Cherry-Picking The 30 Day Challenge: “A Card Of A Common Player That Always Seemed To Elude You”

One thing I’ve come to appreciate about the 30 Day Challenge set up by Tony over at Off-Hiatus Baseball is that when I give thought to some of the topics, it often spurs me to write about something I’ve been meaning to write about for a long time.

When I finish the post about “A card you spent more than $10 to get”, you’ll read about a set I completed just over a year ago, and that last card was one which is on many people’s wantlists.

This post isn’t like that.  This post is about the first set I’d ever completed, 1975 Topps.

Now if someone were to tell you today that they just completed the 1975 set, they’d probably tell you that their last card they needed was the rookie card for George Brett, Gary Carter or Robin Yount.

But I completed 1975 Topps back in 1975, before I even knew that cards could have any kind of monetary value.  The evasive last card of the set wasn’t missing because it was expensive, it was missing because I had simply never run across it before.

The last card I needed was #73, Ed Sprague.

Ed freakin’ Sprague.

None of my friends had this card, so I had to fall back on the “secondary market”, which at the time meant garage sales and a flea market that the local high school occasionally held.  I was looking for this card for what seemed like a very long time, all while wondering who the heck Ed Sprague is.

When I did find the card, it was a mix of “Yay, I completed the set!” and “Yay, I can stop looking for Ed Sprague!”

If you’re wondering who Ed Sprague is…

Edward Nelson Sprague was coming off of what was probably his best season, going 7-2, 2.39 in 20 games as a reliever and spot starter.

Two of Ed Sprague’s more notable achievements:

  1.  As a scout for the Orioles, he signed Mike Mussina.
  2. He’s the father of Ed Sprague, Jr., who played 11 seasons and was an All-Star with the Pirates in 1999.

Ed Sprague has a very spotty baseball card history. His rookie card was a 1969 Hi # which showed him with the A’s. His second card was in 1972 Topps (Reds). His third card is the one above, and his final card is from 1976 SSPC.

I Spent Too Much Time Making Customs This Week

It was just that kind of week.  Lots of stuff going on, moderate levels of stress, but it all came in spurts.  During the downtime I had, I didn’t feel like reading or watching TV or doing anything productive, I just wanted some fun busywork… And for me, especially lately, “fun busywork” means making customs.

On top of that, it was a week where most teams had their “Photo Day”, so there were numerous images involving players in new uniforms. Surfing through those photos gave me added inspiration.

Yoenis Cespedes got a lot of attention recently for showing up at Mets camp with a lot of exotic vehicles… Some of which were more exotic than others.  True, his Lamborghini Aventador and his Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione are worth many times what I paid for my own car, but people were beside themselves over his funky-looking Polaris Slingshots, even though they’re something that people outside of the 1% can afford.  Given what Cespedes will earn in 2016 and the Slingshot’s MSRP, he can buy two or three Slingshots for every day of the year if he wants… But that’s beside the point.

The point is that I love his Alfa Romeo, and decided it needed it’s own baseball card.
2016 TSRchives 72BOY-1 Yoenis Cespedes
This custom is, of course, based on the 1972 “Boyhood Photos Of The Stars” cards.  I wish I could come up with a better name for the subset, but it’s one of several things about this custom I’d like to do-over, but won’t… Not unless someone else drives to camp in another object of my own automotive lust (Does anybody on the Mets drive a ’57 Chevy?)

Munenori Kawasaki is in Cubs camp as a non-roster guy, but I’m hoping he makes the team… MLB is a lot more fun when he’s around.
2016 TSRchives 75T-1 Munenori Kawasaki
I whipped up this custom template Friday night, and it wasn’t until I was writing this post that I realized that it’s slightly “miscut”.  I think I was so focused on some of the details that I didn’t take a step back and look at the image.  I’ll fix it before I use this template again.

