About The Shlabotnik Report

I've been collecting baseball cards since 1974, and I'm on a quest to rediscover the collection hidden within my accumulation.

1982 Rod Carew “Non-Parallels” (Not To Be Confused With Nonpareils)

Tony of the Off-Hiatus Baseball blog brought up today’s subject in a comment on one of my “Doppelganger” posts. I wasn’t going to write about it, thinking “Well, everybody knows about this”… but then I remembered that many of you weren’t collecting in 1982… Hell, a lot of you just *weren’t* in 1982.

And so…

Back in the wild and lawless days of the early 1980’s, when it was still a huge novelty to have more than one baseball card manufacturer, a photographer sold the same photo of Rod Carew to both Topps and Fleer. Whether it was an oversight or someone trying to pull a fast one, the result was that both Topps and Fleer issued Rod Carew cards with the same photo.

At the time, I subscribed to a hobby publication (given the year, I’m thinking Baseball Hobby News) and I’m pretty sure that the reporting of the day was that both of the card companies were not at all happy about this… not that this would be hard to imagine anyway.

To be clear, neither of these is a variation or a corrected error. They were both part of the full run of each set, so they’re not any more rare than the other cards in the set… unless someone has decided to buy up a bunch and sit on them, but given the prices I’m seeing on COMC and eBay, I’m thinking that’s not the case.

Trying To Break A Custom Funk With A “Super Value Fun Pack”!

You may have noticed that I’ve been kind of quiet with the customs lately.  It’s mainly from lack of time, but underlying that was a simple case of “writer’s block”.  I didn’t really have anything I wanted to “say”, so nothing came out.

I started to come out of the funk a little bit when I poked a bit of fun at the Topps online exclusive Throwback Thursday sets (#TSR_TBT), but then I also decided to stop focusing on my 2017 TSR set and let my muse take me wherever I might go.

I ultimately ended up with an odd assortment of customs and I was trying to think of how to present them… And that’s when I remembered a predecesor of the 21st century repack.  Back in the day, companies used to take whatever they had left over – cards, comic books, etc. – package them together at a low price and tried to make them sound appealing by throwing about words like “Value” and “Fun”.

So I came up with the idea of a “Super Value Fun Pack” and went about creating a “wrapper”:

Now that I’m done with the explanations, let’s see what’s in the Super Value Fun Pack, shall we?

Leading up to the recent NHL Expansion Draft to stock the roster of the Vegas Golden Knights, I made a decision that if any players showed up in person and put on a VGK jersey (Sorry, Canadians, I just can’t call it a “sweater”), I would make a custom out of it.

Well, a number of players did make an appearance, and I decided to use the 1970-71 Topps Hockey design because a)  It allowed me to remove the uninteresting background and b) I’d already come up with a template to use.

Deciding which player to feature wasn’t hard, because the one and only drafted player I’d even heard of before the draft was one of the guys who showed up.

While researching this card, I stumbled across a hockey oddball from the same year, and the custom which resulted will be in the next Super Value Fun Pack (ideally next week).

The one bit of momentum I’ve been able to maintain with my 2017 TSR custom set is making customs of Mets and Orioles for players who haven’t appeared on a real card in 2017. For this week’s Orioles entry in the “Dude Needs A Card” theme, we have a pitcher who appeared in 3 games before being Designated For Assignment, and who is already gone from the O’s organization. I’m talking about journeyman pitcher Edwin Jackson!

The Orioles were the 12th team Jackson has pitched for. When the O’s DFA’ed him, he declared free agency and signed a minor league contract with the Nationals… But if he makes it back to the Majors with the Nats, it won’t up his totals, because he pitched for the Nationals in 2012.

For the record his 12 teams (in order): Dodgers, Devil Rays/Rays (they transitioned while he was on the roster), Tigers, Diamondbacks, White Sox, Cardinals, Nationals, Cubs, Braves, Marlins, Padres, Orioles

Fernando Salas has already appeared in 36 games for the Mets and yet remains cardboard-free. I’m sure that’s nothing to do with his 6.00 ERA or 1.697 WHIP.

I would’ve created a custom for my TSR set, but I already had one made for my TSRchives set.

