cards #151 – 200) and Blue (# 201 – 250). You already saw the red-bordered Cal at the beginning of the post, here’s a COMC card from the blue set:

1988 Classic Update Blue Travel Edition - [Base] #220 - Tony Gwynn - Courtesy of

1988 Classic Update Blue Travel Edition – [Base] #220 – Tony Gwynn – Courtesy of

1989 maintains the pattern but complicates things some. You’ve got the 100-card “Second Edition” board game set, which had pink and light blue borders.

1989 Classic Update Pink/Light Blue Travel Edition - [Base] #2 - Wade Boggs - Courtesy of

1989 Classic Update Pink/Light Blue Travel Edition – [Base] #2 – Wade Boggs – Courtesy of

There are also two “Travel Edition” sets that can be legitimately be considered updates or series.  The first is the orange-bordered update numbered from 101 to 150…

…The second is grey/purple-bordered and numbered from 151 to 200.

1990, as I mentioned, is where things get a bit confusing.  You’ve got the “regular” edition that has the blue borders with the pink 1990’s thingies;  this is numbered from 1 to 150.
1990 Classic Howard Johnson
By the way, this design amuses the hell out of me because you could take any random person who was around in 1990, show them this card with the year covered, and they would be able to tell within a year or two when this card was manufactured.  Some people make fun of the 1970’s, but the 1990’s were just as bad in the colorful cheesiness.

Next up is the aforementioned Pink Travel Edition Update Series 2 blah blah blah.  This set is numbered from T1 to T49, plus unnumbered instruction card which features a “Royal Flush” with Mark Davis and Bret Saberhagen on the front.

And THEN you have the 100- card yellow set that isn’t labeled on the packaging as a “Travel Edition” but still prefixes the card number with a “T”, and also starts with T1… plus there’s an unnumbered Mike Marshall instruction card, and an blank-backed “Four-in-one” card for 101 cards in total.

1990 Classic Update Yellow Travel Edition - [Base] #T5 - Scott Radinsky - Courtesy of

1990 Classic Update Yellow Travel Edition – [Base] #T5 – Scott Radinsky – Courtesy of

In 1991 there were four distinct sets, the first of which was the purple “Collector’s Edition” that came in a full-sized game box numbered to 100,000.
(I like how Cal’s bat is completely covered by the card design)

In addition there were Series 1 (blue, which some sources consider “1991 Classic”)…

1991 Classic Update Blue Travel Edition - [Base] #T51 - Eddie Murray - Courtesy of

1991 Classic Update Blue Travel Edition – [Base] #T51 – Eddie Murray – Courtesy of

…Series 2 (red)…

…And Series 3 (green).

1991 Classic Update Green Travel Edition - [Base] #T95 - Matt Williams - Courtesy of

1991 Classic Update Green Travel Edition – [Base] #T95 – Matt Williams – Courtesy of

Series 2 and 3 are also referred to as Travel Editions, although when I looked at the original packaging in several eBay auctions, it doesn’t seem to say anything about being a “Travel Edition”. To add to the fun, the green third series has a different back design.

1992 is similar to 1991 in that you’ve got the full board game which isn’t numbered but proudly proclaims is limited to 125,000 copies.

1992 Classic - [Base] #102 - Bernie Williams - Courtesy of

1992 Classic – [Base] #102 – Bernie Williams – Courtesy of

This is also referred to as “Collector’s Edition”, “Base” or “Game”.

In addition, there are two Update/Travel sets, the Series 1 white set…

…and the Series 2 red/blue set

The final Classic set in 1993 has just one travel-esque set numbered from T1 to T99.

So that’s my rundown of the 1987-1993 Classic sets as I currently understand them.  The way things have been going with this post, I’m going to publish it and then learn a few more new facts about these sets.

These cards strike me as something that generally appeals to player and team collectors, but I could be wrong about that. Does anybody have complete sets that they own because they like them and not just because they got them for next to nothing at a card show (something I’ve seen numerous times before).

Has anybody actually played the game?