I’m That Guy Who Ran Out And Bought 2019 Topps Stickers

Somebody’s gotta do it, right?

Actually, I was curious about the stickers this time around, mainly for two reasons:

  1. None of this year’s sets have bowled me over, so I’m always looking to check out something else
  2. The stickers are standard sized this time around… or, as the wrapper actually says, “trading card sized”… and that means I can more easily use them in my “current rosters” and team binders.

While I’m showing the wrapper, I want to show you the back for a particular reason:

Notice what’s missing?  Odds.  There are no inserts, so there are no odds, just a legal notice that essentially says “We can’t promise that these will have any value down the road… They’re just stickers, bro.”

I don’t know about you, but I find the lack of odds to be very refreshing.

Oh, one other thing I want to say;  I came very close to smashing my scanner during the process of creating this post.  I think I’ve got it sorted out (after updating the scanner driver and the scanning software), but if some of the scans seem dark and/or muddy, remember that I was about to smash my scanner.

So I bought 5 packs, each of which cost a dollar and contains 4 stickers… a quarter a sticker is a shade pricey when you consider that you’re not paying for inserts, but they *are* stickers rather than cardboard, I suppose.

Here’s a base sticker.

Not bad, kinda fun, more or less what you’d expect from something like this.  One thing about these… It’s not obvious that it’s a sticker.  If I handed you one without telling you what it is, you’d think it was an oddball card on fairly thin cardstock.  It’s not just a sticker on paper backing.

Before I get to the back, I’m going to share one of the sticker subsets:

There are mascot stickers, but they’re only a quarter of the size of the other stickers… Kind of interesting, and it also answered one question I had early on: “Which side is the sticker?”  It sounds stupid, but when you look at the base stickers it’s not immediately obvious.

So here’s the back of the mascot sticker sheet:

Not the greatest design, but not bad.  One thing I’d like to point out is that the numbers on the card back are the *sticker* numbers;  You can tell by the fact that this back has three numbers for the three mascots (I guess the Topps sticker doesn’t have a space in the album).  If you look at the Topps checklist, the sticker backs share a number with the front, but that means little when there’s multiple stickers to one back.

The second thing I like about having players on the sticker backs, and which makes them fun for the casual guy like me, is that I wasn’t sure how much I wanted the mascot stickers, but then I turned it over and –  Bam!  Instant trade bait!  (Dime Box Nick, this one’s coming your way)

As I discovered, the sticker fronts and backs aren’t always unrelated… Here’s the Brandon Crawford sticker…

…And the back is the “other Brandon”, Brandon Belt.  Kind of amusing to have the Two Brandons share a “card”.

There are a number of sticker subsets.  I pulled this “Perennial All-Stars” sticker of Aaron Judge.  Does two years (going on three) make him “Perennial”?

…And of course I pulled another Aaron Judge, this one from the Home Run Heroes subset.  It seems that there are five Judge stickers plus the Judge sticker back…. because JUDGE!!!  And YANKEES!!!

There are half-sized League Leaders stickers…

“Rookies And Rising Stars”

For purely aesthetic resaons, this Mookie Wilson is my favorite sticker from the five packs I bought.  I think this is from the “Dual Panel” subset:

Look at how those colors pop off the sticker!  Simple, yet very appealing.  Never underestimate the power of primary colors.

From the frankly confusing checklist provided by Topps, there are also subsets for “Trophies”, “Stance Flashiest Feet” (Stance = the manufacturer of MLB On Field Authentic socks), “Franklins Grip It An Rip It” (which I presume has something to do with Franklin batting gloves), “Home Run Derby”, “Postseason and World Series Highlights”, “2018 All-Stars” (All eight of ’em), and “150 Years of Professional Baseball” (The usual cast of Topps legends).

