Show & Tell: A Mildly Mojo-ish Retail Hit And Other Bits Of Cardboard

Even though I know the “return on investment” isn’t often there when one buys cards through major retailers, I still do it. Part of the reason is that opening packs is a significant part of my collecting joy, and I don’t have many other in-person options.

Another factor is that I would be upset and disappointed if cards were no longer available in stores, so I don’t mind supporting those retailers who do sell cards, even if I have to be vigilant about what I buy and how tamper-resistant it might be.

So when I pull a decent hit out of a blaster, like I did with 2019 Heritage recently…

…I have to admit there’s a part of me that wants to taunt pack feelers with it the next time I see one in the Target card aisle. “Hey, buddy… I beat you to this one! Ha HA ha HA ha HAAAAAAA!”

And he probably wouldn’t care because a Rico Petrocelli autograph isn’t likely at the top of his list. Whatever, it doesn’t stop me from daydreaming about it.

BTW, I’m sorry about the glare at the bottom of the image, I took a photo with my phone because I didn’t have time to fire up my coal-powered scanner.

As long as I’m out here writing, I figured I’d share a few other cards I’ve picked up lately…

One set that falls into the “I’d never chase it, but it’s fun to accumulate” category is 1963 Fleer. True to form, I bought several cards from this set even though they weren’t on my want list… but they were cheap enough that I threw want lists out the window.

It’s kind of interesting… Clay Dalrymple appeared on cards from 1960 to 1971, and never once does Topps show him smiling; yet here on this Fleer card he’s got a big ol’ grin. Maybe Fleer got Brigitte Bardot to take his photo…

Another set that falls into the category of “I don’t know what I’m doing with this, but can’t resist at a low price” is the 1970 Fleer/McLaughlin World Series cards.

I don’t think I even realized until I got home that the card featured Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth… it was just a matter of “Laughlin World Series? I’m there”.

I already had this 1970 Topps Scratch-off featuring the Seattle Pilots’ Mike Hegan, but this was an upgrade that was too cheap to ignore.

For starters, it wasn’t scratched-off… which is something I’d yet to acquire in a scratch-off. It also doesn’t have the lettering colored in with a blue ball point, which is another plus.

I really liked Fran Tarkenton when I was a kid, even though I’ve never been a Vikings fan. Oddly enough, I never thought about collecting Tarkenton until I ran across this 1978 card in a dollar box.

Of course, now that I’ve had a chance to look at the prices of some of his 1960’s cards, I’m not sure how far I’d get, but you never know. This card brings me up to six different cards from when he was an active player, which isn’t too bad for someone who wasn’t really trying.

At any rate, it’s not like I don’t already have too many irons in the fire. Best to move on and focus on the goals I’ve already got.


Custom Wax Pack for June 2nd, 2019

I went into this with the intended first line of “This is going to be a light week”. As always, I got in my own way and made more customs than I really meant to. My loss (of time) is your gain.

Justin Verlander is the unofficial Shlabotnik Report Pitcher Of The Month for May.  He may be the A.L. Pitcher Of The Month as well, those awards haven’t been announced as of my writing this.

During May, Verlander went 4-1 in 5 games, with a 2.29 ERA, a 0.594 WHIP, 42 K’s and 6 BB’s in 35.1 IP.

Josh Bell had more total bases in May (94) than any Pirate had ever had (Ralph Kiner had the previous record of 92 in June, 1947).  Bell had more total bases in May than anyone since Willie Mays in 1958.  Pretty damn impressive.

In May, Bell batted .390 with a .442 OBP, 26 runs, 31 RBI, 12 doubles and 12 homers.

This next custom is an idea I got out of the blue (and have already shared on Twitter – @Shlabotnik_Rpt )…  It’s a custom in the style of the late 1970’s Renata Galasso Glossy Greats sets, and it’s of Renato Nunez, so…

It’s a “Renata” of Renato!

Yeah, fine, both the original Galasso’s and my custom are just using the 1960 Leaf design.  Since it’s not a portrait with a “halo” behind the player, I’m calling it a Galasso.

Renato had a pretty good month of May… by Orioles standards, anyway.  While he batted just .217, he had 8 homers and 16 RBI.  For 2019 as a whole he’s already set career highs for runs (30), RBI (34) and homers (14).

With this next custom of Michael Conforto, I’m going to let you in on a little “custom maker’s secret”… The angled tops and bottoms of my designs sometimes makes it hard to fit photos in there without cropping out stuff I don’t want to crop out – like the baseball below.  To compensate, I sometimes cheat my way through it.

