Random Team: 1978 Topps Kansas City Royals

I shoulda known.

I did my first random team set, had fun doing it and I got positive comments to that first post.  I thought that, at worst, I was building on the “Five Random Cubs Cards” posts that Wrigley Wax does every Sunday (as well as other people’s randomly-based posts).

…Only to realize that what I did was not some great idea out of the blue, not an adaptation of a different idea, but instead was the same as something that Night Owl’s been doing for a couple of years.  Damn.

After some deliberation I decided that I needed to go where inspiration takes me, no matter how lacking in originality it might be.  So with credit and apologies to Night Owl, I’m going to keep doing these posts as long as I enjoy them and you read them.

Anyway, I fired up the randomizer again and came up with the Kansas City Royals from 1978 Topps.

This is very welcome to me, because 1978 was the 5th and final year of my initial “Topps can do no wrong!” phase where I completed every set within, at most, two years of starting it.

Sadly, there are no cartoons on the backs of 1978 Topps cards and there are no airbrushed Royals in this team set, so the “Best Cartoon” and “Notable Airbrushing” categories will get a rest time around.

The 1978 Royals finished in 1st with a 92-70 record, 5 games ahead of the Angels and Rangers.  They lost the ALCS to the Yankees in four.

Manager Whitey Herzog had taken over the Royals midway through the 1975 season and had had nothing but success with the team.  His prior two managerial jobs didn’t go as well.  He lost 91 of 138 games with the 1973 Rangers before being fired.  He went 2-2 as an interim manager for the 1974 Angels.

Whitey is in the HOF as a manager;  as an outfielder he kicked around with the Senators, KC Athletics, Orioles and Tigers for 8 seasons.  As is all-too-often the case with manager cards, this “old guy” from my youth was younger (46) than I am now.  *Sigh*

Best Offensive Player: 

Nope, not George Brett.  I’d almost forgotten how good Amos Otis could be.  He batted .298 with 74 Runs, 30 doubles, 22 homers, 96 RBI, and 32 Stolen Bases.

Best Pitcher: 

Dennis Leonard went 21-17 with a 3.33 ERA, 183 K’s, 20 complete games and 4 shutouts.  Just to pick a random current veteran pitcher, Justin Verlander has 23 complete games spread out over his 11 full seasons.

Best Performance In A Supporting Role: 

Larry Gura went16-4, 2.72 with a 1.096 WHIP.  Like Elston Howard in Monday’s post, Gura gets an extra brownie point for being with the Yankees during the short time I liked the Yankees.

Guy I can’t NOT mention (and, yeah, fine he also has the All-Star shield): 

George Brett lead the league with 45 doubles and batted .294, but Amos Otis’ overall numbers were better.

Best Name:

You’re welcome, 11-year-old boys of all ages.  Joe Zdeb came in a close second.

Something about this photo reminds me of George Harrison.  Pete LaCock doesn’t really look like George Harrison, but I think there’s something about his expression that reminds me of George.  I don’t know… it’s stupid but I mention it anyway.

Best Rookie Card: 

U.L. Washington can brag about how much his rookie card is worth, and maybe he’ll forget to mention that he shares it with two HOFers a HOFer, a player who probably should be in the HOF… AND the awesomely-named Mickey Klutts.

Best Player not on a card:
Pitcher Rich Gale’s rookie card would come in 1979 Topps.  As a 24-year-old in 1978 he went 14-8 with a 3.09 ERA and 3 shutouts.  He finished 4th in AL ROY voting (Lou Whitaker was the winner) and finished tied with Ken Singleton for 34th (!!!!) in AL MVP voting (Jim Rice was the winner;  Rick Burleson and Frank Tanana tied for 36th).

Best In-Game/Action Shot: 

I modified the name of this category because Darrell Porter’s not actually doing anything and the true action shots in this team set are kinda boring.  This is also the winner of the “Favorite Card” category.

Most Likely To Succeed (Down The Road):

Buck played for the Brewers in 1978 after being involved in an offseason 3-team trade.  He’d later manage the Blue Jays, and was also the manager of the USA team in the first World Baseball Classic.  He currently is a broadcaster for the Blue Jays.

Player I scanned and uploaded by mistake and, well, here he is:
I could’ve also listed him as “Best Aviators”.

