Let’s Face It… Everything Above The Neck Is Kaput!

As I sit down to write this post, there’s a part of me that is saying “Just say you had the flu”.  The truth is that everything around me… work, the Holidays, the weather… has combined to drain me of all energy.  I’ll start the night expecting to watch a little TV and then get things done, and the next thing I know James Corden is in a car singing along with some musical celebrity and I know that the only thing I’m accomplishing is hauling my tired butt off to bed.

…But I haven’t posted yet this week and I don’t want to let it go any further, so I’ll see how many cards I can write about in the 15-20 minutes I can write without being excessively late for work.

“Marvelous Marv” Throneberry is one of those guys who I don’t exactly collect, but I also can’t pass his cards by when I run across one that easily falls within my budget.

I’m not a fan of 1960 Topps, but certain color combinations work much better with the design than others.  This green/yellow combo works quite nicely, and in this case sort of foreshadows the sartorial curveball that Athletics owner Charles O. Finley would throw a few years later.

I remember HOFer Jean Ratelle from those Sunday and Wednesday nights in the 1970’s where the one TV in the house was tuned to the Rangers and if you didn’t like it you could go read a book.

The back of this card is even more interesting because of the cartoon illustrating Ratelle’s offseason occupation…

I wonder how many boys saw this and immediately aspired to be a golf pro when they grew up.

How awesome is Wayne Stephenson’s goalie mask?

The 1977 MLB expansion that added the Mariners and Blue Jays was the first baseball expansion that happened after I was old enough to know what was going on, and the whole process intrigued the heck out of 11-year-old me.  Lately I’ve come to realize that I love oddballs of those two teams from their first few years of existence.

If I were to purchase the Mariners tomorrow – maybe I can finance it by selling off my rookie cards of Kevin Maas and Todd Van Poppel – the first course of action would be to return the M’s to wearing blue and gold full time… and powder blue on the road, thank you very much.

OK, one more and then I need to run.

I got this card over the summer out of a nickel box.  I had no idea who the player was, but I liked the skillful way that the graphic artists “adapted” the 1976 Topps football design.

Jake Roh (and you KNOW that someone has at least tried to call him “Ruh Roh”) played for Boise State and was signed by the Falcons as an undrafted free agent, but he was cut this past June.

OK, I really need to go to work now.  I’ll have some fully-formed ideas next week, I promise!


Custom Sunday: Hooray for Captain Spalding (No, Not Groucho)

Lately, I’ve been focusing many of my customs posts on my tribute to the 1964 Topps “Giants” set – indeed, there’s another one at the end of this post – but I have been making other customs and will spend much of this post catching up on the backlog. I’m also floating the idea of a new custom project… as if I really *need* a new project. Actually, I’ve got one other custom project in my head, but I’m intentionally holding off on that until Spring Training.

Earlier this week I saw singer/songwriter Rufus Wainwright being interviewed on a late night talk show… I think of Rufus as the son of singer/songwriter/actor Loudon Wainwright III;  I’m not exactly a fan of LW3, but I have a couple of his albums.  For whatever reason, that made me think of how I first became aware of LW3 as “Captain Spalding”, a character in three episodes of the third season of M*A*S*H.  That, in turn, got me thinking about a project long in the mental noodling stage but never executed – a custom set devoted to the M*A*S*H TV series.

If there were a way of telling how many lifetime hours I’ve spent watching different TV shows, M*A*S*H would be up there at the top with Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Star Trek.  I watched much of the original run on CBS, and when it hit syndication I would come home from school and watch the reruns.  At my peak I knew pretty much everything there was to be known about the show, from “Ah, Bach!” to Zelmo Zale.

Normally this kind of obsessive behavior would cross over into my obsessive collecting behavior, but there’s been just one card set devoted to M*A*S*H, a disappointing 66-card Donruss set from 1982.  I bought a couple of packs at the time and never went further. This is one of the better cards from that set in my collection.

The set was pretty much what you’d expect from Donruss in the early 1980’s, put together without a whole lot of apparent effort.  Some of the images used were kind of odd outside of the context of the episode they were from, and there was nothing to explain, for example, why B.J. is wearing a white tuxedo in the O.R.  (it was from an episode that explored the dreams/nightmares of the characters).

