Not Flagship Topps, But An Incredible Simulation

Today’s cards are all recent acquisitions which look like Topps cards at first glance, but are actually something different.

We’ll start off with this 1977 O-Pee-Chee card of original Blue Jay Chuck Hartenstein, who had an interesting career path.

Although he’d been a reliever his entire career and made his pitching debut in 1966 with the Cubs, Hartenstein appeared in one game in 1965 as a pinch runner.  He’d pitch from 1966 to 1970 with four different teams, then was out of the majors for six years until the Blue Jays came along.  First year manager Roy Hartsfield had previously managed the Padres AAA team in Hawaii, and he encouraged the Jays to pick up a few players he’d managed there, including Hartenstein.  He logged 13 games worth of  unimpressive relief to cap off his playing career.

Here’s the corresponding 1977 Topps card, gloriously airbrushed.


I recently did a post about the 1990 Topps Major League Debut set which featured everybody who had, in 1989, appeared in a game for the first time.  That put me in mind to get some cards from the other two Major League Debut sets, so here (speaking of gloriously airbrushed) is the 1991 Topps Major League Debut card of outfielder Chuck Carr.

I’m thinking that this photo was taken in a minor league ballpark with Carr wearing a minor league uniform, because there’s no other reason for his cap logo to be airbrushed.  For what it’s worth, Carr appeared in the base sets for 1991 Upper Deck and Fleer, but this appears to be his only Topps card from that year.

Here’s the back.

Carr would become an original Florida Marlin in 1993 and would lead the National League with 58 stolen bases.


At my recent show I ran across a couple of semi-recent Topps retail team sets for $1 each, and for a price that low I was willing to take a gamble to see if there were any cards which were different from the same player’s “regular” Topps card. First up is the 2013 Topps Los Angeles Angels team set.

The final card in the set was one of the ballpark.  I’m honestly not sure how common that is in team sets, I generally only buy them if they’re really cheap.

The only other card which wasn’t a parallel-of-sorts was this Jason Vargas card.

The prior winter, Vargas had been traded from the Mariners to the Angels for Kendrys Morales.  Vargas’ base Topps card shows him with the Mariners, and while he does have a card in Update which shows him in an Angels uniform, it’s a different photo (and not photoshopped like this one is).  Vargas was an All-Star this year and is currently tied with Chris Sale for the most wins in the A.L., so I should be able to flip this card on eBay for BIG MONEY!  Yup.  Uh-huh, uh-huh… that’s just what I’m gonna do.


The 2014 Red Sox set turned out to be even less interesting…  The only card which wasn’t a renumbered, foil-free pseudo-parallel of the corresponding Topps card was Fenway Park.

Not that anybody from Topps is likely to listen to me, but I’d rather have cards like this than the random assortment of celebrating players that are currently the team cards used by Topps.

I was also amused by the inclusion of this nearly three-year old coupon which came with the set.

…So if you’d like to save fifty cents on the purchase of some 2014 Topps MLB Chipz, I’m your man.


This last card looks like a 1975 Topps card of Luke Walker, but it’s from the “Mini” set.

As much as I love 1975 Topps, I’ve never been much for parallels and/or mini versions… But I made an exception for my Luke Walker player collection.

Two 1977 O-Pee-Chee Cards Without Peer

I’ve been featuring 1977 O-Pee-Chee baseball cards for a while, and usually when I write one of these posts I’ll feature the OPC card and the corresponding Topps card.  This time around, however, I won’t be featuring the Topps card… because there isn’t one.  Not a direct corollary, anyway.

We’ll start off with the Blue Jays Coaches card.  These guys did share a Topps card with Blue Jays manager Roy Hartsfield, but they get more “real estate” in O-Pee-Chee.

1977-o-pee-chee-blue-jays-coaches
First Base coach Don Leppert was a catcher who broke into the Majors with the 1961 Pirates as a 29-year-old rookie. Two years later, he’d be an All-Star with the “New” Senators, aided by a relatively hot first half.

Pitching coach Bob Miller is “Righty Bob Miller” who pitched for 10 different teams from 1957 to 1974… including with the 1962 Mets where he was a teammate of “Lefty Bob Miller” (as I talked about here a couple of weeks ago).

Third base coach Jackie Moore played just 21 games in 1965 with the Tigers, but he was a long-time coach with the Brewers, Rangers, Jays, A’s, Expos, Reds and Rockies.  He also managed the A’s in the mid-1980’s

Bullpen coach Harry Warner was a long-term minor leaguer who never made it to the Majors.

This leaves out the hitting coach, who is probably the most accomplished and well-known of the bunch.

Bobby Doerr, who would later be inducted into the Hall of Fame and have his #1 retired by the Red Sox, was the hitting coach for the Blue Jays for their first couple of seasons, and yet he wasn’t included on this card.  I have a theory – or a guess, depending on how you want to look at it – as to why this was… but first I have a couple of more scans to show you.