If you’re interested in collecting players and/or team, and not in actually pasting stickers in the album, you should know that Mookie Betts (#1), Jose Altuve (#41), Ozzie Albies (#143) and Christian Yelich (#179) are base stickers which appear to come only as “free stickers” in the sticker album. I didn’t buy the album, but I flipped through it and those stickers come in a sheet and have a generic back that’s different than the other stickers.  I can’t remember for certain, but I think they also had thinner, more “traditional” sticker backing stock.

One other bit of Topps inscrutability:  The checklist shows two different sticker back lists:  COLLECTIBLE CARD BACK I and COLLECTIBLE CARD BACK II.  In the scan below, Eddie Rosario is “BACK I” and Carlos Rodon is “BACK II”.

So what’s the difference between “BACK I” and “BACK II”?  Damned if I can figure it out.  I thought maybe they were overlapping checklists that showed, for example, two different photos of Aaron Judge, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.  The best I can figure out is that it seems like the base stickers have “BACK I” backs and the subset stickers have “BASE II” backs.  In the words of Pee Wee Herman, “Why?  What’s the significance?  I DON’T KNOW!”

So these stickers are not the be-all, end-all of 2019 collectibles but they’re fun enough and the packs are cheap (even if the price per card isn’t particularly cheap).  I’ve never been a stickers-in-an-album guy, so while I would buy more of these, it would be as a cheap pack bustin’ fix… assuming that they remain available.  The two Target stores I’ve been in each had just one box of 50 packs.  That might get replenished… or maybe not.

Is anybody going to collect the full album with stickers stuck as God (but not me) intended?


Something In The Tidewater

I was recently going through my Mets minor league binders, looking for cards to scan for my “1980’s Desert Island Binder” project, when I noticed something about the 1981 TCMA Tidewater Tides team set.

Now the 1981 Tides, who were the Mets top farm team at the time, weren’t anything special… they went 70-68 and finished in 3rd place, 17.5 games behind the Columbus Clippers.  Looking at the team through 21st Century eyes, though, and you can’t help but notice how many future MLB managers and coaches were on the roster.

Let’s start with the arguably biggest name, managerially:  Bruce Bochy

Bochy is wrapping up his 25-year managing career at the end of this season.  In 1981, however, he was just a AAA catcher.

One of Bochy’s teammates also put in a number of years as a manger, but Ron Gardenhire has managed the Twins for “only” 13 years and is in his second year managing the Tigers.

Gardenhire would be a September call-up in 1981 and would play in 5 Major League seasons, all of them with the Mets.

Gardy’s long-time pitching coach, Rick Anderson, also played for the 1981 Tides.  Anderson is also currently with the Tigers.

Anderson toiled in the Mets farm system for 8 seasons before making his MLB debut in 1986.

Ray Searage has been a Pirates coach since 2010 and is seen by some as one of the best pitching coaches in the Majors.

As a player, Searage pitched for the Mets, Brewers, White Sox and Dodgers, and while pitching professionally from 1976 to 1992, he never spent a full season in the Majors.

Sam Perlozzo managed the Orioles from August, 2005 to June, 2007 and has also put a number of years of Major League service as a third base coach for the Mets, Reds, Mariners, Orioles and Phillies.

As a player, Perlozzo had cups of coffee with the Twins and Padres, and shared a rookie card with Lou Whitaker.  He also played a year in Japan with the Yakult Swallows.

Wally Backman had the best playing career of any of these future coaches and managers, playing 14 seasons with 5 teams and winning a World Championship with the 1986 Mets.  Backman was hired as the Diamondbacks manager in November 2004 and was fired days later after a number of personal and financial (*ahem*) issues came to light.  Backman is currently the manager of the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League.

Jesse Orosco never coached or managed any teams that I’m aware of, but he pitched in 24 Major League seasons and he’s a favorite of mine so I’m sneaking him in here.

Fun COMC Discoveries

One of the things I enjoy about shopping on COMC… well, other than my often having available credit from cards I’ve sold… is that you sometimes find stuff that you may never have found otherwise.  Today I’ve got a couple of those I’d like to share.

