Custom Sunday: Hooray for Captain Spalding (No, Not Groucho)

Lately, I’ve been focusing many of my customs posts on my tribute to the 1964 Topps “Giants” set – indeed, there’s another one at the end of this post – but I have been making other customs and will spend much of this post catching up on the backlog. I’m also floating the idea of a new custom project… as if I really *need* a new project. Actually, I’ve got one other custom project in my head, but I’m intentionally holding off on that until Spring Training.

Earlier this week I saw singer/songwriter Rufus Wainwright being interviewed on a late night talk show… I think of Rufus as the son of singer/songwriter/actor Loudon Wainwright III;  I’m not exactly a fan of LW3, but I have a couple of his albums.  For whatever reason, that made me think of how I first became aware of LW3 as “Captain Spalding”, a character in three episodes of the third season of M*A*S*H.  That, in turn, got me thinking about a project long in the mental noodling stage but never executed – a custom set devoted to the M*A*S*H TV series.

If there were a way of telling how many lifetime hours I’ve spent watching different TV shows, M*A*S*H would be up there at the top with Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Star Trek.  I watched much of the original run on CBS, and when it hit syndication I would come home from school and watch the reruns.  At my peak I knew pretty much everything there was to be known about the show, from “Ah, Bach!” to Zelmo Zale.

Normally this kind of obsessive behavior would cross over into my obsessive collecting behavior, but there’s been just one card set devoted to M*A*S*H, a disappointing 66-card Donruss set from 1982.  I bought a couple of packs at the time and never went further. This is one of the better cards from that set in my collection.

The set was pretty much what you’d expect from Donruss in the early 1980’s, put together without a whole lot of apparent effort.  Some of the images used were kind of odd outside of the context of the episode they were from, and there was nothing to explain, for example, why B.J. is wearing a white tuxedo in the O.R.  (it was from an episode that explored the dreams/nightmares of the characters).

As with many things of this sort, my reaction was “Pffft, I could do better than this!”  I’d long pondered making a custom set in a late 1970’s / early 1980’s non-sport style, floated a bunch of ideas, but never actually went about creating the first custom.

…Until I was very indirectly inspired by Rufus Wainwright on a late night talk show.

I present to you the first promo card for a M*A*S*H custom set, featuring LW3’s character Captain Calvin Spalding, the “Singing Surgeon”.

I’m given to believe that it’s not a coincidence that Captain Spalding shares a name (if not the exact spelling) with the Groucho Marx character in “Animal Crackers”.

Now I honestly don’t know how far I would go with a custom set like this, but I wanted to float it out there to see what the reaction would be.  If I went further with this, I’d be just as likely to dip into the recurring characters (Sidney Friedman, Colonel Flagg, Nurse Kellye) as much as the stars of the show.

Any input?


Moving on…

When I was a kid, there were three George Blanda cards in 1975 Topps Football;  one for his breaking the career points-scoring record (he’d end up with 2002), and two other cards because they needed two card backs to fit all of his career highlights and stats.  HOFer Blanda played 26(!) seasons in the NFL and was 48 years old during his final season.

So, it caught my attention when, in September, Adam Vinatieri broke Morten Andersen’s record for career field goals (he as 576 as of this morning), and then in October he set the career points record (2570 as of this morning).  “This deserves a custom!” I said…. back in October.  Sorry for the delay, Vinatieri fans, here it is.

In case you’re curious, George Blanda currently ranks 7th on the list of career scoring leaders.


The Diamondbacks made an interesting free agent signing this week; they signed pitcher Merrill Kelly to a two-year MLB contract.

You’re probably like me in saying “Who?”. Kelly was in the Tampa Bay Rays system, but spent the last 4 years pitching for the SK Wyverns in the Korea Baseball Organization and is coming back to the US as a 30-year-old rookie. Kelly’s numbers weren’t outstanding by US standards, but within the very offense-friendly KBO they gave MLB organizations thoughts of the next Miles Mikolas.

Here are two more “Hot Stove” customs… I think you probably know about these transactions already. If you follow me on Twitter (@Shlabotnik_Rpt) then you’ve already seen these.


I’ve also got more customs from my “Fauxback” set.

Baseball America named former Met Jordany Valdespin their 2018 Independent League Player Of The Year.

I’m happy for Valdespin and for the Ducks.  I grew up on Long Island and didn’t see my first minor league game until I was a legal adult.  The Ducks came along a couple of years after I left Long Island in one of those “Don’t that just figure” moments.  I’d love to go to a Ducks game, but on the rare occasion when I go back to Long Island, my time is filled with visiting people (all of whom say I need to come up there more often).

Say what you want about social media, one thing I’ve discovered is that you don’t have to wait until Spring Training to see pictures of big name players in their new uniforms.

It’s funny where going down the rabbit hole can lead… I was making comments on Twitter about how I wasn’t sure about how well Portland, OR would work out as a host city for an MLB expansion team. While I was researching to make sure I wasn’t mis-remembering my main point – that at one point the AAA Portland Beavers were evicted to make room for a Major League Soccer team – I found out that Giovanni Savarese, one of the top players on my all-time favorite soccer team, the mid-1990’s Long Island Rough Riders, is the coach of the Portland Timbers, who were in last night’s MLS Cup game.

So I started out researching Portland as an MLB expansion candidate and ended up with a mild rooting interest in the MLS Cup. Too bad the Timbers lost to Atlanta FC.


Wrapping things up with a “Bonus Card” for my 2018 TSR “Giants” set. Kyle Freeland had a great season with the Rockies, going 17-7 with a 2.85 ERA. I left him out of the “regular” set because most of his success came in the second half of the sason, which under the rules I was playing by would’ve been after the checklist was finalized and the set went into imaginary production.

But that doesn’t mean that I couldn’t create a card anyway…

Well, that’s more than enough customs for one week.

2 thoughts on “Custom Sunday: Hooray for Captain Spalding (No, Not Groucho)

  1. I loved M*A*S*H back in the day, too. I do have that Donruss set for the show, but you’re right that it’s a bit sparse on information. Cards of Sidney and Nurse Kellye sound pretty cool. How about Col. Flagg, Sgt. Rizzo, Ho-Jon, and Soon-Lee?

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