Custom Sunday: 1969-Style Stamps And The Last “Giant”

Inspiration struck me late this past week and I spent most of my custom-making time on a new template which… well, I’ll come to that.

Let’s start off with a couple of customs using my 1962 Post-inspired “Hot Stove” design. After extensive negotiations with the Marlins over J.T. Realmuto, the Mets ended up going the free agent route and signing catcher Wilson Ramos, who was with the Phillies and Rays this past season. Would I have preferred Realmuto? Of course, but not at the price the Marlins were apparently demanding.

BTW, my kneejerk reaction when I first saw this picture was that Ramos had gone “old school” and worn a windbreaker under his Mets jersey. I quickly realized that wasn’t the case, and he just happened to be wearing a blue collared shirt at the press conference. This is one of the few times when I don’t mind the collared shirt under the jersey.

Next up is a custom in my new series featuring prospects with great names. Today we feature Diamondbacks prospect Jazz Chisholm.

No mere great name is Chisholm, since he’s regarded as the D-Backs’ top prospect, a shortstop who combines power and speed. He’s still a bit away from the Majors, however.

While I enjoy making customs using this Post-ish template, they’re time-consuming to make because I have to change the weight, height, birthplace, etc. plus researching and writing a paragraph – and yes, those are written by me, I’m not just stealing text from somewhere else. There are some players where I find an image on Twitter or can easily “photoshop” a new logo on their photo, but I don’t really want to go through all the research and writing.

Enter the 1969 Topps baseball stamps design. Last year I used the 1974 Topps baseball stamps as the basis for a non-sports set, but I thought I’d create a 1969 design for 2019… it’s the 50th anniversary after all. Besides, sometimes I just enjoy creating a new template.

I honestly wouldn’t have made a full custom for these four players (all of whom signed as free agents), but now that I’ve got the stamps set up and ready to go, you’ll be seeing more of these… as well as the other Hot Stove sets I’ve started.

Since last May I’ve been making a tribute to the 1964 Topps Giant-sized All-star set, and after I finished off my series of posts I had a few special requests for players I’d left out. Joey Votto is the last of those requests… unless I forgot someone, in which case don’t be shy about leaving a comment.

I’ll make the offer one last time… If there’s anybody you’d like to see in the 1964 Giants design, speak now or forever hold your peace.

Custom Sunday: A Drake Other Than Ludwig

I’ve become a bit intrigued by Oliver Drake.

Part of it is because I remember him as a pitcher in the Orioles organization, a guy who was drafted in the 43rd round in 2008, didn’t make his MLB debut until 2015 and got traded to Milwaukee in April, 2017.  However it’s what happened to him in during the 2018 season that makes his story interesting. Drake went from the Brewers to the Indians to the Angels to the Blue Jays to the Twins, pitching for each team along the way and setting a record by playing for five teams in one season.

His wanderings didn’t stop there, however. Early in November the Rays claimed him on waivers, and late in November the Blue Jays claimed him again. Two days ago the Rays purchased Drake from the Jays, and that’s where we stand with the above custom.

Now with these customs I make, the original format is multi-layered; for example, there’s the card text on one layer, the card design on another, Oliver Drake on another, his photoshopped cap on another, and the Tropicana Field background on yet another. Before I “publish” them, I merge them all into one layer and save it in a JPEG format.

For this custom, however, I kept a copy in pspimage format, the native format of the relatively ancient copy of Paint Shop Pro that I use. This way, if (for example) the Padres claim Drake on waivers, I can tweak the “photoshopped” cap layer, swap out the Trop for Petco, modify the text and boom, I’ve got a team swap variaton on Hot Stove Custom #18.

…And yes, I’m going to do that if/when Oliver Drake changes teams in 2019.

One other thing about Oliver Drake: He has very little cardboard. If you search COMC for “Oliver Drake”, most of the cards that come up are like this one:

If you’re not familiar with this, it’s the card for Al OLIVER in the 1981 DRAKE’S Big Hitters set. There are similar 1983 and 1984 Drake’s cards featuring Al Oliver… Finally there’s a couple of parallels of a 2015 Topps Heritage Minor League “2014 Saved Game Leaders” cards featuring Arik Sikula (who pitched in the independent Can-Am League in 2018), Oliver Drake and Enrique Burgos (who pitched in Mexico in 2018). That’s Drake’s one baseball card which isn’t part of a minor league team set, and he doesn’t even get it to himself. That’s why I figured he needed a custom.

