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.

Which 3 Dodgers, Astros Would You Pick For A “1964 Topps Giants” Style Set?

…That’s the question I’d asked myself after reading a SABR Baseball Cards Committee article written by Mark Armour which examined the player choices made for the 1964 Topps “Giants” set

…and got me thinking about the players I would pick from each MLB team if I were creating such a set today.  One of the things I love about the 1964 Giant set , aside from it being oversized and relatively affordable, is the egalitarian way the checklist was made up. Each of the 20 teams of the day was given three cards in the set, no matter if they were the 1963 World Champion Dodgers or the 111-loss Mets. This lead to some interesting choices… Which Dodgers got left out? Which three from the woeful Mets did they include?

I thought it would be fun to go team by team through the current Major League teams and work out a checklist like the 1964 Giants set. Like with the original, each team will be represented by three players.  To further establish some ground rules (and give myself some additional criteria when making player selections), I’m going to treat this as an actual product which would be released in late summer, as the original set was.  Ideally, when this set is “released” you’d want it to feature players who had been 2018 All-Stars or at least got some consideration in the voting.

With that in mind, would you include someone who won an award in 2017 but is out for most of 2018?  What about the star player on a cellar-dwelling team who’s likely to be elsewhere by the trading deadline? …The future HOFer whose best days are well behind him? …The hyped rookie who could just as easily be a flash in the pan as a superstar?

It seemed that last year’s World Series teams, both of which have no shortage for candidates for the checklist, would be a good starting point for this exercise.  To give  this all a visual element, I whipped up some custom cards combining the 1964 Topps Giants design with 2018 “Photo Day” images.

I’m going to start off with the National League Champions who made the cut, followed by the other candidates who did not.


I view this as a no-brainer. Aside from being an elite pitcher, he was last year’s leader in wins and ERA, as well as being a 2017 All-Star.


He’s the reigning N.L. Rookie of the Year and an All-Star, and since he hasn’t imploded in his sophomore season, I’m including him as well.


Jansen was the 2017 Reliever Of The Year and an All-Star, so I couldn’t ignore those honors.

As for the players who didn’t make the cut…

Corey Seager – He’s on the 60-day DL after Tommy John surgery, so despite last year’s All-Star nod and Silver Slugger award, I didn’t want to include someone who hadn’t stepped on a field since late April.

Justin Turner – He is clearly a key part of the team, was the NLCS Co-MVP and an All-Star, but he didn’t quite make the cut (even though I consider myself a fan).

Chris Taylor – He had a breakout performance last season and is the other half of that NLCS Co-MVP, but there’s clearly stiff competition.

Alex Wood – An All-Star; the NL Pitcher of the Month for May 2017; lead the Majors in 2017 with a .842 winning percentage (16-3).

Walker Buehler – Highly-regarded prospect; was involved in that combined no-hitter earlier this season.

Other Dodgers garnering consideration: Yasmani Grandal, Kenta Maeda, Yasiel Puig, Hyun-Jin Ryu

OK, let’s move over to those World Champion Astros… I’ll start with their no-brainer:


He’s the reigning AL MVP, not to mention the batting leader and Silver Slugger winner. ‘Nuff said.


Like Kershaw, Verlander seems like a gimme. He wasn’t exactly a slouch with the Tigers in 2017, going 10-8 for a 98-loss team, but he just came alive when he joined the Astros. He was the ALCS MVP and, of course, a former Rookie of the Year and Cy Young Award winner.

I have a feeling this next choice is going to draw some flack…


I had a tough time deciding between Springer and Carlos Correa, and maybe people who follow the team more closely than I do will call me an idiot for not going with Correa, but hear me out…

Both Springer and Correa were 2017 All-Stars and key members of the Astros. What pushed me towards Springer was my invoking the “We’re making a real Giants set” criteria.  The card backs would feature a faux newspaper article about an accomplishment by each player (Here’s an example for Juan Marichal):

Springer was the World Series MVP, so he would provide for a better headline than Correa.

Besides, all of this wouldn’t be anywhere near as fun if everybody agreed with me.

