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!

Spanning The Globe…

Between my July card show and my July COMC order, I got cards from a number of different countries… but it’s not like I was looking to replicate the Wide World Of Sports in a binder, it just worked out that way.  I’ve got a couple today, and a few more for a future post or two.

The first card is one I saw lying on top of one of the dime boxes I was going through.

When I saw it, I said “…The heck is that?”, which was quickly followed by “DON’T CARE;  WANT IT!“, and it went into my stack.

I didn’t know what I had until I got home and did some research.  This is a 1978 Scanlens Victorian Football League card featuring Mervyn Keane of the Richmond Tigers.  The “football” in question is Australian Rules Football.  I’m not going to go into detail into the sport because I know almost nothing about it and will get something wrong if I try to research it on the fly.

Here’s the back of Mervyn’s card:

Scanlens was (or is) an Australian card company which operated under a license from Topps.  Some of the other Scanlens sets used card designs which were similar to Topps designs of various years and sports.  This particular set had 156 cards plus 12 checklists.

Speaking of football… but a different kind of football… Let’s go half a world a way over to England, and check out this 1975-76 Topps English Footballer card.

I don’t know if they use the term “journeyman” in the UK, but Bob Hatton fits the description.  From 1964 to 1983 he played for nine different teams, but he put the most time in with Birmingham City (as pictured here).

Here’s the back of the card:

The curse of the Anglophile who’s learned most of what he knows about England through TV — I see “Bolton” mentioned on this card and my brain immediately goes into Monty Python’s Dead Parrot sketch. “It’s not a bloody palindrome! A palindrome of ‘Bolton’ would be ‘Notlob’! It don’t work!”

Moving on to hockey… All I knew about this last card when I bought it was that COMC listed the set as “1995 Semic Globe”.  Beyond that, not a clue… other than it featured former Capital Michal Pivonka.

Turns out that Semic is a Swedish publishing company and this card set was to commemorate the 1995 World Championship, which was held in Stockholm that year.  According to Beckett, the “VM ’95” is the logo of the championship (presumably a Swedish language abbreviation, and a pretty boring logo if that’s true).  Beckett also says that “it’s believed that there are fewer than 2,000 of these cards in circulation”.  If that’s true then I have a relatively rare card here.

Here’s the back.  “TJECKIEN” is Swedish for “Czech”.

According to the checklist (which lists the set as “1995 Swedish Globe World Championship”), there are a number of other players in the set I wouldn’t mind having, so hopefully Beckett is wrong about the print run on these.

Forgotten Franchises: The WHA’s Birmingham Bulls

This is Part 2 to follow my prior “Forgotten Franchises” post. That post covered the Ottawa Nationals and Toronto Toros, the first and second stops of the franchise whose third stop was in Birmingham Alabama. Because the team went from the Toros to the Birmingham Bulls, they were able to keep the same logo.

The Bulls played three years in the WHA, never had a winning record and only made the playoffs once, but were nevertheless pretty successful in bringing hockey to Alabama. The team was not included in the WHA’s merger with the NHL and the franchise shifted to the minor league Central Hockey League.

There are two primary stories when it comes to the Bulls. The first is that, to appeal to the Alabama fans, many of whom didn’t know the finer points of hockey, the team went with a strategy very much in the vein of the movie “Slap Shot”.  Indeed, the Paul Newman character (Reggie Dunlop) was based at least in part on Bulls coach John Brophy.  Bulls player Dave Hanson appeared in the movie as one of the Hanson brothers, and was also said to be the inspiration for the Killer Carlson character in the same movie.

…But I’m not going to focus on that storyline.

The part of the Bulls story that I find most interesting is a youth movement it undertook. At the time, players could not be drafted by the NHL until they were 21 years old, but the WHA had no such restriction. The Bulls made a push to take advantage of this situation.

One of the players that the Bulls made a run at was Wayne Gretzky, but The Great One would sign with the Indianapolis Racers. However, the Bulls did sign a number of players, referred to collectively as the “Baby Bulls”, and had they been able to stay together could’ve been the basis to a very good team. Of course, even if the Bulls had been part of the merger, the terms of the merger stripped most of the WHA team’s players away in a “re-entry draft”, so this is all academic.

All of these players started their professional careers with the Bulls most were rookies in the 1978-79 season.

Craig Hartsburg played for the Bulls as a 19-year-old before going on to play 10 years for the North Stars.

In 77 games with the Bulls, he scored 9 goals with 40 assists.

Gaston Gingras was also 19, and would play for the Canadiens, Maple Leafs and Blues through the 1988/89 season.

In 60 games with the Bulls, he scored 13 goals with 21 assists.

Rob Ramage was a older “Baby Bull”, he was 20 when he made the WHA 1st All Star Team.  He’d go on to play for a number of teams and hoisted the Stanley Cup twice.

In 80 games with the Bulls, he’d score 12 goals with 36 assists.

Rick Vaive played for the Maple Leafs, Sabres, Black Hawks and Canucks through the 1991/92 season.

In 75 games as a 19-year-old Bull, he would lead the WHA with 248 penalty minutes, score 26 goals with 33 assists.

Pat Riggin would play through the 1987-88 season with the Flames, Capitals, Bruins and Penguins. In 1983-84 with the Caps, Riggin would leading the league with a 2.66 Goals Against Average and 4 shutouts.

As a 19-year-old with the Bulls, he had a 3.78 GAA and a shutout.

Hall-Of-Famer Michel Goulet was 18 when he played for the Bulls. He’d go on to play for the Nordiques and Black Hawks.

In 78 games with the Bulls, he’d score 28 goals with 30 assists.

As I was finishing up this post, I realized that this last player actually played for the Bulls the year before the others, in 1977/78.  HOFer and two-time Norris Trophy (Best Defenseman) winner Rod Langway started with the Bulls as a 20-year-old before going on to win a Cup with the Canadians and later play a major role in keeping the struggling Capitals in Washington.

In 52 games with Birmingham, he’d score 3 goals with 18 assists.

Throw these guys on top of the players from the Toronto years – Frank Mahovolich, Paul Henderson and Vaclav Nedomansky – and you’ve got quite an assortment of talent for any team, much less a WHA team.