You see that blue outfield wall padding in the upper right corner?  That’s not there in the original photo.  I copied the upright padding from the right hand part of the photo, rotated it 90 degrees and pasted it up there.

…And now you know the REST of the story.

Getting back to the Orioles, they had a “highlight” the other day that was good enough to get a “Scoops” custom.  The O’s and Giants were having a black ‘n orange faceoff in Baltimore, and the Giants scored five runs off of starter Andrew Cashner in the top of the first.  Amazingly enough, that did not signal the end to the O’s that night.

The O’s scored 6 runs in the bottom of the first, thanks in part to Dwight Smith Jr.’s first career Grand Salami, and they went on to win 9-6.  Of course, the Giants kicked the Orioles butts the following night, but we won’t get into that…

I’m going to wrap up with a new “insert”.

The Dodgers recently called up a rookie catcher named Will Smith, and given that there’s already a veteran Giants reliever named Will Smith, it seemed the right time to make a new Pointless Pairings custom. For 2019, these Pointless Pairings will be in the form of a stamp sheet insert.

Catcher Will Smith hit his first career homer last night. Pitcher Will Smith has better stats than I’d expected a 2019 Giants pitcher to have; he’s got a 2.49 ERA, a 0.738 WHIP and 13 saves. He’s in a walk year, so expect him to be playing elsewhere by August.

PWE Backlog #2: Autographs from CommishBob

There was a time when I posted here every single day.

Part of it is that I got more ambitious with posts as time went on – I’d have a serviceable post close to being ready, but then I’d get an idea to augment it, but augmenting it required research, scanning, finding cards to scan, etc. etc.

Admittedly, much of it is also lack of time and energy.

At any rate, because I’m generally behind on my posts, I’m waaaaay behind in my “acknowledging the generosity of my trading buddies” posts.

A while ago I got a package from CommishBob of The Five Tool Collector, and I didn’t quite get around to writing about it… Then I got another package, and I said “Well, maybe I’ll do the new one first, and then go back and do the first one”, and before I finish doing that, I received a PWE with three vintage cards in it. I’ve been able to Tweet my thanks, but I haven’t blogged about any of it.

The first autographed piece is what I imagine was a team-provided card for players to sign, and the autograph is for 1960’s Mets infielder Jerry Buchek.

Buchek was from St. Louis, signed with the hometown Cardinals, played with them for five years and got a hit for them in the 1964 World Series. He was traded to the Mets just before the 1967 season and would spend two years with the Mets. He was their primary 2nd baseman in 1967, but batted below the Mendoza line in 1968 and was used in more of a utility role.

I would have liked to have shared a Jerry Buchek card, but I don’t have any scanned, and I’m going to operate according to the teachings of that reknowned philosopher Larry The Cable Guy and just “Git ‘er done!”  As a result, you’ll just have to imagine Buchek’s head shot on a 1968 card.

More famous than Buchek is Bud Harrelson, a two-time All-Star, Gold Glove Winner and 1969 World Champion with the Miracle Mets.

Even if this were left unsigned, I’d love this piece. Mr. Met wasn’t as much of an on-field presence in the 1960’s as he is now, but as a cartoon character he was at his peak in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  I’ve been feeling the need to add more vintage Mr. Met pieces, and this is certainly an excellent way to add to that!

I also love how the boy obtaining the autograph has a similarly oversized and round head.

Unlike Jerry Buchek, I’ve got plenty of Bud images to chose from.

Wrapping up this trilogy of autographs is this very nice color 8 x 10 glossy photograph of Ed Kranepool, signed in gold Sharpie and with an inscription.

To the outside observer, Ed Kranepool was a decent player who was an All-Star in 1965 and played in two World Series (including 1969), but for many Mets fans he holds a special place in Mets history.  He started out as a 17-year-old local boy who debuted with the 1962 Mets and he played for the team his whole career, running up to 1979.  In the 1970’s he was THE MAN, the one player who had been on hand for nearly all of the team’s history, and for quite a while I was upset that the Mets hadn’t retired his #7 upon his retirement.  Kranepool once held a number of Mets career records;  most of them have since been eclipsed (generally by David Wright), but his 1,853 games played is still the Mets all-time record.

Many, many thanks go out to Bob for this oversized envelope which provided me several wide-eyed and sincere “wows” when opening it!  Bob, there’s a little bit of help for your 1971 Topps set build heading your way, but it’s just a drop in the Bucket O’ Appreciation I feel for your generosity!


Custom Cards: The Next Generation

It seems like every time you turn around lately, there’s another 2nd or 3rd generation baseball player making his Major League debut… This year it started with Fernando Tatis, Jr. and went on to Vladimir Guerrero Jr… Now the kids are coming fast and furious, and I felt like I should kick up the Next Generation customs into gear.

