1976 SSPC #371 – Gates Brown (Tigers)

1976 SSPC #371 Gates Brown

Gates Brown… was a fan favorite during his 13 year career with the Tigers.  He was often used as a pinch-hitter and was well-known for getting key hits.  His first MLB appearance was pinch-hitting for Don Mossi, and he hit a homer to lead off the inning.  At one point, he had the A.L.’s most all-time pinch hits, and was the Tigers’ first-ever DH.

One of his more memorable moments came in 1968 when he was eating hot dogs during the game and unexpectedly got called on to pinch hit.  He hid the hot dogs in his jersey and (naturally) hit a double that required sliding head-first into 2nd.

In 1976, Gates… did something other than playing baseball;  the back of his card notes his retirement after the 1975 season.  He played the field for one game in 1973, and that was the only game in the last three years of his career where he wasn’t a DH or pinch-hitter.

Shea-o-meter: Many of the photos in 1976 SSPC were taken in Shea Stadium; Every team came through Shea because the Yankees were temporarily playing in Shea while Yankee Stadium was being renovated. “Can two Major League teams share a ballpark without driving each other crazy?”

It’s dusk, but it’s Shea.
Shea: 52
Pretty sure it’s Shea: 8
Can’t tell: 15
Not Shea: 7

1970’s Census
We’re going to keep track of all the instances of 1970’s facial hair and other 1970’s trends… Sideburns, afros, mustaches, Aviator glasses…

Gates is pretty much 1970’s-free…
Total Cards: 82
1970’s Sideburns: 41
Fu Manchu: 4
Mustache other than Fu Manchu: 25
Afro: 1
Perm: 2
Aviators: 6
Long Hair: 18

1976 SSPC #371 Gates Brown back

“Hot Stove”: You’ve Got The Virtual Baseball Cards, Now Get The Virtual Cereal!

I’ve been making custom faux-3D baseball cards based on the 1974 Kellogg’s design for a while now.  During that time, it never occurred to me to take things to the next level until CommishBob from The Five Tool Collector complemented my customs by saying that “They look like they came right out of a Kellogg’s box”.

Had my wife been in the room at the moment I read his comment, she surely would’ve seen the cartoon light bulb pop on over my head.

After all, where should virtual Kellogg’s cards come from if not from a virtual cereal box?
2014 Cereal Box

If I do another batch of 3-D cards next winter (and I’m leaning towards using the 1976 Kellogg’s design, but that’s a long way away yet), I’ve got an idea to do a series of boxes as well… and those posts may well be like this one in that you won’t know what custom you get until you’re past the box and find that it contains…

Yoenis Céspedes!  After being traded to the Red Sox at the end of July, he found himself being traded to Detroit less than 5 months later.
2014-15 TSR Hot Stove #20 Yoenis Cespedes
If you combine the two Céspedes trades together as if it were one three-way trade that took a really long time to finalize, the Red Sox gave up Jon Lester, Johnny Gomes, Alex Wilson, minor leaguer Gabe Speier and cash for Rick Porcello and a 2015 competitive balance round B pick… given that Lester and Gomes became free agents, I would say the Sox came out alright on that one.

Getting back to the general concept of “Things I’d like to do differently next time”, I’m thinking I might carry two “Hot Stove” designs… One for the players I photoshop into new uniforms (like above) and one for the players who were photographed in a new uniform, like the Nelson Cruz showing off new alternate uniforms a couple of weeks ago, or like this Ichiro, which I did this way because I couldn’t bring myself to finish photoshopping him after I found this photo where it wasn’t obvious that he’s wearing a jersey over a dress shirt.
2014-15 Hot Stove 1968 Insert Ichiro
You know, just to make it easier to distinguish between “This is Matt Kemp photoshopped into a new uniform” and “This is Joe Mauer from a press conference where he was modeling the Twins’ new home uniforms”.

As of right now, I’ve got an idea in mind for the design of this “insert set” in the 2015/16 Hot Stove release, and it’s not based on a Kellogg’s set… but like I said, plenty of time there.

As long as I’m writing, I’ll just mention that my travels yesterday took me past three different Target stores and none of them had 2015 Topps… Although one had a shopping cart full of sealed cases that said things like “New Releases”, “Excell Marketing”, and “Display immediately”. Thanks, guys.

The Impressive Comeback By John Hiller

A while ago a co-worker was telling me about an MLB Network show he’d seen about the 9 best seasons by a reliever. He said that one of the top seasons was by a Tigers reliever in the 1970’s, but he couldn’t remember the guy’s name. It took a little research to figure out he meant John Hiller, and the more I dug into his story, the more interested I got.

