2018 TSR: The Last Day Of The Season

With two divisions still up in the air and the last day of the regular season upon us – unless there’s a tie for the NL Central or West divisions – I naturally decided to focus on a couple of the other stories of the weekend.

First off… David Wright.  I had my doubts as to whether I would be making a custom of David Wright in 2018, given his physical issues over recent years. As things worked out, he will be declared medically ineligible to play, but before he went he got a nice sendoff from the team and from Mets fans last night.

Wright pinch hit on Friday night, and last night he got his final start, taking 3rd base next to long-time teammate Jose Reyes. He got two at-bats and one fielding chance, and came out on to the field at the top of the 5th when he was pulled in a defensive change which gave him another chance to tip his cap to the Mets faithful.

Fortunately for me, MLB.TV is free this whole weekend, so I got to watch the beginning and end of the game. A nice evening all around and a great way for David Wright to ride off into the sunset.

Next up is a custom in my new “ShlabotNOW…Or Later”, addressing those moments from the season which Topps NOW neglected to address.

The Orioles Chris Davis broke a record that nobody wants to break… Of all the batters in Major League history who qualified by having 3.1 at bats for every game his team played in a given season, Chris Davis now has the lowest batting average ever, finishing with a .168 average.

Although Davis is healthy, the Orioles announced that he would not play at all this weekend, so he’s not going to get a chance to improve on this saddest of achievements.

Orioles fans can take some slight comfort in knowing that their team is not the only one to lose 100 games this year; the Royals currently sit at 58-103

Ned Yost doesn’t seem about to take the fall for the 103 losses. FYI, this is my next-to-last manager card for 2018.

Here’s another custom in the insert set of classically bad combo cards featuring excessively-hyped rookies:

Speaking of excessively-hyped rookies, I’ll wrap up with an Ohtani custom I made back in May, but which stayed on the shelf… until now.

I only post this one because I like the way this turned out. I really wish we’d gotten a 1988-themed insert set this year.

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Card #270 From 1972 – 1978 Topps

Today is the 270th day of 2018, so I’m featuring card #270 from seven different 1970’s sets.

I do these posts because I enjoy pulling out cards from the very core of my collection (1974 to 1978 were my first five years of collecting), but I also enjoy the randomness of saying “I think I’ll do a Card Number post on Thursday… what day of the year is that?” When used my little Excel spreadsheet formula to determine that 9/27 is the 270th day of 2018, I knew that we’d have some good cards because Topps traditionally assigns card numbers ending with zero to good players.

…But in this case, not the absolute BEST players. The six or seven tippity-toppest players get the card numbers which are divisible by 100 (100, 200, 300, etc.), the next tier generally gets the “fifties” (150, 250, 350… ) and so on. Anybody on a card with a number like 270 are generally among the best players in the game, but weren’t THE TOP PLAYERS.

Because it was a card number ending in zero (and because I happened to have the appropriate cards), I decided to add in 1972 and 1973 this time.

…and so we’ll start off with Card #270 from 1972 Topps:  Jim Palmer

What Jim Palmer did the year before to earn a card number ending in zero: In 1971 “Cakes” won 20 games, making him the fourth member of the Orioles rotation to win 20 games.  That’s just amazing, especially considering that there won’t be four pitchers in all of the Majors to win 20 games in 2018.  As for Palmer in 1971, he was an All-Star, but didn’t win an award or lead the league in any particular category… probably the epitome of “divisible by 10-ness”

Card #270 from 1973 Topps – Luis Tiant
Tiant always looks strange to me without his trademark Fu Manchu mustache.

What Luis Tiant did the year before: Went 15-9, lead the league with a 1.91 ERA and got Cy Young and MVP votes.  More importantly, he re-established himself as a starting pitcher and won the Comeback Of The Year Award.

I enjoyed the cartoon on the back of El Tiante’s card:

Card #270 from 1974 Topps – Ron Santo

What Ron Santo did the year before: He batted .267 with 65 runs and 77 RBI and was an All-Star… but there’s probably a significant element of “He gets one of these numbers because he’s Ron bleeping Santo”.

