More Olympic Curling Customs: The USA Men’s Team

The Team USA Curling Trials concluded two weeks ago, and in the process we found out who would be representing the US in the 2018 Winter Games.

Last Saturday’s post was about the Women’s Team; this time we’ll be representing the Men. Team Shuster lost the first game to Heath McCormick’s team, but rallied back to win games 2 and 3 to win the spot in Pyeongchang.

John Shuster, John Landsteiner and alternate Joe Polo have been to the Olympics before, but this will be the first time for Ty George and Matt Hamilton. Hamilton is the brother of Becca Hamilton, who’s on the women’s team going to Pyeongchang.

The US Men finished in a 3-way tie for 7th in the 2014 games, but Team Shuster made the playoffs in the 2017 World Men’s Curling Championship back in April.

The US Men would lose the Bronze Medal game to Switzerland, 7-5.

This will be skip John Shuster’s 4th Olympics. He was on Pete Fenson’s team which won Bronze in 2006, and he also represented the USA in 2010 and 2014.

Elsewhere in Olympic qualifying… The Canadian qualifying event, Tim Hortons Roar Of The Rings, starts today in Ottawa. You may remember that Canada took both the Men’s and Women’s Gold in Sochi in 2014…  Here are the 1973-style customs I made nearly 4 years ago to commemorate those teams:

Both of these teams are competing for another shot, but there’s always plenty of competition in any type of Canadian curling championship.

This coming Tuesday sees the beginning of the World Curling Federation’s Olympic Qualification Event in Pilsen, Czech Republic.  This will determine the final two countries for the Men and Women.  For the Women, the competition is between China, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy and Latvia.  You may notice that this is only 7 teams;  Norway had qualified for the event but the Norwegian Curling Association decided not to send a women’s team.

For the Men, it’s between China, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Russia.

Quick note for those of you who prefer non-curling customs:  You’ll get your turn tomorrow.


Virtual Olympic Curling Cards Using The 1975 Topps Design? Hell, Yeah!

Last weekend saw the conclusion of the 2017 USA Curling Trials to determine which women’s and men’s teams would be representing the country in the PyeongChang Winter Games this February.

Although I didn’t get to watch nearly as much as I would’ve liked, I was so inspired by the competition that I decided to create the first of my 2018 TSR Curling customs a bit ahead of schedule… I was originally intending these to drop In January.

So for those who missed it – and I missed much of the women’s competition due to some DVR programming errors on my part – Nina Roth’s team won a trip to the Winter Games by beating Jamie Sinclair’s team two games to one, with the third game being decided in the final end.

None of the four women on the team – Nina Roth, Tabitha Peterson, Becca Hamilton and Aileen Geving – have participated in the Olympics before, but they made a good showing in the 2017 World Championships, going 6-5 in the round-robin and just missing the playoffs.  The US Women finished last in the 2010 and 2014 Olympics, so there are expectations that this team will make a significantly better showing in 2018.

That first custom is, of course, based on the team checklist cards from 1975 Topps baseball… and indeed, the whole custom set will be based on 75T… with some liberties taken to get things to work out as needed.

I also decided to create another custom based on the event itself; this is based on the “Highlights” subset of 75T… more specifically in this case, on the sole horizontal Highlights card which featured the multiple no-hitters which had been thrown in 1974.

I’d originally intended to keep it to just the two customs this weekend, but I got a little carried away with the project and I currently have 20 different customs finished.  I’m sure you’d like to see what the “regular” cards are like, so here’s a third featuring skip Nina Roth.

There’d been some internal debate on some of the 1975 Topps design elements… The originals, of course, have that little baseball icon and the player’s position at the lower right.  I thought about having a curling version of that, but ultimately decided that the design worked just fine without anything at all.

I will have customs for the US Men’s team next weekend, and at some point in December I will have the yet-to-be-determined Canadian teams.  Those teams will be determined at the Tim Hortons Roar Of The Rings starting December 2nd.

Also in early December is the World Curling Federation’s Olympic Qualifying Event;  this will determine the final two Women’s and Men’s teams to qualify for the 2018 Games.

Finally, for those of you who prefer my usual customs (baseball, non-sport, etc.)… These aren’t intended to temporarily replace those, that’s just what happened this time because (as I’d mentioned) I got a bit carried away with these and as a test run I created one custom of each color combination in 1975 Topps.  For those of you keeping score at home, that’s eighteen different color combos.  Next weekend I hope to have Curling customs on Saturday and my regular customs post on Sunday.  That’s my intention, we’ll see how that actually pans out.

