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?

Where It’s At! I Got Too Many Binders And Some Match Attax

Today’s post is going to, for no good reason at all, switch back and forth between the organization of my collection and a pack of cards I got at Target.

…Just because…

I’ll start with a trip I made to Target for some household goods. I’d seen a handful of comments online about cards starting to reappear on retail shelves, and I foolishly got my hopes up a little bit. As it turned out, the only thing different from the last time I was there was that the empty gravity feeders now include one for Stadium Club.

But I did want to open *something*, so I bought a single pack of 2019/20 Topps Champions League Match Attax… It’s at a relatively low price point ($1.59, I think), it’s something to open and with any luck I’ll find something one of my trading buddies might like.

Was my pack worth the HUGE investment I made? I’ll let you know…

…After I start talking about my binders.

The cover came off one of my binders the other day… It was a repurposed binder I got from a prior employer and it originally housed one of a library of manuals devoted to the IBM AS/400 midrange computing platform. The binder currently holds my 1978 Topps set, and the cover tearing off got me thinking about my many binders and how I’m going to find a place for all of them.

For much of 2020 I’ve been reorganizing my collection and plotting new shelving solutions for my binders. Right now in the office of Shlabotnik World Headquarters, my primary shelving is a freestanding bookcase against one wall. Inside a closet I’ve got old plastic shelving (originally from my sister’s college dorm room, and my sister is now well into her 50s), and a third set of “shelving” in the closet is really old baker’s rack (where not every binder I own can stand upright between the shelves). At random places around the room I’ve got 5 or 6 binders sitting in other places because there’s not currently any good place to put them. Many of the binders are 1″ or 2″ binders and there are over 90 binders housing part of my collection. The remaining cards are in boxes.

Back to my pack… the first card made it clear that my money wasn’t wasted. I don’t know much about international soccer, but I know Ronaldo. This is justification for the pack right there.

So generally speaking, the more I see the need to organize my cards, the more “I gotta get more binders!” pops in my head.  I try not to get too caught up in the idea of keeping my collection in monster boxes, because I never pull monster boxes out and look through them. There are there as storage, much like someone might rent a storage unit, put stuff in it and then completely forget about it. A lot of the cards in monster boxes are there because I don’t want to break up a set, or because I had designs on completing the set one of these days.

Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City. Wikipedia declares him to be “widely considered to be one of the best players in the world”, so… not too shabby, eh?

I’ve started going through my binders because I’ve realized that how I collected when I set up many of these binders is not the same way I collect now.  My mental organization has also changed, and I had a few instances of “Why would I put that card in this binder?”  While going through the binders, I’ve also come to realize how little I flip through some of these binders, and if I don’t flip through the binders I already have, it’s kind of hard to justify the belief that I need more binders and more 9-pocket sheets.

Jonathan Bamba (LOSC Lille)… LOSC Lille is a French club and LOSC stand for “Lille Olympique Sporting Club”… so calling them LOSC Lille seems a bit redundant, like “ATM Machine”, but anyway…

So my looking through my binders is resulting in a mental shift. Rather than “I need to find space for all the binders I’ve got plus the ones I’ll be getting because I’m going to need more binders”, I’m starting to think that maybe the real solution is right there in front of me: Instead of trying to figure out where to put all of these binders sitting on the table and propped up against the side of the bookshelf, I’m thinking I need to say “This is all the room I’ve got and all of the room I’m going to have”, and then figure out what’s important enough to put on those shelves.

Daniel Wass (Valencia)… Wikipedia says Wass is a “Danish professional footballer who plays as a utility player for Spanish club Valencia and the Danish national team”.

So it’s not like I’m limiting myself tremendously. The shelving I have will still fit a good number of binders  If I prioritize which binders are most important to me right now, and get those binders into the shelves, then I’m thinking that any binders which aren’t shelf-worthy need to be emptied out and the contents put into monster boxes… but while I’m doing that, I should also consider that if some subset of my collection isn’t binder-worthy, then maybe it’s not worth of being in my collection in the first place. I *am* trying to be a bit Marie Kondo-ish about my organizing. “Spark Joy” and so on.

Gold Limited Edition Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)… Wikipedia says that van Dijk captains the Netherlands national team and is “considered one of the best defenders in the world”.  Shane over at Shoebox Legends is a Liverpool supporter, so this is going to him.

