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.

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PWE Playhouse: The Latest From Shoebox Legends

We’ll start off with this great Butch Huskey from 1997 Upper Deck Collector’s Choice. It seems like there are an above-average number of cards showing Butch Huskey signing for fans… I might have to make a point of chasing them all down someday.

Collector’s Choice got me through much of the garish 1990’s. CC was meant as a low-end set, but the designs were colorful and appealing, and it still had some decent photography… and, something that was rare for the times, the base cards were free of foil. Can I get a ‘Hallelujah’?”

Just to underline my point about Butch Huskey, there’s this card from 1997 Topps (Just to be clear, I didn’t get this from Shane, I pulled it from a pack 20 years ago).

It’s funny… Even though I was actively rooting for the Mets at the time it happened, it still seems weird to see Hideo Nomo in a Mets uniform.

One of these days I’m going to write a post about the Mets’ unfortunate uniform decisions over the years;  the “Black For Black’s Sake” era is definitely on that list.  At a quick glance, this doesn’t even look like a Mets card.

…Speaking of “Black For Black’s Sake”…  Here’s a shiny shiny Mike Piazza which just scans white.

Do I have to say that it looks better in person?

It’s terrible to say because there was some really disagreeable and legally-questionable behavior involved, but I do miss Upper Deck Vintage’s blatant Topps ripoffs.

I was wondering if this photo is from Earl’s second stint as Orioles manager in the 1980’s, or from after that.  I’m convinced it’s “after that”, but while doing a Google image search on “Earl Weaver 1986” I ran across images of my first computer baseball game, Earl Weaver Baseball (although my version was from a few years later), which amused the heck out of me.  The game came on five-and-a-quarter-inch floppies, ladies and gentlemen!  Gotta love that.

2006 Topps is one of my favorite 21st Century Topps designs.  I know I’m in the minority there, but I just calls ’em as I sees ’em.  This David Wright card is from the National Baseball Card Day set.

Joe makes a mental note for that future post: “Oh, and those BP jerseys and batting helmets from the mid-2000’s…”

There are a ton of Fleer inserts I’ve never seen before… this is one of those.

I think Carlos Beltran is generally underrated, not that anyone asked me.  He’s got a definite shot at the HOF, although goodness knows which cap he’d wear on his plaque.

This 2012 Topps Chrome card of Kirk Nieuwenhuis is one of those cards that has a photo that differs from flagship Topps.  Isn’t this a great shot?  And the way Chrome isolates the player from the background really works for this card, more so than just making it shiny.  (James Brown says “Whatever I collect, it’s got to be shiny!  One, two, three, MAKE IT SHINY!”)

Nieuwenhuis has been an on-again, off-again Brewer the past two years… but it appears that he’s currently in the “off-again” category.

To top it all off was another fantastic card from the 1960-61 A&BC English Footballers set. A PWE could include 11 Derek Jeters from 2013 Triple Play and one of these cards and it would be an overwhelming success (but make for a far less interesting – and shorter – post)

Ernie Taylor, at 5’4″, was one of the shortest players in English Football. He played professionally for 19 years.

Through researching this card, I learned about the Munich Air Disaster in which 8 Manchester United players and three of the team’s staff – 23 people in all – were killed when their plane failed on a take off attempt from Munich in winter weather. After the tragedy, a number of players were transferred to Manchester United to fill out the roster; Ernie Taylor was one of those, playing 22 games for the Red Devils.

Here’s the back of Ernie’s card.

Thank you so much for these cards, Shane!  I enjoyed them all, but of course the Footballer card is holding a place of honor in my Soccer/Curling/Basketball/NASCAR binder!

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 tradingcarddb.com 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.

Dollar Tree Very Pretty And The Dollar Flower Is Sweet…

…But the cards from the poor Dollar stink like Roger Clemens’ feet!

OK, that’s admittedly a little harsh.  While I was somewhat disappointed in the cards I got in a recent Dollar Tree excursion, it was largely my own fault.  Caveat Emptor and all that.

