Hot Stove: Cinnamon-Toasty Apple Jacksons

The Hot Stove set is winding down for another winter… The whole point of the set is to give everybody a “sneak peek” of what players will look like in their new uniforms, but once Spring Training starts, there’s no need for photoshopped images when the real thing is running around under the warm sun, being photographed by countless photographers.

But don’t worry about that just yet, not when I’ve run out to buy a big ol’ box of Apple Jacksons cereal!
Apple Jacksons Cereal Box

The last winter or two I’d always keep a Hot Stove slot open for some big Mets or Orioles acquisition, but this winter each of my team’s biggest moves was to re-sign one of their own.

Instead, we’ve got notable players leaving, including former Met Daniel Murphy, who signed with the rival Nationals as a free agent.
2015-16 TSR Hot Stove #7 - Daniel Murphy
Murphy had been with the Mets since making his Major League debut in 2008, and I will miss him, as will many Mets fans…  But I also think that letting him walk was the right move, and I wish him isolated success with a divisional rival (who will hopefully disappoint yet again).

As I’ve pointed out before, the customs I make up using the 1965 Topps CFL design are ones where I did not “photoshop” the player into his uniform. In this case, I ran across a nice image of Paul Goldschmidt wearing one of the Diamondbacks’ new uniforms.
2015-16 TSR Hot Stove CFL-5 Paul Goldschmidt
I don’t love these uniforms… far from it… but I have less of a negative reaction now than I did when they were first unveiled.

Getting back to the clock ticking on the Hot Stove cards… I’m definitely doing a post next weekend, and then after that I *may* do one more… depending on whether I have players I want to “photoshop” and an idea for a cereal box.

Truth be told, I really need to get working on my 2016 TSR design. I’ve got a number of prototypes in the works, but none of them have yet to make me sit up and say “Yeah, yeah, that’s it…”

But in the meantime, if you have any special requests for someone you’d like to see on a Hot Stove card before the curtain drops on another set, just leave a comment and I’ll see what I can do. It doesn’t have to be a star player, so if you want to see Doug Fister with the Astros or Corey Dickerson with the Rockies, just let me know.

Topps’ Unintentional Gift To Custom Nerds, Plus A Peek Behind The Curtain

The other day I got this email from Topps shilling some of their “Collectible Posters” and there was a series that featured logo artwork by an artist named Timothy Raines… and no, he doesn’t appear to be related to former Expo Tim Raines.

The Collectible Posters featured Raines’ artwork based on MLB team logos and (because it’s Topps) the 1978 Topps Baseball design.  I went and checked it out, and it seems very nice and well executed, but none of it “spoke to me”.

I noticed a poster for the Rockies, and my initial thought was “Isn’t that interesting, the Rockies didn’t exist in 1978 and here they have the Rockies wordmark in the 1978 style.”

Topps Timothy Raines Art Collection - Rockies

…And then the possibilities of this set in, and I said “Oh, that is interesting….”

One thing you have to understand is that 1978 Topps is one of those sets that people shy away from when it comes time to make Archives sets or custom cards.  The bulk of the design is extremely simple, but the main stumbling point is that script team name.  One can’t just download a font to duplicate it.

One thing I’d played with in the past was trying to piece together letters and sequences of letters and even pieces of letters to fake up one of the five teams that didn’t exist in 1978… Here’s a quickie example for “Nationals”:

Faked up Nationals

I’d done one experiment with this method in the past, as a prelude to making a still-in-the-works “card from another universe” featuring the fictional “1978 Seattle Pilots”:

1978 Topps Pilots wordmark

Faking this script can be somewhat time consuming, but not impossible… and I believe that this is the technique Topps used when they created new wordmarks for the Rockies, Rays, D-Backs and Nationals.

So anyway, the whole gist of this is that I took the images of those Collectible Posters, isolated the wordmarks for the newer teams, added a white ‘border around it (disregard the green part, that’s just a remnant from my methods and I forgot to remove it)….
Nationals red better version

And voila, a word mark ready for customs like this one:

1978 Topps Custom Ryan Zimmerman 2015

(Not happy with the font used for the player name & position, but I’ll play with that when I get time.)

After I made this custom, I decided that I could improve on Topps work… I don’t think they properly adjusted the size of the “o” to match the other letters, so I tweaked it a bit after I made the Zimmerman custom.  Here’s the Topps version again:

Nationals red better version

…and here’s my tweaked version (as it stands right now).

Nationals red my version

I broke the word into “Nati”, “o” and “nals”, squished the “o” and leaned it over slightly, and then pushed them all together again.  I think it looks better, but there are still a couple of things that I wold improve upon.

BTW, when Topps created their capital “N”, I think they used the “M” from Mariners instead of from Mets… and I think the narrower letter works better for a long name like Nationals.