I’ve bought enough packs of these cards over the past couple of years that it occurred to me that I probably have enough to play a game. From looking at a “How to play” video, though, it looks like it’s really a game for two players… So good news, you won’t be subjected to a “Learning to play Match Attax” post from me.

Final thoughts on the whole binder thing… I’m comfortable with the idea that limiting my binders is a good move, especially given the need to contain things in my “office”, but I’m also a bit apprehensive that this is just another collection-streamlining tactic which will get me just so far before I’m looking for new ways to bring order to chaos.  Maybe attacking the mess on multiple fronts is the only way I’m going to get it done.  If anyone has any thoughts about this, I’m all ears.

Beck’s song “Where It’s At” figured in to an early draft of this post far better than it does now, but I kept the title and the following video anyway.

More 1960s English Footballer (Soccer) Cards

This is a follow-up to a March post about how I went a little crazy in buying English Soccer (“Footballers”) cards on COMC last year.

This first card is from the 1967-68 A&BC Footballers set and features Allan Clarke, who played for a number of teams from 1963 to 1980 and made 19 international appearances for the England national team.

The logo on the bottom right is interesting… the letters for “StaR PLAYERS” forms a trophy. I think this might be on all the cards, not just a way to spotlight particular ones… but I know very little about this set.

The back of the card was helpfully updated to show that Clarke played most of his career with Leeds United.

I thought Clarke’s name was familiar, but then I realized I was thinking of the Allan Clarke who, along with Graham Nash, founded The Hollies… a band that in the US had hits like “Bus Stop”, “Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress”, “Carrie Anne”, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”, and “The Air That I Breath”.

Quick aside: When I was a kid, I thought “He Ain’t Heavy” was a diss of the singer’s brother because I thought it was a hippie saying that his brother was an intellectual lightweight… If you say “Whoa, man, that’s heavy” about a mind-blowing concept, then “He ain’t heavy” would surely be an insult, right? That was my kid logic at the time…. To be honest, I think it’s more interesting than the actual “Boys Town” meaning (go look it up if you must, I’ve already spent too much time on this).

Moving right along (dubby dub dubby dub) to the 1968-69 A&BC Footballers set…

John “Jackie” Charlton was one of the top players in Leeds United history and was, along with his brother Bobby, part of the 1966 World Cup champion England team.

The back of Jackie’s card references winning “caps” and being “capped”… This means he played in international matches representing England, and apparently comes from the 19th century practice of awarding caps to the players to distinguish them from opponents on the pitch (I probably have some detail of that wrong, I’m just parroting Wikipedia and such on this).

Skip this paragraph if you’re not a Monty Python fanatic: At the end of the “How Not To Be Seen” episode, there was a visual gag of a band performing the song “Yummy Yummy Yummy” while hiding in crates. Michael Palin’s character announced the band as “Jackie Charlton and the Tonettes”.

Peter Bonetti was a Goalkeeper who had set a record (since broken) for most appearances by a goalie.  “The Cat” made 7 international appearances for England and played one season with the St. Louis Stars of the North American Soccer League.  Sadly, I just found out that Bonetti passed away earlier this month.

A prior owner of this card helpfully gave us the “Magic Answer” to the Football Quiz at the bottom of the card.

Skip this paragraph if you’re not a Monty Python fanatic: In the “Crackpot Religions, Ltd.” sketch about the first religion with free gifts, parishioners had a chance to win several prizes, including “a weekend for two with Peter Bonetti”. The contestant instead won the Star Prize, the entire Norwich City Council (but sadly, she already had one).

Willie Bell played 351 league games, mostly for Leeds United, and also represented Scotland twice in international competition. He’s also a former coach with Liberty University, the school founded by Jerry Falwell.

“Leeds United” seems to be an unintentional theme of these cards…

This 1969/70 A&BC card also features Jackie Charlton. The design on the front of the card was clearly licensed from Topps as it’s very similar to the 1968 Topps Football design.

And here’s the back…

FYI, here’s a card from that 1968 Topps football set, just so you have a comparison.

OK, that’s it for this batch.  I’ve got one more post coming to cover the four sets put out by A&BC between 1970 and 1974.

Got A Bit Daft On COMC: 1964/65 A&BC Footballers

While I enjoy a good soccer match – more so in person than on TV – I’m not really what you would call a fan.  I appreciate it, I can be entertained by it, but watching it is not my initial impulse.

Similarly, I’ve picked up a number of soccer cards, but I don’t really collect them… I just enjoy having examples of different sets, especially sets from other countries.

