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.

The Wayward COMC Box, Part 3 – Senators And Expos

Continuing the story of a shipment from COMC which “went dark” for 10 days before appearing in my mailbox…

I have a thing for teams which no longer exist… You may be familiar with my “Dead Parrot” hockey card project, but I also have a decent collection of Seattle Pilots cards. Lately I’ve been pondering making Washington Senators cards an official low-priority goal.  I haven’t officially pulled the trigger but I have started to pick up cheap vintage Senators just because.

…Not that I really need an excuse to pick up inexpensive 1960s Post Cereal cards. This 1962 card mentions Billy Klaus having been taken from the Orioles in the 1960 AL expansion draft and his 91 games as a utility infielder, but he was sold to the Phillies just before the start of the 1962 season.

This 1963 Topps card features Senators reliever Pete Burnside, who was part of my 1959 Commons project which combined two loves of my life – common baseball cards and Statis Pro Baseball.  After the 1963 season Burnside would go to Japan and pitch two seasons for the Hanshin Tigers

Burnside wasn’t new to the Senators in 1963, so that thumbnail photo must’ve been an old one.  Based on the piping on the jersey, I’m guessing the photo is from 1959 or 1960 when Burnside was with the Tigers.

Pete wasn’t a stranger to airbrushing… His 1958 rookie card shows him with an airbrushed San Francisco Giants cap (as they’d just moved from New York) and his 1959 card shows the same photo with an airbrushed Detroit Tigers logo.

These next two Senators are technically part of my slow, slow 1970 Topps build, but I love them because they’re Senators.

1970 saw Jim Hannan in his 9th year with the Senators;  after the season he’d be sent to Detroit in a trade that also involved Denny McLain, Elliott Maddox, Aurelio Rodriguez, Ed Brinkman and Joe Coleman.

Ed Stroud was the Senators’ center fielder but would be traded to the White Sox for Tommy McCraw the following spring.

I semi-collect Eddie Yost but hadn’t realized that he had a nice-looking “Flashback” insert in 2007 Heritage.  I’d originally started collecting Yost because he was a Mets coach when I was a kid, but I’ve come to appreciate his playing days when he lead the league in walks six times and on-base percentage twice.

I started following baseball in 1974, two years after the Senators became the Rangers and five years after the Pilots became the Brewers.  When I was a kid and ran across cards of the Senators and Pilots I was intrigued because here were these somewhat recent cards that were of teams I’d never seen play.  It made me think today that, had things gone differently in 1973 and another relocation hadn’t fallen through, I’d be here telling you about how I love Padres cards because they’d moved to Washington just before I became baseball-aware.

The Pirates and Dodgers had given up on Bob Bailey in 1968, and he went unclaimed by the Padres and Expos in that October’s expansion draft… but then the Dodgers sold his contract to the Expos a week later.  It took a little time but he ended up being one of the better hitters on those early Expos teams.  As a kid I always confused Bob Bailey with teammate Ron Fairly.

Ellis Valentine had a dozen Major League games under his belt when this 1976 SSPC card was issued, but he’d play in the All-Star game and win a Gold Glove within the next few seasons.  Dude had a cannon for an arm.

1981 Donruss was my third-favorite set of 1981… Well, maybe 4th if you count the oversized Topps Home Team Photos (aka “Super”) cards… But 1981 was still a very exciting year after – for me – seven years of nothing but Topps.  Bill Lee was on the downside of his career, but The Spaceman was still fun.

Goal-wise, 1981 Donruss is in limbo. It’s a set from my teen years and I’ve got about 450 of the 605 cards, but a voice in my head says “It’s got a lot of crappy cards… and you’ve already got two complete 1981 sets, do you really need a third?”  I’ve thought about cutting bait on 81D, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to do it.  In the meantime, I buy the occasional card that I would get even if I did pull the plug on this set.

OK, that’s it for this batch of cards… but I still have another post or two coming out of this COMC box.

The Wayward COMC Box Part 2: Soccer! (Or “Football”!)

As part of my recent COMC shipment which arrived 10 days after the USPS said it was delivered (as covered in Part 1), I received a few Soccer cards… well, all but two of them are technically English Footballer cards.

Since we’re deep into relegation/promotion time in England while MLS and the NWSL is gearing up, I figured this would be as good a time as any to share these.

This card is from the 1978/79 Topps English Footballers set, which shares a design with 1977 Topps Football (as in NFL).

I bought it as part of a Monty Python reference collection, but it turns out there were TWO goalies named Phil Parkes in the 1970’s which is probably why one Monty Python sketch referred to the other Phil Parkes as “Phil Parkes of Wolves” (i.e. Wolverhampton Wanderers) to distinguish him from this one who played for Q.P.R. (Queens Park Rangers) and West Ham United.

Q.P.R. was a founding member of the Premier League in 1992, but have spent most of the past dozen years in the 2nd tier Championship League.

This card from the same set amused me because it looks like Len Cantello is kicking the ball graphic on the card.

W.B.A. = West Bromwich Albion.  West Brom has spent the last couple of seasons in the Championship.

Speaking of relegation, the Everton is currently fighting to stay in the Premier League. Back in 1970, Everton was the league champion as evidenced by this card from the 1970/71 A&BC English Footballers set. You can tell I never collected basketball cards by the fact that I smiled at only 19 guys being on a team card.

