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.

It’s Bunt! It’s Bunt! It’s Bunt! It’s In My Head…

I had been anticipating the release of the non-digital 2017 Bunt set… Much to my surprise.  It’s not because I’m a fan of the app… I do have it on my phone, but only because I haven’t bothered to remove it.

I was looking forward to it because I liked the promotional images I saw, and I also want to support any low-price-point cards on an original design.  In a world full of “It’s kind of pricey for what it is” packs, it’s a good thing to spend just a buck per pack.

…Or a blaster for $10, which is what I did.

With everything being about the Cubs in 2017 products, I sometimes wonder… if the hobby in 1970 had been like it is today, how omnipresent would the 1969 “Miracle Mets” have been?


So here’s the first card of the first pack…

Raimel Tapia, a Rockie Rookie who has appeared in 3 games and has a .125 OBP… but the season is young.

The first thing which caught my eye was starburst-y streaky light show in the background.  I’m not loving it, but it’s far from a deal-killer.  The overall design I like;  Simple, appealing, and (for a guy with aging eyes and an outdated glasses prescription), legible!  I have such high standards.

Next up, Dallas Keuchel.

The starburstiness of it is more pronounced in orange, bur the round Astros logo works better with the design.  As with last year, Bunt gets big ol’ Shlabotnik points for featuring action shots where you can — My goodness, me! —  actually see what the player looks like.

Yo!  The Bunt Gods smile upon me and grant me a Met with my third card.

Three cards in and I still like the design.  I’ve got a comment that I just obtained from “Faint Praise R Us”:  This may be the best card front design of 2017 so far.

And I just realized I’ve yet to look at the back.  Let’s all look at it together, shall we?

Ohhhhhh….  Time to insert a Jim Palmer groan (if you’re familiar with the Orioles broadcasts) …


To quote a movie I’ve never seen, “You’re killin’ me, Smalls!”

(And this is the point where the entire Blogosphere stops, stares and says, in unison “You’ve never seen The Sandlot???  You’re killin’ me, Smalls!”)

OK, back to the pack.

Tyler Austin is…um… very blue.  Very blue indeed.  This is a one-per-pack parallel.

To make a reference to a movie I have seen:  Today… Pepperland goes BLUE.

My first proper insert:  Infinite.

I’m not sure how I feel about this one.  I think it works a bit better in digital form than it does “in hand”.

Evan Longoria…  one of just 2 Tampa Bay Rays in the base set.

These cards were all from the first pack… from here on out I’ll just skip through a number of other cards from the half-blaster I’ve ripped.

Ralph Kiner from the Perspectives insert set.

From what I’ve seen on eBay, the rest of the insert set is much nicer than this.  This particular card is just odd, and it took me a little while to even work out that the background is (I’m thinking) a questionably-colorized B&W photo taken in… Forbes Field?

Another insert:  Programs.  This is very disappointing, because as interesting as last year’s insert was, this is… not.

Every Programs card has the same “tears” in the faux cover.  The overall just doesn’t work for me.  The back of the card features a “contents page” just like last year’s insert, but I was so disappointed in the front I didn’t even scan the back.

Visual proof that the set does include Orioles.  Nowhere near as many O’s as Red Sox or Cubs, but at least it’s more than the Rays.

I don’t know what the hell Topps has against the Orioles. They haven’t had a losing record since 2011, they finished in 2nd last year, they’re in first this year, and yet they get as much representation as the perennial doormat teams.  Where’s Chris Tillman?  Jonathan Schoop?  J.J. Hardy?  Dylan Bundy?  I’ll even pick on my other team for this rant:  How can you give Jose Reyes or David Wright a card over any of these Orioles?  (Sorry Jose & David, you know I love you, but…)

And David Ortiz?  Not that I have anything against him, but it seems a shame to have a card of a retired player when other teams are woefully underrepresented in this set.  #Cardboard_1%

My own personal gripe against having Big Papi in the base set is that it’s a new card that I can’t use in my Current Roster binders.  To put it in a way that fans of classic Star Trek can understand, “It does not serve Vaal.”

My reaction to this green parallel is best summarized as follows:  “GAAAAHHH!”  In-hand, this card is a very bright green.

This is really…. Wow…. um…. yeah.

