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 1970’s, A To Z: Don Sutton To Chuck Tanner

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.


1975 Hostess #7

Played 1966 – 1988
1970’s Teams: Dodgers

1970’s Highlights:
Four time All-Star; Finished in the top 5 of Cy Young voting five times, but never finished higher than 3rd; Was the starting pitcher and MVP of the 1977 All-Star Game; Was the Dodgers opening Day starter from 1972 to 1978

Career Highlights:
Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998; Over his career he had 324 wins, 3574 strikeouts and a 3.26 ERA; Holds Dodgers career records with 52 shutouts, 233 wins, 181 losses and 3816.1 innings pitched… Sutton had also held the Dodger career record with 2696 strikeouts until Clayton Kershaw passed him in 2022; Had at least 10 wins in 21 of his 23 seasons; Lead the league with a 2.20 ERA in 1980; Named the 1966 NL Rookie Pitcher of the Year by The Sporting News;  His #20 has been retired by the Dodgers; Inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame as a broadcaster in 2015; Was named to the Brewers Wall of Honor

Fun Stuff:
Appeared as a celebrity panelist on Match Game; Sutton and Steve Yeager played themselves in an episode of a Saturday morning Sid and Marty Krofft show called Wonderbug

Card Stuff:
Appeared in every Topps flagship set of the 1970s


1977 Topps #94

Played 1973 – 1984
1970’s Teams: Mets

1970’s Highlights:
Lead the NL in 1978 with a 2.43 ERA; Was the Mets opening day starter in 1979 and had a career-high 14 wins that season; As a pitcher with Arizona State University he was a 1972 All-American, was named to the 1972 College World Series All-Tournament team, and set an ASU career record with 47 wins

Career Highlights:
Inducted into the Arizona State University Hall of Fame in 1981

Fun Stuff:
Was a college teammate of Jim Crawford, Larry Gura, Lerrin LaGrow and fellow Met Lenny Randle


1976 SSPC #319

Played 1974 – 1982
1970’s Teams: Cubs, Cardinals

1970’s Highlights:
Was the White Sox 1st round pick in the 1973 draft and later that year was sent to the Cubs as part of a package for Ron Santo; Was the catcher on the 1974 Baseball Digest All-Star Rookie Team;  Named to the 1976 NL All-Star team but didn’t appear in the game; Honored as the NL Player of the week on 5/16/75 after going 11-for-18 with a walk and two sacrifices

Fun Stuff:
His son Nick Swisher played for five teams from 2004 to 2015; Was a teammate of Mike Schmidt at Ohio University; Steve is the only Major Leaguer to come out of South High School in Parkersburg, WV

Moving on to T…


1976 Kellogg’s #30

Played 1973 – 1993
1970’s Teams: Angels

1970’s Highlights:
Tanana was one of the most dominant pitchers of the second half of the 1970s and combined with Nolan Ryan to make up a devastating lefty/righty combo; He was drafted 13th overall out of Cal State Fullerton in 1971; Was named to the 1974 Topps All-Star Rookie team; Was the Angels opening day starter from 1976 to 1979 (and I’ll point out again that Nolan Ryan was on those teams); Was an All-Star from 1976 to 1978; Lead the AL with 269 strikeouts in 1975; In 1976 he lead the AL with a 0.988 WHIP and won a career-high 19 games; Lead the AL with a 2.54 ERA and 7 shutouts in 1977; Pitched in the 1979 ALCS but got a no-decision

Career Highlights:
A fireballer when he started out, Tanana made adjustments after experiencing arm problems and won 240 games over 21 seasons

Fun Stuff:
His father was a minor league outfielder; Threw shutouts in the first games played in both Seattle’s Kingdome and Chicago’s new Comiskey Park (now called Guaranteed Rate Field); Was the winning pitcher in the last game played at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium; Is one of just two pitchers to give up home runs to both Hank Aaron and Barry Bondds (Rick Reuschel is the other)


