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.

How Do You Solve A Problem Like The Marlins?

With the The Miami Marlins will soon have new ownership, and for most people it can’t come soon enough… but once the ownership change becomes official, that’s when the fun starts.

You’d have a hard time finding anyone who thinks that the past 15 years has been anything but a public relations disaster. Floridians hate Loria. Baseball fans hate Loria. When Loria is gone, there will be much rejoicing.

But the thing is that many people hate the Marlins because of Loria and his predecessors (who were not exactly guardians of the public trust themselves). So if you’re the new owners of the team, what do you do to put up a figurative “Under New Management” sign on Marlins Park?

Would you go as far as to change the team name? There’s enough brand recognition in the “Marlins” name that I wouldn’t expect a change, but we are dealing with an extreme situation.

Would you change the team’s logo and uniforms? I didn’t care for the Marlins logo or uniforms when they were unveiled, but they grew on me a bit and I will say that they’re better than the original black & teal uniforms.

But the other side of this is that the uniform also carries a Loria stench with it. He is the one who drove all the art-y changes involving the Marlins, from the uniforms to the garish Home Run sculpture. Keep in mind that licensing rules and obligations makes any change to a team’s visual branding like doing a one-eighty in a cruise ship, but if it were me, I would start the ball rolling immediately and get as much fan input as possible.

I don’t know how the fanbase feels about “Billy The Marlin”…

Me, I think he’s creepy as hell and if I were the new owner, Billy would be the first one out the door.

On the field… Job #1 is keeping Giancarlo Stanton happy. He is the face of the team, he is your primary on-field asset in terms of play and marketability.

Enough of my spitballing…

What would you do if you bought the Marlins?

Random Team Review: 1980 Topps Cleveland Indians

The 1980 Cleveland Indians had a 79-81 record and finished 6th in the AL East ahead of the 4th year Blue Jays (67-95).  Finishing a couple of games under .500 *and* in 6th place says a lot about how strong the AL East was (and how many bad teams were in the AL West).

The Indians were a young team, with a starting lineup which featured three 25-year-olds and nobody over the age of 31.

Best Offensive Player:
This was a tough call because there were several players who had very good seasons, but nobody who truly dominated offensively. I finally let Baseball Reference’s 1980 Cleveland Indians page make the decision for me; they have Toby Harrah as the top player with a 4.4 WAR.

Harrah played 160 games at third, batted .267 with 100 runs scored and 72 RBI.

The only candidate for “Best Offensive Player” who doesn’t get featured elsewhere in this post is Jorge Orta, who was the team’s representative at the All-Star game.

Best Pitcher:
Len Barker went 19-12 with a 4.17 ERA and a 1.336 WHIP.  He also lead the league with 187 strikeouts.

Best Name:
Andre Thornton missed 1980 due to a knee injury, but he’s got the best name on the team.

Best Nickname and Best Full Name:
Mike Hargrove used to take forever (relative to the day) to get ready for each pitch, thus earning the nickname “The Human Rain Delay”.

His full name is Dudley Michael Hargrove, and he was also a candidate for best offensive player (.304, 85 RBI, 86 runs)

Favorite Card:
Nothing much to say about this Bo Diaz card, just a nice candid shot.

Best In-Game/Action Shot:
This team set is not full of tremendous action shots, but I like this shot of Duane Kuiper ready for action in Yankee Stadium II.

Best Rookie Card:
Hassey was the starting catcher in 1980, and still batted .318 with 65 RBI.  He was also a candidate for “Best Offensive Player”.

Hassey would play for 14 years with 6 different teams.  He caught two different perfect games (Len Barker in 1981, Dennis Martinez in 1991) and between December, 1985 and July, 1986 he was traded from the Yankees to the White Sox, traded back to the Yankees and then traded back to the White Sox.

Best Cartoon:
The cartoons in 1980 Topps were kinda short on goofy appeal, but I liked this Tom Veryzer cartoon that shows him winning half a trophy.

