Pack Animal: Parkside National Women’s Soccer League Premier Edition

A couple of weeks ago I was in a big box retailer and largely out of habit I took a peak in the card aisle. I knew there wouldn’t be any baseball, but I’m not averse to buying hockey or soccer if the product looks interesting.

What I found there were hangers of 2021 National Women’s Soccer League cards by a company called Parkside. I wasn’t familiar with the brand, but I later found out that they’ve produced a few sets of some note, including the Negro League Baseball Museum, Big3 Basketball and the Major Lacrosse League.

Now I am vaguely aware of some goings-on in women’s soccer, but I’m far from a fan. On the other hand, over the past year or so I’ve tried to be better about diverting my spending from global monoliths towards businesses and organizations that can use my support. Much as I recently bought minor league baseball apparel instead of Major League stuff, I also felt like a hanger for a sports league which is something of an underdog was worthy of my $10.

Plus, I just wanted something to open and, of course, write about here.

So let’s crack open this 25 card hanger…

First card – Allysha Chapman of the Houston Dash

A little much going on with the card’s design at the bottom, and that makes it hard to read her first name, but I like the photo. The design looks like it’s supposed to be something, but I’m not getting it just yet.

Card stock is pretty thin, BTW… but on the whole it’s no worse than something like NBA Hoops. I also sat down to write this post and realized I somehow forgot to scan the back of the base card. Visually it’s nothing to write home about, but it does seem to have some sort of QR code on the back… which I haven’t scanned.

Second card – Simone Charley of the Portland Thorns

Another nice action shot.

After skipping a few cards, we come to Sarah Woldmoe of the Chicago Red Stars

This is interesting, almost Studio-esque. Woldmoe is in her first year with Chicago, so this image might have been used because they didn’t have any action shots of her with the Red Stars.

Angelina of the OL Reign

I know single-named Brazilian soccer players are a “thing”… Pelé, Ronaldo, Kaká, even FRED fer cryin’ out loud!  …But I didn’t know women did it. Angelina is in her first year with OL Reign, and OL Reign is a new branding of the former Seattle Reign. According to some quick research, the French club Olympique Lyonnaise became majority owner and change the team name, color and logos to be like that of the “parent” club.

Oooh, Carli Lloyd! First player in this pack I’d heard of before.

Nice card, and I like the Gotham FC club logo. Apparently that’s new this year – the club was previously Sky Blue FC – so I wonder if all of the players for Gotham FC and OL Reign are shown this way because it’s a different type of ‘update’.

Here are a couple of more action shots I liked well enough to scan… First Shea Groom, Dash…

…and also Vanessa DiBernardo, Red Stars

Now we get into the inserts…

First off we have a foilboard parallel of [carefully checks spelling] Gunnhildur Jonsdottir along with the base version (which I happened to get from the same pack)… Not that you can tell much difference in the scan, I suppose.

Jonsdottir played with the Utah Royals last year, but that club ceased operations and all of the players were transferred to a new Kansas City club… but then Jonsdottir was traded to the Orlando Pride… This is the kind of fun stuff you get with an emerging league.

I guess this is a black-and white parallel version.  Debinha goes by just one name, so of course she’s Brazilian.  She also plays for the North Carolina Courage.

I’m not much for parallels, even less for black and white parallels, so this card gets a “Meh” from me

Now this is an insert after my own heart… It’s from an insert set called “Vintage” and they even give the card a well-loved look.  This particular card features Ashley Hatch of the Washington Spirit.

The backs have a faux cardboard texture to them, but the printing is very dark (as you can see).  Some of the aging effects don’t make sense if you think about them too hard… Why is there paper loss *under* the colored stripes?  Why is there a vertical crease like it’s the cover of an old book?  On the whole I decided to stop thinking and just go with it.

Speaking of “very dark”, the next insert is called “Hyped” and is shiny, but the end result is pretty disturbing. The featured player is Ifeoma Onumonu of Gotham FC.

Wrapping things up with Promising Prospects insert of Emina Ekic of Racing Louisville FC. Not a bad looking insert.  It scanned a bit dark, but the background has a red Tron-like grid.

Not bad, on the whole.  If I followed the league at all I would definitely buy more of these.

Do any of you follow the NWSL?  Has anybody else given these cards a try?  What did you think about them?

The Last From My Stash Of Japanese Packs

Back in 2012 I went to The National and I bought a number of packs of Japanese baseball cards.  Since packs of BBM baseball cards are not the kind of things one runs into at Target (or even hobby shops), I decided to spread the wealth around and only open packs on “special occasions” when the time felt right… much like bottles of fine wine.

I didn’t expect to stretch things out over 8 years, but it’s not unusual for me to have so many things going on hobby-wise that I would forget about that box of packs sitting on the table.

I did mention the whole “special occasion” thing, right?  Because today *is* a special occasion… it’s the 9th anniversary of this blog!

As they used to sing on Sesame Street….

NINE!  NINE!  NINE!  NINE! 

LET’S SING A SONG OF NINE! 

HOW MANY IS NINE?

Come to learn your numbers, stay for the slapstick involving nine coconut custard pies!

