Cards From My “I Just Like It” Binder

I’ve been pulling out some of my binders to see whether or not the cards in it “spark any joy”… if they’re worth keeping in binders or keeping at all.  Well, today’s cards most definitely spark joy in me.  All of today’s cards are ones which fall into a binder that doesn’t really have a name, but you could call it my “I just like it” binder or probably more accurately, my “I love this card but I don’t know what else to do with it so I’ll just stick it in this binder” binder.

This first card comes from a 1992 Score insert set called “The Franchise”.  The inserts featured Stan Musial, Carl Yastrzemski and Mickey Mantle.  Now I have been completely over the Mickey Mantle hype for many a year, but I’ve always liked this card.

I think what I like about it is that it’s a nice picture, but it’s also a picture of a ballplayer who happens to be Mickey Mantle.  There’s not the usual sun-shining-out-of-his-you-know glorification of Mickey Mantle… Just a nice-looking card of a player who’s just hit the ball.

This next card is interesting especially given that Topps and Sports Illustrated have gotten together to make an on-demand card set featuring SI covers.  This particular card is also of interest to me because I had – or possibly still have? – this 1974 issue of SI… which was fairly unusual for me because I’ve never been a huge SI guy.

This cover is from the 1974 World Series, which pitted the A’s and the Dodgers and was the first time that two California teams faced each other in the Fall Classic.

I was going to say that I’d expect Topps to feature this cover, but I don’t know if they’d want to pay royalties to the 5 players depicted… or 6, if you need to pay to show that one player’s butt.

This 1991 Stadium Club card of Shane Mack is just a beautiful card.  That’s all I have to say about this one.

Kids, back in the early 1990’s when you bought a box of Ultra-Pro 9-pocket sheets, you got a promo card!  This one features Reds’ 1st baseman Hal Morris ready for a game of tennis!

The back of the card proclaims that this card is part of a limited edition of 250,000.  Yep, those were the days.

ProCards minor league cards were on think stock and often cheesy, but you had to love it when they had unusual shots like this one of Joel McKeon with a TV camera

When people discuss baseball cards featuring players holding baseball cards, you don’t often see this 1999 Upper Deck card of Brewers pitcher Scott Karl about to sign his 1998 UD Collector’s Choice card.

OK, I need to move on with my day. I’ll be back with more cards from this binder at some point.

2021 TSR Daily: About The “Checklist”

Welcome to another virtual pack of my 2021 TSR Daily custom card set… if you’re wondering why it’s called “Daily”, that’s because I Tweet out a custom each day (#2021TSRDaily) and then share them here each week, sort of like opening a pack.

This is the third post in this series, and this time I’m going to talk a little bit about how I’m going about selecting the players to be featured in this set.

One of my minor peeves about the checklists of 21st Century sets is that they lean too much on star players, rookie cards, Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs and Red Sox, all to varying degrees.

For my set, I wanted to be fair about which teams were represented and maybe not spend so much ‘real estate’ on rookies who could end up being the next Henry Owens or Zach Lee (ask your friends who were collecting five or six years ago).

In thinking about giving more cards to the less successful teams (who do, after all, have fans) and cutting back on the ‘usual’ teams, it reminded me of a project I did three years ago when I did a current-day version of the 1964 Topps “Giants” set and made sure I did three customs for each team, just like the original.

It was a fun exercise because it made me think about which players from the World Champion team to leave out and which players from a rebuilding 100-loss team to include.

Once I started thinking along those lines, I figured that if I did a custom a day from roughly mid-February to mid-October it would give me 240 customs, which could be broken down to 8 cards for each of the 30 teams.  That’s the plan for now, but if we get to the All-Star break and one of these rebuilding team trades away anybody that has any value at all, then maybe I give some extra slots to a team that has players worthy of inclusion.  We’ll see what happens.

OK, so let’s rip into this pack.

2020 AL Cy Young winner Shane Bieber lead the Majors in ERA (1.63) and strikeouts (122) and tied Yu Darvish for the most wins in the Majors (8)

DJ LeMahieu got a 2020 AL MVP first place vote and lead the league with a .364 average. His re-signing came as a tremendous relief to Yankees fans everywhere

Silver Slugger winner Juan Soto lead the Majors with a .490 On-Base % and a .695 Slugging %, plus lead the NL with a .351 Batting Average

2020 NL ROY Devin Williams also got Cy & MVP votes, gave up just 1 ER over 27 IP and struck out 17.7 per 9 IP

Insert time!  I’ll admit that I’m still working on ideas for inserts, so for now I’m going to press ahead with the “Managers and Coaches” insert set.

It wasn’t a huge surprise that someone would hire AJ Hinch after his suspension was over.  There weren’t a lot of openings for Hinch to pursue, so here we are.

Chris Bassitt got some Cy Young votes and was the AL September Pitcher of the Month after going 3-0 in four starts and giving up 1 ER over 26.2 IP

Trevor Story lead the league with 4 Triples and 15 stolen bases, and also lead the Rockies in runs, hits, doubles, homers and slugging %

Joey Gallo batted below the Mendoza Line in 2020, but he won a Gold Glove and lead the team in On-Base %. 

