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.

2018 TSR: Now With Football!

It’s been a long baseball season, and a fairly poopy one on many fronts. The Mets were 15-9 in April and are 10-4 this month, but they stunk in May and absolutely cratered in June. The Orioles… well, the only month where the O’s had a non-awful record was March when they went 1-1. Even on the minor league level, the weather kept me from going to anywhere near as many games as I usually attend, and the teams I did see were not particularly good nor promising.

So maybe it shouldn’t have surprised me when I watched a football game last weekend and actually got into it. I normally pay little attention to football until at least October (and hopefully November if I have a strong rooting interest in the MLB Postseason), but here I was on September 9th enjoying a Steelers/Browns matchup.

Well, maybe “enjoying” isn’t entirely the right word. It was entertaining, but due to rain and other factors, it wasn’t the best-played game you’ll see all year… and it ended in a tie (which, as far as I’m concerned, was a victory for the Browns).

But it inspired me to make some football customs, which may or may not end up being a series. This year has been filled with custom sets I started and never took as far as I’d originally intended.

I wanted to pay homage to a vintage football set, and after much deliberating I decided to be “Heritage-y” and observe the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Topps set.

With Le’Veon Bell holding out, Steelers’ running back James Conner got nearly as many carries (32) and yards (144) as he did all of last season, plus he scored two touchdowns and caught five passes.

Conner is a local guy who’s from Erie, PA and went to the University of Pittsburgh. Le’Veon is still sitting at home, so I would guess that Conner’s the guy again against the Chiefs this afternoon.

As for the Browns… Much to my surprise they didn’t suck. I have to admit, I liked seeing excited fans in the stands in Cleveland. I wasn’t sure who to feature on a Browns custom, so I let the availability of images dictate my choice to a large degree and I went with new QB Tyrod Taylor.

The Browns acquired Taylor from the Buffalo Bills for a 3rd round draft pick this past Spring.

OK, that’s it for football this week. I guess we’ll see how inspired I am to make more customs after today’s games… There are probably at least some more coming, if only to justify the time I spent on the 1968 template.

Moving on to baseball… Even though they went on a tear a bit too late for playoff contention (barring an epic collapse by the Yankees or Athletics), I’ve been rooting for the Tampa Bay Rays. They’re 27-13 since the beginning of August, and staff ace Blake Snell has broken out in a big way and deserves some serious Cy Young consideration.

Snell has a 19-5 record and a 2.03 ERA and leads the league in wins and ERA. He’s also third with a 0.982 WHIP.

A note to the Atlanta Braves: It doesn’t matter how many former Orioles and Mets you acquire, I will never root for the Braves.

…OK, well perhaps grudgingly if they’re facing the Yankees, but in that case I will not watch.

MLB announced recently that there wiil be an all-star team touring Japan this fall, and Marlins manager Don Mattingly will be in charge of that touring team.

I’m sure he’s looking for a distraction for what’s going on in Miami these days.

The Orioles recently called up their 2015 1st round draft pick, outfielder DJ Stewart.

After 10 plate appearances, he’s still looking for his first MLB hit.

Just for funsies, I’ll “reprint” the custom I made for him in 2015.

I have to admit, I was uninspired as to who to feature for the Mets, given that all of their best players have already appeared on one of my customs, so I just went with an action shot I like.

Gavin Cecchini is on the Mets 40-man roster but has played sparingly and has not appeared with the Mets this season.

Just to wrap things up with another sport… Congratulations to the Seattle Storm who recently swept the Washington Mystics to win the WNBA championship. Breanna Stewart was named the MVP of the finals.

I only saw a few minute of the final game, but I heard that the WNBA playoffs were very exciting this year. Did anybody watch any of it?

Because I’m An Impulsive Idiot: Four Different Packs Of 2018 Football Cards

Long story short: I’m in a local Dollar Tree store just about once a week, and have had fun buying the repacks they have there. The enjoyable Prestine baseball repacks haven’t been seen in months in my neck of the woods, but I still enjoy the CardsOne Multi-Sport repacks (which had probably been sitting there for a couple of years until I came along).

Last week I cleaned out the last of their repacks.

This week I found the same empty gravity feeders I’d left behind… but I already had a $5 bill in my hand, so I settled for two 2018 football packs as a consolation prize. I’ll be frank, the cards stunned me… and in a good way.

Especially the 2018 Panini Football pack. The first card I pulled out of the pack was this card of the Dallas Cowboys’ Zack Martin

I think it looks a bit better in-hand than in this scan, but the photo shows up really well and I like the very minimalist design: It’ gives you the basic information and then gets the hell out of the way. My one complaint is that the team name is very small and hard to read (but that’s OK because the back has a big honkin’ team logo on it).

For those people who like the O-Pee-Chee-esque “Traded” text lines on their cards, Panini does that in this set.

It’s hard to see in this scan, but above the “P” Panini logo is a little text line which reads “SIGNED BY BILLS ON 3/15/18”.

I had a less positive reaction to the second pack… at first, anyway.  My initial reaction to 2018 Prestige was that it was a typical Panini design with way too much going on, but the more I look at these, the more I like them.

It’s not a bad design, it’s just not *my* type of design.  I don’t think I would buy more of these, not even from the dollar store, but I also won’t trash it. FYI, the text and logos on the card front are done in silver foil.

I will say one nice thing about 2018 Prestige…

These cards have the nicest backs I’ve seen on a Panini card (which isn’t a huge competition, I’ll admit)

It’s got sort of a 2013 Pinnacle thing going for it (that’s good in my book, I like 2013 Pinnacle enough to wish it were licensed).

Before I get off of the Dollar Tree packs, I want to point out that these packs are a dollar each because they are strictly base cards, not an insert to be found. I personally don’t have a problem with that, but I thought I should mention it.

Oh, and I should also mention that Panini has an exclusive license with the NFL, so all of these packs are made by Panini America.

I was so surprised by these two Panini packs that later that night, when I was in Target, I bought a couple of other packs (which were a bit more expensive than a buck each).

One of the packs was for 2018 Classics football, which I’d been seeking out ever since I received a Classics Franco Harris card from CommishBob over at The Five Tool Collector.

I was hoping to pull more cards for my team, the Steelers… but I did pull a very cool card of Dick LeBeau, who used to be the Steelers’ defensive coordinator.

I like these cards because they’re appealingly retro without going overboard. As I’ve mentioned before, Panini has a track record of going too far with their design elements, but they were nice and retrained on these.

The backs of the Classics cards are also pretty good in a throwback-y way

The one thing which threw me off with the backs was what I thought was a cartoon in the lower left. This one shows a unicycle and says “Dick’s secret skills include playing guitar and writing songs”. Another one showed a pizza and said something about the player liking shrimp. What the WHAT? Turns out that they’re not so much cartoons as much as icons representing categories. Once I realized what they were doing I came down from Red Alert and went back to enjoying the cards.

The last pack I bought, 2018 Donruss Football, was sort of an “in for a penny, in for a pound” purchase… I just wanted to see if a Donruss design was better when it’s licensed.

The answer is yes… but not much. The Donruss logo and player name up top is in silver foil, which is hard to read against a dark background (which is why I scanned a light-background card).

I liked this card of the Patriots’ first round pick Sony Michel… more for the photo than anything else.

Looks like Michel is going to make his NFL debut this Sunday.

So that’s the four packs. I may buy more of the 2018 Panini Football from Dollar Tree, and I’m definitely working on wantlists for that set and 2018 Classics… All in all I was fairly well pleased with these packs.