Custom Sunday: I Love To Say BABIP

Four customs plus a rant today. Who could ask for anything more?

Continuing my series of 2017 MLB Leaders in some of the more obscure statistics, today we have BABIP – Batting Average on Balls In Play. The formula for this, according to is (H – HR)/(AB – K – HR + SF).

I’m not sure how significant of an achievement it is for someone to lead the league in BABIP, but it’s a fun acronym to say so here it is.  Avisail Garcia lead the majors with a .393 BABIP and Charlie Blackmon and Jose Altuve both had a .373 BABIP.

I’m slowly working my way through all of the new managers and making 1963 Post-inspired customs out of them and I think that Red Sox manager Alex Cora is the last of the bunch.

I’m probably going to expand these ’63 Post customs to feature players from press conferences, but I hadn’t finally decided. Giancarlo Stanton, perhaps?

The offseason trade and free-agent market has been fairly slow, but I have to say that the move that has surprised me the most by far was the trade which sent Evan Longoria to the San Francisco Giants.

I hadn’t thought it likely that the Rays would trade someone who’s so closely associated with the team, but it seemed like he was about to reach a point where he’d acquire no-trade rights from having 10 years of experience and 5 with the same team, so it seems to have been a “now or never” moment in Tampa.

I’m going to wrap up with an unusual (for me) football custom, done in the style of the 1964 Philadelphia Gum set. The Steelers are drawing their regular season to a close against the 0-15 Browns, and coach Mike Tomlin will sit some of the regulars, so that’s good news for one of my favorite Steelers, backup QB Landry Jones.

It might seem odd to favor the backup on a team that’s clinched a first-round bye, but that’s the way it is for me and these Steelers. I’ve been a fan of The Black And Gold for 30+ years, and even though this is a winning team, this team over the past couple of years has tried my patience as much as some of those 10-loss teams I’ve seen. The reasons for my frustration are many, but can be summed up by saying that while this is winning football, it’s not what I consider Steelers football.

Public Enemy #1 is Ben Roethlisberger. I admit that I flat-out don’t like him or his style of play. It also drives me nuts that he stays in the game when he’s seriously injured and far less effective, but HEAVENS FORBID that you should have to put Landry Jones in there. Let’s just all jump in front of a bus and save ourselves the misery.

I’ve taken to calling Roethlisberger “The Black Knight”, which sounds good on the surface, but is actually a reference to the character from “Monty Python And The Holy Grail”:

Anyway, the long and short of this is that I’ll be rooting hard for Landry Jones today.


Fast Five: Action Shots From 1975 Topps Football

“Fast Five” is meant to be a quick posting of five cards along some kind of theme with a minimum of writing. I’ll freely admit that, given where I’m at this week, it’s either a few “Fast Five” posts or the blog going dark for a week or two. I hope you’ll agree that “Fast Five” is the preferable option.

Today’s post features some of my favorite action shots from 1975 Topps Football, the only football set I’ve ever completed.

Although this is Greg Pruitt’s card, the Steelers’ “Mean Joe” Greene is the one who catches your eye.

The quarterback that Bill Stanfill is about to staple to the turf is the Bills’ Joe Ferguson.

This photo is probably from the same Dolphins-Bills game as the Bill Stanfill card.  Assuming it’s from 1974 and in Buffalo, then the game was on September 22 and the Dolphins won 24-16…. and that’s Larry Csonka (#39) watching on the sidelines.

Lawrence McCutcheon tries to evade the Redskins’ Chris Hanburger.

This last card has me mildly intrigued…  #25 would seem to be the Colts’ Ray Oldham… but Oldham was a defensive back and Zabel was a linebacker.  So why would they be on the field at the same time?

Guesses:  1)  Special teams?  2)  The photo’s old enough that #25 was somebody other than Oldham  3)  The photo’s old enough that it shows Zabel as a tight end, which he was in his 1970 rookie season (but the Eagles jersey doesn’t seem to match what they were wearing in 1970).

For what it’s worth, the Colts did play in Philly in 1974;  September 29th and the Eagles won 30-10.

Customs, 1972-Style: Arcane Leaders, Canadian Football And… 3-D Hockey?