Best player not on a card:
“Super Joe” Carboneau had a breakout year in 1980, won the A.L. Rookie and captured the attention and imagination of Cleveland.  He was also a candidate for “Best Offensive Player”. This is his rookie card in 1981 Topps:

“Super Joe” batted .289 with 23 homers, 83 RBI, 76 runs, 17 doubles and 2 triples..  Due to back problems his celebrity faded as quickly as it came and he became the early 1980’s cautionary tale towards investing in rookie cards.  In 1981 he batted .210 over 48 games, his numbers dropped further in 1982, and then he was gone from Major League baseball.

Best player pictured with another team:
When I was looking at Baseball Reference’s “Top 12” players from this team, I was surprised to see Miguel Dilone in there with a 3.0 WAR.  As it turns out, Dilone was purchased from the Cubs on May 7th and went on to have a career year.

Dilone batted .341 (3rd in the league), stole 61 bases (also 3rd in the league) and finished tied with Tony Perez for 22nd in the AL MVP voting.

Most Notable Airbrushing:
I was about to write off this category completely and declare that there is no airbrushing at all in this team set… and then I took a closer look at Bobby Cuellar on this card:

Even though he looks to be wearing the same uniform as his card-mates, the logo on his cap looks a bit odd… So I’m going to venture that he’s got an airbrushed cap because he’s wearing the cap of an Indians farm team.

Throwback Uniforms On Throwback Customs: 1978 & 1984

This weekend there have been two different throwback games in the Majors, both throwing back to my weak spot – the mid-70’s to the mid-80’s. What could I do? The temptation was too great… I had to make customs for both games.

On Friday night the Phillies and Padres threw back to 1983 when the Phils were N.L. Champions. Both sets of uniforms had their issues, but looked pretty good overall. I really like the 1984 Fleer design and photos from 1983 would normally go on 1984 cards, so it seemed like a natural to me (and I wasn’t even going to attempt to find TWO throwback photos of a player to use the 1983 Topps design). Unfortunately, neither the Phils nor Pads are stacked with superstars, so I was a bit limited on who I could find pictures of. Even so, I’m happy with what came out of it.

Meanwhile the Rangers and Angels threw back to 1977… I would presume solely because it was 40 years ago. I wouldn’t think the Rangers were commemorating finishing 8 games behind the Royals in ’77 (although they did go 94-68, there was just no catching the 102-60 Royals).

For whatever reason – maybe because powder blue is oh-so-very-seventies – the Rangers wore 1977 Road uniforms last night.

The Angels, being the visiting team, also wore road uniforms, only theirs were grey.

From the clips I’ve seen, it wasn’t bad… unlike the Father’s Day weekend game I attended in Baltimore (you don’t want to get me started on both teams wearing blue when neither one should wear blue), I don’t think there was any problems telling the teams apart. It’s just a bit odd for those of us who lived through the 1970’s (“You are wearing powder blue and yet you are the home team? Illogical. Illogical. Norman, coordinate!”)

Pack Animal: 2004 BBM Rookie Edition (Japanese)

I took a vacation day on Monday, was running some errands and I almost – ALMOST – gave into temptation and stopped at Target or Five Below to buy a repack… then my “inner mom” reminded me that “You’ve got plenty of unopened packs at home!”

As always, Inner Mom was right. Among the packs I have are a bunch of Japanese packs that I bought at The National the last time it was in Baltimore… which was what – 2012? 2013? All along I intended to pace myself with these packs, but to be honest I pace myself way too much with these.

So this pack, as the wrapper says, is the 2004 BBM Rookie Edition…

In this case, “Rookie” implies two things: 1) I’m thinking this pack will be “gaijin-free” (i.e. none of the players will be from outside of Japan), and 2) Rookie-based sets always have their share of busts. Long story short, I’ll be surprised if I know any of these players.

But it’s an unopened pack, which is what I wanted, and it’s Japanese so every card is automatically regarded as “cool” and goes in my Japanese binder.

Here’s the back of the pack…

And… Let’s rip!

First card: Atsushi Fujimoto of the Hanshin Tigers.

Interesting design, I’ll say that much.