As with many things of this sort, my reaction was “Pffft, I could do better than this!”  I’d long pondered making a custom set in a late 1970’s / early 1980’s non-sport style, floated a bunch of ideas, but never actually went about creating the first custom.

…Until I was very indirectly inspired by Rufus Wainwright on a late night talk show.

I present to you the first promo card for a M*A*S*H custom set, featuring LW3’s character Captain Calvin Spalding, the “Singing Surgeon”.

I’m given to believe that it’s not a coincidence that Captain Spalding shares a name (if not the exact spelling) with the Groucho Marx character in “Animal Crackers”.

Now I honestly don’t know how far I would go with a custom set like this, but I wanted to float it out there to see what the reaction would be.  If I went further with this, I’d be just as likely to dip into the recurring characters (Sidney Friedman, Colonel Flagg, Nurse Kellye) as much as the stars of the show.

Any input?

Moving on…

When I was a kid, there were three George Blanda cards in 1975 Topps Football;  one for his breaking the career points-scoring record (he’d end up with 2002), and two other cards because they needed two card backs to fit all of his career highlights and stats.  HOFer Blanda played 26(!) seasons in the NFL and was 48 years old during his final season.

So, it caught my attention when, in September, Adam Vinatieri broke Morten Andersen’s record for career field goals (he as 576 as of this morning), and then in October he set the career points record (2570 as of this morning).  “This deserves a custom!” I said…. back in October.  Sorry for the delay, Vinatieri fans, here it is.

In case you’re curious, George Blanda currently ranks 7th on the list of career scoring leaders.

The Diamondbacks made an interesting free agent signing this week; they signed pitcher Merrill Kelly to a two-year MLB contract.

You’re probably like me in saying “Who?”. Kelly was in the Tampa Bay Rays system, but spent the last 4 years pitching for the SK Wyverns in the Korea Baseball Organization and is coming back to the US as a 30-year-old rookie. Kelly’s numbers weren’t outstanding by US standards, but within the very offense-friendly KBO they gave MLB organizations thoughts of the next Miles Mikolas.

Here are two more “Hot Stove” customs… I think you probably know about these transactions already. If you follow me on Twitter (@Shlabotnik_Rpt) then you’ve already seen these.

I’ve also got more customs from my “Fauxback” set.

Baseball America named former Met Jordany Valdespin their 2018 Independent League Player Of The Year.

I’m happy for Valdespin and for the Ducks.  I grew up on Long Island and didn’t see my first minor league game until I was a legal adult.  The Ducks came along a couple of years after I left Long Island in one of those “Don’t that just figure” moments.  I’d love to go to a Ducks game, but on the rare occasion when I go back to Long Island, my time is filled with visiting people (all of whom say I need to come up there more often).

Say what you want about social media, one thing I’ve discovered is that you don’t have to wait until Spring Training to see pictures of big name players in their new uniforms.

It’s funny where going down the rabbit hole can lead… I was making comments on Twitter about how I wasn’t sure about how well Portland, OR would work out as a host city for an MLB expansion team. While I was researching to make sure I wasn’t mis-remembering my main point – that at one point the AAA Portland Beavers were evicted to make room for a Major League Soccer team – I found out that Giovanni Savarese, one of the top players on my all-time favorite soccer team, the mid-1990’s Long Island Rough Riders, is the coach of the Portland Timbers, who were in last night’s MLS Cup game.

So I started out researching Portland as an MLB expansion candidate and ended up with a mild rooting interest in the MLS Cup. Too bad the Timbers lost to Atlanta FC.

Wrapping things up with a “Bonus Card” for my 2018 TSR “Giants” set. Kyle Freeland had a great season with the Rockies, going 17-7 with a 2.85 ERA. I left him out of the “regular” set because most of his success came in the second half of the sason, which under the rules I was playing by would’ve been after the checklist was finalized and the set went into imaginary production.

But that doesn’t mean that I couldn’t create a card anyway…

Well, that’s more than enough customs for one week.