Justin Turner used to be my favorite Dodger, but he’s been usurped in that position.   Sorry, Justin…  But after I saw Photo Day images of minor league catcher Jack Murphy, he became my new Favorite Dodger.  I saw Murphy’s hair and his mustache and knew he belonged on a 1970’s custom:
2016 TSRchives 79T-1 Jack Murphy
Yes, this is a guy on the Dodgers’ current 40-man roster, and yes, he always has the  long hair and mustache… He was traded to the Dodgers in last summer’s deal that sent Darwin Barney to Toronto. He’s an Ivy Leaguer, having attended Princeton, and he’s spent the past four winters playing for the Canberra Calvary in the Australian Baseball League. You can check out several Australian Jack Murphy customs over at the excellent Australian Custom Baseball Cards blog.  Not surprisingly, he’s a fan-favorite in Canberra

Quick Princeton side-track: Their baseball program has clearly had a resurgence because there were four Princeton Tigers in the Majors in 2015 (Ross Ohlendorf, Chris Young, Wil Venable and David Hale), but before them there had been only one Tiger in the Majors during my lifetime (and I just turned 50). That one Princetonian is pitcher Bob Tufts, who pitched in 27 games from 1981 to 1983 and who appears to have only one Major League baseball card (1982 Topps Giants Future Stars, shared with Bob Brenly and Chili Davis).

It was odd to see Jimmy Rollins with the Dodgers last year, but for some reason he looks REALLY odd in a White Sox uniform.
2016 TSRchives 60BZ-1 Jimmy Rollins
This custom template is based on 1960-62 Bazooka, and I used it for my first Hot Stove set during the winter of 2012/13.  Two things that remain unchanged since then:  1)  I still love this design, and 2) I still hang my head in shame that I don’t own one of the originals.  Those little suckers are hard to come by and they aren’t cheap!

During my post about 2016 Heritage two days ago, I mentioned my disappointment that Topps did not make an insert out of the 1967 Venezuelan Topps “Retirado” subset.  For those of you who didn’t know what I was talking about, there was a 1967 Venezuelan set that was one-third Topps cards (sort of Venezuelan O-Pee-Chee), one third players from the Venezuelan Winter League, and one third “Retirado”, which, if I’m not mistaken, is Spanish for “Retired”.  The original subset featured players ranging from Babe Ruth to Sandy Koufax.  Given how Topps likes to beat us over the head with the retired players they have under contract, I thought this would’ve been a natural.

The originals were pretty cheesy looking, but I decided to make a custom anyway, just to show what such an insert could’ve looked like.
2016 TSRchives 67VR-1 Cal Ripken
Topps has done a whole lot worse in terms of inserts.  I call this a missed opportunity.

Last week I was talking about how much of an improvement the new Padres home uniforms were over the previous ones.  This week we got to see on-field shots of the new Diamondback uniforms, and my reaction was… um… not quite as positive.  I think I may have muttered words like “awful” and “fugly”.
2016 TSRchives 68T-1 Paul Goldschmidt
They’re not the worst uniform in the history of Major League Baseball, I won’t go that far… But they are easily the worst current uniform set in MLB.  Such was my disdain for these uniforms that I made a custom using one of the least-popular sets of the 1960’s, the burlappy 1968 design.

(OK, fine, I kinda like 1968… But I guess we’ll find out just how much I like it when Heritage hits the shelves next year.)

So there goes that bit of creative output… Which frankly makes me feel a little guilty because I *really* should be finalizing my 2016 TSR original custom set instead of cranking out TSRchives customs…  But it was just one of those things where I had to go where my muse took me.

…And speaking of customs I should be making, I did have an outstanding request for some 1974 customs, and the requesting party should rest assured that I have not forgotten.

The Brady Bunch All-Stars

A while ago I had the idea of featuring cards which correspond to each character’s name on The Brady Bunch.  Don’t ask about where this idea came from… Sometimes these things just fall together.

To be honest it was quite a while between inspiration and execution, because some of these were much harder than I’d expected… especially – and not surprisingly – for the “very lovely girls”.  Some of these are quite a stretch to fit into the theme, but that adds to the fun (I hope).

As an extra-groovy feature, I’ve added a few athletes who played themselves on The Brady Bunch.

And so, here’s the story…


1975 Topps Mike Schmidt
1975 Topps Mike Schmidt

Without really thinking, I went looking for images of 1975 Topps sheets to figure out which card the blue at the top of my card came from.  I say “Without really thinking” because the way 1975 cards show up on the sheet, a card with a green top should have a card with a green bottom above it on the sheet.  I came to find out that Schmidt is at the top of the sheet, so aren’t any cards above Schmidt.  I found another card online that has similar blue at the top, so I guess it’s a “printing thing”.

…And I found that looking at images of uncut sheets of 1975 Topps is kinda mesmerizing…  So many colors…


2000 Pacific Greg Maddux (Portrait)
2000 Pacific Greg Maddux (portrait)

I’ll bet many of you don’t realize that Pacific was doing variations 16 years ago.  In the 1999 and 2000 Pacific sets, a number of the bigger names and hyped rookies came as either a portrait or an action shot, and there wasn’t anything to distinguish the two other than the photo.  I remember being very perturbed when I found this out…

…and then mom gave me a Snickers bar and I felt better.