Here’s a freaky little fact: Ron Santo batted .267 in three of the four seasons from 1970 to 1973, and in 1970 and 1971 he had the exact same number of hits and at-bats. This seemed so unlikely that I went to a couple of different sources to verify these numbers.

After the 1973 season, Santo was traded to the White Sox, to the dismay of Cubs fans everywhere.

Before Ron Santo was traded across town, a trade had been worked out to send him to the Angels; however, Santo vetoed it.  Several years ago I’d shared a card which I’d received in an interdimensional PWE from my counterpart in an alternate universe:

I haven’t heard anything from Alternate Universe Joe in a while, I’ll have to reach out to him.

Finally, Santo’s card had a good cartoon:

Card #270 from 1975 Topps – Ron Fairly
Had there been a Traded set in 1975, Ron Fairly would’ve likely been featured in a badly-airbrushed Cardinals cap. In the December 1974 Winter Meetings, Fairly was traded to St. Louis for two minor leaguers.

What Ron Fairly did the year before: Ron Fairly batted .245 with 35 runs and 43 RBI, and he had been an All-Star in 1973… I’m thinking that Fairly got his semi-star card # by being good for quite a long time – he played 21 years over his career, spanning 1958 to 1969 with the Dodgers, 1969 to 1974 with the Expos, and 1975 to 1978 with the Cardinals, A’s, Blue Jays and Angels.

One other fun Fairly fact: He was the Toronto Blue Jays’ first All-Star.

Card #270 from 1976 Topps – Willie Stargell

What Willie Stargell did the year before: By this point in his career, you couldn’t really give “Pops” just any old number… But Stargell got MVP votes while batting .295 with 22 homers, 90 RBI and 71 Runs

Card #270 from 1977 Topps – Dave Parker

What Dave Parker did the year before: Parker was still a fairly new player and when this card initially came out he had yet to be an All-Star, an MVP or a Gold Glove winner, but he did bat .313 with 90 RBI and 82 Runs.

Card #270 from 1978 Topps – Carlton Fisk

What Carlton Fisk did the year before: Obviously, Fisk was an All-Star.  He batted .315 with 102 RBI, 26 homers and 106 runs. He was also the 1972 Rookie of the Year and a 1975 World Series hero.

Cheap Find: 1990 The Wiz / Aiwa NY Mets Hall Of Fame Postcards

I recently stumbled across this set of Mets postcards at a card show.  They came sealed in a plastic bag, and I’m thinking they must’ve been a giveaway at Shea Stadium back in 1990.  I didn’t know anything about them when I ran across them, but as the dealer wanted just $2 for the set of six, I was happy to give it a shot… and wasn’t disappointed.

This postcard is officially for Bud Harrelson (on the right) but it also includes Mets teammate Ken Boswell and a sliding Pirate.. I’m going to take a stab at it and say that’s Matty Alou.

Everybody featured in this set is in the New York Mets Hall Of Fame.  The names may sometimes fall flat with fans of other teams, but the checklist is a no-brainer for Mets fans.

Here’s the back of Bud’s postcard… in the heading I referred to the primary sponsor as “The Wiz”, which is what everybody called them, but the official name for the now-gone regional electronics chain was “Nobody Beats the Wiz”. I bought a TV there 20 years ago (he said, as if anyone really cares).

These postcards are just shy of 5″ x 7″ and have a matte finish.  The one complaint I have about them is that they’re printed a bit dark (my scanner always scans things light, so these look better here than in person).

Here’s Tom Seaver…

…Rusty Staub, who we lost earlier this year…

…Jerry Koosman (judging by the henley-collared pullover jersey with blue and orange trim, this photo looks to be from 1978, Koosman’s last year with the team).

I love this shot of two historic Mets managers, Casey Stengel and Gil Hodges (both of whom had their uniform numbers retired by the Mets).

…And I’ll wrap up with Ed Kranepool, a local kid who broke in with the Mets in 1962 as a teenager, and who played his entire 18 year career with the Amazins.