I originally became intrigued by English soccer cards from seeing 1970’s cards which have similar designs to American baseball and football sets, but while searching on COMC in 2019 I ran across a seller who had a number of affordable English Footballer cards from the 1960s and early 1970s.

…And I got a bit carried away in buying them.  That’s OK, though, because when you’re spending a couple of bucks per card and don’t know when you’ll have a similar opportunity, it’s easy to go nuts.

In this post I’ll be sharing the three cards I got from the 1964/65 A&BC Footballers set.  I’m not going to pretend to know a lot about A&BC, the players on these cards, or the teams they play for, but I’ll share what I know.

First off, A&BC was an affiliate of Topps in postwar England.  In late 1974, it either became or was replaced by Topps UK.

The cards themselves are somewhat similar in design to 1963 Topps Football (NFL).  As you’ll see centering is an issue with these… at least with the ones I picked up.

I didn’t find much about Roy Horobin, but I didn’t search very hard.  Peterborough United is currently in “League One”, which is the third tier of English Soccer.

My scanner is not the greatest, so you can’t clearly see that the bottom border of this Hugh Barr card is a sort of greenish-yellow to contrast from the yellowish-green of the rest of the border.

Barr played for both Coventry City and the Northern Ireland national team.  If you’re a Monty Python fanatic, you’re probably ready to ask the question on everybody’s lips, “Coventry City last won the F.A. Cup in what year?”  At the time that the “Communist Quiz” sketch was written, it was a trick question as Coventry City have never won the F.A. Cup… But Coventry City had to ruin that in the late 1980s by winning the F.A. Cup.

But I digress.

Here’s the back of Hugh Barr’s card.  Nothing exciting, but interesting.  I don’t know what the “Magic Answer” shows, unfortunately.

Last one is Colin Appleton, who just looks British to me… maybe from the North.  Appleton played for Leicester City, which is currently in the Premier League.

The way this card is centered and the way the colors are, you get a better idea of what the design is like.  Not exactly like 1963 Topps Football, but certainly similar.

These cards are a little bit smaller than standard size, which seems to be fairly common for 1960s A&BC sets.  To give a quick comparison, the card on the left, from the 1960/61 A&BC Footballers set, is standard 2.5″ x 3.5″.

As I mentioned, I went a little crazy with buying these cards.  I’ve got more of these, and I’ve been meaning to write about them for months, but there’s always been a resolution of “I just want to find out a little bit more about the sets and players and teams”.  Realizing that this was never going to happen, I decided to just do a series of posts which highlight a few cards at a time and tell you little beyond “Hey, look at these!”

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!

Custom Sunday: Hooray for Captain Spalding (No, Not Groucho)

Lately, I’ve been focusing many of my customs posts on my tribute to the 1964 Topps “Giants” set – indeed, there’s another one at the end of this post – but I have been making other customs and will spend much of this post catching up on the backlog. I’m also floating the idea of a new custom project… as if I really *need* a new project. Actually, I’ve got one other custom project in my head, but I’m intentionally holding off on that until Spring Training.

Earlier this week I saw singer/songwriter Rufus Wainwright being interviewed on a late night talk show… I think of Rufus as the son of singer/songwriter/actor Loudon Wainwright III;  I’m not exactly a fan of LW3, but I have a couple of his albums.  For whatever reason, that made me think of how I first became aware of LW3 as “Captain Spalding”, a character in three episodes of the third season of M*A*S*H.  That, in turn, got me thinking about a project long in the mental noodling stage but never executed – a custom set devoted to the M*A*S*H TV series.

If there were a way of telling how many lifetime hours I’ve spent watching different TV shows, M*A*S*H would be up there at the top with Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Star Trek.  I watched much of the original run on CBS, and when it hit syndication I would come home from school and watch the reruns.  At my peak I knew pretty much everything there was to be known about the show, from “Ah, Bach!” to Zelmo Zale.

Normally this kind of obsessive behavior would cross over into my obsessive collecting behavior, but there’s been just one card set devoted to M*A*S*H, a disappointing 66-card Donruss set from 1982.  I bought a couple of packs at the time and never went further. This is one of the better cards from that set in my collection.

The set was pretty much what you’d expect from Donruss in the early 1980’s, put together without a whole lot of apparent effort.  Some of the images used were kind of odd outside of the context of the episode they were from, and there was nothing to explain, for example, why B.J. is wearing a white tuxedo in the O.R.  (it was from an episode that explored the dreams/nightmares of the characters).