1982-83 O-Pee-Chee Pete Peeters
1982-83 OPC Pete Peeters

The 1982-83 hockey season was the first season in nearly 20 years that Topps had not issued a hockey set.  I was still an active hockey collector at the time, so I bought a hand-collated set of that year’s O-Pee-Chee.  It’s not a classic set, but for us Americans any O-Pee-Chee set that isn’t based on Topps becomes a classic oddball set.

1974-75 O-Pee-Chee WHA Bobby Hull
1974-75 OPC WHA Bobby Hull

Also in the early 1980’s I made one of my favorite hockey purchases of all time.  At a show I saw this cool-looking oddball hockey set featuring players from the recently-deceased WHA.  The complete 66 card set was just $10.  I jumped on that set and never looked back.

Ever since I started this blog 4+ years ago, I’ve been thinking that I need to feature cards from this fun oddball hockey set.  I really need to sit down and scan a bunch of these.

1981-82 O-Pee-Chee Carol Vadnais
1981-82 OPC Carol Vadnais

It’s the story of a lovely… um…  Vadnais…

I didn’t mean to have three straight O-Pee-Chee hockey cards, but that’s just the way it happened.

And matching Carol Brady with Carol Vadnais?  Trust me, it gets worse from here.

1976 Topps Welcome Back Kotter #37
1976 Topps Welcome Back Kotter #37
I had trouble with finding an athlete named Marcia who appeared on a card, so I went with a 1976 Topps “Welcome Back, Kotter” card which features actress Marcia Strassman (who played Julie Kotter) holding a basketball.  Her name is Marcia, and she’s pretending to be athletic, so that’s close enough for government work.

1975 Topps Football Jan Stenerud
1975 Topps Football Jan Stenerud

Jan Stenerud was born in Norway and was the first Football Hall Of Famer to have been solely a kicker (as opposed to guys like George Blanda who was a kicker and a quarterback).  The Chiefs have retired his #3.

1999 Fleer Ultra WNBA Cindy Brown

1999 Fleer Ultra WNBA Cindy Brown

1999 Fleer Ultra WNBA #87 – Cindy Brown – Courtesy of

I had to go searching far and wide to find a “Cindy” for inclusion in these all-stars. There just aren’t that many athletes named Cindy.

This Cindy is quite the impressive athlete. As a senior at Long Beach State, she set NCAA records for most points in a season (974, since broken) and in a game (60, still a record). She also played for the Olympic Gold Medal-winning basketball team in the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

Speaking of Olympians…

2014 Topps U.S. Olympic/Paralympic Alice McKennis

2014 Topps U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Team and Hopefuls Alice McKennis

2014 Topps U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Team and Hopefuls #61 – Alice McKennis – Courtesy of

What I said about “Cindy” also applies to “Alice”.

In a set of “Olympians And Hopefuls”, Alpine Skier Alice McKennis fell into the category of “Hopeful” because a severe leg injury caused her to miss the 2014 Sochi Olympics.  She was the 2015 World Champion in Super-G (Super Giant Slalom).

While researching her, I was thrown a bit because the first images I found of Alice McKennis didn’t look that much like the image on the card.  As it turns out the dramatic lighting used for the card does her no favors.

Sam, the Butcher
1987 Buffalo Bisons team set BUTCHer
1987 Buffalo Bisons BUTCHer

Donald “BUTCHer” Palmer was a batboy for the AAA Buffalo Bisons and seems to have been a fan favorite.  In researching him I saw references to his “trademark antics”, which implies that his appeal went well beyond “Heh heh, lookit the huge batboy”.

Cousin Oliver
1994 Pacific Crown Collection Joe Oliver
1994 Pacific Crown Collection Joe Oliver

1994 Crown Collection is an odd set.  It’s mostly full-bleed, has foil and a faux marble background on the bottom, but that widely-kerned font just makes it look really amateurish.  I can only guess that it looked better in pre-production.

Special Guest Stars and the episodes in which they appeared:

Joe Namath
1970 Topps Football Joe Namath
1970 Topps Joe Namath
“Mail Order Hero” – In which Bobby lies about knowing Joe Namath.  Hilarity ensues.