A&BC was Topps predecessor and used some licensed Topps designs. This set is kinda sorta like 1967 Topps Baseball but not really.

The back is a checklist, which adds to the fun in a weird way.

…And it tells me that A&BC cards came in series, which I don’t think I realized.

This card is from the 1976-77 Topps English Footballers set and while I wouldn’t know Kevin Beattie if he walked up to me and said “I’m Kevin Beattie”, I simply wanted an example of this subset.

Although the bottom of the card has a 1975 Topps baseball look to it, this is from a set that is not based on any North American Topps designs.

Back in 1990s I was a fan of the Long Island Rough Riders, one of the best teams in the country in those wild and lawless days before MLS was created. The three best players from that Rough Riders team were Giovanni Savarese, Chris Armas and Tony Meola (who also played for Team USA). I added a pair of cards to my modest Meola collection.

This card is from the 1994 Upper Deck World Cup set and is from an insert set which featured photography by the legendary Walter Iooss.

The top part of the card has the logo and text in white letters with grey dropshadow in front of a white border, which didn’t scan all that well. It’s kind of a shame to have such big borders on a set featuring a legendary sports photographer.

That goalie uniform, I feel the need to say, is SO VERY 1994.

Last card in the batch is this 2021 Sportskings card… or Sports Kings. I forget which one it is, I just know that I always pick the wrong one when I try to search TCDB for this set.

For those who are bored by soccer cards and yet managed to get to this part of the post, I’ll reassure you that the remaining posts about this COMC box will feature baseball cards.

The Wayward COMC Box, Part 1

At the end of March I requested shipment on a box of 39 cards I bought at COMC… Nothing in the box would put anyone’s child through college, or even buy their child a t-shirt at the college bookstore, but I was looking to add a number of fun cards to my collection, including a couple which were not quite white whales, but more “white koi”.

(and an excuse to pull this cartoon out again)

I patiently waited for the cards to be pulled and shipped by COMC, and then I kept a watch on the tracking. On Monday, April 24th the tracking showed the package as having been “Delivered”. Gleefully I ran out to my mailbox and…


I looked in the plants around the mailbox, because sometimes they’ll perch a box on the back of the mailbox and the box could have fallen off.


I looked at my front porch and around my garage door.


I waited a day to make sure that it wasn’t just misscanned by the carrier, then called the local post office to alert them that I hadn’t received it. I reached out to COMC for help and they got the USPS involved from their end.

Nothing, nothing, nothing.

A week passed, and no word. I even tried searching eBay for some of the more distinctive cards, thinking that if the same seller had new listings for both a 1977 O-Pee-Chee Baseball Tom Bruno *AND* a 1987 Huntsville Stars Wally Whitehurst, then that was my evidence that my box had been stolen by a porch pirate. eBay came up empty, which was just as well because I don’t know what I would’ve done about it (except get closure that my box was never arriving).

10 days after the “delivery date”, I had all but given up on the package being retrieved when a box showed up in my mailbox. I still have no idea of where the box had been for that time, but I no longer cared.

Many of the cards I got fell into a couple of categories and in this post I’ll write about some of the cards that are particularly random.

I got a Maserati in the mail! I’m in the midst of a slow build of the 1961 Topps Sports Cars set, and this is my 52nd card from the 66-card set.  For those who aren’t familiar with this set, the cards are “tall-boy” sized, but obviously they’re horizontal rather than tall.

I didn’t notice until I was writing this post that the scan of the back “jumps” about a 3rd of the way from left to right (around the ‘E’ in “SPORTS RACING ROADSTER”). That’s my scan, not a weird printing error.

Over the past three years I’ve been playing many games of Statis Pro baseball, my long-time favorite tabletop baseball game.

In some research related to a 1954 Statis Pro season I had obtained, I ran across a Cardinals reliever named Royce Lint. I was amused by the name, so I looked on COMC to see what was out there cardboard-wise… and I found this 1955 Bowman card that’s in really nice shape save for some light creasing… which automatically makes it one of the nicest mid-1950s cards in my collection.

Part of me wants to get a beat-up copy as a “wallet card” so I can say I’ve got Lint in my pocket (ba-dum-bum).

Even though I never played MLB Showdown, cards from the set fall into the category of “Oddballs I love to pick up when the opportunity presents itself”. My COMC shipment included these 2002 cards of Fonzie and Piazza (I’ll pretend that these cards don’t have the black uniforms that I’ve hated from the start)

In the mid 1980s my friend and I went to see the New Jersey Cardinals, which at the time was a Short-A team in the New York-Penn League. An opposing player for the Vermont Reds was catcher Terry McGriff, who looked like a superstar in the making to both my friend and me. McGriff, who is Fred McGriff’s cousin, ended up playing in 126 games over six seasons mainly with Cincinnati and St. Louis… not a superstar, but still beloved in Shlabotsylvania. I’ve got a section devoted to him in my Favorite Players binder and I decided to add this oddball from the 1988 Kahn’s Cincinnati Reds set. It’s always fun to add a card from a new-to-you set.

Speaking of Terry McGriff’s cousin Fred, he makes a cameo appearance on this Gary Carter card I got as part of a casual build of 1993 Topps.

