2018 TSRchives – Thowing back to 1968 and 1985 (sorta)

Today we get a bonus “pack” of custom cards, as I made a bunch this week that I didn’t want to relegate to pseudo-insert status in my regularly scheduled virtual packs.

Tuesday night the Athletics celebrated the 50th anniversary of their first game in Oakland with free admission – not surprisingly they got a full house – and with some well-done 1968 throwback uniforms.

As those who follow me on Twitter know (@Shlabotnik_Rpt), I was so inspired that I created a custom card the next morning using the 1968 uniforms and the 1968 Topps design.

They’re not completely 1968-like because these customs use action shots instead of poses, but I’m pretty happy with the way they turned out.  I made three others and didn’t leave out the White Sox throwbacks…

This past Thursday night, the Phillies threw back to the powder blue road uniforms they wore from 1973 to 1988. As it so happens, I’ve been wanting to make customs in the style of 1985 Fleer – I was a big fan of Fleer in the 1980’s – so I decided to do a mashup of the two.

I can’t find any reference to the Phillies throwing back to any particular year… If you want to get technical about it the Phillies wore zipper-front jerseys in 1985, but I don’t care much. Maybe for one of the later occurrences of these throwback unis, I’ll do them as a 1988 Topps custom (powder blue and button-down converged in 1987 and 1988 before the road unis changed to grey)

The only thing mildly disappointing about this throwback night is that the Phillies played the Pirates, but the Bucs didn’t wear their own throwbacks.

At this point, that’s picking nits. While I think the current Phillies uniforms are classics, I also love the Phillies uniforms I grew up with… and I don’t even mind when powder blue road uniforms are worn as “home alts”.

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Last June I Tried To Predict The Designs Used For 2018 Archives… How’d I Do?

This past Friday Ryan Cracknell of Beckett tweeted the early details for 2018 Topps Archives and this got me excited.  Not only would the designs picked determine how much Archives I’m buying this year, but it also reminded me that I’d written a post last year theorizing about how Topps selects designs to use and then using those theories to try to determine which designs they would use the following year (i.e. 2018).

To recap for those who don’t want to click on the link, here are my two theories and some ground-rule assumptions I also used…

THEORY #1:  The “No-Fly Zone”

There is a 15 year exclusion window surrounding a given year’s Heritage design;  Topps will not use a design from up to 7 years before or 7 years after the design used for Heritage.  For 2018, that means 1962 to 1976 is out of bounds.

THEORY #2:  A design must be at least 25 years old.

This rule is not iron-clad given that 2013 Archives included the 1990 design, but 2016 Archives included the 1991 design and 2017 Archives included 1992.

Further assumptions made:

  • Topps would use three designs which hadn’t already been used in the Archives set.
  • One of the designs would be a set that’s already been “done” in Heritage (so for 2018 that would mean something from 1952 to 1961)

So, let’s see how Nostradamus-y I was…

1st design I predicted:  1959 Topps

What I said then:  “It’s a popular, easy-to-replicate design which wouldn’t necessarily require a posed photo.”

What Topps is doing:  1959 Topps!  Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

…and from the sample it looks like they did a good job.

2nd design I predicted:  1981 Topps

What I said then:  “This seems to me like an easy-enough design to replicate, and it’s one that a lot of people have asked ‘Why not?’ and I can’t think of a good answer to that.”

What Topps is doing:  1981 Topps!  Ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom!

Nit-picky time… Even if the Nats wear a navy cap with a white front panel (and I don’t think that they do, but I could be wrong), it’s not what people associate with the team.

3rd design I predicted:  1993 Topps

What I said then:  “1993 will be 25 years old next year, so I think they’ll continue the trend of using the upper limit of their ‘window’.”

What Topps is doing:  1977 Topps  (Sad trombone)

Ah, well… Two out of three is still pretty good.  However, “pretty good” is not a phrase I’d use to describe this attempt at the 1977 design.  OK, I know it’s a sample and they’ve tweaked designs between sample and production before… but the colors are completely wrong for the Astros, and the font isn’t anywhere close enough for me to give them a pass.  Hint to Topps:  Italicized Arial Black is still not correct, but is much better than what you’ve got here.

Last June I also picked three designs I wished they would use.  Two were doubtful… Doing Archives versions of 1956 and 1978 would pose more challenges than Topps seems willing to take on for this set… But I thought the third wish wasn’t unreasonable:

1988 Topps has an anniversary this year and is an easy design to replicate, but there’s a bit more work involved when creating each card because the player’s head has to be “in front” of the team name.  Maybe that’s a little too labor-intensive for a relatively low-effort set like Archives.

But that’s all good from my standpoint… I’ve been thinking of doing some 1988-style customs, but was holding off until I was pretty sure that Topps wouldn’t be doing anything like that themselves.  I’m confident enough now that I’m releasing my own pre-production sample that I whipped up in an hour or so this past weekend:

I specifically went with a team which didn’t exist in 1988 to emphasize that this is “from scratch” and not just digital manipulation of an existing card.  There’s still some tweaking to be done, but I’m happy to revive one of my favorite 1980’s designs.