There’s a little more hype surrounding the player on the next custom. Yusei Kikuchi has been one of the top pitchers in Japan, and there were many teams bidding for his services. The Mariners signed him to a long-term contract.

Kikuchi admitted he preferred a west coast team, as many Asian players do, but it seems that the Mariners get a pretty high percentage of Japanese players. The fact that Ichiro is currently part of the organization certainly doesn’t hurt (and when looking for an image to use on this custom I found one of Kikuchi looking at Ichiro’s locker, although that may have been more of a photo op or the fans “back home” than anything else).

A couple of weeks ago I read about an Athletics prospect named Skye Bolt and like a bolt from the blue – pun completely intended – I had an idea to include prospects with interesting names in my Hot Stove set.

Bolt, who I presume is not related to Usain Bolt, had a breakout year in 2018 and is now considered one of the A’s best prospects.

Finally we have one more tribute to the 1964 Topps “Giants” set. This is a commissioned “Bonus Card” of Pirates hurler Trevor Williams.

Williams went 14-10 with a 3.11 ERA and threw a shutout (which is tied with many for the league lead). Williams was originally drafted by the Marlins, but was sent to Pittsburgh in a 2015 minor league dealer.

Custom Sunday: Let’s Focus On Puig And Trout… That Might Put Us In A Good Place

For today’s post I dusted off my “photoshopping” skills.  Not having done this type of thing since last Winter, I have to admit I’m a bit rusty on this stuff.  Hopefully it doesn’t come across as “Amateur Hour”, but then again… I *am* an amateur.

The Orioles, being the worst team in the Majors this past year, got the first pick in the Rule V draft and picked Richie Martin, who had been the 20th overall player taken in the 2015 draft.

The main reason that Martin wasn’t protected on the Athletics’ 40-man roster was because his bat has lagged behind his other skills, but I’m actually fine with that… I would love for the Orioles to have a defensively-oriented shortstop even if he hits as poorly as… well, Chris Davis (without the power, of course).  I think it’s better for the O’s to lose a game 3-1 rather than lose 13-11…  It’s less painful to watch and, if nothing else, it will help with the confidence of the young pitchers they’ll be trotting out there.

In a transaction that got a bit more attention, the Reds picked up Yasiel Puig from the Dodgers in a blockbuster trade that involved seven players and a lot of financial considerations.  One of the more interesting things about this deal is that Homer Bailey, the main piece going to the Dodgers (other than financial relief), was immediately released… apparently that was done to get Bailey to waive his no-trade clause.  I wonder if the Reds have any interest in getting him back.

I’m not a fan of Yasiel Puig, but I kinda like the Reds so I wouldn’t mind it if Puig finds the Great American Ballpark more to his liking than Dodger Stadium.

I was mildly surprised that I even *had to* fake the Reds cap on Puig, as many teams will post photos (either real or photoshopped) on their social media after a big trade like that, but I guess the Reds don’t consider it a priority.

I’m going to do something I don’t often do;  I’m going to “re-issue” the first card in this set.  It got posted at the end of one of my “Giants” customs posts, and I think it got missed by some Reds fans.

Speaking of my tribute to the 1964 “Giants” set, here’s another requested custom from my recent 2018 TSR Giants set…  This time around featuring Mike Trout.  Trout was included in the checklist, but I hadn’t made a custom for him until now.

I’m going to go on an off-topic rant.  The American “Big Three” auto makers have made headlines lately by phasing out their North American cars in favor of SUV’s, crossovers and trucks.  Now I’m one of those difficult people who doesn’t like to sit up high when driving, I like cars.  Back in 2000, when I needed something that could carry more cargo, I didn’t go with a crossover or SUV, I got a wagon (and then another wagon and now a hatchback).  The last time around I gave strong consideration to the Ford Focus…

…But since it had been nearly 20 years since I owned a Ford (because they didn’t have a wagon when I wanted one), I stayed loyal to manufacturer I have been driving lately and got another import.  I know I’m not a great example, being fairly atypical and obstinate, but I can’t help but think that the Big Three are ceding a big portion of the car market to foreign companies, and if the trends ever shift back to cars they’ll be screwed… and, at the very least, I know that I won’t be buying from the Big Three next time around.  Sorry guys, but if you don’t make what I want, I’ll go elsewhere.

These TSR Fauxback cards have a puzzle-back, let’s take a look at this one…

There’s no point in dragging the puzzle out any further… as you may have figured out, the puzzle features Janet, a character played by D’Arcy Carden on the NBC show “The Good Place”.  Janet is… well, it’s hard to describe Janet, but she’s my favorite character on the show, especially after her kick-ass fight scene and the episode where the four humans on the show (again, hard to describe in a sentence) were played by D’Arcy.