These powder blue Rangers unis are growing on me, but I’m still of the opinion that the Rangers have a fairly uninteresting visual history.


This pack also came with a “promo card” for a possibly upcoming non-sports set: 2021 TSR Wheels.  I’ve made a stab at a car-based custom set before, and as part of my custom-making insanity of late, I came up with a new design that I quite like.

Our packaging engineers at The Shlabotnik Report managed to fit a “Tall Boy”-sized card (4.66″ x 2.5″) in a standard-sized pack.  Kudos to them for this achievement!

The Mustang Mach-E, from what I’ve read, is not so much an electrified Mustang as it is a Mustangified electric crossover.  I read an article recently that said that people who have driven an electric car before are more likely to consider buying one, and I have to admit that driving a rental Prius for a week about 18 months ago (after my car had been in a fender bender) made me a lot more receptive to the idea of owning one.

OK, that’s more than enough for this post.  Have a good week!

The 1970’s, A To Z: George Hendrick to Larry Herndon

Recap: I’m going through all of the notable and somewhat notable players and managers of the 1970’s and I’m basically making like it’s an all-encompassing 1970’s throwback baseball card set. For the “card front”, I’m sharing my favorite 1970’s card of that guy. I’m also including a card back’s worth of information and thoughts about him and his cardboard.


GEORGE HENDRICK

1979 Hostess #66

Played 1971 – 1988
1970’s Teams: A’s, Indians, Padres, Cardinals

1970’s Highlights:
Named to the All-Star teams in 1974 and 1975; In a 9-inning game against the Braves on August 25, 1978, Hendrick hit a Grand Slam, a three-run homer, a double, a single and was hit by a pitch; Scored winning run in game 5 of 1972 WS and got on a 1973 Topps card for it; Won a World Championship with the 1972 A’s; Was named the Padres’ team MVP in 1977 after batting .311 with 23 homers and 81 RBI

Career Highlights:
In the 1980’s he made two additional All-Star teams, Won two Silver Sluggers and got MVP votes in four seasons; Won a World Championship with the 1982 Cardinals

Card Stuff:
His 1975 card shows him at original Yankee Stadium, which closed after the 1973 season; His 1977 O-Pee-Chee card is unique in that it took a different photo of him wearing an Indians visor and airbrushed it into an oddly-shaped Padres cap


ELROD HENDRICKS

1976 Topps #371

Played 1968 – 1979
1970’s Teams: Orioles, Cubs, Yankees

1970’s Highlights:
Had a double, homer and 4 RBI and batted .364 in the 1970 World Series; Pitched 2.1 shutout innings in a 24-10 loss to the Blue Jays on June 26, 1978; Was traded to the Cubs for Tommy Davis on 8/18/72 and then two months later was traded back to the O’s for Frank Estrada

Career Highlights:
Was the Orioles’ bullpen coach for 28 seasons starting in 1978, and was briefly activated as a player in 1978 and 1979; Inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame in 2001; Although his #44 has never been officially retired, nobody has worn it since Elrod passed away in 2005

Card Stuff:
Hendricks’ time with the Cubs and Yankees never appeared on a mainstream baseball card


ENZO HERNANDEZ

1977 Topps #522

Played 1971 – 1978
1970’s Teams: Padres, Dodgers

1970’s Highlights:
Enzo Hernandez had a good glove, was a stolen base threat and a fan favorite in San Diego; He held the Padres club record with 21 stolen bases in 1971 and broke that record with 37 in 1974 — that record was broken by Ozzie in 1978 and is currently tied for 15th; Enzo also had the Padres all-time stolen base record with 129, which was broken by Ozzie in 1981; In 1975 he lead the NL with 24 Sac bunts; was Involved in turning a Triple Play against the Braves 8/1/71


KEITH HERNANDEZ

1979 Topps #695

Played 1974 – 1990
1970’s Teams: Cardinals

1970’s Highlights:
Was co-winner, along with Willie Stargell, of the 1979 NL MVP Award… although Stargell got 10 1st place votes to Keith’s 4; On his way to the Co-MVP he lead the league with a .344 aveage, 116 runs and 48 doubles; Was an All-Star in 1978 and 1979; Won Gold Gloves in 1978 and 1979; Named the August, 1979 NL Player of the Month after batting .384 with 20 runs, 21 RBI, 14 doubles, 48 hits and 13 walks; Was involved in turning a triple play vs.the Astros, 5/8/77

Career Highlights:
Won 11 consecutive Gold Gloves from 1978 to 1988; Won World Championships with the 1982 Cardinals and 1986 Mets; Was the first Mets player named team captain; Inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame in 1997; Has been a Mets broadcaster since 1999

Fun Stuff:
His father and brother played in minor league baseball; Made appearances on “Seinfeld” (playing himself) and “Law and Order” (playing a character)

