More 1974-Themed Customs

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.

Custom Cards: Out With The Old, In With The New

I haven’t shared many custom cards here on the blog even though I’ve been making them steadily, and have some custom projects lined up for 2023.  I dug myself a hole with this backlog – do I catch up on stuff I didn’t post, do I introduce the new stuff I’ve been doing?  I decided just to do a little of everything to try to break my mental logjam.

I’ll start with a few final customs from my original-design 2023 TSR project.

Baseball America named Orioles rookie Gunnar Henderson its Minor League Player of the Year. Much to my surprise, I discovered that there’s also a college football player named Gunnar Henderson. Since I created these I found out about another pair of baseball and football players who share a name – well, almost – and they’ll be appearing at some point on a “Pointless Pairings” card.

Had I shared any of my 2022 TSR Football customs here before? I’m not sure that I have. It wasn’t a planned project, just something where I created a template on the spur of the moment – 1974 Topps Football is easy to replicate, it’s all straight lines and basic fonts – and then I said “Well, I suppose I should do something with this.

Touching on a few season highlights… Pete Alonso now holds the Mets single-season RBI record, driving in 131 to pass Mike Piazza (1999, 124) and David Wright (2008, also 124).

The Orioles’ Ramón Urías won his first Gold Glove. His was the first Gold Glove won by an Oriole since 2015, and he’s only the 3rd O’s third baseman to win a Gold Glove, with the others being Brooks Robinson (who won 16 of them) and Manny Machado (who won 2 at the hot corner in Baltimore)

On to some newer projects… The 1981/82 hockey cards from Topps & O-Pee-Chee have long been favorites of mine. I started out by making customs of NHL players who had changed teams during the summer… Andre Burakovsky and Jonathan Huberdeau were offseason additions by 2 Pacific Division rivals

As I’ve mentioned before, 1974 Topps Baseball was the first set I collected – well, other than Wacky Packs – and I’ve got a whole bunch of ideas for ways to pay tribute to this set and also to “extend” whatever Topps puts out as part of 2023 Heritage. Another example of this is this “Traded” custom which illustrates catcher Sean Murphy as the Braves’ new catcher. Murphy had been obtained from the A’s in a 3-team trade also involving the Brewers, and the Braves have since signed Murphy to an extension. I like trades involving catchers. Catchers are easy to ‘photoshop’.

The Dodgers signed former Mets favorite Noah Syndergaard and that gave me an excuse – I mean a *reason* to pay homage to vintage Topps practices by using a 2-year-old photo (so I wouldn’t have to colorize an Angels or Phillies cap) and also leaving in the Mets pinstripes.

Back in 1974 there were a few examples of Topps showing players in pinstripes where their new teams did not have pinstripes… Off the top of my head there’s Ralph Houk with the Tigers as well as Felipe and Matty Alou with their new teams. Felipe was pinstriped with both the Expos (1974 Topps) and Brewers (1974 Topps Traded).

I’ll wrap things up with a “Traded” custom for a player who wasn’t actually traded. José Abreu signed with the Astros after nine years with the White Sox. Unlike in 1974, the majority of players change teams through free agency rather than trades, and I wanted to reflect that on the front of the custom. Maybe I should’ve gone with just “SIGNED” instead of “SIGNED AS FREE AGENT”, but that ship has sailed as far as I’m concerned.

OK, with any luck this will free my brain up from “How do I catch up” paralysis and I can get back to posting these customs on a regular basis.

Kicking Off A Year Of 1974-Related Nonsense

I started collecting cards in 1974 and have always loved the 1974 set because it’s my first.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise that when Topps launched the Heritage line in 2001, I calculated out the date in the (then) far future when they might get to a Heritage version of 1974 Topps.

That far-off date is coming up on us very soon, and I’m cautiously excited.  I’ve already written a post about what I expect and hope for in 2023 Heritage, and two additional posts about the colors that Topps should use for each team’s design (AL and NL)… I got a little crazy with it.

Knowing that Topps would not leave me completely satisfied, I decided to go ahead and take matters into my own hands.  I’ll be doing a number of custom card projects to fill in the gaps that Topps would undoubtedly leave, plus a few posts about the actual cards.

To start off I’ve made a few customs in the style of the 1974 Topps Traded insert set.  I decided to do it as if the technology involved in creating cards hadn’t changed since the 1970s… Any attempts to update an existing photo should look at least a little bit like it was not done with Photoshop (even though it obviously was digitally altered… PaintShop Pro in my case, but anyway).

My first example of this is for Teoscar Hernandez, who was traded from Toronto to Seattle on November 16th.  I ran across this image where he has his hat back on his head so you can’t see the front of it, and I said “I can’t NOT use this!”  There was some minor digital games played as I made the cap and jersey a darker blue.

A fair amount of “updating” in 1974 involved showing players without a cap and maybe with the collar of their jersey airbrushed a bit.  When Kevin Newman was traded from the Pirates to the Reds on November 18th, I decided to go that route…

After Hunter Renfroe was traded from the Brewers to the Angels on November 23rd I decided to up my game a little bit and try for some fake airbrushing, but to  my dismay it looked better than I intended.  I started with an image of an Angels cap “borrowed” from Mike Trout and used my mouse to essentially “trace over” the cap logo… but it ended up too close to the original.  In all, three images were used for this card – Renfroe, Trout’s cap and the background.

If it seems like Hunter Renfroe gets around, it’s because he does.  Assuming that he stays with the Angels he’ll have played for five different teams for five consecutive seasons:  Padres in 2019, Rays in 2020, Red Sox in 2021, Brewers in 2022 and Angels in 2023.

I’ve brought back a custom I made in 2015 to show that I’m not limiting my shenanigans to current players. Back in 1973 HOFer Ron Santo was traded from the Cubs to the White Sox near the end of his career… but the Cubs had originally dealt Santo to the Angels and he vetoed that trade so that Cubs went back to the drawing board and worked out a deal with the White Sox

One last thing before I go, just to give a tiny little insight into the 1974 Topps design… In duplicating it, I thought I would be able to re-create the top half and then just copy and flip the top so I’d have the bottom. However, I discovered that the top banner (i.e. CLEVELAND) is slightly longer than the bottom banner (INDIANS). In nearly 50 years of staring at these cards I had never realized that, I always thought the two banners were identical in size.

OK, so that gives you an idea of the foolishness that’s coming from me in the future. It won’t all be foolish, however – my next post is going to be a look at the original 1974 Traded set.