My immediate reaction to all of the parallels is “Why did they color the entire card blue/green/etc.”? Then I remember that it’s just easier that way, and this is a low-end set. These parallels are about as welcome as a checklist card, but that’s just me.

Because I scanned and uploaded them, I’ll feature two more base cards before the next insert…

This is the Galaxy insert, numbered to 99.  In terms of appeal, this is the best insert I’ve pulled so far.

These come with some sort of code on the back for use in the app.  It’s the grey-black 1990’s-design box towards the bottom of the card.

So here’s my summarized reaction all bullet-pointed up:

  • Don’t let my griping about the inserts and parallels fool you, I really like the base set.
  • Is it a classic set?  Nope.
  • Is it a fun oddball set?  You betcha.
  • …except for the ridiculously hard-to-read card number
  • …and the small (200 card) checklist.
  • The inserts – or at least the ones I’ve pulled – are largely uninteresting.
  • I will buy these again.

Here’s the breakdown of the base set by team:
11 cards – Cardinals, Cubs, Red Sox
10 cards – Astros, Mets
9 cards – Rockies, White Sox
8 cards – Indians, Nationals, Tigers, Yankees
7 cards – Dodgers, Pirates, Royals
6 cards – Athletics, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, Giants, Mariners, Rangers, Reds
5 cards – Marlins, Orioles, Phillies
4 cards – Braves, Twins
3 cards – Angels, Brewers, Padres
2 cards – Rays

The Guy Before The Guy #3: Guys Who Wore 41 And 51

Before Tom Seaver wore #41 for the Mets…

…That number was worn by left-hander Gordie Richardson.
1966 Topps Gordon Richardson
Aside from pitching in three seasons with the Cardinals and Mets, Gordie Richardson also pitched in two 1964 World Series games against the Yankees, a series that the Cardinals would win in 7 games. (I debated on whether I should mention Richardson’s 40.50 World Series ERA, or the fact that he gave up a grand slam to Joe Pepitone).

Other Mets players to have worn #41 include former Dodger Clem Labine (3 games in 1962), Grover Powell (1963), Dennis Musgraves and Jim Bethke (both 1965).

As hard as it may be to believe, before future HOFer Ichiro wore #51 for the Mariners…
2002 Topps Total Ichiro

…that number was worn by HOFer Randy Johnson!
1992 Stadium Club Randy Johnson

I started this post a while ago, and while I was double-checking my research as a step towards publishing, I realized that the last guy to wear #51 before Randy Johnson was a guy I’d included in Monday’s post:  Rey Quinones!

51 must have had some sort of personal significance for Quinones, because he also wore that number with the Red Sox and in a brief stint with the Pirates.

As it turns out, there were only four players to wear #51 for the Mariners, so I figured I may as well scan the forth guy… Bill Wilkinson.

One of the more interesting things about Bill Wilkinson is that he’s from Wyoming, and there aren’t many Wyomingans(?) in MLB history.  16, to be exact.  The most notable ones are Tom Browning, John Buck, Mike Devereaux, Dick Ellsworth, Mike Lansing and Dan Spillner.  Fun fact:  6 of the 16 Major Leaguers from Wyoming were born in Cheyenne.

Getting back to #51… If Wikipedia is to be trusted, no coaches or managers ever wore #51, so these four players are all of the 51’s in Mariner history… And I’d have to think that this will never change.  Ichiro is a sure-fire HOFer, so even if the Mariners never officially retire #51 (which I doubt), they’d probably never give out a number worn by two HOFers who established themselves in Seattle.

Pack Animal: 2017 Topps Major League Soccer

Last week I was in Target looking for 2017 Bowman. I didn’t find it during that trip (and when I did find it, it proved just a bit too uninteresting to bother posting about), but did find packs of 2017 Topps Major League Soccer.

The pack is only 6 cards, but it’s also only $1.99, so I pulled the trigger. I don’t follow MLS, so this will be a one-and-done situation.

Before I get to the cards… Is it wrong that I feel bad for MLS?  I think the American mindset is to want the best of the best, but in the case of soccer, that’s the English Premier League, the German Bundesliga, etc. And honestly, if you’re watching the game on a TV or other electronic device, does it make a huge difference if the game is in a nearby city or on another continent?

MLS would like for you to not answer that question.