So here’s the deal.  There was recently a post over at The Five Tool Collector detailing the somewhat surprising success he had with cards from Dollar Tree.  I was inspired to check out the Dollar Tree near where I work, but they have no cards at all.  A few days later I was driving in another direction during my lunchbreak and I passed a Dollar Tree that I’d forgotten about because it’s only been open for a year or so.  Because I had other errands to run, I rushed through the purchase and neglected make sure that the repacks I wanted were from a company called Presstine.  The two repacks I bought were from another company and featured the kind of crap we all fear in a repack.

It wasn’t a complete waste, because I did get a couple of junk-waxy needs,  a couple of filler cards for some outgoing packages, plus a Tim Wallach card that goes in the “Someday I’ll send a PWE to the Tim Wallach guy” stack.

I also bought some unopened packs which were a lot more fun.

Before I get into the cards I got, I’m curious about something…  Is there anybody younger than I am – I’ll be 52 in the fall – who gets the reference made in the subject line?

I’ll start with the repacks.  I was relatively excited to pull a 1984 Donruss Oriole.  It’s funny, 1984 was all about Fleer for me, and I was largely “meh” about 84D, but now it’s like “The champagne of junk wax”.

Sadly, I already had this card.  Quelle dommage.

Speaking of Orioles, one of my favorite all-time O’s is Jeff Conine.  This card features him with the Marlins (pauses to spit on the ground), but it’s still a cool card of “Niner”.

A nice action shot of Mike Cameron, who was always fun to watch in the outfield.

This card is from the 1998 Score Rookie And Traded set… despite the fact that Cameron had not changed teams and this is not remotely close to being Cameron’s rookie card – he’d actually been in the 1997 and 1998 Score flagship sets.  Maybe the set should’ve been called “Rookie And Traded And Other Photos We Want To Get In A Set”.

This next card falls into the “audience participation” category.  From the back of the card, I could tell this wasn’t your run-of-the-mill 1989 Donruss card.

I went to COMC to see which 1989 Donruss set it’s from, and discovered it’s from the “Baseball’s Best” set.  I also discovered that the sole copy of it on COMC is from a seller who is notorious for selling commons for outrageous prices (although this one was priced at a low-for-him $1).  My question to you, my readers, is this:  Should I send this card in to COMC solely for the purpose of undercutting this disreputable seller?  It’s certainly not a high-demand card and I would price it solely to get my processing fee back, but I’ll admit I would take a not-insignificant amount of satisfaction if I were to stick it to this guy even just a little bit.  Whaddaya think?

Moving on to the packs.  I bought a single pack of 2015 Panini Americana just because.  I like the design of this set, but the checklist largely leaves me cold and the photos used aren’t always the greatest.  I got two cards of note, however.

I had a minor crush on Julie Gonzalo when she was on the now-forgotten TV show “Eli Stone”.  She’s better known for her roles in “Veronica Mars” and the rebooted “Dallas”.

Her Wikipedia page has a photo from the “2013 Monte Carlo Television Festival” which, judging from her outfit, was taken at the same time as this photo (and it’s a somewhat better photo).

I also got a die-cast jockey insert… three-time Kentucky Derby winner Calvin Borel (FYI, I scanned this with the scanner lid open in an attempt to bring out the die-cuttedness of it).

I saw Die-Cut Jockey when they opened for Barenaked Ladies in the mid-1990’s (Cue the Foghorn Leghorn audio clip – that’s a joke, I say, that’s a joke, son!).

The Dollar Tree also had some unopened packs which sold for a buck for each bag of two.  I bought two of these two-pack repacks.  Each bag contained a pack of 1994 Upper Deck World Cup Cards (English/Italian version), which were pretty cool.  One pack’s cards were so stuck together that I couldn’t separate them without significant card damage (and they ended up in the trash), but the other pack came out OK.  Here’s a card of Brazilian footballer Palhinha.

I didn’t know any of the players, but the photos were more interesting than in many of the more current soccer sets.