Touching on the other Astros who got consideration…
Gerrit Cole – He’s been lights-out this year and had been in the past, but for me he wasn’t enough of a star in 2016 and 2017 to get serious consideration.

Alex Bregman – He may have a bright future, but just doesn’t have the list of concrete accomplishments his teammates have.

Dallas Keuchel, Chris Devenski and Lance McCullers – Each was a 2017 All-Star, but that only gets you so far when considering the Astros.

Other Astros garnering consideration: Marwin Gonzalez, Charlie Morton

OK, that covers my choices. Now it’s your turn…

Who would you have picked for the Dodgers and Astros? How did I completely drop the ball when making my selections?

Let me know in the comments!


2018 TSR: I Don’t Like Mondays (Meaningless Post Title)

Without getting into too much detail, something reminded me of the band Boomtown Rats when I started writing this post, so I stuck in the title of their biggest song as a placeholder and then couldn’t think of anything better.

As always, this is a post featuring a number of custom baseball cards, most of which have a design of my own… um… design.

Let’s rip this pack open!

I decided to work in a few customs featuring teams I hadn’t done already, and one of those is the Marlins… and who better to represent the Marlins than “Jarlin The Marlin” (and if that’s not already a thing, why the heck isn’t it?)

Jarlin Garcia got off to a very nice start this season… 6 shutout relief innings against the Cubs and a decent appearance against the Phils convinced manager Don Mattingly to put him in as a starter. He no-hit the Mets for 6 innings before getting lifted because of the pitch count, and then he started against the Yankees with 4 more no-hit innings. After that he had two outings where he gave up one run each and at that point he had a 1.09 ERA… and then he seemed fall apart. Seven earned runs, four earned runs, another four… His overall number still aren’t bad, but April and May are two very different months for Jarlin the Marlin.

Because of the dearth of manager cards of late, A.J. Hinch hasn’t appeared on an in-pack card since 2016, although he had a Topps Now card last year. I ran across this shot of Hinch hitting balls to his team and couldn’t resist making a custom of it.

The Astros have the third-best record in the Majors, but they would never get the attention that the Yankees and Red Sox get.

By the way, Hinch’s first cardboard appearance came as a catcher in the “Team USA” subset in 1993 Topps.

Time for the “Glasses Guy” of the week. The Rays acquired Anthony Banda in a three-team trade this February, so he appears in Topps Series 1 and Opening Day with the Diamondbacks. He’s put up good numbers in the minors but has yet to make his mark in the Major Leagues.

In 2014, the Brewers traded two minor leaguers for Gerardo Parra… Those minor leaguers turned out to be Banda and Seattle Mariner Mitch Haniger.

I first became aware of Colin Moran because he’s B.J. Surhoff’s nephew, but he’s put up some good numbers as the Pirates starting 3rd baseman this year.

Moran was drafted by the Marlins and had two cups of coffee with the Astros before heading to Pittsburgh in the Gerrit Cole deal. He’s batting .284 with 15 runs and 21 RBI.

The Mets didn’t have any one player who particularly stood out this past week (and who hadn’t already been featured on a custom), so I went with Michael Conforto, who’s become a favorite of mine.

Conforto was an All-Star last year and a Topps Rookie All-Star in 2015.

There’s not a whole lot of good going on with the Orioles these days, but at least “awful” has been replaced by “mediocre”. For the time being, my weekly Oriole custom will feature players I like, such as outfielder Trey Mancini

I’d seen Mancini play in the minors, so that gives him a leg up on the competition, plus finished third in A.L. Rookie Of the Year voting last year… Of course, Aaron Judge got all of the first-place votes so there was no way that Mancini was going to win, but it’s still something to point out.

This week’s “insert” is the 1988 Topps throwback of the week, featuring Mookie Betts.

Mookie went 13 for 31 this past week, hit 3 doubles and 2 homers, scored 7 runs, drove in 5, stole 6 bases.  If your not impressed enough by those numbers, for the season so far Betts leads the Majors in batting, slugging, on-base percentage, hits, doubles, homers and total bases.

So It turns out I jumped the gun – sort of – when I said it looked like Topps is not doing anything to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the 1988 set. It turns out they’re using the 1988 design as an insert in a set which comes out this week – 2018 Topps Major League Soccer.  The following is a preview image.

