Contrast And Compare: Six Cards From Three Decades

Running through some Topps cards and their variations-of-sorts, as an admittedly last-minute post.

Doug Ault had a cup of coffee with the Rangers in 1976, got selected by the Blue Jays in the expansion draft, and shared a rookie infielders card with Rich Dauer, Orlando Gonzalez and Phil Mankowski.

Because he was a first-year Blue Jay, O-Pee-Chee gave him his own card.

Ault hit two homers in the Jays’ first game, was a regular with the team and made the Topps All-Star Rookie Team.  He wouldn’t repeat the success he had in his first year and was done in the Majors after 1980.

In 1980, Omar Moreno was coming off two seasons of leading the N.L. in steals.

That got him into the 1980 Burger King Pinch Hit & Run set in the “Run” category and a different photo was used… but he’s still pictured with a bat instead of running. Go figure.

In 1980 Moreno got a career-high 96 stolen bases… but would finish one behind Montreal’s Ron LeFlore who had 97. In 1981 he’d finish second to a different Expo, Tim Raines.

In 2013 Doug Fister went 14-9, 3.67 for the Tigers, surprising people by breaking out when he was 29 years old.
After that season, the Tigers traded him to the Nationals for Ian Krol, Steve Lombardozzi and Robbie Ray. Since Opening Day gets released after Topps Series 1, a different photo of Fister was photoshopped into a Nats uniform.

Fister went 16-6, 2.41 in that first season with the Nats, but has been inconsistent since then and is currently with the Red Sox. The argument could be made that the best player in that trade was Robbie Ray, who was an all-star this year for the Diamondbacks. He was traded to Arizona in the three-team trade that sent Didi Gregorius to the Yankees.

Hello, My Name Is Joe, I’ll Be Your Jinx For Tonight…

I had somewhere to run to Wednesday night, and just before I got in my car I checked my phone and saw a notification that the Orioles’ Dylan Bundy was perfect against the Rockies through five innings.
2014 Bowman Top 100 Prospects Dylan Bundy
“Hot damn,” I thought, “I’ll have to listen to the game in the car!”

So I’m in my car trying to figure out which XM channel the Orioles game was on. By the time I found the game, the Orioles radio announcers were talking about how Bundy had walked former Oriole Mark Reynolds to lose the perfect game.

2014 TSR #179 Mark Reynolds

I didn’t have any readily-available scans of Mark Reynolds cards, so you’ll have to settle for a 2014 TSR custom card.

At that point, I should’ve realized what I was doing to Bundy’s chances and gotten out of there like Shaggy and Scooby after seeing a ghost. But no, I said “He’s still got the no-no!” and I kept on listening.

So naturally, on what was the second or third pitch I heard, Nick Hundley… another former Oriole…
2014 Topps Update Nick Hundley
…hits it out of the park. Goodbye no-hitter, goodbye shutout. Two batters later, Bundy gave up David Dahl’s first MLB homer, and that was it for Bundy. The Orioles ended up losing 3-1 and Bundy took the loss.

I’m sorry Dylan.
2012 Topps Heritage Minor League Dylan Bundy

I have this incredible track record of jinxing perfection as soon as I become aware of it. I’ve been bowling in leagues for over 20 years, and I couldn’t tell you how many times I heard someone say something along the lines of “Hey, check out Frank’s score” and no sooner do I look up to see that Frank’s line on the scoring computer looks like this:
FRANK  | X | X | X | X | X | X | X | X | X |
…when Frank throws a 7-10 split. It’s the Shlabotnik curse. I become aware of perfection, it ceases to be perfect.

2013 Bowman Draft Picks Prospects Dylan Bundy

Last year I was at a minor league baseball game, and both pitchers were pitching really well, only the visiting pitcher had a slightly rocky start before getting into a groove. Even though I was keeping score, I only knew I was watching a pitcher’s duel with a lot of K’s, I wasn’t aware of what was going on until I hear the guy behind me say “He has a no-hitter going”. I mentally went “Whuuuh?”, looked at the scoreboard, looked at my scorebook, sure enough… no hits and working through the 5th inning. Two batters later, a ground ball between the shortstop and third baseman, no more no hitter.

2013 Topps Gypsy Queen Dylan Bundy

So this is your opportunity to tell me about your similar stories, or perhaps to gloat about how you’re not an instant curse like I am.

How far into a no-hitter have you ever seen a pitcher get?

Full disclosure: I did eventually see someone bowl a 300 game.

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.

The Latest Stop On The Kelly Johnson World Domination Tour

Before the season ends, I want to pay tribute to the happy wanderings of Mr. Kelly Andrew Johnson, who began his Major League career as an Atlanta Braves outfielder, then their starting second baseman, and has recently been playing anywhere for anyone.