1978 Topps #494

Played 1955 – 1962
Managed:  1970 – 1988
1970’s Teams: White Sox, A’s, Pirates

1970’s Highlights:
Managed every season of the 1970s for three different teams; Won a World Championship as the manager of the ‘We Are Family’ 1979 Pirates; Was named the Major Leagues Manager of the Year in 1972, when he took the White Sox to 87 wins and a 2nd place finish while using a 3-man rotation based on Stan Bahnsen, Tom Bradley and knuckleballer Wilbur Wood; Managed the 1976 A’s to a 2nd place finish during his only season in Oakland; After the 1976 season the A’s traded him to the Pirates for catcher Manny Sanguillen and $100,000

Career Highlights:
Played 8 seasons as an outfielder & pinch hitter for the Braves, Cubs, Indians and Angels; Made his Major League debut pinch hitting for Warren Spahn and hit a home run on the first pitch he saw

Fun Stuff:
His son Bruce Tanner pitched in 10 games for the 1985 White Sox

Card Stuff:
Appeared in at least one card set each year from 1971 to 1988… the only Topps set in that span where he did not get at least a thumbnail photo was 1982 Topps (which did not include managers) but he had a card in 1982 Donruss to keep his streak going

Quick Side Trip: An Australian Cricket Photo That’s Surprisingly American

This is about a rabbit hole that opened up a week ago when I got a stupid idea for a series of custom cards.

So I was lying in bed without sleep coming, and I had this idea… Earlier that day I was poking around the Getty Images website looking for something when one of the recent batches of images caught my eye.  While staring at the ceiling I had the thought of playing “Getty Roulette” and making a custom out of whatever happens to be the most recent set of images are out there.

Since I often don’t know the people in many of these images, I had the idea of making it a “Who Am I?” style of set, with a sort of in-joke being “Hey, I don’t know who they are”.

I did two customs to get the idea out of my system, I’ll share them here because ‘why not?’

The second one of Australian cricketer Steve Smith caught my attention, and the more I looked at the image the more I realized that there’s a lot to unpack.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 15: Steve Smith of the Sixers warms up during the Men’s Big Bash League match between the Sydney Sixers and the Perth Scorchers at Sydney Cricket Ground, on January 15, 2023, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

I’ve got a fair number of caps cluttering my closet, so the first thing I noticed was the cap. Magenta and black is not a color pairing you’re going to find in North American sports, and I was immediately filled with thoughts of “I like to get a cap like that”.

The team logo is also interesting because it looks something like a Philadelphia 76ers logo where the 7 has wandered off.  The outline of the logo echoes the world famous Sydney Opera House.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with cricket (and I assume that most of my readers fall into that category), a “sixer” is the cricket version of a home run. There’s a boundary that runs all the way around a cricket pitch, and when a batted ball goes over the boundary on the fly, it’s an automatic six runs and is called a sixer.

Then I noticed that the cap has a ’47 logo on the side. I’ve got several minor league baseball caps made by ’47 Brand, so I hadn’t really thought of them as a multinational company… and yet there they are making caps for this Australian cricket league I’d never heard of.

Then I looked at the bat and said “Wait… That’s a New Balance logo! New Balance makes cricket bats???” I wasn’t aware that New Balance made anything other than shoes or clothing, and here they are on an Australian cricket bat.

On top of all that I looked up the “Big Bash League” and found that it’s sponsored by KFC, the fried chicken chain… and the uniforms are made by Nike, of course.

At any rate, this falls into the same category as finding out that my friend from the Philippines used to watch “The Man From Atlantis“… Sometimes it’s just surprising to have these small realizations of how far around the world American culture and commerce can reach.

More 1974-Themed Customs

So if you’ve been reading here regularly for the past month or two you’ll know that I have plans to celebrate the 1974 Topps baseball design, which will be used for this year’s Topps Heritage set.  My ultimate plan is to fill in the gaps left by Heritage (i.e. managers, middle relievers, etc.) but to also go in directions Topps wouldn’t be going.

Along with making customs of current players, I also have ideas I’m calling “1974 Multiverse”, a sort of “What if…?” for baseball as a whole back in 1974.  I’ve done a handful of similar customs over the years, but I’ve got a bunch of ideas brewing.