When I Googled on Fujimoto’s name, my first hit was a LinkedIn profile — Not an encouraging sign regarding this guy’s baseball fame… but as I’d find out through other sources, he played for the Tigers up until 2009, and then put in a few more years with the Swallows. Wikipedia says he was on the Bronze-medal-winning 2004 Olympic team.

The card back is pretty typically BBM.

Next card… Masaya Shibata of the BlueWave… and a different card design.

Given that he’s wearing a shirt and tie under his jersey, and given that I can’t find out anything about him through my usual internetty searches, I’m guessing this is a sort of “draft pick” card and he never actually played in NPB. Maybe one of my NPB-fluent readers can fill us in on the details.

Since the back is different, I’ll show that as well.

Next up, another possible draft pick card – even the same pose – for Satoshi Yamazaki of the Lions.

My knowledge of Japanese language and culture is what we in the IT trade would categorize as “knowing just enough to be dangerous”… but the first thing I thought of when I saw the raised fist was “Ganbatte!”… but I think that’s more something encouraging one would say to another (i.e. “good luck” or “try your best”) rather than a sort of “battle cry”.

Maybe I’m giving someone in Japan a good chuckle with my “close but no cigar” knowledge of Japanese language and culture. Anyway…

Yamazaki put in four years with the Lions and played in the now-extinct Hawaii Winter Baseball League in 2006.

Ryota Katsuki of the Buffaloes, also with the fist in the air. This is definitely a “thing”.

Katsuki put in 12 seasons with the Buffaloes, BlueWave and Giants. He may still be active, but if he is it’s not in NPB… or the top level of NPB, I’ve never been clear whether the “minor league” teams are considered part of NPB (or to put it in American terms, whether NPB refers to the “Majors” or to “affiliated professional baseball”).

Yoshinori Ogata of the Carp.

A few years ago I got a few Carp games on my local cable, part of some international sports “fill up broadcast time” package. I watched enough that I almost became a Carp fan. I miss those games, they were a lot of fun to watch.

Ogata played from 2004 to 2009, but has no stats from 2006 and 2008, and only one game from 2009. Either he was in the minors, or he was injured, or both.

Another card with the same design as the first one. Ryota Igarashi… Wait a minute, I know this dude… He used to pitch for my New York Mets!

He also pitched a handful of games for the Jays and Yankees in 2012. This card by itself is worth the price of admission. Before coming to the States, Igarashi pitched for the Swallows from 1999 to 2009. After his stint in MLB and AAA baseball, he went back to Japan, signed with the SoftBank Hawks, and is still active. How ’bout that? (The prior sentence is said in my best Mel Allen “This Week In Baseball” voice).

I have more to say about his MLB stint, but I’ll leave it for the end of the post, just to keep from going off on too much of a tangent.

Getting back to the BBM card, I noticed that this card says “1998 Rookie” on the bottom… and I went back and looked at the first card and it says “2001 Rookie”, so this is obviously a subset honoring past rookies, where the shirt-and-tie, fist-in-the-air cards must be the true rookies of the set.

Final card, and it looks insert-y…

The left edge and the “2001 ROOKIE OF THE YEAR” logo are gold foil. Norihiro Akahoshi played for the Tigers from 2001 to 2009, and Wikipedia provides me with some other honors besides Central League ROY… He lead the league in stolen bases from 2001 to 2005, was named to the Central League “Best Nine” from 2003 to 2005 and won 6 Golden Glove awards (if I can count correctly). Wikipedia’s entry sounds like he had to retire after suffering neck and spinal injuries in 2009.

I’ll show the insert card’s back to wrap up the pack.

Before I go, I’d like to touch on Ryota Igarashi and his time with the Mets. I was going to scan one of his cards from his two years with the Mets and was surprised to find that there are none. Nada. Zilch. Bupkus. Bugger-all. Yes, he was a reliever, but he made 79 appearances over two seasons and it doesn’t seem like Topps to completely ignore the opportunity to have a rookie card, even if in the Update set. Perhaps he never signed a contract with Topps.

His Mets career also coincided with my just getting started in custom cards, so I don’t have any customs to share either… but I did save some images from that period, so I’ll use my handy dandy all-purpose 2017 TSR Fauxback design to rectify the situation.

