Thoughts As To Why Morrow And Nunez Appear Twice In Heritage High #’s

There are people who are shouting about Topps’ incompetence after two players, Eduardo Nunez and Brandon Morrow, each appear on two different cards in the 2018 Topps Heritage High Numbers base set.

Now this type of thing is not completely unheard of.  In 2015, Casey McGehee appeared in both the regular Heritage set as well as Heritage High Numbers even though he did not change teams.

The same thing happened last year with Aroldis Chapman.

I know the easy path is to say that Topps screwed up, but I think there’s more to it than that.

The main thing to keep in mind is that Heritage all but requires posed photos, or at least candid portraits of players.  Topps can’t just go out to Getty Images and grab an action shot of a player and use it on a Heritage card, it wouldn’t look right and people would get upset.  Remember, action shots were still a few years away during 1969.

The way I see it, there are a couple of scenarios that might have caused checklist problems for Topps, and I’m going to run through those to show how their options may have been limited when the time came to finalize the High Numbers checklist.

At the beginning of Spring Training, Orioles pitcher Chris Tillman would be a decent bet for a list of potential High Numbers candidates… While he wasn’t good in 2017, he was only a year removed from a season where he had gone 16-6, 3.77 and was arguably the O’s best starter.

But guess what? 2016 turned out to be a trend, not an aberration, the O’s cut Tillman loose and he ends up spending the rest of the season as a Rangers minor leaguer. You might have photos of Tillman, but he’s no longer a candidate for your 250 card checklist.

This gets a reaction from our unofficial Topps spokesperson:

Eloy Jimenez is generally regarded as one of baseball’s top prospects, and with a long season ahead for the woeful White Sox, there may have been hope that the Southsiders would call him up and he could have a rookie card in High Numbers…


…But the White Sox stick to their guns and leave him in the minors.  That’s another player you’ve lost from your checklist.

Oh, but look at Jose Bautista!  He signed a minor league contract with the Braves over the winter and he’s going to make the team.  He’d be a perfect candidate for High Numbers!  We’ve got to make sure we’ve got a photo of him!

Oh, but the Braves cut him loose in May and the Mets pick him up (plus he’d be traded to the Phillies at the deadline).  You’ve got the photos, but they’re already out of date!

At the end, you find yourself two players short of a full 250 card checklist, and you’re running out of time. There are no subsets in the High #’s base set, so you can’t just fill in the space with a couple of extra “Topps News” All-Stars.  What do you do?  Perhaps the easiest course of action is to pick two players to duplicate in the checklist and hope that collectors see it as a sort of Allen & Ginter “quirky” rather than a failure.

Hold on… One of my staff  members just burst in the room with a piece of paper… It’s a question just in from the blogosphere…

WHAT ABOUT MAX MUNCY????

Muncy had signed a minor league contract with the Dodgers and has hit 35 regular season homers to go with 75 runs, 79 RBI and a .263 average while playing several positions.  He’s appeared on a number of Topps Now cards, but has not appeared on a single pack-issued card since 2015.  So, indeed… what *is* up with Max Muncy?

I have two thoughts on that.

First off, perhaps there’s some sort of contractual issue which prevents Topps from putting him on anything but on-demand cards.  Muncy may be following in the recent footsteps of Ichiro, Andrew Miller and Matt Wieters.

The other possibility?

OK, well, maybe Topps *is* incompetent.

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Thinking Too Much About 2018 Topps Heritage

I’m sure everybody’s already seen someone else’s post about 2018 Heritage, but I wanted to bring my own perspective to the newly-released set.  Some of this likely comes across as nit-pick-y, but I don’t mean it to be critical, it’s more along the lines of “Hey, I’m analytical and visually-oriented and I noticed this – isn’t it interesting?”

One of the first things I did was run upstairs, pull out my 1969 Topps cards and fetch a 1969 Topps Ed Charles card to put up against my 2018 Topps Heritage Wilmer Flores card:

One of the things I noticed off the bat was how much brighter the 1969 card is “in hand”.  The white border matches up nicely, but it seems to be more that the current photos are more saturated and “hi def”.

The second thing I noticed… well, “noticed” isn’t the right word because other people had pointed it out… but Topps made many of the position notations longer than on the originals.  Here it’s “Third Baseman” vs. “3rd Base”, but there’s also “Outfielder” vs. “Outfield” as well as “First Baseman” and “Second Baseman”.  Kind of an odd choice when you’re working with a relatively small amount of real estate on the card.