As with many things of this sort, my reaction was “Pffft, I could do better than this!”  I’d long pondered making a custom set in a late 1970’s / early 1980’s non-sport style, floated a bunch of ideas, but never actually went about creating the first custom.

…Until I was very indirectly inspired by Rufus Wainwright on a late night talk show.

I present to you the first promo card for a M*A*S*H custom set, featuring LW3’s character Captain Calvin Spalding, the “Singing Surgeon”.

I’m given to believe that it’s not a coincidence that Captain Spalding shares a name (if not the exact spelling) with the Groucho Marx character in “Animal Crackers”.

Now I honestly don’t know how far I would go with a custom set like this, but I wanted to float it out there to see what the reaction would be.  If I went further with this, I’d be just as likely to dip into the recurring characters (Sidney Friedman, Colonel Flagg, Nurse Kellye) as much as the stars of the show.

Any input?

Moving on…

When I was a kid, there were three George Blanda cards in 1975 Topps Football;  one for his breaking the career points-scoring record (he’d end up with 2002), and two other cards because they needed two card backs to fit all of his career highlights and stats.  HOFer Blanda played 26(!) seasons in the NFL and was 48 years old during his final season.

So, it caught my attention when, in September, Adam Vinatieri broke Morten Andersen’s record for career field goals (he as 576 as of this morning), and then in October he set the career points record (2570 as of this morning).  “This deserves a custom!” I said…. back in October.  Sorry for the delay, Vinatieri fans, here it is.

In case you’re curious, George Blanda currently ranks 7th on the list of career scoring leaders.

The Diamondbacks made an interesting free agent signing this week; they signed pitcher Merrill Kelly to a two-year MLB contract.

You’re probably like me in saying “Who?”. Kelly was in the Tampa Bay Rays system, but spent the last 4 years pitching for the SK Wyverns in the Korea Baseball Organization and is coming back to the US as a 30-year-old rookie. Kelly’s numbers weren’t outstanding by US standards, but within the very offense-friendly KBO they gave MLB organizations thoughts of the next Miles Mikolas.

Here are two more “Hot Stove” customs… I think you probably know about these transactions already. If you follow me on Twitter (@Shlabotnik_Rpt) then you’ve already seen these.

I’ve also got more customs from my “Fauxback” set.

Baseball America named former Met Jordany Valdespin their 2018 Independent League Player Of The Year.

I’m happy for Valdespin and for the Ducks.  I grew up on Long Island and didn’t see my first minor league game until I was a legal adult.  The Ducks came along a couple of years after I left Long Island in one of those “Don’t that just figure” moments.  I’d love to go to a Ducks game, but on the rare occasion when I go back to Long Island, my time is filled with visiting people (all of whom say I need to come up there more often).

Say what you want about social media, one thing I’ve discovered is that you don’t have to wait until Spring Training to see pictures of big name players in their new uniforms.

It’s funny where going down the rabbit hole can lead… I was making comments on Twitter about how I wasn’t sure about how well Portland, OR would work out as a host city for an MLB expansion team. While I was researching to make sure I wasn’t mis-remembering my main point – that at one point the AAA Portland Beavers were evicted to make room for a Major League Soccer team – I found out that Giovanni Savarese, one of the top players on my all-time favorite soccer team, the mid-1990’s Long Island Rough Riders, is the coach of the Portland Timbers, who were in last night’s MLS Cup game.

So I started out researching Portland as an MLB expansion candidate and ended up with a mild rooting interest in the MLS Cup. Too bad the Timbers lost to Atlanta FC.

Wrapping things up with a “Bonus Card” for my 2018 TSR “Giants” set. Kyle Freeland had a great season with the Rockies, going 17-7 with a 2.85 ERA. I left him out of the “regular” set because most of his success came in the second half of the sason, which under the rules I was playing by would’ve been after the checklist was finalized and the set went into imaginary production.

But that doesn’t mean that I couldn’t create a card anyway…

Well, that’s more than enough customs for one week.

New Additions To My 1970’s English “Footballers” Collection

Since the web is truly “World Wide”, I want to start this by pointing out to anyone who’s not a regular reader that I am an American, and that means that, for me, any sports collectibles from outside of the US or Canada are 1) waaay exotic, 2) often seem like something from an alternate universe and 3) something I never saw until well after I became a baseball card fanatic.  OK, with that out of the way…

In recent years I’ve become mildly obsessed with Topps and Topps-related soccer (or “Footballer”) cards from the UK. It started off with a bunch of 1975/76 Topps Scottish Footballer cards I got at a show about 10 years ago.