1976 SSPC: Chris Arnold, Mike Ivie, Andy Messersmith

This SSPC post features players from the Giants, Padres and Dodgers, giving a California flair to the proceedings…

1976 was Chris Arnold’s last year in the Majors, and his stats for that year momentarily threw me for a loop. The first thing I noticed was that he’s listed as playing every infield position… Then I noticed that he appeared in 60 games, but played 8 at 2nd, 4 at 3rd, 1 at 1st and 1 at short. Then I went back and noticed 76 plate appearances in 60 games… so…  pinch hitter? With a .276 OBP?

The Giants released Chris Arnold early in 1977 and he signed with the Kintetsu Buffaloes of the Pacific League in Japan. It so happens that I have his card from the 1979 TCMA Japanese Baseball set, so it’s “bonus coverage” time.

BTW, the card is misscanned, not miscut.


Mike Ivie was a high school catcher who was drafted 1st overall in 1970.  While he wasn’t the superstar one hopes for with the first overall pick, he was a solid player for 5 seasons, and he appeared in 11 seasons overall.

In 1976, Ivie lead the team with a .291 average and 70 RBI.

Check out the entire first round in that June 1970 draft;  there’s very little in the way of “star power”, with one exception: Mike Ivie, Steve Dunning, Barry Foote, Darrell Porter (the exception), Mike Martin, Lee Richard, Randy Scarbery, Rex Goodson, Jim Haller, Paul Dade, Jim Browning, Dave Cheadle, John Bedard, Chip Maxwell, Gary Polczynski, Jimmie Hacker, John D’Acquisto, Dan Ford, Gene Hiser, Terry Mappin, Ron Broaddus, Bob Gorinski, George Ambrow, James West.

Yikes.


Andy Messersmith is probably best known these days as a pioneer of free agency, but he was a two-time 20 game winner, a four-time all-star, a two-time gold-glover and in 1975 he got 19 wins while leading the league in Complete games and shutouts in 1975.

Messersmith signed a 3-year, $1 Million contract with the Braves before the 1976 season, and while he did make the all-star team for a fourth and final time, his numbers were down across the board, finishing the season 11-11, 3.04 (to be fair, the ’76 Braves lost 92 games).  Messersmith was also part of the late 1972 Angels/Dodgers trade that involved Frank Robinson, Bobby Valentine and four other players.

Although Messersmith looks a little uncomfortable with the bat on this card, he did bat .240 in 1974 and went 2-for-4 in that year’s World Series.

Shea-o-meter:
All three are at Shea.
Shea: 75
Pretty sure it’s Shea: 13
Can’t tell: 20
Not Shea: 9

1970’s Census: Keeping track of all the instances of 1970’s trends
Total Cards: 116
1970’s Sideburns: 67
Fu Manchu: 4
Mustache other than Fu Manchu: 37
Afro: 2
Perm: 2
Aviators: 8
Long Hair: 29

Oddball Odyssey: 1978 & 1981 TCMA “The 1960’s”

I spent part of this weekend organizing some cards, and one of the more time-consuming sets I worked on was “The 1960’s”, a two-series set issued by TCMA in 1978 and 1981.

The reason it was time-consuming was partially because the first checklist I tried to use was problematic, but the other factor is that there are numbering issues with this set that make it a pain to organize in a checklist. A number of cards in the first series are mis-numbered, so you’ll have (for instance) two cards numbered 125 but no card numbered 43. There are also variations which involve whether the back is printed in black or green ink, which gets me muttering things like “Ask me if I care…” (FYI, I don’t)

At any rate, I’m not here to detail the subtleties of the checklist, I’m here to share a few cards I got from a dimebox a while ago. While the set does feature HOFers, it’s the less-famous players that I find more interesting.

Art Shamsky was a key member of the 1969 “Miracle Mets”, but before that he was a fourth outfielder for the Reds.

Joe Christopher was a regular with the Mets in the team’s early years, but he also spent several seasons with the Pirates and a short stint with the Red Sox.