I ran across some 1988 Topps Bazooka cards, and I couldn’t remember seeing these simple yet appealing cards before… So I went ahead and got the full Mets team set. The complete set is 22 cards, so the Mets team set is Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry.

I got a bunch of other fun cards, but I think this is enough for one sitting.

I’m Done Chasing 1977 O-Pee-Chee Baseball Cards! …Probably…

For those who aren’t familiar with 1977 O-Pee-Chee baseball, it’s not your typical vintage or semi-vintage OPC set. Like it’s OPC Baseball siblings it is largely a Canadian, bilingual subset of the Topps set of the same year, but in 1977 – probably because of the Toronto Blue Jays joining the American League that season – there were many cards which got updated for player movement and, in the case of the Blue Jays and Expos, took advantage of OPCs later production date and replaced Topps images with spring training photos.

I learned a lot about this set through the retired blog (and valuable reference tool) Oh, My O-Pee-Chee… hard to believe that it’s been over ten years since that blog wrapped up!

So my objective with 1977 OPC has been to collect all of the cards which were different enough to make “1977 Me” sit up and take notice.  Generally speaking, that means OPC cards which have different photos or which weren’t in 77T at all. With some exceptions, I ignored the OPC cards which were missing All-Star Rookie Cups or the “ALL-STAR” banner on the bottom…

…or which were cropped differently than the same photo on the Topps card.

In all, I targeted 78 cards out of the 264 in the set, and the last four of those wants arrived in a recent COMC box.

First up is Phil Roof, an established veteran who was acquired by the Jays before the expansion draft but who played just 3 games for the Jays to wrap up his career.  As you can see, he posed for a photographer in spring training.

His Topps card features one of the better Blue Jay airbrushing jobs on a sub-par photo.

Here’s a fun bit of Phil Roof trivia… as a coach in the 1980’s, he was the last Mariner to wear #24 before Ken Griffey Jr.!

Al Woods was selected from the Twins organization in the expansion draft, made his Major League debut on opening day that year and played 122 games for the Jays.  This card is unique to 1977 O-Pee-Chee

Woods appeared in 1977 Topps on a Rookie Outfielders card.

Tom Bruno was selected from the Royals in the expansion draft and would pitch 12 games of relief with a 7.85 ERA and a 2.345 WHIP.  The following spring he’d be traded to the Cardinals for Rick Bosetti, and he would appear on his first and only Topps card in 1979 as a “Cardinals Prospect”.  This 1977 card is unique to O-Pee-Chee

These three Blue Jays cards were a bit of a pain to find.  I didn’t see many around, and a few COMC sellers were asking ridiculous prices for players that even die-hard Blue Jays fans would have trouble picking out of a police lineup.

After I got these cards, I thought I was done with 1977 OPC… but I went back to the 1977 entries for Oh My O-Pee-Chee! and double-checked to make sure I didn’t miss anything… and I didn’t.

…but I also changed my mind on the OPC Jeff Burroughs which has a minor difference that I decided was worthy of acquiring.  Y’see, I originally thought this was just a matter of changing the team name up top while leaving the photo as-is:

…but look at the jersey.  They took a Rangers jersey and airbrushed it into a mid-1970s style Braves jersey (along with moving the signature).  I said “OK, fine, just this one last card!” and bought that on COMC.

So with that I figured I was done chasing after 1977 O-Pee-Chee baseball cards.

That’s when I made a mistake of listening to a voice in my head which was thinking about this post and asked the innocent question “There aren’t any Blue Jays cards which are largely the same within both sets, right?  I mean, they wouldn’t use Topps airbrushing when they could use spring training photos”.

So I took a look, and for whatever reason the cards of Dave Hilton and Steve Hargan are airbrushed in both Topps and OPC.  Maybe they couldn’t get spring training photos of those two.  The thing is, they OPC has a very minor “update” on both cards.  Here are the Topps versions…

On both cards each player was given red, white and blue collars as part of their Topps airbrushing, but for OPC the collars are tweaked to a more accurate dark blue, white and light blue.  The facsimilie autograph was also rearranged, for those who are interested in that type of thing.

I could chase down these last two cards so I would have a complete Blue Jays team set of 26 cards, but I suspect that if I let my collecting impulses settle down I’ll go back to regarding myself done with this set… but I wouldn’t completely rule it out for the future.


The 1970’s, A To Z: Joe Torre to Manny Trillo

Recap: I’m going through all of the notable and somewhat notable players and managers of the 1970’s and I’m basically making like it’s an all-encompassing 1970’s throwback baseball card set. For the “card front”, I’m sharing my favorite 1970’s card of that guy. I’m also including a card back’s worth of information and thoughts about him and his cardboard.