Eddie used to hold a number of Mets career records which have been eclipsed by the likes of David Wright, Jose Reyes and so on, but his 1,853 games played in blue and orange still stands and is in no danger of being broken anytime in the next decade.

I’m Trying To Think Of A Catchy New Name For My Sunday Custom Card Posts

For much of the time I’ve been doing this blog, I’ve treated my custom cards as if they came in virtual packs. I have my TSR custom sets which had their wrappers…

I have my “Hot Stove” Kellogg’s-style customs which used to come in a fake cereal box until I ran out of cereal-based jokes.

But lately I’ve been thinking of abandoning that pretense and just sharing a number of customs each Sunday, basically whatever unpublished customs I have on hand on Sunday morning.  I dunno, maybe I’m just burned out on the concept and need to take a break.

So I’m trying to think of something to call these posts… “Capricious Customs” came to mind, but I may just go with “Custom Sunday” or just no name at all… I’m sure you all can figure it out without a theme name.

With that being said, let’s move on to the customs…

All year long I’ve been toying with the idea of creating something to sort of poke fun at the Topps Now concept… A series of cards which would commemorate some sort of play or event which I appreciated, but which didn’t get the “Now” treatment.  I guess I finally got some inspiration on Thursday when watching the Mets and Nationals play, and Mets pitcher Robert Gsellman became the first visiting player to use the Nats’ bullpen cart.

…And yes, I know that the Diamondbacks brought the cart back before the Nats, but I never got around to doing one of that cart. 

I may do more with this “ShlabotNOW…or Later” concept… or maybe save it for next year.

One other quick thing of moderate interest:  Sean Doolittle, who’s depicted on this custom, rides in the cart, but Gsellman rode on the back.

Another new “subset” I’ve been playing with lately also pokes fun at Topps, and features some classically bad combo cards.  Topps has unleashed some bad ones in recent years, so I’ve tried to outdo them in that respect, while featuring TOP ROOKIES OF TODAY!!!!!!

I wonder if Javier Baez would sign a custom like this…

Speaking of hot rookies, I couldn’t resist this photo of Gleyber Torres in front of a Fenway linescore which does not reflect well on the visiting Yankees…

I’m winding down on the Manager customs, only two more to go after this one and then all of the teams will have been represented.

I have to admit, I was a little disappointed when the Phillies faded down the stretch.  I can’t help but wonder if they tinkered with their lineup too much at the deadline, or if they added too many Mets (Asdrubal Cabrera and Jose Bautista) or if they just plain ol’ “ran out of gas”.

At any rate, I dislike the Phillies much less than any other NL East rival of the Mets;  I guess we’ll see what happens with them in 2019.

I’m going to enlist the help of my readers on this next subset… I’d like to do a few customs of players who are currently in Japan and had previously played in MLB.  I couldn’t resist Koji Uehara, but I haven’t taken the time to research who else would be a candidate for this set.  Any nominations?

And I’m going to wrap up with two TSRchives Football customs, featuring the 1968 Topps Football design.

After Week One I featured the Steelers’ James Conner, who had caught my attention while I was watching the Steelers and Browns, but a case could easily be made for me to have featured outside linebacker T.J. Watt, who also had a great game and blocked what would’ve been a game-winning overtime field goal by the Browns.

If I wanted to feature the outstanding Steeler of week 2, I’d feature the future HOF quarterback… but I really don’t like him despite his accomplishments, and I imagine I’ll have an opportunity to feature him later on.

On the other side of the field for Week 2, the Steelers faced the Chiefs and 2nd-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Mahomes threw six touchdown passes in the Chiefs win, but what surprised me was that it had somehow got past me that Patrick Mahomes is the son of former reliever Pat Mahomes.

Pat Mahomes, the pitcher, played 11 seasons in the Majors and made it to the postseason with the Mets in 1999. Patrick, the quarterback, grew up in MLB clubhouses so I would think he isn’t fazed by any top tier opponents.

