My Own Winter Classic: Hockey Cards Featuring Extinct 1970’s Teams

The NHL is playing a game outside today… a game between the New York Rangers and the Buffalo Sabres at Citi Field, where the temperature isn’t supposed to get out of the teens.  At least they don’t have to worry about the hardness of the ice…

It’s been over a dozen years since the NHL fatally pissed me off, so I’ll probably watch some of the game, but only some.  I know it would never work this way, but I sometimes wish they’d take advantage of all the extra space they have in a stadium and install an international-sized rink, one which is 4 meters (just over 13 feet) wider than a standard NHL rink. I’ve come to realize that I enjoy the game more on a wider rink, so you can be sure I’ll be watching some Olympic hockey in just over a month.

Anyway, it’s only a little warmer where I am, so I’m more likely to spend part of my day trying to organize my cards, including my hockey cards.

I recently got a small batch of hockey cards from COMC, and about half of them feature teams which existed in the 1970’s when I was a kid, but are now long gone.  Those cards are being featured today.

I love the 1979-80 Topps/O-Pee-Chee set, but the insanely-priced Gretzky rookie prevents me from making its completion a goal… However I couldn’t resist an O-Pee-Chee card from the set which features Ron Plumb in a WHA San Diego Mariners uniform.

How old was this photo at the time?  Plumb played for the Mariners in the 1974-75 season, then played 3 seasons for the Cincinnati Stingers, and this card was meant to represent his final of three seasons with the Whalers (New England and Hartford).  The Mariners’ folded just before training camp for the 1977-78 season.

Here’s another 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee card which features an old photo… Rick Hampton is pictured with the Cleveland Barons.

For those who need a refresher, the Barons started out as the California Golden Seals, moved to Cleveland for the 1976-77 season and lasted just two seasons before merging with the also-struggling Minnesota North Stars.

One of my moderate collecting goals is to collect the now-gone NHL teams of my initial hockey collecting years: The Barons, the Kansas City Scouts and the Colorado Rockies.  The Seals kinda sorta fall into the same category, even though they were gone before I started to follow hockey.

For 43 cents, I couldn’t resist this 1974-75 OPC card.  How’s this for novel:  Stan Weir actually played for the Seals during that 1974-75 season!  He would, however, be traded to Toronto after the season…

A couple of months ago there was a post over at Shoebox Legends about a very nice autographed O-Pee-Chee Lanny McDonald card he’d acquired.   The stats on the back of the card listed McDonald’s two seasons with the NHL’s Colorado Rockies, and if you look at the comments, you’ll see that I say something about going to COMC to buy cards of Lanny with the Rockies.  Here’s the first:

This is a 1980-81 Topps card; this set had a scratch-off “Guess the player’s name” gimmick which I thought was ridiculous as a kid and even more so now. Fortunately, scratched-off cards are cheaper and I would just as soon have them scratched-off.  The same year’s O-Pee-Chee set didn’t have the scratch-off, but also didn’t change the light grey print used for the player’s name.

This second card is from another gimmick-y Topps hockey set: in 1981-82, Topps had “East” and “West” packs… The “East” Packs had cards from a 66-card national set plus another 66 cards from an “East” set. In the Western part of the US, their packs had the 66 National cards (which I suppose can be considered to be double-printed) and 66 West cards.  I bought a bunch of packs when I lived on Long Island, so I’ve got most of the National and East cards, but this card – #82W – is my very first card from that “West” subset-of-sorts.

If you do the math, the “master set” of 1981-82 Topps Hockey stands at 198 cards.  The 1981-82 O-Pee-Chee set had 396 cards.

As mentioned before, sometimes other people’s blogs will inspire me to buy a card… but sometimes it’s something I write that results in inspiring myself. A while ago I wrote a “Forgotten Franchises” post about the WHA’s Toronto Toros, and I became intrigued by Paul Henderson, who was a Canadian national hero for his play in the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union.

The Toronto Toros would move to Alabama to become the Birmingham Bulls; that’s the team that this card shows.

No such backstory for this card of Jim Park of the Indianapolis Racers… Just a desire to own a card of someone in a Racers uniform.

I probably should’ve saved this card for a “Forgotten Franchises” post on the Racers… and come to think of it, I’m overdue for another post in that series so consider this a teaser for that upcoming post (which I haven’t started, so there’s no telling when it will see the light of day).


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!

Buying Some Time With Recent COMC Purchases

I’m working on a post that’s taking a fair amount of research (hopefully you’ll find it interesting when it hits the blog in a couple of days) so to buy myself some time I’ve got a quickie post involving a number of cards I bought on COMC over the spring and summer and got shipped this past July.

The most significant card I got was this Ozzie Smith rookie card, which I suppose counts as a White Whale because I’ve been on the hunt for a copy which fits in my budget.

This one is off-center and dinged in the corners, but it works for my collection.

I stumbled on this card of HOFer Brad Park with the Detroit Red Wings, which was such an odd concept to me that I had to pull the trigger.

Park finished his career with 2 seasons in Detroit, hardly one of Dime Box Nick’s “Short Term Stops”, which makes me wonder why I don’t remember it.