So this last pack is from 2004 BBM Baseball 2nd Version. BBM puts out two “flagshippy” sets a year, but instead of series they have “versions” with different designs. Here’s a card from 2004 BBM first version, a pack I opened four years ago:

…But that’s 1st Version and this is 2nd Version.  The only thing similar about them is the wrapper… and here’s the 2004 BBM 2nd Version wrapper, front and back:

 

First card is a nice-looking one… Ryosuke Sawai

Sawai played a total of 90 games in NPB and it looks like his NPB career was already over when this card came out.  Sorry, Ryosuke.

Here’s the back of Sawai’s card.

OK, next card… Hiroyuki Kobayashi.  Wikipedia says that he pitched in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

I’m pretty sure that Hiroyuki Kobayashi is not related to the Kobayashi Maru.

…That, I say, that’s a Star Trek joke, son!

Check this next card out… Masa Yamamoto pitched 29 seasons – not a typo, TWENTY-NINE – seasons in NPB and with the Chunichi Dragons.  He was 49 years old during his last season and holds NPB records for the oldest pitcher to start a game, win a game and strike out a batter.

I’m pretty sure that Masa Yamamoto is not related to Space Cruiser Yamamoto.

…That, I say, that’s an Anime joke, son!

It’s also a Star Blazers reference, if you’re of the proper age group and nationality.

Moving on… Tsuyoshi Johbe pitched 6 seasons for the Yomiuri Giants.  I can’t find much more about him than that.

Side note:  It wasn’t until the day after I opened this pack and was scanning the cards that I realized that the green-bordered cards are for Central League teams, and the yellow-bordered ones went with Pacific League teams.

Koichi Ogata played 22 seasons with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp.  Just twenty-two?  What a slacker.  He was an All-Star and won five consecutive Golden Gloves.

It’s Gaijin time!  It took me a minute to remember him (and it didn’t help that his first name is misspelled as “Jarrod” on this card) but Jerrod Riggan pitched 36 games for my New York Mets in 2001, and he also pitched for the Indians.  I’ll blame part of my faulty memory on the fact that I apparently don’t have any of his small number of Mets cards.  I should make an attempt to get Mets cards of some of these guys who weren’t widely represented… but that’s getting off-topic.

Riggan pitched 2 seasons for the Hanshin Tigers, came back stateside and put in another couple of years in the Mets organization before retiring.

Another former Met!  Pete Walker played in 144 games over 8 seasons in the Majors and is currently the pitching coach for the Toronto Blue Jays.  He apparently didn’t adapt to Japan well, or perhaps he was fighting off an injury, because he ended up with a 6.80 ERA over 10 games for the Baystars.

Last card… Atsushi Fujimoto, who played 13 seasons for the Tigers and Swallows and played for Japan in the 2004 Olympics

And that’s the pack! For those of you who enjoy the Japanese cards, that’s going to be it for a while. I would like to get more in the future, but right now I’m putting most acquisitions on hold while I spend some much-needed time organizing my collection.

For those who don’t enjoy the Japanese cards… good news! I don’t have any more to show you!

It’s just as well that I get this 9th anniversary post out of the way… after all you know what happened to 9.

7 8 9!

 

Pack Animal: 2019-20 Topps UEFA Champions Match Attax

Before I get started:  For those who are disinterested in soccer cards, I promise that this post is in addition to, not instead of, the two posts I’d already had planned for this week.

Last Friday I was in Target for non-card purposes, but I was kind of feeling like opening a pack or two… despite my semi-resolution to stop buying cards until my next scheduled card show in early January.

I saw some Panini Prizm basketball on the shelf, which Twitter would have me believe is a must-get so I can pull a Zion Williamson, a basketball player I know nothing about other than his cards are very flippable and have spurred a big old lottery mentality.

I left the Prizm for someone who would be more appreciative, and instead grabbed two packs I spotted of…

(takes a deep breath)

2019-20 Topps UEFA Champions League Match Attax.

Now I know little about the Champions League, other than it’s a competition between the best soccer teams in Europe.  Match Attax I’m more familiar with;  it’s a collectible card game that Topps sells internationally featuring different teams and leagues.

For me, the appeal is that the packs are relatively cheap ($1.49 for 6 cards), the cards were often colorful and could provide me with trade bait or possibly something to send to COMC (although I know from experience that soccer doesn’t sell all that well on COMC). I grabbed two packs and headed for the store’s self-checkout.

So there’s a lot going on with this base card of Jose Fonte (who’s a Portuguese player with the French club Lille OSC).  Lots of design elements and logos and numbers and stuff everywhere.  What doesn’t get picked up in the scans is that the cards have an interesting texture on the front… parts of the card are glossier than others, plus there’s a raised pattern that’s made up of coating rather than ink.

Ederson Santana de Moraes, commonly known simply as Ederson, is a Brazilian goalie with Manchester City.  He’s got an odd yell-y fist-raising pose which is at least different from the typical running with or without the ball photo we have on these cards.

Kenny Tete is a Dutch player on the French club Olympique Lyonnais.