The third thing that jumped out at me was the colored circle which features the player’s name and position is noticeably smaller in 2018 Heritage:

That’s Heritage on the left, 1969 on the right.

As I found out, it’s less noticeable because the photo is also smaller… Something which I found to be curious.

Let’s start by comparing the photo size vertically:

Again, it’s Heritage on the left, 1969 on the right.  No question that the photo is larger on the vintage card.  What about horizontally?

Heritage on the top, 1969 on the bottom… again, slightly larger.  That got me thinking;  the 1969 card has a larger circle and larger photos… but is the relative size within the card any different?

So I loaded both images into my aged copy of Paint Shop Pro, superimposed one on the other, adjusted the size of the 1969 until the borders matched the Heritage, and this is what I got.

Heritage on the left, adjusted 1969 on the right… You can see that the thin black border line matches up, and now the colored circles are almost the same.

So what we’ve got are Heritage cards with slightly wider white borders than the original 1969 cards… which is pretty interesting.  I know that cards are expected to be centered these days, but I got the impression there are all kinds of technological advancements which allow greater precision… so why are we being ever-so-slightly shortchanged on our photo size?

Let’s compare the card backs… overall a nice job, although the originals were a little more brightly salmon-colored (my scanner makes it look like a greater difference than it is):

Let’s “zoom in” on the upper left corner…

In an ever-lasting peeve for me, the Heritage card numbers are smaller than the originals.  Grumpy Old Man does not approve.


FLIBBERTY FLOO!!!!

One thing that Topps continues to do – something which isn’t really good or bad, it’s just a thing – is use different colors for a franchise that was in another place in 1969.  For example, there’s the 1969 Washington Senators, a team which is now the Texas Rangers:

That’s the Heritage Rangers and 1969 Senators, respectively.

New for 2018 we have the Nationals and Expos…

I’m not wild about the light green with yellow lettering for the Nats.  My scanner’s sometimes not the best at replicating colors, so I’ll point out that the Expos had black letters on a pink circle.

For what would seem to be a one-and-done, we’ve got the Brewers and Pilots:

The Pilots, a one-year team, would appear in 1970 Topps, but that set doesn’t assign specific colors to each team, so there won’t be the same thing next year.  1971 Topps/2020 Heritage will both have Brewers, 1972/2021 will both have Rangers and then we’ll just be left with the Expos/Nationals as the sole team which moved between sets.

Unfortunately within my blaster did not contain any base Astros cards, otherwise I’d point out that the 1969 versions used a light green circle and said “HOUSTON” on the bottom, due to lingering copyright issues.  2018 Heritage has “ASTROS” across the bottom, which you’d expect, but the colors have inexplicably changed…. Instead of light green, ti’s a dark purple-y blue with black and yellow lettering (and the black is hard to read against the dark purple-y blue).  I find this very odd.

Let’s go back to that last image again…

Notice how both cards feature players with short last names, but the font is different.  This is something that bugs me about Archives and Heritage… Back in the day, Topps would often use two or more related fonts, rather than one universal font, for things like player names.  You can clearly see that names like “AKER” and “BRAND” are in thicker, wider fonts than are used for “EPSTEIN” or “CHARLES”.  Yet in Heritage, they just use the same font across the board.  That’s just something that’s long bugged me.

Quick comparison of the All-Star cards:

Generally a good job of replicating, other than the white borders are again slightly larger, the “News” is famously “Topps” instead of “Sporting” (but at least not “Fake”), and Topps wants to cram too much text into the circle… instead of “Outfield” and “NATIONALS”, we have “Outfielder” and “WASHINGTON NATIONALS”.

There’s also something going on here that I find interesting.  The original All-Star cards had a close-up portrait on one side, the circle on the other, and the background was an action shot taken from a distance and shown in black and white.    The new cards “follow the letter of the law”, but have a smaller portrait and a larger action shot… it reminds me of a badly-remixed 1960’s album I have where the lead vocalist, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass, drums and background vocals are all at the same apparent volume and it drives me nuts because you can no longer hear the vocals over the rhythm section.

…But I guess the real point is that the photographers from Getty Images, with their fancy digital cameras and zoom lenses… well, they don’t take action shots from quite a long way away… and you can’t just make the action image smaller because you don’t have the background to fill the rest of the space.

One last thing I noticed just before  hitting the “Publish” button:  The words “ALL-STAR” became italicized in the new version.