By Popular Demand (And To Buy Time): My 10-Card Curling Collection

Because there was interest expressed in the comments of my last post – and because I haven’t had the time to scan any of my recently acquired cards – I’m going to share my collection of curling cards…. And yes, there are such things as curling cards, although many of the ones in existence (and all of the ones I own) are part of larger multi-sport sets.

All of these cards have been featured in The Shlabotnik Report at some time or another (so I didn’t have to do any scanning… Yay!) but have never been shown in one place at a time, so I will present them here and share my minimal knowledge of other curling cards out there.

This is strictly a “for funsies” collection, so even though there are curling inserts related to many of these sets (parallels, minis, relics, autographs), I haven’t chased them.

2014 Topps Olympic And Paralympics Hopefuls – base cards

2014 Topps Olympic And Paralympics Hopefuls – inserts
Games of the Olympics

Olympic venues

There are also parallels, relics, autographs and patch cards from this set.  I can’t find any advance notice of a 2018 Topps Olympic And Paralympic Hopefuls set, but I’m hoping that there will be one.

2014 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions

There are also minis, relics, and autographs from this set.

2014 Upper Deck 25th Anniversary

2015 Leaf Sport Kings (short print)

There are also parallels and minis of this card.

At this point, my collection is likely to stay at 10 cards for a while. As I’ve found out, there are more curling cards than I’d imagined there would be, so I’m probably going to take a step back and figure out where I want to go with this.

For the record, here are the other curling cards I’m aware of… Thanks to Mike of Not Another Baseball Card Blog for telling me about the two Ice Hot International sets!

1921 Liebig Evolution Of Winter Sport – Curling
1929 Churchman’s Cigarettes – #20 – Curling
1932 Sanella Margerine – #21 – Curling
1961 Wheaties Great Moments In Canadian Sport – #24 – Ernie Richardson
1977 Sportscaster Cards – at least 2 different Curling cards
1992 BNA Canadian Winter Olympic Hopefuls (includes men & women curlers)
1992 BNA Canadian Winter Olympics Winners (includes Women’s curling team)
1993 Ice Hot International (Canadian curling set)
1994 Ice Hot International (Canadian curling set)
2009 BBM (Baseball) 2nd Version – First Pitch insert – Mari Motohashi
2015 BBM (Baseball) 2nd Version – First Pitch insert – Sayaka Yoshimura #FP-09
2016 BBM Chess On Ice (Japanese curling box set)

Another Pack Of 2017 TSR World Baseball Classic Cards

Well, we’re heading into the semi-finals of the World Baseball Classic. For those who missed it, the USA beat the Dominican Republic last night in a game which determined who goes on to the semis and who goes home. The Dominicans are the defending champions and played a great tournament, so it’s a shame that both teams couldn’t move on… but that’s why they play the games, right?

The finals play out starting tomorrow night in Dodger Stadium when the Netherlands face off against Puerto Rico in the first semi-final. Tuesday night it’s Japan vs. the USA, and Wednesday night the winners of those games play for the championship.

…and then, much to the relief of a lot of people, everybody heads back to their regular teams.

So let’s rip open our pack. This is the second of what I plan on being three packs, with the third coming next Sunday.

It’s been a busy week for me, and I didn’t get to see any of the games, but I certainly saw the highlight of Adam Jones robbing a homer from his teammate Manny Machado.

Here’s a video (Lo siento, the clip is en Español)

Nobuhiro Matsuda has had a good Classic so far; he’s batting .400 with a three-run homer against Cuba, 8 runs scored and 7 RBI.

After the Classic, he goes back to playing for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in the Pacific League.

Felix Hernandez allowed just one earned run in 7.2 innings, but he went 0-1 in two starts.

Venezuela made it out of the first round on a controversial tiebreaker, and then went 0-3 in the second round.

Yadier Molina has played well for Puerto Rico, both offensively and in terms of handling the pitching staff.

…as if that’s a surprise.

Xander Bogaerts has played well, but hasn’t exactly been one of the stars for The Netherlands… but I liked the photo.

Goodness knows I make enough mistakes as it is, so I feel the need to point out that the custom is correct; Bogaerts is playing third base for the Netherlands, as Andrelton Simmons is playing short.

Insert time!