Given how fun this post was (and, I’ll admit, how *right* I had been about 2018), I’m very likely to do a post predicting 2019 Archives… but I’ll save that for another time.

If 2018 Heritage Were True To 1969 Topps; The Final Batch Of Customs

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, I touched on some of the things which Topps could do – but wouldn’t likely do – to make 2018 Heritage that much more like its inspiration, 1969 Topps.

Today I’ve got one last batch of cards which meet these criteria… although all of these “features” apply to cards from many 1960’s sets.

A lot of team collectors and fans of Heritage wish that they’d go back to including manager cards.  Sure, I’d like cards of Buck Showalter and new Mets manager Mickey Callaway, and I’d also like cards of HOFer Paul Molitor, Don Mattingly and guys like Joe Maddon.

I wonder if guys like Molitor and Mattingly are indirectly to blame for the lack of manager cards. Managers are not covered under the deal that Topps has with the MLBPA, so Topps probably has to negotiate with managers individually. It’s not a stretch to think that a HOFer like Paul Molitor would command a much higher fee than Brian Snitker and most of the other managers.


Another type of card we wont see – but which isn’t specific to 1969 – was the checklist card which featured a player’s head shot. I’m sure if Heritage included checklist cards then they’d include one (with Aaron Judge on every one, given Topps’ man crush on him)… but since they aren’t, I figured I’d whip one up.


In 1968 and 1969, Topps referred to the Astros as simply “HOUSTON”, most likely due to a trademarking issue.  I don’t know if the specifics of this issue had ever been completely determined, but Topps either couldn’t or wouldn’t get in the middle of it and didn’t use the Astros names or logos for all of 1968 and part of 1969.

Whatever the issue, it must’ve shown signs of coming to an end sometime during 1969, because the later series cards still said “HOUSTON” and featured mainly road uniforms, but at least showed cap logos… something like this:

For 1970 Topps went back to using the Astros name, and finally allowed collectors to get more than a glimpse of the “Shooting Star” home uniforms of the day.


One of the first things I think of when I think of the quirks of 1960’s Topps cards are the clumsy methods they used to cover the fact that a photo was old or that a player had been traded to a new team. There’s always the capless photos (as I’d covered in Part 1 of this series).

One method which continued to get used into the 1970’s was having photos with the classic “guy looking up so you can’t see the cap logo” pose. Of course, since nobody is taking photos specifically for Topps anymore, players don’t actually pose this way… However there is a thing certain players do which is “close enough for government work”:

Sometimes when a player went from one team with a blue cap to another with a blue cap (i.e. Dodgers to Cubs), there would be a photo where you couldn’t see the front of the jersey and someone took a brush and just put a little blob of blue over the cap logo. I wanted to do something like this and was pondering who to use for this example… and then the Mets signed former Dodger Adrian Gonzalez.  Perfect!

My first attempt at this was a little too good and looked more like a logo-free Panini card. I still don’t feel like I’ve properly replicated the “blue blob” technique, but it’s frankly not worth agonizing over.

Of course, what most of us think of with these “updated” photos are the ones where the crown of the player’s cap was completely blacked-out. In order to maximize the ridiculousness in my custom, I wanted to use a player who was traded to a team where the resulting combination of the original cap’s bill and a blacked-out crown would be something that wasn’t even remotely close to something his new team would wear… And so I set out to find a workable photo of Stephen Piscotty who was traded from the Cardinals to the Athletics. I wouldn’t normally consider photos that were more than a year old, but since older photos is completely in character for 1969 Topps, I found a lovely example from a team photo day from a few years ago.

If I really wanted to go nuts with the blacked-out caps, I would black out caps for many of the players in an Athletics uniform (since they’d moved from Kansas City to Oakland for the 1968 season) as well as the four expansion teams of the day — the Royals, Padres, Nationals (Expos) and Brewers (Pilots).

…but that, of course, will never happen in Heritage.


So that’s the last of my attempts to re-create questionable 1969 Topps techniques for 2018.  I’ve enjoyed playing with this particular card design, so I will likely make more “1969 customs”, but it will likely be more along the lines of “Gosh, I wish this guy had been included in Heritage”.

If 2018 Heritage Were True To 1969 Topps, Part 2

Last week, in Part 1, I got into some of the weirdness which would have to be perpetrated by Topps if they really wanted 2018 Heritage to be 100% faithful to the quirks of 1969 Topps.

I’ve got a few more examples, including two suggested by readers of The Shlabotnik Report!