Here’s a shiny shiny “Man Of The Match” card of Portuguese guy Xeka, who also plays for Lille OSC.  I got more than my share of Lille OSC cards in my two packs.

I thought maybe this was a yellow parallel, but it’s a “Pro Performer” insert of the one guy in the two packs I’d heard of before: Jorginho.  He’s a Brazilian who plays for the English Premier League team Chelsea.

The one pack included some sort of team card… Here’s the front…

..and the back, which features the team captain, French goalie Hugo Lloris and also the team manager (marked by the amusing collar-and-tie icon) Mauricio Pochettino… who actually had been sacked (to use the British term) back in November.

All of this seems informational, but I suppose it could factor into game play somehow.

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this little diversion from the usual subject matter of my blog.  As a small tease I’ll mention I’ve got a series of posts coming up involving vintage soccer – or, to be more accurate, Footballer cards.  Stay tuned!

Pack Animal: 2003 BBM Rookie Edition (Japanese Baseball)

So this pack has a backstory that briefly played out on Twitter.

I was feeling the need for some Cardboard Therapy but I had made something of a promise to myself to keep the retail pack-buying to a minimum until 2020 Heritage comes out.  I went to Walgreen’s for a repack and came up empty.  I went to Five Below because I’d heard they have good repacks, but the only cards my local Five Below has was a dozen-or-so Topps Yankees Retail Team Sets… from 2016.  The worst Topps set of the decade, combined with the Yankees… Yet somehow I resisted.

On the way home, I realized I have a small stash of Japanese wax packs which were perfect for this sort of situation, so I pulled out a pack of 2003 BBM Rookie Edition.

This is a 152-card set which was from early 2003 and primarily features the players taken in the previous year’s draft.  According to NPB Card Guy, the set is made up of 90 draft picks and 60 players shown in their rookie season (which explains the two different designs you’ll see in the pack)

Wei-Chu Lin

This is the draft pick card, and it’s a pretty decent design.  Wei-Chu Lin played 10 seasons for the Hanshin Tigers, although from the number of games played he either wasn’t a starting player or had horrible luck with injuries.

Here’s the back… I’m guessing the photo is of the entire Tigers’ draft class?

Tomohiro Nioka

Nioka was a rookie in 1999, so this is clearly the “established players as a rookie” subset… if you can call 60 out of 152 cards a “subset”.  Nioka played 15 seasons with the Giants and Fighters.

The back is pretty standard BBM fare.

Hisahiko Irino

Baseball-reference has a page for Irino but no stats… I’m guessing that means he never played for the Yomiuri Giants.

Katsuhiko Maekawa

Maekawa played 10 seasons in NPB and pitched for the AAA Memphis Redbirds in 2009.

Masataka Minatogawa

The only information on Minatogawa on BBREF is that he played in Italy in 2005.

Masato Kobayashi

Pitched 10 seasons for the Chunichi Dragons, mainly in middle relief.

Daisuke Kayajima

Another player with no stats on BBREF.

Keita Asama

pitched two games in 2003 for the Chiba Lotte Marines.

When I first went through this pack I was a little disappointed that I’d never heard of any of these players… and now that I’ve researched the players it looks like even if I’d followed NPB since 2003 I’d be disappointed by this pack. At least now that I know what “Rookie Edition” is, I wouldn’t bother buying more packs, should I be in a position to buy more Japanese wax packs.

Pack Animal: 2005 BBM Touch The Game (Japanese Baseball)

I recently stumbled across a pack of Japanese baseball cards which I’d acquired a number of years ago, but which had been misplaced and temporarily forgotten… Since there’s nothing good in the stores and I felt like opening a pack, I decided to tear this bad boy open.

This is a pack of 2005 BBM Touch The Game, which the wrapper declares is a “Premium” set.

Here’s the wrapper (it’s a hanger pack, if you couldn’t tell)


First card is of Shugo Fujii, about whom I know nothing. Wikipedia says he pitched 14 seasons for four teams and was an All-Star twice.

I should point out that the entire border is silver foil; the textured foil turns up as silver in this scan, but the smooth foil shows up as black. In the middle of the photo, also in silver foil, it says this:

bbm baseball cards premium
2005 Touch The Game

followed by this printed in black ink (also right over the player photo):

one of the great players has ever owned.
he will be remembered by supporters for long years to come.

I cannot emphasize enough that I was very careful to type this exactly as it appears on each card.

As for the image at the middle of the card, the player image is glossy and the background is matte, kind of like recent Pro Debut sets.

Next card… Gaijin Alert! It’s John Bale, who I kinda sorta remember pitching for the Orioles. In December, 2000 the O’s traded a minor league catcher – one who had been drafted in the first round in 1997 – to Toronto for John Bale. Any guesses as to who that catching prospect was? The answer comes after the images of this card.

Here’s the back… a bit more traditional

Answer:  Jayson Werth, who would go through a couple of organizations before blossoming as an outfielder.

Masahide Kobayashi may be familiar to MLB fans; he pitched in relief for the Indians in 2008 and 2009. Before that he was a top closer in Japan and was on the Silver medal-winning Japanese Olympic baseball team.