A little while ago I posted which featured, among other things, a 1970 Kellogg’s Football card. In the comments, Hackenbush speculated on how cool a Kellogg’s Hockey card would’ve been. That got my wheels turning, and since I’ve been getting ready for my Faux-3D “Hot Stove” customs, I figured I’d tease it (plus work out a couple of kinks in my template) by creating a couple of customs featuring current NHL players. Here’s the first:

The NHL and I had a falling out over a dozen years ago – not that the NHL knows the difference – so I don’t currently have a favorite active hockey player, not exactly. The Sabres’ Jack Eichel is someone who caught my eye when I saw him on TV playing for Boston University, and at the moment “I’ve heard of him and have maintained a favorable impression of him” is as close as I get to “he’s my favorite hockey player”.

I wanted to do a second 3-D custom, so I figured I’d make a “Thanks for the idea” custom of one of Hackenbush’s Blackhawks.  As is often the case, the second effort proved to be the better one.

One thing I’ve noticed after doing these two customs is that hockey arenas don’t provide the best “faux-3D” backgrounds. I’ve found that the 3-D effect works best when the background has lines and contrasting colors (as one gets with ballparks). I also should’ve kept the puck (the blur in the lower left) as part of the foreground.

Towards the end of this past season, I had an idea that had been floating around in my head, waiting for the right vehicle.  There were so many strikeouts this year – Aaron Judge had an astronomical 208 and there were over 40K for the Majors as a whole – it would be nice to somehow honor the batters who struck out the fewest times. This idea kinda floated around for a while, until I also had the idea that it might be fun also honor those players who lead the Majors in other less-publicized statistical categories.

Earlier this week I went looking for something to use as a template, looked at various League Leader cards from the 1970’s, and decided on this:

You may recognize that this is not an exact copy of a 1972 Topps Leader Card… First off, I didn’t want to go absolutely nuts and make customs for each league, so instead of “A.L. Leaders” or “N.L. Leaders”, it’s going to be an implied “Major League Leaders”… and because it’s a different type of Leader card than the original 1972 cards, I also changed up the color scheme.

As for the honorees… Based on a minimum of 502 plate appearances, Joe Panik set the pace by striking out just 54 times, “Sideshow Bob” impersonator Yuli Gurriel was in second with 62 K’s and Andrelton Simmons was third with 67. Others who did us proud included Jose Ramirez, Didi Gregorius, Brandon Phillips, Miguel Cabrera, Daniel Murphy and Mookie Betts.

I intend to do more of these “Leader” cards, and I welcome any suggestions for statistical categories… just leave a comment.

After using the 1972 Topps and 1972 Kellogg’s designs for customs, I felt like I should do something else related to 1972 and I thought of the 1972 Topps football template I had worked out a little while ago… But what to do with it? Even though I’ve been a Steelers fan for 30+ years and they’re one of best teams in the AFC, they’re leaving me cold this year, for reasons I don’t fully understand. (Well, other than I really don’t like Roethlisberger, despite his accomplishments). I don’t currently have a favorite Steeler; that title went unclaimed after Heath Miller retired.

…Then I thought about last weekend’s Grey Cup game. The Grey Cup is the Canadian Football League’s championship game, and even though I didn’t watch it or really follow the CFL, I’d heard it was a very exciting game.

That’s when I found out that one of the highlights of the game involved the Toronto Argonauts’ defensive back Cassius Vaughn scoring a 109-yard touchdown on a fumble recovery (Canadian football fields are 110 yards long), and I knew I had my final custom.

I couldn’t get the video of this to embed in this post, but you can check it out on the CFL’s website by going here.


Subverted Homework Assignment: My Top 25 Cardboard “Values”

I’m not talking about values like you’d find in a copy of Beckett, but a different kind of values…

Recently at work we were invited to (read: “expected to attend”) a meeting which gave an overview of a new “financial wellness” benefit we have. To my surprise, the meeting was interesting and gave us some things to think about, along with some homework we could do if we wanted to move forward with the program.

One of these assignments seemed interesting enough for the intended purpose: Write down 25 values you hold and then when you’ve finished, compare those values against how you spend your money.  By making the list 25 deep one has to get past the obvious stuff and give it some thought and consideration, and by comparing it against your spending habits you can get a better feel for whether you put your money where your mouth is, so to speak.

I don’t mean to slight this task, but it occurred to me that it could be fun to apply it to our hobby:  What makes a card something I want and would value?

To make it a little more value-ish and less want list-y, I decided to leave out anything about cards which feature particular players, teams or sets.  I thought listing 25 things would be a challenge, but once I started rolling it got easier.

…And so, more or less in the order they popped into my head:

1 – Cards which feature cameo appearances of teams/players I collect…. This card of Glen Sharpley features Dennis Maruk and his awesome Fu Manchu, but nearly any 1970’s Capital would’ve done the trick.