Anyway, on to the pack.

First card:  Jelle Van Damme, Los Angeles Galaxy

Not a bad design, but I’d like to see more of the background in an unblurred, uncloudy state. In other words, less of the typical recent Topps behavior.

Next up Juan Gaudelo, New England Revolution.

Because of the different border with numbers running down the side, I’d wondered if this might be a parallel, but it’s actually a subset:  “24 under 24”, which is an annual ranking of the top MLS players who are 23 years old and younger. Mr. Gaudelo is #17 on the current ranking.

Atiba Harris, FC Dallas

Chris Pontius, Back Of The Net insert.

Graham Zusi, Sporting Kansas City

I’m going to play the Grumpy Old Man card… specifically my 1992 Star Pics Saturday Night Live Grumpy Old Man card…

…And say that “Sporting Kansas City” is a dumb-ass name for a team.

In my day, teams had names like Expos, SuperSonics and Barons! That’s the way it was, and we liked it!

Finally, David Villa, NYC FC

David Villa recently threw out the first pitch at a Yankees game. NYC FC is part-owned by the Yankees, so it follows that they cross-promote.

I have to say, I’m glad I’m not a soccer fan in NYC: One team has Yankee ownership, the other is named for an energy drink.

I’m of the opinion that NYC FC is another stupid (and awkward) team name, but given the ownership situation, I suppose we should be happy that they’re not called “Yankee United”.

Love Of The Unloved: 1989 Bowman

I was originally going to do a post about a value pack of 2017 Bowman I bought, but 2017 Bowman is just like 2016 Bowman is just like 2015 Bowman is just like… The usual overly-busy Bowman design, the same Major Leaguers you’ll find in every set, the prospects you’ve not heard of…

However, I left a comment on a recent Night Owl Cards post, one where I found myself defending 1990 Bowman to a small degree. Since I’m one of the few people who actually likes those early Bowman sets, I thought maybe instead of doing a half-hearted post on a pack of 2017 Bowman, I’d do a short series defending each of the first three Bowman sets, those repack fodder sets that only a guy who calls himself Joe Shlabotnik could love.

1989 Bowman is a set that apparently was made to annoy card collectors everywhere. They’re slightly oversized at 2.5″ x 3.75″; normal width, but just tall enough to not properly fit in 9-pocket sheets. One of the appeals of the set is that the slightly larger size combined with the minimal design leaves a lot of room for the photo, so they seem a bit more oversized than they really are.

The set weighs in at 484 cards with only two subsets. Four checklist cards and a four-card “Father and Sons” subset featuring the Griffeys, Ripkens, Alomars and Stottlemyers. I didn’t include any scans of this subset because I think it’s kinda ugly, and I only wanted to feature cards I like.

So let’s start with one of the more familiar cards in the set, the card for Nolan Ryan

This card was more of a big deal in 1989 than it is now;  it was one of the first to feature Nolan Ryan in a Rangers uniform.  Most of the major sets came out early in the year and showed Nolan Ryan with the Astros.  It was the late-season update sets which generally reflected Ryan’s off-season free agent signing.  Bowman came out later than the other sets – late enough to feature photos from Spring Training – but earlier than everybody’s Traded/Update sets.  I’ve kept my recent cards organized by team rosters since I was a wee Shlabotnik, so a major set which had players in 1989 uniforms was a major selling point for me.

By the way, this looks like the same photo that was used in Topps Traded, but it’s not.  There are subtle differences, such as Nolan looking off to his left on the Traded card.

Here’s the back of Ryan’s card, featuring those stats split by team and a big, beautiful card number:

Looking back, I have to admit that Bowman was the ultimate low-effort set.  There’s no text on the front, other than the player’s signature.  A lot of the photos are portraits, and the backs feature no text and all had the same amount of stats.  Veterans like Nolan Ryan had as many lines of stats as young guys like Tom Glavine, so there’s no space to be filled by writeups or cartoons.

Probably THE most famous card in ’89 Bowman is the Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card.

I’m including it here just because I feel like I should include it here.

To my thinking, this card is a must-have for any Kirk Gibson collector.

This Mike Henneman card is a kind of odd candid shot, but that’s the main reason I like it.

Rey Quinones does his best fake fielding pose, which just barely fits into the Bowman borders.