1971 Topps #370

Played 1960 – 1977
Managed 1977 – 2010
1970’s Teams: Cardinals, Mets

1970’s Highlights:
Was named the NL MVP in 1971 after hitting 24 homers and leading the Majors with a .363 average, 230 hits and 137 RBI; Was an All-Star each year from 1970 to 1973 and started at 3B in 1971 and 1972; Hired by the Mets as their manager 45 games into the 1977 season and briefly served as a player/manager; Hit for the cycle vs. the Pirates, 6/27/73

Career Highlights:
Was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014; 2,342 career hits; Won four World Series as a manager with the Yankees; Won a Gold Glove as a catcher in 1965; Was traded to the Cardinals for fellow future HOFer Orlando Cepeda; His 2,326 wins as a manager are 5th on the all-time list; Caught Warren Spahn’s 300th win in 1961

Fun Stuff:
His older brother Frank also played in the Majors; With the Mets in 1975, he grounded into four straight double plays with Felix Millan setting the table with 4 straight singles

Card Stuff:
Appeared in every flagship Topps set of the 1970s (although in 1979 Topps he’s reduced to a thumbnail manager photo on the Mets team card); The above 1971 card appeared in the 1975 Topps “MVP” subset


1976 SSPC #381

Played 1967 – 1984
1970’s Teams: Cardinals, Expos, Orioles, A’s, Yankees, Red Sox

1970’s Highlights:
Won 20 games for the Orioles in 1975; Won 15+ games in 6 other seasons (1972, 1974, 1976-1979); Was the opening day starter four times for three teams: Expos (1973), A’s (1976 & 1977) and Red Sox (1978); Had two complete game wins with the Yankees in the 1977 World Series, including the series-clinching game 6; Threw four consecutive complete games with the 1972 Expos

Trade Stuff:
Was part of one of the biggest trades of the 1970s when, just before the 1976 season, the Orioles sent him to the A’s along with Don Baylor and pitcher Paul Mitchell for Reggie Jackson, Ken Holtzman and a minor league pitcher; Just over a year later he was traded by the A’s to the Yankees for Dock Ellis and Marty Perez

Fun(?) Stuff:
Gave up the infamous 3-run homer to Bucky (F***ing) Dent in the 1978 single-season playoff game to determine the AL East winner

Card Stuff:
Is missing from 1972 Topps but is represented from every other 1970s Topps set; After his April, 1977 trade to the Yankees, he appeared in that year’s Burger King Yankees set

1977 Burger King Yankees #7


1970 Topps #25

Played 1965 – 1976
1970’s Teams: Twins, Phillies, Rangers, A’s, Yankees

1970’s Highlights:
Lead the league with 36 doubles and 13 triples in 1970; Lead the league with 204 hits in 1971; Was hit by pitches a league-leading 14 times in 1972; Batted .385 with a triple in the 1970 ALCS vs. Baltimore; Got a hit and a walk in 3 plate appearances for Oakland in the 1975 ALCS vs. Boston; Hit for the Cycle vs. the Rangers, 9/19/72; Went 4-for-10 with 2 runs and 2 stolen bases in the Brewers 22-inning 4-3 win over Twins 5/12/72

Career Highlights:
Was never an All-Star even though he got MVP votes each year from 1967 to 1971; Holds the Twins record with 164 games played in 1967; Played all nine positions in a game in 1968; At one point he held the Minnesota Twins record for career stolen bases

Card Stuff:
Appeared in 1977 Topps with the Yankees even though he had played in just 13 games for them in a 1976 season split between Oakland and New York, and he had been released in December 1976


1977 Topps #125

Played 1974 – 1983
1970’s Teams: Brewers

1970’s Highlights:
Was an All-Star in 1976 in a year when he went 15-16 with a 2.81 ERA for a 95-loss Brewers team; Was the Brewers’ opening day starter in 1977; Struggled with injuries throughout his career but rebounded to get double-digit wins in 1978 and 1979

Career highlights:
Was named to the Milwaukee Brewers Wall of Honor in 2014

Fun Stuff:
Was the last Angels player to wear #26 before it was retired to honor Gene Autrey

Card Stuff:
Appeared in the 1977 Kellogg’s 3D set and the 1977 Hostess sets


1979 Topps #639

Played 1973 – 1989
1970’s Teams: A’s, Cubs, Phillies

1970’s Highlights:
Had two cups of coffee with the A’s before an October 1974 trade to the Cubs gave him the opportunity to play every day; Tied for 3rd in 1975 NL Rookie Of The Year voting (John Montefusco won, Gary Carter was second); Was an All-Star in 1977; Won a Gold Glove at 2nd base in 1979; Tied a Major League record by hitting two doubles in the same inning, 4/15/77; Got a bases-loaded single in his first Major League at bat; Scored a run in the 1974 ALCS after pinch-running for Jesus Alou in the 9th inning of Game 1

Career Highlights:
Was the MVP of the 1980 NLCS, going 8-for-21 with 4 RBI and some clutch hits; Made three more All-Star teams in the 1980s; Won two more Gold Gloves in 1981 and 1982; Inducted into the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame in 2012; Inducted into the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame in 2021

Fun Stuff:
Was born on Christmas Day, 1950

Card Stuff:
Had an updated (and airbrushed) card in the 1979 Burger King Phillies set

1979 Burger King Phillies #14

1961 Topps From A Card Show Four Years Ago

Over the weekend I was looking for an image on my laptop when I found a folder labeled “Chantilly April 2019″… Scans I had made of a card show haul, only a number of the scans hadn’t made it here on the blog… but I figure I could share four year old vintage scans here, vintage is always in style.

And maybe I should have written this post pretending I’d just been to Chantilly, in order to give the impression that I have a life.  It’s not like any of you would be able to challenge me on when I bought these 62-year-old cards.