This is based on 1976 Hostess, and although it didn’t win the poll on which design to use for the WBC set, it finished 4th in tightly-contested voting.

I don’t normally get all gushy over star-spangled clothing or equipment, but I really like Jonathan Lucroy’s chest protector.

Robinson Cano hasn’t scored or driven in a lot, but he’s been getting on base an awful lot.

Canada didn’t make it out of the first round, and Freddie Freeman got only 2 hits in 3 games… but hey! Horizontal card!

This is where I would normally be saying that I’ll be sure to watch the semis and the finals, but as I mentioned last time… I don’t get MLB Network or ESPN Deportes, and I don’t have MLB.TV.

I’ll be watching a different international event this week, one that is carried by channels on my middle-tier cable package… The World Women’s Curling Championship, live from Beijing, China. Round-robin play goes through Thursday, with the medal games next weekend. Nina Roth’s team is representing the USA.

This custom is based on the 1976 Wonder Bread Football set, and I’ve decided that I’m going to use this and the Hostess design as an all-purpose custom throughout the year.

A Clearer Perspective On the Mets And Orioles

I’ll admit that, coming down the stretch, I didn’t have high expectations of the Mets or the Orioles.  Both teams had obvious issues, neither team exactly strolled into a postseason slot.  Even so, it was still disappointing that they both lost in the Wild Card game.

The Mets had a number of key players who weren’t around by the end of the season – Matt Harvey, David Wright, Neil Walker, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz – while Lucas Duda missed significant time to injury.

Jay Bruce was acquired at the trade deadline and struggled for most of his time with the Mets.  He did seem to be coming out of his funk towards the end of the season, we’ll hope that this is a promising sign for next year.

In the middle of August the Mets were under .500 and in 3rd place.  I wasn’t the only Mets fan who was less than optimistic at this point.

But the Mets got production from some unexpected players, including pitcher Robert Gsellman, who bailed out an ineffective Jon Niese in his first game, and then as a starter went 4-2 with a 2.42 ERA.

Seth Lugo, who went 5-1 as a starter from August 19th on, got wins against the Cardinals, Marlins and Nationals.

Considering everything the Mets were up against, I think they did very well to make the postseason at all.

…And perhaps as importantly, to finish with a better record (and a slightly longer season) than the Yankees (84-78) and last year’s World Champion Royals (81-81).

As for the Orioles, I think this one fact says a lot about the O’s season:  Out of 8 pitchers with 10 or more starts, on a team that went 89-73, there were only two pitchers (Chris Tillman & Kevin Gausman) who had a winning record and only 3 (Tillman, Gausman and Bundy) who had an ERA of 4.02 or lower.

The offense was fine as long as they kept hitting home runs.  This team isn’t tremendously well-constructed and it was just a matter of time before it would catch up with them.

In fact, if it were not for the efforts of skip Satsuki Fujisawa, they would not have even gotten a Silver in the women’s world championship…
…Oh, wait, this is the wrong post for that.  (Damn Quality Control department.)

The team did get an impressive season from Manny Machado, Mark Trumbo and Zach Britton…

…as well as some promising Major League time from young guys like Joey Rickard and Trey Mancini.

The Mets should be back, unless deGrom, Harvey and Matz don’t come back healthy.  Yoenis Cespedes may opt out of his contract, and I’m not sure that Jay Bruce is the guy to replace him, but we’ll see what happens.

Meanwhile, the Orioles have several free agents including Matt Wieters and MLB home run king Mark Trumbo.  I think Wieters will be elsewhere next year, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing… The money can probably be spent better elsewhere.  Trumbo, I’m not sure what will happen with him.  Playing in Baltimore was clearly a good thing for him, you’d like to think the O’s and Trumbo’s agent could work something out.

OK, let’s close out the post and the season with two more Joe Shlabotnik inserts.



This may or may not wrap up the 2016 TSR set. I’ll be back next Sunday with more customs, but at this point I honestly don’t know what form they’ll take. I do have a couple of more Shlabotnik inserts…

Wait, There Are Summer Olympics Too?

The Winter Olympics gets a lot of screen time in the Shlabotnik household. Mrs. Shlabotnik loves figure skating, I enjoy ice hockey played on an international-sized rink, and then there’s the curling. I really like curling and there’s never as much curling on American television as when the Olympics are taking place.

…but the Summer Games?

Mrs. S enjoys gymnastics…

…Aaaaaaaand that’s about it. I’ll watch some of the Rio Olympics, but it’ll be more along the lines of “mild curiosity” than anything else.

