Way Behind On Customs: 2022 TSR Baseball

I’m sooooooo far behind on posting my custom cards here on the blog…

(I’m tempted to respond with a Match Game-esque “HOW FAR BEHIND ARE YOU?”, but then I couldn’t come up with a witty follow-up)

I’m so far behind that a lot of the reasons for creating these customs seems out-of-date a month or two later, which I guess underlines that I really should have some sort of game plan going into a season, but I didn’t this time around. Much like my collecting of physical cards, I’ve been spending much of the summer taking a step back and asking myself “Just what do I really want to do with these?” In both cases, I’m still navel-gazing and waiting for an answer.

But anyway… At this point I’m thinking the best way of digging my way out of this hole is just to start digging.

I’ll start with some customs for players who were on the move at the trading deadline… at this point you can look at it as an “Update” set

Every time I see reliever Pete Fairbanks mentioned, I think that with a name like that he needs to be hosting a game show… “And now, here’s the host of Tic-Tac-Dough, Pete Fairbanks!”

I just took a look at Fairbanks’ record and he’s 0-0 with 8 saves… and no decisions is what you want from relievers. A win means you gave up the lead and then took it back, and you certainly don’t want a loss. Fairbanks also has a 1.13 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 24 innings.

Zebulon Vermillion is easily my favorite name from this summer’s recent MLB draft. I’d planned on doing more draft pick customs, but I think this is the only one I’ve done (so far).

I also started what was intended to be a series of “First Pitch” insert cards, but it petered out. I may do more of these, I have to see what images I’d saved to my laptop for this series. For those who don’t know Suni Lee, she’s a gymnast who won Gold in the All-Around at the Tokyo Olympics.

Gunnar Henderson is in the Majors now, but over the summer he was in the Futures Game.  Whoever designed the Futures Game uniforms *had to* have grown up collecting in the “junk wax era”, the uniform looks like the border of a Topps Magazine card.

Yankees fans are loving the heck out of Nestor Cortes this year, with good reason given that he was an All-Star and currently has a 12-4 record and is 5th in the AL with a 2.44 ERA. Just don’t tell those fans that Cortes was briefly lost to the Orioles as a Rule V pick in 2018 and then traded to Seattle after the 2019 season (He signed with the Yankees as a free agent going into the 2021 season)

Another “Pointless Pairings” card for my 2022 Shmeritage set.  Mrs. Shlabotnik and I had been binging “The Good Doctor” before the fall premier in order to catch up on seasons we’d missed, and this custom is what came out of it.

I’ll finish with Brett Phillips, who was briefly on the Orioles. He went with 66 as his uniform number so the back of his jersey read “Phillips 66”, which I just love (even though I’ve never been to a Phillips 66 station in my life)

The 1970’s, A To Z: John Scott to Ted Simmons

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.


1977 O-Pee-Chee #94

Played 1974 – 1977
1970’s Teams: Padres, Blue Jays

1970’s Highlights:
After cups of coffee with the Padres in 1974 and 1975, Scott’s contract was sold to the expansion Blue Jays in advance of the expansion draft. Blue Jays manager Roy Hartsfield had managed the Padres’ Triple-A team and was familiar with Scott, plus being a National League team these players were not available in the American League expansion draft; Started in left field for the Blue Jays in their first-ever game

Career Highlights:
Played 3 seasons with the Yakult Swallows, winning two Diamond Glove awards while there and was an All-Star in 1980

Card Stuff:
Shared a 1975 Topps “Rookie Outfielders” card with Jim Rice and a 1977 Topps “Rookie Outfielders” card with Andre Dawson; Appeared in 1978 Topps with the Blue Jays but was no longer with the team by then.

Bonus Card #1: 1979 TCMA Japanese Pro Baseball #21

Bonus Card #2: 1976 SSPC #131


1974 Topps #80

Played 1967 – 1986
1970’s Teams: Mets, Reds

1970’s Highlights:
Won his 2nd & 3rd Cy Young Awards in 1973 and 1975; Tied a record by striking out 19 Padres on 4/22/70, including the last 10 in a row; Lead the league in ERA in 1970, 1971 and 1973; Lead the league in wins in 1975; Lead the league in Strikeouts five times; while with the Reds, he no-hit the Cardinals, 6/16/78; Lost a no-hitter in the 9th inning on a Leron Lee single, 7/4/72; Lost a no-hitter with 2 outs in the 9th after the Cubs Joe Wallis singled, 9/24/75; Was an opening day starter each year of the decade

Career Highlights:
Inducted into the Baseball HOF in 1992; Was the 1967 NL Rookie of the Year and the 1969 NL Cy Young winner (giving him 3 Cy Young Awards in total); Was a 12-time All-Star; Won 311 career games; Came within 2 outs of a perfect game against the Cubs on 7/9/69 and Jimmy Qualls entered Mets infamy by breaking it up with a single; Holds a record by striking out 200+ batters in nine consecutive seasons; At the time of his retirement he was 3rd all-time with 3,640 strikeouts; His #41 has been retired by the Mets and a life-sized statue of him stands outside Citi Field

Fun Stuff:
Was originally signed by the Atlanta Braves organization but that contract was nullified by Commissioner William Eckert for breaking a rule involving the signing of college players

Card Stuff:
Appeared in every Topps flagship set of the 1970s; Appeared in all five Hostess sets


1970 Topps #2

Played 1962 – 1977
1970’s Teams: A’s, Cardinals, Red Sox, Mariners

1970’s Highlights:
While with the A’s in 1970 he lead the AL with a 2.56 ERA; Started Game 3 of the 1971 ALCS for the A’s (taking a loss to the Orioles in the decisive game) and pitched an inning for the Red Sox in the 1975 World Series