Craig Biggio is the latest HOFer to have a son in the Majors… and the latest second-generation player on the Blue Jays.  Welcome to The Show, Cavan Biggio!

Update: Young Biggio just got his first MLB hit

Yesterday, Carl Yastrzemski’s grandson Mike made his debut with the Giants, who are on a pace to have 41 different players roam the outfield this season (and that’s not hyperbole).

Mike was in the Orioles organization for a number of years so I’m happy to see him get a shot.

Last night, Cal Quantrill, son of reliever Paul Quantrill, got his first MLB win, beating the Blue Jays and Edwin Jackson.

Fun stuff:  Edwin Jackson and Paul Quantrill were teammates with the Dodgers in 2003.  Jackson was a 19-year-old September call-up and they both pitched in the same games twice:  September 17 and September 27.

I’ve got plans to do something fun with all of the family connections in the Majors, I’m still working to get what I have in mind to work out the way I want it to in pixels.

This past week I felt like making a new custom template, and I decided to do something to help me remember the Steelers’ first round draft pick come the Fall… Because I don’t really pay attention to football until after baseball is over for me, and by then I might be saying “Who’s this ‘Bush’ guy? Where did he come from?”

I’ve always liked the 1973 Topps football design, so I decided to go ahead with that; I added a “1st Round” graphic to the design, and here we are:

I was pleased enough with that custom that I decided to do a second one. Not knowing who else to feature, I went with the Overall #1 pick, Kyler Murray.

One thing that’s nice about this design is that it’s sport-agnostic… I could just as easily feature a player from the recent Badminton something-or-other cup that I saw on the Olympic Channel recently, and I wouldn’t have to change the design. Honestly, the only thing that kept me from doing that very thing was my not finding a good photo after 5 minutes of searching.

By the way, Badminton played at a high level is mesmerizing.

…But to be fair, it was 6:30 in the morning when I was watching it.

I’ll wrap things up with my obligatory Scoops, Mets and Orioles customs…

Carlos Gomez came up through the Mets system as a kid, but was traded to the Twins in the Carlos Santana deal. The Mets nearly acquired him from the Brewers four years ago in a failed deal that reportedly would’ve sent Zach Wheeler and Wilmer Flores to Milwaukee. Now he’s finally a Met again, and his presence seems to be helping the team’s general enthusiasm, something that was needed.

Keon Broxton was a depth piece acquired by the Mets over the winter, but he never got it going, and never really got a chance to get it going. The Orioles acquired him, and wouldn’t you know it, Broxton hit the first pitch he saw into the seats.

For those of you who didn’t see this story, the Mets also called up MLB veteran Rajai Davis, who had already taken BP with the Syracuse Mets for their AAA game against Lehigh Valley. Davis needed to get to CitiField for that night’s game, so he got an Uber to take him from Pennsylvania to Queens. He got there in the middle of the game and ended up hitting a 3-run pinch-hit homer.

…And that’s it for this week’s pack. Enjoy your weekend, everybody!

A Deep Dive Into The 1982 Fleer Pete Falcone: A “1980’s Desert Island Binder” Special Edition

There’s so much going on in this 1982 Fleer card of Pete Falcone…

…That I decided to build an entire post around it.  Fair warning, I also wander off on some tangents along the way.

Let’s start with the main focus of the card: Mets pitcher Pete Falcone is sitting in front of a locker – presumably his – and showing us that he opened a couple of packs of 1981 Fleer and pulled his own card.

Here’s the 1981 Fleer card that Falcone is showing us:

Having been in the hobby for over 40 years, my brain is awash with countless jumbled facts and I sometimes get things confused…. But I’m almost positive that this was the first baseball card to feature a photograph of someone holding a baseball card… fairly mundane in 2019 but eyebrow-raising in 1981.

There’s a lot more going on in this photograph, however. Next to Falcone is a stool with a small stack of 1981 Fleer and a couple of torn wax wrappers.

When I first got this card in 1982 I was a lot more familiar with the 1981 Fleer set, and even then I don’t think I was able to tell which card is on the top of the other stack.

For the record, here’s an image of a 1981 Fleer pack. Jaded current-day me says “Wow, 17 cards in a wax pack?”

Behind the stool with the opened packs is another stool with a glove and a couple of nameplates from a jersey.