1973 Topps John Hiller

John Hiller is from Toronto, and made his Major League debut in September, 1965. He’d always primarily been a reliever, but also did his fair share of starts; in August 1967, he threw back-to-back shutouts. Over the course of that season, he had 5 times as many strikeouts as walks.

In 1968, he set a big league record when he struck out the first six batters in a game against the Indians, and a couple of weeks later he hurled a one-hit shutout against the White Sox. In another game that year, he pitched 9 shutout innings in relief.  He wrapped up 1968 with two appearances in the World Series against the Cardinals.

On the last day of the 1970 season, he threw a two-hitter and struck out seven straight Indians.

…and this is where it really gets interesting…

On January 11, 1971, at the age of 28, Hiller suffered three heart attacks which kept him out of baseball for a year and a half. After the heart attacks he was told that his career was over, and based on that diagnosis the Tigers released him.

Hiller didn’t let others determine when his career would be over, and by the summer of 1972 he made his way back to the Tigers. As if coming back from a heart attack wasn’t impressive enough , he would win Game 4 of the 1972 ALCS against the A’s.

1974 Topps Leading Firemen
1973 would be a career year for Hiller. He set a Major League record (at the time) with 38 saves, won the AL Fireman Of The Year, the AL Comeback Player Of The Year, and finished 4th in MVP and Cy Young voting. He also got 10 wins and lead the A.L. with 65 appearances.

In 1974, he had 17 relief wins, 13 saves and was an All-Star.

In 1975, he had 15 saves before an injury ended his season.

In the following five seasons, he got 44 saves and 34 wins, and retired during the 1980 season.

Hiller was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985.

1975 Topps John Hiller

1976 SSPC #537 – Rusty Staub (Tigers/Mets)

1976 SSPC #537 Rusty Staub
Rusty Staub… Played 23 seasons in the Major Leagues, is a fan favorite in Montreal and New York, and is the only player to have 500 hits with each of 4 different teams.  In 1963 he played 150 games as a 19-year old, and by 1965 he was a fixture in the Majors.  Aside from Houston, he also played for the Expos, Mets, Tigers and Rangers.  He was named to 6 All-Star teams, hit 100 RBI four different years, lead the NL in Doubles in 1967

‘Round here, folks call me… Le Grand Orange

In 1976, Rusty Staub… played for the Tigers after a December, 1975 trade that got the Mets the 35-year-old Mickey Lolich in return.  This trade was my first exposure to that unique brand of “What were they thinking?” trades which litter the course of Mets history.

In his first year with the Tigers, Rusty batted .299 with 15 homers and 96 RBI and made the AL All-Star team.

Mickey Lolich went 8-13 for an 86-76 Mets team, and retired (temporarily, as it turned out) after the season was over.  Thanks, Mets front office!

Baseball Card Stuff… Rusty had two cards in the 1971 O-Pee-Chee set, one which was largely the same as his 1971 Topps card, and an extra on in an earlier series, for Expos fans who couldn’t wait.  I don’t have that card yet, but you can read about it on GCRL’s excellent-but-retired “Oh, My O-Pee-Chee” blog here.

Due to a dispute with Topps, Rusty did not appear in the 1972 or 1973 Topps sets.

Shea-o-meter:   Mais oui, c’est la Stade Shea!
Shea:  32
Pretty sure it’s Shea:  6
Can’t tell:  6
Not Shea:  5

Pointless info: Rusty played for three of the four 1961/62 expansion teams, although he didn’t play for one team until after it had relocated (Texas).  He never played for the Angels.

Even more pointless:  “Staub” is the German word for “dust”.

1976 SSPC #537 Rusty Staub back

1976 SSPC #369 – Gene Michael (Tigers… Tigers?!? Tigers!)

I will say right up front that this card weirded the heck out of me when I first saw it, and it continues to weird me out… I will explain below…
1976 SSPC #369 Gene Michael

Gene “Stick” Michael… has been, for all intents and purposes, a lifelong Yankee.  He played 7 years in the Bronx, 5 as the starting shortstop.  He managed the Yankees in 1981 and 1982, and put in two different stints as the Yankee GM.  He’s also filled a number of other positions in the Yankee front office.  Yes, he played a number of years in the Pirates organization and also played for the Dodgers and Tigers, and managed the Cubs, but in my mind he’s a Yankee… Which is why this card weirds me out… I’d never seen a picture of him as a Tiger before.