When It Rains, It Snows

It’s funny how things work out… There was a regional card show in October that I wanted to go to, but I couldn’t because I was on-call for work and couldn’t be driving two hours away.

I felt a little bit better about it because I knew I had a shipment coming from COMC. Shortly after I got that, I got a PWE from Shoebox Legends… followed by a padded envelope from The Five Tool Collector… and another PWE from Shoebox Legends… and a PWE from Dime Boxes… So you know you’re going to be seeing a fair amount of these cards in the near future.

A normal person might say “When it rains, it pours” in reference to the Morton Salt slogan… but odd people like me are more likely to quote the title of an obscure, early They Might Be Giants song… because that’s the way I roll.

So anyway, today’s post features cards I got over the summer, because I need time to scan all of these PWE’s and COMC cards I got.

This card caught my attention because you don’t often see cards where a manager has a couple of bats slung over his shoulder.

Then again, Kasko was just a few years removed from his playing days and still in his 30’s. Kasko managed the Sox for four years, and was remarkably consistent, winning 87, 85, 85 and 88 games. His teams finished 3rd, 3rd, 2nd and 2nd.

This 10-year-old relic of the 2018 World Series MVP has a story behind it…

I pulled it from a pack in 2008, when I didn’t really know who Steve Pearce was. A couple of years later I sent it in as part of my first submission to COMC… where it didn’t sell… and didn’t sell… and didn’t sell…

While it was in the COMC inventory not selling, Steve Pearce became an Oriole and I grew to like him… and I decided “Well, if nobody wants to buy this card I may as well take it back”, so I ended up paying to have COMC ship it back to me… but it was well worth the 25 cents.

I’ve been a Steelers fan for about 35 years, and a few years ago I decided on 1972 as a reasonable starting point for my Steelers collection.  1972 was the first year since 1947 that they made the playoffs, and the 1971 set has the very expensive rookie cards of Terry Bradshaw and “Mean” Joe Greene.

…Until I discovered Philadelphia Gum football cards. That’s when my Steelers goals fell apart.  As little as I collect football lately, I’m happy with just aimlessly picking up cards which catch my eye and fit my budget.

Ben McGee played in two Pro Bowls and was a college coach after his career was over.  One other thing I like about Philadelphia Gum cards is that they all came before the Steelers settled on their iconic uniforms.

This Barry Larkin card caught my eye when I was quickly going through a nickel box; it’s a little scuffed and doesn’t fit into my collection in any significant way, so it will eventually go into my “Cool Cards And Oddballs” binder…

…Once I’ve set up a “Cool Cards And Oddballs” binder.

Action Packed is something I’d ignored back in the day – I saw the embossed cards as just an uninteresting gimmick – but I’ve been getting into them over the past year or so.

I still find the embossing fairly annoying, but I’ve gotten past that and focused on the photos and player selection, which is often quite good.

Wrapping up with a cool action shot from 1992 Leaf.

…Just because it’s a cool action shot. The sliding Oriole doesn’t hurt.  This one is either going in my 1992 Frankenset (when I get around to that) or my “Cool Cards” binder (when I get around to that).

As for the title track of this post, the song was originally a ‘b-side’ to “Don’t Let’s Start” and would later end up on compilations like “Miscellaneous T” and “Then:  The Earlier Years”.

My “1964 Topps Giants”-inspired Customs Return With Three Red Sox

Back in May I had been inspired by a SABR Baseball Card Committee Article about the 1964 Topps “Giants” set. I was intrigued by the article’s discussion of whether the 3 cards each team got holds up in hindsight, and I decided to do my own 15-week series trying to re-create the set using 2018 players and picking 3 players per team… something which has it’s challenges on rosters brimming with talent, plus different challenges for those teams which were clearly heading for a long season.

Like anything else I attempt on this blog, things tend to take more time than I intend them to, and I had to abandon the idea after just four posts.  I still enjoyed the general idea and for much of the summer I toyed with the idea of resurrecting it .  It wasn’t until recently that I gained enough time and brainpower to seriously consider going back to it in some abbreviated form.

