Cheap, Misplaced Vintage

I spent all of this weekend’s “card time” organizing and creating yesterday’s customs, so this is going to be a short post.

While organizing, I ran across some cards which had been in the garage being aired out because they positively reeked of musty basement smell, and where I’d semi-forgotten them for over a year. I remember the card show I got these at, but I can’t remember picking them out and buying them… so I don’t remember what I paid, but I know they fell into the “I can’t pass these up” category so by extension they were cheap.

Elston Howard was the 1963 AL MVP, a 12-time All-Star and the first African-American to play for the Yankees.

I liked the Yankees for about three years when I was a kid, and Elston Howard was a Yankees coach during that time, so he’s one of the relatively small group of Yankees upon whom I look favorably. This is my first card of Elston Howard.

Richie Ashburn – or “ASHBUP”, thanks to a red magic marker – finished his 15 year career with 2 seasons with the Cubs and one season with the Mets.

Given that the 1962 Mets are almost legandary to this lifelong Mets fan, I’m not fazed by the idea of Richie Ashburn as a Met, but Richie Ashburn as a Cub looks tremendously odd to me.

Two 1960’s Topps Rookie All-Star Guys

Today we have two cards I obtained last year in a brief run I made towards filling in some of the cards which feature the Topps All-Star Rookie trophy.

Frank Linzy was 3rd in NL Rookie Of The Year voting in 1965, finishing behind winner Jim Lefebvre and 2nd place guy Joe Morgan.  He had some nice numbers that season, all working out of the bullpen:  9-3, 1.43 ERA and 20 saves.  After a quick scan of his quite nice career stats (almost exclusively in relief), I wonder if he would’ve been a better-known pitcher if his career had started even 10 years later.
1966-topps-frank-linzy
I find it interesting that despite modern-day statements which make it sound as if nobody tracked Saves before 1969 (the year it became an official stat), almost every one of Linzy’s baseball cards mentions Saves in the writeup.   Hmmm.

Jimmie Coker played in a career-high 81 games in 1960, the season which got him an All-Star Rookie nod.  He’d spend most of 1961 with the AAA Buffalo Bisons and would spend much of the 1960’s as a AAA starter and a Major League backup for the Phils, Giants and Reds.
1961-topps-jim-coker
I love this posed shot with another Phillie in the background.  I also love the huge uniform numbers.  Gene Conley wore #29 in 1960 and before, so would that be him?  This is a 2nd series card, so the photo is probably not from 1961.

 

Shlabotnik Quality Assortment: Willie, Gil, Vic And Sammy

I’ve got a few old items to share today, one owned by me for years, the others were more recent acquisitions… all over 40 years old.

First off is a ticket stub that was stashed away in a metal index card box along with a bunch of other collectibles I’ve had as long as I can remember.
Mets ticket stub 6-9-73
June 9th, 1973…  I’d like to say that this was a pivotal moment in my young life (I was 7 going on 8)… but I unfortunately do not remember it. Baseball didn’t capture my attention until the following year… plus I have a notoriously bad memory… but I have the ticket stub so I presume I was there.

The Mets beat the Dodgers 4-2 on a Saturday afternoon in front of 47,800 fans.  Jon Matlack pitched a complete game, Rusty Staub had 2 doubles and 3 RBI, and Willie Mays hit career homer 655 off of Al Downing (the same pitcher who would give up Hank Aaron’s 715th a little under a year later).

A small cartoon devil did appear on my shoulder while writing this, and tried to encourage me to fake it and say I remembered it like it was yesterday, but I decided to play it straight. It’s still a cool ticket stub.

Vic Power had some power – he hit 126 homers over 12 seasons – but he also won the Gold Glove award 7 years straight, from 1958 to 1964.
1961 Topps Vic Power
He was an All-Star four times, twice with the Kansas City Athletics, twice with the Cleveland Indians.

Gotta love Post cards, gotta love Gil Hodges, put ’em together…
1961 Post Gil Hodges
Like the Vic Power card above, this one is from 1961… Gil’s last year with the Dodgers and his last year of appearing in more than 100 games. After the season, he’d be taken by the Mets in the expansion draft.