The signature says “Tim Raines”, the back says “Rock Raines” as Raines had requested and Topps had complied.  I have never once in my life referred to him as “Rock Raines”… well, not without rolling my eyes, anyway.

One can tell from the pennant on the outfield wall that this photo was taken at Shea Stadium.  Knowing that it’s Shea, one can also tell that RC Cola was a major sponsor for the Mets at the time.

Every pack of 1989 Bowman came with an “insert” that was really a sweepstakes entry form.  Win valuable vintage Bowman cards!  Win a 1953 Bowman Color set valued at approximately $10,000!  Yay!  The front of the cards featured famous Bowman cards like this 1951 Bowman Willie Mays.

As with all of the cards in this pseudo-reprint set, this is likely as close as I’ll ever get to owning one of these cards.

Here’s the back, featuring the entry form:

The deadline for this sweepstakes was 3/10/1990, so we’re all a little too late to be entering.

I’m the first to admit that the early Bowman sets go much too heavy on the headshots… but I felt like I should include at least one, and I’ve always liked this shot of Cal Ripken.

Here’s another semi-update card;  all of the other non-update sets showed Eddie Murray with the Orioles.

I don’t know why I like this card of Jody Reed, I just do.

Finally, what is probably my favorite card from this set, one which features two HOFers: Gary Carter and Ryne Sandberg.

I’m not going to wrap things up by saying that 1989 Bowman is a great set, or even one of the best sets of 1989. It’s just a set that I like and I wanted to give you an idea of what there is to like about the set.

Update:  I forgot to mention that COMC’s Spring Cleaning promotion starts today and runs through Sunday. This morning I dropped over $10 while eating breakfast.

You can check out my promotion here. Thanks!

Cherry-Picking The 30-Day Challenge: A Card I Spent More Than $10 On

A little over a year ago I got this card in a COMC shipment:

Nice little card, right?  A pretty decent addition to one’s collection, plus it completed my 1973 Topps set.

I’ve been meaning to write about it since I got it… No, wait, strike that;  it’s not entirely true.  I’ve written plenty about it, I just never finished a post… Until now.

I’d been keeping an eye out for this card on-and-off for 40 years.  The basic issue all along has been finding one that fits within my “hobby budget”.

I say “budget”, but it’s more involved than what I can or can’t afford.  A large part of it involves an understanding of how much joy a purchase will bring me.  Generally speaking, I usually get much more joy from four $5 cards than I would from one $20 card.

There’s also fear involved…  Growing up in the suburbs of New York City, I was instilled with a healthy dose of cynicism and caution.  There’s always the fear that I’ll unwittingly spend $50 on a card that turns out to be fake.

Anyway, the whole point of this is to say that when my 1973 Topps set got to 659 cards, I took some time, meditated on it for a while, and came to the conclusion that acquiring card #615 was almost completely about completing the set.  The fact that it is Mike Schmidt’s rookie card is fun, but honestly doesn’t carry much weight for me.

I decided that the amount of satisfaction I would get out of having 660 cards instead of 659 would be worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $20-$25.  If this was a realistic goal, fantastic.  If not… Oh well.  My life will go on and I’ll spend my money on cool cards from other sets.

Condition was never an issue.  I didn’t care if it was creased, dog-eared, gum-stained, miscut and pulled out of a scrapbook into which it had been glued down.  I didn’t care if someone had drawn glasses, a beard and Martian antennae drawn on Ron Cey.  I’m not even sure I cared if Mike Schmidt was the one with blue ballpoint facial hair.

I mean, come on.  My copy of card #1 in the set looks like this:

Obviously, I’m not a stickler for condition.  I originally told myself that I was going to upgrade this card at some point, but I’ve actually become kinda attached to this mangled bit of cardboard.  As Charlie Brown would say “This card needs me”.

Anyway, back to the rookie card…. I mentioned my hoped-for price range to a couple of dealers I’m friendly with.  Because of the relationship we already had, they didn’t laugh in my face and call me delusional.  Instead the merely cautioned me not to get my hopes up.

One weekday morning I was poking through my RSS reader to see if anything I’d been looking for had entered COMC’s inventory.  As usual, going down the list resulted in nothing, nothing nothing… until I got to the bottom of the page where the entry for 1973 Topps #615 was.  There was a new one in lesser condition that showed up overnight…  let’s take a look at what they want for it.