Career Highlights:
Was selected by the Pilots from the A’s in the 1968 AL expansion draft, and then traded back to Oakland after the 1969 season (so he did not move to Milwaukee with his former Pilots teammates);  Pitched in the opening game for both the Seattle Pilots and the Seattle Mariners (He was the M’s starting pitcher)

Fun Stuff:
The A’s acquired Diego three different times (in 1958, 1966 and 1969);  His son David played in the Majors from 1990 to 2004


1972 Kellogg’s #36

Played 1964-1975
1970’s Teams: Red Sox, Rangers, Cardinals, Padres, A’s

1970’s Highlights:
Was an All-Star with the Red Sox in 1971; Tied a career high with 16 wins in 1971; Was the Winning pitcher in the Cardinals 25-inning 4-3 win over Mets, 9/11/74 (Longest game of the 1970’s, by innings played)

Career Highlights:
Was an All-Star twice in his career; Pitched a no-hitter against the Senators 6/10/66 with a 5th inning walk the only runner to reach base; Was Top 3 in ERA in 1965 and 1967, and 4th in strikeouts in 1965

Fun Stuff:
Was given a tryout by the NBA’s St. Louis Hawks; Started in the minors as an outfielder; Was the last AL pitcher to hit 2 home runs in a game; His full name is Wilfred Charles Siebert


1977 Topps #470

Played 1968-1988
1970’s Teams: Cardinals

1970’s Highlights:
Six of his eight All-Star seasons came in the 1970s but because he was a catcher at the same time as Johnny Bench, his only game as a starter was in 1978; Caught Bob Gibson’s no-hitter, 8/14/7; His .332 batting average in 1975 was second only to Bill Madlock, who hit .354; Lead the league in Intentional Bases On Balls in 1976 and 1977 and held the Cardinals team record until it was broken by Albert Pujols

Career Highlights:
Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2020; Was the GM of the Pirates from 1992 to 1993; His career totals in hits, doubles, RBI and runs are among the best among catchers and his lifetime .285 average is tied with Yogi Berra and better than Johnny Bench and Carlton Fisk

Fun Stuff:
Was the first catcher to start an All-Star game for both leagues, getting the nod in 1978 with the Cardinals and in 1983 with the Brewers

Card Stuff:
Appeared in all five 1970’s Hostess sets


I do realize that there’s been just one of these posts over the past four months, but that was more due to my own spiritual weariness than anything else. I didn’t mean to take this much time away from it, it just kind of happened.

To be honest, I’ve spent so much time on this series that don’t want to abandon it when I’m roughly 3/4 of the way through the alphabet.

I’m going to make a sincere effort to publish these regularly, even if I just feature a couple of players any given week.

Thank you for reading!

Odds And Ends

As part of a quest to add to this blog more than once a week, I’m going to write off the cuff about a few oddball cards I’m very happy to add to my collection.

First up is a Laughlin card of the 1973 World Series; this is the back to a 1980 Fleer Team Logo sticker.  Even though the Mets lost this series in 7, I had to have it… and I love how the little Mets guy has a Charlie Brown look about him.

A new addition to my largly passive and somewhat modest Cal Ripken collection. I’ve lost track of how many Cals I have, but it’s easily 200… plus this pop up insert from the 1989 Donruss All Stars set. It’s interesting how big of a die-cut they made for the bill of Cal’s cap.

This is a Mazda RX-4 from the Topps “Autos of 1977” set which was issued in 1976, I presume it was issued at the beginning of the car model year. Every now and then I toy with the idea of chasing this set, but until I commit I’m happy to pick up cards here and there.

My current car is also my second consecutive Mazda, which is what kinda sorta inspired me to get this card when I ran across it. Here’s the back:

I’ve not seen this said anywhere in particular, but this set strikes me as being made from photos and text obtained from the various car companies of the day… Well, except for them misspelling Volkswagen as “Volkswagon”, I’m sure they didn’t get that from VW.

Here’s a fun one I got from Dime Box Nick a little while ago…  Justin Turner’s 2010 Upper Deck rookie card showing his brief stint with the Orioles (and showing him with glasses and no beard).  He was originally a 7th round pick of the Reds, was sent to the O’s as part of a 2008 trade for catcher Ramón Hernández, was claimed on waivers by the Mets in 2010, signed as a free agent with the Dodgers in 2014… and the rest is history.

For those who aren’t familiar with 2010 Upper Deck, they had lost their MLB license but still had the players union license, so they made a half-assed attempt at an unlicensed card, but it was done by selecting photos where you can’t completely see the logos rather than photoshopping logos and colors out as Panini does. The 1st series is all that was issued before lawyers told them to cease and desist, kind of like 1963 Fleer in that respect.

This next card has some special significance for me, even if it doesn’t seem terribly exciting to a neutral observer…

Believe it or not, this card – obtained in the summer of 2022 – is my very first Topps NOW card. I recognize that it’s not your typical Topps NOW card that commemorates something that happens in a game, but it’s still my first NOW of any kind. I decided a while ago that I didn’t want to go crazy chasing these cards, and I would only pay Topps prices for an event-based Topps NOW card if I was actually in attendance for that game… and as I’ve been to only 1 or 2 Major League games over the past 5 years, that hasn’t happened. Surprisingly enough, “Orioles get their butts kicked” did not result in a Topps now card in 2019.

Oh, Charlie Culberson is a player I semi-collect in case you were wondering. This card was mainly a case of “it was there and the price was right”.

