The World Premier Of My 2018 TSR Custom Card Set

For those of you who may be relatively new to The Shlabotnik Report… I enjoy designing and creating virtual (or “custom”) baseball cards, and what you’re about to see is my seventh published custom card set. For me it’s a fun outlet for my creative juices, and also kind of therapeutic in an “adult coloring book” sort of way.

As someone who wishes there was an original yet “old school” option among the current cards, I strive to make this set of mine exactly what I’d love to find at my local big box retailer.  I often try to pay homage to cards from a particular decade…  This time around, the design was largely inspired by sets from the 1960’s… but the inspiration comes from beyond 1960’s Topps baseball.

So I’ve got a virtual wax pack ready to go… I’d like to make a quick disclaimer that I put significantly less effort than usual into the wrapper design this year.  I’ll sure you’ll pick up the shattered pieces of your life and move on…

OK, let’s rip this sucker open!

First card… and since I’m calling the shots, it’s naturally of my favorite team the Mets.

Jay Bruce was traded to Cleveland at the deadline last year, but went back to the Mets during the winter. Topps and Topps Heritage both show him with the Indians.  It’s a shame he isn’t in the Topps Opening Day checklist, otherwise they could’ve fallen back on a slightly older photo (like I did).

Here’s something which would be a “TSR Exclusive” if these were commercially available – Managers!

I very much miss having cards of managers, so each virtual pack of TSR will include a manager or perhaps a coach… there are a number of current coaches I wouldn’t mind having cards of.  By the end of the season I should have featured most, if not all, of the managers.

I was going to say that Dave Roberts hasn’t been on an actual baseball card as a manager yet, but then I discovered two cards which went against this.  He had a “Manager Of The Year” card in a 2017 Topps insert set, and was part of a super-short-printed mini “Skippers” insert in 2016 Topps Allen & Ginter;  I’m actually pissed off to discover this A&G insert… It’s one thing to have no managers, but to have managers super-short-printed (1:288 odds) just comes across as a sort of insult.

Yesterday I was reading that the Reds signed 3rd baseman Eugenio Suarez to a seven-year contract extension, and that made me feel chagrined because I like to think I know all of the better players in MLB, but if this guy I know little about is being given $66M by the Reds, I’ve obviously missed the boat.  I decided that my penance would be to make a custom of him.

Suarez plays third, but he’s a converted shortstop who’s adapted well to the change of position. He’s a triple-threat as a positive clubhouse influence, a good fielder (he lead the NL in fielding percentage) and is improving as a hitter, hitting career highs with 26 home runs and 82 RBI’s in 2017.

Unless you follow uniform changes (like me) or are a Tigers fan (unlike me), you may not know that the Tigers made uniform changes that are controversial in certain circles yet will slip past most fans.

For most people’s lifetimes, the Old English “D” on the Detroit Tigers’ caps was not the same as the Old English “D” on their jerseys.  Over the winter the Tigers dropped what had been the “Jersey D”, and what had been the “Cap D” is now the universal “D”.  I’m OK with ditching one of the D’s, but I think I would’ve kept the the “Jersey D”.

Oh, and the cap logo is bigger than it has been before; now it’s of a comparable size to other teams’ logos.

Miles Mikolas had some unimpressive stints with the Padres and Rangers earlier this decade, but established himself as a pitcher during three years in Japan.  He decided to come back to the States for 2018 and the Cardinals signed him to a two-year contract.

Mikolas got off to a rough start in Spring Training, but has been better of late.

Brad Brach looks to be the Orioles closer this season… at least until Zach Britton is back.

It’s hard to know what to expect from the Orioles this year (although it’s probably not good).  I would’ve thought that the way the slow free agent market played out would’ve played right into GM Dan Duquette’s bargain shopping strategy, but that has not been the case.  It seems like the Twins got all of the bargains the Orioles should’ve gotten.  I wonder if the team should’ve thought “Hey, this player’s unexpectedly in our price range!” but instead went with “Gosh, this player’s really in a bind, we can low-ball him even more than we normally would!”

Finally, we come to this pack’s insert card.  Four years ago, I made a throw-away joke on a virtual wrapper of 2014 TSR: “Look for special ‘gum-stained’ parallels!”  Well, what had been a throw-away joke became a real-life Heritage parallel and it’s just gotten worse (‘Flip stock’?  Really?) so I got to wondering what other sort of dumb-ass parallels and variations could I come up with?