Hm. While I enjoy watching soccer on occasion, I don’t follow any particular leagues or teams… So the only players on the checklist that I’m at all familiar with are Tim Howard and David Villa. Still I think I’m going to have to chase down one or two of these.

I know it would never have worked out this way anyway, but… wouldn’t it have been awesome if former MLS player Marvell Wynne were still active so he could be included in this tribute to a set that included his father?

Finally… Here’s the song referenced in the title and which, as I’ve said, has nothing to do with nothing.

Kicking Off My “Dead Parrot” Hockey Frankenset

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how I was thinking about creating two different “FrankenSets” in order to give some new structure to my accumulation of hockey cards. In response I got a healthy bunch of encouragement towards giving both Frankensets a try.

I decided that I would start with a test run on the “Dead Parrot” idea (named after the Monty Python sketch), a FrankenSet which would feature cards of hockey teams which are no more, which have ceased to be.

(FYI, this card is a foil insert from the 1994 Cornerstone Monty Python’s Flying Circus set)

And so I took some 9-pocket sheets and a binder I got on clearance at Target – one with beach graphics on the cover, very fitting for hockey – and did the first 12 pages (cards numbered from 1 to 108) as a test run.

Since I’m writing this post now, the test obviously worked out well and I’ve decided to go ahead with a 396-card “Dead Parrot” Frankenset. I even managed to nearly fill the second page (Cards # 10 – 18).

Card #17 in the bottom center, Gary Coalter, is double-dipping… It’s an expansion year 1974/75 card which lists him with the Kansas City Scouts, but shows him in a California Golden Seals uniform. That one will be hard to dislodge from the #17 slot.

My original idea was to limit this to NHL teams between the mid 1960’s and mid 1990’s, but I’ve decided to make any defunct NHL or WHA team eligible for the binder. I figure that the teams I initially had in mind will tend to bubble up to the surface as I go along anyway.

To give you an idea of what kind of criteria I’ll be using I figured I’d show a few “match-ups” for particular slots in the set.

I ended up with an interesting three-way matchup for card #19.  The top two cards are from 1976/77 Topps and O-Pee-Chee;  during the summer of 1976 the Kansas City Scouts moved to Denver and became the Colorado Rockies.  This was apparently too late for Topps to update, but O-Pee-Chee updated the team name and also took the colors out of the airbrushed uni for some reason… I presume that OPC wasn’t sure what colors the new team would wear.

Up against these two is a 1985/86 Topps Mike Zuke, shown with the Hartford Whalers.  I decided that the two Steve Durbano cards deserve to stay next to each other in my regular hockey binder, so Zuke goes into the Dead Parrot set.

I ‘ve always liked the North Stars logo and uniform, and 1981/82 Topps is also a favorite of mine… but none of that is enough to compete with a Houston Aeros card where the player (Terry Ruskowski) is actually *skating* as opposed to just gliding around the ice during a break in the action.

It was a tough decision for #50.  It’s hard to go against Lanny McDonald and his awesome mustache in a Colorado Rockies uniform… but it’s also a boring team leader card where text takes up most of the card front.

I had to go with the 1985/86 Topps Brian Bellows, but I’m not committed to this choice. I may change my mind later.

The battle for #15 was also a tough one. I like the Atlanta Flames uniform and I like 1970’s goalie masks… but I remember Ulf Nilsson from his time with the Rangers, my father’s team.

As you can tell from the nearly-full-page photo above I went with Dan Bouchard simply because the Nilsson photo isn’t very good – it’s a very dark photo on the card itself.

This last one seemed a tough choice at first glance, but ended up being easier than I thought.  I love the 1979/80 design, and Marc Tardif was a player I liked… but that’s up against another set I love, 1981/82, and I like the Whalers much more than the Nordiques.

…But then I took a second look and realized that Rick MacLeish card is airbrushed into a Whalers uniform (he came from the Flyers), so that made the decision much easier… Tardif all the way.

As for my other Frankenset idea, the “Photobombing Capitals” set made of cards where Washington Capitals players appear without being the subject of the card… Well, I am eventually going to move ahead with that as well, but not until after I’ve finished the initial setup of the Dead Parrot set.

