Custom Sunday: More Scoops, More Football

Just a few scattershot customs today…

First off, I’m continuing to catch up on the “Scoops” for this season. I’d like to do this again in 2020, but I need to find a way to streamline my processes so I can do a better job of keeping up.

Since they got a good response and I enjoy doing them, I’m also going to try to keep up on these Football customs (based on 1973 Topps Football). Last week I featured Ben Roethlisberger and I admitted that I was tired of him, but now he’s out for the season after elbow surgery, so the Steelers’ starting quarterback from here on out is 2nd year pro Mason Rudolph. Rudolph looked pretty good from what I saw of last week’s game, so we’ll see how he does today against the 49ers.

I don’t want to make this custom set be all about my Steelers, so I’m thinking up ways of featuring players from other teams. This time around I’m featuring the Steelers opponents from San Francisco. George Kittle set a record last season for receiving yards by a tight end.

I might come up with other ways to pick players to feature… Each conference names an offensive, defensive and special teams player of the week, so if nothing else I’ve got six topical names to pick from.

I’ll also take requests… but with all of these, a lot depends on whether I can find decent images to work with.

One last custom, this time I’m reviving my original “Fauxback” template to feature a WNBA player who caught my eye when I happened to see a few minutes of a WNBA game a few weeks ago.

Diamond DeShields is a guard with the Chicago Sky, and if you’re asking “Is she?”, the answer is “Yes, she is”.

DeShields and the Sky got into the second round of the WNBA playoffs before losing to the Las Vegas Aces. He father is former Major Leaguer Delino DeShields and her brother is, of course, Texas Ranger outfielder Delino DeShields Jr.

So that’s it for this week’s customs. As a sort of bad tease, I’ll just mention that at this point I have little idea of what customs will be featured next week.

It’s “Crunch Time” For 2019 Baseball Customs

It’s been a couple of weeks since I did a custom card post and it occurred to me this morning that I need to get going if I want to get more of these done.

I’ve already scrapped my goals to make a custom of everybody to play in a game for the Mets and Orioles, although this is partially because my prior source for good images went away, so it’s much harder to find good photos of relievers and bench players.

At any rate, I figured I needed to prioritize at this point and start making customs of the guys I want to make sure are featured on my customs.

I’ll start with this one of Cubs’ reliever Danny Hultzen.

Danny Hultzen was drafted 2nd overall by the Mariners in 2011 – just after Gerrit Cole and just before Trevor Bauer. Along with Bauer, the M’s passed up on Francisco Lindor, Anthony Rendon, George Springer, Brandon Nimmo, Jose Fernandez, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Sonny Gray to draft Hultzen… But Hultzen looked like the real deal… until the injuries took a toll. Hultzen lost two entire seasons to shoulder surgery, so after 8 years in the minors it’s nice to have seen him make his MLB debut.

Last night the Mets beat the Dodgers on a 3-run homer by pinch hitter and reserve outfielder Rajai Davis.

For a guy who has appeared in only 20 games, he’s had a significant effect on the Mets this year. You may remember he made his Mets debut after taking a 2+ hour Uber ride from Pennsylvania (where the Syracuse Mets were playing) to Citi Field, and then helped the Mets win with another 3-run homer.

A former Mets prospect recently made his Major League debut with the Blue Jays. Anthony Kay was sent to Toronto in the Marcus Stroman deal, but I’d already “bonded” to him a little because he (like me) is from Long Island and needs corrective lenses.

Moving on to another Anthony… Anthony Santander was a Rule V guy drafted from the Indians and stayed with the Orioles through the 2017 season. At the time, all of the team announcers called him “san-TAN-der”, but I’ve noticed that this year they’re calling him “san-tan-DAIR”, which is probably correct (or closer to correct) given that he’s from Venezuela and not South Dakota.

I saw Austin Voth pitch in the minors several years ago and was impressed by what I saw. I kept an eye on him as he ascended through the minors, but apparently he wasn’t as high-level of a prospect as I thought. Never mind, he’s in the Majors now, hopefully to stay.

Although I’d made “Expos” customs, I realized with this custom that I had not made a Nationals custom. I’m not 100% thrilled with the colors I’d picked out for them at the beginning of the season – they’re the colors used in 1976 Topps for the Phillies and Angels – but in mid-September I’m not going to worry about that.  After all, it’s just the Nationals.  :-D

These two “Scoops” customs are pretty old at this stage, but I like them too much to let them go unposted:

And I’m going to wrap up with a new custom in what may or may not be a series… Over the summer I worked up a 1973 Topps Football template and had the idea of featuring a “Steeler of the week” custom for my favorite football team. As it turns out, last week’s game against the Patriots was one best forgotten by the Black And Gold faithful, so I’ll burn off this obligatory Roethlisberger custom.

You may be asking yourself “Why is a Steelers fan making a custom like that of the Steelers future HOF quarterback?” And the answer is because I don’t like him and am patiently waiting for him to retire so I can stop yelling at my TV. Yes, I am fully aware that he was a critical part of two Super Bowl winning teams. At this point I’m just tired of him.

I’m really liking the way the 1973 Topps Football design works for customs, so even if I don’t keep up with the “Steeler of the week”, I may just do a “Football player or two of the week”… or even use it for other sports, there’s nothing particularly football-y about the design.  We shall see.

Custom “Wax Pack” For May 12, 2019

Another week, another pack of virtual cards.

Travis d’Arnaud got traded twice as a prospect – from the Phillies to the Blue Jays in a trade for Roy Halladay, from the Jays to the Mets in a trade involving R.A. Dickey (which was also the trade which brought Noah Syndergaard to the Mets organization).

Travis is now making the rounds again…

…d’Arnaud was released by the Mets, signed by the Dodgers and made one plate appearance (grounding out to short) before being sold to the Rays. He made his Tampa Bay debut last night, wearing a throwback Rays uniform as the Rays beat the Yankees. There’ll be a follow-up d’Arnaud custom as soon as I find a workable image.

Mets custom of the week: Amed Rosario. Don’t have a lot to say about Rosario right now.

Just one “Scoops” custom this week, to commemorate Mike Fiers no-hitting the Reds.

I know Topps Now has this type of thing covered, but my goal is to commemorate everything I would like to remember this season for… and at any rate, I’m not charging you out the wazoo for it (nor am I offering up countless parallels to get you to pay even more out the wazoo).

Not many of you are likely to know of John Means, unless your a fan of the Orioles or West Virginia University, but he’s been a pleasant surprise on an Orioles team that needs pleasant surprises.

Means has a 4-3 record while pitching for a team with a .333 winning percentage, and he has a 2.48 ERA and a 1.010 WHIP. Baseball Reference has him tops on the O’s with a 1.1 WAR. He’s scheduled to pitch against the Red Sox today (weather permitting) so now that I’m shining a small spotlight on him, he’ll probably get shelled.

The San Francisco Giants have had a rough season as well, and their outfield has been constantly in flux. However, it does seem like every time you turn around Kevin Pillar is robbing a home run from someone.

What I want to know is this… First we had Kevin Millar, then we had Kevin Pillar. Is this progression going to continue in a few years with someone named Kevin Sillar?

One last custom… Most anyone who is familiar with Curling knows about the Norwegian curling team with the outlandish pants. That team is lead by Tomas Ulsrud, and they retired from competitive curling after the just-concluded Curling World Cup.

And just to be clear, this isn’t a Norwegian thing, this is just a Team Ulsrud thing. I’ll miss this team, and not just for the pants.

OK, that’s it from me. Happy Mother’s Day!

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.