First off, here is the back of this card.  “Instructeur” sounds a lot more impressive than “Coach”, but I guess that’s the case with a lot of job titles when translated into French.

1977-o-pee-chee-blue-jays-coaches-back

Here’s the Topps card which shows the Jays’ field staff:  Manager Roy Hartsfield and the same four coaches.
1977 Topps Hartsfield and Coaches

OK, now it’s time for my theory:  In 1977, Doerr had been out of baseball for a number of years, so it’s not unreasonable to think that Topps didn’t include him on their card because they didn’t have any photos to use.  As a result, the bullpen coach who would be largely unknown to most fans gets priority over someone who, as a player, had started for thirteen years and been an All-Star for nine.  Later, when O-Pee-Chee made their version of the set and presumably had photos of all of the Jays’ coaches, they followed Topps’ lead, used these four coaches and left out Doerr.  Again, this is only a theory.

Because we’re talking field staff and I haven’t shown this card in 3 years, here’s the O-Pee-Chee card that features just manager Roy Hartsfield and his non-airbrushed uniform:

1977 OPC Roy Hartsfield

Moving on to the other “card without peer”… This is Doug Howard’s only mainstream baseball card, made even more interesting by the fact that he never played for the Blue Jays in a regular season game.
1977-o-pee-chee-doug-howard
Howard played a few handfuls of games for the Angels, Cardinal and Indians, and was one of the first players obtained by the Jays when he was acquired with Alan Ashby in a 11/5/1976 trade with the Indians. Howard, however, got cut just before the Blue Jays broke camp, and he never made it back to the majors.

Here’s the back of his card.
1977-o-pee-chee-doug-howard-back

After being cut by the Blue Jays, Howard’s career was over even though he was just 29 years old.

Update:  Apparently today is Bobby Doerr Day, because by sheer coincidence, When Topps Had (Base) Balls is featuring a 1979 Topps custom of Bobby Doerr with the Blue Jays.  I swear we did not coordinate on this one!

1977 O-Pee-Chee vs. Topps – Bobby Murcer & Bill Singer

1977 O-Pee-Chee baseball was one of the more unique sets put out by Topps’ Canadian partner.  Instead of what had been a sort of bilingual parallel set, OPC took advantage of their later production dates in an expansion year, giving us new and different cards featuring the Montreal Expos and newly-born Toronto Blue Jays, and updating some other transactions in the process.

Here is the 1977 Bobby Murcer card most of us are familiar with… Bobby trying to hide behind Cardinals’ catcher Joe Ferguson.
1977-topps-bobby-murcer
Murcer, who had been “The next Mickey Mantle” during his early career with the Yanks, was traded to the Cubs in a five-player deal that saw Bill Madlock heading to San Francisco.

For his part of the deal, Murcer got a pretty decent airbrushing job:
1977-o-pee-chee-bobby-murcer
At this point, Murcer’s best years were behind him, but he’d put in another few years as a slightly-above-average player.

Bill Singer was the 28th pick in the expansion draft that filled the rosters of the Blue Jays and Mariners. Singer was drafted from the Twins, as you can kind of see from the un-airbrushed jersey.
1977-topps-bill-singer

As they did with Blue Jays and Expos, O-Pee-Chee went the extra yard and got a picture of Singer in Spring Training.

1977-o-pee-chee-bill-singer

Singer was the starting pitcher in the Jays’ first game, but he’d go 3-8 for Toronto before being released in July.  That would be the end of his career.


Quick reminder… We’ve got real barn-burner going on in the vote to determine the template I’ll use for next Spring’s World Baseball Classic set! If you haven’t voted yet, the choices are laid out below with the voting at the bottom. Thanks again!

2017-wbc-candidates

Contrast And Compare: 1977 Bill Madlock and Darrell Porter

Hello, and welcome back to “Contrast And Compare”, where we take a look at distinct cards of the same player from different but related sets!

…Because I couldn’t think of another way of starting this post without channeling a TV announcer…

Today we’re going to compare two pair of cards from 1977 Topps and 1977 O-Pee-Chee.  In each of the following, I’ll show the Topps card first, followed by the updated OPC.

Four-time batting champion Bill “Mad Dog” Madlock was drafted by the Rangers and traded to the Cubs after the 1973 season as part of the Fergie Jenkins deal.
1977 Topps Bill Madlock

In February, 1977, Madlock was traded to the Giants in a deal that also involved Bobby Murcer. Presumably because of the short notice, the airbrush artist did not do a particularly great job on Madlock.
1977 OPC Bill Madlock

Darrell Porter was drafted by the Brewers and made the All-Star team in 1974.
1977 Topps Darrell Porter

In December, 1976 he was part of a five-player trade between the Brewers and Royals. This is a far better airbrushing job than Madlock got.
1977 OPC Darrell Porter
Porter would play four years with the Royals before crossing the state to join the Cardinals as a free agent. While with the Royals, he’d be an All-Star three straight years… he would never make the all-star team again, although he would be the MVP of the 1982 NLCS and World Series.

