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.

Keeping Things International: A Pack Of 2004 BBM “Golden Arms”

Before Series 1 showed up on Target shelves, I was in need of a pack to open and fairly well despondent over my lack of options… until I remembered I’ve got a bunch of “rainy day” unopened packs at home, including several Japanese packs. I looked through my box and picked out the pack I knew the least about: 2004 BBM “Golden Arms”.

The only thing I know about it is what I could find on Japanese Baseball Cards blog and TradingCardDB.com… it’s a 144 card set split evenly between active and retired pitchers. I’m not terribly hopeful that I’ll know any of the names in the pack, but I’ll settle for a cool photo… and besides, just the fact that they had been issued in Japan gives them a certain level of coolness regardless of which cards I pull (unless it’s something ridiculously bad, like a “Checklist hot pack”).

Here’s the back of the wrapper…

OK, so first card – Kazuya Motoyanagi

Motoyanagi pitched 8 seasons for the Orix BlueWave, mostly in relief.  His career stats aren’t particularly eye-catching.

Here’s the back of his card, just for the record:

I like the idea of a set where the checklist is based on a theme… In a way, it’s surprising that Topps hasn’t come out with a “Power hitter”-themed set that features Aaron Judge 20-30 times.

Moving along… Kazumi Takahashi.  BTW, the “Active Arm” cards have blue borders, the “Legend Arm” cards have burgundy borders.

Kazumi Takahashi pitched for 19 seaons and won two Sawamura Awards, the equivalent of a Cy Young.  He was an All-Star six times, and, much to my delight, he falls into the category of “Hey, I’ve already got a card of this guy!”

This card comes from the 1979 TCMA Japanese Baseball set.

Back to the Active Arms (and another Yomiuri Giant) – Masanori Hayashi.

Hayashi pitched 13 seasons… most recently in 2015 and mostly in relief.

Back to the Legends – Takamasa Suzuki.  Eighteen seasons for the Chunichi Dragons, seven All-Star teams, and three straight “Fireman Of The Year” awards.

Another Active Arm, another Giant:  Masaki Saitoh.  Saitoh won the Sawamura Award in 1989, 1995 and 1996.  In 1990 he was the Central League MVP but Hideo Nomo beat him for the Sawamura.

Leaving the best for last…

This card, right here.

I love this photo… This card makes this pack worth whatever I’d paid for it when I bought it a couple of years ago. For me, it’s also the first time I’d seen a Toei Flyers uniform… if Wikipedia is to be trusted, the Flyers became the Nippon Ham Fighters for the 1974 season.

Yukio Ozaki won 20 games four times from 1962 to 1966, including a 20-9 rookie season which got him the 1962 Rookie Of The Year award.  A “dead arm” cut short his effectiveness, but he would continue to pitch through 1973.

So that’s the entirety of the pack.  Even without the name recognition, it’s always fun to bust open a pack from overseas!

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Another Batch Of Olympic Custom Cards (Curling & Hockey)

I’m enjoying the Olympics, but I’ve got to admit it’s too much, too quickly.  I was doing an OK job of keeping up with the mixed doubles curling that more-or-less opened the Olympics for me, but once it got into men’s and women’s curling and men’s and women’s hockey and watching some figure skating with Mrs. S… It feels like I can’t keep up no matter how I try.

It almost seems like they should divide it up somehow… Maybe do the “Men’s Olympics” and the “Women’s Olympics” at separate times.

I have to admit, mixed doubles grew on me this time around.  During previous exposure to it, I felt like it was just a weird spinoff sport, but I think I gained an appreciation for the speed and excitement it brings… not better, not worse, but different.

As an American I was, of course, rooting for the Hamiltons, but once they fell out of contention I was pulling for the Canadian team of Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris.  I’d gained an appreciation for Lawes four years ago when she was part of the Gold-winning women’s team in Sochi, and I was happy to see them win (even if I didn’t get a chance to watch them win…)

In their game against the USA, the Swiss Mixed Doubles team won in the final end by scoring six…  And I will point out that in Mixed Doubles each team only throws six rocks to begin with, so this is an Olympic record which literally cannot be broken.