Another 2/$1 pack I got was 1992 ProSet Guinness Book Of Records, which is a neat concept but a lot of the cards didn’t translate well to 2.5″ x 3.5″.  Here’s the best of my pack.

“The world’s longest snake is the reticulated python of Southeast Asia, Indonesia and the Philppines, which regularly exceeds 20 feet, 6 inches in length”.

The last pack I got was from the 1994 Cardz “Jim Henson’s Muppets Take The Ice” mashup of everyone’s favorite Muppets and the NHL.  These are actually pretty fun cards, here’s my favorite from the pack:

The next time I pass this Dollar Tree, I’m going to see if they have any more of the Muppets and World Cup packs.  The rest I can do without (unless they get some of those Presstine repacks in).

In case you’re curious about the “Dollar Tree Very Pretty” reference, or if you just like Trini Lopez…  Full Disclosure:  Trini Lopez isn’t the original artist and may not have had the biggest hit version, but I think of Lemon Tree as being “his song”.

Pack Animal: 2017 Topps Major League Soccer

Last week I was in Target looking for 2017 Bowman. I didn’t find it during that trip (and when I did find it, it proved just a bit too uninteresting to bother posting about), but did find packs of 2017 Topps Major League Soccer.

The pack is only 6 cards, but it’s also only $1.99, so I pulled the trigger. I don’t follow MLS, so this will be a one-and-done situation.

Before I get to the cards… Is it wrong that I feel bad for MLS?  I think the American mindset is to want the best of the best, but in the case of soccer, that’s the English Premier League, the German Bundesliga, etc. And honestly, if you’re watching the game on a TV or other electronic device, does it make a huge difference if the game is in a nearby city or on another continent?

MLS would like for you to not answer that question.

Anyway, on to the pack.

First card:  Jelle Van Damme, Los Angeles Galaxy

Not a bad design, but I’d like to see more of the background in an unblurred, uncloudy state. In other words, less of the typical recent Topps behavior.

Next up Juan Gaudelo, New England Revolution.

Because of the different border with numbers running down the side, I’d wondered if this might be a parallel, but it’s actually a subset:  “24 under 24”, which is an annual ranking of the top MLS players who are 23 years old and younger. Mr. Gaudelo is #17 on the current ranking.

Atiba Harris, FC Dallas

Chris Pontius, Back Of The Net insert.

Graham Zusi, Sporting Kansas City

I’m going to play the Grumpy Old Man card… specifically my 1992 Star Pics Saturday Night Live Grumpy Old Man card…

…And say that “Sporting Kansas City” is a dumb-ass name for a team.

In my day, teams had names like Expos, SuperSonics and Barons! That’s the way it was, and we liked it!

Finally, David Villa, NYC FC

David Villa recently threw out the first pitch at a Yankees game. NYC FC is part-owned by the Yankees, so it follows that they cross-promote.

I have to say, I’m glad I’m not a soccer fan in NYC: One team has Yankee ownership, the other is named for an energy drink.

I’m of the opinion that NYC FC is another stupid (and awkward) team name, but given the ownership situation, I suppose we should be happy that they’re not called “Yankee United”.

Another Fantastic 1975/76 Topps English Footballer Card

Just a quick post today to show off a soccer card I got from COMC recently. It’s a card of Norwich City’s Dave Stringer, which has nothing to do with why I got it. As you can guess from looking at it, I bought it because I’m fascinated by the 1975/76 Topps Footballers set which shares the front design with one of my favorite baseball sets, 1975 Topps.
1974-75-topps-english-football-david-stringer
Norwich City is called the Canaries, and are currently in the English Football League Chamionship, which is one level below the Premier League.

Dave Stringer was a long-time player for the Canaries, and later managed the team.

As you can see, the backs are nothing like the 1975 Topps Baseball backs.
1974-75-topps-english-football-david-stringer-back

This is the second card I have from this red-backed English set;  I also have four from the blue-backed Scottish set.