Those Chiba Lotte Marines uniforms are really… something. I was about to say that they’d never fly in MLB, but then I remembered the uniforms the Diamondbacks are wearing, and I back away from any such statements.

“Impressive Scene” insert featuring another American, Marc Kroon… Kroon appeared on a few MLB cards in the 1990’s. In Japan, he was a closer and became the first pitcher to hit 100 mph in a game.

Last card, and this is one of those rare instances where a checklist is the best card in the pack.

If you can’t read the text at the top of the card, it says “They also enjoyed interleague game”.  BBM clearly needed a better translator.

I had to do some detective work to figure out who the mascots are. The one on the right has a Chiba Lotte Marines hat, and when I googled on Chiba Lotte Marines mascots, I found that the two in the middle are also Marines mascots (I think the three of them are meant to be sea gulls). The one on the left looked familiar, but I couldn’t put my finger on it/him/her. Since the card references interleague games and the Marines are in the Pacific League, I guessed that the mystery mascot is from the Central League, and a little more research came up with Doala the Koala, a mascot for the Chunichi Dragons.

The checklist is on heavier cardboard than the rest of the pack, as if they’re trying to fool pack feelers. Do they have pack feelers in Japan?

I’d never seen a Japanese checklist before, and I’m guessing most of you haven’t either, so I’ll show you the checklist side.

One other thing came in the pack;  this was on top of the back, printed on thick-ish paper. It looks like it could be a contest entry, but I have no clue (not being able to read any of it).

Thoughts on the pack as a whole: I guess I can’t complain about a Japanese pack where I’m familiar with three of the four players included, but I’m not a fan of sets where the cards are more about the design than the photos. If I had an opportunity to get more packs like this I would probably say “No thanks, I’m OK”. But they’re still Japanese cards, so they’ll go into my Japanese binder (but would likely be the first to get bumped if space becomes a issue).

2018 Topps Gallery: Man Faints In Walmart After Finding Blaster

Either Topps upped the print runs this year or people where I live like Aaron Judge a whole lot more than Shohei Ohtani and Ronald Acuna. Either way, I was surprised to find blasters and packs of 2018 Topps Gallery in the first Walmart I went to. Last year I made multiple visits to four different Wally Worlds, but thanks to the mania surrounding Aaron Judge, all I found was one empty display.

I didn’t even hold a 2017 Gallery card in my hand until Dime Boxes Nick sent me four of them this past Summer.

Since I was having a rough week, I decided to buy a blaster. As soon as I grabbed one off the shelf, I noticed how light the box was. I looked at the details and found that the box consists of seven 4 card packs, plus an additional pack of 4 parallels which I don’t want and probably can’t sell on COMC because there’ll be 68 copies of each out there by the time mine get sent in and processed.

That’s 32 cards for $20.  My inner Grumpy Old Man says “When I was a kid, I could buy a rack pack of 42 cards for 49 cents!!!  BAH!!!

OK, so we’ve established that it’s pricey by my standards.  What about the cards?

The very first card I saw was this Adam Jones (with art by Kevin Graham)…

My second card was of Orioles rookie Austin Hays.  Yep, my first two cards were from the 115-loss Orioles.  Good thing I’m an Orioles fan.

Here’s the back, not that anyone really cares about the back.

Starling Marte by artist Dan Bergren.  The Topps Gallery logo in the top left, the player’s name and team are in gold foil.  The white border has a whorl texture to it which I suppose is supposed to evoke brush strokes but, to me, looks more like fingerprints.

Thoughts regarding this Jacob deGrom card:

This was also painted by Kevin Graham, who either…
a) Had a very long lead time and created this artwork a year ago
b) Was working off of pre-2018 reference images
c) Kept the long hair for artistic reasons.

This card of Ildemaro Vargaos, by artist John Giancaspro, made me say “Who?”
…That’s “Who?” about Vargas, not about Giancaspro, although I’d not heard of either.

ROOKIE CARD!  That’s all Topps wants you to think about.  Vargas has been in affiliated ball since 2010, didn’t make his debut until 2017, is 27 years old and still rookie eligible.  I don’t mean to pick on Vargas, but in a 200-card checklist, I’d like to pull someone better than a 27-year-old Diamondbacks rookie.

Babe Ruth cards in modern sets is like hearing “Hotel California” on the radio… I’d had my fill years ago.  If we’re going to get cards of players from the 1920’s or 1930’s, then give me Paul Waner.  Frankie Frisch.  Dazzy Vance.

Artwork by Kris Penix, BTW.

Evan Longoria looks like he’s doing his impression of Saturday Night Live’s Alex Moffat’s “Eric Trump” character.  (Art by Kevin Graham)

Yes, I still watch SNL… although not in real time and we fast-forward through any sketches which don’t hold our attention.

I like this card of David Ortiz (Kris Penix again), but it’s likely going out as trade bait.

Just to make sure that all of the artists are covered before I get to the hits (such as they were) from this blaster…

Alex Verdugo by Carlos Cabaleiro

Rhys Hoskins by Gerry Garcia

OK, so let’s start with the one short-printed base card I got: Dustin Fowler (art by Kevin Graham).