They have it on sale for $21.45?

And I froze up as if the entire world were buffering.

…and my brain stayed frozen for a few moments, until the rational part of my brain rebooted,  whacked me upside the head and said “Joe!  JOE!  Snap out of it!  This is EXACTLY what you’ve been looking for!  Don’t let someone else buy it out from under you!  Click on “Buy Now”!  Click on it!  Click!  Click!  ClickClickClickCLICKCLICKCLICK!!!!!!!”

And I clicked on the “Buy Now” button.

Well, OK, first I examined the COMC images as closely as I could to make sure that the card looked legit.  THEN I clicked on “Buy Now”.

And I confirmed the purchase.

And the card was sitting in my inventory.

And I wasn’t ecstatic.  I wasn’t euphoric.  I didn’t walk around all day with a big smile on my face.

I was stunned.  I went to work in a state of disbelief.  During the day, I checked my email to make sure that nobody at COMC said “Sorry, it was all a big mistake, we’re refunding your money”.

When I got home, I double-checked my “Ready To Ship” inventory to see if the card were truly there and I didn’t imagine it.

When I got the card shipped from COMC, I examined it as best I could, still wondering if it might be a counterfeit.  As someone who’s handled 1973 cards for 40+ years, I’m pretty confident that this card is legit, but if anyone wants to point me towards any resources on how to spot a counterfeit Schmidt rookie, I’ll try to be open-minded.

So once I got this valuable card, this key part of the 1973 set, what did I do with it?

Hell yeah, I put it in the binder with the rest of my set.

Random Team: 1974 Topps Philadelphia Phillies, Part 2

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m breaking this long Team Set post into two parts because for all the time it’s taken me to do what was meant to be “a fun and relatively quick post”, I want to get one day’s worth out of it.

Favorite Card
I just love this candid shot of Greg Luzinski sitting in the dugout. I like the Carlton and Bowa cards (from the prior post) as well, but this one is top of the heap.

Greg Luzinski played only 85 games in 1974 due to injuries, but he broke out in 1975, hitting 34 homers and leading the league with 120 RBI.

Best Cartoon
Catcher Mike Ryan

Best Rookie Card
Dick Ruthven, just because he had a decent career and he’s faking a pitching pose in front of the Shea Stadium bullpen.

In 1973 Ruthven had gone straight from Cal State–Fresno to the Phillies. He didn’t pitch in the minor leagues until 1975, when he spent a good chunk of his 3rd pro season at AAA Toledo. He’d go on to pitch in 14 seasons with the Phils, Braves and Cubs.

Best Name, Front Of The Card
Aurelio Monteagudo is referred to on the back of the card as a “journeyman reliever”. He was acquired from the Angels in an early December trade.

He would never pitch for the Phillies, or appear in the Majors after 1973, but still…

Aurelio Monteagudo.

Best Name, Back Of The Card
Mac Scarce is a pretty good name…

…but “Mac Scarce” hasn’t got anything on “Guerrant McCurdy Scarce”!

Two Best Variations
There are two Rookie Pitchers cards which include Phillies and have variations; the variations don’t involve the Phillies pitchers, but I’m going to share these here anyway.

Because it involves a Mets pitcher, the best variation is the one where Bob Apodaca’s name is misspelled “Apodaco”.

Mike Wallace would pitch for four teams over five seasons, and was traded to the Yankees in May, 1974. He appeared on three Topps cards in his career, and this is the only one which isn’t airbrushed; In 1975 Topps he was airbrushed into a Yankees cap, and in 1977 Topps he was airbrushed into a Rangers cap. He did appear in 1976 SSPC in a Cardinals uniform.

The second-best variation is the card which labels Dave Freisleben as being with “Washington”. This is, of course, part of the whole “Washington Nat’l. Lea.” thing.

Ron Diorio made 23 appearances in 1973 and 2 in 1974, all in relief. He did pitch well in 1973, flashing a 2.33 and 1.241 WHIP while getting a save.

Best insert
OK, one of the “Traded” cards would probably qualify as a better insert, but the unnumbered team checklist card will also do nicely.