I think my general disinterest in the Summer Games is that the events are not, for the most part, games. They’re competitions. Swim faster, jump higher, lift more, shoot better, throw farther. There’s nothing wrong with competitions, they just don’t interest me much.

…But I also don’t want to be a grumpy old man yelling at Olympic Athletes to get off my lawn, so I’ll ask all of you a question (and I’ll ask again at the end of the post):

Which Summer Olympic events are you most interested in, and why should others watch it as well?

BTW, although I’m an American, I love underdogs, so those factors are not often compatible. In other words, I will generally root for the USA but that’s not a given.  If you suggest an event based on rooting for the team from India (just pulling a country out of a hat), it’s not a deal-breaker for me.

Because this is a blog geared toward card collecting, I’ll feature several cards from my favorite Olympic sport, one that I unfortunately have to wait until 2018 to watch: Curling.

The first one is from the “Games of the XXII Olympiad” insert from the 2014 Topps Olympics and Paralympics Team and Hopefuls set.  The “game” in question is, of course, curling, and the card features Pete Fenson, someone I’ve never seen do any actual curling but I have often heard him give insight into curling televised by NBCSN.
2014 Topps Olympics Games Of The Olympics Pete Fenson
This card pretty much finishes off my interest in the 2014 Olypics set unless I run across some cheapy-cheap signatures.

I’ve also finally tracked down two cards featuring Canadian curlers who had made it into the 2014 Goodwin Champions set. Why Upper Deck would feature two Canadians is not for me to say, but they are Curling cards and I like Canada, so it’s all good.

Rachel Homan is the skip for Team Homan, whose website proclaims that they are the “#1 Ranked Women’s Curling Team in the World”, but it’s not clear what that’s based on. Team Homan did win two consecutive Scotties Tournaments Of Hearts (the Canadian Women’s Curling Championship), so that goes a long way towards establishing dominance.
2014 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions Rachel Homan
In trying to make the card look old-timey, they managed to make Ms. Homan look older than she is (mid-20’s). It’s safe to say that she does not use this card in any of her social media profiles.

Kevin Martin is considered by many to be the greatest curler of all time.  I can’t speak to that, but he’s on this Goodwin Champions card…
2014 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions Kevin Martin
…And he’s on this 2015 Leaf Sport Kings card I just picked up from COMC
2015 Leaf Sport Kings Kevin Martin
…which is a much nicer card and goes into detail about Martin’s accomplishments: 4-time men’s Canadian Curling champion (aka the Brier); Gold in the 2010 Olympics and medaled in another (out of three appearances); 1 world championship and two other medals (out of 4 appearances) and 15 Grand Slam titles on the World Curling Tour… So he’s good, eh?

It’s the end of the post, I’ve bored you to death with my curling cards, and it’s once again time to ask you…

Which Summer Olympic events are you most interested in, and why should others watch it as well?

NBCSN Has Curling For The Next Six Fridays! (Squeals Like A Little Girl)

The other day my Tivo tipped me off to something exciting for Americans like me who haven’t been able to watch curling since Sochi… Starting tonight, NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) is going to have “Curling Night In America” for six straight Fridays!
2014 Topps Olympics Ice Cube Curling Center
You can see the press release here.

This coverage is from the inaugural U.S. Curling Grand Prix which took place in Minnesota in early December. It features men’s and women’s teams from the U.S., China, Japan and New Zealand.  I don’t know any more about this, largely because I was afraid if I searched for more specifics on the Curling Grand Prix I’d spoil myself on the results.

2014 Topps Olympics Pete Fenson
Team USA is coached by Pete Fenson, who made a cardboard appearance in the 2014 Topps Olympics set, although he ended up in the category of “Hopefuls” rather than “Olympians” (and went to Sochi as a TV commentator).

As I’ve mentioned here before, I did not come anywhere close to growing up around curling, I came to enjoy it from watching the Olympics. I had no idea what was going on at first, but the more I watched, the more I understood, and the more I understood the more I got into it.

Last year I got into it so much that I created a set of custom curling cards…
2014 TSR Curling - Ayumi Ogasawara
While Japan was represented at the U.S. Curling Grand Prix, I have no idea whether Ayumi Ogasawara was there… But I just like the way this custom turned out.

So needless to say, I will be watching NBC Sports Network tonight!   (…or falling asleep on the couch and watching the recording tomorrow morning.)