That seemed to be the way it went with the Hamiltons… Good play overall which got undone by bad ends.

The Swiss pair of Jenny Perret and Martin Rios won the Silver medal.  The US team had too many moments like the last end against the Swiss, and finished 7th overall.

I hadn’t really seen the Russian mixed doubles team, but two of my friends were telling me about how much they enjoyed their matches… and then I found out that a lot of men enjoyed watching the Russians… specifically because of Anastasia Bryzgalova.

The women’s competition, as I write this, is somewhat upside down.  At one point the Canadian women were a shocking 0-3 (and took out their frustrations by beating Nina Roth’s USA team 11-3 in 7 ends), while Japan was 3-0 and Korea and China were also near the top.

Over on the men’s side, Sweden is rolling along at 6-0, while the Canadian and Swiss teams aren’t far behind.

Next week – and possibly during the week – I’ll have more curling customs.


Quick mini-rant here… I have to say that many of the Olympic websites suck, at least for hockey and curling.  They give you high-level information and background pieces on individual players, but if you want to find out any details or statistics… well, why would you want to do that?  Thank goodness for the websites of the World Curling Federation and the International Ice Hockey Federation.

End of mini-rant


In men’s hockey, the qualification playoffs start on Tuesday with the USA taking on Slovakia with the winner taking on the Czech Republic 24 hours later.  I guess this is why you want to finish in the top four and get a bye…

Over in women’s hockey, the playoffs start late tonight with the US taking on Finland and Canada matching up against the Olympic Athletes From Russia.  The OAR team lost all three games in the preliminary round and were outscored 15 goals to 1, but came alive in the quarter-finals and beat previously-undefeated Switzerland 6-2.

Brianna Decker is in her second Olympics (she had an assist in the preliminary round) and in 2012 won the Kazmaier Award given to the top collegiate player in the US.

It’s interesting… All of the photos I used came from “media day” photo sessions. All of the Americans smiled, but many of the Canadians, like Ann-Renee Desbiens, had their game faces going.

Desbiens has played only in the opening game of the preliminary round, but shutout the OAR team 5-0.

Kacey Bellamy is another player in her third Olympics;  she’s also played in eight world championships.  She scored a goal in the preliminary round;  somewhat unusual since she plays defense.

One thing I’ve found interesting about following the women’s competition is how many of the players – not just Americans – played NCAA hockey.  Natalie Spooner is from the Greater Toronto Area but set school records while playing for Ohio State.

Since some readers have been asking me… I haven’t decided how far I’m going to go with these hockey customs.  I believe the “set” currently stands at 16, and I’ve shared all of the ones I’ve made to this point.  I could be done, but if a player has a particularly noteworthy playoff or if someone nicely asks me to make one for a player I haven’t done yet, I can be persuaded to crank out a couple more.

There *will* be more curling customs;  hockey was a side-trip that ended up being more than I’d intended (because I was so happy with the way they turned out).

Sick Day: Featuring A Gathering Of Cards From COMC

As I mentioned in my last post, I got my butt whupped by a bad cold.  I ended up taking a sick day, but felt better after spending much of yesterday snoozing on the couch, watching curling and hockey and getting sucked in to an episode of “Law & Order:  SVU”.  I certainly didn’t see THAT plot twist coming… neither did Ice-T.

Later in the afternoon I was feeling kinda restless, but still without enough brainpower to do more than share a bunch of semi-recent acquisitions and comment on them… So that’s what you’re getting today.

You might remember that last summer I found a $3 1990-91 Topps Hockey Factory Set

…And given the general lack of focus in my hobby objectives of late, it will come as no surprise that I still haven’t figured out what I want to do with this set.  I’m still toying with the idea of using the set as the basis of a hockey Frankenset, but I need to fish or cut bait on that idea.