As for the customs themselves… I’d never really did much in the way of football before, but I’m having fun with these so we’ll see how far this goes.

Is There Such A Thing As Vintage Head Coach Cards?

I couldn’t tell you what made me think of this the other day, but it got me wondering…

As a kid in the 1970’s, I mainly collected baseball cards, and to this day I remember many of the managers who worked back in the day because they got their own baseball cards…

…or because they got a little thumbnail photo on a team card…

I may not be a fan of the teams in question, but I know that in the 1970’s Bobby Winkles managed the Angels and the A’s, and Jim Marshall managed the Cubs (when he wasn’t playing for the Vikings… what’s that?  Different Jim Marshall?  OK).

But do fans of other sports have the same kind of associations?  I thought about it, and although I collected hockey for a number of years, the only hockey set I could think of with coaches is the 1974/75 set (with exhibit A being Bep Guidolin and his very 1970’s jacket)

Having collected NASCAR cards in the 1990’s, I know that everybody from the Crew Chief on down to the Front Tire Changer and Gas Man got a card… but other sports?

But I don’t recall ever seeing Chuck Noll on a football card, even if he did guide the Steelers to four Super Bowls.  I don’t know if Tommy Heinsohn got cardboard recognition for his two NBA championships with the Celtics.

Maybe one of you know better than I do… were head coaches ever on football, hockey or basketball cards? How is anybody supposed to remember who coached the Sixers, Bengals or Canucks back in the day?

Since I don’t have answers for you, I’ll share some cards I got of the managers of my youth, but as players instead of managers.

I know I’ve shared cards of Del Crandall before. I knew him as the Brewers’ manager…

But I’ve since found out that Crandall was a damn fine player in his time. As a 19-year old in 1949, he finished second to Don Newcombe in Rookie Of The Year voting… Sure, it was a distant second, but nobody but Newcombe and Crandall got votes. Crandall was an 8-time All-Star and a four-time Gold Glove winner.

If nothing else, I love his 1957 Topps card for a different look at the Milwaukee Braves uniform of the day.

Check out the piping on the belt loops and back pocket, not to mention the very large sleeve patch (or is it chain stitching?). It’s also interesting to compare the fit of the flannels to anything that came afterwards.

His 1961 Post card points out he’d set a Braves team record for RBI’s by a catcher (72).

I couldn’t find anything that limited the RBI’s to those made while the player was catching, but I can see that the list of Braves who were predominately catchers and who have blown past Del Crandall include Eddie Williams, Brian McCann, Joe Torre and Javy Lopez.

Like Del Crandall, Dick Howser was an All-Star as a player and finished second in Rookie Of The Year voting (to the Red Sox’ Don Schwall who won 15 games in a career year).  Howser would manage the Yankees and Royals in the 1980’s.  Here’s his 1962 Post card:

Howser didn’t maintain his accolades past his rookie season, although he did have a fine season with 101 runs scored in 1964.

Darrell Johnson was the Red Sox manager in 1975 when the Bosox won the A.L. Pennant but lost the World Series in 7 games to the Cincinnati Reds.  He was also the first manager of the Seattle Mariners and was at the helm of the Rangers for half a season.

As a catcher, Johnson never played in more than 51 games in a season, but he did suit up for seven different teams (if you count the Baltimore Orioles and St. Louis Browns as two teams rather than one franchise).

2018 Opening Day Base Cards With Different Photos, Part 5

It’s been a while since I did one of these posts.  For those who missed the first four parts, this post features the Opening Day cards which I’ve confirmed as having a photo different from the Topps flagship counterpart.

For all of these pairings, the Opening Day card is on the right.

Anthony Rendon (Opening Day card #109)

Nomar Mazara (Opening Day card #104)
Remember when “Nomar” was an unheard of name?  It’s kind of like when the whole joke in the movie “Splash” was that Madison was a ridiculous name for Daryl Hannah’s character.

Whit Merrifield (Opening Day card #192)
I read something impressive about Whit Merrifield the other day… shame I can’t remember it.