I just love this shot of catcher Sammy Taylor posing like an infielder… with his catcher’s glove.
1962 Topps Sammy Taylor
This could almost go into my Mets binder as Taylor would be traded from the Cubs to the Mets early in 1962. He’d last just over a year with the Mets before being traded to the Reds halfway through the 1963 season. The Reds would trade him to Cleveland later in the summer, and he’d finish his career with four games in an Indians uniform.

Guest Writer:  Joey S. From Miss DeLuca’s 3rd Grade Class

(In a post the other day, I mindlessly declared the Phillies to have been the 1993 World Champions, forgetting the whole Joe Carter walk-off homer thing. That convinced me that I needed a break from thinking and research… so for today’s post I’m turning things over to my third grade self)

I am going to write about some baseball and hockey cards that were bought from a website called COMC. I live in 1973 so I don’t know what a website or COMC are.

This is a card that Bob (The Five Tool Collector) really likes. I really like it too, that’s why it’s here.
1961 Topps Wes Covington
This card is older than I am, but only a couple of years. I don’t remember the Milwaukee Braves, only the Atlanta Braves.  I wonder if they ever played against the Brewers.

I like this hockey card. It shows two hockey players, but look behind the glass.
1977-78 OPC Mike Walton
See the man in the suit with the big cowboy hat?  He makes me smile because he looks like Jed Clampett when he goes to Mr. Drysdale’s bank to talk about his money.

This next card is one that came in a box of Kellogg’s cereal.  It’s pretty cool the way it looks like the background moves, but it’s not a real baseball card, it’s just something that comes with cereal my Mom doesn’t buy.
1980 Kellogg's Jim Palmer
(2016 Joe here… I really did think that when I was a kid.  “Real” baseball cards were standard size and came in packs.  They most certainly didn’t come in a box of cereal or, even worse, get cut out of a snack cake box.  Maybe I would’ve felt differently if my mom bought Kellogg’s or Hostess… OK, back to 3rd grade Joey).

Here’s a card of Rube Walker.  I know you are all in 2016, but here in 1973 he is a coach with the Mets.  This card must be really old because he looks young and the card says “Brooklyn Dodgers”.  The Dodgers have been gone forever.
1954 Topps Rube Walker
Mrs. Goodwin next door says that the Dodgers broke her heart when the left town. I don’t know about that because that happened before I was born.

Miss DeLuca is telling me I should be polite and thank you all….

Thank you for reading. I had fun writing this and I hope you had fun too.

The 2016 State Of The Union Address (Weigh-In #53)

Ladies and Gentlemen… The President of The Shlabotnik Report

Madam Speaker… Mister Subwoofer…  Members of the Blogosphere… My fellow Collectors…

TSR State Of The Union

2015 was a notable year for The Shlabotnik Report and for the collecting community.  Flagship Topps had an outstanding design; Stadium Club’s photography had everybody talking.  A lot of accomplishments were made, but there are a lot of challenges remaining as we move into a new year.

However, 2015 was also a year without structure, a year of following impulses rather than pursuing the declared objectives.  There’s a lot of good to be said about following  impulses and doing what feels right at the moment, but the end result is a number of unfinished projects, unopened packs and box sets.

While we’ve been successful in keeping our spending in line with previous years, and also in keeping a handle on incoming cards, the fact is that we’ve had a large drop-off in the number of exports in the form of cards leaving the house.  As you can see from this table…

2012 2013 2014 2015
Inbound 4,335 5,378 5,337 4,200
Outbound 8,894 19,677 8,562 2,881
Added 1,719 3,223 2,833 2,322
Removed 2,389 3,908 3,202 1,189

…During Fiscal 2015, the number of cards leaving the house (listed in the “Outbound” row on the above table) were significantly down from prior years.  While it’s true that 2013 was an aberration caused by the recycling of large quantities of junk wax doubles, the truth remains that 2015’s totals were still nearly 6,000 cards below the previous lowest amount.  Similarly, the number of cards removed from the collection were down in 2015.  Better efforts need to be made to return these to their previous levels.

In light of these shortcomings and challenges, a series of initiatives are being considered;  some may be implemented as they stand, some may be modified before being implemented, others may get vetoed.

