Hot Stove Customs: The Post I Nearly Forgot To Do

For those of you who have been reading The Shlabotnik Report for less than 6 months or so, you may not be aware that each year I create a custom card set of my own design (although, I’ll freely admit, usually derivative of a particular era).

A few weeks ago I’d decided that the first virtual pack of this set will be opened next Sunday, March 18th.

Well, I got so caught up in trying to finalize some things with my new design and create a bunch of customs for the first week or two that I nearly forgot that I had one last “Hot Stove” post I’d intended to publish.

Today I’m going to feature three customs featuring notable players who switched teams recently. As with the last several posts, these are all done in the style of the 1963 Post baseball set.

I thought about giving a sneak preview of next week’s unveiling, but I decided against it because I wasn’t sure how much of a hint I wanted to give, and because I miss how it was when I was a kid – you didn’t know when the cards would be out until they were sitting there in boxes on a retailer’s shelf, and you had no idea of what the cards looked like until you ripped open that first wax pack.

What I will say is that I was shooting for a mid-1960’s feel for this set… only not necessarily mid-1960’s baseball.

For those of you on Twitter, starting tomorrow I will be doing a one-a-day countdown to the new set; each day I will be featuring a custom from each of my prior six custom sets. It’s hard to believe that this upcoming set will be my seventh!

Oh, I suppose you might want to know my Twitter handle, right? It’s @Shlabotnik_Rpt

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Hot Stove: Photo Day Means No More “Photoshopping”

Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about baseball.  I’ve been doing a lot of Olympic stuff lately, and I’m not done with that, but this week provided a day… or, to be accurate, a group of days… which always make me feel like baseball is truly here.

That day is “Photo Day”.  The day when everybody in camp is run through a photo session and we can see what each team’s new players will look like in their new unis.

For me, it also signals a moment when it’s just silly to be “photoshopping” players into new uniforms.  I actually had 3-D customs of Yu Darvish and Todd Frazier in the works, but now there’s no real reason to finish either one.

I did decide to make a few Hot Stove customs in the style of 1963 Post, which I’d used for all of the new managers.  Because I had to modify the custom template to allow for batting stats, and because that was much more of a pain in the you-know than I expected, today’s post only includes batters.  I’ll try to get Yu and some other pitchers done for next week.

Carlos Santana signed with the Phillies two months ago, and that was this Mets fan’s moment of “Oh, crap, the Phils don’t see themselves phoning it in this year, do they?”

Before I forget, here’s a disclaimer: I didn’t proofread the stats or text very closely, so don’t use these to settle any high-stakes bets.

I was excited about the Mets signing Todd Frazier for two reasons… He’s a good addition, of course, but it also signals that the Mets have conceded that David Wright is not going to come back anytime soon, if at all.

That sounds worse than I intend it… I do hope that David Wright is able to make it back.  But I’m pretty pessimistic about his chances and I’m happy that the Mets are acknowledging that.

Andrew McCutchen looks strange out of a Pirates uniform, but given that he’s in a walk year, I don’t blame the Bucs for getting what they could for him.

The Christian Yelich trade to the Brewers was one of those trades where I was happy for certain players moving in either direction. Yelich gets out of Miami and hopefully (for him) plays for a contender.

Meanwhile, prospect Lewis Brinson went to the Marlins as part of the return package, and he’s actually excited about going to Miami… He grew up in Florida as a Marlins fan, and is going to wear the same number as Juan Pierre, his childhood idol.

I have to admit, even though it’s a pain to insert the personal information, stats and text – and yes, the text is legit and isn’t just “lorem ipsum” or “Yadda yadda” – I like the way these customs are turning out and I may continue to make them even after the “Hot Stove” season draws to an end.

Hot Stove: Cole, Holds, Penfold And Passing Souls

It’s funny how some things just fall together… These customs all worked out to come together into one largely rhyming post title.

“Cole” is Gerrit Cole, who was traded by the Pirates to the Astros for several players, including potential Shlabotnik favorite Colin Moran (who is B.J. Surhoff’s nephew, so for the time being he’s a “legacy” favorite guy.)

This has been a rough year for my “Hot Stove” set because there has been relatively little player movement, and when someone does move I can’t find suitable photos or don’t have time to do it properly. I ended up rushing through this one a little bit; you might not see it (or maybe you do), but it bothers me a little. Not enough to stop me from posting it, though.