The first one doesn’t seem like a “discovery” at first glance.

Just a 1996 Upper Deck Collector’s Choice card of Mets shortstop Rey Ordonez, right?

The back looks like a Collector’s Choice card, with only the card numbering (44 / 48) providing a clue that this is something different.

It doesn’t look obviously “mini”, but when you hold it in your hand the size feels a bit off.

It’s not until it’s put next to the actual 1996 Collector’s Choice Rey Ordonez card (which is from the “Rookie Class” subset”) that you realize this is no mere pseudo-parallel…

I got more excited than I should when I discovered this, because now a very-familiar photo (I’ve had the card on the right since 1996) had a background to go with it, and I always prefer cards that have the background.

I didn’t scan the back of the “Rookie Class” Ordonez, but it’s an even bigger difference… Different layout, different photo, different text.  I don’t know that you can tell from these photos, but the “mini” card is a couple of 16ths of an inch smaller in height and width.

So what is this mystery mini?  According to COMC, it’s from an Upper Deck CardZillion/Folz set.  From what I can tell after some research, they were sold out of vending machines at Toys R Us stores. Trading Card DB doesn’t have much more than a checklist and a scattering of images.  My 2008 Standard Catalog has nothing about this set, not under Upper Deck, CardZillion or Folz (which, I discovered, is the name of the vending company)

I did find at least one other card like this one – there’s a Jason Kendall card that is also in the Rookie Class subset in the original CC set but not on the CardZillion card.  I did find some cards (i.e. Frank Thomas, Barry Bonds) which, from the scans, looked like they were made with some sort of Chrome-y, Dufex-y process.

Oh, one more difference;  the CardZillion cards appear to all be full-bleed, where many (but not all) of the Collector’s Choice cards have a white border.

OK, moving on to another discovery… Last year I was thinking about the New York Rangers TV broadcasts which were always on in my house growing up.  The voices of the Rangers at that time were Jim Gordon and former referee Bill “The Big Whistle” Chadwick.  Even though I never became a Rangers fan, I had fond memories of these two, and sometime last year I got the idea… “Hey, Bill Chadwick is in the HOF, maybe there’s a card of him.”  So off to COMC I went…

…et voila!

This is from the 1983 Cartophilium Hockey Hall Of Fame set, and as you can tell, it’s quite a nice card.  The set as a whole looks pretty nice;  it doesn’t really fit into my hockey collection as it currently stands, but I’d encourage others to check the set out.

Here’s the back (not quite as nice):

As the back states, The Big Whistle was inducted into the Hockey HOF in 1964, was the first U.S. born ref in the NHL, and originated the system of hand signals associated with penalties.

Since I have another minute or two, I will share one other card which isn’t a “discovery”, but I did get it through COMC and it’s one of the more thoroughly uninteresting cards you’ll find.

I generally like 1970 Topps, but on this particular card you have the grey border, a black team name, the lack of a cap, a white jersey with no piping or pinstripes, the blank expression on Rich Nye’s face… it’s all quite amazingly dull.  I’m surprised that someone at Topps didn’t say “Hey, that light tower in the background might catch someone’s interest, maybe we should airbrush that out”.

Incidentally, Rich Nye wasn’t “The Science Guy”, but he did become a practicing veterinarian after his baseball career was over.


Custom Draft Picks And Scoops

So I don’t have a lot of time for the writing part of the whole blogging thing, but I made a bunch of customs for a number of 1st round MLB draft picks, and I made a bunch of TSR “Scoops” customs, and I need to spend my Sunday doing some of the things I should’ve done when I was making custom cards during the week.

OK, so here are the first 4 picks in the draft;  I did the Rutschman custom because I’m an Orioles fan, but I also found images of the #2 – 4 guys because it wasn’t out of the question that the O’s would draft them.  Since I already had images, I went ahead and made customs for those players & their drafting teams.