Deacon Jones
1974 Topps Football Deacon Jones
1974 Topps Football Deacon Jones
“The Drummer Boy” – Peter is teased by his football teammates for being involved in glee club and being late for a special football clinic with Deacon Jones.  Hilarity ensues.

Don Drysdale
1990 Topps All-Star Glossy Don Drysdale
1990 Topps All-Star Glossy Don Drysdale
“The Dropout” – Mike invites Don Drysdale, one of his clients, to the house. Drysdale compliments Greg’s pitching, Greg gets a swelled head and hilarity ensues.

(I was surprised to find that this is the only Don Drysdale card I own.)

Wes Parker
1972 Topps Wes Parker
1972 Topps Wes Parker
“The Undergraduate” – Greg develops a crush on his math teacher, but the teacher is already engaged… to the Dodgers’ Wes Parker.  Hilarity ensues.

‘Til the one day when Shlabotnik had a brainstorm
And he knew that it was much more than a hunch
That this group must somehow form a blog post
That’s the way they all became The Brady Bunch… All-Stars…

Neil Walker’s Double Expos Connection

Until the Mets picked up Neil Walker in a trade, I didn’t realize how many Major Leaguers he was related to, nor that he had two ties to the Expos.
2015 Heritage Neil Walker

I read that Neil Walker is taking #20 with the Mets… His father, Tom Walker had pitched for several teams and wore #20 (although only with the Expos).

1974 Topps Tom Walker

1974 Topps Tom Walker (With a “cameo appearance” by Willie Mays on the right)

Neil Walker was unable to wear #20 with the Pirates as it had been retired for Pie Traynor.

It’s unusual for a current player to have a father who played in the 1970’s, so I will point out that Neil was born when Tom was 37 years old and long gone from professional baseball.

1975 Topps Tom Walker

I more or less knew about Neil Walker’s father having played in the Majors… But I didn’t know about his Uncle Chip.

Tom Walker’s wife Carolyn is the sister to another former Expos pitcher, Chip Lang.  Here’s his 1977 O-Pee-Chee card.

1977 OPC Chip Lang

…And the only reason I own Chip Lang’s OPC card is because it’s different from his 1977 Topps card.

1977 Topps Chip Lang

Chip Lang pitched 1 game in 1975 and 29 in 1976 and had been an Expos prospect until he suffered the dreaded “sore arm”.  I believe that these two cards make up a complete Chip Lang collection.

Not only did I not know about Neil Walker’s Uncle Chip, I didn’t know about his brother-in-law Don… Neil’s sister Carrie married this guy:

2014 Topps Don Kelly

Don Kelly has played over 500 games with the Tigers.  This past season he appeared in two games with the Marlins before sustaining a ligament tear and having Tommy John surgery.  The recovery time is shorter for position players so he could be back in 2016.

I will keep you updated if anyone else related to Neil Walker marries another baseball player.

1980, Here I Come! Right Back Where I Started From…

Something which has been a mild source of embarrassment for many years is the incomplete state of my 1979 and 1980 sets.

To explain why it’s a mild source of embarrassment, I have to give you a little personal history.

I started collecting in 1974 and eventually completed a master set from that year, including the Traded set, “Washington Nat’l Lea.” cards and all of the other variations.
1974 Topps Luke Walker

1975 was the year I fell hard for collecting, completing the baseball set…
1975 Topps John Hiller
…And getting about 75% of the Football set (which I finally completed a couple of years ago).
1975 Topps Football Ken Houston

Back in the day, I also completed the ’76, ’77 and ’78 sets in relatively short order.

1979 was a different story.
1979 Topps Denny Martinez
I didn’t like 1979 Topps as well as as I had liked the prior sets, plus I was a teenager and my friends had moved on to other things. 1979 was the first year I actively collected cards yet didn’t complete the set.

1980 Topps was a similar story…
1980 Topps Dave Parker
At the time, I’d dismissed the set as a warmed-over 1974 design, and while I bought a bunch, I didn’t get close to completing the set.

The introduction of competition in 1981 rekindled my interest and I completed both the Topps and Fleer sets. I lapsed again in 1982 and didn’t complete another Topps set until 1988, but I’m not as concerned about those sets.

For years I’d been saying “If I stop screwing around and complete those two sets, I’d have a run of complete Topps sets for my first eight years of collecting”, but it wasn’t until a year or two ago I decided that my mild embarrassment needed to be counteracted with a similarly mild push to complete both of these sets, with greater focus on 1980 because it’s grown on me over the years.