I guess 1 short print out of 32 cards isn’t a bad ratio, but 1 short print out of a blaster seems a lot worse.

As I mentioned, I got four “Artist Proofs” parallels. here’s one of them: Jackson Stephens (art by Dan Bergren)

The Artist Proofs cards have an extra gold foil stamping on the bottom right of the image.

Whoop-de-doop-dee-doo.

I didn’t get all of the insert sets, but I did get two.  First up is the “Heritage” insert set done in the style of 1952 Topps (art by Gerry Garcia)

The back is also done 1952-style, but it’s all glossy cardboard.

The other is from the “Masterpiece” insert set and features Roberto Clemente. The art is by Evan Shoman, who didn’t appear anywhere else in the blaster.

I dunno, I’m underwhelmed by this.  The art is fine, but I’m going to be that annoying guy who says that if I’m getting a painting it damn well better be color.

And finally…

…Sound the trumpets…

…Here’s the “HIT” of the blaster…

A sticker autograph of the Cubs’ Ian Happ!  Yaaaaaaay!

Like the Ortiz, this is going out to a trading buddy.

So… on the whole… I don’t regret this purchase, but I will flat out say that, even with the auto, it wasn’t really worth $20.  The artwork is nice, and there were a number of cards I liked which I didn’t show here, but it’s not so awesome that I want to collect the entire set (or even the entire set minus SP’s).  The base cards are a nice target for my team and player collections, plus maybe a few extras. I won’t be buying any more packs of Gallery.

Has anyone else bought Topps Gallery?  What did you think?

UPDATE: I Found Update… 2018 Topps Update, That Is

I wasn’t even looking for 2018 Topps Update… and in my ready-for-the-weekend state I almost didn’t notice Update sitting there on the shelves.  My brain only registered them as “packs of Topps” until I went to move one box of wax packs to see what was behind it and I finally realized that the wax packs were ones I hadn’t seen before. That’s when it finally dawned on me that these were Update packs, on the shelves ahead of Monday’s official release date.

Topps would’ve loved to watch me last night, because I found the different pack configurations in ascending price order and kept upselling myself.  “Wait a minute, these are packs of Update!  I have to get some of these and – Wait, they also have fat packs, I may as well get — hey, hangers!  I’ll buy one… no two… since they don’t have any blas— Wow, they have blasters!”

So I bought a blaster… and in the blasters are special Jackie Robinson Day commemorative patch cards.  I’m generally not one for cards like this, but I have to admit, this is a nice-looking card… it looks nicer in person than in this scan.

My scanner kinda sucks, but sometimes in its washing-out of scanned images I see things I didn’t see on the original card.  The “Jackie Robinson Day” text behind Freeman is waaaay more visible in the scan than on the card.  I didn’t even see it until I was doing some tweaking of the scan in my photo editing software.

So, it’s Topps Update, and the general purpose of this – if you ask a collector, anyway – is to update Series 1 and Series 2… And it does provide us with updates.

Jonathan Schoop was traded on July 31st and, sadly, went from one of the Orioles better players to being a benchwarmer on the Brewers (although that wasn’t the Brewers intent up front).  Schoop’s appeared in just 3 postseason games this year and has yet to get on base in 11 plate appearances.  Nobody would’ve guessed this up front, but this trade would’ve been an O’s win if it were just Schoop for Jonathan Villar… but the O’s also got two minor leaguers.

Anyway…

Update also has, of course, rookie cards…. and rookie cards… and rookie cards… and “rookie cards”.

Ryan Yarbrough quietly won 16 games for the Rays this year. The fact that he started just 6 games is part of the stealthiness of his accomplishment.  In many games he entered in the early innings thanks to the Rays’ unusual handling of the pitching staff and starting rotation.

I had to double-check that this Miles Mikolas card is, in fact, a rookie card (and, somewhat surprisingly, it is).

Mikolas used up his rookie eligibility in 2012 when he appeared in 25 games with the Padres.  He also pitched in 2013 and 2014 before going to Japan where he refined his game.  After three years with the Yomiuri Giants he came back stateside and won 18 games to lead the National League.  In terms of baseball cards, however, he only appeared in minor league team sets before his Japanese rookie cards in 2014.

There are also “Rookie Combo” cards.

I was wondering how they would handle these given the 2018 flagship design;  the result is kind of interesting with the overlapping borderless photos and the duelling “waterslides” on the left and the right.  Unfortunately, the waterslides also make the text looking like “IREVOR OAKS” and “ERIC STOUI”.

If you like stats on your rookie cards, you’re plumb outta luck when it comes to Rookie Combos.

Ronald Acuña’s rookie card was in Series 2, so Update has a “Rookie Debut” for Acuña.

I had a few other base cards I wanted to feature before getting to the inserts…

Has this weird Craig Kimbrel posturing/posing been featured on a card before?  If not, then it’s about freakin’ time.  Every time he does this, I think “What the heck is that supposed to be???”

I liked this Cameron Maybin photo… almost Stadium Club-esque.