I’ll wrap up with a Japanese card that’s from a concept that I love.  The set is 2019 BBM “Time Travel 1979” and it’s a 21st century set that’s made as if the set that was issued in 1979… retro design (sort of a mash-up of 1973, 1974 and 1975 Topps to my eyes) and players who were active in 1979.  I’d like to think the photos were from the neighborhood of 1979, but I can’t say.  This card of Toru Sugiura was on COMC and affordable so I went ahead and grabbed it just because.

Sugiura played 22 years for the Yakult Swallows and in 1979 he was an All-Star for the first time.

Here’s the back… The stats are through the 1979 season even though Sugiura played until 1993.  Nice touch.

If Topps or some other company that Fanatics absorbs were to do a Major League “Time Travel” set from any year from the 1970s or 1980s, I would completely lose it… Well, I should qualify that and say that it has to be reasonably well done for me to lose it.  Certain retro sets have made me realize that it’s not enough to have stars of the day in a set, it also has to have non-crappy images for me to throw my time and money at it.

And as I’m writing this and thinking of 1979, it suddenly occurred to me:  Is Toru Sugiura in the 1979 TCMA Japanese Baseball set that I own?

The answer is, yes…. yes, he is!  Bonus oddball!

And with that, I will bid you all a good night (which it is at the moment, even while I schedule this post to publish in the morning).

I Think Too Much About 2023 Heritage Border Colors: National League

In my previous post, I discussed what may or may not happen with the border colors used for the 15 American League teams in 2023 Topps Heritage.

A quick recap for those who didn’t read the previous post:  1974 Topps baseball had specific color combinations assigned to the different teams.  The colors sometimes matched the actual uniform colors, sometimes were similar to actual team colors, and in other cases were just bright colors which didn’t clash with the actual colors.  Today, some of these teams have different colors that don’t go as well with the 1974 border colors and some teams didn’t exist in 1974.

What will happen in the rest of this post is to use graphic examples of what the colors were in 1974, what colors were used in 2020 Archives, what colors Topps might use in 2023 Heritage, and – in those cases where it’s different – what colors *I* would use if Topps were foolish enough to put me in charge.

When appropriate, I’ll also point out the 1974 “Color Buddy” that each team had, if any.  A number of National League teams had a corresponding American League team which had the same border colors, and I call them Color Buddies.  BTW, the same often happened in the Football sets of the 1970s.


This is another case where the originals work just fine.  Leave ’em alone.

1974 Color Buddy: Tigers


The Brewers’ uniform colors now are more or less the same as they were… The blue is a bit darker now than it was in 1974, which is even more reason to stick with the original color combo.

2020 Archives changed the darker blue to a more medium blue, but there’s no real reason for that.

1974 Color Buddies:  The Brewers were near-buddies with the Royals, but the Brewers used the darker blue


Like with the Twins, the Cardinals’ 1974 Color Buddies, the original colors match the team’s colors for the most part.  Today they probably match even better given that the Cardinals use navy blue a lot more now than they did in the 1970s.

2020 Archives used medium blue, which is OK but there’s no need to do that.

1974 Color Buddies:  Twins


The Cubs road uniform is pretty much the same as it was in the 1970s, except back then they had pullover jerseys and Sansabelt pants.  I’m guessing that a fair number of Cubs fans don’t like the pink/magenta pennants, but as a somewhat neutral third party I will encourage Topps to stick with what it used in 1974.

1974 Color Buddy:  The Cubs were near-buddies with the Angels… both had magenta pennants but the Cubs had a blue frame while the Angels had a gray frame.


The Diamondbacks played their first season in 1998.  For 2020 Archives, Topps made them Color Buddies with the Cincinnati Reds, who didn’t have a Color Buddy in 1974.

This is fine but I, of course, have some other thoughts on the subject…

In 2008 when I made a bunch of customs using the 1974 design, the D-backs had “sand” as a trim color on their uniform, so I took the Padres’ design and changed the frame from yellow to red. That worked pretty well 14 years ago, but I’m not sure it’s the best combo for today’s team.

An alternative I recently came up with would be similar to the Astros/Red Sox combo, but would change the lettering from yellow to white. This is OK, don’t love it, don’t hate it.

An idea I had while writing the previous post, one that might work nicely… If the Chicago White Sox combo got updated to match the current team colors…

Then that would free up the White Sox 1974 colors for a more appropriate team, like the Diamondbacks.

If we’re going the “Update the team colors” route, I like this quite a bit for Arizona

1974 Color Buddy:  N/A


The Dodgers had a combo that was unique to 1974 Topps, but was very similar to the Expos and Rangers. The only difference is that the frame is magenta where the Expos and Rangers had a red frame.

1974 Color Buddy:  None, but the color combo was similar to the Expos and Rangers


The Nationals were the Expos in 1974, and if they kept the Expos colors, they’d look like this.

Topps and/or Major League Baseball has been kind of funny about the colors used for Nationals cards in Heritage and Archives. Generally speaking, they treat the Nats as being a team that did not exist before 2005 and therefore does not have colors to carry over.

There are exceptions to this…

In 2020 Archives the Nats were represented by the Padres’ 1974 colors, but that was for transparent reasons – They wanted to be able to have WASHINGTON “NAT’L LEA.” variations for the Nationals without having different colors on the variations. The colors don’t go with the team at all, but fine, I can go along with that.

If I were the product manager of 2023 Heritage, however, I’d maintain the Expos colors. Whether it’s “bleu, blanc et rouge” or “red, white and blue”, the colors from 1974 are largely the same as they are today (although the blue is darker now)

1974 Color Buddy:  Rangers


I don’t see how there’s anything to talk about here. The Giants’ black and orange goes back to their New York days. The color combo matches that. End of discussion.

1974 Color Buddy: Orioles


The Marlins started playing in 1993 and have had some branding changes in between.