I clearly remember these nameplates, because the cheap-ass Mets of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s wouldn’t sew the player’s names directly on the jersey, but instead would sew the names on a nameplate and put that on the jersey. The white nameplates on a pinstriped jersey looked like poop.  You can catch a small glimpse of the poopiness on this 1981 Topps “Home Team” Super of Frank Taveras:

Anyway, getting back to the nameplate…

What we can see of the name is what looks like a “W” followed by “EET”… this must be for catcher Rick Sweet, who had played for the Padres before joining the Mets organization in 1981 and part of 1982. There isn’t a baseball card which shows Sweet with the Mets, but I do have one from the 1981 TCMA Tidewater Tides team set; the Tides were the Mets’ top affiliate from 1969 to 2006 (and have been the Orioles’ AAA team since then).

Sweet spent the entire 1981 season with the Tides, and if he had a Mets jersey to put a nameplate on, it would likely have been in Spring Training… Although it’s not out of the question that he was called up to the Mets and then sent back down to Tidewater before appearing in a game.

Solely because many of you have never seen a 1981 TCMA card, here’s what the back looks like.

Sweet was sold to the Mariners early in the 1982 season and would appear on Major League Baseball cards again in 1983; here’s his 1983 Donruss card which I’d scanned before remembering I had the TCMA card (but since I went to the trouble of scanning this card I’m going to show it here even though it’s not really needed).

Before we leave Rick Sweet, I’ll mention that he’s currently the manager of the Brewers’ top farm club in San Antonio.

OK, let’s get back to that Falcone card…

On the other side of Pete, there’s a shirtless teammate, which nicely serves to underline the idea that THIS IS A LOCKER ROOM. The shirtlessness of the teammate is interesting… I have a feeling that if this photo had been used by Topps, they would’ve airbrushed a jersey on him, and then we’d be sitting here wondering “Why is there a guy in the Mets clubhouse who’s been airbrushed into a Mets jersey?”

One last detail which caught my attention: Lurking in the shadows behind Pete Falcone is this guy.

With the dark shades, he looks like he could be from the movie “Men In Black”, which brings to mind that part of the movie takes place at the site of the 1964 World’s Fair… and Shea Stadium was just a hop, skip and jump away. Coincidence?

Tying this back to the 1980’s Desert Island binder… I wouldn’t be adding all of these cards to the binder, but the 1982 Falcone and TCMA Sweet would definitely go in, so I’ll add those into the totals:

Nine-pocket (standard sized): 8 sheets (65 cards)
Eight-pocket (1950’s sized): 1 sheet (2 cards)
Four-pocket (postcard sized): 1 sheet (2 cards)
Two-pocket (5″ x 7″): 1 sheet (1 card)

For these Desert Island Binder posts, I normally quote a 1980’s song in the title, and share the video of that song at the end.  Well, I didn’t quote lyrics in the title of this post, so it seemed appropriate to share a favorite 1980’s song which doesn’t have any lyrics.

I first got into electronic music when I was in high school… Later on, when I was in college, I was talking to a classmate about Kraftwerk and he suggested I give a listen to Jean-Michel Jarre and Yellow Magic Orchestra. YMO never clicked with me, but I ended up with six Jarre albums, including the album known in English-speaking countries as Magnetic Fields. What I love about this album – and didn’t realize until many years later – is that the original French title, Les Chants Magnétiques, is not a literal translation of “Magnetic Fields, but rather a play on words. “Chants”, French for “songs”, sounds the same as “Champs”, French for “Fields” (like in Champs Elysees)… So in France the album is called “Magnetic Songs”, but spoken aloud it sounds like “Magnetic Fields”.

So here’s a video for my favorite track off the album.  I’d never seen this video before I wrote this post, but it’s exactly what you’d expect a video from 1981 to look like.

Custom “Wax Pack”: Taking Things Lying Down

If I didn’t have so many different tasks to occupy my “hobby time”, I would have been putting more work into my custom tasks…

…and it wouldn’t have taken me until the middle of May to finish up the horizontal version of this year’s custom design!

Not to mention that I’ve been dying to use this shot of the Pirates’ long-haired shortstop Cole Tucker sliding into a base.  It doesn’t quite translate to a custom card the way I’d hoped, but I am happy with the way the design translates to landscape format.

…Although I’m looking at the horizontal design and I still have thoughts like “Well, what would it look like if…”, so this may not be a final version.

The Mets have lost two straight to the lowly Miami Marlins, have a four game losing streak and a 5-10 record in the month of May.  From the buzz out there now, it seems I’d better get my Mickey Callaway custom done while he’s still the Mets’ manager.

I like Callaway, but this team often seems to be going through the motions and not playing like a team that was thinking postseason at the beginning of the season.  I wonder if anyone is having second thoughts about Terry Collins as a manager.