Niner!  Jeff Conine is one of my favorite all-time Orioles, plus I like MLB Showdown cards, so this next card was a no-brainer.

Conine is known as “Mr. Marlin”, so it was puzzling and disappointing when the Jeter-fronted Marlins got the outgoing regime to fire Conine and some other household-name-y front office guys, and then offered them new jobs with lower responsibility and lower pay. The fact that the new Marlins ownership paid a king’s ransom for the team and have to be cheap with everything else reminds me of pictures I’ve seen of rundown shacks with a BMW parked outside.

I had been pleased to pick up this early Adam Jones card showing him with the Mariners, but then found that I already had it. D’OH!

I enjoy hockey, but these days I’d just as soon watch NCAA as NHL. I was impressed by one game I saw of Jack Eichel when he played for Boston U., so he’s become a player I kinda sorta collect…. plus I just like this card.

Like me, the Nashville Predators’ Anthony Bitetto is from Long Island, so I continued my love/hate relationship with things Lawnguyland by picking up one of Bitetto’s few cards.

Upper Deck Compendium seems to be some sort of all-encompassing 900-card set along the lines of Topps Total, so for that I commend Compendium.

Other Long Islanders currently in the NHL include the Blue Jackets’ Sonny Milano, the Bruins’ Charlie McAvoy and the Devils’ Kyle Palmieri and Keith Kinkaid.  If I didn’t already have far too many goals, I might consider collecting hockey players from LI.

I’ll wrap things up with a 1972 Joe Hague, which filled a 5th Series need in my meandering quest to accumulate 1972 cards and see where I end up.

Hey, Kids! Collect U-KNOW-M Stamps — Now In TSR Fun Packs!

That’s right, you get four fun stamps in every pack…

…Featuring your favorite athletes, musicians, actors, historical figures, Nobel Prize-winning economists, game show hosts, cartoon characters, authors, theoretical physicists, sportscasters, members of Congress, mascots and celebrities who are famous for being famous!

You know you’ll like ‘em… because U-KNOW-M!

Here’s your first sheet… Make sure you go to your local VIRT-U-L-MART to pick up the official stamp album!

I fell asleep watching Game 1 of the ALCS on Friday night, woke up for the 9th inning, and ended up watching a fair amount of what followed on  FS1, the Pearl Jam concert film “Let’s Play Two”. I have to admit that even though I’m largely indifferent to Pearl Jam (their music just doesn’t speak to me) it was an interesting film. At the beginning there were shots of the band hanging backstage and I wondered “Who’s this guy hanging with the band, the one with short-cropped hair and glasses looking like Bob Saget’s younger brother?” As it turns out, Saget The Younger turned out to be Stone Gossard, rhythm guitarist for Pearl Jam. This amused me enough that I created a stamp for him.

For those who missed the debacle, the USMNT (U.S. Mutant Ninja Turtles Men’s National Team) were eliminated from World Cup qualification, bringing shame and disgrace on our country for generations to come. I haven’t seen the USMNT lately… and apparently won’t for quite a while… but Christian Pulisic sounds like he’s the future of soccer in the United States. Just the fact that he’s a 19-year-old playing in the German Budesliga impresses the hell out of me.  Maybe things would’ve gone better for the USMNT if the Mutant Ninja Turtles had been sent out to play against Trinidad And Tobago… or at least if Splinter had been the head coach.

I was amused by a t-shirt I saw, one which featured Cookie Monster and says “Straight Outta Cookies”. I like the shirt, but given Cookie Monster’s speech patterns, wouldn’t he say “Straight outta cookie”? …or maybe I’m just overthinking this.

Hagar Ben Ari is the bass player in the house band on The Late Late Show With James Corden. She’s often seen in the background and has this cool vibe about her, but I’d never seen her do anything but play bass and react to things on the show. I’ve been intrigued by her for a while, even more so when Googling turned up only her name, the fact that she’s Israeli and…. um….. she plays the bass.

Hopefully you enjoyed these… let’s see what else is in this particular Fun Pack!

While I have no love for the Washington Nationals, they recently did something I whole-heartedly approve of… They installed a full-blown organ for their organist Matthew Van Hoose (who previously had been using a keyboard).

I grew up listening to Jane Jarvis playing the organ at Shea Stadium, so I feel like a good organist should be part of a baseball game.  It’s been a few years since I’ve been to Nationals Park, but when I return to watch the Mets take on the Nats, I’ll make sure to appreciate Dr. Van Hoose.  I have a feeling, however, that he won’t be playing “Meet The Mets”.

When Nathan Walker took the ice recently, he became the first Australian player in the NHL. I thought that was really cool, and it almost made me want to root for the Capitals again. Almost. You know the rules… I won’t have any thoughts of reconciliation with the Capitals until Ovechkin’s gone.

The absolute best thing about this story is that Walker was congratulated by the Australian ambassador to the United States, a gentleman by the name of – and I am completely serious about this – Joe Hockey. My sources tell me that Mr. Hockey does not spend his winter skating on a frozen-over birdbath, thinking things like “Here’s Joe Hockey at the Stanley Cup Finals…”

If you hadn’t heard, the NBA is allowing teams to wear an advertising patch on their uniforms starting this year. What you may not have known is that the Indiana Pacers will be sponsored by 1994 Fleer Baseball.