This clip is from “Pleasure At Her Majesty’s”, a documentary about a trio of 1976 Amnesty International benefit shows;  I don’t know why the YouTuber credited it as “John Cleese” when Michael Palin is quite clearly featured in it and they were appearing as members of Monty Python, but nonetheless I love this version of the sketch.  “Look, this is nothing to laugh at!”

Fast Five: Card #135 from 1974 to 1978 Topps

Today is the 135th day of 2018; hence, card #135.

1974 Topps #135 – Roy White
Like with most in-game shots, I really liked this card as a kid.  Roy White seems like such a classy guy that he’s exempt from any Yankee-hating activities.

1975 Topps #135 – Charlie Spikes
I remember getting Charlie Spikes’ 1974 card as part of a panel stapled into Scholastic’s Dynamite Magazine… Possibly the first issue (which I really need to find and feature here). I thought Charlie Spikes was a cool name.  The replica signature is of his full name, Leslie Charles Spikes.

1976 Topps #135 – Bake McBride
Bake McBride made his only All-Star team in 1976, but he didn’t appear in the game.

I’ve always liked the red and green combo on the 1976 Cardinals cards

1977 Topps #135 – Mark Belanger
Like Bake McBride, Mark Belanger made his only All-Star team in 1976. Unlike McBride, Belanger got into the game, coming in to play short in the 6th inning. Belanger won 8 Gold Gloves over his 18 year career.

I completely forgot that Belanger finished his career by playing 54 games with the Dodgers.

1978 Topps #135 – Ron Guidry
“Louisiana Lightning” dominated the American League and won a Cy Young in 1978. Guidry went 25-3, 1.74 with 9 shutouts. He struck out 18 Angels on June 17, 1978, a mark which remains a team record.

2018 TSR: A Trade, A Debut And Mistaken Identity

In a season where Mets fans finally saw the “rotation of the future” – Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler – healthy and pitching at the same time, we ended up seeing one of those pitchers hit the road.

For those who haven’t kept up with the Mets, former All-Star and frequent insert subject Matt Harvey continued to struggle with the Mets this year. Demotion to the bullpen didn’t help, and when he refused a minor league assignment, as is his right, the Mets surprised many by designating Harvey for assignment. He got traded to the Reds, but you know that if the change of scenery improves his pitching to any significant degree, he’ll be flipped at the trading deadline.

In exchange for Harvey, the Mets got catcher Devin Mesoraco. With starter Travis d’Arnaud out for the season and backup Kevin Plawecki also out (but due back soon), the Mets needed someone who could be an improvement over Jose Lobaton and the not-ready-for-primetime Tomas Nido.

From all indications, Mesoraco has thrown himself into learning as much as he can about the Mets pitching staff, so the end result of this trade could come down to something as simple as whether Harvey and Mesoraco can stay healthy.

Orioles rookie David Hess made his MLB debut yesterday, pitched 6 innings, gave up six hits, no walks and three runs en route to his first Major League win. By 2018 Orioles standards, that’s a damn fine outing (and a godsend).

Hess has a follow-through that brings his right foot up over his head while his foot rotates around… I enjoy watching pitchers like that, I guess because I couldn’t even dream of being that flexible.

For this week’s Manager I went with Paul Molitor. His Twins have gone 8-2 over the last 10 games to get within a half game of first place… and yet they still have a losing record. I hadn’t realized that the first-place Indians are right at .500

Speaking of the AL Central, the White Sox have fallen apart, losing 9 of 10 and now have THE WORST RECORD IN BASEBALL, which comes as a relief to both the Orioles and Reds.

I read an article earlier this week about how Braves infielders Dansby Swanson and Charlie Culberson are often mistaken for each other. This amused me and I thought it deserved a “Pointless Pairings” insert.

Both Dansby and Charlie are Georgia natives of similar height and build and, as you can see, have similar faces and hair. TV networks have confused them in highlights, fans have asked one for an autograph thinking it was the other and — in spring training, anyway — players and coaches got the two of them confused.