Quick minor complaint about the rookie cards:

Sure, the originals used the first initial if your first name was something long like Merv Rettenmund, Rich Robertson or Cesar Guttierez.  But you know what?  I think that “ZACK GRANITE” and “FELIX JORGE” will fit in there without a shoehorn getting involved.  Seems to be another instance of someone at Topps saying “You know what, I don’t feel like dealing with it… everybody gets handled *this* way”.

I was going to get more into showing examples of other base cards and inserts, but I’ve gone on so long already that I’ll just get into the two major surprises for me…

Surprise #1:  Target Exclusive “Transogram” inserts

When I saw one of these out on Twitter…

I said “Is that a ‘Transogram’ card?  Since when does Heritage include Transogram cards?”  For the record, these are on the checklist as “1969 Collectors Cards (Target Only)”.

A little background for those not familiar with Transogram…  Back in 1969 and 1970, a company called Transogram put out little baseball figures – think “Starting Lineup” – and the boxes had cut-out baseball cards on them.  I don’t have any Transogram cards or statues – they’re fairly rare and a bit pricey, plus I just haven’t bothered to track them down – so I borrowed this image from The Trading Card Database.

They did a nice job of replicating these, and did a nice job of confusing a lot of card collectors who said “This is pretty cool…  What the heck is it?”

Surprise #1:  Checklist Cards

Back two months ago I had a series of posts about what Topps should do if they really wanted Heritage to be true to 1969 Topps.  Much of what I pointed out, like blacked-out caps and five-year-old photos, were thankfully not replicated.  However, I’d also re-created a checklist and said “Oh, they’ll never do this”.

Now I need to point out that this Machado isn’t a real card (as if it weren’t apparent enough by Tom Servo, Ben Grimm and Barney Rubble being included on the checklist).  The reason I need to point it out is because Topps went ahead and created checklist cards with player photos:

Now why they suddenly decided to do this now when 2016 and 2017 Heritage could’ve included cards like this – and when 1969 was the last year Topps did this – I have no clue.

I thought I’d be excited about these, but it turns out I’m not.  When push comes to shove, they’re still checklist cards taking a slot away from some other player, and while it’s fun today to pick up a vintage checklist card featuring Mickey Mantle, Bob Gibson or Brooks Robinson, it’s far less exciting to pick up a checklist card featuring Cody Bellinger, Kris Bryant or Aaron Judge.  No offense intended, guys.

Actually, I think I just answered my own question:
Q:  “Why are they suddenly making checklist cards?”
A:  “Cody Bellinger, Kris Bryant and Aaron Judge… especially Aaron Judge”.

Keep an eye out for Shohei Ohtani checklists in Heritage High #’s!

Getting back to the cards themselves, the original cards were “1st Series”, “2nd Series” and so forth.  Of course, this batch of checklist cards are ALL “1st Series”, so it looks kind of… dumb.

My final verdict:  You want to do this?  Fine.  Make the checklist cards be shortprints, and free up a handful of the regular player cards from SP Hell.  Same goes for League Leader cards.

So that’s about all I have for now (as if it weren’t enough).

Thank you for reading through my long ramblings about Heritage.  Maybe I think too much for my own good… Some people say so.  Other people say “No, no… The fact is you don’t think as much as you could.”

Hm.

A 2018 Heritage Card Which Came To Me Through The Space/Time Rift In My Garage

As I’ve mentioned before, my garage contains a minor rift in the space/time continuum, and on occasion small objects from the future will fall through it.  Over the past couple of months, I’ve had a couple of baseball cards come through…  Here’s one that appears to be a 2018 Heritage card.

2018 Topps Heritage Bryce Harper 2
This card is both brilliant and scary at the same time.

“Brilliant” because it appears to take the replication of the 1969 Topps set to the extreme.  It wasn’t unusual for the photos used on late 1960’s cards to be several years old… and that certainly is the case here.  It’s a card from 2018, but the photo is from 2012 or 2013.

Even better, the cap is airbrushed using that minimal-effort way that was often done in the 1960’s, obscuring most of the cap behind a black, cap-shaped blob.

This card is “scary” for precisely the same reason that it’s brilliant:  It takes replication of 1969 to an extreme.  It would be disappointing as a base card, but awesome as a short-print variation.  Let’s hope the latter is the case.

How does Bryce Harper ends up as Houston’s DH?  Your guess is as good as mine.