Card Stuff:
His 1977 O-Pee-Chee card is cropped tighter than the 1977 Topps card


LARRY HERNDON

1977 Topps #397

Played 1974 – 1988
1970’s Teams: Cardinals, Giants

1970’s Highlights:
Made his debut with the Cardinals in 1974 and was one of two minor leaguers traded to the Giants for Ron Bryant in 1975; Was named to the Topps 1976 All-Star Rookie team and was the Sporting News 1976 NL Rookie Player of the Year… TSN had separate awards for rookie position players and rookie pitchers, and the Official NL ROY award went to pitchers Pat Zachry and Butch Metzger

Career Highlights:
A member of the World Champion 1984 Tigers, Herndon has a career .310 Postseason batting average;

Card Stuff:
Had a 1977 Hostess card that could be considered a rookie card; His 1977 O-Pee-Chee card is missing the All-Star Rookie cup

Dead Parrot Frankenset: The 1977 Reversal

This is the latest in a series on an ongoing project, a “Dead Parrot” Frankenset which features cards of NHL and WHA teams which are no more, which have ceased to be (as in the line from the Monty Python “Dead Parrot” sketch). The Frankenset consists of a binder containing 44 sheets and the goal is to have it filled with cards numbered from 1 to 396, with each slot filled with a card featuring a hockey team that has gone to meet its maker.

This one is a “Special Edition” post which is about revisiting hockey cards which are already in my collection.

This post came about because Joe13, a regular commenter on this blog, asked why he never saw any Cleveland Barons cards in my Dead Parrot posts.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the NHL’s Cleveland Barons, I wrote up an overview of the team’s brief history several years ago. For this post, I’ll give you a quick summary: The NHL Barons came into existence when the California Golden Seals moved to Cleveland during the summer of 1976. The move did not get officially approved until August, which was too late for Topps to work into the 1976-77 hockey set.

At the time O-Pee-Chee went to print later than Topps did, so that set listed players as the Cleveland Barons… but the photos either show a player in their Seals uniforms or airbrushed into plain white jerseys.

1977-78 Topps and O-Pee-Chee hockey were the only set to feature the Barons and their uniforms.

The team struggled in Cleveland and merged with the also-struggling Minnesota North Stars after the 1977-78 season. This time around there was time to airbrush players into North Stars uniforms and that was the end of the Barons for Topps and O-Pee-Chee.

OK, so let’s get back to the Dead Parrot binder…

When I started this Dead Parrot project, it was one of five hockey projects I’d hoped to work on.  The other four were my “Photobombing Capitals” project, which features cards where my favorite childhood team made an appearance on other players’ cards, as well as set builds for the three Topps hockey sets I’d chased as a kid…  1977-78, 1978-79 and 1979-80. My intent was to keep these projects separate, so I initially didn’t include cards from those three sets in the Dead Parrot binder.

I eventually abandoned the 1979-80 chase because I am missing the Wayne Gretzky rookie and the idea of completing the set isn’t anywhere near important enough to me to drop a large chunk of change on that bad boy.

After Joe13’s question, I looked through my binders and started to re-think the effort to complete those other sets.  I almost never see vintage hockey at card shows; Where I live there’s just no interest in them.  Chasing a set completely through online resources isn’t as much fun for me.  At any rate, I’m having much more fun with the Dead Parrot project than I would chasing sets.

I finally decided that I would keep chasing after the 1978-79 set and keep those separate from the Dead Parrot binder – at least for now –  but I would give up on the 1977-78 set and see which cards might move into the Dead Parrot binder.

A fair chunk of the Barons from this set were just head shots and you can’t see much of the uniform, so many of them weren’t as interesting as the cards already in the Dead Parrot binder.

A fair number of cards from several teams *did* move over, and I decided to share them here.  Just to be clear, this post is not going to be the typical “Challenger/Defender” format.  All of the cards which moved over either faced a weak defender, or none at all.  I’m just going to list the cards new to the binder and make some comments about them.

1977-78 Topps #109 – Gilles Meloche

Although this isn’t a great photo by any standard, it’s one of my personal favorite Barons cards.  This one replaces a 1974-75 Topps head shot of the Seals’ Jim Neilson.

1977-78 Topps #183 – Barry Dean

This card replaces a 1990-91 Topps Whalers card

1977-78 Topps #204 – Alex Pirus

This card replaced a 1992-93 Upper Deck card of the Whalers’ Pat Verbeek

1977-78 Topps #238 Steve Jensen

This card went into an empty slot (but did not complete the page)

1977-78 Topps #252 Nelson Pyatt

This card replaces a 1990-91 Pro Set Nordiques card

1977-78 O-Pee-Chee #343 – Dave Hudson

This Dead Parrot with a photobombing Capital bumps a 1984-85 Topps card, also with a Photobombing Capital, from one project to another.

1977-78 O-Pee-Chee #384 – Len Frig

A checklist would show this card’s team as the St. Louis Blues, which is not a “Dead Parrot” team, but the photo shows Len Frig in a Cleveland Barons uniform. This card replaced a 1990-91 Topps card of Joe Sakic; despite Sakic being a far better player than Len Frig, trust me, there was no competition here.

This card also updated Page 43, which is dominated by 1982-83 O-Pee-Chee Winnipeg Jets.