First off I have a suggestion made on Twitter by Lanny Ribes @DOCBZ17:

There are a couple of instances I know of where Topps reused a photo from 1968 or earlier, but by referencing Freddie Freeman I believe Lanny is specifically referring to Topps using the same photo of Hank Aaron in both 1968 and 1969 Topps.  Unfortunately I don’t have a Freddie Freeman card from last year’s Heritage set, so I hope Nick Markakis will do.

I had to tighten the crop on the custom card on the right, being that I needed to get rid of the puple “BRAVES” circle on the 2017 Heritage card… but it works out fine, because the two Aaron cards were cropped differently anyway (although the 1968 was cropped tighter than the 1969, but that’s the way things go.)

Next up was a suggestion from Night Owl, who suggested riffing on this card:

This is another instance of Topps repeating a photo from 1968 Topps, but the key thing with this card is that Topps flipped the negative for 1969, thus making Larry Haney a left-handed catcher.

The Seattle Pilots are, of course, now the Brewers.  I went looking for a photo of a Brewers catcher on which I could pull similar shenanigans.  Nobody poses for pictures like this anymore, but I did find an action shot of Jett Bandy which does the trick.

A little side note:  I just realized that I’ve made a mistake on all of these customs thus far in that I’ve been making the position all capitals (CATCHER) when it should be sentence case (Catcher).  I’ll fix this in future customs.

One last custom for this week… or to be precise, one last pair of customs.

On January 20, 1969, the Phillies traded catcher Clay Dalrymple to the Orioles for outfielder Ron Stone.  For whatever reason, Topps decided to update Dalrymple’s 2nd series card after printing a number of cards showing him with the Phillies.  The updated card showed a bare-headed Dalrymple on an Orioles card (and much to my chagrin, I don’t have either of these cards, but I intend to remedy that in 2018).

For the purposes of this post, I figured where the traded player was going wasn’t as important as where he came from, so I went with Freddy Galvis, who was traded from the Phillies to the Padres this past December 15th.

Here’s the Phillies version of the Galvis:

I suspect that the capless photo of Clay Dalrymple was an old photo (and honestly, the full uniform photo was likely pretty old as well), so when I went looking for a Freddy Galvis photo, I chose a pre-dreadlocks shot from 2016.  I think his expression also fits pretty well…

That wraps things up for now, but I intend to do at least one more post in this series.  Feel free to make a suggestion on what particular quirk of 1969 Topps could be replicated… Suggestions which are already in the works include having the Astros be just “HOUSTON” and having a traded player with a blacked-out cap.  I have a couple of other ideas in mind which I won’t mention just yet.


Before I go…

Some of you probably read an off-hand reference to Twitter above and said “Twitter?  Since when is he on Twitter?”

Well, dear readers, I had never made an official announcement about it here in this blog, but The Shlabotnik Report has been on Twitter since November.  The Twitter handle is @Shlabotnik_Rpt.  If you’re searching on it, keep in mind that there are no C’s in Shlabotnik and that there’s an underscore between “Shlabotnik” and “Rpt”.

After looking at my own Twitter feed for the past two months, I feel it necessary to point out that @Shlabotnik_Rpt is this blog’s Twitter account and is intended as another channel for the same kind of content and PG-rated nonsense you get here.  So far it’s largely been notifications of new posts, but I’m starting into some Twitter-specific content.  What you won’t find are political views, fat-shaming or other bits of shouting… unless I’m quoting Daleks or Vogons (“RESISTANCE IS USELESS!”).

If 2018 Heritage Were True To 1969 Topps, Part 1

1969 Topps, as a set, has plenty of quirks, and enough bad ones that that we wouldn’t really want 2018 Heritage to be 100% faithful to the source material… But if Topps were to make a full effort to duplicate 69T, warts and all, what would be involved?

This is the question I’d asked myself at some point where I really should’ve been doing something more productive, but if nothing else it got me to lay the groundwork for creating some 1969 Topps customs.

While we have a general idea of what kind of parallels and inserts will be used for 2018 Heritage, I don’t believe we fully know what kind of gimmicks Topps might foist upon us.  You’d think there would be white letter variations; A super-short-printed white letter Aaron Judge variation (replicating the pricey Mickey Mantle variation) seems so obvious that it’d be shocking if it doesn’t happen.

But if Heritage were completely true to 1969 Topps we’d have…

…Plenty of capless photos, especially of newly-relocated players like Giancarlo Stanton…

…and plenty of photos which were taken years before the release date, like this relatively-unshaggy Justin Turner…

There are many other ways in which Topps could be true to 1969 Topps.  Of course, one significant way is to include managers, but it seems like that ship has sailed.  I’ve got some others in mind, but I’ll play my cards close to the vest until I share those in another post or two (hint:  I’m looking for a photo of an MLB batboy, preferably from the Angels).

And now it’s feedback time… What other things can you think of which would make 2018 Heritage more like 1969 Topps?  It doesn’t necessarily have to be a good thing, or one we’d want to see, but it still might be fun to replicate some of these in custom form.