Here’s the “complete” puzzle.

So at this point everybody is either saying “Huh?” or “Oh, I love The Good Place!” Hopefully there are more people in the “love” category than the “huh” category.

So I’ve really set myself up as a “different drummer” kind of guy… Give me good-glove-no-bat guys, a car and The Good Place and I’m a happy camper.

What do you think? Do you value defense over offense? Do you like Yasiel Puig? Crossovers and SUVs? Let everybody know in the comments!

Custom Card Sunday: Two Cutches and A Duck

For the three people who aren’t frantically preparing for the impending holiday, I’ve got a number of custom cards made over the past week.

The Phillies signed Andrew McCutchen to a three-year contract. I didn’t expect him to return to the Yankees, but I guess this cements the idea that 10 years from now we’ll be saying “Hey, remember when Cutch was a Yankee?”

There’s another Cutch custom at the end of the post… Just so ya know.

It’s been an interesting offseason for the Orioles. First came Executive VP and General Manager Mike Elias and some other front office people, then they took their time before hiring new manager Brandon Hyde, who was Joe Maddon’s bench coach with the Cubs this past season.

I’m sure the O’s are going to take their time and try to find some bargains in the free agent market, but so far all they’ve done regarding the roster is claim infielder Rio Ruiz on waivers from the Braves, plus select two more infielders in the Rule V draft. I’m going to try to do some customs of those two as well, once I have time to do some “photoshopping”.

I grew up on Long Island, but of course Long Island didn’t get a minor league team until after I moved away. Even so, I like to keep up with the independent Long Island Ducks, and I couldn’t resist making a custom of their new manager, Wally Backman.

Wally was, of course, a member of the 1986 World Champion Mets, which remain the best Mets team of my baseball lifetime. As for the Ducks, one of these days I’m going to see them play a home game (Usually when I go back, it’s the offseason or the Ducks are on the road).

Speaking of the Mets, they had a video which was meant to highlight the re-acquisition of Jeurys Familia, who had been traded to the Athletics during the 2018 season. I quickly forgot about Familia when the video included…



People on Twitter were debating whether this meant that the Mets would truly bring back the bullpen cart in their home games, and I suppose this could have been a way to gauge fan interest. I like to think that they wouldn’t go this far without having an intent to bring it back to some degree. C’mon Mets, if you’re going to have that Home Run Apple, the least you can do is bring back a part of *my* youth.

Penny Marshall, the reknowned director and actor, passed away this week. She’s best known for her role on Laverne and Shirley, but I tend to think of her as the director of “Big” and “A League Of Their Own”, not to mention her role as Myrna, Oscar Madison’s secretary, on “The Odd Couple”.

As you may know by now, customs from this “Fauxback” set have a puzzle on the back. Here’s the back to this card.

…and just as a reminder, here’s a previous puzzle piece:

If you’ve yet to identify this character from a broadcast TV series, I’m thinking you probably don’t watch the show in question… But I’ll hold off on the reveal for the time being.

To wrap up, here’s the other Cutch custom, this one by request:

Custom Sunday: Ichiro And Other Bits Of Catching Up

I’ve been spending much of my hobby time working on the organization of my collection lately.  I haven’t been as active in the custom cards as I normally am, but I still have plenty to catch up on, plus a couple of new things to share.

About a month ago I made this Hot Stove card after the Mariners obtained Mallex Smith from the Rays.

…But had I known the extent of wheeling and dealing that Mariner’s GM Jerry Dipoto was going to be doing, I would’ve put a moratorium on making customs of any Mariners until Spring Training starts.  So far the only “flipping” that’s happened was obtaining Carlos Santana from the Phillies and then later trading him to the Indians, but it’s become clear that the Mariners are willing to trade anybody in the right deal, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see Mallex Smith and other new acquisitions (i.e. Edwin Encarnacion, Jay Bruce and J.P. Crawford) wearing someone else’s uniform by the time Spring Training rolls around.

…or not.  Who knows?  I don’t know whether Dipoto knows.

You know who will be with the Mariners in some capacity, if not on the playing field? Ichiro.

This is a “bonus card” for my tribute to the 1964 Topps Giant-Sized All-Stars set.