The biggest obstacle I faced for the 1980 set was the Rickey Henderson rookie.

Last year I bought a box that contained someone’s childhood collection of late 1970’s and early 1980’s cards. I filled a number of 1979 and 1980 wants with some musty, fairly-well-loved cards… But naturally, there was no Rickey.

At a show this past spring I picked up a couple of stars (like the Dave Parker featured above) and even found a 1980 wrapper for $2.
1980 Topps baseball wrapper
But, again… No Rickey.

Finally, a couple of months ago, I found what I was looking for on COMC… A G/VG Rickey for under $10. Condition’s never been of primary importance for me, so I pounced.
1980 Topps Rickey Henderson
It’s got a big ol’ crease in the upper left, but the crease doesn’t touch Rickey himself;  otherwise the card’s seen a fair amount of action but is in decent enough shape.

…And now I’m out of excuses.  Guess I should move my 1980 Topps effort a notch or two up from “mild”, huh?

My Favorite Ice Cream Man Of 1975

One of Fuji’s recent Flea Market Finds posts showed a table that had stacks of junk wax held together with rubber bands… Someone was “old school”, but not in a good way.

…But it reminded me of something from back in 1975…
1975 Topps Bill Travers
On Long Island, where I grew up, we got most of our cards from two places… The first place was the “card store”, which is in quotes because the type of store I’m talking about seems to be a uniquely metro New York thing.  The “cards” in question were greeting cards, but these stores also sold cigarettes and candy and gifts and magazines and newspapers and the current version of the Official Rule Book of the National Mah Jongg League and various tchotchkes and toys… and trading cards.  Kind of like a convenience store, but not really.  Kind of like a Hallmark store, but not really.  I’ve never known for sure, but I suspect that these stores evolved from New York City newsstands.

The second place we got most of our cards was from the ice cream man.  Just like the card stores sold more than greeting cards, the ice cream man sold more than ice cream.  Most of them also sold candy and Wacky Packages stickers and baseball cards and other things which were cheap and appealed to kids.
1975 Topps Larry Haney
Regardless of where you bought your cards, you usually had three options.  If you had a dollar, you could buy two rack packs (84 cards), 4 cello packs (72 cards) or 6 wax packs (60 cards plus a dime left over).

But during the summer of 1975 there was this one ice cream man who had something different.  Something exciting.

He sold stacks of 100 baseball cards for a buck each.
1975 Topps Jim Ray
The stacks were sold out of his truck, held together with a thick rubber band… Not that we cared.  I was one of the few kids who didn’t use a rubber band to hold his cards together…but I was too excited at the prospect of getting a big ol’ stack of cards for a dollar to worry about some rubber band.

To say the least, it was AWESOME.  You didn’t need to be on the Honor Roll to know that a penny a card was cheaper than any of the other options.
1975 Topps Len Randle
But it was just this one guy… and just this one year.  I don’t remember if I saw him again in 1976, but if he did come around again, he didn’t have those stacks of cards.

I don’t know how many of those stacks I bought, but it’s probably not a coincidence that I completed the 1975 set before the calendar turned over to 1976.

1975 Topps Rich Hebner
The funny thing is, it wasn’t until many, many years later that it even occurred to me that this guy might’ve been pulling out stars or Mets or Yankees.  My stacks could’ve been as common-filled as the images that go with this post.

But it just didn’t matter.  I guess this was my first experience with buying in bulk, and for a kid trying to complete a set, quantity was definitely more important than quality.

1975 Topps Willie Montanez

The Nightly Show With Larry Milbourne

The other day I was talking to someone about The Nightly Show, which is the new show on Comedy Central which airs after The Daily Show.

After a few minutes of conversation, I suddenly realized that instead of referring to the host as Larry Wilmore…
2015 TSR Fauxback Larry Wilmore

…I’d spent several minutes referring to him as Larry Milbourne.
1975 Topps Larry Milbourne


Larry Wilmore may have his own TV show, but he was never named to the Topps All-Star Rookie team…

1978 Topps Larry Milbourne

Wilmore didn’t have the walk-off double in the Mariners’ first-ever win (4/8/77).

1981 Fleer Larry Milbourne

And Wilmore was never involved in a trade where another player was essentially traded for himself:
November 18, 1980: Traded by the Seattle Mariners with a player to be named later to the New York Yankees for Brad Gulden and $150,000. The Seattle Mariners sent Brad Gulden (May 18, 1981) to the New York Yankees to complete the trade.