In 2020 Archives they were made Color Buddies with the Dodgers, which is fine… but their uniform is predominantly black with blue and red accents.

I was thinking of changing the pennant text to black, and making the blue more teal-ish… but either version is OK.

1974 Color Buddy:  N/A


The 1974 Mets cards used team colors to a very nice effect.  Yes, it made orange a priority over blue, but many teams were blue while only the Mets wear blue and orange.

For 2020 Archives they changed the text to black, which I didn’t care for.  I don’t know, maybe it’s to reflect that black has become a sort of alternate color for the Mets over the years, or maybe for other reasons.

1974 Color Buddy:  None


As recently as 2019 we might be sitting here discussing if the Padres should have brown on their cards since the team’s primary color was navy blue.  Thankfully the Padres organization came to its senses and decided to own the one part of their history which they truly owned… and as a result, I’m not sure there’s anything to discuss here.

1974 Color Buddy:  None


Back in the 1970s the Phillies home uniforms were burgundy and white.  Now they’ve added blue into their uniforms, and the red is a more normal red.  An argument could be made for changing the yellow frame of 1974 to blue in 2023, but I don’t know that this would be a huge improvement, and it would make this grumpy old man mutter to himself when opening packs.

1974 Color Buddy: White Sox


The 1974 Pirates cards had yellow letters against a black pennant…

…but for 2020 Heritage they went with red letters, which I thought was unnecessary and fairly crappy looking.

1974 Color Buddy:  None


This is a case where the colors used then actually matches the team a little better now.  In 1974 the uniforms were red and white with no other colors present.  Now the Reds use some black trim and accents, which goes with the black lettering on the cards.

1974 Color Buddy: None


The Rockies didn’t exist until 1993 so for 2020 Archives Topps went the route of minimum thought and effort, using the color combination also used for the Angels… and it’s… well, it’s *fine*.

But this is one of those cases where I’d go with the team colors more, make a small change and replace the magenta with purple.  Purple wasn’t a color they used in 1974 Topps, but it certainly was a color in their palette… Purple was all over 1975 Topps

I mean, that just looks WAY better.  Why wouldn’t you do that?

1974 Color Buddy:  None

And with that I’ve gotten all of this off of my chest. Are there any changes you would make that I hadn’t? Let me know!

Two Cards From 1984 Cramer Pacific Coast League

I’ve been picking up a few cards here and there from the Cramer minor league sets of the 1980s.  Mike Cramer ran Pacific Trading Cards, which would later make the “Legends” sets and then got a Major League license for bi-lingual (English/Spanish) baseball cards… but before all that, he created minor league sets from 1976 to 1986.  Most, if not all, of the sets were for the Pacific Coast League or the Northwest League.

I recently picked up two 1984 Cramer PCL cards from COMC.

Darren Daulton is the first player who I saw in the minors before he became a Major League star.  I saw him play for the 1983 Double-A Reading Phillies, was excited when he showed up in 1985 Fleer Update and have been collecting him on-and-off ever since.

The design is pretty basic but it’s appealing.

There’s not a whole lot of overlap between the teams/players I collect and these Cramer sets, but I enjoy picking up cards when I can.

This next card has me questioning myself.  For years I’ve semi-collected Rick Schu because I also saw him in the minors, BUT…

I looked him up on Baseball Reference to refresh my memory on whether he and Daulton were teammates with the 1983 Reading Phillies… only to find out that Schu never played for Reading, he went straight from Single-A to Triple-A in 1983.

“I must’ve seen him with the Red Barons”, I told myself, as I’d been to a number of Scranton / Wilkes-Barre Red Barons games when they were the Phils’ Triple-A team.

Then I realized that the Barons didn’t exist until 1989 when the Phillies’ International League team moved from southwestern Maine to northeastern Pennsylvania, and by that time the Phillies had traded Schu to the Orioles.

“OK,” I concluded, “It must’ve been one of those things where he was in a Reading card set even though he never played for them, and I just remembered it wrong”.

TCDB shot down this idea, though.  The above card is Rick Schu’s first baseball card at any level.


So now I’m left with two options…

1) MAYBE I saw him in this one exhibition game…  I think it was in 1984 that I went to a pre-season exhibition game where the Philadelphia Phillies played the Reading Phillies in Reading Municipal Stadium (now FirstEnergy Ballpark).  It was one of those games that takes place as teams are heading north after Spring Training, and maybe Schu played for Reading but then was reassigned to another team before the season started.

It’s either that, or…

2)  I’ve been confused about this for decades

I did keep score on that exhibition game, but the scorecard is in one of many boxes of baseball publications and I really don’t want to get into pulling out boxes right now.  At any rate, I’m losing confidence in my own recollection.  Maybe I should be lying to myself about something more interesting than having seen Rick Schu play in the Eastern League.

Whether Schu played in it or not, one thing that was memorable about this exhibition game was that Reading was leading Philadelphia going into the top of the 9th.  Wouldn’t it be cool if the Double-A R-Phils beat their parent club?

Then, before the top of the 9th, the PA announcer informed us that Hank King was coming in to pitch for Reading.  I searched my program and then searched it again.  Hank King wasn’t listed as a Reading Phillie… or a Philadelphia Phillie.  Who was this guy?  What the heck was going on here?

The Philadelphia Phillies proceeded to hit the ball as if they were taking batting practice, and they jumped out to a lead that Reading couldn’t make up.

Years later I found out that the fix had been in.  Hank King had been a scout and a batting practice pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, and he was just grooving pitches over the plate so that the Major League Phils could avoid an embarrassing loss.  So disappointing.