Kelly Johnson was drafted by the Braves in 2000 and made his debut as an outfielder in 2005.  He missed most of 2006 and came back as a 2nd baseman in 2007.
2009 Topps Kelly Johnson

In December, 2009, he signed with the Diamondbacks as a free agent.
2011 Topps Kelly Johnson

In August, 2011 (his “walk year”), he was traded to the Blue Jays for for Aaron Hill and John McDonald. (This is where the fun starts)
2012Topps Kelly Johnson
He became a free agent but re-signed with the Jays.

After the 2012 season, he became a free agent again, this time signing with the Tampa Bay Rays.
2013 Topps Kelly Johnson

After one season in Tampa, he became a free agent again, and signed with the Yankees.
2014 Topps Kelly Johnson

At the 2014 trading deadline, he was traded to the Red Sox for Stephen Drew.
2014 Topps Update Kelly Johnson

One month later, Kelly Johnson and Michael Almanzar were traded to the Orioles for Ivan DeJesus and Jemile Weeks. (This card is a custom, BTW).
2014 Schmeritage Kelly Johnson

When he got traded to the Orioles, he completed the cycle by playing for all five AL East teams.

Over this past offseason, he went back to the Braves, and I held off on this post until after I got my 2015 Topps factory set, thinking that Kelly Johnson would be on one of the 700 cards — but I was mistaken.  We’ve got to wait for Topps Update or Heritage High Numbers to get Kelly Johnson on a 2015 card, so I’m going to repeat the 2009 card to stand in for a 2015 Braves card.
2009 Topps Kelly Johnson

In July the Braves traded Kelly and Juan Uribe to the Mets for two minor league pitchers.
2015 TSR #307 - Kelly Johnson

Just to recap, that’s 8 teams over the past 5 seasons, including all of the teams in the AL East and two out of five in the NL East.  So far this season, he’s played at first, second, third, short, left field, right field and DH (although only one game each as a shortstop and DH).

Just for fun, here’s another custom I’m “reprinting” from last year featuring Kelly Johnson and Kelli Johnson of Comcast SportsNet.
2014 TSR PP-3 Kelly Kelli Johnson
Kelli Johnson’s also been on the move;  this past winter she moved from Comcast SportsNet Houston to Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.  Before that, she was with Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic.

Tuffy Says: “They Spelled My Name Wrong Again”

On Thursday, Diamondbacks’ catcher Tuffy Gosewisch got some national attention when he hit three doubles and had a career-high four RBI’s… a notable night for a .217 career hitter.  He also got some unwanted attention when the D-backs signed catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia to a minor league contract, and some speculated whether that could affect Gosewisch’s status as the starting catcher.

2014 Topps Tuffy Gosewisch

In several articles from several sources that I’d seen, many of the articles misspelled “Gosewisch” – they left out the second ‘S’, spelling it “Gosewich”.  I’d provide links, but most of them have since been corrected or removed.

2014 Heritage Rookie Stars Christiani Gosewisch

We at The Shlabotnik Report can empathize with Mr. Gosewisch’s plight, and so we are doing our part to educate our readers as to the proper spelling.  We’ve even made sure that Tuffy has a spot in the 2015 TSR virtual set:
2015 TSR #41 - Tuffy Gosewisch

Take heart, Tuffy.  I know of a certain Hall-Of-Famer and household name whose name is often misspelled “Ripkin”.

Another person who can empathize is Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Loudon Wainwright III, who wrote a song about his own anguish:

Other 2014 Topps Cards I Found Interesting

A week or so ago I shared my Top 10 2014 Topps cards;  Today I’m going to share the cards that weren’t what I’d consider “Top 10”, but were interesting for other reasons.

I like this shot because it could represent a lot of things, ranging from “Aw, hell YEAH!” to “Are you freakin’ kidding me?” to “Oh, my toe bone!”
2014 Topps Brandon Phillips

The more the Braves throw back to these Atlanta Crackers uniforms, the more I’m digging them.  Somebody in the majors needs to get some drop shadows going!
2014 Topps Freddie Freeman

I have a major problem with this card.  It’s a cool shot, but there are at least 10 Phillies in this photo, there are 7 faces visible, and Freddy Galvis’ face ain’t one of them.
2014 Topps Freddy Galvis
Put it this way;  if the FBI issued a wanted poster for Freddy Galvis, and they used this picture, then Freddy would still be at large.  “Sorry, sir, we simply haven’t seen any guys wearing “Galvis 13″ on their back.”