There is also a similar English set from the same year, and I have since gotten some of those… but the Scottish version is the ones I’d initially run across at a show.

These are, of course, the same design as 1975 Topps Baseball (with obvious differences)

My interest got a jump start when I acquired a number of 1960/61 A&BC cards from Shoebox Legends… A&BC was a British company which licensed the designs from Topps.

In this case, the design was originally used in for 1959 Topps Baseball.

Cards like these fascinate me, even though I’m not the biggest soccer fan around.
Over the past couple of years I’ve been keeping an eye out for affordable examples of commons from some of the other English and/or Scottish sets, and in my last two COMC shipments I added examples from four different 1970’s set to my collection.

I’m going to run through the four cards from oldest to newest.

The first card, an English Footballer card made by Topps UK in 1976 (for the 1976/77 season), is notable for two reasons… First, the design isn’t one that was adapted from an American set and it’s an original, VERY 1970’s design.  (I’m using the original COMC image for this because they did a better job of imaging the card + slab than I’ve been able to do.)

Second, and this is a more personal distinction, it is THE ONE AND ONLY GRADED CARD I HAVE EVER OWNED.

Since the dawn of grading I have looked past graded cards under the assumption that anything that’s slabbed would be outside of my budget…  And I’ve also found that flipping through graded slabs at a card show isn’t as much fun (like the difference between flipping through vinyl albums and flipping through CD’s…. Klak klak klak klak klak…)

But I have recently come to realize that I probably have unnecessarily skipped by some bargains just because the cards had been graded. This is a fine example, it cost me less than $3 and I would’ve gladly paid the same sum for an ungraded card.

Getting back to the card itself… I had assumed that this was a common, but Billy Bremner, a Scottish footballer who played for Leeds United (in Yorkshire), is in the English Football Hall of Fame and the Scottish Football Hall of Fame, has been voted the greatest player in Leeds United history and there is a statue of him outside of Leeds United’s home stadium…….. So, he’s good, yeah?

Since it’s a 1970’s Topps card, I guess I should’ve been tipped off by the fact that his card is #200 in the set.

Speaking of card numbers, here’s the back… Had this been a Scottish Footballers card, the back would’ve been red instead of blue (just in case any of you are trying to identify a card you already have or find for sale).

Moving forward two years – I don’t yet have a card from 1977/78 – We have a 1978/79 Topps card which will look familiar to any collectors of American Football…

If you were wondering, “Q.P.R.” stands for Queens Park Rangers, a team which, like Leeds United, is currently in the Championship League, the second tier of English soccer.

For those of you who aren’t quite as familiar with 1970’s football cards, here’s a 1977 Topps Football card for comparison purposes

Gerry Francis isn’t quite at the same level as Billy Bremner, but he did put in a 20 year career and represented England in a number of international competitions.

The back of the Footballer cards are not the same as the Football cards, but they are quite nice backs (and very easy to read).  The Scottish cards have a light green back.

The third example today is a 1979 Topps Footballer card; Gerry Sweeney played from 1966 to 1984, mostly for Bristol City.

Bristol City is yet another team currently in the Championship.

The design comes from 1978 Topps Football.  For some odd reason, this past Summer when Topps did a “Throwback Thursday” baseball card using this design, they referred to it as a “1977/78 Topps Footballer design”… even though most of the people who bought it would know the design as “1978 Topps Football” (and they didn’t even get the ‘Footballer” year right).

Once again, the backs are not the same as the American doppelganger, and the Scottish backs are red.

One last card, and this is probably the least appealing of the three. This is a 1981 Topps card which uses a lame gimmick of perforating a standard 2.5″ x 3.5″ card to make three “mini” cards.  As I found out, two of these players would also play in the North American Soccer League.

The same lame concept is was used in 1980-81 Topps Basketball, although the design is different.

I wonder if British kids were more receptive to these than I was. I hated the one pack I bought, but I also didn’t collect basketball.

Here’s the back… From my sources it doesn’t appear that there was a Scottish version.

Steve Hunt played in the NASL for Cosmos and right there that would’ve made him a target for me… although I don’t really remember the name from back in the day.