As I mentioned last week, I’m going to be doing a 1988 Topps tribute insert set that Topps should have already been doing (not too late, dudes!). Each week I’ll be creating at least one custom using the 88T design. I intend to use players who were outstanding in the prior week and would likely be included in an insert set such as this.

Max Scherzer is 7-1, 1.69 so far this year, so there’s no need to justify his presence in this set. In two starts this past week (May 6 – 12) he pitched 13.1 innings and struck out 26 batters while giving up 2 runs and 9 hits.

Scherzer got a win against the Diamondbacks and a no-decision in a Nats win against the Phillies.

Odubel Herrera got some consideration as the subject of the 1988 set, but as a consolation prize he gets a double-throwback 1985 Fleer-ish custom.

Herrera has gotten on base in 40 consecutive games stretching back to last September. During this past week, he went 12-for-21 with 3 doubles, 3 homers, 7 runs scored, 10 RBI and a .654 On-base percentage.

Weigh-In #59 (And More Autographs From My Modest Collection)

I’ve been feeling spread thin in all aspects of my life, even the fun stuff. I’m in the middle of a book I never quite finish… I have Olympic Curling matches on my Tivo I haven’t had a chance to watch… comics, magazines and newspapers piling up… I couldn’t even tell you the last time I watched a movie.

Long story short, it’s no wonder I’m making no progress in organizing and streamlining my collection.

The first quarter of 2018 turned out to be unexpectedly bad for my long-term goals. Entering the year, it was a given that I was going to buy Heritage. I frankly got thrown off when I found that I liked 2018 Topps Series 1 much more than I expected… and even more thrown off when I actually had fun buying packs of Opening Day.

On the plus side I have little interest in Bowman, which is just as well because I have not seen so much as a discarded wrapper.

I like to put my progress (or lack thereof) in numbers and post about them on a semi-regular basis to give me an opportunity to look at the big picture, and help with both motivation (if I do well) and guilt (if I don’t).

To spice things up a bit, I’ve included autographed baseball cards of former players who are not getting into Cooperstown without paying admission first.

With the Senators in 1968, Del Unser finished second to Stan Bahnsen in the Rookie Of The Year voting. He also lead the league with 9 triples in 1969. As I think I’ve mentioned before, he’s the son of Al Unser… but not *that* Al Unser.

Changes since the last weigh-in (from 1/13/18 to 4/30/18):
Net change in the collection: +603 (603 added, 0 removed)
Net change to the # of cards in the house: +1,443 (1667 in, 224 out)

During the first four months of 2018, it’s been largely about the new 2018 cards, plus some opportunities which came my way.

This ballpoint autograph of Mets pitcher Bob Hendley was just a random acquisition somewhere along the line.

Hendley pitched for the Milwaukee Braves, Cubs, Giants and Mets.  While pitching with the Cubs in 1965, he pitched a complete game one-hitter against the Dodgers and didn’t allow an earned run but lost 1-0… Sandy Koufax, pitching for Los Angeles, threw a perfect game.

Totals since I started tracking on 10/16/2011:
Total # of cards purged from the collection, to date: 12,321
Net change to the collection, to date: +2,545

Total # of cards which have left the house, to date: 49,914
Net change to the number of cards in the house, to date: -22,176

These last two categories are what keeps me going. I should push past 50,000 cards leaving the house by the next weigh-in… but I would also like to be better about the net change.

Back in the day I somehow managed to see Steve Scarsone play in both AA and AAA (not in the same season), plus he then made it to the majors so I kind of latched on to him as a player I semi-collect.
Scarsone played 350 MLB games over 7 years with 5 teams, but most of those games were with the Giants. I just discovered that he has a 1993 Donruss card to represent the 11 games he played with the Orioles and made me say “Why the hell do I not have this card already?”

Size of the collection:
Number of individual cards tracked in my Access database: 57,012

Number of cards that make up the sets flagged as completed in my Access database: 16,890

…which means I’ve got at least 73,902 cards in my collection

Tim Bogar falls into the category of “Cheap Mets autograph”, plus he’s a player I liked back in the 1990’s. He’s currently the first base coach for the Nats.