Next up, “Holds”… I’m continuing my 2017 MLB Leaders series of ersatz 1972 customs with this unofficial stat designed to measure a middle reliever’s effectiveness.  A pitcher gets a Hold by coming into a game with a lead of no more than three runs, getting an out and maintaining that lead (but does not earn a save in the process).

As it turned out, there were three MLB pitchers who tied for third, and that threw me for a loop. I didn’t want to change the design of the card, so I went with the floaty head option, which I think works pretty well.

The Twins’ Taylor Rogers lead the Majors with 30 holds.

Coming up next is Nick “Hubba Hubba” Vincent with 29 holds. No, I don’t know why he’s called “Hubba Hubba”, but I’d like to find out (I’ll be really impressed if it has anything to do with the song “Happy Boy” by The Beat Farmers).  If you’re like me and had never heard of Vincent before, a major factor is that he has almost no Major League cardboard. He was in that 2015 Platinum Series collectible card game – remember that?  The other card he had, oddly enough, was an autograph card in 2016 Topps Update. Of these five players, only Andrew Miller has any significant cardboard representation over the past two seasons.

The Floaty Head Three – Andrew Miller, not-the-Indians-infielder Jose Ramirez and new Met Anthony Swarzak – all tied for third with 27 holds.

Late New Year’s Resolution:  Feature more guys like these on custom cards in 2018.

These next two customs were last minute additions and are an excuse to feature some new A’s alternates that I really like. These new unis are meant to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the team’s move to Oakland and they are Kelly Green, the green they used to wear in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

I don’t know what pro sports teams have against Kelly Green, but I love it.  It seems like teams are either going with “Midnight Green” (the Philadelphia Eagles) or “Neon Snot Green” (the Seattle Seahawks).

There’s a cap which goes with the jersey;  I’d prefer it have a yellow bill, but this is actually a nice throwback to 1968, when they wore solid green caps (only those caps had just “A”, rather than “A’s”.)

What encourages me the most about this unveiling is that the three players involved in the unveiling all seemed to really like the change, and came out in favor of wearing them more than just for the planned Friday night home games. As far as I’m concerned, they can wear these in all of the games.

I’ve been working for a while on this sheet of U-KNOW-M stamps – “You love ’em because U-KNOW-M!”… Remember to look for U-KNOW-M stamp albums at your favorite virtual retailer!

I normally mention these from top to bottom, but since I have a bit to say about the two musicians who have passed away fairly recently, I’ll touch on the bottom row first.

Without getting into details, the other day something made me think of Penfold, the generally useless hamster assistant to Danger Mouse, the star of the British cartoon series of the early 1980’s.  Even though my friends and I were technically a bit old for DM when it aired on Nickelodeon, we appreciated the silliness and wordplay.  Since I’ve wanted to include more cartoon characters on these stamps, and “Penfold” fit right in with the “Cole, Holds” theme, he gets a spot in the checklist.  Cor!

I stumbled across this photo of Jenna Fischer promoting her latest project and I remembered how much of a crush I had on her during The Office.  I considered her for my list of current-day “Charlie’s Angels”, but her appeal is more along the lines of “High school sweetheart you were lucky enough to reconnect with” than “fantasy one-night stand”.

Moving on to the “Passing Souls”…

One night in December I got in my car to drive somewhere and the SiriusXM Beatles Channel played a Smithereens cover of “All I’ve Got To Do”, followed by the news that Pat DiNizio had passed away… It came as a surprise to me, as I hadn’t known he’d been in poor health.  The Smithereens were one of my favorite bands of the 1980’s… “Green Thoughts” was one of the first CD’s I ever bought, and I loved it so much that I went back and filled in the catalog (It took a little while to find “Beauty And Sadness” and “Live At The Ritz NYC”).  If there’s a bright spot to this, I just discovered that there are all kinds of download-only Smithereens live albums available, so I’m going to have to find that iTunes gift card which is undoubtedly buried in desktop clutter…

This is the lead track off of “Green Thoughts”:

Another sad loss from the music world was the passing of The Moody Blues’ Ray Thomas. For years the Moodies were ignored by the Rock HOF, and sadly when they are inducted the band loses a founding member before the ceremony.