2 – Goofy poses and/or situations

3 – Original Yankee Stadium;  it’s funny how a lifelong Mets fan can be fascinated by the original home of a team I regard with the utmost of disdain, but I just love seeing The House That Ruth Built in the background… and it doesn’t need to be a baseball card.

4 – Appealing uniforms from before I became a fan

5 – Cars and trucks and trains and planes and spaceships (I would say “machines which move”, except I’m not a boat/ship person for some reason)

6 – The Third Dimension (or a reasonable facsimile thereof)

7 – A colorful “less-is-more” design; Panini designers (who tend to overdo things) should take note that 1975 baseball’s design is classic, but is essentially two slabs of color, a drop-shadow team name and a little baseball icon.

8 – Photography in the artistic sense

9 – A player with a great name

10 – A player with memorable features

11 – Goofy cartoons

12 – Well-done paintings

13 – “International Delight”;  it started with Japanese baseball cards, but now I find myself fascinated with cards from many countries featuring many sports.

14 – What I liked as an 11-year-old;  And if you don’t like this card, then “Up your nose with a rubber hose!  Twice as far with a chocolate bar!”

15 – Cards featuring teams which were brand new at the time

16 – Cards featuring short-lived teams…  especially my beloved Seattle Pilots

17 – Oversized cards

18 – Cards Mrs. Shlabotnik will enjoy; Usually that’s Cal Ripken or Brian Roberts, her two favorite players, but it can also mean cards representing the Beatles, The Monkees or R.E.M.

19 – Cards used for baseball simulation games (even though I rarely use them for their intended gaming purposes)

20 – Players in unfamiliar uniforms (and, in this case, with unfamiliar haircuts)

21 – Vintage cards featuring players who would go on to become the managers of my formative years

22 – Anything involving the sport of Curling

23 – Players I saw as minor leaguers or in college

24 – Teams which existed when I was a kid, but no longer do

25 – 1970’s action shots

I could go on, but I think 25 is more than enough.

…But before I go…

I would like to thank each and every one of you for reading and commenting and generally being my card-collecting buddies — something I didn’t really have between my pre-teen years and my starting this blog. Today is the SIXTH anniversary of The Shlabotnik Report, and I just want you to know I appreciate all of you for making it so much fun. HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, EVERYBODY!

Four Steelers From 1964 Philadelphia Football

In observance of the start of the NFL season, I decided to share four recently-acquired Steelers cards from the 1964 Philadelphia Gum NFL set. I can’t tell you much about the four-year run of Philadelphia as the official trading card of the NFL, other than that I really like the “less is more” design used for each of the four years, and I particularly like the large cartoons on the back of the 1964 cards… so I’m featuring the fronts and the backs of today’s cards.

One thing I find interesting about the cartoons is that even though the drawings are not true caricatures, the “cartoon players” are in Steelers uniforms and wearing the number worn by the featured player.

Lou Michaels was a kicker AND a defensive lineman for the Steelers.  Gotta love that.  CommishBob might not love Lou Michaels because he – Lou, not Bob – missed two field goals in the Colts’ loss to the Jets in Super Bowl III.

Myron Pottios played for the Steelers, Rams & Redskins and was named to three Pro Bowls.

Gary Ballman’s 2949 receiving yards as a Steeler still ranks 17th on the all-time Steeler list (above Dwight Stone, Franco Harris and Antwaan Randle El, among others)

Mike Sandusky was an All-American in both Football and Wrestling.  He played 9 years for the Steelers and made one Pro Bowl.

I”m not really sure what’s going on in this cartoon…  Is that supposed to be a military draft physical? What’s with the woman? Is she a nurse? I feel like I’m missing some sort of cultural shorthand here… or that they changed the trivia question after the cartoonist was done.

A Bunch Of 1970’s, Both Baseball And Football

I’ve not the time, energy nor inspiration to do anything involved today, so I’m just going to share a small number of baseball and football cards from 1970, all of which came from the show I went to in July.

Whether or not I’m working on the 1970 Topps set – perpetually accumulating, never committing – I cannot resist the siren call of the All-Star Rookie Trophy.

FWIW, this card is mis-scanned, not miscut.

Felix Millan was a Met when I was first a baseball fan, and my friends and I would choking up on our Wiffle Bats, imitating the very thing Felix shows us here.