And so, to wrap up…  We added one card to the total, completed no new pages and that puts us at 327 out of a possible 396 cards (82.6%) and 17 completed pages out of 44 total pages (38.6%).

2021 TSR Daily: About The Colors

Welc0ome to another virtual pack of my 2021 TSR Daily custom card set… if you’re wondering why it’s called “Daily”, that’s because I Tweet out a custom each day (#2021TSRDaily) and then share them here each week, sort of like opening a pack.

Starting with this post I’m also going to have some additional customs which don’t appear on Twitter.

I want to spend a little bit of time taking about how I decided on the colors used for this set, but before I get started here’s the first custom in the pack:

Ryan Mountcastle got called up in late August but played well enough to be named to the 2020 Topps All-Star Rookie team.

I’ve been doing these customs on a regular basis since 2012 and I get a little obsessed over the colors I use. I like to have particular colors assigned to each team and spend a probably-crazy amount of time picking those colors. I have a palette full of “authentic Topps” colors I’d set up in my copy of PaintShop Pro

For this set, I went with a late 1960’s Topps color theme and assigned many of the colors to match what was used by Topps in 1966, 1968 and 1969. For example, this Mountcastle custom has a similar ‘pea green’ to what was used for the O’s back in 1966.

2020 National League MVP Freddie Freeman batted .341, lead the league with 51 runs and 23 doubles, plus won a Silver Slugger.

In the late 1960s the Braves were ‘assigned’ a lavender color for their cards, and I maintained that here. By the way, the color of the ring around the border (dark blue in this case) has little to do with the 1960’s… I started with the primary 1960s color and then just played around with what worked best. No two teams in my custom set have the same color combination.

Bryan Reynolds was one of the prospects the Pirates acquired for Andrew McCutchen and was named to the 2019 Topps All-Star Rookie team.

The Pirates cards from the late 1960’s had magenta as their assigned colors, but I thought that worked better for the Rockies than for the Pirates, so I shuffled things around a bit.

Zack Greinke’s awards include a Cy Young, 2 ERA titles, 6 Gold Gloves and 2 Silver Sluggers. After a good 2020, the Astros need ‘great’ in 2021.

Like the Orioles, the Astros have a pea green color (with a dark blue ring instead of the Orioles black ring)… but this gives me an opportunity to point out one other obsessive little detail.

Ever since I chased hard after 1979-80 Topps Hockey (but sadly, didn’t chase hard enough to get the Gretzky rookie – hey I was a kid and didn’t know any better), I’ve liked the way it looks to have the full team name but with the city in one color and the team nickname in another.

This idea has been floating around my head for years, waiting for an opportunity to get used. This set was clearly a great place for that.

Now, I’ll point out a little detail that some of you may find interesting.  The O’s and Astros both have green as the base color, but the Orioles have “BALTIMORE” in black and “ORIOLES” in white, and this is reversed for the Astros.

Oh, I’ll also point out that I maintained a symmetry in the set because when the team name is black and white, the player name and position on the bottom is white and black (or whatever colors we’re talking about).  If you find a custom of mine where that’s not the case, you can file it under “uncorrected error”.

Manny Machado won his first Silver Slugger and lead the Padres with a .304 average and 47 RBIs.

I had to go with the abbreviation “ss” for shortstop on the Manny custom, because the full text wouldn’t fit.  It looks OK for something like “1b”, but looks kind of weird with “ss”.  I may tweak that as I go along.

Mike Yastrzemski lead the league with 4 triples, lead the Giants in runs and RBI and got some MVP consideration

The Giants and Senators had green and yellow as their 1960s colors.  I kept the green with Washington and assigned it to the Nationals, instead of keeping it with the Texas Rangers, the team that used to be the 1960’s Senators.

To mirror a conversation happening on Twitter as I’m finishing this post…  Other than maintaining a vintage-y feel to these cards, I like to have a relatively variety of color combinations on my customs, and to do that requires that we get some teams paired up in unusual ways.  The Giants get green and yellow, but the A’s get purple and yellow.  I like to have colors that may complement the team colors, or at least don’t clash with the team colors.  I stayed pretty traditional with the Yankees and White Sox, but honestly I could use any colors for those teams without fear of clashing with the uniforms.

J.T. Realmuto has a Gold Glove and 2 Silver Sluggers on his mantelpiece and was named by MLB.com to be one of the top 100 players in the Majors.

I suspect that several free agents – or at least the agents of those free agents – counted a little too much on new Mets owner Steve Cohen coming in and throwing contracts out like a drunken sailor. The Mets signed James McCann to be their starting catcher and Realmuto ended up back in Philly.

One last comment about the colors… The Phillies and Indians had a medium grey and dark red as their late 1960s colors, but since my design already has grey borders, that would’ve been too much grey.  I changed the primary color to black for those two teams, and also used it for the Mariners, who didn’t exist in the late 1960s


In my last post I mentioned that I would eventually have “inserts”… partially because I want to, but also because I want my blog to have some “exclusives” that don’t appear on Twitter. The first one is from a “Managers And Coaches” insert set that has the same design as the base cards.  If this were a real, commercially-available set, these would be a fairly common insert (maybe one per 2  or 3 packs) and would be numbered separately.