The final custom comes from a desire to have a design I could use for just about any purpose. I ultimately decided to revive my short-lived “TSR Fauxback” set from 2015. The design I came up with for 2017 is similar to my 2015 design in that it’s intentionally derivative as hell, but I can’t help shaking the feeling that I’ve subconsciously stolen it from somewhere.

Call it derivative, call it homage, call it plagiarism… Call it whatever, this is the 2017 TSR Fauxback design:

Rest in peace, Adam West.

Blog Bat-Around: The Origins Of (Some Of) My Player Collections

First off, I’d like to thank P-Town Tom of Eamus Catuli! for starting this particular bat-around!

I consider myself to be a player collector, but I suspect that some of you wouldn’t consider me to be a devoted player collector.  I have a bunch of different players I collect to varying levels of commitment. Some players are “add ‘em to the stack when thumbing through a dime box” collections and others are “actively seek out any and all cards which I can fit in my budget” collections.  I’m not a parallel guy and not a huge relic guy, so regardless of how hard I go after a player, I’m never going to be the guy who has 3,572 different cards of Kelby Tomlinson.

Nobody wants me to detail each and every player I collect – we’d be here all day – but I thought it would be fun (for both you and me) to share the more interesting stories, or the ones which are more typical of the type of players I collect.

BJ Surhoff:
I didn’t grow up an Orioles fan, I married into the team (Mrs. Shlabotnik has been a fan since 1983).  If you ask most Orioles fan who their favorite all-time O’s are, you’ll hear about Cal, Eddie, Brooks, Boog or “Cakes” (that’s Jim Palmer for the uninitiated).  I love all of those guys, but up there with them is B.J. Surhoff.  While he isn’t as accomplished as some of the HOFers that grace the all-time Orioles roster, he is a member of the Orioles Hall Of Fame and was the Most Valuable Oriole in 1999.

It’s not just the numbers he put up or his accomplishments on the field that made B.J. a favorite… a lot of it is the “intangibles”.  He was always very serious and kinda old school about what he did.  Mrs. Shlabotnik and I both enjoyed watching B.J. after a win… He does not fist bump, he shakes hands.  It wasn’t uncommon for a younger player to present fist for bumping, quickly realize their mistake and then shake hands.  We used to provide our own dialogue, always in a prepubescent falsetto: “Good game… Good game… Good game — Oh!  Sorry, Mr. Surhoff!”  (Yeah, we’re easily amused).

Luke Walker:
When I was a kid and in my second year of collecting (1975), I pulled this card out of a pack…

When I added this card to my collection, I discovered I had THREE cards of Luke Walker… This card, his 1974 Topps card and his 1974 Topps Traded card. Having three different cards of one guy was beyond cool to me, and I also believed him to be an exceptional player because, and I quote my younger self, “I’ve heard of him so he must be good!”  Years later, I realized I was probably confusing Luke Walker with Rube Walker, who was a Mets coach at the time.

Childhood confusion aside, Luke Walker is the player I’ve gone after most aggressively over the past couple of years… Largely because there is a defined and relatively low number of cards to chase. Aside from buybacks (which I don’t collect at all), I’m not aware of a Luke Walker card issued since this one, his last Topps card. Guys like Luke don’t generally pop up in Archives or Gypsy Queen… or even “Swell Baseball Greats”.  I’ve got his entire 11-card run of Topps base cards, and I’m chasing down the handful of oddballs which exist.

Frank Catalanotto:
When I go to a minor league game, especially one where I’m not familiar with many of the players, I’ll check out the rosters and see where the players are from. Frank caught my eye because he is from Smithtown, NY, which is right near where I grew up, so I rooted for him during that game, and stuck with him afterwards.

Since nobody from my high school has ever appeared on cardboard, I have to make do with guys who played against my high school.

Tunch Ilkin
I had no emotional attachment to an NFL team until I went to college and roomed with a Steelers fan for four years, becoming a fan of the Black And Gold in the process. Tunch Ilkin was an offensive lineman and that’s not normally a position that people pay a huge amount of attention to, much less become fans.  My roommate and I thought “Tunch Ilkin” was a cool name and we started rooting for him in the way that you think is amusing when you’re a college student… “Awesome block, Tunch!” The thing is, what started out as semi-ironic cheering turned into genuine cheering.

