Forty years ago I had just turned 11 and had just finished my third season of being a baseball fan and card collector… But that winter of 1976-1977 was unlike the previous two offseasons because the American League would be expanding to Toronto and Seattle. This did not affect me directly, but it would be my first baseball expansion and I was completely fascinated by the entire concept. New team names, new uniforms, new combinations of players selected via draft… not to mention that I would need to rearrange the dresser drawer where I kept my cards in order to make room for two new stacks of cards (I kept all my cards in one drawer, with each team represented by its own stack… Much easier to do when my collection numbered was under 2,000 cards).
I think my first significant exposure to the Blue Jays and Mariners uniforms was from the airbrushed cards in the 1977 Topps set… and to this day, those cards remain special to me even though the players were predominantly guys like Dan Meyer, Jesse Jefferson and Steve Braun. Expansion teams, you know.
Early this year I had some fun creating a couple of custom versions of the 1976 Traded set, which was celebrating its 40th anniversary, and that lead to another idea… Wouldn’t it be fun to create custom cards in homage to those expansion teams, featuring the 1977 design, 1977 uniforms and faux airbrushing?
At the same time, I didn’t want to get crazy with it, so I decided to make it an offshoot of my annual “Hot Stove” set and feature only players acquired by the Blue Jays and Mariners during the offseason.
Well, this past week I had my first “call to arms”: The Mariners acquired Carlos Ruiz from the Dodgers. As a result, Chooch gets the faux-airbrush treatment.
I tried something different to attempt to simulate the hand-airbrushed originals… I drew a 1977 Mariners “trident” logo on paper with a Sharpie, scanned it, changed the colors and and then layered it on top of Ruiz’ colorized cap.
Let me tell you something, it was a bear trying to find a decent photo of Ruiz wearing some sort of headgear which had a visible logo on it. Most of the photos have him either in catcher’s gear, or batting with his head turned to the side. I didn’t prefer using a Phillies “Photo Day” image with a dark background and side lighting, but my options were few.
There are a few more things I have in mind for the next one of these I try, but as a first effort I’m happy with it… and I hope you like it as well. Maybe one of you can come up with a better name than “Expansion+40”.
I hope to go live with my annual Hot Stove set next week. As I’d done the past two years, it will be based on a Kellogg’s 3-D set from the 1970’s… and I will say no more.
LAST CHANCE! Tomorrow morning I’ll be closing out the voting on the design I’ll use for next Spring’s World Baseball Classic custom set! Choices are laid out below with the voting at the bottom. Thanks again!