My first attempt at an official 1974 Multiverse custom comes in the form of “What if Reggie Cleveland had been traded to Cleveland?”  In this universe Reggie Cleveland’s regular 1974 card shows him with the Cardinals, and his Traded card shows him in an airbrushed Red Sox cap.

“Cleveland pitching for Cleveland” is something I thought should’ve been the case since I was kid, although back then I didn’t know about Johnny Podres pitching for the Padres or Dave Philley playing for the Phillies.

I’ve got a bunch of scribbled notes on other 1974 Multiverse ideas, some involve players and some involve teams… like this “1974 Milwaukee Braves” custom I’d made a number of years ago:

Mostly what I’ve done so far is “1974 Traded” customs reflecting present day transactions. The general idea is to make them look something like if Topps today has the same technology in play that they had in the 1970s. This also works out well with my not wanting to spend a ton of time on these.

My first example of this kind of ‘cheat’ is this J.D. Martinez, who signed a contract with the Dodgers (and initially prompted thoughts of “Why do the Dodgers want him?  Can he do anything but DH?  …Oh, wait, there *is* a DH in the NL now…”).  I took a photo of Martinez in the Red Sox’ blue and yellow City Connect alternate uniforms, obscured the UCLA Bruins ‘B’ on the helmet, changed the yellow jersey to grey, cropped out the “BOSTON” on the jersey and Bob’s your uncle.

This next custom took a fair amount of time to get a rushed look. The Padres brown is easy enough, I made a layer in Paintshop Pro (my digital playground of choice) that has just the cap and the jersey and used the “Sepia” tool to make them the appropriate color. The cap logo was done by hand, and I’m still not happy with the results but I suppose it has that airbrushed-by-hand look. In any case, I reached a “Good enough, move on” point with this.

I feel obligated to point out that the Padres didn’t have a card in the 1974 Topps Traded set, so I had to fake my way through the border as well.

One last easy peasy one… Andrew Benintendi went from the Yankees (navy pinstripes) to the White Sox (black pinstripes) and the sheer simplicity of just needing to mess with the cap logo got him moved up on the custom card priority list (but it does look pretty good for the minimal effort I put in)

For all of “Uncle Steve” Cohen’s money, the Mets haven’t signed everybody they’d wanted to. I’m going to miss deGrom, and the sight of him in a Texas Rangers uniform is going to take some getting used to.

I had some fun putting a sort of Easter Egg into a number of customs, and it took a while for anyone to notice (or at least for anyone to tell me they’d noticed). In those cases where I used a photo that wasn’t taken out on a playing field or in the dugout, I removed the existing background and substituted one from 1973 or 1974. In this case, I put Kenley Jansen into the original Yankee Stadium. Jansen lead the NL with 41 saves and is going to the American League for the first time.

Dominic Smith has been stuck behind Pete Alonso in the Mets’ depth chart the past couple of years, and good for him, he signed a 1-year contract with the Nats. I’m sorry it didn’t work out of him in New York and I hope he bounces back in 2023… then signs with someone other than the Nats for 2024. Like Jansen, Dominic has been placed in Yankee Stadium from the early 1970s.

The Athletics recently picked up Japanese pitcher Shintaro Fujinami, who somehow finds himself in Oakland Coliseum before it was closed in to keep the Raiders from moving (and that worked TREMENDOUSLY WELL in the long term, don’t you think so Los Angeles and Las Vegas?). The background came from the 1974 card of the Twins Ray Corbin… There was a fair amount of digital tomfoolery involved in getting this background to the point where you didn’t see Cobin’s elbow or torso peeking out from behind Fujinami.

By the way, the image of Fujinami in an A’s uniform was ‘borrowed’ from the team’s Twitter account.

So all of these players I’ve featured so far had changed teams through free agency, but I wanted to do a couple to reflect other player movement going on.

This “2023 Rookie Pitchers” custom features four pitchers who were selected in December’s Rule V draft. The Mets drafted Zach Green from the Yankees, the Orioles drafted Andrew Politi from the Red Sox, the Brewers drafted Gus Varland from the Dodgers and the White Sox drafted Nick Avila from the Giants. Rule V players have to stay on their new team’s active roster all season or else be offered back to their original teams.