In 1976, Gene Michael… had signed a contract with the Red Sox, but never played for them or any other MLB team.

This card is… not Gene Michael’s finest photographical moment… and for some reason, when I see this photo I think of Eric Idle.

Shea-o-meter:   There might be just enough in the background to label this as Shea, but I’m putting it down as “Can’t tell”.
Shea:  27
Pretty sure it’s Shea:  6
Can’t tell:  6
Not Shea:  5

Betcha didn’t know… In 1968, Gene pitched the final 3 innings of a 10-2 Yankee loss to the Angels in the 2nd game of a doubleheader.  He gave up 5 runs in the 8th, but none of them were earned.  I thought maybe the Yankees went through a lot of pitchers in the first game of the doubleheader, but Fritz Petersen threw a complete game as the Yankees won 6-1.

SSPC vs. Topps: Gene Michael did not appear on a Topps card in 1976;  his final appearance on a Topps card as an active player came in 1975.

1976 SSPC #369 Gene Michael back

Another Low-Tech Custom I Made “Back In The Day”

1975 Topps Jerry Moses CustomI found this little beauty in a shoebox filled with crap like an old video store ID card and a Playboy wall calendar from the early 1980’s (Psst… Don’t tell my wife!)

On April 28, 1975, Jerry Moses was sold by the Mets to the Padres. In case you were wondering why the Mets were involved when the photo shows him in a Tigers uniform, he was sold by the Tigers to the Mets on 1/30/75. As if that weren’t enough, the Padres would later sell him to the White Sox that July.

…But anyway, sometime between transactions I made this custom.  You see those lines around the edges of the yellow part of the card?  Those are staples.  I cut the yellow header off a Padres card — I want to say it was Chris Cannizzaro — and stapled it to this Jerry Moses card.

The funny thing is that Moses didn’t appear in a game with the Mets, he appeared in five games with the Padres and just one with the White Sox.  After that, his career was over.

“Hot Stove” Custom – Tigers obtain Ian Kinsler From Texas

Here’s the counterpart to the Prince Fielder custom I posted last week.  I feel fairly confident that, unlike the Rangers, the Tigers have not made modifications to their uniform, causing my custom to look somewhat anachronistic.

2013-14 TSR Hot Stove #8 - Ian Kinsler

BTW, for those of you who might be new to this blog, this is another in a series custom cards reflecting off-season changes.  The card’s design is based on the 1959 Bazooka set.

The Tigers are certainly having an interesting offseason…  The Fielder/Kinsler trade,  sending Doug Fister to the Nationals, signing Joe Nathan, hiring Brad Ausmus as their manager.  It’s certainly a contrast to a good number of other teams which have done basically nothing so far.

I would like to send my apologies to the city of Detroit;  more specifically to the owners of the building I have obliterated from the city skyline.  I’m sorry, but it just looked cluttered behind Kinsler’s head with the building there.  Hopefully I didn’t displace too many people with my wanton destruction.

I feel kinda like Marvin The Martian here… “Oh, I’m going to blow it up.  It obstructs my view of Venus…”    Just don’t any of you try to steal my Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator… I’ve got my eye on each and every one of you.

Secrets of the computer graphics amateurs!

The only things I did on this custom that I hadn’t done on all the others was to play with the “Warp Brush” tool in Paint Shop Pro.  The piping on the jersey was actually borrowed from another image, and I used the Warp Brush to kind of “push” the piping around to better match Kinsler’s jersey.

“Hot Stove” Custom – Brad Ausmus Replaces Leyland As The Tigers’ Manager

2013-14 TSR Hot Stove #3A - Brad Ausmus

I actually don’t have a lot to say about this particular custom, other than that the Tigers cap logo was lifted from an image of Jim Leyland… So it’s like the passing of the torch.  Kind of.  Sort of.  In a matter of speaking.

Oh, I should mention, for those who may be coming in through search engines or other means, that this is another custom card from my “Hot Stove” set reflecting off-season changes.  The card’s design is based on the 1959 Bazooka set.

Beyond that, I think everybody knows the deal with Ausmus.  No managing experience, put in charge of a team with high expectations, yada yada yada.

Here’s a fun fact about Brad Ausmus:  Between 1996 and 2000 he was traded from the Tigers to the Astros, back to the Tigers and then back again to the Astros.  In the first two of these trades, C.J. Nitkowski was traded along with him.