Catch-Up Week, Pt. 1: A PWE From Shoebox Legends

About a month ago I had cards coming at me like (Geezer alert) ping-pong balls falling on Captain Kangaroo.  I bought a blaster and a repack from Target, returned from a show with hundreds more cards, and then early the following week I got two PWE’s in the mail.

In this week’s posts, I’m going to share a number of these cards from October, starting with a PWE from Shane of Shoebox Legends.

It’s become almost a tradition to get Hometown Heroes cards from Shane… One of the things I did over the past month was find a checklist and load it into my database so I could know how close I am to having team sets of the Mets and Orioles.
2013-panini-hometown-heroes-adam-jones
Unfortunately, the checklist I found doesn’t list teams, so I still don’t know how close I am… but I think I still have a little ways to go.

The PWE had a plethora of Bunt cards. I still like these cards a couple of months after their release, and many others seem to like them as well, so I’m keeping fingers crossed that this comes back in 2017.
2016-topps-bunt-cal-ripken
I’m kind of ambivalent about having retired players mixed in to current sets… unless that retired player is someone I collect, like Cal, then I’m cool with it.  Kinda goofy the way they “decapitated” the Oriole logo, though.

Nothing against Chris Davis, but I’m hoping that the Orioles offense is less “Homer Happy” than it was in 2016. Would it kill you to manufacture a run now and then?
2016-topps-bunt-chris-davis

Manny manny bo-banny, banana fanna fo-fanny, fee-fi-fo-anny… Manny!
2016-topps-bunt-manny-machado
I clearly have nothing to say about Manny Machado at the moment… and as long as I’m referencing Captain Kangaroo, I might as well reference “The Name Game”.

Thor did a guest appearance on “Kevin Can Wait”, which stars Kevin James, who’s a huge Mets fan.
2016-topps-bunt-noah-syndergaard
I saw it; it was fun, but Thor should not give up his day job.

Wrapping up the Bunt with Steven Matz, who also draws a blank from me at this moment. I won’t repeat The Name Game.
2016-topps-bunt-steven-matz

Here’s a lovely black parallel of the Heritage High Number Joey Rickard. For those who don’t know… which is pretty much everybody who’s not an Orioles fan… Rickard was a Rule V guy plucked from the Rays’ minor league system. He was playing pretty well  and becoming something of a fan favorite before a July injury knocked him out for the rest of the season.
2016-topps-heritage-hi-black-joey-rickard
I just found out that this card has “action” and “color swap” variations… For Joey Rickard!?! Why does Topps hate Orioles fans?

…The Action variation is pretty nice-looking, though.

Thar’s gold in them thar PWE’s! 1993 Topps Gold of Rick Sutcliffe, anyway. No prospector named “Gabby” is going to do a little dance over this, but I like it.
1993-topps-gold-rick-sutcliffe

2006 Daniel Cabrera… Not a card I needed, but it reminded me of how much I like 2006 Topps. I think it nicely throws back to old-school Topps while having all of the usual features of a 2006 card.
2006-topps-daniel-cabrera
I consider it one of the three best Topps flagship sets of the 21st Century.

Finally, the piece de resistance… It’s a 1960-61 A&BC card featuring Ken Malcolm of Ipswich Town! I have no Earthly idea what Ken Malcolm of Ipswich Town is doing. Any ideas?
1960-61-abc-ken-malcolm
Malcolm played nearly 300 games for Ipswich Town, which won the Division One championship in the 1961-62 season, their first season in the top flight. I should point out that the championship is for what we North Americans would call the “regular season”, Tottenham Hotspur won the F.A. Cup that year (according to Wikipedia, anyway).

Here’s the back of the card…
1960-61-abc-ken-malcolm-back
According to the FIFA website, the answer to “Can a goal be scored directly from a corner kick?” is “Yes… but only against the opposing team”.

Oh, and I should share one other thing… Mr. Malcolm gives me a full sheet of cards from this set!
1960-61-abc-footballers-9-pocket-page
That’s a thing of beauty, that is…

Thanks again, Shane! The delay in scanning and writing about these cards does not reflect my appreciation for these cards!