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.

My Own Winter Classic: Hockey Cards Featuring Extinct 1970’s Teams

The NHL is playing a game outside today… a game between the New York Rangers and the Buffalo Sabres at Citi Field, where the temperature isn’t supposed to get out of the teens.  At least they don’t have to worry about the hardness of the ice…

It’s been over a dozen years since the NHL fatally pissed me off, so I’ll probably watch some of the game, but only some.  I know it would never work this way, but I sometimes wish they’d take advantage of all the extra space they have in a stadium and install an international-sized rink, one which is 4 meters (just over 13 feet) wider than a standard NHL rink. I’ve come to realize that I enjoy the game more on a wider rink, so you can be sure I’ll be watching some Olympic hockey in just over a month.

Anyway, it’s only a little warmer where I am, so I’m more likely to spend part of my day trying to organize my cards, including my hockey cards.

I recently got a small batch of hockey cards from COMC, and about half of them feature teams which existed in the 1970’s when I was a kid, but are now long gone.  Those cards are being featured today.

I love the 1979-80 Topps/O-Pee-Chee set, but the insanely-priced Gretzky rookie prevents me from making its completion a goal… However I couldn’t resist an O-Pee-Chee card from the set which features Ron Plumb in a WHA San Diego Mariners uniform.

How old was this photo at the time?  Plumb played for the Mariners in the 1974-75 season, then played 3 seasons for the Cincinnati Stingers, and this card was meant to represent his final of three seasons with the Whalers (New England and Hartford).  The Mariners’ folded just before training camp for the 1977-78 season.

Here’s another 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee card which features an old photo… Rick Hampton is pictured with the Cleveland Barons.

For those who need a refresher, the Barons started out as the California Golden Seals, moved to Cleveland for the 1976-77 season and lasted just two seasons before merging with the also-struggling Minnesota North Stars.

One of my moderate collecting goals is to collect the now-gone NHL teams of my initial hockey collecting years: The Barons, the Kansas City Scouts and the Colorado Rockies.  The Seals kinda sorta fall into the same category, even though they were gone before I started to follow hockey.

For 43 cents, I couldn’t resist this 1974-75 OPC card.  How’s this for novel:  Stan Weir actually played for the Seals during that 1974-75 season!  He would, however, be traded to Toronto after the season…

A couple of months ago there was a post over at Shoebox Legends about a very nice autographed O-Pee-Chee Lanny McDonald card he’d acquired.   The stats on the back of the card listed McDonald’s two seasons with the NHL’s Colorado Rockies, and if you look at the comments, you’ll see that I say something about going to COMC to buy cards of Lanny with the Rockies.  Here’s the first:

This is a 1980-81 Topps card; this set had a scratch-off “Guess the player’s name” gimmick which I thought was ridiculous as a kid and even more so now. Fortunately, scratched-off cards are cheaper and I would just as soon have them scratched-off.  The same year’s O-Pee-Chee set didn’t have the scratch-off, but also didn’t change the light grey print used for the player’s name.

This second card is from another gimmick-y Topps hockey set: in 1981-82, Topps had “East” and “West” packs… The “East” Packs had cards from a 66-card national set plus another 66 cards from an “East” set. In the Western part of the US, their packs had the 66 National cards (which I suppose can be considered to be double-printed) and 66 West cards.  I bought a bunch of packs when I lived on Long Island, so I’ve got most of the National and East cards, but this card – #82W – is my very first card from that “West” subset-of-sorts.

If you do the math, the “master set” of 1981-82 Topps Hockey stands at 198 cards.  The 1981-82 O-Pee-Chee set had 396 cards.

As mentioned before, sometimes other people’s blogs will inspire me to buy a card… but sometimes it’s something I write that results in inspiring myself. A while ago I wrote a “Forgotten Franchises” post about the WHA’s Toronto Toros, and I became intrigued by Paul Henderson, who was a Canadian national hero for his play in the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union.

The Toronto Toros would move to Alabama to become the Birmingham Bulls; that’s the team that this card shows.

No such backstory for this card of Jim Park of the Indianapolis Racers… Just a desire to own a card of someone in a Racers uniform.