I have one such “Dumb-Ass Variation” here…

Here is a “Missing Player” variation of a well-known Yankees slugger.

There will be more “Dumb-Ass” parallels and variations coming in future packs (although I’m so happy with the way this one turned out that I’m wondering if I should quit while I’m ahead).

So that’s this week’s virtual pack.  There will be more subsets and “inserts” introduced as we go along, but I want to pace myself a bit on these.  I won’t spell out my plans, but I will say that I was looking through some of my older sets and thinking “Yeah, I need to do that again” as well as “This was great, why didn’t I do this last year?”

If anybody has any requests along the lines of “Can you do these types of cards again?” or “Can you do a better job on the wrapper?” or (to use a random player from the homepage) “Can you make a custom of Carlos Ruiz?”… Just leave a comment and I will see what I can do.


Hot Stove Customs: The Post I Nearly Forgot To Do

For those of you who have been reading The Shlabotnik Report for less than 6 months or so, you may not be aware that each year I create a custom card set of my own design (although, I’ll freely admit, usually derivative of a particular era).

A few weeks ago I’d decided that the first virtual pack of this set will be opened next Sunday, March 18th.

Well, I got so caught up in trying to finalize some things with my new design and create a bunch of customs for the first week or two that I nearly forgot that I had one last “Hot Stove” post I’d intended to publish.

Today I’m going to feature three customs featuring notable players who switched teams recently. As with the last several posts, these are all done in the style of the 1963 Post baseball set.

I thought about giving a sneak preview of next week’s unveiling, but I decided against it because I wasn’t sure how much of a hint I wanted to give, and because I miss how it was when I was a kid – you didn’t know when the cards would be out until they were sitting there in boxes on a retailer’s shelf, and you had no idea of what the cards looked like until you ripped open that first wax pack.

What I will say is that I was shooting for a mid-1960’s feel for this set… only not necessarily mid-1960’s baseball.

For those of you on Twitter, starting tomorrow I will be doing a one-a-day countdown to the new set; each day I will be featuring a custom from each of my prior six custom sets. It’s hard to believe that this upcoming set will be my seventh!

Oh, I suppose you might want to know my Twitter handle, right? It’s @Shlabotnik_Rpt

Hot Stove: Photo Day Means No More “Photoshopping”

Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about baseball.  I’ve been doing a lot of Olympic stuff lately, and I’m not done with that, but this week provided a day… or, to be accurate, a group of days… which always make me feel like baseball is truly here.

That day is “Photo Day”.  The day when everybody in camp is run through a photo session and we can see what each team’s new players will look like in their new unis.

For me, it also signals a moment when it’s just silly to be “photoshopping” players into new uniforms.  I actually had 3-D customs of Yu Darvish and Todd Frazier in the works, but now there’s no real reason to finish either one.

I did decide to make a few Hot Stove customs in the style of 1963 Post, which I’d used for all of the new managers.  Because I had to modify the custom template to allow for batting stats, and because that was much more of a pain in the you-know than I expected, today’s post only includes batters.  I’ll try to get Yu and some other pitchers done for next week.

Carlos Santana signed with the Phillies two months ago, and that was this Mets fan’s moment of “Oh, crap, the Phils don’t see themselves phoning it in this year, do they?”

Before I forget, here’s a disclaimer: I didn’t proofread the stats or text very closely, so don’t use these to settle any high-stakes bets.

I was excited about the Mets signing Todd Frazier for two reasons… He’s a good addition, of course, but it also signals that the Mets have conceded that David Wright is not going to come back anytime soon, if at all.

That sounds worse than I intend it… I do hope that David Wright is able to make it back.  But I’m pretty pessimistic about his chances and I’m happy that the Mets are acknowledging that.

Andrew McCutchen looks strange out of a Pirates uniform, but given that he’s in a walk year, I don’t blame the Bucs for getting what they could for him.

The Christian Yelich trade to the Brewers was one of those trades where I was happy for certain players moving in either direction. Yelich gets out of Miami and hopefully (for him) plays for a contender.

Meanwhile, prospect Lewis Brinson went to the Marlins as part of the return package, and he’s actually excited about going to Miami… He grew up in Florida as a Marlins fan, and is going to wear the same number as Juan Pierre, his childhood idol.

I have to admit, even though it’s a pain to insert the personal information, stats and text – and yes, the text is legit and isn’t just “lorem ipsum” or “Yadda yadda” – I like the way these customs are turning out and I may continue to make them even after the “Hot Stove” season draws to an end.