I became a fan of the Moody Blues during the late 1970’s, when the band wasn’t active… My best friend had acquired a car with an 8-Track player in it, so he raided his parents’ collection and one of the tapes we got into was the compilation “This Is The Moody Blues”.  We knew some of the songs, like “Nights In White Satin” but came to love every track.  A couple of years later the band reunited and released “Long Distance Voyager” and I have never looked back… although I still feel that the seven albums released between 1967 and 1972 are the only Moody Blues albums which really matter.

Among the songs which Ray Thomas wrote and sang lead vocal was “Dr. Livingstone, I Presume”, and I found this clip of that song (along with “Ride My See Saw”, also from In Search Of The Lost Chord) from French TV in 1968.

Custom Sunday: I Love To Say BABIP

Four customs plus a rant today. Who could ask for anything more?

Continuing my series of 2017 MLB Leaders in some of the more obscure statistics, today we have BABIP – Batting Average on Balls In Play. The formula for this, according to MLB.com is (H – HR)/(AB – K – HR + SF).

I’m not sure how significant of an achievement it is for someone to lead the league in BABIP, but it’s a fun acronym to say so here it is.  Avisail Garcia lead the majors with a .393 BABIP and Charlie Blackmon and Jose Altuve both had a .373 BABIP.

I’m slowly working my way through all of the new managers and making 1963 Post-inspired customs out of them and I think that Red Sox manager Alex Cora is the last of the bunch.

I’m probably going to expand these ’63 Post customs to feature players from press conferences, but I hadn’t finally decided. Giancarlo Stanton, perhaps?

The offseason trade and free-agent market has been fairly slow, but I have to say that the move that has surprised me the most by far was the trade which sent Evan Longoria to the San Francisco Giants.

I hadn’t thought it likely that the Rays would trade someone who’s so closely associated with the team, but it seemed like he was about to reach a point where he’d acquire no-trade rights from having 10 years of experience and 5 with the same team, so it seems to have been a “now or never” moment in Tampa.

I’m going to wrap up with an unusual (for me) football custom, done in the style of the 1964 Philadelphia Gum set. The Steelers are drawing their regular season to a close against the 0-15 Browns, and coach Mike Tomlin will sit some of the regulars, so that’s good news for one of my favorite Steelers, backup QB Landry Jones.

It might seem odd to favor the backup on a team that’s clinched a first-round bye, but that’s the way it is for me and these Steelers. I’ve been a fan of The Black And Gold for 30+ years, and even though this is a winning team, this team over the past couple of years has tried my patience as much as some of those 10-loss teams I’ve seen. The reasons for my frustration are many, but can be summed up by saying that while this is winning football, it’s not what I consider Steelers football.

Public Enemy #1 is Ben Roethlisberger. I admit that I flat-out don’t like him or his style of play. It also drives me nuts that he stays in the game when he’s seriously injured and far less effective, but HEAVENS FORBID that you should have to put Landry Jones in there. Let’s just all jump in front of a bus and save ourselves the misery.

I’ve taken to calling Roethlisberger “The Black Knight”, which sounds good on the surface, but is actually a reference to the character from “Monty Python And The Holy Grail”:

Anyway, the long and short of this is that I’ll be rooting hard for Landry Jones today.

Assorted Customs For December 17th

It’s that time of year when I don’t have energy for a lot of things, including catchy post titles and customs which take more than a half-hour or so… so no photoshopped images of relocating Major Leaguers this week. I think part of this is because the obvious candidate for such a card is Giancarlo Stanton, and I’m already tired of hearing about him.

So anyway, today I’ve got four assorted customs, all baseball-related.

I made this custom of Delino DeShields Jr. at the end of October, but didn’t use it at the time. Now I can’t remember why I made it… but it turned out nice enough that I’m sharing it anyway.

He did get largely overlooked by Topps in 2017, that may have had something to do with it. He played in 120 games but only appeared in Heritage High #’s and Topps Now. Something I just learned: He and his former-MLBer father have different middle names, so he’s technically not a “Jr.”

I do remember why I made this custom of Ronald Acuna… He’s a five-tool prospect, he’s Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year, he’s the MVP of the Arizona Fall League, he moved from A-ball to AA to AAA in 2017, he’s up near the top of any prospect list you may find and… this is sheer coincidence, BTW… he turns 20 tomorrow.

