Culture Time: “A Goldsmith In His Shop” (This *IS* Baseball Related. Trust Me.)

I have a desk calendar from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.  I’d had some thoughts that it wouldn’t hurt for me to get all cultured up in 2016.

Yesterday’s calendar page featured this detail of a 15th century painting by Petrus Christus called “A Goldsmith In His Shop”:


My immediate reaction upon seeing the goldsmith (in red):  “Heh, it’s Justin Verlander!”

The woman on the left might be a 15th century Kate Upton, saying “Verily, kind goldsmith, thou didst get shafted in that Cy Young voting most foul!”

…and the gentleman in back is thinking “Sorry, dude… but  I would’ve given the Cy to Zach Britton…”

To further broaden your cultural horizons, I would like to share some additional examples of fine art…

This first piece is by R.G. Laughlin and is titled “Mets Amaze Baseball World”.
This, so far, is the only card I have from the 1971 Fleer World Series set. You can easily tell the difference between the 1970 and 1971 sets by the MLB logo and year on the card (1971), rather than the year inside a baseball (1970).

Next up is a fine example of portraiture by Dick Perez, circa 1983.
Perez was well known during that period for his series of popular “Diamond Kings” paintings.

Of the finer paintings commissioned by Topps in 2002 is this Ron Stark painting of Frank Robinson from his time with the Cincinnati Reds:
If the entire 2002 Topps Gallery set were like this, I would be enthusiastically working on a complete set, but too many of the paintings were full-length action shots which kind of minimize the appeal of paintings as opposed to photographs.

This final painting, one by Richard Sudell, was acquired not for it’s baseball connection, but for it’s relevance to a particular episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus (as well as the “Monty Python’s Previous Record” LP).

It’s from the 50-card “Garden Flowers” series created by Wills’ Cigarettes in 1939… It’s one of the oldest trading cards I own… and it features…

If you’re not into Monty Python, this will likely result in a shrug on your part.

If you are a fan of Python, then join in as I sing…
Dennis Moore, Dennis Moore, Riding through the night
Soon every lupin in the land will be in his mighty hand
He steals them from the rich, and gives them to the poor
Mister Moore! Lupin donor… Extra-or…….dinary

And with that, we conclude this edition of Culture Time. Don’t you feel so much better for the experience?

That’s what I thought.

Inspired By Cyber Monday:  More 1961 Topps Sports Cars

Late on Cyber Monday, I capped off my COMC shopping spree by inching closer to a complete set of 1961 Topps Sports Cars, an all-time favorite non-sports set of mine… And from reactions I’ve gotten when I’ve shared these in the past, many of you enjoy these cards as well.

Of course, those cards I just bought haven’t even been packed up and shipped out yet… But it made me realize that it’s been quite a while since I shared any of those cards here.  So, without any further ado, here are several 1961 Sports Cars which I got earlier this year.

My Maserati does one-eighty-five
I lost my license, now I don’t drive
– Joe Walsh, “Life’s Been Good”
This Maserati put out 190 horsepower, according to the specs on the back.  My Mazda has nearly that much… but I’m guessing the weight-to-horsepower ratio of the Maserati is a lot more impressive.

The back of this next card mentions this Mercedes winning a world championship in 1955. Unmentioned is the fact that a 300 SLR was involved in one of the most horrific accidents in motorsports history… Something I knew nothing about until I researched this post.
I won’t get into the details – you can find information easily enough by searching on “1955 Le Mans disaster” – but an accident during the 24 Hours Of Le Mans resulted in the death of the driver and over 80 spectators, plus 120 injuries. Mercedes dropped out of direct involvement with racing for over 30 years. Switzerland banned auto racing, something that still stands today.

The specs listed for this Moretti coupe state that it had 45 horsepower and a top speed of 65 MPH… I guess maybe it was one of those situations like they say where it’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than to drive a fast car slow.
The card back also refers to the car being “quite small” and “expensive for its size”. For me, “Moretti” makes me think of a character from the now-cancelled TV show “Perception”; Rachael Leigh Cook played an FBI agent named Kate Moretti.  At 5’2″, she could also be considered quite small, but I don’t know whether she’s expensive for her size.

In a prior post featuring these cards, someone asked if there were any American cars featured.  The answer is “Yes, but not many”.  Here’s one of them, the Corvette “Stingray” concept.

…although the card itself doesn’t reference it as a concept, just that “1961 model road Corvettes look a bit like this car”.

As for the small number of American cars in this set, I would guess that a large reason was that Topps wanted to keep things exotic.  Even the two Corvettes included were the above concept and a racing version.  I also don’t think there were a lot of American cars of the day which would qualify as sports cars.  The Ford Thunderbird could have been one.  Other than that, I’m not sure.  Keep in mind that in 1961 was a few years before Mustangs, Camaros and GTO’s were introduced.