I probably should’ve saved this card for a “Forgotten Franchises” post on the Racers… and come to think of it, I’m overdue for another post in that series so consider this a teaser for that upcoming post (which I haven’t started, so there’s no telling when it will see the light of day).


Custom Sunday: I Love To Say BABIP

Four customs plus a rant today. Who could ask for anything more?

Continuing my series of 2017 MLB Leaders in some of the more obscure statistics, today we have BABIP – Batting Average on Balls In Play. The formula for this, according to MLB.com is (H – HR)/(AB – K – HR + SF).

I’m not sure how significant of an achievement it is for someone to lead the league in BABIP, but it’s a fun acronym to say so here it is.  Avisail Garcia lead the majors with a .393 BABIP and Charlie Blackmon and Jose Altuve both had a .373 BABIP.

I’m slowly working my way through all of the new managers and making 1963 Post-inspired customs out of them and I think that Red Sox manager Alex Cora is the last of the bunch.

I’m probably going to expand these ’63 Post customs to feature players from press conferences, but I hadn’t finally decided. Giancarlo Stanton, perhaps?

The offseason trade and free-agent market has been fairly slow, but I have to say that the move that has surprised me the most by far was the trade which sent Evan Longoria to the San Francisco Giants.

I hadn’t thought it likely that the Rays would trade someone who’s so closely associated with the team, but it seemed like he was about to reach a point where he’d acquire no-trade rights from having 10 years of experience and 5 with the same team, so it seems to have been a “now or never” moment in Tampa.

I’m going to wrap up with an unusual (for me) football custom, done in the style of the 1964 Philadelphia Gum set. The Steelers are drawing their regular season to a close against the 0-15 Browns, and coach Mike Tomlin will sit some of the regulars, so that’s good news for one of my favorite Steelers, backup QB Landry Jones.

It might seem odd to favor the backup on a team that’s clinched a first-round bye, but that’s the way it is for me and these Steelers. I’ve been a fan of The Black And Gold for 30+ years, and even though this is a winning team, this team over the past couple of years has tried my patience as much as some of those 10-loss teams I’ve seen. The reasons for my frustration are many, but can be summed up by saying that while this is winning football, it’s not what I consider Steelers football.

Public Enemy #1 is Ben Roethlisberger. I admit that I flat-out don’t like him or his style of play. It also drives me nuts that he stays in the game when he’s seriously injured and far less effective, but HEAVENS FORBID that you should have to put Landry Jones in there. Let’s just all jump in front of a bus and save ourselves the misery.

I’ve taken to calling Roethlisberger “The Black Knight”, which sounds good on the surface, but is actually a reference to the character from “Monty Python And The Holy Grail”:

Anyway, the long and short of this is that I’ll be rooting hard for Landry Jones today.

Card Show In A Box, Part 2: Five Mets

I’d thought that the holidays would allow me to do an extra post this week, but it didn’t quite work out the way that I’d intended, so today’s post is a bit of a rush job.

This is the second of a series of posts covering a 500-count box I got from A Cracked Bat. The box contained all kinds of goodies in it and felt as if I’d hired a personal shopper to go to a card show for me; hence the title.

This first card is made of acetate or some sort of clear plastic, and as a result it is considered to be “neat”, even though Scott Hunter, the prospect pictured on it, didn’t pan out………. OR DID HE? (duh duh DAAAAAAAHHHH!!!!)

I didn’t remember Hunter ever playing for the Mets, so I looked him up on baseball-reference.com to see how high he made it – AAA as it turns out – but also noticed that he started out in the Dodgers organization. When I Googled him to find out how he got from the Dodgers to the Mets, I found out that he’s currently the Seattle Mariners’ director for Amateur Scouting. Well, damn.

Oh, and I did eventually find out how Scott Hunter got to the Mets; he was one of two outfield prospects (along with Dwight Maness) traded by the Dodgers to the Mets for Brett Butler.

I love this next card, it’s from an insert from 2001 Topps that was a cool variation on the “Now And Then” cards they’ve done…. Tom Seaver with the Reds? Reggie Jackson with the Yankees? Willie Mays with the Mets? Who would have thought…?