Tunch would later be named to two Pro Bowls and became one of my all-time favorite Steelers.

Kirk McCaskill:
One of my good friends from high school went to the University of Vermont during the time that Kirk McCaskill was the hockey team’s captain.  Because I was intrigued by college hockey (which didn’t exist where we grew up), he told me about the exploits of “Captain Kirk”.

McCaskill was drafted by both the California Angels and the original Winnipeg Jets, and played the 1982-83 season for the Jets’ AHL team in Sherbrooke. After one season in the AHL, Kirk retired from hockey to focus on baseball, but had he stuck with hockey I likely would’ve had a McCaskill hockey collection instead of a baseball collection.

Darren Daulton:
One of the joys of going to minor league games is seeing someone that you think has a shot to “make it”. I collect a bunch of guys who I saw first in the minors or even college, but Darren Daulton was the first guy I saw in the minor leagues who really “made it”… this despite the fact that he spent most of his career with the rival Phillies.

There are many other players I collect who have similar stories, former favorites from the Mets and O’s, players I took a liking to in the minors, players who have cool names (i.e. Dooley Womack) or players I have some (often tenuous) connection to… but that’s what makes this hobby fun for me, and why I’d much rather pull Kelby Tomlinson or Dooley Womack from a pack of Archives than yet another cards of some HOFer.

Why Am I Intrigued By The Expansion Of A League I Don’t Follow?

Chalk it up to my being a “franchise nerd”.

I used to be a big hockey fan, specifically the Washington Capitals. I collected hockey cards, bought yearbooks and apparel and followed my team and the league as best I could given that my team was close to 300 miles away. My enthusiasm started to take a nosedive in the 1990’s for a variety of reasons, and when the league shut down for an entire season, that was it for the NHL. I still enjoy hockey, but I’d just as soon watch NCAA hockey as much as the pro ranks.

So with that in mind, why am I so caught up in the NHL expansion draft to stock the roster of the Vegas Golden Knights?

It’s not because I have any ties to Las Vegas or love their logo… although it is a pretty good logo.

Part of it is the relatively small number of players who will be protected from the draft. Chances are it will still result in only one player I’ve heard of being selected in the draft:  Marc-Andre Fleury (And I wouldn’t even count on him being a Knight come the opening puck drop).

So why do I care? I’ve asked myself that question several times.

Part of it is probably that I was caught up in this type of thing from an early age. My first three years of being a baseball fan was with 24 teams divided into four divisions, and when you’re a kid, three years is a long time. Just after I turned 11, there was this expansion draft to create the Blue Jays and Mariners, two brand new teams created seemingly from nothing. This blew my 11-year-old mind. New cities, new team names, new logos and colors, new uniforms… I even had to rearrange the stacks of cards in my dresser drawer to make room for two new team stacks!

And now, it’s been quite a while since any of the four major sports has expanded…. I believe the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats in 2004 was the last of the top 4 sports. Before that it was the NFL’s Houston Texans in 2002 and before that it was the NHL’s addition of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild in 2000. For MLB, it was the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks in 1998.

When the NHL announced that they would be expanding, that the new team would cost a half-billion dollars and, in compensation, would be better stocked than prior teams, it caught my attention… even though I’d be hard-pressed to name two dozen current players in the NHL.

Unfortunately the Capitals protected the biggest obstacle to my becoming a Caps fan again – Alex Ovechkin, who got into the “Shlabotnik Hall Of Disdain” on the first ballot.  I knew the Caps wouldn’t allow Ovechkin to get selected for no compensation, but a guy can dream, can’t he?

Doppelgangers? ….Maybe….

A couple of years ago I had a short series of posts about what I called Doppelgangers, which are pairs of cards which were from different manufacturers but showed the same moment from slightly different angles.  For those of you who don’t want to click on links, here’s my favorite example:  The Geronimo Pena cards from 1994 Topps and Upper Deck Collector’s Choice:

The Dodger underneath Geronimo Pena is Brett Butler.  These two cards feature photos that were clearly taken by different photographers at the same moment.

The pairs I’m featuring today appear to be from the same play, but aren’t from the same moment and could conceivably be from different plays… but they’re close enough to be cool.