To put things in perspective, the Orioles have an identical 5-10 record in May, and everybody expected the O’s to be bad.

With the poor play of my two teams, perhaps it’s not a coincidence that I’ve been having fun making “Joe Shlabotnik” customs which feature images which no player would want used on a baseball card.

Similarly, I’ve no real reason for a custom of Josh Reddick other than I liked the action shot and wanted to make sure that the colors I’d picked out for Houston were going to work (and they do).

For those keeping score, this color combo was ‘borrowed’ from the Orioles/Giants colors in 1976 Topps.

Moving on to some “Scoops” customs…  This week, Edwin Jackson pitched his first game for the Blue Jays and by doing so he set a new MLB record by pitching for his 14th team.

In order of his debut, he pitched for the Dodgers, (Devil) Rays, Tigers, Diamondbacks, White Sox, Cardinals, Nationals, Cubs, Braves, Marlins, Padres, Orioles, Athletics and Blue Jays.  For what it’s worth, he had two different stints with the Nationals;  one in 2012 and one in 2017.

I somehow missed a Mets highlight earlier this month;  Noah Syndergaard earned National League Player of the Week honors, and it was based entirely on the game where he hit a homer and shutout the Reds.

One more custom for what was the last enjoyable game the Mets played…

Right now, Noah Syndergaard has the lead with the most “Scoops” so far…  We’ll see how things shake out as we go.

And with that, I need to mow the lawn before it gets too hot out.

PWE Backlog #1: Cards From Dime Boxes

I’m so terribly behind in sharing packages I’ve received from my trading buddies that I’m giving up on acknowledging them one package at a time… Until I’m able to catch up, I’m just going to do them a handful of cards at a time.

Today I’m starting with a few cards from an April PWE sent by Nick of Dime Boxes fame.

Mrs. Shlabotnik, who loves Cal Ripken and appreciates a good baseball card, really enjoyed this “150 Years Of Fun” card.  Me, I think I’m getting a little tribute-ed-out, because now I rarely enjoy these types of inserts unless I like the player involved… or unless it’s an exceptional photograph.  This one counts as both.

Nick sent along a number of Mets and Orioles from 2019 Gypsy Queen;  these were the first GQ cards I have held in-hand.

Fauxbacco cards like Allen & Ginter and Gypsy Queen generally don’t speak to me… But I’ll admit that I like this year’s design.  I’m not sure what makes it different from prior years, but I’ll just chalk it up to “it is what it is”.

It’s also yet another 2019 set that I like but don’t “like like”, and yet another reason why my goal for 2019 isn’t based on any particular set, but instead to get a 2019 card of as many different players as I can, regardless of set… along with the usual team and player collecting goals.

OK, enough of 2019, let’s go a little farther back.

I didn’t bother much with the Ted Williams Card Company back in the Nineties, but I appreciate the cards a whole lot more now.  Yes, I know that goes against what I just said about the retired player insert sets… on further reflection, maybe it’s all about which players are being featured.  I’m pretty sure there aren’t any 150th Anniversary cards featuring Dave Kingman.

Because of the “racing stripes” on the Mets uniform, I’m confident in saying that this photo is from Kong’s second stint with the Mets:  He was obtained from the Cubs in a Feburary 1981 trade, and would get released in early 1984.

When I lived on Long Island, it wasn’t unheard of for Canadian coins to make their way into your pocket change, and you wouldn’t notice it until you tried to spend it and your friendly neighborhood 7-11 clerk would point out that they don’t accept nickels with beavers on the back.

Well, If you read the Dime Boxes blog, you’ll know that Nick recently obtained a box of 1970 O-Pee-Chee baseball cards… and some of those cards made their way to Shlabotsylvania.

BTW, the corners appear to be missing thanks to an unfortunate scanning mishap.

I think it was about 10 years ago that I was going through my 1970 Topps cards and I found that a number of my “Topps” cards had French on the back.  Sacre bleu! I pulled those OPC’s out of my binders, but now these Mets and Orioles have me reconsidering whether to go for 1970 OPC team sets of the Mets, Orioles and… Ooooooh, maybe even the Pilots.

Because of that high-numbered Nolan Ryan card in 1970 Topps, a card which is not in 1970 OPC, I might be able to complete a 1970 OPC Mets team set before I complete the Topps set. It’s something for me to think about, anyway.  Like any new goals I’ve been pondering lately, it’s something for down the road, I’ve got too much on my plate right now.

Nick sent many more cards than this, but I’m going to end things here for now. Besides, I’ve got cards from other trading buddies to show off in the near future.

Thanks again, Nick!