On the odd occasion where I pick up one of these cards, I think I should go after the whole 20 card set… And then I remember the other 347 “goals” I have and put this insert set on the backburner.

This 2003 Donruss Elite card amused me… I realize that “Elite” refers to the set and not the players, but I feel pretty confident in saying that Pedro Astacio’s time in Queens would not make him “Elite” in anybody’s book.

I’m not 100% sure that I knew that there was a Major League version of the Elite franchise… Everything I’d seen prior had been the prospect-y Elite Extraordinary Enhanced Extra Embossed Edition (or whatever it’s called).

I’m not always one for die-cut cards, but this one is pretty neat… It’s from 2014 Bowman and features Gavin and Garin Cecchini who both, at the time, were prospects for the Mets and Red Sox, respectively.

Garin had two cups of coffee with the Bosox, but has now played in AAA with a couple of different organizations. Gavin was the 12th overall pick in 2012 and got some playing time in 2017, but even though the Mets have an opening at second base, Gavin does not seem to be in line to get the job.

Earlier this year I pulled a Dave Kingman Action Packed card out of a repack; now here’s another one from that same 1992 Action Packed All-Star Gallery set, this one featuring Rusty Staub!

Twenty-five years ago I was unimpressed by Action Packed, but now they fall into “cool oddball” territory.  BTW, eagle-eyed Mets fans will notice that Rusty’s jersey has blue & orange stripes on the sleeve and the collar, which indicate that this photo was from his second stint with the Mets;  he originally played in Queens from 1972 to 1975, and then again from 1981 to 1985.  In 1983 the Mets switched to the “racing stripe” uniforms made famous by the 1986 World Championship team, so that seems to indicate that this photo is from 1981 or 1982.

I love cards of Rusty Staub, and this makes me think I should put more of an effort into my Rusty PC… But then I get back to what I said before about having 347 goals…

Once again, I’d like to thank Julie of A Cracked Bat for the very fun and very large box of cards!

You know, this all reminds me of something that happened the other night involving Julie…

She called me up late that night… She said “Joe, don’t come over! My dad and I just had a fight and he stormed out the door!  I’ve never seen him act this way – My God, he’s going crazy!  He says he’s gonna make you pay for what we’ve done!  He’s got a gun!  So RUN, JOEY, RUN, JOEY RUN!!!!

…Or maybe that was just a delightfully cheesy 1970’s song I heard last night.  It’s just as well because in that song it does not end well for Julie.

…And OMG there’s a video!!!!

I’m Pleased To Announce The Completion Of A Vintage……………… (Aw, Hell.)

So here’s the deal… I recently got this rookie card from COMC:

The rookie card of fan favorite Tug McGraw and 1969 Miracle Met Ron Swoboda… it took a fair amount of searching to find a copy which was within my budget, but I got this one for just over $5.  And there was much rejoicing (Yaaaaaaay).

The only 1960’s team set I’d ever completed before was the 1969 Topps Seattle Pilots team set, and the only real challenge with that one is high numbers.

But here I was, holding the last of the long sought 1965 Mets team set, and feeling pretty pleased about it.  I decided I would feature the entire team set in a post.

Just as a precaution against looking foolish, I compared the cards I had to a couple of different definitions of a 1965 Mets team set, including the PSA set registry listing for 1965 Topps Mets… and that’s when I noticed a card which had light blue borders rather than green borders and featured the Mets’ Kevin Collins in the lower left corner.

1965 Topps - [Base] #581 - Tony Perez, Kevin Collins, Dave Ricketts - Courtesy of COMC.com

1965 Topps – [Base] #581 – Tony Perez, Kevin Collins, Dave Ricketts – Courtesy of COMC.com

…And I said “Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww, hell.”  Most of the 1965 rookie cards are team-specific, I somehow didn’t think about these “National League” rookie cards.  Not only is this a high number, but it’s the rookie card for a Hall-Of-Famer.

I think I’ve got a line on a copy of that card, but for now we’ll have to scuttle the team set post.

Let’s go back to that card I just got so I can go into details on some of the other players… because there’s a story or two in there.