Olympic Hockey Customs – One Final Batch (With A Touch Of Wunder)

After the women’s gold medal hockey game, I decided that I should make a few more customs, so I made two for the USA and two for Canada…

…But after seeing how the German men’s team beat top-seeded Sweden and then hockey powerhouse Canada to make it to the Gold Medal game, I thought I’d add a “bonus” card to the batch.

I wanted to do this using a different card design than I’d used so far, but what do I use? I thought about some of the designs which had been voted on for last year’s World Baseball Classic set, and I was strongly considering using the 1966 Topps Hockey design when inspiration hit…

There are those calling the German team’s performance a “Wunder auf Eis” (Miracle on ice)… What better design to use for ein Wunder than the 1976 Wunder – ahhh – WONDER Bread football design?

Christian Ehrhoff is the one player on this team I am familiar with… He played in the NHL from 2007 to 2016 with the Sharks, Sabres, Canucks and other teams.

I would love to see Germany finish off this Wunder auf Eis, but win or lose this is an incredible accomplishment for this team.

So for those who hadn’t seen it – SPOILER ALERT – the USA women’s team beat Canada in a shootout. I don’t love the idea of settling a Gold Medal with a shootout, but it is what it is.

Most of the key players for each team already had their customs, but I wanted to go back and fill in a couple of more…

Dani Cameranesi was the USA’s leading scorer, scoring three goals and two assists in five games.

She also scored two goals in the semi-final win over Finland which put them into the Gold Medal game.

Maddie Rooney was the goaltender for the Gold Medal game, shut out the Finns in the semi-final, and carried a 1.16 GPA in the Olympics.

Meghan Agosta had two goals, three assists and a plus/minus of 7.

This had been Agosta’s fourth Olympics, having won Gold in 2006, 2010 and 2014.

Melodie Daoust was Canada’s leading scorer with three goals and four assists. Like Agosta, she also had a plus/minus of 7.

She also has one of my favorite names in the Olympics… “DA-OOOOOOO!”

So that’s it for Olympic Hockey, but that’s not it for the Olympics… I’m going to have one more batch of Olympic Curling custom cards coming… but first, I’m going to be back tomorrow with some baseball customs… Remember baseball? Baseball is coming.


Because I’m a sucker for flattery, I have created and added two more customs for USA players Gigi Marvin and Amanda Pelkey. Enjoy!

Another Batch Of Olympic Custom Cards (Curling & Hockey)

I’m enjoying the Olympics, but I’ve got to admit it’s too much, too quickly.  I was doing an OK job of keeping up with the mixed doubles curling that more-or-less opened the Olympics for me, but once it got into men’s and women’s curling and men’s and women’s hockey and watching some figure skating with Mrs. S… It feels like I can’t keep up no matter how I try.

It almost seems like they should divide it up somehow… Maybe do the “Men’s Olympics” and the “Women’s Olympics” at separate times.

I have to admit, mixed doubles grew on me this time around.  During previous exposure to it, I felt like it was just a weird spinoff sport, but I think I gained an appreciation for the speed and excitement it brings… not better, not worse, but different.

As an American I was, of course, rooting for the Hamiltons, but once they fell out of contention I was pulling for the Canadian team of Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris.  I’d gained an appreciation for Lawes four years ago when she was part of the Gold-winning women’s team in Sochi, and I was happy to see them win (even if I didn’t get a chance to watch them win…)

In their game against the USA, the Swiss Mixed Doubles team won in the final end by scoring six…  And I will point out that in Mixed Doubles each team only throws six rocks to begin with, so this is an Olympic record which literally cannot be broken.

That seemed to be the way it went with the Hamiltons… Good play overall which got undone by bad ends.

The Swiss pair of Jenny Perret and Martin Rios won the Silver medal.  The US team had too many moments like the last end against the Swiss, and finished 7th overall.

I hadn’t really seen the Russian mixed doubles team, but two of my friends were telling me about how much they enjoyed their matches… and then I found out that a lot of men enjoyed watching the Russians… specifically because of Anastasia Bryzgalova.

The women’s competition, as I write this, is somewhat upside down.  At one point the Canadian women were a shocking 0-3 (and took out their frustrations by beating Nina Roth’s USA team 11-3 in 7 ends), while Japan was 3-0 and Korea and China were also near the top.