While a “budget” has often been referred to in this blog, the truth of the matter is that “I’m on a budget” is often a euphemism for “I’m cheap”.  That being said, I don’t have a handle on how much is spent on the hobby during any given year.  One initiative being considered for 2016 is tracking the money spent on cards, mainly out of curiosity but also to see whether the return on investment is there for certain expenditures (i.e. lunchtime Target runs).

Similarly, alternate retail strategies are being considered.  In 2014 and 2015, the plan was to buy factory sets of flagship Topps while getting most of the pack-busting stimulus from Heritage.  Studies have concluded that while factory sets are economically prudent, there is a significant shortfall in the amount of “fun”.  While Heritage expenditures will continue in fiscal 2016, alternates to the factory set strategy are being explored.

One such strategy being floated is to focus more on Opening Day than on flagship Topps, which would allow for an easier set-building goal plus more enjoyable inserts.  However, it’s recently come to this administration’s attention that 2016 Opening Day will no longer have 3-D cards, which diminishes the projected return on the Opening Day investments.

An initiative being explored is a two-pronged effort to devote more time towards domestic resources rather than imported resources;  in other words, being more involved with cards already in the house rather than those in stores or on COMC. Part of this initiative would involve spending more time and energy with cards already in the collection, while the other part would involve exploring the vast cardboard reserves believed to exist on the surface of my dining room table.

One obvious place where cutbacks can easily be made are with inserts and with current cards of retired players.  More and more studies are finding that inserts provide a short-term level of enjoyment;  they may seem appealing when acquired, but later become something of an afterthought.  I’m proposing a more strenuous screening process that would allow entry only to those inserts and retired players who fall into the collection in some predefined way.  For instance, Cal Ripken would be allowed, as there’s a established Cal PC.  Nolan Ryan would be welcomed if pictured with the Mets, but Nolan Ryan with any other team would be turned away… This is due to a distinct surplus in non-vintage Nolan Ryan cards.

Finally, several existing programs, – “1966 Batman” project and the “Steelers Team Sets” project, just to name two  – will be temporarily put on hold and reevaluated at an undetermined future date.

In conclusion, we are pleased with the state of the collection as well as that of The Shlabotnik Report, and there is no doubt that 2016 will be a landmark year for both.

For additional statistics on 4th quarter performance, I refer you to the following statistics, illustrated by some imports from The Republic Of COMC.

The numbers here reflect changes since September 14th.

Net change in the collection since 9/14/15: +147 (442 added, 295 purged)

Net change to the # of cards in the house since 9/14/15: -1425 (1304 in, 2729 out)

1964 Topps George Brunet

In the below figures, “to date” means since I started tracking this stuff on 10/16/2011.

Total # of cards purged from the collection, to date: 11,784

Net change to the collection, to date: -1,476

1966 Topps Mike McCormick

Total # of cards which have left the house, to date:  44,743

Net change to the number of cards in the house, to date: -25,533

1967 Topps Jack Baldschun

Number of individual cards tracked in my Access database: 51,662

Number of cards that make up the sets flagged as completed in my Access database: 17,623

1970 Topps Joe Moeller

…which means I’ve got at least 69,285 cards in my collection.

Thank you, and good night.

1961 Topps Joe Christopher

COMC What I Got: 1960’s Cards I Just Liked

As mentioned several times before, I did a lot of shopping on COMC during the Black Friday Weekend promotion.  After I finished going through my wantlists, I spent the rest of the weekend dreaming up different things to shop for.

Towards the end of the weekend I decided to go to each 1960’s Topps set and see if there were any inexpensive cards that weren’t on any of my wantlists, but were just cards that I liked for whatever reason.

Here are some of those cards…

As much as I hate the Yankees, I really like cards that show parts of the original Yankee Stadium… Plus I like Woody Held’s far-from-pristine helmet.
1962 Topps Woody Held
Woody’s first name is Woodson and he played for 7 different teams.  According to baseball-reference.com he’s the only Major Leaguer to have played 100 games at second, third, short, left, center and right… yet he never played at first.  Interesting.

Rich Rollins here is fresh off a guest appearance on “Mad Men”.
1965 Topps Rich Rollins
Rich Rollins does admittedly kinda sorta have another reason for being in my collection;  he was a Seattle Pilot, and as such holds a special place in my heart.