I thought that Phil Parkes, the goalie in the center, would also serve as a Monty Python reference (“Yangtze Kiang” on Monty Python’s Previous Record), but I found out that there are two former English goaltenders named Phil Parkes and born three years apart. The Python-referenced Parkes played for Wolverhamton Wanderers… This Parkes is, unfortunately, the other one.

Dutch footballer Frans Thijssen played in his native country as well as the UK and for the NASL’s Vancouver Whitecaps.

That covers all the English and Scottish Footballer cards that I own, as well as what I know about them. Like with Japanese baseball cards, I’m always keeping an eye out for these.

If you have any similar cards, or know more about these sets, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

2018 TSR: I Need An All-Star Break

So yesterday I was able to go to a card show… This is noteworthy in that the last show I went to was this same show from last July, and like pretty much any shows I attend, it involved fives hours of driving on top of the five or six hours on the show floor. The upshot of this is that I’m worn out, and I have obligations for today, given that my Saturday was largely devoted to the show.

But of course, the way things always go with me… I intended this to be a short post, but it’s not… not really.  I kept thinking “Oh, just one more thing”.  I’m apparently the Columbo of sportscard bloggers.  (Kids, ask your parents)

Among the best players on the Orioles this past week has been – not surprisingly – Zach Britton. Trade rumors have been circling around him, and perhaps Zach is doing his baseball best to get across the message “GET ME THE HELL OUT OF HERE!”

During the past 7 days, Britton went 1-0 with 2 saves and 5 K’s in 3 innings pitched.

Robert Gsellman had a similar week for the Mets. He pitched 3.1 innings, got a win and a save. Interestingly enough, he pitched 2 innings for the save and only 1 inning for the win (an extra-inning walk-off against the Phils).

When double-checking the spelling of Gsellman’s name, it occurred to me that I probably could search on just “Gsellman” and get information about Robert. Not only was that true, but the only other people who turned up in “Searches related to Gsellman” were for Trisha Gsellman, Robert’s mother who passed away in 2009, and Bob Gsellman, Robert’s father, who played four seasons as a catcher, largely in the Phillies organization.

Manager of the week time… In the nobody’s-great-but-nobody’s-awful National League, the Rockies have managed to stay in the thick of the NL West race, going 8-2 this past week to find themselves in third place, but just 2.5 games out of first.

If you were wondering what uniform that Bud Black is wearing, the photo was taken on July 4th… ‘Nuff said.

Moving on to the 1988 Topps tribute of the week…

Jake Bauers had quite a week, batting .393 with 5 doubles, 3 homes 11 runs scored and 9 runs batted in.  I wouldn’t normally feature a rookie in this spot, I couldn’t resist this time around.

Aside from giving me an opportunity to make a 1988-style card of a team which didn’t exist in 1988, I have to admit I have something of a soft spot for the Rays.  I mean, I’ve got enough baseball misery in my life between the Mets and the Orioles, but there’s just something about the Rays doing the best with what they got (as well as needing all the support they can get) that draws in the Shlabotnik side of me.

Here’s an interesting bit of trivia:  As the Devil Rays the team had a .399 winning percentage and never won more than 70 games, but they made the World Series in their first season as the Rays, and have a .527 winning percentage as the Rays.

Here’s your bonus card of the week, a 2018 Faux Set card which just sort of happened after I read some of the morning headlines.

Wayne Rooney, who established himself as an all-time great with Manchester United and as captain of the England team, made his debut with D.C. United yesterday as the United also unveiled their new soccer-only facillity near Nationals Park.

I went to check if Rooney has made it to Topps MLS Now, the least popular “Now” there is.  As of my writing this, he has not, but I don’t believe today’s cards have gone yet.  What really threw me about MLS Now is how low the print runs are.  Almost all of this year’s cards are double-digits, one as low as just 26, with the triple-digit ones coming only for world-famous footballers like Zlatan Ibrahimovic

When I was a kid we had the North American Soccer League which tried to boost interest with internationally famous players in their thirties like Pele, George Best, Rodney Marsh and Franz Beckenbauer.  These days, MLS is trying to boost interest with internationally famous players in their thirties like Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.  Fill in your own comment.

While reading up on Rooney, I found that he’s England’s all-time leading goal scorer, and he’s also the second-most capped player England has ever had, behind Peter Shilton.  To this bit of information I said aloud “Wow, that sounds impressive!  What the hell does that mean?”  If I understand this correctly, ‘most capped’ means to have made the most appearances in international competition.