Before I end the post, I want to point out the fun Luis Tiant artwork on the back of the Rick Schu card:


Unintentionally Following Topps’ Footprints

Up front this might seem like a post about custom cards, but it’s not *entirely* so if you’re not interested in custom cards you might want to stick around… it’s a short post anyway.

So I was spitballing some ideas to come up with a new-ish design for a custom card project. Sometimes the best way for me to get ideas is to take an existing design and mess around with it.

So 1975-76 Topps Basketball is a design I’ve liked for a long time, even though I don’t collect basketball. Simple, colorful, appealing… and not specifically basketball-y.

For a number of reasons I wanted to do something like this design, but maybe with the colored slashes at the bottom right. So for the first bit of messing around I took the design and vertically flipped it.

The colored slashes were at a steeper angle than what I was looking for, because I was thinking of putting text within the slashes. As a result, I decided to put the slashes at a 45 degree angle.

I started whipping up a “proof of concept” and I didn’t get far into it…

…Before I looked at what I had and said to myself “Congratulations… You’ve just invented 1988 Topps baseball”.

But it did make me wonder… Had someone at Topps done the very same thing I did?

If so, at least they got paid for it.

One other thing that amused me about the flipped basketball design;  when vertically flipped like that, “COLONELS” now reads kinda like “coroners”.  That’s some ‘Paul is dead’ stuff going on there, right?

Vintage Vintage Bo Bintage Banana Fana Fo Fintage…

No real theme to this post, just scattered thoughts about vintage stuff I got at some point this year. Let’s roll.

I got this 1953 Bowman card of Red Sox outfielder Walter “Hoot” Evers for slightly unusual reasons… as if anyone needs a reason to pick up 1953 Bowman cards.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has the famous Jefferson Burdick Collection, and has digitized many (all?) of the items. You can see them here.  I downloaded a bunch of images to my work laptop and set them up as a wallpaper slideshow.  One of the few commons in my slide show was this Evers, I’ve grown fond of it and when I ran across a relatively cheap copy I leapt at the opportunity.

Moving on…

When I was a kid, Bill White was one of the Yankees TV broadcasters along with Phil Rizzuto and Frank Messer.  Before that, though, he  was a 7-time Gold Glove and an All-Star in 5 seasons.  After his time in the Yankees TV booth, he was the president of the National League for five years.  I don’t collect Bill White, not “officially”, but when I run across his cards at a show they tend to end up in my stack.

Speaking of the Yankees in the 1970s, Dick Howser was a Yankees coach and Manager for much of that decade, so I tend to think of him with the Yankees even though he played more with the A’s and Indians and also managed the Royals for 6 years.

Besides, even though he managed the Yankees to a 103-win season, they got swept in the ALCS so… y’know… a failure in the eyes of a lot of Yankee fans. But I kinda liked Dick Howser

Cards of guys like Billy Grabarkewitz make me think of collecting him just because sometimes they had to shoehorn “GRABARKEWITZ” into a baseball card design. I get lots of silly “I should collect that!” thoughts.

Cards like this 1964 Bob Lillis make me think “I should collect the Colt .45’s from 1962 to 1964!!!” because the uniforms are cool and I just get off on team identities which no longer exist… but then the reality of it is that a lot of Colt .45 cards are just capless portraits and I have no reason to collect those cards because I have no connection to the team or most of the players, I just like the uniforms… so that collecting “goal” just dies on the vine… but may get revived in some other form down the road.

I’ve also had thoughts like this about both Senators teams, the Kansas City Athletics and the St. Louis Browns, but they similarly go nowhere fast.

On the other hand, I am officially working on a 1964 Topps Orioles team set… but like every other goal I have, it’s currently on hold while stuff gets organized, while prices stay high and while card shows remain infrequent for me.

Willie Kirkland’s 1964 card uses the same photo as his 1963 card, and he was traded to the Orioles in December 1963.  Kirkland’s one of those poor unfortunate guys who often doesn’t get shown in his correct cap because of his moving around.  He appeared on nine Topps cards, had the “wrong” cap on this card, was airbrushed once (Giants move to San Francisco) and was capless three times, leaving four times where he was shown wearing the correct cap for his listed team.

A Different Kind Of “1975 Mini” (Plus Weigh-In #75)

Like many of my stupid ideas, it came from merging two separate thoughts in a fairly ridiculous way.

For years I’ve been meaning to write some sort of post on vertically challenged Major Leaguers, seeing as I’m a bit on the short side myself (5’9″ since you asked nicely).

I was recently looking to come up with an idea involving 1975 Topps, and somehow the idea of “1975 Topps Minis” and short players conflated in my head… and here we are.

And with no further delay, I present the subjects of 1975 Topps cards who are my adult height or less… Starting with the famously short Freddie Patek.

(NOTE:  All heights come from the backs of these 1975 cards, so if you have issues with the listed height then jump in your DeLorean go back to ’75 and take it up with Topps)

Freddy Patek: 5’4″
Freddie was the Royals’ starting shortstop and a three-time All-Star; his 1975 slash line is .228/.291/.308

Fred Beene: 5’8″
1975 was his last Major League season, he pitched in 19 games and had a 6.94 ERA.  He was one of four players the Yankees traded to Cleveland for Chris Chambliss, Dick Tidrow and Cecil Upshaw.  The Yankees definitely won that trade (Sorry, Fred)

Rich Coggins: 5’8″
Coggins got ROY votes in 1973.  After the 1974 season he was traded with Dave McNally to the Expos for Ken Singleton and Mike Torrez (another lopsided trade) but he split 1975 between the Expos and Yankees, batting .236/.276/.299

Enzo Hernandez: 5’8″
The Padres starting shortstop, he lead the league with 24 sacrifice hits and when he wasn’t sacrificing he hit .218/.275/.265

Al Bumbry 5’8″
The 1973 AL Rookie of the Year and (as of 1975) was still pretty early in his 13 year run with the O’s, Bumbry hit .269/.336/.364.  He was inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame in 1987.