Not that Al Cowens was a slouch;  he was second in 1977 MVP voting, and in 1978 he batted .274 with 63 runs and 63 RBI (not a typo).


The White Sox Got Very 1970’s; I Got Very Nerdy

Thursday night, the Chicago White Sox threw back to their late 1970’s “leisure suit” uniforms.  I love anything associated with 1970’s baseball, and these uniforms are so bad that they’re…

No, sorry, I can’t go there.  1970’s or not, they’re not “so bad that they’re good”.  They’re just bad… tremendously bad.  …But I do appreciate the fact that the White Sox did throwback to these unis, and I can’t let 1970’s throwbacks go by without making customs…
2015 TSR 1978 Carlos Rondon
Officially, these uniforms “throw back” to 1976, but they didn’t show up on baseball cards until 1977… and I don’t have a 1977 template yet, so I went with 1978.  It still works.

While I was making these, I also decided to play around with some ideas I’d had to simulate the printing of 1970’s baseball cards.

NOTE TO THE CASUAL READER:  I can understand if any of the following makes your eyes glaze over, and I won’t be offended if you stop reading… but just so you know, there are several more customs in this post.  Go check ’em out before you bail on me.

Part of the problem with making customs using today’s technology is that the customs end up being high-definition, and that takes away from the illusion of the throwback card. I’ve been thinking of ways around that, and these are my first experiments with that concept.

My graphics software has an interesting pair of tools… “Split Channel” and “Combine Channel”. Split Channel more or less gives you images like you’d have on a printing plate. For these cards, I split them into three channels, Red, Blue and Green (RGB), which I think is true to 1970’s printing. I could’ve also done it as CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black), which is what we generally pull when we get printing plate inserts in our wax packs.

Anyway, I made a custom, saved it, split it into RGB channels, which created a red, green and blue image.  In order to simulate a printing mistake, I took the “blue” image, adjusted the brightness, moved it just a tiny bit so it wouldn’t align with the other two colors, and then combined the three channels back into one image; this is what I got.
2015 TSR 1978 David Robertson RGB mess with blue

And this is the original:
2015 TSR 1978 David Robertson

It’s a subtle difference, especially when you’re viewing it on a blog, but it does give it a sort of “not a PSA 10” quality that I was looking for.

For the next custom, I did something similar but I messed with the red channel instead of the blue… and probably messed a little too much, because the custom ended up with a blue tinge… but that’s cool, it’s all part of the experiment, right?
2015 TSR 1978 Tyler Saladino RBG Red adjust

For the final custom, I tried another idea. I created the custom, then I duplicated that image into another layer, brought the transparency of the top layer way down to something like 20%, and then I moved it slightly horizontally and vertically. I was hoping to give it a little “fuzziness”.  Here’s what I got.
2015 TSR 1978 Adam Eaton offset

None of these are exactly what I had in mind, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t successful experiments.

And yes, I am a total nerd.

You Can Ignore This Post If You’re Not Interested In Custom Cards Or 1978 Topps

Alternately, if you’re interested in knowing why I used to post on a daily basis and no longer do, this will shed some light on the type of thing that distracts me from seeing things through to completion.

First I need to explain something…  Ever since I started making custom cards, it’s been a goal to make realistic-looking cards in the style of the 1978 Topps set.  The main reason I wanted to do this is because I love the set, but the second reason was because of the challenge it presents.

The challenge comes from the team name at the bottom.
1978 Topps Mike Flanagan
That’s not a font. That’s calligraphy, and a bit of a problem when it comes to making customs of the five teams which didn’t exist in 1978 (Nationals, Rockies, Marlins, Rays and Diamondbacks).

As I’d run through in a previous post, I had a secret evil plan in mind to fake my way through these problematic teams by playing Dr. Frankenstein with the existing team names, surgically removing letters or combinations of letters and piecing them back together in a way that God (or Topps) never intended.
Faked up Nationals

Also, as mentioned in that same previous post, Topps had created their own “Wall Art” in the 1978 design, and included several teams (but not all) of the missing teams.
Topps Timothy Raines Art Collection - Rockies
I could just copy their version of “Rockies”, but I wasn’t happy with some of their artwork… and I’d still have to create my own “Marlins”.