Having suffered through a long, long, long Orioles season and a roller coaster Mets season, I quickly realized that it wouldn’t make sense to go back and do those teams which had been sellers at the deadlines… The three best Orioles, for example, are now long gone.

“If I were to do this again”, I said to myself, “it would make the most sense to tackle the postseason teams which hadn’t already been done”.  I’d already featured the Astros, Dodgers, Yankees, Braves, and Brewers, so that left the Cubs, Rockies, Athletics, Indians and Red Sox. I decided to dip my toe back in the water with the A.L. East Champions, and see how it goes from there.

Fortunately for me, I had an easy time picking three players from the deep Red Sox roster…

…Starting with the 30-30 player who lead the league in batting and slugging, lead the team in doubles and runs, and is a strong candidate for MVP, MOOKIE BETTS.

I could go on, but there’s just no way that Mookie gets left out.

CHRIS SALE doesn’t have any league-leading 2018 stats and his 12-4 record is hardly the stuff of legends, but his 237 K’s, 2.11 ERA and 0.861 WHIP clearly indicate that he’s the team’s best starter.

We’ll wrap this up with the team’s big addition this past offseason, J.D. MARTINEZ.

Martinez lead the team with 43 homers and 111 runs, plus lead the league with 130 RBI.

Other candidates included closer Craig Kimbrel (42 saves), Andrew Benintendi, All-Star Mitch Moreland, former Cy Young winner Rick Porcello (17 wins), Xander Bogaerts and David Price.

If you have different thoughts on which three players should make up the Red Sox portion of the checklist, go to the comments and tell me I’m an idiot (you won’t be the first, I promise you).

I didn’t want to have a “Custom Sunday” post consist of just these cards, so I’m going to throw in three more unreleated customs.

I don’t like the Dodgers at all, but Dodger wins don’t suck as much when Justin Turner plays a key part in the victory, as he did yesterday when he hit the game-winning home run.

…and I felt like bringing back my 1985 Fleer template.

I recently decided to feature some customs of former MLB players who are now playing in Japan; today we have former Cub Kosuke Fukudome.

After playing with the Indians and White Sox in 2011 and 2012, Fukudome returned to Japan and has played the past six seasons with the Hanshin Tigers.

Wrapping up with another of my 1968 Topps Football customs, which I’m having fun with despite the fact that I’m not a tremendously well-informed NFL fan. You can’t go so far wrong with Drew Brees, anyway.

In my head, any reference to Drew Brees is followed up with Ronnie Van Zant saying “Ooooo, Mr. Breeze!”.

Assorted Cards From A Show To Celebrate A Box Of Cards From COMC

Last night I went to my mailbox and found my latest shipment from COMC.

Unfortunately I didn’t have time to scan any of the cool cards I got.

Fortunately, I still have plenty of cards from my last card show.

Even if I weren’t a Mets fan, I couldn’t pass up this First Pitch card of 50 Cent.

Hard to believe that was 4 years ago.  For those of you who want to relive that moment again, here’s a video.

Speaking of cards capturing unfortunate moments, check out this 1973/74 Topps Hockey card; you just gotta love the New York Ranger shown about to sprawl out on the ice.

In the Stanly Cup Semi-Final series depicted, the Chicago Black Hawks beat the Rangers in 5 games, but would lose the Finals to the Montreal Canadiens in 6 games.

Back 10 years ago, Upper Deck had an insert set that “paid tribute to 1969 O-Pee-Chee baseball”.  UD owns the copyright to “O-Pee-Chee”, and of course, 1969 O-Pee-Chee was based on 1969 Topps.  At the time, I saw images of these cards and said “Dude, that is so lame”.  I never actually held one in my hand until I ran across this card in a nickel box (The card has a major ding in one corner, plus David Wright futures have recently taken a dive)

Much to my surprise, this is a pretty nice card, and the player’s name in silver foil looks better in person than in scans.

The back is pretty unimpressive, though.

I couldn’t walk away from this 2016 Donruss card of the San Diego Chicken.