Money spent since the last weigh-in – this does not count money spent on postage for trade packages
This is a lot for me, but like I said: Heritage, Series 1, Opening Day, opportunities which came along…

Size of the database:
This needs a little explaining… I used to track my collection through purchased PC software… The Card Collector (my first version was DOS-based!!!) and later WinCards. A few years ago I created an Access database and began tracking my collection in there.  As I have to download and “massage” checklists for new sets, there’s a bit of work involved in keeping it up-to-date.

Mainly to satisfy my own curiosity, I like to find out how much set and card information is currently in my database.

My database currently contains 774 set definitions and 194,891 card definitions. It’s important to point out that this is merely the number of sets and cards which are represented within my database; for example, although I have no cards from 1949 Bowman, it represents 1 set definition and 240 card definitions.

Mrs. Shlabotnik and I were once at a minor league game and between innings the song “YMCA” was played. Dwayne Hosey, in left field and waiting for the inning to start, started doing the “YMCA” arm movements and we found that highly amusing… so when I ran across his signature – I really like Leaf Signature Series, if you hadn’t guessed – I said “Hey, it’s the YMCA guy!”
Hosey appeared in 52 games with the Red Sox, and played two seasons in Japan with the Yakult Swallows.

How I’m doing on my New Year’s Resolutions:
Don’t ask

Greg Harris was another one of those cards I picked up through opportunity… I’ve never met any of the players in today’s post.

From the late 1980’s to the mid 1990’s there were two pitchers named Greg Harris in the majors.  This Greg Harris broke in first, debuting with the Mets in 1981 before being sent to Cincinnati as part of a package for outfielder George Foster.  He’d pitch for 8 teams over 15 seasons.

I’ve had fun featuring my less-than-spectacular autograph collection and I would do another follow-up but I’m largely out of signed cards.

A Quick Run Through The 1981 Topps Coca-Cola Mets Set

Back in 1981, Topps joined up with Coca-Cola to issue a series of regional team sets. If I had the money and the resources at the time, I would’ve chased down all 11 sets, but all I got at the time was the complete Mets set.

If you weren’t collecting back in 1981, these were pretty exciting.  The only other options early in the season were the big three sets plus Kellogg’s.  The Coca-Cola sets went to press later than Topps, Donruss and Fleer, so the Coke sets reflected some trades and free agent signings which weren’t in the big sets and wouldn’t be otherwise represented until Topps Traded later in the year.

Each set featured 11 players plus one header card.

On the back of the header was an offer for an uncut sheet of 1981 Topps. I may not have chased down the other Coke sets, but I did take advantage of the uncut sheet offer (something I wrote about 3 years ago).

Many of the cards are identical to the Topps set, although a number have cropping differences.

Had the Mets had any All-Stars, the “N.L. All-Star” banner would’ve been dropped to make way for the Coke logo.

Here’s a comparison of the two backs; the main difference is the Coke logo replacing the Topps logo and card number graphic on the left.  The easy-to-overlook Coke card number was moved to the right.

I find the most interesting cards are the ones which have photos which differ from 1981 Topps.  For the next three cards, the image on the left is from 1981 Topps Traded.

The Mets reacquired Dave Kingman, trading Steve Henderson to the Cubs in February 1981. (Henderson’s Coca-Cola Cubs card was also updated)

Randy Jones finished out his career with the Mets after a December, 1980 trade.

The guy the Mets got was a shadow of the guy who won the Cy Young in 1976.

Like Kingman, Rusty Staub was also starting his second tour of duty with the Mets. Staub signed as a free agent in December.

Getting back to some of the cropping differences… Some of them are much more noticeable than others.

Alex Trevino’s image was shifted ever so slightly to the left (look at the blue on his batting glove)

Doug Flynn’s image is shifted down slightly (look at his feet with regard to the card border).

Pat Zachry’s cropping difference isn’t all that noticeable until you put the two cards side-by-side (look at his stirrups).

I’ve found the Coca-Cola sets to be a mixed bag; for example, the Cardinals set has at least six players who were updated for the Coke sets. Other sets don’t have any significant differences… For example, I believe the Coke Royals are only different in that two cards have the All-Star banners missing.

Does anybody have any first-hand experience with one of the Coke sets for other teams?