By the way, all four of these involved thumbnail photos borrowed from various sources, and all four have backgrounds from the 1970s (although it’s less obvious on some than others).

In the past few days we saw a good ol’ fashioned trade that sent batting champ Luis Arraez from the Twins to the Marlins in exchange for pitcher Pablo López and two prospects.

I spent 15 minutes colorizing the sleeves and drawstrings on Lopez’ hoodie before I realized that they would get cropped out anyway. (*sigh*).  I almost mistakenly used last year’s Twins cap logo, although I suppose that wouldn’t have been the end of the world.

And that’s more than enough for now. Lately I’m always working on these and will probably be transitioning from “Traded” to base cards sometime in February when Spring Training images start to roll in.

Reasons To Be Fleerful

In 1979 there was a song by Ian Dury And The Blockheads called “Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part 3” and for a long time I’ve been wanting to write a post called “Reasons To Be Fleerful” with some parody lyrics related to the hobby.  That’s never happened, largely because I couldn’t come up with good parody lyrics, but I also suspected that few people would know the original song or who Ian Dury is.

At any rate, I decided I can’t let a title like that go unused, and this post features a number of Fleer cards I picked up over the past few months.

I really like 1963 Fleer and since the complete set consist of just the one series – Topps took legal action that stopped any future series – it seems like this is a small oddball set that should be a fun goal… but then I see the prices of the HOFers and the checklist and I think “I don’t need the WHOLE set, I guess”.  None of this stops me from picking up the odd common here and there.

For the most part my hobby acquisitions have been put on hold while I figure out where I’m going with my collection, but for 1963 Fleer I’m pondering chasing a few team sets.  I have a fascination of teams which have relocated or had significant branding changes, so I may focus on the Senators, Colt .45’s and the pre-green-and-gold Kansas City Athletics.  Again, emphasis on “may”.

Back 8-10 years ago I bought a bin of cards from a guy I knew who ran a comics and collectibles store and just didn’t have it in him to go through the card part of a collection he’d bought.  In that bin were several very 1970s team logo stickers I wasn’t familiar with, and although I really liked them I traded or sold the ones I had… but I told myself I’d chase down the Mets and Orioles stickers one day.  Here’s the first one.

Oh, I suppose I should say what this is, right?  This sticker is from the 1978 Fleer Grand Slam Hi-Gloss Team Logo Stickers set.  The back of the sticker has a piece of a World Series puzzle, but in this case it just showed a lot of what I’m thinking is sky, so I didn’t bother scanning it for this post.

I’ve been picking up cards here and there to fill in the gaps of my 1980s Mets collection, and one thing I need to do more research on is the box bottom cards.  This one from 1987 Fleer is one I discovered I needed… Not that it’s a great card by any means.

There are 16 cards (4 panels) in this “Box bottom” set;  Each panel has a checklist card which features the team logo of the 1986 division winners (Mets, Astros, Red Sox, Angels). If there’s a rhyme or reason behind the 12 player cards, I haven’t figured it out.

I forgot to scan the checklist back of the card, but it amusingly abbreviates Blue Jays as “BLUE J’s”.  It could be worse, they could’ve abbreviated it “B. JAYS” and amused all the 12 year old boys out there.

Back in 1989 I had the dangerous combination of disposable income and not much of a life, so I bought a lot of cards. I have a complete set of 1989 Bowman and near-complete sets of 1989 Topps, Donruss and Score – not that I *need* all of those 1989 base cards.  The two brands I didn’t buy were Upper Deck ($1 a pack? Highway robbery!) and 1989 Fleer because the grey design was one I found excessively drab and depressing.

Earlier this year I decided I should just bit the bullet and chase down all the remaining 1989 UD and Fleer cards I had on my want lists, just so I wouldn’t have to think about 1989 any more. These three Mets related combo cards are the “key” purchases I made for 1989 Fleer.