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.

PWE Playhouse: Baseball, Hockey And A Bonus Card From Shoebox Legends

I recently got a padded envelope from Shoebox Legends; The bulk of it was mainly to help me with two sets I’m slowly working to complete: 1982 Topps Baseball and 1978-79 Topps Hockey.

But there were added “bonus cards”, so don’t bail out just yet!

I didn’t want to get carried away with head shots of guys like Mike Proly so I decided to pick the best three cards from each batch of the two sets, and then added in some extra fun stuff.

Alan Trammell looking “Baseball casual”.  I don’t know why, but using dark & light blue as the Tigers’ colors on this card appeals to me, at least for this card.

Party on, Garth!

Party on, Wayne!  (Where’s Wayne Krenchicki when you need him?)

Gotta love Oscar Gamble cards, even if his afro wasn’t at the legendary stages of the 1970’s.

Moving over to 1978-79 Topps Hockey, I always love to pick up cards for my favorite team from the 1970’s to the 1990’s, the Washington Capitals,

Bernie Wolfe started a financial services company after retiring from the NHL and has apparently been successful enough that his Wikipedia page lists “Canadian Businessman” first before “former ice hockey player”.

I just like the look on Tim Young’s face on this card… I’d love to know what he was thinking.

I also just like the North Stars’ logo and uniforms.

A sure sign that my father’s Ranger fandom had an effect on me even though I was never truly a Rangers fan: I know how to spell “Tkaczuk” without checking.

The Rangers’ late Seventies uniforms wouldn’t be terrible under most circumstances, but because these temporarily and needlessly replaced a classic uniform, these unis go down in history as a major mistake.

I realized as I was writing this that the way I scanned the next entry would be confusing to someone who hadn’t seen them before.  The below image contains two 2.5″ x 3.5″ ‘sheets’ of stickers which were inserts in packs of 1978-79 hockey packs.  I pulled a fair number of these hockey stickers back in the day… The general idea was that you could stick them on your hockey stick, helmet or other bits of hockey (or with my friends, street hockey) equipment.

Do kids still play street hockey? I know they don’t where I live, but hockey ranks waaaay down on the list of popular sports around here. I’d have to drive a couple of hours for even a minor league hockey game.  (*sigh*) I miss watching hockey live…

I used to have a series of posts called “Are We Not Stars?” where I’d review what happened to lesser-known players on multi-card rookie cards such as this one. I don’t know if I want to revive it as a series, but I figured I’d do a quickie here.

Danny Heep is easily the best player on the card, having played 13 seasons in the Majors with the Astros, Mets, Red Sox, Dodgers and Braves.  With all those seasons of coming off the bench, Heep never came close to having enough at bats to qualify for a batting title.

Billy Smith is not the same Billy Smith who played around the same time for the Angels, Orioles and Giants… and is certainly not the Billy Smith who was a goaltender for the New York Islanders.  This Billy Smith pitched 10 games for the Astros in 1981, going 1-1, 3.05 with a single save.  He’d wrap up his pro career by pitching for AAA Tucson in 1982.  Smith went to Sam Houston State University which, I just found out, is in Texas but not in Houston.  Learn something new every day.

Bobby Sprowl is another pitcher whose MLB career, unbeknownst to everyone at the time, was already over.  As Groucho Marx might say, Sprowl pitched for the University of Alabama where the Tuscaloosa.  (You’re welcome, Hackenbush).

Unlike Bobby Sprowl and Billy Smith, you’ve heard of Cal Ripken… and if you haven’t, why exactly are you reading a baseball card blog?  This shiny card is one we didn’t already have in the Shlabotnik Family Cal Collection (Mrs. S has been a Cal fan since ’83).

Finally, the padded envelope was topped off with an always-welcome card from the 1960-61 A&BC English Footballers set!

With Topps Archives Baseball using this same design this year, it occurs to me that it would be cool if Topps did an MLS or EPL insert set also using this same design.  If I were more of a soccer fan I might make some customs.  What the heck, I might do some anyway.  Unfortunately my favorite (relatively speaking) MLS player, Marvell Wynne, recently announced his retirement.  If you missed me mentioning him before, Soccer Marvell Wynne is the son of Baseball Marvell Wynne… but I’m getting pretty far afield, here.

Thanks again to Shane for this excellent group of cards! They are all greatly appreciated!