Over on the men’s side, Sweden is rolling along at 6-0, while the Canadian and Swiss teams aren’t far behind.

Next week – and possibly during the week – I’ll have more curling customs.

Quick mini-rant here… I have to say that many of the Olympic websites suck, at least for hockey and curling.  They give you high-level information and background pieces on individual players, but if you want to find out any details or statistics… well, why would you want to do that?  Thank goodness for the websites of the World Curling Federation and the International Ice Hockey Federation.

End of mini-rant

In men’s hockey, the qualification playoffs start on Tuesday with the USA taking on Slovakia with the winner taking on the Czech Republic 24 hours later.  I guess this is why you want to finish in the top four and get a bye…

Over in women’s hockey, the playoffs start late tonight with the US taking on Finland and Canada matching up against the Olympic Athletes From Russia.  The OAR team lost all three games in the preliminary round and were outscored 15 goals to 1, but came alive in the quarter-finals and beat previously-undefeated Switzerland 6-2.

Brianna Decker is in her second Olympics (she had an assist in the preliminary round) and in 2012 won the Kazmaier Award given to the top collegiate player in the US.

It’s interesting… All of the photos I used came from “media day” photo sessions. All of the Americans smiled, but many of the Canadians, like Ann-Renee Desbiens, had their game faces going.

Desbiens has played only in the opening game of the preliminary round, but shutout the OAR team 5-0.

Kacey Bellamy is another player in her third Olympics;  she’s also played in eight world championships.  She scored a goal in the preliminary round;  somewhat unusual since she plays defense.

One thing I’ve found interesting about following the women’s competition is how many of the players – not just Americans – played NCAA hockey.  Natalie Spooner is from the Greater Toronto Area but set school records while playing for Ohio State.

Since some readers have been asking me… I haven’t decided how far I’m going to go with these hockey customs.  I believe the “set” currently stands at 16, and I’ve shared all of the ones I’ve made to this point.  I could be done, but if a player has a particularly noteworthy playoff or if someone nicely asks me to make one for a player I haven’t done yet, I can be persuaded to crank out a couple more.

There *will* be more curling customs;  hockey was a side-trip that ended up being more than I’d intended (because I was so happy with the way they turned out).

Olympic Women’s Hockey Customs: Bloodlines

Last weekend I did a post featuring a number of Olympic custom cards, largely of the USA and Canada women’s hockey teams. In researching the post and the growing set of customs I’m making, it struck me how many of these players come from hockey families.

…Not that I’m encouraging anyone to watch women’s hockey solely because former Capital Bill Mikkelson’s daughter plays for Team Canada;  nevertheless, the stories add a bit of interest (and give me an excuse to feature more customs).

Canadian forward Sarah Nurse is a cousin to Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse, and another cousin is Kia Nurse, who plays for the UConn Huskies… And to add one more I found out about while watching the game this morning, her uncle is former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb.

Nurse just turned 23 and is in her first Olympics, but has experience in high-pressure situations;  in all four of her years at the U. of Wisconsin she played in the NCAA Frozen Four.

Amanda Kessel is the highest-paid player in the National Women’s Hockey League, was on the team which won Silver in the 2014 Sochi Olympics and has two hockey-playing brothers.  Her brother Phil is a right winger with the Penguins, and her brother Blake was drafted by the Islanders and is currently playing in Europe.

In 2013 Kessel won the Patty Kazmaier Award given to the top player in NCAA women’s hockey.  That year she was on a U. of Minnesota team which went 41-0-0 and, of course, won the NCAA championship.  I’ll have more about that 2013 Minnesota team in a minute.

Laura Stacey is the great granddaughter of Hockey HOFer “King” Clancy, who has been named one of the 100 greatest hockey players of all time.

Stacey is in her first Olympics, but was on Team Canada for the 2017 Women’s World Championship.

There are at least two pairs of sisters who are playing in the Olympics. Most obvious of those two pairs are twins Monique Lamoureux-Morando…

…and Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, both of whom have played for Team USA for a number of years and are in their third Olympic games.

The thought of putting the two of them together on a custom hockey card made me think of Ed & John O’Brien who shared a 1954 Topps baseball card, so I attempted to do something along those lines;  their two hyphenated names take up a lot more space than “Ed & John O’Brien”

My favorite sister story involves Hannah and Marissa Brandt.  Marissa was born in South Korea and was adopted by American parents when she was 4 months old.  Hannah was born after Marissa was adopted, and the two of them grew up together and played hockey together.