Not enough for you?  I do feel like I need to do something else with this post… Um… How about a parallel version?  Here’s a mini.  Yay.
2013-14 TSR Hot Stove #3A - Brad Ausmus

Next week I’ll get back to customs of players.  I’ve got two in mind, we’ll see what happens.

Wrapping Up My 2013 TSR Custom Set And Looking Forward To 2014

Now that the World Series is over, now that Koji Uehara and some guys beat Carlos Beltran and some other guys …which is largely what the World Series ended up being for me…  now that the Postseason is over, we can get on with the business of the offseason…  Manager hirings can get announced, awards can be awarded, free agents can be free and so on.

With all the offseason movement will come my 2nd annual “Hot Stove” custom set, which I previewed back in September… but before we get to that, I need to put my regular “TSR” set to bed for another year and start looking forward to 2014.

2013 TSR #708 - Ben Revere

A lot of the customs I made this year ended up being a case of “Oh, that photo will work really well with my design”. Having the team name at the top and behind the player’s head, bat, glove, etc. made for a theme in and of itself.

2013 TSR #502 Lorenzo Cain

I’m far enough along with next year’s design to know that “Photos which go with the design” won’t be anywhere near as much of a factor next year. That being said, I kinda liked having a theme to the cards I made, and I’d like to carry that forward in some other way.

2013 TSR #715 - Hanley Ramirez

I could always do players from my favorite teams (Mets and Orioles), but I honestly like making at least one card for every team;  I think it makes it more fun for me and for you.

I could also do something along the lines of a “Player Of The Week”, which wouldn’t necessarily be the best player of the week, but more the player about whom I have something to say.

I’m sure I’ll figure it out.  If you have any suggestions, please leave a comment, I’d love to hear what you think!

Speaking of having something to say, I have something to say about the last three customs…

I made this Jim Leyland custom in the middle of  September, mainly to make sure that I had a Tigers custom in my “inventory”.  Little did I know it would be Leyland’s final custom (sniff).

2013 TSR #643 - Jim Leyland

Mrs. Shlabotnik looooooooooves Brian Roberts, and I would be ill-advised to ignore that fact when making customs… especially when he’s going to be a free agent.  I truly hope that he and the Orioles can come to some sort of incentive-laden agreement;  it would be too weird to see Brian in another uniform.

2013 TSR #701 - Brian Roberts

Finally, a sort of tradition I’ve established is to make a custom of “myself” which truly embodies the unique blend of grace, skill and sheer athleticism that I bring to any sport.

2013 TSR #792 - Joe Shlabotnik

…and that’s a wrap for the 2013 TSR set!  I hope you’ve all enjoyed them, and I hope you have a happy and safe Halloween!

Joe Bought A Repack, And The Most Interesting Card He Got Was “Blank”…

The subject line should be read in the voice of the late Gene Rayburn, host of “Match Game”, the greatest game show the 1970’s had to offer.

The other morning I was feeling a little down… I’m not even sure why, but I just felt a bit dejected. Nobody was around at lunch, so I ate my sandwich and read a magazine.


That wasn’t working for me and since it was nice outside, I figured maybe I should go for a walk.


So what else was there to do? I drove over to the nearby Target and bought a repack.

Plenty of junk wax, of course. Only one Topps All-Star Glossy…
1989 Topps Glossy Gary Carter
…but if I’m only going to get one, at least it’s Gary Carter as a Met, and a card I needed.

I also got an Oriole knocked off of my very, very large wantlist:
1992 Upper Deck Gregg Olson

I got an autograph! Yay!
2005 Donruss Champions Autograph
This is the second autograph I’ve pulled from a repack in the past couple of months… Neither one was anybody I’m interested in, but I’ll take a signed card over another 1989 Fleer card any day.

As I was thumbing through all the junk wax, I ran across this:
Blank Cardboard #1

A blank piece of cardboard? WTF?

Then I turned it over…
Blank Cardboard #2

EXCELLENT!  A blank-front Dodgers Leaders card! Somebody in Q/A was snoozing on that day in 1989. This one’s definitely going in my 1989 binder!

I had been hoping for a Pirates/A’s World Series, but now my best-case scenario is Cardinals/Tigers… and to be honest, at this point I’m just hoping I don’t have to see the Red Sox & Dodgers, the matchup I least wanted to see.

Fox says they’d like to get they two biggest markets left, Boston vs. Los Angeles.

…or maybe Fox says “Ring-ding-ding-ding-ding-a-ding-a-ding…”