I did have an idea that I should try to chase down all of the 1990-91 O-Pee-Chee hockey cards on my wantlist so that I can just wipe my hands of this entire year’s worth of hockey cards.  I bought a number of those cards, but this is the most interesting:

This is from an OPC subset which featured players from the various Soviet teams which played a series of exhibitions against NHL teams.  I remember Sergei Nemchinov from his 6 years with the Rangers, and while I’ve never truly been a fan of the Broadway Blueshirts, my father was such a devoted fan that Rangers cards from the 1970’s through the 1990’s hold a fair amount of nostalgia value for me.

Speaking of family connections, Mrs. Shlabotnik is a die-hard Orioles fan whose two all-time favorite players were Cal Ripken and Brian Roberts.  She doesn’t share my passion for baseball cards, but I still maintain a semi-passive player collection for both players (she does appreciate the cards when she sees them).  Here’s the latest addition to the Brian Roberts PC.

This is a 2005 MLB Showdown card, the last year for that brand. Is it wrong to say I miss a manufacturer when I never bought a single pack at the time?  To be fair, I don’t really remember seeing packs around…

OK, there’s a bit of backstory to the next featured card… Back in 1977 I pulled this card out of a pack:

I’d never heard of Chuck Hartenstein before pulling this card, and I never really heard anything about him after pulling this card. I always assumed he was a one-and-done guy from a first-year franchise.

…And then I ran across this card:

And I said “WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT????”

Turns out ol’ Chuck pitched for the Cubs, Pirates, Cardinals and Red Sox before the Blue Jays were even a glint in their daddy’s eye (so to speak). He pitched exclusively in AAA from 1971 to 1976, which is why I’d never heard of him when I pulled the card. Here’s a fun Chuck Fact: He made his Major League debut in 1965 as a pinch-runner, but didn’t actually pitch in a Major League game until the following year.

Back in late 2011, the Orioles took Ryan Flaherty from the Cubs in that winter’s Rule V draft. “Flash” stuck with the team and became a very versatile part of manager Buck Showalter’s roster, having played every position but pitcher, catcher and center field. I decided to make a modest effort to chase down his cardboard (there ain’t a lot of it). The latest example of this is from the 2010 Upper Deck World Of Sports set and shows Ryan from his days with Vanderbilt University.

So I get this card and what happens? Flaherty, a free agent, signs a minor league contract with the Phillies. Don’t it just figure. It’s still a fun addition to my modest Flash PC. I think I have more cards of him with Vanderbilt, Team USA and a couple of minor league teams than with the O’s.

That’s all I had planned for this post, but you know what? I feel like there’s more in me… I’m going to forge ahead!

Here’s another 1990-91 OPC card featuring someone who Rangers color analyst Bill “The Big Whistle” Chadwick always referred to as “Young Greschner”, and that’s what I think of whenever I see Ron Greschner.

As the little O-Pee-Chee note on the front of the card indicates, Greschner was released the summer before and would never play again, so this card serves as a career-capper.

I have to admit, these 1981 Kellogg’s cards are growing on me… and they’re relatively easy to come by… It’s not the first time I’ve thought of chasing this set as a WTF goal.

I wasn’t a fan of “Louisiana Lightning” at the time – he WAS a Yankee, after all – but I have to admit that I look back on him more fondly than I expected I would.

Here’s another Kellogg’s card, and one which gives some insight into why Ross Grimsley had the nickname “Crazy Eyes”.

Another 1970 Topps which was part of my back-burnered quest/excuse to obtain cards featuring the Topps All-Star Rookie Trophy.

Ted Sizemore was the 1969 Rookie Of The Year and even got a tiny amount of MVP consideration.  He had a nice 12-year career, but would never factor in to any awards voting again.

I’ll wrap things up with this 2004 Topps All-Time Fan Favorites card of someone who truly does justice to the brand’s name, Don Zimmer.

The only thing which would make this card better is if they used blue for the “Zimmer” and “BROOKLYN DODGERS” text.