Corey Seager (Opening Day card #59)
Thanks to the insert set in Target packs of flagship, I’ve officially had my fill of Corey Seager.

Jeremy Hellickson (Opening Day card #180)
Hellickson was only an Oriole from July 28, 2017 to the end of last season.  He’s pitched with the Nationals all year after signing as a free agent in March.  Oops.

2018 TSR: Now With Football!

It’s been a long baseball season, and a fairly poopy one on many fronts. The Mets were 15-9 in April and are 10-4 this month, but they stunk in May and absolutely cratered in June. The Orioles… well, the only month where the O’s had a non-awful record was March when they went 1-1. Even on the minor league level, the weather kept me from going to anywhere near as many games as I usually attend, and the teams I did see were not particularly good nor promising.

So maybe it shouldn’t have surprised me when I watched a football game last weekend and actually got into it. I normally pay little attention to football until at least October (and hopefully November if I have a strong rooting interest in the MLB Postseason), but here I was on September 9th enjoying a Steelers/Browns matchup.

Well, maybe “enjoying” isn’t entirely the right word. It was entertaining, but due to rain and other factors, it wasn’t the best-played game you’ll see all year… and it ended in a tie (which, as far as I’m concerned, was a victory for the Browns).

But it inspired me to make some football customs, which may or may not end up being a series. This year has been filled with custom sets I started and never took as far as I’d originally intended.

I wanted to pay homage to a vintage football set, and after much deliberating I decided to be “Heritage-y” and observe the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Topps set.

With Le’Veon Bell holding out, Steelers’ running back James Conner got nearly as many carries (32) and yards (144) as he did all of last season, plus he scored two touchdowns and caught five passes.

Conner is a local guy who’s from Erie, PA and went to the University of Pittsburgh. Le’Veon is still sitting at home, so I would guess that Conner’s the guy again against the Chiefs this afternoon.

As for the Browns… Much to my surprise they didn’t suck. I have to admit, I liked seeing excited fans in the stands in Cleveland. I wasn’t sure who to feature on a Browns custom, so I let the availability of images dictate my choice to a large degree and I went with new QB Tyrod Taylor.

The Browns acquired Taylor from the Buffalo Bills for a 3rd round draft pick this past Spring.

OK, that’s it for football this week. I guess we’ll see how inspired I am to make more customs after today’s games… There are probably at least some more coming, if only to justify the time I spent on the 1968 template.

Moving on to baseball… Even though they went on a tear a bit too late for playoff contention (barring an epic collapse by the Yankees or Athletics), I’ve been rooting for the Tampa Bay Rays. They’re 27-13 since the beginning of August, and staff ace Blake Snell has broken out in a big way and deserves some serious Cy Young consideration.

Snell has a 19-5 record and a 2.03 ERA and leads the league in wins and ERA. He’s also third with a 0.982 WHIP.

A note to the Atlanta Braves: It doesn’t matter how many former Orioles and Mets you acquire, I will never root for the Braves.

…OK, well perhaps grudgingly if they’re facing the Yankees, but in that case I will not watch.

MLB announced recently that there wiil be an all-star team touring Japan this fall, and Marlins manager Don Mattingly will be in charge of that touring team.

I’m sure he’s looking for a distraction for what’s going on in Miami these days.

The Orioles recently called up their 2015 1st round draft pick, outfielder DJ Stewart.

After 10 plate appearances, he’s still looking for his first MLB hit.

Just for funsies, I’ll “reprint” the custom I made for him in 2015.

I have to admit, I was uninspired as to who to feature for the Mets, given that all of their best players have already appeared on one of my customs, so I just went with an action shot I like.

Gavin Cecchini is on the Mets 40-man roster but has played sparingly and has not appeared with the Mets this season.

Just to wrap things up with another sport… Congratulations to the Seattle Storm who recently swept the Washington Mystics to win the WNBA championship. Breanna Stewart was named the MVP of the finals.

I only saw a few minute of the final game, but I heard that the WNBA playoffs were very exciting this year. Did anybody watch any of it?