Here are the other wordmarks I isolated from the Topps posters:

Rays Navy better
Rays is probably the easiest of the bunch. “R” from Reds, Rangers or Royals, “ays” from Blue Jays. Voila.

Rockies black better
“Rockies” is a little tricky… One can use the “Ro” from Royals, the “k” from Yankees, the “ies” from Phillies, but none of the teams circa 1978 have a lower-case “c” in their names. I don’t particularly like this “c”, it looks kind of kludgy.  I think I’d tweak it before I used it.

D-Backs Red better
Topps cheats a bit by using the “D-Backs” nickname rather than “Diamondbacks”… But it saved them from fabricating a lowercase “m”, and it probably looks better abbreviated, anyway. They did a better job on this “c” than the one in Rockies.

Some of you may have noticed a missing team – there’s no Marlins. I went to the Timothy Raines website and he did do the Marlins logo, but for some reason Topps is not selling a Collectible Poster of that team… those bastards! (Just kidding guys, I love you, you know that).

I hope I didn’t bore anybody too much, but I thought the “custom people” would appreciate the information, and the rest of you would get a glimpse into the terrible obsession that haunts us customizers.

2013/14 “Hot Stove” – Bronson Arroyo, Alpha And Omega

Back in September, I previewed my Hot Stove set with these two images, custom cards which weren’t so much predictions as much as theoretical possibilities that illustrated points I’d wanted to make:
2013-14 Hot Stove Promo #2 Bronson Arroyo

2013-14 Hot Stove Promo #1 Matt Garza

As it turned out, the D-Backs were rumored to be in on Garza until the end, and I came pretty close to looking like a genius.

But since the D-Backs did get Bronson Arroyo, I also would’ve looked like a genius if I’d only swapped the two teams.  Oh, well.

Anyway, it’s time to set things straight.  I’m not going to bother doing Garza in a Brewers uni, but I did decide to re-do Arroyo in his properly-airbrushed uniform:

2013-14 TSR Hot Stove #18 - Bronson Arroyo

All throughout this set and the prior year’s version, I tried some different “tricks” every now and then… That was the case with this one, and it didn’t turn out quite like I’d envisioned it, but it’s close enough.

To be frank, I was a bit limited on the time I had to do this, because I’ve got two other “custom card” projects currently in the works.  I’m trying to finalize the design of my regular 2014 TSR custom set, and I also got temporarily sidetracked by a spur-of-the-moment, Olympic-related custom set, one that you’ll be seeing in the next week or so.

I’d have to think that this will be the last card of the Hot Stove set… At this time of year, there’s not a whole lot of point to “photoshopping” players into uniforms that they’ve already started to appear in.

So, to wrap things up, I’d like to introduce a new concept in inserts…

We’ve had “Mini” cards…

We’ve had “Micro” cards…

Ladies and Gentlemen, I’d like to introduce the new “Infinitesimal” parallel insert!
2013-14 TSR Hot Stove Infinitesimal uncut sheet
It’s an uncut sheet of 132 cards, but the entire sheet is a standard 2.5″ x 3.5″… which means that each individual card measures 0.21″ x 0.29″.

Mini-er than Mini.

Micro-i-er than Micro.

I win.

Custom Set Preview: 2013/14 TSR Hot Stove

Those of you who were with me last off-season are familiar with the “Hot Stove” custom set which I used to feature offseason trades, signings, uniform changes, manager hirings and the like.  It also gives me an opportunity to play around with my graphics software and see how well I can “photoshop” players into their new uniforms.  Here’s one of last year’s cards:

2012-13 Hot Stove #7 - Zack Greinke

That design was based on the 1960-62 Bazooka set, a simple, yet appealing set which I’ve grown fond of over the past few years.  …And yet, I still don’t have any.  Those little suckers are hard to find!  OK, to be fair, it’s ones that are selling for a price I’m willing and able to pay that are hard to find.

For the upcoming Hot Stove design I wanted to replicate a different vintage oddball set, and I considered a number of designs, most notably 1970 Kellogg’s (even though I wouldn’t be able to replicate the “3-D” part).  I ultimately decided to go with 1959 Bazooka… another Bazooka set I don’t have any cards from, and one that is considerably more budget-busting than the 1960-62 cards.

THE ORIGINAL 1959 Bazooka SET

1959 Bazooka is an unnumbered, blank-backed 23 card set with 14 short prints;  Nine cards were originally issued, with 14 more being added later.  Here’s an image I borrowed from another website:

1959 Bazooka Cepeda Snider

Each card made up the entire back of a 25-count box of Bazooka gum, and they’re fairly large cards, measuring just under 3” X 5”.  Since buying a box of 25 pieces of Bazooka was a a significant up-front investment for a kid, these cards were relatively scarce to begin with, and that scarcity naturally hasn’t improved over time.  Just as a quick example, the cheapest one I could find in the “Sold” listings of eBay was a non-short-printed Jim Davenport which went for $14.  Another example of their relative scarcity:  There isn’t a single 1959 Bazooka baseball card listed for sale on COMC.