1977 OPC Baseball: Some Jays Rookies Get Their Moment In Cardboard

Last Friday, I showed off a couple of “variations-of-sorts” in 1977 O-Pee-Chee, cards which are significantly different than their 1977 Topps counterparts.  Both of the OPC cards featured questionable airbrushing, but I don’t want to give everybody the idea that 1977 OPC is about airbrushing… There are a number of Expos and Blue Jays which feature fresh spring training photos, and I’ve got a couple of such Jays today.

Leon Hooten pitched 6 games in relief with the A’s in 1974.  He was taken with the 59th pick in the expansion draft, and got airbrushed and minimized on a 1977 Topps Rookie Pitchers card.
1977 Topps Rookie Pitchers Gideon et al

O-Pee-Chee gave Hooten his own card.
1977 OPC Leon Hooten

Unfortunately for all involved, Hooten didn’t make the Blue Jays coming out of spring training and his professional career was over.

Maybe I shouldn’t have started out with that card…

Mike Willis has a happier story.  He had been pitching for the Orioles’ AAA team in Rochester when he was drafted by the Blue Jays with the 55th pick.

1977 Topps Rookie Pitchers Krukow et al

Unlike Hooten, he made the team and would spend much of the next 4 years pitching in Toronto with stints with AAA Syracuse.

1977 OPC Mike Willis

He finished his career in the Phillies system with a year at AAA Oklahoma City.

Neither of these guys would be considered a key card for this set, but I always enjoy cards of guys wearing brand-new expansion team uniforms!  It’s a shame that the Mariners didn’t get the same treatment, but I guess that’s their fault for not being in Canada.


Shlabot-Notes:

Back before the season, I featured this custom of Johnny Gomes with the Rakuten Golden Eagles…
2016 TSRchives 91T-3b Jonny Gomes
…and several of you commented that you hadn’t been aware that he’d gone to Japan. Well, if you hadn’t been aware that he left, you may not have been aware that he’s back. After batting below the Mendoza Line in NPB, the rest of his contract was voided by “mutual consent”. Gomes is looking to return to MLB; time will tell how much his poor showing in Japan will hurt his attempt.

BTW, this post went out about 7 hours later than I normally like on a weekday… Apologies, we had technical difficulties in Shlabotnik World Headquarters.

1977 O-Pee-Chee Baseball: And They Changed The Photos Because……?????

One type of card that is my favorite to chase down are the 1977 O-Pee-Chee baseball cards which are different than the corresponding Topps cards. Today I’m going to take a quick look at two players that are different in OPC, and anyone looking at the two cards would ask “WHY????”

First off, let’s go with Pete Falcone. Pete Falcone was a pitcher who was basically good enough to stick around for 10 years. He came up with the Giants in 1975, was traded to the Cardinals during the winter meetings in late 1975 and was still with the Cardinals in 1977. Here’s his Topps card:
1977 Topps Pete Falcone
Not the greatest photograph, but decent enough. Apparently not good enough for O-Pee-Chee, however.

Nope, those crazy Canadians decided to go with an airbrushed portrait:
1977 OPC Pete Falcone
Now remember… Falcone was traded to the Cardinals in December, 1975. He also appeared with an airbrushed Cardinals cap in the 1976 Traded set. There’s no reason for him to be airbrushed in a set that came out a year later… Yet here he is.

Movin’ right along (dubby dum, dubby dum)…

Steve Braun spent the first six years of his career with the Twins and was taken by the Mariners with the 38th pick in the expansion draft prior to the 1977 season.

I always thought this card was one of the better examples of airbrushing the 1977 expansion teams.
1977 Topps Steve Braun
…and honestly, this was probably one of the more difficult things the Topps artists had had to do in a while. Not only did they have to airbrush two teams worth of players, I doubt they had much reference material to work with. Had they even seen the caps in person? Did they have photos? Color photos? Who knows.

Anyway, like I said, Steve Braun came out pretty well, all things considered.

Someone wasn’t satisfied, for whatever reason , and decided that this was an improvement:
1977 OPC Steve Braun
GAAAAH!!!!

To be fair, this same photo and airbrushing was used on the Topps Cloth Stickers set, so the onus for this might be on Topps.

A third example of airbrushing is on the 1977 Hostess card of Steve Braun, but I don’t have that one yet… and now that I’m pondering it, it wouldn’t take much to get me to move 1977 Hostess Mariners and Blue Jays up on my want lists… Maybe I should go look at what’s on COMC….

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.