Christopher appeared in the 1960 World Series with the Bucs, and his totals are eyebrow-raising when viewed as a whole… 3 games, 1 plate appearance, no at bats, 2 runs scored. What the WHAT? In the 9th inning of Game 2, with the Pirates down 16-1, Christopher pinch hit for the pitcher, got hit by a pitch, moved to 2nd on a single and scored on another single. Christopher’s second appearance came in the 9th inning of game 5, with the Pirates up 4-2. He pinch-ran for catcher Smoky Burgess (who’d singled and advanced to 2nd on an error), moved to 3rd on a wild pitch and scored on a Don Hoak single. In the famous game 7, Christopher pinch ran for Burgess again, but got caught up in an inning-ending double play.

Ted Uhlaender was the Twins starting center fielder for a number of years, and also was a regular with the Indians.

His daughter, Katie, competed in the skeleton event in three Winter Olympics.

This is my favorite card of the bunch… Sparky Anderson as a player (!) for the AAA Toronto Maple Leafs (!!)

Sparky’s playing career was interesting… He was the Phillies’ starting second baseman in 1959, but didn’t appear in any other Major League seasons. During spring training of 1960, his contract was sold to the International League’s Toronto Maple Leafs, a team that seems to have been unaffiliated with any organization (which was, if I recall correctly, not that unusual at the time). He spent 4 years playing in Toronto before beginning his managerial career at the age of 30.

2017 TSR Custom Fun Pack #2: Continuing To Follow My Muse

As I mentioned in my last custom card post, I’ve been having a time trying to keep to my original intentions regarding the customs I’m making, so for now I’m just going to go with whatever inspires me, and put the assorted customs into an old-school repack format.

This post is more of a compilation of smaller posts than anything else. Almost like a “clip show” on TV, except these clips haven’t appeared before.

I read a couple of articles the other day about how the Dodgers are playing with the idea of turning Ike Davis into a pitcher. In defense of this idea, it was pointed out that Davis is athletic and was a two-way player at Arizona State.
This custom is in the style of the 1976 Wonder Bread football set.

Not once did I see another factor mentioned… the fact that pitching is in his bloodlines. Ike’s father is Ron Davis, who pitched in 481 Major League games, had 14 wins and 9 saves as a rookie, was an All-Star in 1981 and had 30 saves in 1983.

You know, THAT Ron Davis.


Former Oriole Nolan Reimold was a personal favorite of mine and had been named to the 2009 Topps All-Star Rookie team. A number of injuries, most significantly a neck injury he suffered while diving into the stands in 2012, took the momentum out of his career, and going into this season he’d signed with the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League.
This custom is my 2017 TSR design.

His time with the Ducks lasted just 19 games before Reimold retired from baseball. I wish Nolan success in his post-baseball endeavors.


Last week I featured a custom of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury of the newly-minted Vegas Golden Knights. While researching the 1970/71 Topps Hockey set (to see if the original cards said “GOALIE” or “GOALTENDER” or “G” or whatever), I stumbled across an insert from that very same set, referred to as “Sticker Stamps”, whatever that might imply. At any rate, I loved the design enough to make another Fleury custom.

This should be it for Golden Knight customs for the time being.


Last week the Mariners and Astros wore uniforms which threw back to 1977. You know me… if there are 1970’s throwback unis, I will be making customs of them! Since the uniforms were from 1977, it seems like the customs should be as well.

…or maybe 1978 Topps… I’ve got more images from this game I can use, maybe those will become 1978 customs.


From throwback to Fauxback… specifically my 2017 TSR Fauxback design (which I still suspect may be unintentional plagiarism). Back in the mid-1990’s my friends and I went to a local theater to see a collection of animated short films. My favorite of those films was “The Wrong Trousers” which I later found out was the second in a series of “Wallace And Gromit” films made by British animator Nick Park. I used to have a “Have you seen this chicken?” T-shirt and I still laugh every time I see the climactic chase scene.

Peter Sallis, who voiced Wallace, passed away in early June at the age of 96. Rest in peace, Peter Sallis.

BTW, this is my second “Fauxback” custom to honor a recently-passed figure from pop culture… this is not the “mission statement” of this custom design, just the way it’s worked out so far.