A cool action shot that fell just outside the Top 10.
2014 Topps Juan Uribe

I like this photo, but I also like Mark DeRosa, so I’m a little biased.  Back when having pitchers throw footballs was a thing – wasn’t it Tom House, pitching coach of the Rangers who started that?  Anyway, back when that was a thing, you’d see cards like this at least a couple of times a year.  Now it’s been a while since a football has shown up on a baseball card.
2014 Topps Mark DeRosa
…And this is where you all leave comments along the lines of “Hey, ya big dummy, what about these other 200 cards involving footballs which came out over the past year?”

I know this is photoshopped and all, but could they have found a worse picture of Prince Fielder?  The man looks like he’s auditioning for the role of “Mr. Stay-Puft” in the Ghostbusters reboot.
2014 Topps Prince Fielder

Finley-era Athletics throwbacks!  This photo would’ve been awesome on a 1969 design.
2014 Topps Yoenis Cespedes

This card made me laugh because of a custom I made for my 2013 set…
2014 Topps Yunel Escobar

Apparently Yunel Escobar likes to do a lot of pointing at cameras.
2013 TSR #146 - Yunel Escobar
…but I was there first, so I’m going to feel smug about that.

Belated Rated — My Top 10 2014 Topps Cards

“Never put off ’till tomorrow what can be put off for several months” – Joe Shlabotnik

If I ever make any comments about having nothing to write about, you all have my permission to reach out and virtually smack me upside the head.

I have a bunch of largely-written posts without images.  I have a bunch of images without the writing.  I have a bunch of ideas without text or images.  The main thing in my way is the time and attention span to follow through on them.

This had been one of those “images waiting for text” posts.  I could say that I was waiting until everyone could approach this set with a cleansed palate, fully able to reconsider the cards that they’d moved on from months ago… but that would be a lie.  I just didn’t get to it.

2014 Topps will not go down in the books as a classic set – I don’t think I’ll get much of an argument on that point.  Aside from the too-much-going-on “seasick” design, the cards suffer from Getty-itis… Too much reliance on Getty Images or whichever other photo agencies they use to get the images used on the cards.

Unless one of the rookies in this set becomes a megasuperstar and his rookie card comes to define this set, I have to say that Coco Crisp will go down as “The card people think of when you mention 2014 Topps”.
2014 Topps Coco Crisp
…if only because this card has more personality than almost every other card in the set.

The card I’d have to rank second belongs to Mr. Albert Pujols:
2014 Topps Albert Pujols
The reasons I like this card are more about composition than anything else.  With the Angels logo on the dugout wall behind him, this almost looks like a 1990’s Studio card… and that’s a good thing.  Throw in Pujols’ “preparing for battle” expression, and you’ve got a nice card.

Without getting into a ranking, here are the remaining 8 cards in my top ten;  they’re all tied for 3rd, 4th or 5th in some way or another, and are presented in the order that WordPress decided on when I uploaded them all simultaneously:

Jose Altuve and Mike Trout, two of my favorite young players, in the same action shot. What’s not to like?
2014 Topps Jose Altuve

Here’s another candidate in the “composition” class. There are numerous “high five” cards taken from slightly above; this one gives us a cool shot from slightly under eye level.
2014 Topps Josh Reddick

Just a nice action shot… Does anybody know who the Phillie is?
2014 Topps Russell Martin

There are a couple of “robbing a homer” shots in this set, but this one has the most immediacy, plus I like to look at the expressions on the individual people in the crowd.
2014 Topps Shane Victorino
Shane Victorino IS the “Flyin’ Hawaiian”.

Another nice play-at-the-plate shot taken at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park… I wonder if it’s the same photographer as on the Russell Martin card.
2014 Topps Travis Snider

Like with the “robbing a homer” shots, there were numerous shots taken from angles similar to this one, but this is my favorite. Not sure why, maybe it’s because you’ve got the catcher, Garcia, the runner on third and then the umpire all going down the third base line.
2014 Topps Avisail Garcia

A nice shot of Joel Hanrahan relating to the fans.
2014 Topps Joel Hanrahan
Whenever there’s a image that has “BOSTON” upside down, backwards or a mirror-image (like on the pennant in this photo), John Cleese is in my head saying “It’s not a bloody palindrome! A palindrome of ‘Boston’ would be ‘Notsob’.  It don’t work!”

Another cool action shot, made better by Danks’  “Isn’t this fun!” expression.
2014 Topps Jordan Danks

It seems kind of pointless to ask “What are your favorite cards from the set?”, since most of you got that out of the way back in July, if not earlier… but feel free to paste a link to your set retrospective, if you like.

2014 Topps Factory Set Rookie Variations

Soon after I saw the online previews of 2014 Topps last year, I decided to buy a factory set rather than the usual “bust a ton of packs”.