It’s a 1965 card, so I can’t NOT show the back.
1965 Topps Rich Rollins back
“Versalles” mentioned in the cartoon was Zoilo Versalles, who was the AL MVP in 1965.  If I ever go into witness protection and have to change my name, “Zoilo” would be right up there on my list… Although I guess that wouldn’t be terribly inconspicuous.

Even though I know that there were two All-Star games each year from 1959 to 1962, reading that someone “appeared in both All-Star games of ’62” still makes me say “What the what?”

I wish my scanner didn’t tend to “wash out” cards, because I bought it solely because I liked the colors…  The yellow and red of the border combined with the Cardinal red… Wonderful stuff.
1966 Topps Don Dennis
I’d never heard of Don Dennis;  he pitched two years of relief for the Cards, got traded to the White Sox and never appeared in the Majors again.

This is another card that simply appealed to my visual cortex.
1961 Topps Jerry Lynch
Despite the glove in this photo, Jerry Lynch was one of the premier pinch hitters of his time.  He had 116 pinch hits;  while he appeared in 1,184 games he played the field in only 710 of them.

My apologies to Mr. George Alusik, but when I saw this card I said “Damn, I look more like a ballplayer than this guy!”
1962 Topps George Alusik
I’ll be fair, George Alusik looks much more athletic on his 1963 and 1964 cards, both of which picture him with the Athletics (and look like they were taken moments apart in 1962).  Alusik played sparingly for the Tigers from 1958 to 1962, got traded to Kansas City and played more regularly for three years.  He has 23 career homers, but in 1962 he homered in 5 consecutive games.

So that’s it for this particular batch of cards… I’ll be featuring these “COMC What I Got” posts throughout the next few weeks… months… years…

Ranking 15 Years Of Heritage, Part 2: 12 through 10

As this is “Part 2” of a series of posts, I don’t want to get too involved in the whys and the wherefores of this series.  If you want that, you can check out Part 1 here.

What I will recap is what criteria I’m using when I rank these.  I looked at the design being “Heritaged”, how successful Topps was in replicating the design and feel of the set, and finally whether the Heritage cards changed my feelings towards the original card.

For those who didn’t click the link, here’s a list of #15 through #13:
#15 – 2001 Heritage (1952 design)
#14 – 2011 Heritage (1962 design)
#13 – 2009 Heritage (1960 design)

All right, let’s get back to it!

#12 – 2010 Heritage (1961 design)
Going into 2010, I really wanted to like this Heritage set. When I was a pre-teen, 1961 Topps had the honor of being the oldest set where I had more than one card (I had maybe three), so from a relative early age, the 1961’s were the epitome of “Cool old cards”.
2010 Heritage Rick Ankiel
2010 Heritage Rick Ankiel back
When 2010 Heritage came out, even though they did a pretty good job of reproducing the set, the end result was… unsatisfying. And I’m having a hard time coming up with reasons why.

I don’t know if this has anything to do with it, but I’ll stand on top of this particular soapbox anyway: One of these days, a card manufacturer is going to figure out how to simulate vintage printing technology and we will all gush about how awesome that company’s throwback sets look (even if we’re not 100% sure why we’re gushing).

This is not pie-in-the-sky thinking… At least one uniform manufacturer has some sort of technique to simulate the weave of flannel uniforms using modern fabrics. I’ve seen this in person, and I have to say it looks pretty convincing (at least from 20 or so feet away). 99% of people probably see it as “old school” without words like “flannel” entering their consciousness.

In a similar way, there’s gotta be a way of simulating vintage printing technology with these Heritage cards, thus making them look more like pack-fresh cards from the 1960’s rather than the products of 21st century technology.  Maybe subtle flaws or unevenness can be worked into the colors… Some bleeding between colors and around black lines. This is something I’ve been futzing with while playing with my custom cards, and I’ve found that little touches like that can make a big difference in how the customs look. Now we just need to get someone in charge to feel the same way.

Getting back to the cards, the All-Star inserts turned out just fine.
2010 Topps Heritatge Johan Santana AS

…And the award winner subset also turned out pretty well.
2010 Topps Heritage Miguel Tejada MVP

How Heritage affected my opinion of the originals:  To be honest, it made me go back to my 1961’s and wonder why I like them as much as I do. But I do like them, despite the mild disappointment that is their Heritage offspring.