Ray Barker says “Bustin’ makes me feel good!”  Oh, wait… that was Ray Parker Jr., not Ray Barker.  Never mind.

Barker was a September call-up in 1960 but spent 1961 through 1964 in Triple-A – first with Rochester (Orioles) and then with Jacksonville and Portland (both Cleveland).  He appeared in a career-high 109 games in 1965, most of which came after a May 1965 trade to the Yankees.  This is his rookie card, but his next Topps appearance was on a 1965 Indians Rookie Stars card with three other teammates.

Here’s another ROOKIE CARD!!!!!


This *is* Adair’s first Topps card, but he was on a 1960 Leaf card, so this 1961 Topps card is not his rookie card, despite the little ‘1961 Rookie’ star on it.  Adair was a light-hitting, good fielding infielder who played from 1958 to 1970 and who was an original Kansas City Royal.

It’s funny, I knew Whitey Herzog was a player before he was a manager, but it never really dawned on me that when he became the Royals’ manager he was already known to some of the fans in Kansas City… although not super well known, he never played more than 88 games in his three years with the Athletics.

I bought this card as part of my “Playing days cards of managers from my childhood” collection, but he would fit right in with the several 1961 Orioles I also bought, as Whitey was in a 7-player January 1961 trade between the O’s and A’s.

An addition to my Bill Virdon collection… Virdon was the Yankees manager when I first got into baseball and I started out liking both New York teams.  I was none too pleased when Virdon was replaced with Billy Martin, that was the beginning of my no longer liking the Yankees.

I know a guy named Bill Stafford… He’s the brother of a friend of mine and we used to bowl together.  My Bill Stafford is not this Bill Stafford, though.

The Bill Stafford I know never pitched for the Yankees and always looked like a real person rather than a colorized photo, but because of the Bill Stafford I do know, I casually collect the Bill Stafford I don’t know. Stafford had identical 14-9 records in 1961 and 1962, and got a win in Game 3 of the 1962 World Series.

Don Mossi.  ‘Nuff Said.

Eddie Yost is part of my “Mets coaches from when I was a kid” collection.  I’ve been playing Eddie Yost in my Statis Pro game and I’ll be damned if he didn’t come by his “The Walking Man” nickname honestly.

Spending Some Time With A Blaster Of 2023 Topps Big League

I like to support the (relatively speaking) low-end sets that card companies put out… partly because I’m cheap but also because there should be some options for collectors with limited budgets.

Big League has gotten my support over the past few years, even though the first set in 2018 had a uninteresting/unappealing design… and OK, I didn’t buy a lot of 2021 Big League partly because it came out a year late and I don’t see the point of buying new cards that were out of date as soon as they came out.

So here comes 2023 Topps Big League which, if you haven’t heard, has a base set that is tiered… The first 200 cards in the base set are “common”, the next 50 are “Uncommon foil” (one-per-pack foilboard cards that are shiny in the same way that the “Stars of MLB” inserts from 2023 Topps are shiny) then there are 25 rare blue foil cards (shortprints), 25 “super rare red foil” cards (super-shortprints) and 10 “legendary gold foil cards” which are super-super-shortprinted but also feature retired HOFers to which I say “Feh!” (Easy for me to say, of course, since I’m weary of retired players in current sets)

This approach is not sitting well with many collectors I know. Over a third of the ‘base set’ is shortprinted to varying degrees, the odds are daunting (1 in 90 packs for the Super Rare Red) and it takes a sort of Pokemon-ish approach to the set, even though the goals of collecting Collectible Card Game cards isn’t really the same as baseball cards are… or at least traditionally had been.

There’s also a matter of certain teams being absolutely slaughtered in terms of the ability to collect the team set. Fans of the White Sox get off easy – a team set consists of 7 commons and 4 Uncommons. No big. Marlins are similarly easy to complete. The Tigers, though, have just one common, 2 uncommons and 2 super rare cards. Ouch. My Mets get pretty well shafted as well, with 5 of the 12 cards being in Rare or Super Rate tiers… and of course, the biggest names (Scherzer, Verlander, Lindor) are in those tiers.

(Side note: The Mets got screwed even more than I had realized when I wrote the above paragraph… more on that towards the end of the post)

One more strike against Big League… When you look at it on a per card basis, it’s actually more expensive than Series 1.

At any rate, I was still trying to sort out how I feel about this set when I ran across some blasters in my local Target. My pack opening is still far behind where it had been in pre-pandemic seasons, so I grabbed one… “For science”, as they say.

The first thing I noticed is that the box is shiny… It’s shiny, fluorescent foilboard and it does make the blaster stand out. It looks very much like something that would fit right in to a Five Below store, if you find that description helpful. I tried to take a photo of it to share here, but me being a crappy photographer I couldn’t get a picture I liked so you’ll have to take my word for it.

Oh, and unlike some prior Big League blasters, there’s no bonus card on the side of the blaster. That’s a no-fun strike against this set.

OK, with that I’ll run you through the first pack I opened, and then get into some details about the rest of the blaster.

First card… Michael Massey. I’ll admit, I didn’t know him.

The design is good, functional, nothing special.  It’s not exactly Bowman-esque, but it would work as your typical nondescript Bowman design.