Larvell Blanks 5’8″
The Braves’ starting shortstop – notice a trend here? – Blanks hit .234/.292/.293.  After the 1975 season he part of a trade with the White Sox, but was immediately flipped to the Indians

I’ve got a properly-cut version of this card, but the miscut was already scanned, so…

Denny Doyle: 5’9″
During the 1975 season Doyle was traded to the Red Sox, hit .298/.329/.412 for the season, got some MVP votes and would play in the World Series.

Ramón Hernández: 5’9″
Pitching entirely in relief, Ramón had a 7-2 record with 5 saves and a 2.95 ERA

Mike Tyson: 5’9″
The Original Mike Tyson played short and some 2nd and 3rd as he hit .266/.316/.342

Sandy Alomar 5’9″
Sandy Sr. was the starting 2nd baseman for the Yankees and hit .239/.277/.305.  Topps dropped the ball on this photo… The Yanks acquired him in July 1974 but Topps couldn’t send someone over to Shea to get a photo of him in pinstripes during the second half of the season?  (The Yankees played home games there in 1974 and 1975 while Yankee Stadium was undergoing extensive renovations)

Larry Lintz 5’9″
ONe of the more famous cards of 1975 Topps is the Herb Washington “Pinch Run.” card.  That particular experiment ended with the 1975 season, but for 1976 the A’s acquired Larry Lintz and used him in a similar way:  he appeared in 68 games, scored 21 runs and stole 31 bases despite just 4 plate appearances.

As for 1975, he split the season between the Expos and Cardinals, hitting .207/.324/.213

Rudy Meoli 5’9″
Served as a backup infielder with the Angels, and would play the 1976 and 1977 season with the Reds’ Triple-A team before resurfacing with the Cubs in 1978.

Jim Wynn 5’9″
They didn’t call him “The Toy Cannon” for nothing!  Wynn was an All-Star in 1974 (as you can tell from the card) and would make the All-Star team again in 1975.  For the season he hit 18 homers, walked 110 times and went .248/.403/.417.  Wynn is in the Astros Hall of Fame and his #24 has been retired by the team.

Gene Clines 5’9″
Clines was acquired from the Pirates in October 1974 (hence the airbrushed cap), would play the one season with the Mets before being traded to Texas for Joe Lovitto (who would get cut in 1976 Spring Training and then retire from baseball).  For the Mets in 1975 Clines would hit .227/.269/.286

So all of this was leading into my quarterly Weigh-In, which has been 1970s themed the last few times out. This is Weigh-In #75, and that’s why I’m featuring 1975 Topps.

For those wondering what the deal is with a “Weigh-In”, here is my official Mission Statement: Posting updates on the organizing and streamlining of my collection gives me a look at the big picture, keeps me honest and helps with motivation and/or guilt.

Changes in the 2nd quarter of 2022 (from 4/7/2022 to 7/1/2022):

Net change in the collection: +431 (473 added, 42 removed)
Net change to the # of cards in the house: +582 (656 came in, 74 went out)

As I’ve said over the past two years, my acquisitions have slowed down pretty well since the hobby changed, but a lot of it is me attempting to make sense out of my collection. I’ve got too much stuff.

Totals since I started tracking on 10/16/2011:
Total # of cards purged from the collection, to date: 15,827
Net change to the collection, to date: +7,097

Total # of cards which have left the house, to date: 54,689
Net change to the number of cards in the house, to date: -12,594

One of these days I’m going to make a Goodwill donation run and these numbers will look a bit better.

Size of the collection:
Number of individual cards tracked in my Access database: 72,761
Number of cards that make up the sets flagged as completed in my Access database: 11,591

…which means I’ve got at least 84,352 cards in my collection

Money spent on cards:
This does not count money spent on show admission, shipping, supplies, etc.

1st quarter, 2022: $57.19
2nd quarter, 2022: $224.46

Average per month for the first half of 2022: $46.94
Average per month for 2021: $35.64
Average per month for 2020: $76.66
Average per month for 2019: $80.38
Average per month for 2018: $79.03
Average per month for 2017: $43.63
Average per month for 2016: $36.11

I didn’t track my spending before 2016. In 2016 and 2017 I didn’t go to as many card shows because there weren’t any local shows, and I made the 5 hour round trip to a regional card show only once or twice a year.

It’s somewhat telling that I spent more in the 2nd quarter of 2022 than I had since… the 2nd quarter of 2021. The reasons were largely the same – I found a bunch of retail blasters (which evaporated before very long), I went to a small card show and I bought some cards online.

Size of my MS Access card database:
I track my collection in a Microsoft Access database of my own creation. There’s quite a bit of work involved in keeping it up-to-date, so I like to satisfy my own curiosity by finding out how much information is currently in my database.

My database currently contains 1,027 set definitions and 255,434 card definitions (both the same as the last weigh-in).

It’s important to point out that this is merely the number of sets and cards which are represented within my database; Although I have no cards from 1949 Bowman, that set represents 1 set definition and 240 card definitions.

2023 Topps Heritage – Speculation And Wishes

I started collecting baseball cards in 1974.  Next year’s Topps Heritage set will pay homage to that same 1974 set, and for years I’ve been thinking “If Heritage is still a thing in 2023, I’m going to go crazy over this!”

Move up to the present day and I’m not sure how crazy I will go for the set;  short prints take a lot of the fun out of it, plus over the past couple of years I’ve grown weary of inserts and especially parallels.