I started playing around with this stuff, but I’ve always got too many irons in the fire and this particular iron cooled off a bit.

…And then…

Over at The Phillies Room, they are making plans for the 2016 Chachi set and working to determine which of four Topps designs (1970, 1971, 1978, 1982) will be the basis for that custom set’s design (You have my permission to go over there and vote, as long as you come back here).

In trying to decide on which set to vote for, I was flipping through my 1978 Topps binder when I inadvertently reenacted a scene from pretty much every TV detective show since the dawn of television (and for the purposes of this little vignette, pretend I have an assistant, even though in reality I do not):

Joe Shlabotnik is flipping through a binder when he suddenly appears stricken, looks up and speaks to nobody.
Joe: Of course!  It was right in front of me all the time!
Assistant: What?
Joe: (Frantically flipping through the binder, searching for something) How could I have been so blind?
Assistant: …What???
Joe: (Grabbing the binder and starts to run out of the room) If it were a snake it would’ve bitten me!
Assistant: WHAT?!?!?
Joe: (Stops, pauses to gather himself, and turns back to the Assistant) All along, all of my primary suspects were the teams… But we’d completely overlooked…

(Dramatic Pause)

…THE CHECKLISTS!
1978 Topps Checklist 1-121

All along I though we had 26 words to play with, when we actually have 27.

This is far from a major medical breakthrough, but it does have some ramifications…

First off, we’ve got a lower-case “c” in there, something that doesn’t exist in any of the team names.

Second, we’ve got a “ck” combination.  What else uses the “ck” combination?  RoCKies.  DiamondbaCKs (or D-BaCKs, however you want to go).

Third, we’ve got an “li” combination that can be used in Marlins. (Or we can just stick with the previous plans of combining MARiners, a random “L” and “twINS”).

And, if nothing else, it’s just another arrow in the quiver.  You never know when it might come in handy for doing older MLB teams, minor league teams, Japanese teams, NFL teams, whatever.

OK, now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get back to my idle pondering of what colors combinations would work best for the 1978 Rockies, Marlins, Rays and D-Backs…

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

Whoops.

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.

Topps’ Unintentional Gift To Custom Nerds, Plus A Peek Behind The Curtain

The other day I got this email from Topps shilling some of their “Collectible Posters” and there was a series that featured logo artwork by an artist named Timothy Raines… and no, he doesn’t appear to be related to former Expo Tim Raines.

The Collectible Posters featured Raines’ artwork based on MLB team logos and (because it’s Topps) the 1978 Topps Baseball design.  I went and checked it out, and it seems very nice and well executed, but none of it “spoke to me”.

I noticed a poster for the Rockies, and my initial thought was “Isn’t that interesting, the Rockies didn’t exist in 1978 and here they have the Rockies wordmark in the 1978 style.”

Topps Timothy Raines Art Collection - Rockies

…And then the possibilities of this set in, and I said “Oh, that is interesting….”

One thing you have to understand is that 1978 Topps is one of those sets that people shy away from when it comes time to make Archives sets or custom cards.  The bulk of the design is extremely simple, but the main stumbling point is that script team name.  One can’t just download a font to duplicate it.

One thing I’d played with in the past was trying to piece together letters and sequences of letters and even pieces of letters to fake up one of the five teams that didn’t exist in 1978… Here’s a quickie example for “Nationals”:

Faked up Nationals

I’d done one experiment with this method in the past, as a prelude to making a still-in-the-works “card from another universe” featuring the fictional “1978 Seattle Pilots”:

1978 Topps Pilots wordmark

Faking this script can be somewhat time consuming, but not impossible… and I believe that this is the technique Topps used when they created new wordmarks for the Rockies, Rays, D-Backs and Nationals.

So anyway, the whole gist of this is that I took the images of those Collectible Posters, isolated the wordmarks for the newer teams, added a white ‘border around it (disregard the green part, that’s just a remnant from my methods and I forgot to remove it)….
Nationals red better version

And voila, a word mark ready for customs like this one:

1978 Topps Custom Ryan Zimmerman 2015

(Not happy with the font used for the player name & position, but I’ll play with that when I get time.)

After I made this custom, I decided that I could improve on Topps work… I don’t think they properly adjusted the size of the “o” to match the other letters, so I tweaked it a bit after I made the Zimmerman custom.  Here’s the Topps version again:

Nationals red better version

…and here’s my tweaked version (as it stands right now).