2010 Heritage cards in my collection: 179 cards out of 501 in the set (35.7%)

#11 – 2004 Heritage (1955 design)

When I came up with my ranking, I flip-flopped several times between this set and the next set.  I started out with this set at #10, but as I started writing this post, I decided it had to be #11… maybe even 12.  When I finish this series, I probably could start another one called “How I’d rank them now that I’ve finished ranking them”.

Part of my problem with 2004 Heritage is my general bias against horizontally-oriented sets. When you hold cards in your hand, you hold them vertically. If the set is horizontal, you have to either hold your hand at an unnatural angle, tilt your head, or both.
2004 Heritage Paul LoDuca

Like 2010 Heritage, I had to struggle to figure out why the cards seemed “wrong”.  Unlike 2010 Heritage, I think I know why…

IMHO, Topps graphics people get a little too hung up on 21st century “design language” or style or convention or whatever you want to call it.  Whether for aesthetic reasons, or legal reasons or just not wanting to irritate licensors, they tend to leave a lot of space around photos when the crop them.  They also seem particularly averse to one photo interfering with another, or a player’s bat getting chopped off, or part of the player’s “action” shot being covered by the team logo.

In doing so, they forget one of the reasons why kids bought baseball cards back in the day – to see what players look like.  Boxscores and radio broadcasts didn’t give you any idea.  Newspapers and most magazines often had grainy black & white photos.  TV was probably the best source, but they were not the HD TV’s of today.

Accordingly, Topps back in the day would let the player dominate the front of the card:

1955 Topps Reno Bertoia

You get a good look at his face, and even the “action shot” would give you a decent idea of what he looked like.  The card design was visual spice to make it more appealing.

For 2004 Heritage, Topps was overcautious with their cropping, and inadvertently let the card design nudge it’s way into your awareness.  It’s like those MP3’s which have been “Remastered for iPod” and the engineers largely ignore the original mix and just crank the vocals, guitars, keyboard, bass and drums all to the same levels… Sure, you can hear more keyboards or bass (and I’ve been told that it’s all about da bass), but then you hear less of the lead vocals and guitar…. and then you want to run out to a used record store, find the original vinyl and rip that instead.  (Not that I have any experiences like this WHATSOEVER).

As a quick visual aid to show you the cropping differences, I did a little experiment…

I took the Bertoia image, reduced it by 95% to get it roughly standard size, and then took slices and laid it down on the 2006 Lo Duca, aligning each by the green stripe on the bottom. It’s not the most scientific test, but the results were pretty telling. Check it out:

2004 Heritage vs 1955 Topps

The background goes higher on the Bertoia (in other words, the white border is narrower on the original), but look at how much larger the 1955 images are when compared to the 2006 equivalent.  It just gets more extreme with other Heritage cards, Lo Duca’s face is relatively large compared to some of the others.

So, like we had with the 1960 design in my previous post, the graphics people didn’t crop tight enough, the design takes over, and the result ends up being less than satisfying.

2004 Heritage Paul LoDuca back
The backs are nice, anyway. Several colors, white cardboard and a cartoon go a long way.

How Heritage affected my opinion of the originals: No opinions of 1955 Topps were harmed during the creation of this Heritage set.

2004 Heritage in my collection: 49 / 475 (10.3%)

#10 – 2006 Heritage (1957 design)
I’m sort of “analyzed-out” after the past two sets, so I’m not going to pick this design apart and examine it under a microscope.
2006 Heritage John  Smoltz
2006 Heritage John Smoltz back
Besides, 2006 Heritage is ranked pretty much the way I’d rank the original.  1957 is a set I really want to like, but it’s just too inconsistent.  When you can read the player’s name, team and position, it works very nicely.  Very often, the text on the card gets jumbled into the background, and it becomes something of a mess.

For the record, here’s an original 1957.
1957 Topps Bob Boyd

How Heritage affected my opinion of the originals:  2006 Heritage made me wish, even more, that I liked 1957 Topps more than I do.

2006 Heritage cards in my collection: 110/495 (22.2%)

Coming Attractions

I promise this entire series isn’t going to be a grumpy old man kvetching about picky details… There are Heritage sets I like, and we will get there.