A cameo only a Mets or Cardinals fan would appreciate:  It’s JOSE OQUENDO!!!!    …oh, and, um, Tyler O’Neill.

There are a fair number of shout-y cards in this set.  I don’t like shout-y cards.  I get my fill of shout-y people on Twitter (Shameless Tweety plug:  @shlabotnikreport)

This was the first All-Star card I pulled and between the waterslide and the “gleam” effect and the darkness of this card (again, my scanner washes things out a bit), I really had to squint and magnify to work out that that logo is, in fact, the 2018 All-Star Game logo.

This card made me think of Julie from A Cracked Bat… A Detroit Tiger wearing the “tools of ignorance”… Julie herself could not have picked a more Julie-friendly photo if she tried.

For my fellow Mets fans, I want to include two Mets (although one is in disguise).

I was surprised, and pleased, to find Devin Mesoraco in one of my packs.

The trade of Mesoraco for Matt Harvey went from “exchanging problems” to actually kinda working for both teams.

Because he’s in the set as a Diamondback, I’d completely missed Jack Reinheimer’s name when I did my “wantlist” scan of the Update checklist.

This is actually an odd choice, now that I think about it.  Reinheimer appeared in only 2 games last year and had yet to appear in the Majors this year before being claimed on waivers by the Mets on July 31st.  After that he appeared in 21 games, but that was with the Mets, not the D-Backs.  I like Reinheimer – I’m instinctually drawn to a guy who has played for two teams and has never worn a number lower than 72 – but I’ll freely admit that nobody is going to get rich off of Jack Reinheimer rookie cards.

OK, enough with the base cards… Let’s get on to the insert cards which are new to Update.

Here’s a Jose Altuve from the “An International Affair” insert.

FYI, the dark text in the lower right is all silver foil.

Other than highlighting foreign-born players (and, of course, providing an excuse for an insert set), I’m not clear on what this insert set is about.  The back of the card mentions that Altuve’s from Venezuela, he played in the WBC for Venezuela and he does kind things for children in Venezuela.  So… Venezuela?

I pulled two “Don’t Blink” inserts.  Bo Jackson’s looks pretty cool.  The other card didn’t look anywhere near as cool.  Natually this insert set features players who are fast.

“Don’t Blink” makes me think of a very cool episode “10th Doctor” episode of Doctor Who… as well as the far inferior follow-ups featuring the Weeping Angels.  Should’ve left well enough alone, Steven Moffat.

I also, in my head, hear Gwen Stefani singing “Don’t blink… I know what you’re saying… So please stop explaining… Don’t tell ’cause it hurts…” (And yes, I know it’s “Don’t Speak” and I realize it’s a No Doubt song).

Storybook Endings highlights the final season of HOFers like Ted Williams.

“1960” and “Ted Williams” is in silver foil.

The blaster box gives the impression that “Postseason Prominence” is a Target exclusive.  The text at the bottom is gold foil, BTW.

One final insert and one final Target exclusive:  BRYCE HARPER!  Who doesn’t love Bryce Harper?  Yeah, me neither.  You can all put your hands down.

I do like the pseudo-presidential look about the card… almost “West Wing” like.  Now if the set included Allison Janney as C.J. Cregg, I might be interested in these inserts.

I still haven’t opened the last two packs of the blaster, I’m saving those for later… So I don’t know for sure that this blaster was largely hit-free, but it’s not looking good so far.

On the whole, it’s Topps Update.  I appreciate the updated players.  I enjoy replacing the hand-written placeholders in my Current Rosters binders with actual cards of Kirby Yates and the awesomely-named Isiah Kiner-Falefa (with the equally awesome position listing of 3B/2B/C).  The All-Star and Home Run Derby cards are largely checklist clutter, and I can take or leave most of the inserts. All in all, I don’t regret my purchase and will likely buy some packs here and there, and backfill with commons later on.

Pack Animal: 2018 Topps Major League Soccer

2018 Topps Major League Soccer packs hit stores last week, and since I was interested in the 1988 Topps Baseball throwback inserts, I bought two packs.  Since the two wrappers feature different players, I’m showing them both here.

To use the terminology of last year’s Allen & Ginter insert, these wrappers feature Soccer Dude, Soccer Dude, Soccer Dude and Soccer Dude.  While I enjoy watching soccer, I don’t follow any particular league and I only know a small handful of MLS players.  I’m not sure how many I can recognize without significant help.

Each pack is $1.99 each, which doesn’t seem too bad until you find there’s only 6 cards in each pack.  Kinda pricey for a league which is still working to establish its fan base, you’d think that the licensing fees for a non-top-four league would allow for a lower price point.  Of course, I’m probably missing some other major factor(s) involved.  Maybe the target audience will forgive a high price point because they’re happy just to have cards.  Maybe it’s the inserts;  I wouldn’t know because I didn’t get a damn one of ’em.

I tried to research the guy on this first card and was puzzled that I did not get any hits on “ANIBAL GOODY”… and then I realized that his last name is “GODOY”, but it’s hard to tell from the font Topps used.  My English-speaking brain interpreted it as ‘Goody’.