Hannah made Team USA;  She was a teammate of Amanda Kessel on that 2013 Minnesota team, which also included several other women playing in PyeongChang:  Canada’s Marie-Philip Poulin (who got a custom in the last post) and Finland’s Mira Jalosuo and Noora Raty.

Marissa played Division III hockey and thought her competitive hockey days were over once she graduated;  until people with the South Korean team found out about Marissa and recruited her to join them.

Marissa is playing under her birth name, Park Yoon Jung, but I’ve noticed that the NBC announcers covering the Switzerland – Korea game referred to her as Marissa Brandt.

Switching To Olympic Mode: Hockey (Not What You Expect) And Curling

Even though the Opening Ceremony for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games is on Friday, the Curling competition starts Thursday morning at 9am… that’s Korean time;  On the Eastern Time Zone, that’s 7pm Wednesday night.  The Olympics are almost here!

Along with Curling, I enjoy watching Olympic Hockey… The international competition is fun, and I prefer the way the game is played on the wider international rink.

…But this time around, many of the world’s best hockey players – and pretty much all of North America’s best hockey players – will be playing in the NHL rather than skating in PyeongChang.

I get the impression that a Gold Medal for the USA would be “Miracle On Ice 2: Electric Boogaloo”. I don’t recognize any names on the Canadian roster, but then again I don’t really follow the NHL anymore.

So what’s a hockey fan to do?

Maybe Hilary Knight has a suggestion…

I’m thinking that Women’s Ice Hockey should be interesting. In Sochi, the Canadian team beat the US team in OT in the gold medal game; this is after the US was leading 2-0 in the third. In addition, all of the Gold Medals in the 18-year history of the Women’s World Championships have gone to either the US or Canada, with the US winning 8 of the past 10 but Canada having a 10-8 overall record in those games.

Hilary Knight is one of the key players for the US Women, and one of several on the team who is playing their 3rd Olympic games. She was also in the 2014 Topps Olympic and Paralympic Hopefuls set…

There are no Olympic Hockey players represented in the 2018 set… Not that I would know first-hand because I’ve yet to see so much as a pack anywhere in Shlabotsylvania.

Getting back to that 2014 Gold Medal game… The game-tying and game-winning goals were both scored by Marie-Philip Poulin, who’s the captain of the Canadian team.

Poulin has scored 8 goals and 12 points over the course of 10 Olympic games. She was also a star player for Boston University.

Meghan Duggan is the captain of the US team. Like Hilary Knight, she’s appeared in two prior Olympics, winning Silver both times.

She won three NCAA championships with the University of Wisconsin and was named the country’s best collegiate women’s hockey player in 2011.

If you don’t think that Meaghan Mikkelson lives and breathes hockey, her son’s name is Calder. He was named through nominations and voting on Twitter, but her great uncle, Jimmy McFadden, won the Calder Trophy in 1950, and her father, Bill Mikkelson was on an AHL team which won the Calder Cup.

Meaghan won two Olympic Gold Medals, two NCAA titles with the Wisconsin Badgers, and was, along with Olympic teammate Natalie Spooner, a runner-up in season 2 of “The Amazing Race Canada”. I had no idea there was a Canadian version, but then again I’ve never watched “The Amazing Race” (or much of any reality TV).

Before I get away from the family connections… Her brother Brendan played for the Ducks, Flames and Lightning, and her dad, Bill Mikkelson, played in the NHL for the Kings, Islanders and Capitals.

This is far from the only family connections involved with the USA and Canada Women’s Hockey teams… I’ll touch on some more another time.

I had fun creating these customs based on the 1968-69 Topps & O-Pee-Chee Hockey sets, and I made a bunch more of them. You’ll be seeing more at some point… hopefully you’ll regard that as a good thing.

Before I get away from the Olympics entirely, I’ll remind you that I’ve also been working on a Curling set based on the 1975 Topps baseball design. I’m essentially burning off this next card which falls under the category of “This is why Olympic cards aren’t a ‘thing'”.

I made this custom in November as I was under the impression that Team Sidorova would be representing Russia in Pyeongchang. Well, not only has Russia been banned (and replaced by “Olympic Athletes From Russia”), but I just found out this morning that Team Sidorova lost the non-Russian trials at the end of December and Victoria Moiseeva’s team will pseudo-represent Russia starting this week.

But don’t fret…the Norwegians ARE coming, and they’re bringing their pants!