Tony La Russa is already in the Hall Of Fame as a manager and stepped down from his last job after winning the 2011 World Series with the Cardinals, but here he is again, managing the White Sox for the second time (and first time in a Chisox uniform since 1986).

And that wraps up this pack and also wraps up my rambling about colors.

The 1970’s, A To Z: Rich Hebner To Steve Henderson

Recap: I’m going through all of the notable and somewhat notable players and managers of the 1970’s and I’m basically making like it’s an all-encompassing 1970’s throwback baseball card set. For the “card front”, I’m sharing my favorite 1970’s card of that guy. I’m also including a card back’s worth of information and thoughts about him and his cardboard.


RICH HEBNER

1978 Topps #26

Played 1968 – 1985
1970’s Teams: Pirates, Phillies, Mets

1970’s Highlights:
Got the first hit ever in Three Rivers Stadium, 7/16/70; Was involved in turning two triple plays; 6/6/70 vs. Dodgers, and 7/9/71 vs. Braves

Career Highlights:
Hit over 200 homers over his career; Played in the NLCS eight different times but only played in one World Series (1971)

Fun Stuff:
In high school he was a star hockey player and almost signed with the Boston Bruins; Was the last Pittsburgh Pirate to wear #20 before it was retired for Pie Traynor in 1972; Was known for having an offseason job digging graves

Card Stuff:
His photo was in 1977 O-Pee-Chee was an airbrushed version of his 1977 Topps photo; Appeared in every Topps set of the 1970’s (as compiled by Night Owl)


MIKE HEGAN

1976 Topps #377

Played 1964 – 1977
1970’s Teams: Brewers, A’s, Yankees

1970’s Highlights:
Started at first base in the first-ever Milwaukee Brewers game; Set a Major League record (since broken) with 178 consecutive errorless games at first base; Won a World Championship with the 1972 A’s; Hit for the cycle 9/3/76 vs Tigers; Was involved in turning a triple play against the Red Sox, 4/28/71

Career Highlights:
Was named an all-star with the Seattle Pilots in 1969 but had to be replaced due to an injury; Was the first-ever player on the Pilots roster, having been purchased from the Yankees on 6/14/68 (he would spend the rest of the 1968 season with AAA Syracuse)

Fun Stuff:
Hegan was the last batter at original Yankee Stadium (9/30/73) and the last Brewers player to wear #4 before Paul Molitor; His father, Jim Hegan, was a Major League catcher in the 1940s and 1950s


TOMMY HELMS

1970 Topps #159

Played 1964 – 1977
1970’s Teams: Reds, Astros, Pirates, Red Sox

1970’s Highlights:
Won Gold Gloves in 1970 and 1971;  Hit the first Reds home run at Riverfront Stadium in 1970 (his only homer that season); Lead the league in Fielding Percentage three times, in putouts in 1971 and in assists in 1972; Inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in 1979;  Helms and Lee May went from the Reds to the Astros in the famous 1971 trade that brought Joe Morgan and César Gerónimo to Cincinnati

Career Highlights:
Was the 1966 NL Rookie of the Year; Was named an All-Star in 1967 and 1968

Fun Stuff:
Tommy is the uncle of former Major League infielder Wes Helms

Card Stuff:
After being sold to Oakland in November 1976, Helms shows up in 1977 Topps with an airbrushed A’s batting helmet but he never played for that team because he was sent back to Pittsburgh in a Spring Training trade; Appears with the Red Sox in 1978 Topps, but he was released during Spring Training that year and didn’t play after that


KEN HENDERSON

1972 Topps #444

Played 1965 – 1980
1970’s Teams: Giants, White Sox, Braves, Rangers, Mets, Reds, Cubs

1970’s Highlights:
Was named the August 1972 NL Player of the Month after hitting in 18 consecutive games and batting .409 for the month with 28 runs, 28 RBI, 11 homers and a .800 slugging percentage; batted .313 in the 1971 NLCS; Lead the 1974 White Sox with 176 hits, 35 doubles, 5 triples, 95 RBI, 66 walks and was named the White Sox Player of the Year; Scored 104 runs in 1970

Career Highlights:
Broke into the majors as a 19-year-old

Fun Stuff:
His cousin, Kerry Dineen, had cups of coffee with the Yankees and Phillies

Card Stuff:
Another player who appeared in every Topps set of the 1970’s… he appeared on 1970s cards with five different teams


STEVE HENDERSON

1978 Topps #134

Played 1977 – 1988
1970’s Teams: Mets

1970’s Highlights:
Finished a close second to Andre Dawson in 1977 NL Rookie of the Year voting; Lead the 1977 Mets with 65 RBI and lead the 1978 Mets with 83 runs; Originally drafted by the Reds, he was one of four players traded to the Mets when the Reds acquired Tom Seaver

Career Highlights:
Between playing and coaching, Henderson spent 46 years in baseball

Fun Stuff:
His nickname is “Stevie Wonder”; Is the only player from Jack Yates High School (Houston, TX) to play in the Majors

My Last Packs Of 2020 And My First Packs Of 2021

I have to admit, I’ve been having trouble writing posts for this blogs, or at least ones which aren’t part of an ongoing series I can lean on. It’s not from lack of ideas, I keep getting those… but it always comes down to:

  • I forget to write ideas down
  • I write ideas down but forget to go back and look at them
  • I come up with an idea that’s good for several posts but halfway through it slips my mind
  • I need to scan cards
  • I need to find cards so I can scan them
  • All of the above

…So today I’m just going to give in to my Quarantine Brain and write about the last packs I purchased in 2020 and the first packs I purchased in 2021… packs which were separated by a 2+ month pack drought.