Late in 1959, an 18 card football set with the same design was issued.  Those cards are similarly hard to come by.

THE CUSTOM SET

Here’s the first “Promo card” for 2013/14 Hot Stove:

2013-14 Hot Stove Promo #1 Matt Garza

By the way, this custom is not so much a prediction as it is a theoretical possibility which nicely illustrates some of the points of this post.  As they say when odds and point spreads are involved, this is “for entertainment purposes only”.  Matt Garza will be a free agent after the season, but I’m not aware of any interest or disinterest on the part of the Diamondbacks.

Of course, if Garza does sign with the D-backs, you heard it here first!

Fair warning

The rest of this post goes into details about what I was trying to do and how I went about doing it.  This may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but I wanted to write it anyway.  I will not take personal offense from anyone skipping the rest of this post…

…but if you do skip the rest of the text, at least scroll down a bit to look at the other “promo card”.

Also, if you have any suggestions, constructive criticism or the like, please feel free to let me know in the comments.

REPLICATING THE CARD DESIGN

The original cards are considerably taller than my custom… but those dimensions are hard to work with in terms of cropping photos to fit properly, so I made the dimensions more conventional.  Like last year’s Hot Stove set, these customs are slightly taller and slightly narrower than standard size.

I naturally tried to match the fonts, colors, and such as much as possible.

One thing I noticed about 1959 Bazooka is that the two lines of text are justified so that they begin and end at roughly the same spot on the card… but the way it’s done is different on the two lines.

When adjusting for longer and shorter player names, in addition to making the font slightly wider or narrower, they adjusted the space between the letters.  If you look at the originals above, you’ll notice that “DUKE SNIDER” has slightly more space between letters than “ORLANDO CEPEDA” does.

However, the second line with the team name and player’s position was handled differently… On that line, there is some very minor adjustment to the spacing between letters, but they did most of their ‘adjusting’ by adding or removing space between the position and team.

To allow for space, Topps would sometimes abbreviate the city in somewhat odd ways… “DET. TIGERS”, “SAN FRAN. GIANTS”, “PHILA. PHILLIES”.  Topps did this in other sets at the time, and I really like that little detail, so I’m going to try to work those in to the customs.

Like the 1960-1962 Bazooka set, the 1959 set uses a variety of colors in the bottom of the card, and the colors have no relationship to the team pictured.  I’ve noticed that the football cards used some color combinations that weren’t used for baseball, and I’ll be using combos from both sets.

MODIFYING LOGOS OF MODERN TEAMS

The original cards have team logos, but at the time – I would presume because of the limitations of the printing process used – the logos were slightly simplified in both details and colors.  I gave brief thought to using logos from 1959, but then I’d be outta luck when I needed to create a custom for any of the teams which didn’t exist in 1959.

So what I did instead was take a current logos and tried to put myself in the shoes of a 1959 Topps artist by following these two rules:

  • Make it as if I were going to print these with 1959 technology
  • Make it as if I were going to sell these to kids.

When there were multiple current logos to work with, I went with the one which was most “kid friendly”.  For example, with the Red Sox I went with the “pair of socks” sleeve logo rather than the “B” cap logo.

I also took each logo and simplified it as much as I could.  If a color fell outside of the “Topps color pallet”, I changed it to something that was Topps-like.  I also eliminated shading, drop shadows and other 21st century detail.  Here’s an example of what I did with the Diamondbacks’ logo:
Hot Stove Diamondback Logo Comparison

If I felt the logo needed a box around it, I did so;  otherwise, I added a colored border around the logo to help it stand out against the colored background.

Here’s the second promo card:

2013-14 Hot Stove Promo #2 Bronson Arroyo

Again, this custom is here mainly to illustrate some points.  Unlike Garza, I have read of a very tenuous connection between Arroyo and the Mets, along the lines of “The Mets are one of several teams which may be interested in Arroyo”.

BTW, this attempt to change Arroyo’s Reds uniform into a Mets uniform is far from my best work, but I’m a bit out of practice and I didn’t want to spend too much time on an image that could very well look comical in 6 months’ time.

If you compare the names “MATT GARZA” and “BRONSON ARROYO” in the two promos, you get a good example of what I was talking about above.  Both cards are using the same font in the same size, but Garza’s name is spaced out more in order to make up space.

So that’s what you’ll be seeing over the winter…

If teams behave themselves and hold their major announcements until after the World Series, like they’re supposed to, you’ll be seeing these go live in late October or November.

In the meantime, if you have any suggestions, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment.  I’m not 100% satisfied with what I’ve got, so there are at least a couple of minor changes I’m going to make.  I’d be more than willing to consider any constructive criticism you might have.