I like that there’s a “DID YOU KNOW?” on the back.  Not much else to say about the back other than the usual “Middle aged guy asks why the card numbers can’t be bigger” complaint.

Bryson Stott… It’s interesting that “Topps” is not found anywhere on the card front, just the “BL” Big League logo.

Joc Pederson…  As an amateur custom card maker, I will tell you that the face guards on 21st century batting helmets can making picking an image difficult.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – 8 Bit Ballers insert

OF COURSE the first insert I pull is one that was included in the preview images. I’ll share another 8-Bit insert a little later in this post.

Joe Musgrove – Uncommon Foil. You can’t tell from the scan, but these are shiny.

My first surprise of the blaster, even if it’s a mild one… I didn’t realize there would be horizontal cards.

I suspect that if one does the math then the odds of completing a “Uncommon” subset is not much different from the “Common” subset… Fewer in the packs, but fewer cards to obtain.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – Super Rare Red (spoiler alert – my best pull of the blaster)

I also suspect that the photography is more interesting as you go up in tiers, but none of what I see blew me away… but that’s generally not a strength of sets like Big League anyway.

Luis Severino

Cal Raleigh

…and that’s the first pack.  From what I pulled in the blaster, it seems that this pack would be a typical pack If you swapped out another common for the Super Rare card.  The 8 card packs generally go like this: common, common, common, insert, uncommon, common, common, common

Target blasters have Electric Orange parallels which are in addition to the other cards, so those five packs with parallels had 9 cards in them instead of 8.

I got an Electric Orange parallel of this Uncommon Foil Salvatore Perez card… I don’t think there are Target parallels for the red, blue and gold tiers.

Before I get into the rest of my inserts, I’ll point out a few minor points of interest with the base cards.

First off, some but not all of the cards have the player’s bat, hands or glove going “in front of” the border… you might have noticed it on Bryson Stott’s card above, here are several other examples:

Also, these have been updated for offseason moves in the same way Opening Day would have been – through the magic of Photoshop!

This Joey Gallo card photoshops him in the new-for-2023 Twins uniforms, but I noticed that another Twins card I got showed the player in last year’s uniform.

I was pleased to get a card of Kodai Senga, so now I have something tangible to use in that particular pocket of my “current Mets roster” binder.

OK, let’s get into the inserts.

Here’s another 8-Bit Baller insert. I kinda like the idea, I’m left cold by the execution… not that I have any ideas of how to improve it.

“City Slickers” highlights teams which have City Connect alternate uniforms.

“Roll Call”… can’t think of much to say about this insert that doesn’t state the obvious.

I got one Mascot in my blaster, and of course it’s Billy The Marlin. (sigh). At least it’s not one of those “I’ve come to devour your soul” pictures of ol’ Billy.

Finally there’s the “Topps Kids”-like Big Leaguers insert. These are fun and probably got the most attention of any of the inserts. Given the chase-y nature of this set I thought these might be high-odds, but I got three in my blaster.

At least I got one from my wantlist.

I know some of you are still pondering how much interest you have in this set, so I figured I’d include some breakdowns to give some idea of the value I got.

Here’s a brief overview of the 86 cards in my blaster (one of my packs had an extra card, woo hoo!):
– 59 common
– 10 uncommon foil (1 per pack)
– 4 Target exclusive “Electric Orange” common parallels
– 1 Target exclusive “Electric Orange” uncommon foil parallel
– 3 “8 Bit Ballers”
– 3 “Big Leaguers”
– 2 “Roll Call”
– 2 “City Slickers”
– 1 Mascot
– 1 super rare red (1:90 packs)
– Nothing from the “rare blue” tier (1:18 packs)
– Nothing from the legendary gold tier (1:360 packs)

Beckett said that the four most common inserts come one per four packs, so I guess another way to look at it is that you probably get one of those four insert sets in most packs.

In terms of completing the base set – something I’d never attempt in this case – I’ve got 29.5% of the Commons, 20% of the Uncommon Foil, 0% of the Rare Blue, 4% of the Super Rare Red and 0% of the Legendary Gold

I also tried to come up with a way to quantify the “stardom level” of players in each tier of the set so I bumped the checklist against a list of last year’s All-Star rosters (including those who were named to the team but were not on the final rosters).

Before I get into this, though, I’ll share a discovery I made when writing this post:  There are 10 superstars who are in the common tier and also in the shortprinted tiers: Fernando Tatis Jr., Ronald Acuña Jr., Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Bryce Harper, Juan Soto, Aaron Judge, Julio Rodriguez, Mookie Betts and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Anyway… here’s the All-Star breakdown:

Common tier: 26 All-Stars
Uncommon tier: 13
Rare tier: 9
Super Rare tier: 9
Common plus Rare: 1
Common plus Super Rare: 8

Fernando Tatis Jr. has both a common and a Super Rare card but was not an All-Star because he missed all of the 2022 season.

Fans of fifteen of the All-Stars are officially outta luck because they didn’t get a card in 2023 Big League. The most notable of these “too bad, so sad” All-Stars is…

(Y’all ready for this?)


I kid you not. There are inserts and autographs of Alonso, but no base card.