This 7th Series card has been something of a white whale for me

Here’s a front and back view of a 1970 Spider Lockhart.  I never set out to collect Lockhart, but I get his cards whenever I run across them because when I was a kid I thought Spider Lockhart was one of the coolest names in the league.  For any would-be Spider collectors, his non-Topps cards (Philadelphia, Kellogg’s, Sunoco) list him by his given name (Carl).

I’m including this Gary Ross card to bring attention to the cool Padres stirrups, which don’t appear on cards very often.

With the acquisition of this Grant Jackson card, I’ve officially completed Series 1 of 1970 Topps. Yay, me.

Here’s one for my Steelers collection. Ben McGee was a defensive lineman for the Steelers from 1964 to 1972… so he got into two playoff games in 1972. He also returned an interception for a touchdown in 1967.

Wrapping up with a 7th Series Larry Haney. Haney was an original Seattle Pilot in 1969, but was traded to Oakland that June.

I’m sure this has been addressed somewhere, but Haney seems to have suited up for this photo with whatever is available.  He’s got Gene Tenace’s glove, the cap is one they stopped using after 1969 – in 1970 the cap had a yellow bill and “A’s” instead of “A” – and if I’m not mistaken, the sleeveless “OAKLAND” jersey was only worn in 1968, so Haney should never have worn it.  Maybe this is 1970 spring training and the players wore older uniforms.

Big Men On Big Cards: Five From 1970 Topps Super Football

Much like the Red Man Tobacco cards I shared last week, at the show I recently attended I ran across a small stack of five 1970 Topps Super Football cards. For those who aren’t familiar with the baseball and football “Super” cards of the early 1970’s, they’re 3.125″ x 5.25″ and very thick. I’m not a huge football collector, but I love oversized cards and I fell in love with this set a couple of years ago when I got a couple of these in a large box of loose cards I’d bought.

I saw one card from my wantlist – the one I’m leading off with in this post – and asked the dealer how much he wanted for these cards. He said “$1 each” so I handed him a $5 bill and took them all.

I’ve been a Steelers fan since the 1980’s, so the one card from this set that I flagged as a “want” was the lone Steeler in the set, wide receiver Roy Jefferson.  Jefferson had over 1,000 receiving yards in both 1968 and 1969 and was named to three Pro Bowls.

You might think it strange that the Steelers would be represented by only one card, but you should know that the Steelers were a bad team through much of the 1960’s, and in 1970 were coming off of a 1-13 season… so one card is honestly all they deserved. As it is, Roy Jefferson didn’t even play for the Black ‘N Gold in 1970, he was with the Baltimore Colts.

For those who aren’t familiar with these cards, here’s the back of Jefferson’s card.

It’s largely the same as the back of Jefferson’s regular 1970 card, but the aspect ratio is a bit different.

Christian Adolph “Sonny” Jurgensen was a HOF quarterback with the Eagles and Redskins. He lead the league in passing yards five times.

The back of the card says that in 1967 Sonny set NFL records in attempts, completions and yardage.  The season was 14 games back then, so it’s not surprising that these records no longer stand, but how high do you think those seasons rank overall?  Top 10?  Top 50?  Top 100?  How about none of Sonny’s three records being in the top 200 now.  This is why I have little patience for “This record will never be broken” or “We’ll never have a 30 game winner again”.  Things change.  Back in the 1980’s I enjoyed the Canadian Football League because it had more passing.  Now I yell at Ben Roethlisberger on my TV telling him to run the freakin’ ball and that he doesn’t have to win the game all by his damn self.


Getting back to Sonny Jurgensen’s card, I liked the cartoon so I include it here.

This next card saw Calvin Hill coming off of a rookie season where he rushed for 942 yards. He was named to four Pro Bowls and also played for the Redskins and Browns.

Calvin Hill went to Yale and was second in the NFL in rushing in 1969.  Before I throw out more numbers I should point out that 1969 the AFL was in its last season as a separate league… I forgot that myself until I started researching some of these players.

Danny Abramowicz had a career year in 1969, leading the league with 73 receptions and getting 1015 receiving yards. He’d never quite match those numbers again, but he had a very good 7 year career.

Remember what I said about “Big Men” in the subject line? That doesn’t really apply to Dick Post, who is 5″9″ and lead the AFL with 873 rushing yards in 1969.  The back of this card describes him as “the most spectacular little man who’s playing regularly in pro football today”.  Um… OK.  I’m 5’8″ and I’m not sure how I’d react to being called a “spectacular little man”.

It *is* interesting that the photographer captured him from a low angle, though.

Dick Post – no, he’s not related to Dick Pole or Lance Johnson – also had a cartoon that I liked.