Even so, I started thinking the other day… what kind of tributes to the original set are Topps likely to do in 2023 Heritage, and what would I like to see?

…Well, beyond having no SPs, inserts or parallels and selling actual wax packs with gum… But that ain’t happening.

Now one thing that made 1974 Topps Baseball unique back in the day was that, unlike the flagship Topps sets that came before it, it was not issued in series. With that first pack you bought at the beginning of the season, you had just as much of a chance to pull card #1 as you would card #660. This caused Topps to change the way they approached the set, and that’s reflected in a couple of different aspects of the set.

And so, let’s start into some questions…

What kind of homage will there be to the Washington “Nat’l. Lea.” cards?
During the 1973 season, it seemed like a done deal that the San Diego Padres would be sold to new owners who would move the team to Washington DC for 1974. This deal would, of course, not actually happen… but not before Topps would change many of the Padres cards to say “WASHINGTON NAT’L. LEA.” and then had to change them back. This Willie McCovey card was pulled out of a pack by me back in the day.

I was new to baseball in 1974 and knew nothing about the Padres near-move, so I didn’t know why this card said “WNL”, I just knew that none of my friends had one and that made it even cooler than it already was.

So you may notice that I didn’t ask whether Topps would do something like this in 2023 Heritage, because they can’t not pay tribute to this.  My guess is that a bunch of Washington Nationals cards will have “NAT’L. LEA.” variations… but rather than brown and black pennants, they will still be in whatever colors they use for the Nats in 2023 (more on this in a bit)

Will they do any sort of riff on the “Hank Aaron Special” cards?
Going into the 1974 season, Hank Aaron had 713 home runs and was just one shot away from tying Babe Ruth’s career record. Everybody knew the record would be broken in 1974 – barring some sort of tragic occurrence – and Topps included several cards in 1974 Topps to commemorate Aaron’s achievement. Among these were a subset of “Hank Aaron Special” cards that highlighted his Topps cards from 1954 to 1973.

There isn’t anybody who’s going to break a major career record sometime next season, but that doesn’t mean they can’t do a tribute to somebody. If it were me, I’d replace the 5 card tribute to Hank Aaron with a similar multi-card tribute to future HOFers like Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw and Albert Pujols with each card featuring four Topps cards of that player’s past.

Will Topps continue to call the late-season Heritage update “High Numbers” when 1974 Topps didn’t really have high numbers?
Topps has generally short-printed the last however-many cards in the Heritage set, and that was meant as a way to kinda sorta simulate the scarcer late series of Topps sets… But guess what? 1974 Topps didn’t have high numbers in the way that older sets have, which makes it kind of meaningless to call the set “High Numbers”.  I don’t expect them to change the name, though.

Will Topps do anything involving the 1974 Topps Traded cards?
Because 1974 Topps wasn’t issued in series, Topps tried something different in order to include transactions from the December 1973 Winter Meetings.  In later wax packs they inserted “Traded” cards in an effort to get players updated as much as possible.

I would guess that if anything is done along these lines, they’ll include them as a subset or insert in 2023 Heritage High Numbers. Since a lot of player movement these days is through means other than trades, they may just feature those players who changed teams as parts of trades and just have updated base cards of the rest.

Topps did something kinda similar with the 2021 Heritage Minor League set; there were a couple of minor leaguers like Terrin Vavra (obtained by the Orioles from the Rockies late in the 2021 season) who got the 1972 “Traded” treatment. In this case, the cards were a subset.  FYI, Topps photoshopped a Bowie Baysox (Double-A) logo on Vavra’s cap.

Will Topps remember to leave the Rookie All-Star trophies off of the cards?
Although there was a 1973 Topps All-Star Rookie Team, the winners didn’t get any kind of acknowledgement on the front of their 1974 cards. Gary Matthews, for example, was the 1973 NL Rookie of the Year and a Topps All-Star Rookie Outfielder, but there was no Rookie Cup on the front of his card.

Why this was the case? I don’t know. The main thing to remember is that Julio Rodriguez and Bobby Witt Jr. shouldn’t have the Rookie Cup on their 2023 Heritage cards, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this gets ‘forgotten’.

Will they do an homage to the Jerry Morales and Glenn Beckert cards?
Jerry Morales and Glenn Beckert were traded for each other on November 7, 1973. Topps handled this last-minute transaction by swapping out the borders but leaving the photos untouched… a very un-Topps-like thing to do at the time, but again this might be related to the set coming out all at once.

Interestingly, the Morales card had the little banners switched, but the “frame” around the photo didn’t get updated, so it’s still yellow like a Padres card rather than blue as Cubs cards were in 1974.

I think this has a decent chance of showing up in 2023 Heritage.

Will they misspell some poor unfortunate rookie pitcher’s name?
Mets pitcher Bob Apodaca had his name misspelled “Apodaco” and then corrected on “1974 Rookie Pitchers” card #608

Do you think Topps would miss out on an opportunity to have a variation? Does Bazooka Joe poop in the woods?  I’m going to bet several packs of 1988 Donruss that there will be a SP variation of Heritage card #608 where Reds pitcher Nick Lodolo gets his name spelled “Lodola”

Will they have a “No Position” variation?  More to the point, will they stop at one?
1974 Topps had a corrected error where a small number of Jesus Alou’s card did not show his position as “OUTFIELD”

Again, Topps loves their variations, so I expect there to be a number of these.

Will they replicate the Team Checklist cards?

I was going to seriously discuss this until I remembered that 1973 Topps had a very similar team checklist insert set and that was not duplicated this year… at least not yet. I’ll put this down as “Probably not”.

Will they do an O-Pee-Chee back variation?