1976 SSPC: Joe Hoerner, Lou Piniella And Ted Martinez

Today’s first card is one of the most famous – or infamous? – cards in the 1976 SSPC set. Joe Hoerner was a reliever who pitched 493 games in the Majors and none of them were starts. He made the All-Star game with the Phillies in 1970, won a World Series with the 1967 Cardinals, and pitched until he was 40.
This card shows Hoerner in his second stint with the Phils; the first was from 1970 to 1972, and the second stint was just for the 1975 season. He signed as a free agent with the Rangers for the 1976 season.

Baseball-card-wise, Hoerner shared two “Rookie Stars” cards with players from two different teams. He was on a 1964 Colt .45’s Rookie Stars card and a 1966 St. Louis Cardinals Rookie Stars card.

Ted Martinez is known to Mets fans as a promising infielder who couldn’t break through, and to Dodger fans as a versatile utility player.  He also put in short stints with the Cardinals and A’s.
Teddy didn’t play for the A’s in 1976; he was released in May, signed with the Reds and spent the season at AAA Indianapolis. After the season he was taken by the Dodgers in the Rule V draft, which made me do a double-take. These days players taken in the Rule V draft are guys in the minors who haven’t even sniffed the Majors, and here’s Ted Martinez being drafted after parts of 6 seasons with several teams.  I’m guessing that part of the difference is that guys like Ted Martinez would more likely be a free agent these days than be on someone’s AAA roster.

Lou Piniella is generally associated with the Yankees from his 11 years in the Yankees outfield and his 2.5 seasons managing the Bronx Bombers, that it’s easy to forget that his biggest accomplishments as a player – Rookie Of The Year, All-Star appearnace – came with the Royals.
Piniella played 4 games with the Orioles in 1964, 6 games with the Indians in 1968 and was taken by the Seattle Pilots in the 1969 expansion draft. Just before the season, Piniella was traded to the Royals for John Gelnar and Steve Whitaker. Piniella was the Rookie Of The Year.

In between his debut and his official rookie season, Piniella played three years with the AAA Portland Beavers.

Royals fans must know this but I didn’t; Piniella batted leadoff on opening day, hit a double in his first at-bat and was driving in by #2 batter Jerry Adair… meaning that Piniella had the first hit, double and run of Royals history.


I’m pretty sure Joe Hoerner’s at Shea, but I’m not confident.  The other two I have no doubts about.

Shea: 65
Pretty sure it’s Shea: 12
Can’t tell: 19
Not Shea: 8

1970’s Census: Keeping track of all the instances of 1970’s trends

I’m putting Hoerner and Piniella down for sideburns, and since Lou’s hair touches his collar, I’ll label that as long.

Total Cards: 103
1970’s Sideburns: 58
Fu Manchu: 4
Mustache other than Fu Manchu: 36
Afro: 1
Perm: 2
Aviators: 8
Long Hair: 26

Expansion+40 #2 – Kendrys Morales Joins The Jays

40 years ago at this time, the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners were sorting out the 30 players each had taken from the other American League teams in the expansion draft that had taken place on November 5th, 1976.  Meanwhile, Topps airbrush artists seem to have spent the month of November frantically airbrushing photos.

To commemorate these airbrushed 1977 Topps cards, an important part of my youth, I bring the second in my series of “Expansion+40” customs.

Just under two weeks ago, the Blue Jays signed Kendrys Morales to replace Jose Bautista and/or Edwin Encarnacion, so he gets the latest “faux bad airbrushing” treatment.  As with the first attempt to replicate 1977 expansion team cards, the cap logo was drawn by hand…
…And somehow the drawn logo looks better in the custom than in the original.  Maybe I should try drawing with my other hand next time…

Realizing that the expansion draft took place on November 5th and that Topps in the 1970’s was doing well to include transactions which took place at the early December Winter Meetings, I went down the Baseball Reference rabbit hole to see if I could find out how long Topps had to airbrush close to 60 players and coaches into new uniforms.

The first thing I looked at was team transactions.  The Jays drafted Rico Carty from the Indians on 11/5 and traded him back to Cleveland on 12/6… but Carty’s Topps card features him with the Blue Jays.  That indicates that December 6th was too late for Topps to make a change as simple as changing the team name, font colors and replacing an airbrushed photo with it’s original counterpart.  O-Pee-Chee, which went to press later, did reflect this change… I wrote about that airbrushing switcheroo in this post.

So I went back to bbref to see if I can find the latest 1976 transaction that resulted in a Topps airbrushing.  During the last week of November, there were several transactions which resulted in airbrushing… Bobby Grich signing with the Angels, Steve Stone and Eric Soderholm signing with the White Sox and, on November 29th, Reggie Jackson signing with the Yankees.