A Bad Repack, A Bad Cold And Babe Ruth

A couple of weeks ago when attempts to find any new packs and/or blasters came up empty, I settled on one of those “Four unopened packs plus 50 cards” repacks. It was a bust by even by my low standards… except, much to my surprise, a pack of 2016 Leaf “Babe Ruth Collection” turned out to be the highlight of the repack. It’s not that I have a thing against Babe Ruth, but I was expecting something uninteresting like those “Pete Rose – The Living Legend” cards from a few years ago.

Fast forward to this week; I’ve been fighting a cold since Thursday (the cold is winning, BTW) and while I don’t feel terribly poorly, my brain is running on what my phone would call “Low Power Mode”, so I needed something quick and relatively easy to write about.

Enter Babe Ruth, stage left.

The caption to this card pretty much says it all – Babe Ruth participated in a charity football game.

Babe Ruth playing Football? I didn’t expect anything as unusual (and cool) as that.

Little did I know that this would be outdone two cards later.


Babe Ruth with Mike The Chimpanzee? Gotta love it. The back of the card doesn’t shed a whole lot of light on it… The photo was taken in October, 1928 at the St. Louis Zoological Park.

One other bit of “joy” that came out of the meager research done for this post… The realization that I’ve outlived Babe Ruth; The Sultan Of Swat died of cancer a little over 6 months past his 53rd birthday.  I am… well, I’m a little older than that.  ‘Nuff said.

If nothing else, it reminds me of the classic Tom Lehrer line:  “It is a sobering thought, for example, that when Mozart was my age he had been dead for two years.”

That is as far as my brain cells will take me today.  I hope to be back in better form later in the week.

Olympic Women’s Hockey Customs: Bloodlines

Last weekend I did a post featuring a number of Olympic custom cards, largely of the USA and Canada women’s hockey teams. In researching the post and the growing set of customs I’m making, it struck me how many of these players come from hockey families.

…Not that I’m encouraging anyone to watch women’s hockey solely because former Capital Bill Mikkelson’s daughter plays for Team Canada;  nevertheless, the stories add a bit of interest (and give me an excuse to feature more customs).

Canadian forward Sarah Nurse is a cousin to Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse, and another cousin is Kia Nurse, who plays for the UConn Huskies… And to add one more I found out about while watching the game this morning, her uncle is former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb.

Nurse just turned 23 and is in her first Olympics, but has experience in high-pressure situations;  in all four of her years at the U. of Wisconsin she played in the NCAA Frozen Four.

Amanda Kessel is the highest-paid player in the National Women’s Hockey League, was on the team which won Silver in the 2014 Sochi Olympics and has two hockey-playing brothers.  Her brother Phil is a right winger with the Penguins, and her brother Blake was drafted by the Islanders and is currently playing in Europe.

In 2013 Kessel won the Patty Kazmaier Award given to the top player in NCAA women’s hockey.  That year she was on a U. of Minnesota team which went 41-0-0 and, of course, won the NCAA championship.  I’ll have more about that 2013 Minnesota team in a minute.

Laura Stacey is the great granddaughter of Hockey HOFer “King” Clancy, who has been named one of the 100 greatest hockey players of all time.

Stacey is in her first Olympics, but was on Team Canada for the 2017 Women’s World Championship.

There are at least two pairs of sisters who are playing in the Olympics. Most obvious of those two pairs are twins Monique Lamoureux-Morando…

…and Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, both of whom have played for Team USA for a number of years and are in their third Olympic games.

The thought of putting the two of them together on a custom hockey card made me think of Ed & John O’Brien who shared a 1954 Topps baseball card, so I attempted to do something along those lines;  their two hyphenated names take up a lot more space than “Ed & John O’Brien”

My favorite sister story involves Hannah and Marissa Brandt.  Marissa was born in South Korea and was adopted by American parents when she was 4 months old.  Hannah was born after Marissa was adopted, and the two of them grew up together and played hockey together.