The last packs I purchased in 2020 were a couple of Topps Match Attax packs, which were the only sports-related packs in my local Targets at the time.  These cards turned out to be pretty… um… interesting.

This… um… colorful design, combined with 2021 Topps Baseball, have me thinking that I should go on Twitter and start a rumor that Panini has secretly taken over Topps.

Yes, there’s a soccer player called “Nacho”.  Insert your own wordplay here.

The cards are interesting in hand because there are a lot of different textures at work on the front of the card, and certain bits of the design pop out more depending on the color scheme.

The packs weren’t a waste, as I got some trade bait out of the deal… I happen to know someone who collects Kylian Mbappe, so Shoebox Legends can expect to find this shiny shiny card in his mailbox before too long.

Last week my wife did a Target run and found some 2021 Topps blasters on the shelf. That evening we opened some packs together… She’s just interested enough in cards to open packs now and then and see what the cards look like, but then the cards get handed off to me.

We opened four packs, and I think we agreed that this was the best base card out of the packs. Freddy Galvis is shown with the Reds, but he’s now with Mrs. Shlabotnik’s Orioles (with hair intact)

For those who still haven’t seen these cards in person, my take is pretty similar to a lot of other people: I don’t like the design but less awful in hand. The player’s name is hard to read, you can’t just glance at the card and read it. The photography isn’t great, but that’s to be expected since the photographers had to keep their distance from the players.

About these next two cards Mrs. S said “You’ve got doubles of Jacob deGrom… No, wait a minute…”

I saw this card of Chadwick Tromp and said “That’s the picture you chose, Topps?” and soon after started work on making my own custom of Tromp which would leave Topps in the dust.

…Only when I went out to the Getty Images website to find a better photo, I realized there weren’t any that were significantly better. Topps is off the hook.

As for inserts… I got a Ken Griffey “Double Header” (1989 Topps Update on the front, 2010 Topps on the back) but that wasn’t worth scanning.

I got this 1986 Topps throwback, which isn’t bad if a little dark. It’s a little interesting that they changed the Mariners color from blue on the original to the dark teal on this one.

What surprised me the most in these packs were the 1952 Topps throwbacks… I like them more than the other cards in the packs, which immediately struck me as odd because I’m not a fan of the original.

Here’s the entirety of my 1952 Topps collection:

The well-loved Hank Thompson was part of a small vintage lot I got from a family friend when I was a teenager. The Monte Kennedy came from Shoebox Legends a couple of years ago. I can honestly say I’ve never purchased a 1952 Topps card.

It’s not a great design, it’s just the first conventional card set that Topps put out, and it has that iconic Mickey Mantle card (which is not his rookie card, despite what many say).

That being said, and also despite the fact that Topps has beaten this dead horse many times, I found myself drawn to the 1952 throwback inserts.

I like that the photo takes up much of the card, I like that Topps didn’t try to make these look kinda sorta like the painted originals, but I think the main thing for me is that they’re on traditional card stock. They feel something like the baseball cards I grew up with. I guess that goes a long way with me.

And that’s enough rambling from me on these packs.

2021 TSR Daily: About The Design

Welcome to another virtual pack of my 2021 TSR Daily custom card set… if you’re wondering why it’s called “Daily”, that’s because I Tweet out a custom each day and then share them here each week, sort of like opening a pack.

After this post’s first custom, I’m going to talk a little bit about how I came up with the design…

Teoscar Hernández won a Silver Slugger Award and lead the Jays with 16 homers and a .579 slugging percentage. The Jays acquired him and Nori Aoki from the Astros in a 2017 trade for pitcher Francisco Liriano.

OK, about the design… I’ll freely admit that it’s a mash-up of several different influences… or it’s completely derivative, depending on how you want to look at it.

Early in 2020 I was playing around with some ideas for some custom card project – I’ve since forgotten what that project was – and was originally going for a straightforward version of the 1957-58 Topps Hockey design. (I don’t yet own any of the cards, so I borrowed these images from Trading Card DB)

…But even though I did an OK job of duplicating the design, it turned out to not fit what I looking to do.  For several reasons I didn’t want to have a colored background behind the player, and I quickly discovered that the background was an integral part of the original, and without it the design was very ‘meh’.

The fact that Carlos Beltrán is listed here as the Mets manager gives you an idea of when all this was going down.