Darryl and Will The Thrill.  I’m kind of surprised I didn’t have this one, as I semi-collected Will Clark back at the time.

Danny Jackson might seem a bit of an odd choice these days, but in 1988 he was an All-Star and lead the league with 23 wins.  David Cone was also a 20-game winner in 1988 and would later win the Cy Young with the Royals.

Mark Davis would win the Cy Young award in 1989 and Dwight Gooden won his in 1985.  In 1989 this was truly a “SuperStar Special”, but now it’s another card that’s sadly just a common,

Here’s the song, if you’re curious

A Pair Of Wonderfully Off-Condition Cards

I picked up a couple of cards on COMC, both of which inspired Charlie Brown-ish “This card needs me” thoughts… although I know some of you will appreciate them as well.

The first card is one I stumbled across while researching one of my 1970s: A-Z posts.  I saw it on COMC and it was love at first sight.

Off-center cards are an annoyance… unless they’re so badly miscut that you can see a good chunk of a neighboring card, then I break out in a huge smile.

I thought I was being clever in figuring out that the bowwm card is the Cardinals’ Stan WIlliams (Card #9) from knowing that it’s a first series card and that the top of the photo includes a pretty distinctive bank of stadium lights.

I stopped feeling clever when I realized I could’ve just flipped the card over and found out that the other card is card #9 and the player’s first name starts with “STA”.

This second wonderfully off-condition card is a Willie Mays card I got as part of my pursuit of 1970 Topps that’s more of a meandering stroll than a chase.

Then again, maybe this card is for my 1970 Mets team set…

I’m OK with writing on the card if it doesn’t affect the player *too* much, with “too much” generally meaning hand-drawn facial hair, glasses and such.  Yeah, Willie’s cap logo is scribbled out and he’s got “NEW YORK” written on his shoulder, but his face is untouched, and when you’re talking about budget-compliant Willie Mays cards, beggars can’t be choosers.

And honestly, other than the ballpoint pen, this Willie Mays card is in a condition that I would never fit into my collecting budget.  It looks off-center, but that’s my scanner, not the card.  Lightly-dinged corners are the only non-pen damage to this card.

On the whole, I’m very happy to add these two to my collection!

Johnny Abrego SUPERCOLLECTOR!!!!

Back in 1985 I saw the Double-A Pittsfield Cubs take on the Reading Phillies in an Eastern League contest.  One of the players I saw that day was Cubs pitcher Johnny Abrego, whose name I would remember because it sounds like the name of a gunslinger from a Western.  “Sheriff, Johnny Abrego is comin’ into town tomorrow and they say he’s gunnin’ for ya!”

Because I was new to minor league baseball at the time, I got very excited that September when Abrego was a September call-up with the Chicago Cubs.  He didn’t pitch all that well in his 5 starts and 1 relief appearance, but he was just 23 so he’d have other chances.

The excitement increased the next spring because Abrego, who had been a 1st round draft pick in 1981, showed up as a Rated Rookie in 1986 Donruss!

Unfortunately injuries put a damper on his career after that.  He pitched in Triple-A in 1986 and 1987 and then was out of baseball. The 1986 Donruss card would be his only Major League cardboard.


Back in 2019 I was at a regional postcard show and picked up this 1986 TCMA “Stars of the Future” postcard. My Abrego player collection was now twice as big!

TCDB lists just two other cards for Johnny Abrego. One is an unnumbered card from something called “2017 Historic Autographs Scripts”, which sounds kind of Broder-y and makes me think someone took an Abrego cut signature, made a custom card out of it and put it out on TCDB.

The other card listed was from the 1986 ProCards Iowa Cubs team set, and in 2022 I acquired this card to complete my Johnny Abrego collection

I have a TCDB user profile but don’t track my collection there… but in this case I couldn’t resist.

I entered my 3 cards in and now…


And the best part is that I don’t see anybody taking that away from me…  They might join me up on the podium, but I don’t see anybody getting all three known cards plus that fourth alleged card.

Bask in my glow, peons!

The 1970’s, A To Z: Brent Strom to Bruce Sutter

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.