I’m not even 100% sure that I understand why I’m drawn to The Chicken… I guess I watched a little too much of “The Baseball Bunch” on TV (even though I was in my teens at the time).  I do appreciate that recent Donruss sets have included cards of The Chicken just like they did in the early 1980’s.

I may be drawn to The Chicken, but like any child of the 1970’s, I’m nuts for The Bird.

I never like to play the “Ya had to be there” card, but to appreciate what Mark Fidrych meant to baseball you had to have been around in 1976. The guy was just a national phenomenon in ways that I can’t properly describe.  At any rate, it’s nice to be able to add this 1977 Kellogg’s card to my collection, it’s been missing for too long.

I’m not chasing the 1967 Topps set, nor Oakland A’s nor Alvin Dark, but I grabbed this card just because it so prominently features the white cap that the Athletics manager and coaches wore during the day.

Back then the idea was to point out that “These guys in uniform are coaches, not players”. These days, with so many coaches and managers wearing hoodies and such, we’d almost need something to indicate “These guys are coaches, not random guys out of the stands”. If it’s not apparent enough by now, I don’t like the coaching staff going the hoodie route. I want to be able to distinguish the manager from the pitching coach while sitting in the stands, and the best way for that to happen is for the manager and coaches to have numbers on their backs.


OK, I’m running out of time before I run off to work, so I’ll feature one last card… Let’s see… Hmmmm…

Let’s go with the hockey card of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Ken Schinkel. I got this because it provided such a good shot of a Penguins sweater which I really like, even if it came before my time.

I’m old enough to remember the Penguins before they went Pittsburgh black and gold, but not old enough to remember these unis. These would be cool for a throwback game… And maybe that’s already happened, I may have missed it because I’m no longer on speaking terms with the NHL.

As for Ken Schinkel, he played 12 seasons split evenly between the Rangers and Penguins… he was taken by the Penguins in the 1967 expansion draft.  Schinkel can proudly say that he finished higher in the Calder (rookie of the year) voting than did HOFer Stan Mikita. Of course, Schinkel was 27 years old and Mikita 19, but that’s all academic. The winner of the Calder Trophy was Mikita’s teammate Bill Hay.

Custom Sunday: Moving In Twenty Different Directions

Things are a bit up in the air here in the Custom Card Department of The Shlabotnik Report. I’ve been working on bringing my 2018 TSR set to a satisfying conclusion, getting templates ready for the Hot Stove season, playing around with Football customs and brainstorming ideas for the 2019 design.

The end result is a lot of progress, but not a lot of completed customs. As a result, today’s post is a bit more disjointed than usual.

A little over a week ago I was weirding out about how Ron Santo had batted .267 in three of four seasons towards the end of his career (1970, 1972 and 1973). “What are the odds?”, I wondered.

Well the odds are somewhat less than batting .247 four seasons in a row, like the Athletics’ Khris Davis has done. For some completely unfathomable reason, this didn’t generate a Topps Now card, so I went ahead and did a ShlabotNOW card to fill in the void.

Statistically speaking, it might be more impressive to say that there have been only two seasons in his six major league seasons where he did *not* bat .247… and if he had 2 more hits and one more at bat in 2014, he would’ve batted .247 that season as well.

I mentioned before that I was wrapping up my 2018 TSR custom set. In that light, here is the last of the manager cards, the Mets’ Mickey Callaway.

All 30 teams have been represented in my manager subset, but there were a few managers who were fired before I got to their team (i.e. Bryan Price & Mike Metheny). There are currently five vacancies for manager jobs and interestingly enough they’re all in the American League.

I’ve been sitting on this “Pointless Pairings” idea all seasons, but I only recently finished the custom.

In a different type of pointless pairing, here’s another classically bad “combo card” featuring heavily hyped rookies; in this case it’s Ronald Acuna, along with one of last year’s rookies, Rafael Devers.

Finally, here’s one of those football customs I mentioned, a template I’ve been having fun with lately.  As much as the NFL has become about passing these days, it’s kind of nice to see a running back having success, so I created a custom for the Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott.