#1 – Adley Rutschman, Oregon State University

#2 – Bobby Witt, Jr. – Colleyville Heritage HS (TX)
For those who didn’t know, Bobby Witt Sr. pitched 16 seasons in the Majors, mostly for the Texas Rangers.

#3 – Andrew Vaughn – University of California

#4 – J.J. Bleday – Vanderbilt University
I really hate these black-with-gold-pinstripes Vandy uniforms, but perhaps that just labels me as an old man.

I also did a few other draft picks for various reasons…

#10 – Hunter Bishop – Arizona State University

#11 – Alek Manoah – West Virginia University

#12 – Brett Baty – Lake Travis HS (TX)

That wraps up the draft picks… for now, anyway. If you ask nicely (and if I can find usable images, sometimes a very tall order), I’ll make a custom for your team’s #1 pick.

Moving on to the latest “Scoops” customs…

A lot of Mets fans… or at least a lot of the more vocal Mets fans… were calling for the team to ditch Jason Vargas and go after Dallas Keuchel. I’m OK with Vargas in his role as back of the rotation guy, and the Vargas faithful (relatively speaking) were rewarded this week when he shutout the Giants.

The Orioles remain on a pace to lose well over 100 games, but they’ve shown signs of being a team that might – MIGHT – suck less in the remaining games.

Pedro Severino, acquired on waivers from the Nationals towards the end of spring training, hit three homers against the Rangers and made a heads-up play to end the game by chasing down a wild pitch 3rd strike and throwing the batter out at first.

Yesterday the O’s were in Houston and Anthony Santander, playing in just his third game of 2019, made a impressive catch to rob Yuli Gurriel of a home run, and then doubled Michael Brantley off of first.

If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s worth seeking out (and isn’t hard to find).

OK, I’ve got to get back to my to-do list. Enjoy the rest of your weekend, everybody.

Can 1990 Bowman Be Best?

I have this project I’ve been working on and off for a number of months;  I’m taking several thousand cards from 1990 and making a sort of “yearbook” by taking one and only one example of a particular player on a particular team and putting it in binders devoted to 1990 cards. So, for example, there would be one card for Joe Carter with the Indians and one card of him with the Padres. The decision on which Joe Carter cards to binder are strictly aesthetic (and completely subjective).

Here, as an example, is page 5 from the Tigers section of the 1990 AL Binder. Players are in alphabetical order and here we have Tigers from Mike Schwabe to Gary Ward.

Mixed in with the Topps, Fleer, Donruss and Bowman are two oddballs: top left is from 1990 Topps Major League Debut (which was a box set different than the current Pro Debut) and bottom left is a Starline Long John Silver’s card.

A little side note:  In the case of the two Bowman cards, they’re here mainly because each player – Eric Stone and Steve Wapnick – didn’t have any other Major League cards in 1990.  Stone never pitched in the Majors at all, so if there’s ever a crunch for space in my Tigers pages, his card stands a good chance of getting removed.

I brought this project up when I was recently somewhat defending 1990 Bowman in a Twitter discussion. My outlandish observation was that, despite all too many cards like this…

…There are, in fact, cases where a player’s Bowman card is the best 1990 card that player has.  My statement was met with some skepticism, I must say, so I’m here to show a few examples which (I hope) prove my point.

A couple of things to keep in mind with these cards is that there are a lot of cards from each 1990 manufacturer which do not hold up under 2019 quality expectations.  Poor photo selection, dark shots and off-register printing all contribute to the cards looking less-than-great compared even to the low-end sets of today.  Bowman wasn’t as high-end of a set as Upper Deck or Leaf, but it was also at a higher price point than regular Topps, and it seems that it was printed a little nicer than some of the other sets, even while being printed on the usual Topps cardboard stock.