Danny Napoleon played two years with the Mets and would continue to play through the 1971 season.  Back in October I featured a TCMA card of him that had been sent by Dime Box Nick.

Ron Swoboda is best known for the catch he made in the 1969 World Series as well as batting .400 in that World Series.  He played for 6 years with the Mets.

Jim Bethke spent much of the 1965 season pitching in relief for the Mets.  He was just 18 at the time (26 years younger than teammate Warren Spahn).  He’d make 25 appearances that year, but never made it back to the Majors afterwards.

Tug McGraw pitched 19 years in the Majors, and along with artist Mike Witte he created a comic strip called “Scroogie” in the mid 1970’s.  I remember reading this strip, I really need to get the two Signet paperbacks which compiled the strip.

Now that I’ve spent a lot of time and focus on that card, I’ll mention that I did get another 1965 rookie card in the same shipment….

This card’s been on my radar for a while because it’s the rookie card for 1969 Miracle Met Tommie Agee, and I saw the price come low enough that I decided to jump at it.

I’ve written about Agee’s role in the 1969 Mets before, today I’ll briefly run through Agee’s notable rookie season… Now this card shows him as a Cleveland prospect, but he played just 31 games over three seasons with the Indians.  In January 1965 he went from the Indians to the White Sox in a three-team trade which also involved the Kansas City Athletics, Tommy John and Rocky Colavito.  Agee wouldn’t land a full time job until 1966, but in that season he was the A.L. Rookie of the Year, an All-Star and a Gold Glove winner while batting .273 with 22 homers, 83 RBI, 98 runs and 44 stolen bases.  Over his time with the White Sox,  Agee caught the eye of then-Senators manager Gil Hodges, who encouraged the Mets front office to go after Agee.

Before I finish up this post, I’d like to mention something about Agee’s “card mate”, George Culver.  Something about Culver’s name was poking at the back of my brain, and I knew it was more than his being in the first set I collected:

When I looked him up, I realized I’ve seen him in action…. as a minor league manager.

He managed the AA Reading Phillies in 1986 and 1987, and that was when I used to go to at least one or two R-Phils games each year (I have friends who live in the area) and also at a time when I’d buy the team sets of any team I’d see play in the minors… So I was able to go to the appropriate binder and scan this card of Culver from the 1987 TCMA Reading Phillies set.

I also found out that Culver no-hit the Philadelphia Phillies while pitching for the Reds on July 29, 1968.  Interestingly enough, it’s a no-hitter where Culver was actually losing at one point… in the bottom of the second inning Dick Allen ended up on 2nd base courtesy of two Reds errors; he moved to third on a groundout and scored on a Cookie Rojas sacrifice fly.  Phils-1, Reds-0.  To quote the title of Joe Garagiola’s book, “Baseball is a funny game”.

Contrast And Compare: Three From 1977 Burger King Yankees

I thought that some of you might appreciate having something to read this morning, so this is my Christmas gift to you. I hope your day is merry, no matter how you spend it!

I recently got a COMC shipment which contained a number of 1970’s Burger King cards. Here are the first three, all from the 1977 Burger King Yankees set, along with each card’s Topps counterpart.

Don Gullett turned a steady career with the Reds into a 6-year contract with the Yankees, and it was early enough in the offseason that Topps was able to airbrush him into a Yankees cap (and somehow mistakenly put his name in green type).

His 1977 Burger King Yankees card is a similar portrait, but shows him in an actual Yankees cap. His expression on the BK card seems to say “Can you believe how bad my Topps card is?”

Injuries curtailed Gullett’s career in the Bronx. He only pitched 2 seasons with the Yanks, and was done with baseball at the age of 27.

Jim Wynn spent 1976 with the Braves. I got to meet him and get his autograph that year, the first Major Leaguer I’d ever seen up close, and despite his 5’10” height which contributed to his knickname as “The Toy Cannon”, he seemed huge to me.

Wynn was purchased from the Braves during the offseason, a move reflected in his 1977 Burger King card.

He unfortunately put up anemic offensive numbers with the Yankees and was released in July. He’d hook up with the Brewers, but would not play after 1977.