Interestingly enough, the Yankees purchased Jim Wynn from the Braves the following day, November 30th… but 1977 Topps did not reflect that transaction, nor any transactions which came after it (Bill Melton to the Indians on December 3rd as well as a number of transactions that, like the Rico Carty deal, happened on December 6th).

Granted, this doesn’t mean the Topps airbrushings had to be done on November 29th, but it does give an idea of how little time Topps had to airbrush all those Mariners and Blue Jays… and it gives something of an appreciation of why many of those airbrush jobs were less than spectacular.

Forgotten Franchises: The ABA’s Dallas Chaparrals

The Dallas Chaparrals were a charter member of the ABA, starting with the 1967-68 season.  During their first few seasons, the team regularly had a winning record and repeatedly made the playoffs, but they ran into poor attendance and general disinterest in Dallas.


Before  the 1970/71 season, the team announced that they would become a regional franchise called the Texas Chaparrals, and would also play games in Fort Worth and Lubbock.  This was such a failed experiment that the plug was pulled on Fort Worth after two months, and Lubbock did not fair much better.  After one season, the experiment was over and they returned to being the Dallas Chaparrals.

In early 1973, the rumors were flying that groups from New Jersey and New Mexico were eyeing the Chaps.  That February, the ABA announced that the team would move to New Jersey, and eventually move to the Meadowlands upon completion.  The league signed off on this move, pending approval of the New York Nets, as the Meadowlands fell in their their territory.  The Chaparrals did not move to New Jersey, so it seems safe to assume that the Nets did not give their approval.

Before the 1973/74 season, in an unusual move, the team was leased to a San Antonio group with an option to buy after three years.  At the time, San Antonio was the largest city in the country without a major sports franchise.  The team was such an overwhelming success in San Antonio – it took them only 16 games to pass the previous season’s attendance in Dallas – that the lease was torn up and the group bought the team.  That team is, as you might have guessed, the San Antonio Spurs.

As for Dallas, they would not have another major league basketball team until the expansion Dallas Mavericks arrived for the 1980/81 season.

Among those who have played for the Chaparrals include Cincy Powell (an All-Star in 1970), John Beasley (three-time All-Star and the 1969 ABA All-Star Game MVP), and Joe Hamilton.

1971-72 Topps Basketball Joe Hamilton

This is Joe Hamilton’s rookie card.  He was named to the ABA’s All-Rookie  team, and once finished 5th in the league in free throw percentage.

About the team name…

“Chaparral” makes me think of this (pardon the crappy photo of a Hot Wheels car I keep on my desk at work):


…or rather, the Chaparral Racing team which had been dominant in the 1960’s and got immortalized for me via Hot Wheels and A/FX slot cars.

So I was puzzled when I looked chaparral up in the dictionary and found references to thickets of shrubs, or sometimes the land in which such thickets of shrubs grew.  Huh?

Some of the newspaper articles I saw said that the ABA team’s owners couldn’t decide on a name, so they just named it after the Chaparral Club restaurant where they’d met.  This may be apocryphal, I don’t know.

THEN… I found out that there’s a bird called the Chaparral Bird or Chaparral Cock… it’s a member of the cuckoo family and is also known as a Roadrunner (Meep!  Meep!).  The team’s logo features a bird like that, so it seems that this is what they were going for.  Maybe this would’ve been more obvious to me if I’d ever been in the southwest.

Regardless of the origin of the name, shortening it to “Chaps” for the uniform wasn’t the greatest idea, in my eyes.  It brings to mind a team of posh players saying things like “I say, Chaps!  Spiffing takeaway!  Jolly good!”

Black Friday COMC Sale!

It’s Black Friday, and all that entails!

COMC is having a promotion.  Check out my cards!  Check out other people’s cards! If you’re running a promotion, feel free to leave a link in the comments, and I promise to look at your wares.

The Votes Are In, And The Design I’ll Use For The 2017 WBC Customs Is…

Voting on the design to be used for my 2017 World Baseball Classic custom set has finished and the winner is… The 1980 Topps design!
David Wright certainly seems pleased… He must have been one of the 19 people to vote for 1980 Topps.

The voting was tight for most of the week, with 1986 Topps hanging tight and 1976 Hostess and 1976 Wonder Bread hanging in there until the end. Here’s the final count out of 65 votes cast::
1980 Topps Baseball: 19 votes

1986 Topps Baseball: 16

1976 Wonder Bread Football: 14

1976 Hostess Baseball: 11

1966 Topps Hockey/Football: 4

1960-1962 Bazooka Baseball: 1
2012-13 Hot Stove #17 - Jose Mijares

I’ve begun the necessary preparations for the 2017 WBC custom set, and I’m also brainstorming on ways of keeping things interesting. As one commenter pointed out, the design for 1980 Topps (henceforth abbreviated “80T”) has been used twice in Topps Archives, so I’d like to bring some new elements into the mix.