The Angels’ Parker Bridwell went 10-3, 3.64 with a 1.198 WHIP. He also went at least 6 innings in 13 of his starts. The Orioles really could’ve used a guy like that in their rotation….

What’s that?

The Orioles had Parker Bridwell and DFA’ed him in April?


1976 SSPC: Bill Gogolewski, Bob Stinson And Billy Smith

Bill Gogolewski is from Oshkosh, WI (b’gosh!) and pitched 19 games of relief in 1975 to finish his pitching career.  Before that, he pitched six seasons, mainly for the Senators/Rangers, and lists his main accomplishment as a 1-hitter he pitched against Nolan Ryan and the Angels in 1972.  This SSPC card was his final baseball card, and I just like the shot of him doing a fake pitching pose with all those people behind him.

Gogolewski’s grooming habits are unusual for the mid 1970’s….  Short hair?  Clean shaven?  If it weren’t for the powder blue Chisox unis, you’d be hard-pressed to identify this as a 1970’s photo.  I think the player wearing #22 behind him might be Buddy Bradford, but Jerry Hairston Sr. also wore #22 during part of 1975.  Any input from someone more familiar with either/both of those players?

Bob Stinson was a backup catcher for the Royals in 1975 and 1976.  Although I would never advocate the chaw in his cheek, I like the 1970’s of it… and by the way, you can tell from the twin light towers, the blurry parking lot light pole and outfield dimensions  just about his shoulders that this is, in fact, Shea Stadium.

Bob Stinson’s first three baseball cards – all “Rookie Stars” cards – showed him with three different teams, the Dodgers, Cardinals and Astros, and he had short stints with all three teams.  It wasn’t until he was with the Expos in 1973 that he exceeded 100 plate appearances, and he didn’t become a starter until he was an original Seattle Mariner.

“Billy Smith” makes me think of the New York Islanders goalie of the 1970’s and 1980’s.  This Billy Smith started with the Angels – this is his only card with that team – and became a regular for the 1977 Orioles.

He’d play two more seasons for the O’s, play in the minors and then made a brief appearance with the Giants in 1981.

Here’s the Billy Smith I’m more familiar with… This is a recent dimebox acquisition from 1983-84 O-Pee-Chee Hockey:

All three of these SSPC cards were photographed at Shea.  (The OPC Hockey card was not.)
Shea: 78
Pretty sure it’s Shea: 13
Can’t tell: 20
Not Shea: 9

1970’s Census: Keeping track of all the instances of 1970’s trends
Total Cards: 119
1970’s Sideburns: 69
Fu Manchu: 4
Mustache other than Fu Manchu: 38
Afro: 2
Perm: 2
Aviators: 8
Long Hair: 30

Top 10 Cards From A Cheap 1990/91 Topps Hockey Factory Set

There was one of those “Any single item $1” tables at the show I went to in July, but it wasn’t until after I’d grabbed a couple of small oddball sets and Topps retail team sets that I saw a set of plastic shelves where anything was $3, and one of the items was this:

Yes, a 396-card 1990/91 Topps Hockey factory set for $3. As a friend of mine likes to say, “You can’t go wrong!”

Just a quick aside… How much of a cardboard nerd am I that I love the way an unsorted box of pre-glossy Topps cards looks?

I can honestly say that I’d never in my life considered getting the entire 1990 Hockey set – before I bought the set I had just 34 of these cards – but buying this set was a no-brainer. I would’ve easily spent $3 acquiring the cards I’d wanted from 1990/91 Topps Hockey, and now I have the entire set…

…Not that I know what I’m going to do with it. I have given some thought towards making this the basis of a 396-card hockey FrankenSet, but we’ll see…

While thumbing through the set for the first time, I kept my favorite cards separate, knowing I’d be doing a “Top 10” post at some point… and here they are in no particular order:

Team cards are well-represented in my Top 10, as this subset has a number of cool action shots.

I just like the “stink eye” that Russ Courtnall seems to be giving someone.

I realize that HOFer Guy Lafleur spent two years with Quebec, but he just looks WEIRD in that uniform.

Even though Lafleur spent a year with the Rangers, that’s less odd to me because I remember watching him on TV with the Blueshirts. Nordiques? Tres bizarre.

I think this card is my favorite from the set, just because of angle of the shot.

There were also a few “honorable mention cards I wanted to include…

“Could I BE any more like Matthew Perry???”

There’s a three-card Wayne Gretzky tribute in this set, and if the photo had been better this card would’ve made it to the Top 10… but there’s no resisting a card of The Great One with the WHA’s Indianapolis Racers!

CuJo Rookie!

My general take on the set is that it’s far from classic. The design is OK but nothing great, and far too many of the photos were taken during warmups or while waiting for a face-off. By getting the factory set, I miss out on the “Team Scoring Leaders” inserts, but I can track down the one or two cards I want easily enough. All in all, it’s junk wax… but it was $3! And you can’t go wrong!