1978 Topps #509

Played 1972 – 1977
1970’s Teams: Mets, Indians, Padres

1970’s Highlights:
Lead USC to two NCAA championships and was an All-American in 1970; Won a career-high 12 games in 1976 (but also lost 16 games for the 89-loss Padres)

Career Highlights:
Is currently the pitching coach of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and won a World Championship as the pitching coach of the 2017 Astros

Fun Stuff:
His college teammates at USC included Dave Kingman, Bill Lee, Jim Barr and Steve Busby

Card Stuff:
Although the featured card is from 1978, he didn’t pitch in the Majors after 1977 due to an elbow injury


1978 Topps #492

Played 1974 – 1989
1970’s Teams: Rangers

1970’s Highlights:
Played just one season in the minors before becoming the Rangers’ regular catcher in 1974; Was named to the All-Star team during his rookie season and again in 1978; Regarded as one of the best defensive catchers of the time, he won Gold Gloves from 1976 to 1981; Caught Bert Blyleven’s no-hitter vs. the Angels, 9/22/77

Career Highlights:
Inducted into the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame as part of its inaugural class in 2003; Holds the Texas Rangers career record with 102 sacrifices; Won a World Series with the 1985 Royals

Card Stuff:
Appeared in all five 1970s Hostess sets; His 1975 Hostess card, which can be considered a rookie card, calls him “Mike Sundberg”


1980 Topps #544
Yes, I’m breaking convention by having a card from 1980 here but I think it’s justified

Played 1976 – 1994
1970’s Teams: Dodgers

1970’s Highlights:
Was the Dodgers’ first round draft pick in 1974 and had cups of coffee in 1976 and 1978 before winning the 1979 NL Rookie of the Year award with a 17-10 record, 3.46 ERA and 117 strikeouts; He was named the RHP on the Baseball Digest All-Star Rookie team, but interestingly enough was NOT named to the Topps All-Star Rookie team – he was shunned in favor of Angels reliever Mark Clear

Career Highlights:
In 1984 he won the 1984 Cy Young Award with the Cubs even though he pitched his first 15 games of the season with the Indians… With the Cubs Sutcliffe went 16-1, lead the league with a .941 winning % and had 155 strikeouts and 39 walks in 20 games; Lead the AL with a 2.96 ERA in 1982; Lead the NL with 18 wins in 1987; Was named to the All-Star team in 1983, 1987 and 1989; Won the NL Comeback of the Year in 1987 and the AL Comeback in 1992

Fun Stuff:
Batted above the “Mendoza Line” in 1979 (.247), 1984 (.250 combined), 1985 (.233) and 1986 (.208); Hit a home run in game 1 of the 1984 NLCS; Was the youngest player in his league in 1976 and among the oldest in 1994

Card Stuff:
The above 1980 card is Sutcliffe’s rookie card; Had a card in the 1978 Cramer Pacific Coast League set


1975 Hostess #146

Played 1966 – 1978
1970’s Teams: Expos, Astros, Tigers, Brewers, Padres, Cardinals

1970’s Highlights:
Was the Tigers’ starting 2nd baseman in 1974 and 1975

Career Highlights:
The Expos selected him from the Phillies in the 1968 expansion draft and he won the starting 2nd base job in Spring Training; Lead the league in 1969 with 110 double plays turned; Played for the US Olympic Baseball team in 1964

Fun Stuff:
His brother Darrell pitched for the Mets and Indians in the 1960s

Card Stuff:
Despite playing just 5 games in 1972 and 16 games in 1973, he was in every flagship Topps set from 1967 to 1977


1977 Topps #144

Played 1976 – 1988
1970’s Teams: Cubs

1970’s Highlights:
Squeaked past Joe Niekro to win the 1979 Cy Young with a league-leading 37 saves, a 2.22 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 102.1 innings; The 37 saves also tied the NL record at the time, originally set by Clay Carroll in 1972 and tied by Rollie Fingers in 1978; Was the winning pitcher in the 1978 and 1979 All-Star Games