Just for grins, and out of stubbornness, I started to play around with it… making the image size larger, moving elements around and changing their sizes and colors, adding and subtracting different pieces and parts borrowed from other vintage designs and modifying what was intended to be an off-white border into flat-out grey (on the way I tried and abandoned some experimentation with textured borders).

At some point I realized that what I had was sort of like a mashup of 1957-58 Topps Hockey and 1985 Fleer baseball, so I leaned a little harder into the Fleerness.

I was still playing around with this design when everything shut down as a result of the pandemic.  By that point I liked this design enough that I didn’t want to use it when nobody knew if or when the season would start, so I shelved it and came up with a different design… one which was meant to be a quickie throw-away but which I also came to like quite a bit.

So that’s a very very quick view behind the process for this year’s design, for those who wonder how I come up with these.

OK, let’s get back to the pack.

Paul Goldschmidt was recently ranked one of the Top 100 in MLB and in 2020 lead STL in runs, AVG, doubles and walks.

Trivia in search of a cartoon: Goldschmidt has the most homers and RBI of anyone born in Delaware.

2020 AL Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis lead the Mariners in Runs, Hits, Homers, Batting Average and Walks. He got all 30 1st place ROY votes to finish ahead of some White Sox guy named Robert.

Randy Arozarena had just 42 regular season games under his belt before his breakout postseason and ALCS MVP award. He’s got as many postseason runs as he has regular season runs (19 each), more postseason RBI (14 vs. 13 regular season), and his postseason batting average is 72 points higher than his career batting average (.358 vs. .256)

Jesse Winker lead the 2020 Reds in batting, OBP and slugging (.255 / .388 / .544) and only Trevor Bauer had a higher Wins-Above-Replacement for Cincinnati.

Not counting 2011 (when Mike Trout made his Major League debut in July and finished the season in Anaheim), 2020 was the first season where he didn’t lead the league in any of the usual statistical categories… but he did win a Silver Slugger and got some MVP consideration.

Last custom… Kyle Hendricks pitched a 9 K shutout in the Cubs’ season opener and over the season allowed just 8 walks (against 64 Ks) in 81.1 IP

And that concludes this pack.  No inserts again, but our luck will change in the future.

Next time around I’m thinking I’ll talk a little bit about the colors I’m using.  There *is* a method to my madness, and quite a bit of compulsive behavior on my part.

The 1970’s, A To Z: Vic Harris to Dave Heaverlo

Recap: I’m going through all of the notable and somewhat notable players and managers of the 1970’s and I’m basically making like it’s an all-encompassing 1970’s throwback baseball card set. For the “card front”, I’m sharing my favorite 1970’s card of that guy. I’m also including a card back’s worth of information and thoughts about him and his cardboard.


VIC HARRIS

1976 SSPC #321

Played 1972 – 1980
1970’s Teams: Rangers, Cubs, Cardinals, Giants

1970’s Highlights:
Harris was named the May 9, 1976 NL Player of the Week after batting .464 with 7 RBI, 5 runs, a double and a triple; Was sent from the Rangers to the Cubs in the deal that also involved Fergie Jenkins and Bill Madlock

Career Highlights:
Played 3 seasons for the Kintetsu Buffaloes in the 1980s

Fun Stuff:
Played every position but pitcher, catcher, first; Was seen as having “superstar potential” early in his career; Did not get a hit until his 13th Major League game, going 0-for-36 to start his career


RORIC HARRISON

1976 SSPC #507

Played 1972 – 1978
1970’s Teams: Orioles, Braves, Indians, Twins

1970’s Highlights:
Harrison was the last American League pitcher to homer before the DH rule went into effect for the 1973 season, having hit one off of Cleveland’s Ray Lamb on 10/3/72; Six of his fifteen career hits were homers and three more were doubles; Despite the fact that I’m listing only hitting highlights for a pitcher, Harrison’s career average sits at .121

Fun Stuff:
Is the only Major Leaguer with the name ‘Roric’; While a minor leaguer, he was involved in the trade that all fans of Ball Four know: Jim Bouton to Houston for Dooley Womack and Roric Harrison… Harrison never played for the Pilots or Brewers, he made his Major League debut after another trade sent him to the Orioles organization

Card Stuff:
Was airbrushed in a Tigers cap in 1978 Topps, but never played for Detroit… he was released in spring training and pitched that season for the Twins, his final Major League outings


ANDY HASSLER

1978 Topps #73

Played 1971 – 1985
1970’s Teams: Angels, Royals, Red Sox, Mets

1970’s Highlights:
Made his Major League debut as a 19-year-old in 1971 and was the third-youngest player in the Majors that season; Had the third-best ERA (2.61) in the AL in 1974 but still finished with a 7-11 record; Started games in the 1976 and 1977 ALCS vs. the Yankees; One-hit the Indians on 7/2/77

Fun Stuff
Although Hassler played for six different teams and did two stints with the Angels, he was never traded for another player… He was either sold to another team or signed elsewhere as a free agent


FRAN HEALY

1974 Topps #238

Played 1969 – 1978
1970’s Teams: Giants, Royals, Yankees

1970’s Highlights:
Caught both of Steve Busby’s no hitters, vs Tigers 4/27/73 and vs Brewers 6/19/74