He also has a shot of being “The rookie you tire of pulling” in 2018.

The Winter Meetings were held this past week, and as always it concludes with the Rule 5 draft. The Orioles went a bit nuts, drafting two pitchers from the Yankees and one from the Cubs. There’s almost no way all three will stick, but the O’s have had decent luck with the Rule 5 in recent history, so fingers crossed.

I was a bit indecisive with this one in terms of how far I should go with the photos. How much time should I take with guys who may just be memories by Opening Day? I decided that, for a 1971 custom, having the Minor League cap logos removed would be most true to the originals… not to mention easiest (Hello, “clone brush”!)

As for the three players drafted… Nestor Cortes is a lefty who impressed at three levels in the Yankees system and is probably the most likely to stick. Pedro Araujo has only 2 innings in AA, but had a 1.74 ERA and 0.677 WHIP in the Arizona Fall League this year. Jose Mesa Jr. also has minimal experience in the higher levels, but is (surprise!) the son of former MLB reliever Jose Mesa.

Phillies fans must be excited this winter, because they have a number of well-regarded prospects and they’ve made a few moves which have made this Mets fan say “Uh-oh”.

Ditching Pete Mackanin for Gabe Kapler seemed odd earlier this offseason, but it certainly seems that they’ve decided to accelerate the rebuilding process.

Oh! Oh! Oh! Ohtani! …And Other Customs

The jingle for a chain of auto parts stores popped in my head while I was trying to think of a Shohei Ohtani-related title for this post, so I decided to go with it.

With Ohtani officially signing with the Los Angeles Angels, I decided it was time to fire up my relatively-ancient copy of Paint Shop Pro and get to work on my first “Photoshopped” Hot Stove card of the season.

The downside of being the first is that I’m out of practice;  I haven’t photoshopped someone into a new uniform since last February.  Hopefully you won’t notice the difference, but I look at it and see things I could’ve done better. Ah, well… No matter…

One thing that occurred to me is that if Ohtani has any sort of success – and likely even if he doesn’t – we’re going to see an onslaught of rookie cards, inserts, Topps Now and other online exclusives, the likes of which we haven’t seen since… um… Well, if you’re tired of Aaron Judge now, you’ll probably be tired of Shohei Ohtani in December, 2018.

I spent a fair amount of time waffling about which statistical category to use for this week’s “2017 Leaders” card, but finally decided on doing Total Bases.  This category gives us three players from the two 1993 expansion teams, and gives us one last look as Giancarlo Stanton as a Marlin.

Charlie Blackmon lead the Majors with 387 total bases.  That’s 127 singles, 35 doubles, 14 triples and 37 homers.

Giancarlo Stanton came up second with 377;  77 singles, 32 doubles, no triples and 59 homers.  It’s interesting how different Blackmon’s totals and Stanton’s totals are.

Nolan Arenado was third with 355;  100 singles, 43 doubles, 7 triples and 37 homers.

For the record, Jose Abreu came in 4th overall and 1st in the American League with 343 total bases.

As for Stanton, it’s looking like he’s going to the Yankees, which is a good thing for first-time manager Aaron Boone.

I don’t have anything against Aaron Boone, but as a Mets fan I am morally and legally obligated to wish nothing but ill on the Yankees, so here’s hoping that he’s unable to find enough playing time to keep his multitude of outfielders happy.

It’s been a while since I posted a sheet of U-KNOW-M stamps… “You love ’em because U-KNOW-M!”

Remember to look for U-KNOW-M stamp albums at your favorite virtual retailer!

Gigante is a mascot for the Single-A San Jose Giants; he amuses me because he kinda sorta reminds me of a friend of mine from High School (I guess that may not be the nicest thing to say about someone, but anyway…)

I screwed up a bit when I picked out the subjects of these stamps.. I thought that today would have been Kirsty MacColl’s birthday, but it was actually October 10th. Since it’s December, you may be hearing her sing with The Pogues on the Christmas-themed “Fairytale Of New York”. She had a few solo Top 10’s in the UK, but was largely unknown in the US… but if you listened to the right radio stations in the 1990’s, you might know songs like “Walking Down Madison”, “In These Shoes?” or “I Can’t Stop Killing You”. I found out about her from two songs on a 1989 mix tape, and she one of my favorite musical artists. Sadly, she was killed in an accident in 2000, but she’ll always have a special place in my music collection.