First up, we’ve got the patron saint of the baseball card Blogosphere, Bip Roberts.  Bip appears to be turning two against the A’s while Eric Fox (#28) breaks it up.

Since 1993 was before Interleague play, you wouldn’t see the Padre`s and A’s appear in the same game outside of Spring Training, so there’s no way to know which game this is from.  I don’t even know for sure that the Athletic on the ground in the second card is also Eric Fox.

Next up is a pair from 1994 Score and Collector’s Choice, this time featuring the Red Sox’ John Valentin and the A’s Brent Gates.

I could make guesses as to the play, but I couldn’t even swear that this is the same play.  I’m comfortable in saying that it’s either from July 8th 1993 or July 10th (Gates didn’t get on base on the 9th).

This final pair of cards isn’t really a Doppelganger because both cards are from 1994 Upper Deck sets, but I’ll feature it anyway, mainly because I kinda liked Anthony Young when he pitched for the Mets.

Oddball Odyssey: More From 1990 Topps Major League Debut

While finishing up my previous post about 1990 Topps Major League Debut, I realized I forgot to post the Juan Gonzalez card from the set. Since I don’t want “Juan Gone” to be neglected, and since I needed a fairly quick post for today, here are a number of other cards from that set, with minimal comments from me.

Juan Gone was only 19 when he played 24 games with the Rangers in 1989.,

Jose Vizcaino played for 8 teams and did two stints with the Dodgers.

Kevin Tapani was no longer a Met when this card came out;  he’d pitched just 3 games for the Amazin’s before going to Minnesota as part of a deadline deal for Frank Viola.

In one of the lesser trades in Baltimore history, the O’s traded Steve Finley, Curt Schilling and Pete Harnisch to Houston for Glenn Davis, who was already on the downside of his career trajectory.

Todd Zeile played for 11 different teams, but by far his longest run was with the Cardinals.

By comparison, Chris Hoiles played every one of his 874 Major League games with the Orioles… although he was originally drafted by the Tigers and came to the O’s in a trade for Fred Lynn (…And Mrs. Shlabotnik says Fred Lynn never did anything of value for the Orioles!)

Before Joe Girardi became a respected manager, he put in 15 seasons as a catcher.  For those of you in the New York area, in my head I always “hear” Joe Girardi’s name the way WFAN’s Steve Somers says it:  “Joe (pause)  GirARRRRRdi”

I thought this was an interesting trio of cards… Ben McDonald was a star pitcher for LSU and was selected #1 overall by the Orioles.  After two games in the minors he made his Major League debut… and because he was regarded as such a “can’t miss” prospect, he made it on to three different Topps cards:  Regular, Traded and Debut.

I’ll wrap things up with the first runner up in the “Cuppa Cawfee” competition:

Brian Brady was the Angels’ 6th round pick in 1984. Under other circumstances, Brady is a guy I could get behind because like me he was born in Queens (Elmhurst in Brady’s case) and also like me he’s under 6′ tall. Very much unlike me, Brady appeared in the Majors and got on base.

The game featured on the card was Sunday, April 16th, 1989, in Seattle. With the Halos up 9-0 in the 9th, Brady pinch hit for RF Claudell Washington and doubled off the Mariners’ Mike Schooler, driving in Devon White and putting the Angels up 10-0. He’d stay in the game to play the bottom of the 9th in right field.

Brady’s second and final appearance came in Oakland the following Saturday, April 22nd. With the Angels down 4-3 going into the 9th inning, the A’s brought on Dennis Eckersley. Brady pinch-hit for SS Kent Anderson, and was the 2nd victim as Eck struck out the side for the save.

And that was the extent of Bryan Brady’s career. Two 9th-inning appearances, 2 plate appearances, 1 double, 1 RBI. The rest of the 1989 season was spent with AAA Edmonton, he spent 1990 with the Giants’ AAA team in Phoenix, and that was the end of Brady’s professional career.

According to tradingcarddb.com, this is Brady’s only Major League card, although he had a few minor league cards, including some nationally-issued minor league sets.

….And that wraps up everything I have to say about 1990 Topps Major League Debut. I’ll write up a post about the two follow-up sets if – and this is a big “if” – I actually have any of those cards. I think I do, but I’m not sure.