Anibal Godoy is a Panamanian Midfielder, but what I really want to focus on is the card design.  It’s similar to recent baseball sets in that it uses a dust/fog effect at the corners, but to illustrate my main complaint…  Quick! Which team does Godoy play for?  If you’re not familiar with MLS and don’t know the team logos, it’s hard to tell.

Here’s the back of Godoy’s card… he plays for the San Jose Earthquakes.

I guess I’m feeling a bit ornery because I’m going to complain about the card number.  They have this big ol’ box on the back to mirror the front, and they stick this relatively tiny card number in there.  Aside from legibility issues, the number looks ridiculously small in the space allotted.

Diego Rossi plays for Los Angeles FC, an expansion team which caught my attention because I really like their Art Deco logo.  Because it’s an expansion team, the entire uniform is photoshopped, which is fairly impressive because it seems to be a decent job.

I’m told that Diego Rossi is a promising young Uruguayan forward.

Here’s a team card for the Montreal Impact.  As with the baseball team cards, these team cards seem like checklist filler to me.

I’m going to wrap up with another player from LAFC; note anything off about this card? (BTW, Walker Zimmerman is a former first round draft pick who was acquired from FC Dallas.)

Yup, they forgot the logo and just have a black box.  Whoops.

Despite the snarky tone of this post, I *did* want to like these cards…  The snark comes largely from my disappointment.  The packs seem expensive for what I got (especially when I didn’t pull any inserts at all) and the design is kind of busy and unappealing.  I could see a fun, affordable set being a gateway to MLS for me, but this is not that set.

Pack Animal: 2017 Topps Stadium Club Major League Soccer

Last night I made a quick Target stop, and naturally I stopped by the card aisle on the way to the self checkout.  None of the usual options inspired me to make any additional purchases right then and there, but just before I left I saw a box of 2017 Topps Stadium Club Major League Soccer.

As much coverage as attention as the Premier League, Bundesliga and other footy leagues get, it always seems a shame that MLS gets short shrift.  Part of me keeps waiting for the attention imbalance towards foreign soccer leagues to get politicized somehow (along with the number of British actors in The Walking Dead – “Immigrants coming in and taking our best zombie-hunting jobs!”)

So anyway, in a “What the hell” moment I decided to buy a pack.  I’m not a fan of any particular team nor player, but I wanted to see what they’re like.

The first surprise came at checkout… The five-card pack rang up as “TRADING CARDS  $0.99”;  A third of what I’d expected.  “This is Stadium Club, right?  Is it THIS YEAR’S Stadium Club?  Is this a remainder or something?”

But no, it’s 2017 Stadium Club, released about a month ago.  When I realized the price point I almost went back and grabbed another pack or two, but decided against it, at least not until I saw what the cards are like.

The second surprise came when I ripped open a pack and was greeted by Seattle’s Clint Dempsey, one of the wrapper’s “cover boys”:

It’s the same design as baseball Stadium Club, but no foil!  It’s like Opening Day meets Stadium Club.  It’s not a problem in my book, it just caught me off-guard because I didn’t know anything about the set.  The cards are still glossy.

For those who don’t know, the Seattle Sounders are partly owned by Drew Carey.  The Sounders are in the playoffs, and I’ve just discovered that this Sunday is the last day of the regular season.

Clint Dempsey is one of the biggest American players in the league and played for Fulham in the English Premier League for a couple of years.

The backs are similar to their baseball counterparts, but with no player writeup and the player’s photo is replaced by a team logo.

Dominique Badji is, according to his MLS webpage, is “a young striker who showed considerable promise in his first two MLS season”

This next card is a parallel.  Ooooh, aaahhhh, black and white.  How exciting

David Ousted is a Danish goalie and was finalist for the 2015 MLS Goaltender of the Year award.

I got screwed up by the font on this next card… I thought his name is GIOVINEO, but it’s GIOVINCO.  Damn, that ‘c’ looks like an ‘e’.

Again, mlssoccer.com on Sebastian Giovinco:  “Short in stature but skillful, inventive and explosively quick, he spearheaded Toronto’s qualification for the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time in club history, and earned the MLS Golden Boot, MLS Newcomer of the Year and MLS MVP awards”. They’re not kidding about the stature part, as he’s listed as 5’4″.

Ike Opara is from Durham, NC and has battled injuries for much of his career.  He’s apparently been healthy in 2017 as he’s started most of Sporting Kansas City’s games and nearly doubled his minutes played from last season.

So that’s the pack.  The base set has 100 cards plus the expected inserts, parallels and variations. By 2017 standards it’s a fairly no-frills set, but again, I don’t view that as an issue.

Clint Dempsey is the only player I’d heard of and I was unimpressed by the one parallel I pulled, but overall they’re pretty nice and for a buck a pack I will probably buy more of these. Given that I don’t follow MLS at all, that’s a pretty decent endorsement.

Pack Animal: 2004 BBM Rookie Edition (Japanese)

I took a vacation day on Monday, was running some errands and I almost – ALMOST – gave into temptation and stopped at Target or Five Below to buy a repack… then my “inner mom” reminded me that “You’ve got plenty of unopened packs at home!”