Last weekend was the second leg of the Curling World Cup, which is a new event that takes place over four different events in four cities across the globe. The second leg recently took place in Omaha, and congratulations go out to Team Shuster; they beat Sweden to earn the USA a Gold Medal in the second leg plus a spot in the Finals.

From the start of my interest in Curling, I’ve been rooting on the USA and, to a lesser extent, our neighbors in Canada. However, the more I watch other teams, I’ve found myself rooting for teams which fall outside of my ‘natural’ rooting interests. Japan’s Team Fujisawa is one of those teams I enjoy watching.

They’re fun to watch from a strictly curling standpoint, winning Silver in the 2016 World Women’s Championship and Bronze in the 2018 Olympic games… But they’re also fun to watch because they always come across as enjoying themselves and happy to be there, and they get very excited when they win. I just can’t help but root for them.

If you’ve been following along at home, you’ll know that this 2019 TSR Fauxback design comes with puzzle backs… but in the last post I didn’t feature any puzzle backs because I hadn’t decided who was going to be on “Puzzle B”. Now that I’ve got a new puzzle in place, here’s the back to that Fujisawa card:

Hmmm, who can that be?

Oh, one last thing… I realized earlier today that I’d never shared the full image of “Puzzle A”, which featured ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic posing with his new Star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame.

You know, you can see all the stars as you walk down Hollywood Boulevard… Some that you recognize, some that you’ve hardly even heard of…

Custom Sunday: Hooray for Captain Spalding (No, Not Groucho)

Lately, I’ve been focusing many of my customs posts on my tribute to the 1964 Topps “Giants” set – indeed, there’s another one at the end of this post – but I have been making other customs and will spend much of this post catching up on the backlog. I’m also floating the idea of a new custom project… as if I really *need* a new project. Actually, I’ve got one other custom project in my head, but I’m intentionally holding off on that until Spring Training.

Earlier this week I saw singer/songwriter Rufus Wainwright being interviewed on a late night talk show… I think of Rufus as the son of singer/songwriter/actor Loudon Wainwright III;  I’m not exactly a fan of LW3, but I have a couple of his albums.  For whatever reason, that made me think of how I first became aware of LW3 as “Captain Spalding”, a character in three episodes of the third season of M*A*S*H.  That, in turn, got me thinking about a project long in the mental noodling stage but never executed – a custom set devoted to the M*A*S*H TV series.

If there were a way of telling how many lifetime hours I’ve spent watching different TV shows, M*A*S*H would be up there at the top with Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Star Trek.  I watched much of the original run on CBS, and when it hit syndication I would come home from school and watch the reruns.  At my peak I knew pretty much everything there was to be known about the show, from “Ah, Bach!” to Zelmo Zale.

Normally this kind of obsessive behavior would cross over into my obsessive collecting behavior, but there’s been just one card set devoted to M*A*S*H, a disappointing 66-card Donruss set from 1982.  I bought a couple of packs at the time and never went further. This is one of the better cards from that set in my collection.

The set was pretty much what you’d expect from Donruss in the early 1980’s, put together without a whole lot of apparent effort.  Some of the images used were kind of odd outside of the context of the episode they were from, and there was nothing to explain, for example, why B.J. is wearing a white tuxedo in the O.R.  (it was from an episode that explored the dreams/nightmares of the characters).

As with many things of this sort, my reaction was “Pffft, I could do better than this!”  I’d long pondered making a custom set in a late 1970’s / early 1980’s non-sport style, floated a bunch of ideas, but never actually went about creating the first custom.

…Until I was very indirectly inspired by Rufus Wainwright on a late night talk show.

I present to you the first promo card for a M*A*S*H custom set, featuring LW3’s character Captain Calvin Spalding, the “Singing Surgeon”.

I’m given to believe that it’s not a coincidence that Captain Spalding shares a name (if not the exact spelling) with the Groucho Marx character in “Animal Crackers”.

Now I honestly don’t know how far I would go with a custom set like this, but I wanted to float it out there to see what the reaction would be.  If I went further with this, I’d be just as likely to dip into the recurring characters (Sidney Friedman, Colonel Flagg, Nurse Kellye) as much as the stars of the show.

Any input?

Moving on…

When I was a kid, there were three George Blanda cards in 1975 Topps Football;  one for his breaking the career points-scoring record (he’d end up with 2002), and two other cards because they needed two card backs to fit all of his career highlights and stats.  HOFer Blanda played 26(!) seasons in the NFL and was 48 years old during his final season.