Don’t forget to check out the series that I didn’t realize I was “borrowing” from: Night Owl’s “Joy Of A Team Set”!

Random Team: 1974 Topps Philadelphia Phillies, Part 1

Once again, I’ve fired up the Random-itron 2000 and it generated the next team set in this series; the 1974 Topps Philadelphia Phillies.

…But before I get started, you may be wondering what’s up with the “Part 1” in the subject line. Executive Summary: I spent too much time on this post and want to get at least two posts out of the work I put in. Detailed summary is down below.


The 1974 Phillies went 80-82 and finished 3rd in the 6 team NL East (8 games behind the division-winning Pirates).

The Phillies were managed by Danny Ozark, who was born Daniel Leonard Orzechowski.

He played 18 years in the Dodgers organization without ever making it to The Show, and was a coach with the Dodgers for a number of years before getting the managing job with the Phillies. He would manage the Phils for 7 years in the 1970’s, finishing in 1st place 3 years in a row, but never winning the NLCS.

Best Offensive Player
Mike Schmidt was a 24-year-old in his second full season, made his first All-Star team and lead the Majors in homers (36) and the N.L. in slugging percentage (.546).

He also had 28 doubles, 7 triples, 116 RBI and for good measure he stole 23 bases.

For anyone who is not familiar with this card, I will direct your attention to the Phillies bullpen cart parked on the left-hand side.

Best Pitcher
Steve Carlton was an All-Star in 1974, went 16-13, 3.22 and lead the league in K’s (240) and BB’s (136). He also had 17 complete games, which was 2nd in the NL.

This card was a finalist for “Best Action Shot” and “Favorite Card”, but I’ll admit I didn’t want to have one card represent three categories.

Best Player In A Supporting Role
I always forget that Jim Lonborg won a Cy Young award with the Red Sox in 1967. That year he went 22-9, 3.16, had a 1.138 WHIP and lead the league with 246 K’s.

In 1974, Lonborg went 17-13, 3.21 and pitched 16 complete games with 3 shutouts.

Here’s a fun Lonborg fact courtesy of Baseball-reference.com: “In the TV show ‘Cheers’, the picture behind the bar that was supposed to be Sam Malone pitching for the Red Sox is actually a picture of Lonborg.”

Most Notable Airbrush Job; Best Offensive Player In A Supporting Role
On 10/18/73, the Phillies acquired Dave Cash from the Pirates for Ken Brett.  This card and Ken Brett’s 1974 card both feature good airbrushing jobs, which goes to show that the airbrush artists could do good work when they weren’t up against a tight deadline.

Cash was an All-Star in his first season with the Phils and batted an even .300 in 1974, with 11 triples, 89 runs scored and 58 RBI.

Best Action Shot
Larry Bowa was also an All-Star in 1974, batted .275 and scored 97 runs.

Picking the “Best Action Shot” card was a tough decision, but I’ll stand by the Bowa card.

Best Player Not On A 1974 Card
Jay Johnstone had been in the Majors since 1966, but since he only appeared in 23 games in 1973, he did not appear on a 1974 baseball card… and even if he had, it wouldn’t have shown him with the Phillies, who picked him up in early April after the Cardinals cut him loose near the end of Spring Training.

Johnstone started the year with AAA Toledo and got called up in early July. Over the second half of the season, he appeared in 64 games and batted .295 with 30 runs scored and 30 RBI. Needless to say, he did get a card in 1975.

I will get into the rest of the categories in Part 2. And speaking of parts 1 and 2…

The original idea behind these posts was that they were supposed to be relatively quick… Scan and post a bunch of cards from a particular team, and let the cards do the talking.

Then, of course, my own tendencies took over, I started researching the players and the team and the cards and the next thing I know, I’m spending just as much time on these posts as any other I write.

Since this post was already in progress when I realized I was waaay down the rabbit hole in terms of research, I broke it down into two parts because I figured I might as well get two days’ worth of posts out of all the research I did.

I’m not 100% sure what I’m going to do for the next team. I’ll probably cut back on the research and just go with the original idea of “This guy is good, this card is cool, this action shot is the best” and leave it at that… but we’ll see.

Don’t forget to check out the series that I didn’t realize I was “borrowing” from: Night Owl’s “Joy Of A Team Set”!