Probably so… As much as I love 1974 Topps, I find the yellow OPC backs much more appealing and if I were doing one of those Upper Deck “Vintage” sets that pays tribute to Topps sets while not being complete copies, I’d be doing the backs in yellow

What colors will they use for Washington Nationals borders?

When it comes to Heritage and Archives, Topps – perhaps at the directive of Major League Baseball – has usually gone out of their way to treat the Nats and Rangers their own team rather than the relocated Expos and “New” Senators.  Up until 2021 Heritage (based on the 1972 design where the Rangers first appeared), the Rangers have never had the same assigned colors as the Senators had… but the Washington Nationals have often been assigned the colors originally used for the Washington Senators.

Well, until this year’s Heritage when the Nationals colors used for the player and team name match – more or less – what was used for the Expos in 1973.

So will the colors used for the 2023 Nationals match what was used for the 1974 Expos?

I’m going to say “no”, but I’m less sure about this than I was before 2022 Heritage.

Will 2023 Heritage include puzzle-back All-Star cards?

You betcha… and they’d better be working on that puzzle of this year’s All-Star MVP, Giancarlo Stanton so it looks at least a bit like this:

Will there be player stamp inserts?

The original 1974 Topps Baseball Stamps came in their own packs, they weren’t an insert for 1974 Topps flagship, but I’d like to see something like this as an insert… even if it’s a small panel of stickers rather than actual stamps.

Will there be team cards?

I don’t think there’s been a Heritage team card since 2017 (1968 design), but I’ll mention them anyway. Besides, I love how on this 1974 Oakland A’s card the coaching staff is in white uniforms while the players are in alternating green and gold jerseys. [Chef’s kiss]

Some uncorrected errors should find their way into 2023 Heritage as well…
Card #161 should – no, not should – HAD BETTER have the card number rotated 90 degrees compared to the rest of the set

I know there won’t be a manager card of Brandon Hyde, but there ought to be one Orioles card where “BALTIMORE” is yellow instead of orange.

Getting back to that Jerry Morales card from before…

Even if they don’t do the Morales/Beckert homage that I mentioned before, it would be a nice subtle homage to the original set to have one Cubs card with a yellow frame.

And finally…

I left this part for last, because some people will think I’m just being nit-picky and if you think this then feel free to skip the rest of this post.

Topps needs to get the fonts right on this set because the “1974” cards in 2020 Archives didn’t look good

OK, so most of the names in 1974 Topps look something like this;  different fonts (or typefaces if that’s the proper term regarding 1974) to use with different size names, so that the name will fill the available space in a visually appealing way.

There was also a third, condensed font used for players with particularly long names… the Messersmiths, Grabarkiewiczs, Stottlemyers and Monteagudos of the baseball world.

Unfortunately when Topps used the 1974 design for 2020 Archives, someone made the decision that they would make the condensed font a one-size-fits-all solution, regardless of whether the player’s name was short like Blake Snell or long like Isaiah Kiner-Falefa.  The result was less than satisfying.

Now this is more than just “They didn’t use the right font and I’m stamping my feet in protest”.  Using a narrower font for names that don’t need it leaves a lot of white space on either side of the name, and *that* is what works against the look of the set.

I created a visual comparison which features some players who were in both 1974 Topps and 2020 Archives, and although it’s not a great display I feel it at least give an idea of how 2020 Archives suffered in comparison:

Again, this is not just about a different font being used, this is about making a choice that screws up the visual appeal of the overall card.

Audience participation time!

I’m certain there are certain iconic cards in 1974 Topps Baseball that I overlooked. If you were in charge of 2023 Heritage, what type of 1974 Topps tribute would you include in Heritage?

1975 “MVP” Project: 1964 Topps Brooks Robinson and Ken Boyer

I loved the 1975 MVP subset when I was a kid, and spent a lot of time poring over the images of vintage Topps cards. I’ve decided if getting all of the featured cards isn’t a realistic goal for me, that doesn’t mean I can’t get *some* of the cards.

Here’s my card from the 1975 subset, one that I’ve had for 47 years…

And since I have both of the actual cards – my oldest such pairing to date – I’ll feature both and touch on what got Brooks Robinson and Ken Boyer their league’s MVP awards.

Why was Brooks Robinson the 1964 AL MVP?

  • Lead the AL with 118 RBI, a career-best, and played in 163 games
  • Brooks won the Gold Glove for the 5th consecutive time, lead American League 3rd basemen with 153 putouts and 327 assists, had a .972 fielding percentage and was involved in 40 double plays
  • Batted .464 in September
  • Over the season he hit .317 with 28 homers, 35 doubles and 82 runs
  • Brooks got 18 first place votes, with Mickey Mantle getting the other 2 first place votes.

Why was Ken Boyer the 1964 NL MVP?

  • Boyer played in all 162 of the Cardinals’ game and lead them to their first pennant (and world championship) in 18 years.
  • He lead the Majors with 119 RBI, the first NL 3rd baseman to lead the league in RBIs since Heinie Zimmerman in 1917
  • He batted .295 with 30 doubles, 10 triples, 24 homers and 100 runs scored
  • Boyer got 14 of the 20 first place votes in the MVP voting. Other players who got 1st place votes are Philadelphia’s Johnny Callison (2 1st place votes), St. Louis’ Bill White (2 votes), Milwaukee’s Joe Torre (1 vote) and Lou Brock (1 vote). Brock split the season between the Cubs and Cardinals.
  • Although the World Series wouldn’t have factored in to the MVP voting, Boyer hit 2 homers against the Yankees, including a grand slam off of Al Downing in the Cards’ 4-3 win at Yankee Stadium. In game 7, Boyer had three hits, including a double and a home run, and scored three runs as the Cardinals won their first world championship since 1946