So with all that out of the way, let’s start with Keith Hernandez;  he was with the Mets in 1989 and signed a free agent contract with the Indians.  Topps, Fleer, Donruss, Score and Upper Deck featured him with the Mets, but Bowman (which came out in early Summer, if I remember correctly) and the various Traded/Update sets showed Keith with Cleveland.

Now none of these four cards is a stinker, but I’m partial to the Bowman card even though it’s just a posed shot.  I think that, even 29 years later, part of me is still a bit weirded out to see Keith Hernandez in a Cleveland uniform, so I want the photo which most exemplifies that weirded-out state.  For this example, I’m expecting that most of you are going to disagree with my choice.

Let’s move on to Dave Bergman, a player whose Bowman card is more objectively better that the others.

As you might guess, there are 1990 Dave Bergman cards I don’t own… His Fleer and Upper Deck cards are nice enough, but I don’t think they stand up to the action shot on Bergman’s Bowman.

1990 was the rookie year for five-time All-Star Travis Fryman.  The 21-year-old Fryman made his MLB debut in early July and not surprisingly he wasn’t in most of the flagship sets.  He did appear in Bowman, Topps Traded and Fleer Update.

None of the cards are what you’d call a thing of beauty, but I went with the Bowman on this one.  I just preferred the home uni and  spring training photo to the Topps headshot and Fleer empty stands on the road shots.

I’m going to wrap up with Rickey Henderson.  I have six different 1990 cards for Rickey, and I went with the Bowman (although it was a close fight with another card).

Before I get to the “finals”, here are the four cards which got eliminated rather quickly…   The action shots are pretty good, but I  prefer cards where the player’s face can be seen, and a couple of these (Score especially) are pretty dark.

It finally came down to Bowman vs. Upper Deck, and I (obviously) decided to go with the Bowman… but I would’ve ultimately been fine with the UD.

So that concludes – for the time being anyway – the argument I’m making for 1990 Bowman;  it may not be the best or most visually exciting set, but within the context of the times it was a better set than people currently give it credit for.

Show & Tell: A Mildly Mojo-ish Retail Hit And Other Bits Of Cardboard

Even though I know the “return on investment” isn’t often there when one buys cards through major retailers, I still do it. Part of the reason is that opening packs is a significant part of my collecting joy, and I don’t have many other in-person options.

Another factor is that I would be upset and disappointed if cards were no longer available in stores, so I don’t mind supporting those retailers who do sell cards, even if I have to be vigilant about what I buy and how tamper-resistant it might be.

So when I pull a decent hit out of a blaster, like I did with 2019 Heritage recently…

…I have to admit there’s a part of me that wants to taunt pack feelers with it the next time I see one in the Target card aisle. “Hey, buddy… I beat you to this one! Ha HA ha HA ha HAAAAAAA!”

And he probably wouldn’t care because a Rico Petrocelli autograph isn’t likely at the top of his list. Whatever, it doesn’t stop me from daydreaming about it.

BTW, I’m sorry about the glare at the bottom of the image, I took a photo with my phone because I didn’t have time to fire up my coal-powered scanner.

As long as I’m out here writing, I figured I’d share a few other cards I’ve picked up lately…

One set that falls into the “I’d never chase it, but it’s fun to accumulate” category is 1963 Fleer. True to form, I bought several cards from this set even though they weren’t on my want list… but they were cheap enough that I threw want lists out the window.

It’s kind of interesting… Clay Dalrymple appeared on cards from 1960 to 1971, and never once does Topps show him smiling; yet here on this Fleer card he’s got a big ol’ grin. Maybe Fleer got Brigitte Bardot to take his photo…

Another set that falls into the category of “I don’t know what I’m doing with this, but can’t resist at a low price” is the 1970 Fleer/McLaughlin World Series cards.

I don’t think I even realized until I got home that the card featured Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth… it was just a matter of “Laughlin World Series? I’m there”.

I already had this 1970 Topps Scratch-off featuring the Seattle Pilots’ Mike Hegan, but this was an upgrade that was too cheap to ignore.