As long as I’m doing the legwork, the other 2022 All-Stars who did not get base cards are David Bednar, Framber Valdez, Garrett Cooper, Gregory Soto, Ian Happ, Joe Mantiply, Jordan Romano, Jorge López, Jose Trevino, Josh Hader, Martín Pérez, Paul Blackburn, Santiago Espinal and Clay Holmes.

So… would I buy another blaster of 2023 Big League? 


It’s not quite the shortprinted hellhole I feared, but I’m also not dying to buy more. It depends on what’s on the shelf when I’m in a store and itching to rip some wax.  If I can satisfy my pack-ripping urges in other ways then I’ll probably scarf up a bunch of Big League commons if/when I see them in a monster box at a card show or LCS.

If you’ve bought any 2023 Big League, I’d like to know how similar your experience was to mine.

The 1970’s, A To Z: Andre Thornton to Jeff Torborg

Recap: I’m going through all of the notable and somewhat notable players and managers of the 1970’s and I’m basically making like it’s an all-encompassing 1970’s throwback baseball card set. For the “card front”, I’m sharing my favorite 1970’s card of that guy. I’m also including a card back’s worth of information and thoughts about him and his cardboard.


1979 Topps #280

Played 1973 – 1987
1970’s Teams: Cubs, Expos, Indians

1970’s Highlights:
Thornton spent 7 seasons in the minors with the Phillies and Braves before being traded to the Cubs and making his Major League debut; Drove in 105 runs with 33 homers for Cleveland in 1978; Hit for the cycle against the Red Sox, 4/22/78

Career Highlights:
Was an All-Star with Cleveland in 1982 and 1984; Won the AL Comeback Player of the Year in 1982; Won a Silver Slugger as a DH in 1984; Hit 253 career homers; Inducted into the Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame in 2007

Fun Stuff:
In 1979 he was the last player to hit a home run off off Jim Hunter; Is the brother-in-law of fellow Major Leaguer Pat Kelly


1979 Topps #575

Played 1964 – 1982
1970’s Teams: Twins, Red Sox, Yankees

1970’s Highlights:
A fireballer who won 21 games in 1968, injuries forced Tiant to re-invent himself as a junkball pitcher, to great success; In 1972 he went 15-6, lead the league with a 1.91 ERA, was named the AL Comeback Player of the year and got a 1st place vote in Cy Young voting (Gaylord Perry was the winner); Had the league’s lowest WHIP (Walks/Hits per Innings Pitched) and won 20 games in 1973; Had 22 wins, lead the AL with 4 shutouts and was an All-Star in 1974; Was the Red Sox opening day starter from 1973 to 1975; In the 1975 World Series he had two wins (one a shutout) and a no-decision, plus at the plate he had a .400 on-base percentage, but Cincinnati won the series in 7; Won 21 games and was an All-Star in 1976

Career Highlights:
While with Cleveland in 1969 he lead the league with 20 losses, just a season after leading the league with a 1.60 ERA; Holds the Indians single-season mark with a .168 batting average against in 1968; Lead the AL in shutouts in 1966 and 1968; Won more games than any other 20th century Cuban pitcher; Started the 1968 All-Star Game; Was inducted into the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame in 1997 and the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011

Fun Stuff:
His father, also Luis Tiant but with a different middle name, pitched in the Negro Leagues in the 1930s and 1940s; Was the subject of a 2009 documentary, “The Lost Son Of Havana”; Made a guest appearance in an episode of “Cheers”

Card Stuff:
Appears in every Topps flagship set of the 1970s; His 1979 Burger King card (shown below) reflects his signing with the Yankees as a free agent

1979 Burger King Yankees #8


1975 Topps #241

Played 1972 – 1984
1970’s Teams: Indians, Yankees, Cubs

1970’s Highlights:
Broke in with the Indians as a starter and was named to the 1972 Topps All-Star Rookie Team; Shifted to the bullpen with the Yankees and stayed a reliever for most of his career; Pitched for the Yankees in the 1976, 1977 and 1978 World Series

Career Highlights:
Lead the NL with 84 appearances in 1980

Fun Stuff:
His nickname is “Dirt”; Was the last Cleveland pitcher to bat before the DH was implemented; Is one of a small number who have played for the Mets, Yankees, Cubs and White Sox

Card Stuff:
His card in the 1981 Topps/Coca-Cola Cubs set is different from his 1981 Topps card

1981 Topps/Coca-Cola Cubs #10


1976 SSPC #132

Played 1965 – 1979
1970’s Teams: Reds, Padres, Phillies, Pirates

1970’s Highlights:
In 1970 he scored a career-high 112 runs and lead the league in both steals (57) and caught stealing (20); In game 2 of the 1970 NL Playoffs he went 3 for 4 and scored all of the Reds runs in a 3-1 win over the Pirates; After missing 1971 to injury due to a torn achilles tendon, he won the 1972 NL Comeback Player award; Played in Japan for the Nankai Hawks in 1978

Career Highlights:
Played in the postseason with the Cardinals (1967 & 1968), Reds (1970, 1972) and Phillies (1976); Was a player-manager for the St. Petersburg Pelicans of the Senior Professional Baseball Association

Fun Stuff:
Is related to Eddie Tolan, a sprinter who won two Olympic Gold Medals in 1932