Hannah made Team USA;  She was a teammate of Amanda Kessel on that 2013 Minnesota team, which also included several other women playing in PyeongChang:  Canada’s Marie-Philip Poulin (who got a custom in the last post) and Finland’s Mira Jalosuo and Noora Raty.

Marissa played Division III hockey and thought her competitive hockey days were over once she graduated;  until people with the South Korean team found out about Marissa and recruited her to join them.

Marissa is playing under her birth name, Park Yoon Jung, but I’ve noticed that the NBC announcers covering the Switzerland – Korea game referred to her as Marissa Brandt.

US vs. Canada In The “1977 Baseball Card” Competition

It’s been a busy week and the past day or two I’ve been spending my small amounts of free time watching Olympic mixed doubles curling… So out of necessity this post is going to be relatively quick, and will involve comparing three 1977 Topps Baseball cards to their corresponding (yet different) 1977 O-Pee-Chee Baseball cards.

First off, we’ll start with the Blue Jays’ John Scott.  Scott was the Padres’ 1st round draft pick (and 2nd overall behind Chris Chambliss) in the January, 1970 draft.  In 1976 he played for the AAA Hawaii Islanders under Roy Hartsfield, who would become the Jays’ first manager… so it’s no coincidence that he was among the first players obtained by the Jays (purchased from the Padres on Oct 22, 1976).

For Topps, he shared a rookie card with Andre Dawson, Gene Richards and Denny Walling.

But since he was a Blue Jay, he got his own card in the O-Pee-Chee set.

John Scott did not play well in his only long look in the Majors, batting .240 with 26 runs, 15 RBI and 10 stolen bases.  He’d never play in MLB after 1977, but he would play in Japan for the Yakult Swallows and make his way into the 1979 TCMA Japanese Baseball set.

As long as I’m sharing John Scott cards, here’s his 1976 SSPC card from his time with the Padres.

OK, getting back to 1977…

In 1976, Phil “Scrap Iron” Garner was the starting second baseman for the Oakland A’s, and was named to the All-Star Game, backing up starter Bobby Grich.

The A’s were, at the time, cleaning house of all of the players who were likely to leave as free agents, and Garner was involved in a 9-player trade that had him going to the Pirates.

Garner’s numbers with the 1977 Pirates were similar to his numbers with the 1976 A’s, except he went from 54 runs scored to 99, and his homers more than doubled from 8 to 17.

…and how about that airbrushing job?

For the most part I’m collecting 1977 O-Pee-Chee cards which have photos which have different photos or are airbrushed, and I skip past cards which have different cropping.  This last card falls into that category, but I didn’t realize it until after I got the OPC.  Here’s the Topps card…

In 1977, Larry Parrish was 23 and in his third season as the Expos’ starting 3rd baseman.  He struggled a bit in 1976 and 1977, but would bounce back nicely in 1978 and have an All-Star season in 1979.

O-Pee-Chee cropped his photo much tighter than Topps did.

Like Phil Garner, Parrish would later manage in the Majors.  Like John Scott, Parrish would play in Japan for the Yakult Swallows (and also the Hanshin Tigers).

 

Random Team Review: 1973 Topps Detroit Tigers

The 1973 Detroit Tigers finished with a 85-77 record, 12 games behind the Orioles.  They had, however, finished in 1st place the prior year, finishing a half-game ahead of the Red Sox before losing to the A’s 3 games to 2 in the ALCS.

The 1973 Tigers were 1st place as late as August 14th, when they went into a skid and fell to 3rd place, 7.5 games out of first, which contributed to the firing of…

Billy Martin, who would be replaced by coach Joe Schultz for the remainder of the season.  Schulz would not be brought on full time;  Ralph Houk would be the Tigers manager in 1974.

Funny thing… I don’t think I’d ever noticed that Joe Schultz’s name is missing from this card.

Best Starting Pitcher
Joe Coleman went 23-15 with a 3.53 ERA, 13 complete games, 2 shutouts and 202 K’s.

File this under “It was a different time…”:  Despite his 23 wins, Coleman didn’t get any Cy Young votes.  He did finish 23rd in the MVP voting, though.