Nationals red my version

I broke the word into “Nati”, “o” and “nals”, squished the “o” and leaned it over slightly, and then pushed them all together again.  I think it looks better, but there are still a couple of things that I wold improve upon.

BTW, when Topps created their capital “N”, I think they used the “M” from Mariners instead of from Mets… and I think the narrower letter works better for a long name like Nationals.

Here are the other wordmarks I isolated from the Topps posters:

Rays Navy better
Rays is probably the easiest of the bunch. “R” from Reds, Rangers or Royals, “ays” from Blue Jays. Voila.

Rockies black better
“Rockies” is a little tricky… One can use the “Ro” from Royals, the “k” from Yankees, the “ies” from Phillies, but none of the teams circa 1978 have a lower-case “c” in their names. I don’t particularly like this “c”, it looks kind of kludgy.  I think I’d tweak it before I used it.

D-Backs Red better
Topps cheats a bit by using the “D-Backs” nickname rather than “Diamondbacks”… But it saved them from fabricating a lowercase “m”, and it probably looks better abbreviated, anyway. They did a better job on this “c” than the one in Rockies.

Some of you may have noticed a missing team – there’s no Marlins. I went to the Timothy Raines website and he did do the Marlins logo, but for some reason Topps is not selling a Collectible Poster of that team… those bastards! (Just kidding guys, I love you, you know that).

I hope I didn’t bore anybody too much, but I thought the “custom people” would appreciate the information, and the rest of you would get a glimpse into the terrible obsession that haunts us customizers.

Cubs Throwback Unis On The 1978 Design – Are You Taking Notes, Topps?

The Cubs wore 1978 throwbacks on Sunday, and when anybody throws back to the 1970’s, you can bet that I will be making 1970’s customs from a corresponding year.

What can I say?  When it comes to making “double-throwback” customs…

I…

2014 TSR TB-74A Aaron Harang

…can’t…

1979 Austin Jackson

…help…

2013 Seventy-Faux Pedro Alvarez

…myself!!!!

1979 Lucas Harrell

The throwbacks the Cubs wore on Sunday were part of the Wrigley Field 100th Anniversary celebration, and… Well, if you haven’t seen them, let me just show you my favorite of this particular batch of customs made from game photos:
2014 TSR 1978 #1 Anthony Rizzo
Before I get too far into this… Just try to tell me that a card like this wouldn’t make an awesome addition to Topps Archives, or at least a short print or insert. Come on, Topps! DO IT!

So yes, the Cubs were at home and celebrating Wrigley Field by throwing back to road uniforms they never wore at Wrigley. Just go with it. Tsuyoshi Wada was fine with it, you should be too.
2014 TSR 1978 #4 Tsuyoshi Wada

For the two people who might have interest, I’ll point out that these cards are the first made from a 1978 template I’m trying to get into “production”. The “Cubs” script and the little baseball are the only things to come out of a scan, everything else is a template that allows me to swap colors and such. Unfortunately, the only team I can make customs of just yet are the Cubs, but there will be more.
2014 TSR 1978 #2 Kyle Hendricks
I’m not 100% satisfied with the fonts used for the name & position, but that’s a tweak for down the road.

The grass in this photo came across as a little too green, so I tried to tweak the brightness and contrast, and the result looks like a colorized photo… which may not be a bad thing.
2014 TSR 1978 #3 Luis Valbuena

According to the press releases, the Cardinals also wore throwbacks… but since the Cardinals’ 1978 road uniform was also powder blue, in Sundays’ game the Cards wore grey road unis that they wouldn’t actually wear until 1985… therefore it does not belong on my custom. I’d say “Take that, Cardinals!” except I’m pretty sure the Cubs provide the throwback uniforms for the visiting teams.
2014 TSR 1978 #5 Wesley Wright

There will be more customs like these in the future, just like I’ve made these over the past couple of years…

….Because…
Seventy Faux #5 Gordon Beckham

…I can’t…
Seventy Faux #4 Mark Trumbo

…help myself!
Seventy Faux #2 Josh Hamilton

…even when it’s the occasional Sixties throwback!
Sixty Faux #1 Brian Bogosevic