Career Highlights:
Selected in the 1968 Expansion draft from the Cleveland Indians; Was a broadcaster for the Yankees and Mets

Fun Stuff:
Healy’s father played in the Cardinals organization and his uncle, Francis Healy, played 42 games for the New York Giants and Cardinals in the 1930s

Card Stuff:
The featured 1974 card shows Thurman Munson sliding into home… a couple of years later, Healy would be the backup to Munson; Healy’s photo was mistakenly used on Steve Busby’s 1975 card


DAVE HEAVERLO

1978 Topps #338

Played 1975 – 1981
1970’s Teams: Giants, A’s

1970’s Highlights:
In 1975 he was a non-roster invitee with the Giants and not only did he make the team, but his 2.39 ERA lead the team that season; Went from Giants to the A’s in a cross-bay deal that sent Vida Blue to San Francisco; His 10-saves for the 1978 A’s was second only to closer Elias Sosa; Made 60+ appearances in four of his seven seasons

Fun Stuff:
Heaverlo seems like an interesting guy… He stuck with the non-roster uniform number he was assigned when he first made the Giants (#60) — one of his cards and a cartoon on Al Fitzmorris’ 1977 card referenced this as the highest in the Majors; He was the first player I was aware of to shave his head… Not surprisingly, his nickname was ‘Kojak’

2021 TSR Daily: An Intro To My New Custom Card “Set”

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that I’ve been sharing custom cards here since 2012. Each year I’ll have a ‘set’ that I use as an example of what I’d like to pick up when I’m in a certain retailer stocking up on shaving cream and cat litter.

Aside from just enjoying it in general, it’s also become a way for me to relax a bit… I suppose it’s like knitting or coloring books for adults (I don’t like the phrase ‘adult coloring books’ because that sounds like the images are… well… you know)

Last year I had two custom baseball sets and… Well, I’m not even going to count up how many customs I did because I’m not sure I want to know. We’ll just say it was over two hundred, which includes every Met and Oriole who appeared in a game, and also a handful of Curling customs (and that’s the Olympic sport of Curling, I haven’t lost my mind and made customs of Kellogg’s 3-D cards which are curling because they weren’t kept in toploaders… OK, my brain is clearly all over the place this morning).

…ANYWAY…

The direction I’m taking my customs in this year comes mainly from two places:

  • I know I’m going to make a lot of customs this year, and…
  • If I’m resigned to making a lot of customs, maybe I should make more of an effort to making a cohesive set representing all of the teams

This project is also going to span two platforms as I’ll be tweeting out a custom card each day (@Shlabotnik_Rpt, if you didn’t know), and then do a summary “pack” here on the blog each week.  I plan on having more in the blog than out on Twitter, but I’m still working out what I’m going to do.

I really want to go into great detail about all of this right now, what went into designing them, how I’m picking out the checklists, what other plans I have for 2021, but I’m going to let my rational side take over and hold stuff back for future posts.  I will tease this much:  This year’s design started out as a riff on a vintage non-baseball Topps set.

OK, well let’s open our “pack” now!

I plan on having a specific reason for including any players in this set, but I don’t think you have to rationalize including the reigning American League MVP.  Abreu also lead the Majors with 60 RBI and the American League with 76 hits.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa won a Gold Glove at 3rd base and raised his batting average from .238 to .280 in a similar number of games.

Clayton Kershaw’s career achievements speak for themselves.  As for 2020, he went 6-2 in the regular season and 2-0 in the World Series.  I love the way this custom came out;  with photographers socially distant during games and warmups, there should be more photos like this on cards (real and otherwise) in 2021.

Soak in this Madison Bumgarner custom, because it may be as close as you’ll get to a licensed MadBum card.  He must not have a contract with Topps, as he hasn’t been on a Topps card since 2017.

Alex Verdugo will always carry the Mookie Betts trade around like a monkey on his back, but in 2020 he lead Red Sox with a .308 average and finished 12th in AL MVP voting.  12th isn’t great, but it isn’t nothing.

I still like Jonathan Schoop from his time with the Orioles, which seems a long time ago now.  He’ll be back with the Tigers in 2021, the first time since 2018 that he’ll start the season with the same team for the second year in a row.

Brad Keller went 5-3, 2.47 for a losing Royals team, and is the pride of Flowery Branch, GA.  His one shutout in 2020 tied him with four others for the American League lead.

Kenta Maeda was certainly a solid pickup for the Twins, going 6-1 with a 2.70 ERA and leading the Majors with a 0.75 WHIP.  He finished 2nd to Shane Bieber in AL Cy Young Voting.

Brian Anderson lead the Marlins with 11 homers and 38 RBI.  The biggest move the Marlins made this offseason was signing Adam Duvall, but they still concern this Mets fan.

And speaking of the Mets, Jacob deGrom was Jacob deGrom in 2020, making a run at a 3rd straight Cy and leading the NL with 104 K’s.

OK, so that’s this week’s “pack” of customs.  We didn’t pull any inserts this time around, but there will be some in future packs.