Paul Blair was an 8-time Gold Glove center fielder with the Orioles.  His 1977 Topps card shows him in Yankee Stadium, which could be considered to be foreshadowing if not for many AL players having their photos taken at Yankee Stadium.

Like Wynn, the end of his career was approaching and the O’s traded him for for Elliott Maddox (who scarcely played for the O’s) and Rick Bladt (who played the season with AAA Rochester before the end of his pro career).

Blair would play the 1977 and 1978 seasons in the Bronx, get released early in 1979, hook up with the Reds and then go back to the Yankees in 1980 to close out his career.

I’ll close out with an interesting Paul Blair fact:  He played in 28 World Series games and 6 World Series – four with the O’s and two with the Yanks.

Olympic Curling Customs: Alright, Hamilton(s)!

Last weekend saw the last of the USA Curling Olympic qualifying, as Becca and Matt Hamilton won a tightly-contested battle to be the American team in the debut of Olympic mixed doubles curling as a medal sport.

Although the lost the first two games in the round-robin portion of the trials, they won the remaining seven games and an exciting finals against Cory Christensen & John Shuster wasn’t decided until the last shot of the final end.

Both Hamiltons will also be in PyeongChang as members of the women’s and men’s teams.

…And they got to appear on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and along with Jason Sudeikis (not to be confused with former Dodger Bill Sudakis)

I’m sure a lot of people are like Jason Sudeikis and think of the musical Hamilton, but me…  When Becca & Matt won, I thought of Fast Times At Ridgemont High, channeled my ‘Inner Spicoli’ and said:

Fast Five: Seattle Pilots

I was already behind in just about everything hobby-related I’m trying to do, and just to complicate things further, I got my Black Friday shipment from COMC two days ago… You’ll see those before too long, but for now it’s five arbitrarily-chosen cards featuring everybody’s favorite one-and-done franchise, the Seattle Pilots.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Pilots, here’s a quickie-quick history:  They were a 1969 expansion team which had financial difficulties which got so bad that the team was entertaining offers from groups in Milwaukee and Dallas.  Towards the end of Spring Training the team was sold and became the Milwaukee Brewers.  Because of the last-minute nature of the move, the team appears in the 1970 Topps set as the Pilots, even though every 1970 regular season game was played as the Brewers.

Diego Segui is famous for having been the only player to suit up for both the Seattle Pilots and the Seattle Mariners. He pitched for three ‘extinct’ teams: The Pilots, the Kansas City Athletics and the Washington Senators.

Although this 1970 card shows Segui with the Pilots, he wasn’t among those who made the move to Milwaukee; he had been traded to the A’s in December, 1969 and would lead the league in 1970 with a 2.56 ERA.

Jerry McNertney spent 11 years in the White Sox organization before being taken by the Pilots in the expansion draft.  I’m thinking those black and red shin guards he’s strapping on are White Sox leftovers, and this photo is from 1969 Spring Training (I think the fairly basic “PILOTS” jersey is another indication of that)

By my own quickie research, McNertney was one of only three players to appear in both 1969 and 1970 Topps in a Pilots uniform (rather than airbrushed, capless or with another team). The other two were Marty Pattin and John Kennedy.

1970 Topps Super card! Tommy Harper lead the league in both stolen bases and caught stealing in 1969.

He also put in time at 2nd, 3rd and all three outfield positions. In 1970 with the Brewers, he’d make his only all-star team.

Ted Kubiak never played for the Pilots in a regular season game, only in 1970 Spring Training. He came to the team in the trade that sent Diego Segui to Oakland.

In 1970, Kubiak played 158 games splitting time between second and short for the Brewers.  After stops with the Cardinals and Rangers, he’d make his way back to Oakland and appear in the postseason in 1972 and 1973.

Joe Schultz was the manager of the Pilots in the 1969 season, but he would be replaced by Dave Bristol for the 1970 season.

Schultz would be a coach with the Royals and Tigers, and in 1973 would manage the Tigers for 28 games after Billy Martin was fired. One of these days I’m going to figure out just how many people there have been who held the job title “Interim manager after Billy Martin was fired”.