So if you’ve been reading here regularly for the past month or two you’ll know that I have plans to celebrate the 1974 Topps baseball design, which will be used for this year’s Topps Heritage set. My ultimate plan is to fill in the gaps left by Heritage (i.e. managers, middle relievers, etc.) but to also go in directions Topps wouldn’t be going.
Along with making customs of current players, I also have ideas I’m calling “1974 Multiverse”, a sort of “What if…?” for baseball as a whole back in 1974. I’ve done a handful of similar customs over the years, but I’ve got a bunch of ideas brewing.
My first attempt at an official 1974 Multiverse custom comes in the form of “What if Reggie Cleveland had been traded to Cleveland?” In this universe Reggie Cleveland’s regular 1974 card shows him with the Cardinals, and his Traded card shows him in an airbrushed Red Sox cap.
“Cleveland pitching for Cleveland” is something I thought should’ve been the case since I was kid, although back then I didn’t know about Johnny Podres pitching for the Padres or Dave Philley playing for the Phillies.
I’ve got a bunch of scribbled notes on other 1974 Multiverse ideas, some involve players and some involve teams… like this “1974 Milwaukee Braves” custom I’d made a number of years ago:
Mostly what I’ve done so far is “1974 Traded” customs reflecting present day transactions. The general idea is to make them look something like if Topps today has the same technology in play that they had in the 1970s. This also works out well with my not wanting to spend a ton of time on these.
My first example of this kind of ‘cheat’ is this J.D. Martinez, who signed a contract with the Dodgers (and initially prompted thoughts of “Why do the Dodgers want him? Can he do anything but DH? …Oh, wait, there *is* a DH in the NL now…”). I took a photo of Martinez in the Red Sox’ blue and yellow City Connect alternate uniforms, obscured the UCLA Bruins ‘B’ on the helmet, changed the yellow jersey to grey, cropped out the “BOSTON” on the jersey and Bob’s your uncle.
This next custom took a fair amount of time to get a rushed look. The Padres brown is easy enough, I made a layer in Paintshop Pro (my digital playground of choice) that has just the cap and the jersey and used the “Sepia” tool to make them the appropriate color. The cap logo was done by hand, and I’m still not happy with the results but I suppose it has that airbrushed-by-hand look. In any case, I reached a “Good enough, move on” point with this.
I feel obligated to point out that the Padres didn’t have a card in the 1974 Topps Traded set, so I had to fake my way through the border as well.
One last easy peasy one… Andrew Benintendi went from the Yankees (navy pinstripes) to the White Sox (black pinstripes) and the sheer simplicity of just needing to mess with the cap logo got him moved up on the custom card priority list (but it does look pretty good for the minimal effort I put in)
For all of “Uncle Steve” Cohen’s money, the Mets haven’t signed everybody they’d wanted to. I’m going to miss deGrom, and the sight of him in a Texas Rangers uniform is going to take some getting used to.
I had some fun putting a sort of Easter Egg into a number of customs, and it took a while for anyone to notice (or at least for anyone to tell me they’d noticed). In those cases where I used a photo that wasn’t taken out on a playing field or in the dugout, I removed the existing background and substituted one from 1973 or 1974. In this case, I put Kenley Jansen into the original Yankee Stadium. Jansen lead the NL with 41 saves and is going to the American League for the first time.
Dominic Smith has been stuck behind Pete Alonso in the Mets’ depth chart the past couple of years, and good for him, he signed a 1-year contract with the Nats. I’m sorry it didn’t work out of him in New York and I hope he bounces back in 2023… then signs with someone other than the Nats for 2024. Like Jansen, Dominic has been placed in Yankee Stadium from the early 1970s.
The Athletics recently picked up Japanese pitcher Shintaro Fujinami, who somehow finds himself in Oakland Coliseum before it was closed in to keep the Raiders from moving (and that worked TREMENDOUSLY WELL in the long term, don’t you think so Los Angeles and Las Vegas?). The background came from the 1974 card of the Twins Ray Corbin… There was a fair amount of digital tomfoolery involved in getting this background to the point where you didn’t see Cobin’s elbow or torso peeking out from behind Fujinami.
By the way, the image of Fujinami in an A’s uniform was ‘borrowed’ from the team’s Twitter account.
So all of these players I’ve featured so far had changed teams through free agency, but I wanted to do a couple to reflect other player movement going on.
This “2023 Rookie Pitchers” custom features four pitchers who were selected in December’s Rule V draft. The Mets drafted Zach Green from the Yankees, the Orioles drafted Andrew Politi from the Red Sox, the Brewers drafted Gus Varland from the Dodgers and the White Sox drafted Nick Avila from the Giants. Rule V players have to stay on their new team’s active roster all season or else be offered back to their original teams.
By the way, all four of these involved thumbnail photos borrowed from various sources, and all four have backgrounds from the 1970s (although it’s less obvious on some than others).
In the past few days we saw a good ol’ fashioned trade that sent batting champ Luis Arraez from the Twins to the Marlins in exchange for pitcher Pablo López and two prospects.
I spent 15 minutes colorizing the sleeves and drawstrings on Lopez’ hoodie before I realized that they would get cropped out anyway. (*sigh*). I almost mistakenly used last year’s Twins cap logo, although I suppose that wouldn’t have been the end of the world.
And that’s more than enough for now. Lately I’m always working on these and will probably be transitioning from “Traded” to base cards sometime in February when Spring Training images start to roll in.