As always, Inner Mom was right. Among the packs I have are a bunch of Japanese packs that I bought at The National the last time it was in Baltimore… which was what – 2012? 2013? All along I intended to pace myself with these packs, but to be honest I pace myself way too much with these.

So this pack, as the wrapper says, is the 2004 BBM Rookie Edition…

In this case, “Rookie” implies two things: 1) I’m thinking this pack will be “gaijin-free” (i.e. none of the players will be from outside of Japan), and 2) Rookie-based sets always have their share of busts. Long story short, I’ll be surprised if I know any of these players.

But it’s an unopened pack, which is what I wanted, and it’s Japanese so every card is automatically regarded as “cool” and goes in my Japanese binder.

Here’s the back of the pack…

And… Let’s rip!

First card: Atsushi Fujimoto of the Hanshin Tigers.

Interesting design, I’ll say that much.

When I Googled on Fujimoto’s name, my first hit was a LinkedIn profile — Not an encouraging sign regarding this guy’s baseball fame… but as I’d find out through other sources, he played for the Tigers up until 2009, and then put in a few more years with the Swallows. Wikipedia says he was on the Bronze-medal-winning 2004 Olympic team.

The card back is pretty typically BBM.

Next card… Masaya Shibata of the BlueWave… and a different card design.

Given that he’s wearing a shirt and tie under his jersey, and given that I can’t find out anything about him through my usual internetty searches, I’m guessing this is a sort of “draft pick” card and he never actually played in NPB. Maybe one of my NPB-fluent readers can fill us in on the details.

Since the back is different, I’ll show that as well.

Next up, another possible draft pick card – even the same pose – for Satoshi Yamazaki of the Lions.

My knowledge of Japanese language and culture is what we in the IT trade would categorize as “knowing just enough to be dangerous”… but the first thing I thought of when I saw the raised fist was “Ganbatte!”… but I think that’s more something encouraging one would say to another (i.e. “good luck” or “try your best”) rather than a sort of “battle cry”.

Maybe I’m giving someone in Japan a good chuckle with my “close but no cigar” knowledge of Japanese language and culture. Anyway…

Yamazaki put in four years with the Lions and played in the now-extinct Hawaii Winter Baseball League in 2006.

Ryota Katsuki of the Buffaloes, also with the fist in the air. This is definitely a “thing”.

Katsuki put in 12 seasons with the Buffaloes, BlueWave and Giants. He may still be active, but if he is it’s not in NPB… or the top level of NPB, I’ve never been clear whether the “minor league” teams are considered part of NPB (or to put it in American terms, whether NPB refers to the “Majors” or to “affiliated professional baseball”).

Yoshinori Ogata of the Carp.

A few years ago I got a few Carp games on my local cable, part of some international sports “fill up broadcast time” package. I watched enough that I almost became a Carp fan. I miss those games, they were a lot of fun to watch.

Ogata played from 2004 to 2009, but has no stats from 2006 and 2008, and only one game from 2009. Either he was in the minors, or he was injured, or both.

Another card with the same design as the first one. Ryota Igarashi… Wait a minute, I know this dude… He used to pitch for my New York Mets!

He also pitched a handful of games for the Jays and Yankees in 2012. This card by itself is worth the price of admission. Before coming to the States, Igarashi pitched for the Swallows from 1999 to 2009. After his stint in MLB and AAA baseball, he went back to Japan, signed with the SoftBank Hawks, and is still active. How ’bout that? (The prior sentence is said in my best Mel Allen “This Week In Baseball” voice).

I have more to say about his MLB stint, but I’ll leave it for the end of the post, just to keep from going off on too much of a tangent.

Getting back to the BBM card, I noticed that this card says “1998 Rookie” on the bottom… and I went back and looked at the first card and it says “2001 Rookie”, so this is obviously a subset honoring past rookies, where the shirt-and-tie, fist-in-the-air cards must be the true rookies of the set.

Final card, and it looks insert-y…

The left edge and the “2001 ROOKIE OF THE YEAR” logo are gold foil. Norihiro Akahoshi played for the Tigers from 2001 to 2009, and Wikipedia provides me with some other honors besides Central League ROY… He lead the league in stolen bases from 2001 to 2005, was named to the Central League “Best Nine” from 2003 to 2005 and won 6 Golden Glove awards (if I can count correctly). Wikipedia’s entry sounds like he had to retire after suffering neck and spinal injuries in 2009.

I’ll show the insert card’s back to wrap up the pack.

Before I go, I’d like to touch on Ryota Igarashi and his time with the Mets. I was going to scan one of his cards from his two years with the Mets and was surprised to find that there are none. Nada. Zilch. Bupkus. Bugger-all. Yes, he was a reliever, but he made 79 appearances over two seasons and it doesn’t seem like Topps to completely ignore the opportunity to have a rookie card, even if in the Update set. Perhaps he never signed a contract with Topps.

His Mets career also coincided with my just getting started in custom cards, so I don’t have any customs to share either… but I did save some images from that period, so I’ll use my handy dandy all-purpose 2017 TSR Fauxback design to rectify the situation.