For starters, it wasn’t scratched-off… which is something I’d yet to acquire in a scratch-off. It also doesn’t have the lettering colored in with a blue ball point, which is another plus.

I really liked Fran Tarkenton when I was a kid, even though I’ve never been a Vikings fan. Oddly enough, I never thought about collecting Tarkenton until I ran across this 1978 card in a dollar box.

Of course, now that I’ve had a chance to look at the prices of some of his 1960’s cards, I’m not sure how far I’d get, but you never know. This card brings me up to six different cards from when he was an active player, which isn’t too bad for someone who wasn’t really trying.

At any rate, it’s not like I don’t already have too many irons in the fire. Best to move on and focus on the goals I’ve already got.

Custom Wax Pack for June 2nd, 2019

I went into this with the intended first line of “This is going to be a light week”. As always, I got in my own way and made more customs than I really meant to. My loss (of time) is your gain.

Justin Verlander is the unofficial Shlabotnik Report Pitcher Of The Month for May.  He may be the A.L. Pitcher Of The Month as well, those awards haven’t been announced as of my writing this.

During May, Verlander went 4-1 in 5 games, with a 2.29 ERA, a 0.594 WHIP, 42 K’s and 6 BB’s in 35.1 IP.

Josh Bell had more total bases in May (94) than any Pirate had ever had (Ralph Kiner had the previous record of 92 in June, 1947).  Bell had more total bases in May than anyone since Willie Mays in 1958.  Pretty damn impressive.

In May, Bell batted .390 with a .442 OBP, 26 runs, 31 RBI, 12 doubles and 12 homers.

This next custom is an idea I got out of the blue (and have already shared on Twitter – @Shlabotnik_Rpt )…  It’s a custom in the style of the late 1970’s Renata Galasso Glossy Greats sets, and it’s of Renato Nunez, so…

It’s a “Renata” of Renato!

Yeah, fine, both the original Galasso’s and my custom are just using the 1960 Leaf design.  Since it’s not a portrait with a “halo” behind the player, I’m calling it a Galasso.

Renato had a pretty good month of May… by Orioles standards, anyway.  While he batted just .217, he had 8 homers and 16 RBI.  For 2019 as a whole he’s already set career highs for runs (30), RBI (34) and homers (14).

With this next custom of Michael Conforto, I’m going to let you in on a little “custom maker’s secret”… The angled tops and bottoms of my designs sometimes makes it hard to fit photos in there without cropping out stuff I don’t want to crop out – like the baseball below.  To compensate, I sometimes cheat my way through it.

You see that blue outfield wall padding in the upper right corner?  That’s not there in the original photo.  I copied the upright padding from the right hand part of the photo, rotated it 90 degrees and pasted it up there.

…And now you know the REST of the story.

Getting back to the Orioles, they had a “highlight” the other day that was good enough to get a “Scoops” custom.  The O’s and Giants were having a black ‘n orange faceoff in Baltimore, and the Giants scored five runs off of starter Andrew Cashner in the top of the first.  Amazingly enough, that did not signal the end to the O’s that night.

The O’s scored 6 runs in the bottom of the first, thanks in part to Dwight Smith Jr.’s first career Grand Salami, and they went on to win 9-6.  Of course, the Giants kicked the Orioles butts the following night, but we won’t get into that…

I’m going to wrap up with a new “insert”.

The Dodgers recently called up a rookie catcher named Will Smith, and given that there’s already a veteran Giants reliever named Will Smith, it seemed the right time to make a new Pointless Pairings custom. For 2019, these Pointless Pairings will be in the form of a stamp sheet insert.

Catcher Will Smith hit his first career homer last night. Pitcher Will Smith has better stats than I’d expected a 2019 Giants pitcher to have; he’s got a 2.49 ERA, a 0.738 WHIP and 13 saves. He’s in a walk year, so expect him to be playing elsewhere by August.