One “innovation” that will be introduced is horizontal player cards, something that wasn’t done in 80T. I’m trying to decide if I want to do this by rotating the border 90 degrees and rearranging the pennants, or if I want to base it more on team cards like this one:
1980 Topps Philadelphia Phillies

A favorite trick of custom card makers is to take subsets from the original and repurpose them for other uses… but 80T is a little short on subsets, so that makes it something of a challenge.

I’ll definitely work the “Highlights” cards into the mix… maybe just replace the year 1979 with “WBC”.
1980 Topps Del Unser Highlights

The Future Stars subset has some potential, but I’m not sure what I would do with it.
1980 Topps Jays Future Stars Edge Kelly Wilborn

League Leaders seems less promising, but it’s there should I need it
1980 Topps HR Leaders

One thing I’d really like to do is to somehow figure out a way to work 1980 Burger King “Pitch, Hit and Run” cards into this.
1980 Burger King Tom Seaver

I’m open to suggestions on all of this, so if you’re sitting at your desk pretending to work, you can think about 1980 Topps instead of whatever you’re paid to do.

One other factor I’ve given thought to (because I am a nerd and I like to do these things). There are 16 teams in the WBC, but only 14 color combinations used in 80T. It’s quite likely that this won’t end up being a problem, as I don’t know that I’d make customs for all 16 teams anyway. Other possibilities include doubling-up teams with two of the existing color combinations (which was done in 80T anyway) or creating new combinations of colors which weren’t used in 80T.

For those of you keeping score at home, the colors I’d used for Israel were used for the Expos and Tigers in 80T, and the colors used on the David Wright USA custom above was originally the Dodgers and Indians.


COMC promotions are already going on, but the main event starts on Black Friday.  You can read about it here, but to summarize there are three different promotions:  The preview sale (going on now), Black Friday (Friday through Sunday) and Cyber Monday.

Here’s the self-serving portion of this announcement:  I’m participating in Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but didn’t get my act together in time for the preview sale.  You can check out my inventory here, but nothing will be discounted until the Black Friday promo kicks in.

I recently added 100 new cards to my inventory, including recent inserts and Heritage SP’s, 1979 Topps Soccer Stickers, 1980 Burger King Pitch Hit And Run, 1980 Burger King Phillies, and other fun stuff. All proceeds go towards enhancing the world-famous Shlabotnik collection!

Good luck with whatever Black Friday plans you might have!

Pack Animal: 2000 Topps Gallery

This pack came from a purchase of about 50 packs, all discounted and mostly from 10-15 years ago.  I didn’t buy any Topps Gallery cards back then, because the cost-to-fun ratio wasn’t there for me.
The tag line for Topps Gallery was “The Art Of Collecting”, and when I saw these packs of 2000 Gallery, I thought “Woo-hoo! Cards made from paintings!”

Unfortunately, I’d forgotten that the first year of Gallery didn’t use paintings for the base set, the cards featured photos. Nicely printed and glossy, but still photos. Oh, well. I would’ve bought these packs anyway.

If you’ve never seen one of these before, the card stock isn’t particularly thick, but the glossy photo is further set apart from the white border by the border being textured and with gold foil stamping for the name and team.  The photo scans well, the gold stamping… not so much.  The letters look almost ghostly in the scans.

Here’s the back of the Biggio.  Biggio is from near where I grew up on Long Island, and yet I don’t collect him.  Don’t ask me, I don’t understand it either.

I guess Carlos Delgado is doing some sort of post-homer celebration, but it looks more like he’s throwing his bat at something that scared him.

Jason Kendall and Mark Grudzielanek tangle at 2nd base.
A great picture and one i’ll keep even though it doesn’t really fit into any of my numerous collections.

Kevin Brown… Not a terribly interesting card that’s supposed to be “The Art Of Collecting”.  The card is saved by pronounced Dodger blue and grass green.

Larry Bigbie! One of my favorite Orioles from the early 21st century. He came up to the bigs with several other players, including Brian Roberts and Jay Gibbons.
Bigbie was the 21st overall pick in the 1999 draft, but never quite lived up to the first round expectations. He peaked in 2004 when he batted .280 with 15 homers, 76 runs, 68 RBI and 23 doubles. He tailed off in 2005 and before the July deadline he was traded to the Rockies for Eric “Captain America” Byrnes… A deal which didn’t work out for either team.

Wrapping things up with a Yankee.  Booo!
Under a previous collecting mindset, I would’ve held on to this card given that El Duque pitched for the Mets at the end of his career and I was hanging on to anybody who’d played for the Mets, regardless of which team he is pictured with on the card.  Now, I realize I have way too many cards and can’t be hanging on to cards just because the player was one I’d cheered on at one point.

Even though wasn’t quite what I expected, but it was still a fun pack to open… and, like I said,  it was relatively cheap, so it’s all good.