Although I originally knew her from The West Wing, Allison Janney really caught my attention on the short-lived Matthew Perry vehicle “Mr. Sunshine”…. She was easily the best part of that show. This stamp was originally intended to publish on her birthday, but in another birthday mishap I blew way past that.

…As Maxwell Smart would say, “Missed it by THAT much!”… or perhaps “Sorry about that, Chief!”

Customs, 1972-Style: Arcane Leaders, Canadian Football And… 3-D Hockey?

A little while ago I posted which featured, among other things, a 1970 Kellogg’s Football card. In the comments, Hackenbush speculated on how cool a Kellogg’s Hockey card would’ve been. That got my wheels turning, and since I’ve been getting ready for my Faux-3D “Hot Stove” customs, I figured I’d tease it (plus work out a couple of kinks in my template) by creating a couple of customs featuring current NHL players. Here’s the first:

The NHL and I had a falling out over a dozen years ago – not that the NHL knows the difference – so I don’t currently have a favorite active hockey player, not exactly. The Sabres’ Jack Eichel is someone who caught my eye when I saw him on TV playing for Boston University, and at the moment “I’ve heard of him and have maintained a favorable impression of him” is as close as I get to “he’s my favorite hockey player”.

I wanted to do a second 3-D custom, so I figured I’d make a “Thanks for the idea” custom of one of Hackenbush’s Blackhawks.  As is often the case, the second effort proved to be the better one.

One thing I’ve noticed after doing these two customs is that hockey arenas don’t provide the best “faux-3D” backgrounds. I’ve found that the 3-D effect works best when the background has lines and contrasting colors (as one gets with ballparks). I also should’ve kept the puck (the blur in the lower left) as part of the foreground.


Towards the end of this past season, I had an idea that had been floating around in my head, waiting for the right vehicle.  There were so many strikeouts this year – Aaron Judge had an astronomical 208 and there were over 40K for the Majors as a whole – it would be nice to somehow honor the batters who struck out the fewest times. This idea kinda floated around for a while, until I also had the idea that it might be fun also honor those players who lead the Majors in other less-publicized statistical categories.

Earlier this week I went looking for something to use as a template, looked at various League Leader cards from the 1970’s, and decided on this:

You may recognize that this is not an exact copy of a 1972 Topps Leader Card… First off, I didn’t want to go absolutely nuts and make customs for each league, so instead of “A.L. Leaders” or “N.L. Leaders”, it’s going to be an implied “Major League Leaders”… and because it’s a different type of Leader card than the original 1972 cards, I also changed up the color scheme.

As for the honorees… Based on a minimum of 502 plate appearances, Joe Panik set the pace by striking out just 54 times, “Sideshow Bob” impersonator Yuli Gurriel was in second with 62 K’s and Andrelton Simmons was third with 67. Others who did us proud included Jose Ramirez, Didi Gregorius, Brandon Phillips, Miguel Cabrera, Daniel Murphy and Mookie Betts.

I intend to do more of these “Leader” cards, and I welcome any suggestions for statistical categories… just leave a comment.


After using the 1972 Topps and 1972 Kellogg’s designs for customs, I felt like I should do something else related to 1972 and I thought of the 1972 Topps football template I had worked out a little while ago… But what to do with it? Even though I’ve been a Steelers fan for 30+ years and they’re one of best teams in the AFC, they’re leaving me cold this year, for reasons I don’t fully understand. (Well, other than I really don’t like Roethlisberger, despite his accomplishments). I don’t currently have a favorite Steeler; that title went unclaimed after Heath Miller retired.

…Then I thought about last weekend’s Grey Cup game. The Grey Cup is the Canadian Football League’s championship game, and even though I didn’t watch it or really follow the CFL, I’d heard it was a very exciting game.

That’s when I found out that one of the highlights of the game involved the Toronto Argonauts’ defensive back Cassius Vaughn scoring a 109-yard touchdown on a fumble recovery (Canadian football fields are 110 yards long), and I knew I had my final custom.

I couldn’t get the video of this to embed in this post, but you can check it out on the CFL’s website by going here.