So, it caught my attention when, in September, Adam Vinatieri broke Morten Andersen’s record for career field goals (he as 576 as of this morning), and then in October he set the career points record (2570 as of this morning).  “This deserves a custom!” I said…. back in October.  Sorry for the delay, Vinatieri fans, here it is.

In case you’re curious, George Blanda currently ranks 7th on the list of career scoring leaders.

The Diamondbacks made an interesting free agent signing this week; they signed pitcher Merrill Kelly to a two-year MLB contract.

You’re probably like me in saying “Who?”. Kelly was in the Tampa Bay Rays system, but spent the last 4 years pitching for the SK Wyverns in the Korea Baseball Organization and is coming back to the US as a 30-year-old rookie. Kelly’s numbers weren’t outstanding by US standards, but within the very offense-friendly KBO they gave MLB organizations thoughts of the next Miles Mikolas.

Here are two more “Hot Stove” customs… I think you probably know about these transactions already. If you follow me on Twitter (@Shlabotnik_Rpt) then you’ve already seen these.

I’ve also got more customs from my “Fauxback” set.

Baseball America named former Met Jordany Valdespin their 2018 Independent League Player Of The Year.

I’m happy for Valdespin and for the Ducks.  I grew up on Long Island and didn’t see my first minor league game until I was a legal adult.  The Ducks came along a couple of years after I left Long Island in one of those “Don’t that just figure” moments.  I’d love to go to a Ducks game, but on the rare occasion when I go back to Long Island, my time is filled with visiting people (all of whom say I need to come up there more often).

Say what you want about social media, one thing I’ve discovered is that you don’t have to wait until Spring Training to see pictures of big name players in their new uniforms.

It’s funny where going down the rabbit hole can lead… I was making comments on Twitter about how I wasn’t sure about how well Portland, OR would work out as a host city for an MLB expansion team. While I was researching to make sure I wasn’t mis-remembering my main point – that at one point the AAA Portland Beavers were evicted to make room for a Major League Soccer team – I found out that Giovanni Savarese, one of the top players on my all-time favorite soccer team, the mid-1990’s Long Island Rough Riders, is the coach of the Portland Timbers, who were in last night’s MLS Cup game.

So I started out researching Portland as an MLB expansion candidate and ended up with a mild rooting interest in the MLS Cup. Too bad the Timbers lost to Atlanta FC.

Wrapping things up with a “Bonus Card” for my 2018 TSR “Giants” set. Kyle Freeland had a great season with the Rockies, going 17-7 with a 2.85 ERA. I left him out of the “regular” set because most of his success came in the second half of the sason, which under the rules I was playing by would’ve been after the checklist was finalized and the set went into imaginary production.

But that doesn’t mean that I couldn’t create a card anyway…

Well, that’s more than enough customs for one week.

My Three Cubs For A “1964 Topps Giants” Tribute Set

As with the other posts in this series, I’m simulating the checklist from the 1964 Topps Giant-Sized All-Stars set (commonly known as “1964 Giants”) by selecting three representative players from each team.

At one point it was meant to be every team, but life got in the way.

I kind of regret one of my choices for the Cubs; this is what happens when you rush through your analysis (blame goes mainly to that income-generating activity I perform 40+ hours a week).

Baez seems no-brainer-y to me, just from the 101 runs and 111 RBI.

Don’t think I’ll get a lot of argument on this one.

OK, I admit I ended up more on the side of “perception” than “reality” with Kris Bryant… Not that he’s played poorly, but that other players are probably more deserving. Sorry, other Cubs.

Probably more deserving than Bryant:
Ben Zobrist – Better stats than Bryant while doing that Zobrist thing. I really wish the Mets had been able to get him three years ago when he was a free agent.

Jon Lester – 18 wins, 6 losses, a 3.32 ERA.

Also considered: Kyle Hendricks, Willson Contreras, Yu Darvish, Albert Amora, Jason Heyward, Addison Russell

Go ahead and leave a comment telling me that I’m a dummy, because you won’t get an argument from me.

Quick addition here… I posted my first “Hot Stove” custom out on Twitter earlier this week.

This is one of three designs I’ll be using for my “Hot Stove” customs between now and March. This one is based on 1962 Post/Jello cards, but is more of a “take” on the original than a re-creation of it. The script font isn’t the same, the colors are going to be by team rather than by league, and the original’s lines of statistics will be replaced by… other things (“Did You Know” this time around). As I learned from last year’s 1963 Post customs, stat lines are a pain in the arse.

At any rate, the design needs a couple of minor tweaks, but I’m largely happy with it. Let me know if you have any suggestions.