Career Highlights:
Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006 and was the first pitcher who was inducted without ever having started a Major League game; His 300 career saves was a National League record from 1982 (when he got his 194th save) until Lee Smith passed him in 1993; Won the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award in 1979, 1981, 1982 and 1984; Won a World Championship with the Cardinals in 1982 and got two saves during the World Series; Was named to the NL All-Star team six times; Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 2006

Custom Cards: Out With The Old, In With The New

I haven’t shared many custom cards here on the blog even though I’ve been making them steadily, and have some custom projects lined up for 2023.  I dug myself a hole with this backlog – do I catch up on stuff I didn’t post, do I introduce the new stuff I’ve been doing?  I decided just to do a little of everything to try to break my mental logjam.

I’ll start with a few final customs from my original-design 2023 TSR project.

Baseball America named Orioles rookie Gunnar Henderson its Minor League Player of the Year. Much to my surprise, I discovered that there’s also a college football player named Gunnar Henderson. Since I created these I found out about another pair of baseball and football players who share a name – well, almost – and they’ll be appearing at some point on a “Pointless Pairings” card.

Had I shared any of my 2022 TSR Football customs here before? I’m not sure that I have. It wasn’t a planned project, just something where I created a template on the spur of the moment – 1974 Topps Football is easy to replicate, it’s all straight lines and basic fonts – and then I said “Well, I suppose I should do something with this.

Touching on a few season highlights… Pete Alonso now holds the Mets single-season RBI record, driving in 131 to pass Mike Piazza (1999, 124) and David Wright (2008, also 124).

The Orioles’ Ramón Urías won his first Gold Glove. His was the first Gold Glove won by an Oriole since 2015, and he’s only the 3rd O’s third baseman to win a Gold Glove, with the others being Brooks Robinson (who won 16 of them) and Manny Machado (who won 2 at the hot corner in Baltimore)

On to some newer projects… The 1981/82 hockey cards from Topps & O-Pee-Chee have long been favorites of mine. I started out by making customs of NHL players who had changed teams during the summer… Andre Burakovsky and Jonathan Huberdeau were offseason additions by 2 Pacific Division rivals

As I’ve mentioned before, 1974 Topps Baseball was the first set I collected – well, other than Wacky Packs – and I’ve got a whole bunch of ideas for ways to pay tribute to this set and also to “extend” whatever Topps puts out as part of 2023 Heritage. Another example of this is this “Traded” custom which illustrates catcher Sean Murphy as the Braves’ new catcher. Murphy had been obtained from the A’s in a 3-team trade also involving the Brewers, and the Braves have since signed Murphy to an extension. I like trades involving catchers. Catchers are easy to ‘photoshop’.

The Dodgers signed former Mets favorite Noah Syndergaard and that gave me an excuse – I mean a *reason* to pay homage to vintage Topps practices by using a 2-year-old photo (so I wouldn’t have to colorize an Angels or Phillies cap) and also leaving in the Mets pinstripes.

Back in 1974 there were a few examples of Topps showing players in pinstripes where their new teams did not have pinstripes… Off the top of my head there’s Ralph Houk with the Tigers as well as Felipe and Matty Alou with their new teams. Felipe was pinstriped with both the Expos (1974 Topps) and Brewers (1974 Topps Traded).

I’ll wrap things up with a “Traded” custom for a player who wasn’t actually traded. José Abreu signed with the Astros after nine years with the White Sox. Unlike in 1974, the majority of players change teams through free agency rather than trades, and I wanted to reflect that on the front of the custom. Maybe I should’ve gone with just “SIGNED” instead of “SIGNED AS FREE AGENT”, but that ship has sailed as far as I’m concerned.

OK, with any luck this will free my brain up from “How do I catch up” paralysis and I can get back to posting these customs on a regular basis.

A Beatle, An Eagle And The Super Chief

This is a quickie post to show off three completely unrelated non-sport cards I recently got from COMC during the Black Friday promotion.

I stumbled across a set from 2005 called “The Beatles 1963” from a company called Lychgate Press…  This portrait of John Lennon was the only decent likeness in the set, it was cheap and I love The Beatles, so I went ahead and grabbed it.