Best Relief Pitcher
John Hiller went 10-5, 1.44 with 38 saves.  He had 124 K’s in 125.1 innings pitched.

Hiller finished 4th in Cy Young voting… By the way, this happened after Hiller suffered a heart attack at the age of 28.  I wrote about John Hiller a couple of years ago, if you want to know more.

Best Offensive Player
This team was not an offensive juggernaut.  There was nobody who stood out in this category so I’m going to go with Willie Horton who was an All-Star, lead the team with a .316 batting average and had 17 homers and 53 RBI.  Arguments could also be made for Norm Cash and Mickey Stanley.

Best on-field photo; Favorite card
Without a doubt:

The Yankees’ Celerino Sanchez evades Bill Freehan’s tag… I’m guessing I’m not the first person to try to figure this play out, but I believe it’s from August 8th, 1972.   In the bottom of the 4th the was game tied 1-1, Mickey Lolich on the mound, one out and Felipe Alou had singled. Sanchez was hit by a pitch, moving Alou to 2nd.  Ron Swoboda singled, scoring Alou and sending Sanchez to 2nd base.  Gene “Stick” Michael flied out to right and then pitcher (and Shlabotnik favorite) Fritz Peterson – FRITZ!!! – singled, but the throw from left fielder Willie Horton nailed Sanchez at the plate.

Best Name
Aurelio Rodriguez

Best (relatively speaking) Rookie Card
There are three rookie cards in this team set. All three feature pitchers. None of them had a long or ourstanding careers. I ruled out Bob Strampe from consideration (he shared a “Rookie Pitchers” card with Jesse Jefferson and Dennis O’Toole), but I couldn’t decide between the other two, so I decided to just feature them both.

As I was finishing this post I discovered two things about Bill Slayback which would’ve put him over the top from the start, had I only realized…

First off, Slayback no-hit the Yankees through 7 innings in his 1972 Major League debut.  Johnny Callison led off the 8th inning with a single, which broke up the No-No, but Slayback would get the win (and Seelbach got the Save).

The other thing which really floored me was that Bill Slayback wrote a song with Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell, Slayback would record that song… and it’s a song I know!  …Although, to be fair, it’s a song I know from a CD called “Baseball’s Greatest Hits”… but still!

And now we have a long-distance dedication… Here’s Bill Slayback with “Move Over Babe (Here Comes Henry)”

I’ve got another music-related comment about Bill Slayback that I’ll save for the end of the post.

Best Cartoon #1

Here’s another MLB debut of note… On April 11th, 1963, Chris Zachary came in to pitch the 9th for the Houston Colt .45’s against the San Francisco Giants.  With the Colts down 4-1, Zachary walked Willie Mays, gave up a single to Willie McCovey (sending Mays to third) and then gave up a 3-run homer to Orlando Cepeda.  A rough debut for sure… but then Zachary settled down and got Tom Haller, Felipe Alou and Jose Pagan to get out of the inning.

This has nothing to do with anything, but I have to mention it:  The awesomely-named Conrad Cardinal also made his MLB debut in that game, pitching the 6th, 7th and 8th for the Colts.  Cardinal’s entire MLB career consisted of 6 games in 1963 with Houston, so Cardinal never pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals.  Even more sad:  His only baseball card, a 1963 Rookie Stars card shared with Dave McNally, Don Rowe and Ken Rowe, lists him as Randy Cardinal.  Bummer.

Best Cartoon #2

Best Cartoon #3

Best Cartoon #4


THE BILL SLAYBACK!

James Brown had a song in 1973 called “The Payback”, and when I look at Bill Slayback’s card I hear James Brown singing “Gotta get ready for the Bill Slayback!” I’d have to think that somebody on the team gave him grief over that.

I don’t know karate, but I know ca-razy!
(Some of the lyrics found on the internet say “…But I know ka-razor”.  Really?  “Ka-razor”????  NEVER trust internet lyrics.)