Elliott is currently leading the league in rushing yards, and last week he rushed for 152 yards and (yeah, OK, fine) had 88 receiving yards on top of it.

I don’t know if next week’s post will be any more cohesive, but I will say that I’m excited about some of the customs I’ve got coming down the road… I’m counting on the offseason to give me the time to do that.

I’m Trying To Think Of A Catchy New Name For My Sunday Custom Card Posts

For much of the time I’ve been doing this blog, I’ve treated my custom cards as if they came in virtual packs. I have my TSR custom sets which had their wrappers…

I have my “Hot Stove” Kellogg’s-style customs which used to come in a fake cereal box until I ran out of cereal-based jokes.

But lately I’ve been thinking of abandoning that pretense and just sharing a number of customs each Sunday, basically whatever unpublished customs I have on hand on Sunday morning.  I dunno, maybe I’m just burned out on the concept and need to take a break.

So I’m trying to think of something to call these posts… “Capricious Customs” came to mind, but I may just go with “Custom Sunday” or just no name at all… I’m sure you all can figure it out without a theme name.

With that being said, let’s move on to the customs…

All year long I’ve been toying with the idea of creating something to sort of poke fun at the Topps Now concept… A series of cards which would commemorate some sort of play or event which I appreciated, but which didn’t get the “Now” treatment.  I guess I finally got some inspiration on Thursday when watching the Mets and Nationals play, and Mets pitcher Robert Gsellman became the first visiting player to use the Nats’ bullpen cart.

…And yes, I know that the Diamondbacks brought the cart back before the Nats, but I never got around to doing one of that cart. 

I may do more with this “ShlabotNOW…or Later” concept… or maybe save it for next year.

One other quick thing of moderate interest:  Sean Doolittle, who’s depicted on this custom, rides in the cart, but Gsellman rode on the back.

Another new “subset” I’ve been playing with lately also pokes fun at Topps, and features some classically bad combo cards.  Topps has unleashed some bad ones in recent years, so I’ve tried to outdo them in that respect, while featuring TOP ROOKIES OF TODAY!!!!!!

I wonder if Javier Baez would sign a custom like this…

Speaking of hot rookies, I couldn’t resist this photo of Gleyber Torres in front of a Fenway linescore which does not reflect well on the visiting Yankees…

I’m winding down on the Manager customs, only two more to go after this one and then all of the teams will have been represented.

I have to admit, I was a little disappointed when the Phillies faded down the stretch.  I can’t help but wonder if they tinkered with their lineup too much at the deadline, or if they added too many Mets (Asdrubal Cabrera and Jose Bautista) or if they just plain ol’ “ran out of gas”.

At any rate, I dislike the Phillies much less than any other NL East rival of the Mets;  I guess we’ll see what happens with them in 2019.

I’m going to enlist the help of my readers on this next subset… I’d like to do a few customs of players who are currently in Japan and had previously played in MLB.  I couldn’t resist Koji Uehara, but I haven’t taken the time to research who else would be a candidate for this set.  Any nominations?

And I’m going to wrap up with two TSRchives Football customs, featuring the 1968 Topps Football design.

After Week One I featured the Steelers’ James Conner, who had caught my attention while I was watching the Steelers and Browns, but a case could easily be made for me to have featured outside linebacker T.J. Watt, who also had a great game and blocked what would’ve been a game-winning overtime field goal by the Browns.

If I wanted to feature the outstanding Steeler of week 2, I’d feature the future HOF quarterback… but I really don’t like him despite his accomplishments, and I imagine I’ll have an opportunity to feature him later on.

On the other side of the field for Week 2, the Steelers faced the Chiefs and 2nd-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Mahomes threw six touchdown passes in the Chiefs win, but what surprised me was that it had somehow got past me that Patrick Mahomes is the son of former reliever Pat Mahomes.

Pat Mahomes, the pitcher, played 11 seasons in the Majors and made it to the postseason with the Mets in 1999. Patrick, the quarterback, grew up in MLB clubhouses so I would think he isn’t fazed by any top tier opponents.

As for the customs themselves… I’d never really did much in the way of football before, but I’m having fun with these so we’ll see how far this goes.