The card is the size of your typical British tobacco card, by the way.

Back in the 1970s I was huge into science fiction and watched pretty much any TV show that could be regarded as science fiction, regardless of the quality.  “Space: 1999” was a pretty good show but I love love LOVED the Eagle transports that were used by the inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha.  I even built a model of one, I kinda wonder what happened to that model.

So I discovered that Donruss made a Space: 1999 set in 1976 and while most of the cards aren’t of huge interest to me, I decided I needed to get at least one card featuring an Eagle… And that’s what you see here.

Looking back on it, I still think the Eagle transports are cool, but I couldn’t really explain why.  Just is.

By the way the card is a puzzle back and this particular piece of the puzzle is just some non-descript background from whatever the puzzle is, so I didn’t bother scanning it.

Another bit of transport that I’ve loved most of my life is the “Super Chief” locomotive introduced by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad in the 1930s.  I was big into trains when I was a kid, and the Super Chief gives me all of the feels.

This card is from Wills Cigarettes in 1938, when the speed of the Super Chief was still new and the talk of the town.  This card got me thinking of starting a Super Chief “player collection” but there doesn’t seem to be that many cards out there.  I was mildly surprised to find out that there isn’t a Super Chief card in the 1955 Topps Rails And Sails set.

The back of the card touts the speed of the Super Chief, which made regular runs between Chicago and Los Angeles.

I Fell Ill And Watched A Cricket Match

…Which is not to imply that you have to be ill to watch a Cricket match.

OK, for starters, I’ve long been intrigued by Cricket.  It’s just similar enough to baseball that part of my brain insists that I should be able to pick it up easily enough (Hah!)

[Counterpoint on that:  A couple of years ago we had a work outing at a minor league baseball game, and I offered to explain what was going on to my Cricket-loving friend from India;  She said she had no clue what was going on and that was OK, she was just enjoying the night out.]

Two Cricket-y things happened to me over this past the summer.  The first was that the Olympic Channel (Rest In Digital Peace) aired daily highlights of the 2022 Commonwealth Games, an athletic competition between members of the Commonwealth of Nations (think “former British empire territories”).  Women’s Twenty20 Cricket was a new sport this time, and I enjoyed watching the highlights.  (Don’t ask me to explain “Twenty20” other than it’s a modified, shorter version of the sport)

The second thing to happen to me was my stumbling across a box of Topps Cricket Attax, a collectible card game featuring the men and women of The Hundred, a relatively new British league which plays 100-Ball Cricket, another variation that is meant to keep Cricket matches to a couple of hours. Each team has a men’s and women’s squad, so this set included both men and women Cricketers.

Even though I knew nothing about the league, I was very tempted to get a box just because it was exotic. Before I placed an order I realized that I would enjoy a couple of packs, like I do with the soccer-based Match Attax, but a whole box would be wasted on me.

What I did instead was to go out to COMC, buy this single 2021 card of Sarah Glenn and put it behind me.

I didn’t know the first thing about Sarah Glenn or her team, the Trent Rockets, but this was the most visually-appealing card available on COMC at the time.

Fast forward to just before Christmas when I got my COMC shipment and I started to write about this card.  I tried researching The Hundred, found a video of an entire women’s match on YouTube, watched a bit and thought “I’ll have to watch more later”

Two days later sinus congestion had me couch-bound with a pretty bad case of vertigo and I was feeling generally crappy.  I still had a browser tab opened to the match so I watched it… and I learned a few things in the process… nothing I can or will explain here, but I had a series of minor epiphanies of how the game is played.

I also had a couple of moments of “I have no clue what just happened”, but I think that’s pretty much par for the course at this stage.

So I guess the point of all this is that if and when Major League Cricket kicks off in the USA in July 2023 as is their plan, I will watch some of it… assuming that I would be able to watch it without adding another premium streaming service, because Mrs. Shlabotnik and I already pay too much for streaming.

…And if there’s a set of Cricket cards which come out of Major League Cricket, I might not be able to hold off a second time.