The factory sets recently came out, and I started assessing my options…

All-Star Variations?  Meh.

Sandy Koufax Refractors? Yawwwwwwwwwn… (Although now that I look at the bidding for these on eBay, I may have screwed up by not going with this option).

I decided to go with the bonus that stood the greatest chance of remaining in my collection, the rookie variations.  They’re largely as uninteresting as the other options, not that I expected much anyway.

I thought that someone might want to see what they look like, so here they are in descending order by hype:

2014 Topps Masahiro Tanaka Factory Set

2014 Topps Xander Bogaerts Factory Set

2014 Topps Billy Hamilton Factory Set

2014 Topps Jose Abreu Factory Set

2014 Topps Nick Castellanos Factory Set

Getting Seasick with 2014 Topps

“It’s not as bad as I expected.”

2014 Topps Starling Marte

That was my reaction when I finally – FINALLY!!!! – found a pack of 2014 Topps in one of my local Targets and was able to spend some time with the actual cards. The preview images that Topps had tweeted back in August did not paint a pretty picture for me, and started me thinking “factory set”.

Since this set has a “wave” motif of questionable appeal, I’d started to think of it as the “Seasick” set.  I have several other thoughts of what the design reminds me of, but I’ll save it for the end of the post.

So, what do I think about the set?

It would be better without the foil… Use a team color for the big foil wave on the front. I also think the “Future Stars” graphic (on the Starling Marte card above) would look better in color, maybe like the rainbow graphic from the 1987 Topps cards.

The design works far better as a horizontal card.
2014 Topps Billy Hamilton
Landscape mode minimizes the weird tab on the side and allows the wave to stretch out a bit and show a bit of the team color wavelets behind the foil wave.

I do like the fact that the design takes up a small amount of “real estate” on the cards, and allows the photo to dominate.

I like the fact that they’re not afraid of tight crops on the photos, giving us action while – NOVEL CONCEPT ALERT! – allowing us to see what the player looks like.
2014 Topps Melky Cabrera

I like that they’ve got the player’s position on the front, even if it is easily overlooked.
2014 Topps Paul Goldschmidt

I and my middle-aged eyes most decidedly do NOT like the small card number on the back.
2014 Topps Paul Goldschmidt back
Sorting through stacks of these cards is a job best left for you young whippersnappers.

Back in the day I used to like the League Leader cards, but ever since they’ve switched to the “three action shots on a horizontal card” format, I’d just as soon they leave it out. It just doesn’t work.
2014 Topps NL Avg Leaders
That being said, the aforementioned tight cropping does a lot to improve a bad situation.

I am very thankful that I got a Met, and especially that it is Matt Harvey.
2014 Topps Matt Harvey

I do not like that I had to carefully examine the Hamilton, Goldschmidt and Harvey cards to see if they were “Sparkle” variations. Seriously, “Sparkle” variations is one of the most dumb-ass gimmicks that Topps has pulled recently. Who the BLEEEEEEEEEP BLEEEEEP cares if Matt Harvey’s glove sparkles? And why would it sparkle in the first place?

Here’s my one insert:
2014 Topps Future Now Yasiel Puig


…There are four ways of doing things on the field: The right way, the wrong way, the Dodger way, and my way. They do things my way, and we’ll get along.

Oh, wait, that’s not Puig, that’s Queeg.

Before I got this pack, the plan was to relegate 2014 Topps to a factory or hand-collated set, and instead focus my new card efforts on Heritage… and I’ve noticed a lot of other bloggers sharing the same intentions.

Now that I’ve seen the cards in person, that plan is not as cast-in-stone as it had been, but given all the stupid inserts that I’d be dealing with, it’s probably just as well to avoid them entirely. At any rate, it’s not like I have to make a decision right away.

So what were the other things that the 2014 Topps design made me think of?

For starters, it made me wonder if the head graphic artist behind this wave had one of these jerseys as a kid:

1995-96 Zenith #45 - Kirk Muller - Courtesy of

1995-96 Zenith #45 – Kirk Muller – Courtesy of

…or perhaps was a fan of the helmets used by the Boston/New Orleans Breakers of the USFL…

1984 Topps USFL #77 - Marcus Marek - Courtesy of

1984 Topps USFL #77 – Marcus Marek – Courtesy of

…or was a “Cokeologist” who preferred the taste of New Coke over Pepsi.

Catch the wave!

No matter, what’s done is done.

In years past, I might’ve been thinking “Let’s see what the other sets look like when they come out”, but thanks to Topps’ monopoly, I have but one thing to say.

When does Heritage come out?