Card Stuff:
Appeared on postseason cards in 1971 and 1973 Topps but his 1973 card was just a “cameo”


1978 Topps #351

Played 1964 – 1973
1970’s Teams: Dodgers, Angels

Managed 1977 – 2003
1970’s Teams: Indians

Career Highlights:
Caught three no-hitters over his career: Sandy Koufax vs. the Cubs 9/9/65 (a perfect game), Bill Singer vs. the Phillies 7/20/70 and Nolan Ryan vs. the Royals 5/15/73

Managed over four decades for the Indians, White Sox, Mets, Expos and Marlins and was named the AL Manager of the Year in 1990

Fun Comes In Threes

In going through my backlog of “Stuff to write about” I realized that there are a number of situations where the cards I wanted to write about came in groups of three… So I decided to go with it and make it the theme of this post.

The last time I went through a dime box – sadly, a few years ago – I happily grabbed three cards from the “Now & Then” subset of 1993 Pinnacle.

Cards like this pop up in sets – I’ll go ahead and say it – every now and then.  1983 Topps had a similar subset called “Super Veteran”.  One thing I’ve noticed about cards like these… At the time they are “pretty cool”, but the more time passes, the cooler they get… maybe it’s a matter of getting some distance from both the “Now” and “Then” parts of the card.  In 1993 these cards these cards got a tiny bit of attention from me, but now I think they’re pretty awesome.

I recently bought a bunch of commons online and one particular common completed a triptych that I’ve been wanting to finish since 1992… It was the third of three “1992 cards of Mike Felder bunting while wearing a throwback New York Giants uniform”!

I got the Score and Upper Deck cards in 1992…

…And this 1992 Topps card completes the collection.

As someone who loves when more-or-less the same moment appears on different cards from different angles, this has been a white whale for me… Now I just need to figure out which binder it goes in.

Last year I picked up three particularly cheap Korean cards of former Cardinals pitcher Kwang-Hyun Kim, who has since returned to Korea. These cards show him with the SK Wyverns of the KBO (Korea Baseball Organization).  After pitching for the Cardinals he returned to his previous team, only the team rebranded after being sold to another corporation, so they’re now the SSG Landers.

The first two cards are from “2015/16 Ntreev Soft KBO Baseball’s Best” and other than being some sort of gaming card I know very little about them… I didn’t so much care about the sets as much as getting cards of a recognizable player from a foreign set and being able to say “I got some cards from South Korea!”

Both cards have the same back:

The third card in this Kwang-Hyun Kim trilogy is from a set called “2018 Daewon KBO Premium”… Once again, I know nothing about the set. While this doesn’t come across in the scans, this card is printed on foilboard.

…and here’s the back…

1988 Topps-style World Baseball Classic customs, Part 3

This seems like last week’s news, and it is, but I wanted to do one last post to wrap up my World Baseball Classic custom set.  (Previous posts:  Part 1 and Part 2)

I intended to do a series of highlights, but it ended up being a bit hit or miss. There was no clear-cut 1988 Topps design I could use for highlights, so I created my own using elements of the 1988 design.

During the round-robin phase, Puerto Rican pitchers threw a perfect game against Israel in a game cut short short by the 10-run mercy rule… the phrase “Perfect Mercy” popped in my head and I ran with it.

Japan walked-off against Mexico in one of the semi-finals;  I meant to do a “postseason” card for each of the semis, but I admit I lost interest when I struggled to find images which would work within my design (and I wasn’t making another design)

Finally, of course, there’s the card for Japan winning the whole shebang.

Shohei Ohtani was named the MVP of the tournament. Here are his tournament stats:
.435, 4 2B, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 9 R, 1 SB
2-0, 1.86 ERA, 3 G, 9.2 IP, 2 BB, 11 SO

There was also an All-Tournament Team, which I didn’t know about until the last minute – there has been one for each WBC, I just didn’t realize it. A big part of the reason that this post is happening today instead of a more timely date is because I decided to make sure that everyone on that team should get a custom… so to wrap up this post and the custom set, here is the 2023 World Baseball Classic All-Tournament Team:

C – Salvador Perez, Venezuela
.429, 4 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 5 R

1B – Yu Chang, Chinese Taipei

.500, 2 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 5 R
Chang was on the Red Sox’ opening day roster.

2B – Javier Báez, Puerto Rico
.368, 3 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 4 R

3B – Yoan Moncada, Cuba
.435, 4 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 4 R

SS – Trea Turner, United States
.391, 5 HR, 11 RBI, 6 R
Turner was a unanimous choice

OF – Randy Arozarena, Mexico
.607, 6 2B, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 8 R
Arozarena was a unanimous choice

OF – Mike Trout, United States
.296, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 4 R

OF – Masataka Yoshida, Japan
.409, 1 2B, 2 HR, 13 RBI, 5 R
Yoshida is a “rookie” with the Red Sox this season.

DH / P – Shohei Ohtani, Japan

P – Miguel Romero, Cuba
2-0, 2.08 ERA, 5 G, 8.2 IP, 1 BB, 13 SO
Romero is currently on the roster of the Oakland A’s Triple-A team in Las Vegas

P – Patrick Sandoval, Mexico
1-0, 1.23 ERA, 2 GS, 7.1 IP, 3 BB, 8 SO