Cards That Ain’t Never Been: 1976 Topps Larry Milbourne

…Because the name “Cards That Never Were” has already been taken…

While researching yesterday’s post, I stumbled across a nice photo of Larry Milbourne in the Astros uniform of the mid 1970’s.  I said to myself “I can’t NOT make a custom out of this baby.”

And so…
1976 Cards That Ain't Never Been Larry Milbourne

Larry Milbourne’s rookie card was 1975 Topps, but even though he appeared in 73 games in 1975 and 53 games in 1976, he did not appear on another Topps card until 1978 (with the Mariners).  Looking back with 20-20 vision, I think Larry deserved a 1976 card more than Tommy Helms (64 games in 1975),  Jerry DaVanon (32 games), or maybe Skip Jutze (51 games, but you have to cut him some slack because he was a backup catcher).


The Nightly Show With Larry Milbourne

The other day I was talking to someone about The Nightly Show, which is the new show on Comedy Central which airs after The Daily Show.

After a few minutes of conversation, I suddenly realized that instead of referring to the host as Larry Wilmore…
2015 TSR Fauxback Larry Wilmore

…I’d spent several minutes referring to him as Larry Milbourne.
1975 Topps Larry Milbourne


Larry Wilmore may have his own TV show, but he was never named to the Topps All-Star Rookie team…

1978 Topps Larry Milbourne

Wilmore didn’t have the walk-off double in the Mariners’ first-ever win (4/8/77).

1981 Fleer Larry Milbourne

And Wilmore was never involved in a trade where another player was essentially traded for himself:
November 18, 1980: Traded by the Seattle Mariners with a player to be named later to the New York Yankees for Brad Gulden and $150,000. The Seattle Mariners sent Brad Gulden (May 18, 1981) to the New York Yankees to complete the trade.

A 3D Pat Neshek To Help Me Remember

You know those people that have a mind like a bear trap? Those people that never forget a face, a number or an event?

Well, that is most definitely not me.

I can’t even blame it on middle age; I’ve always been like this. But the thing is, the information is up in my mental attic, I just can’t always find it when I want to.

So with that in mind I wanted to take notes on how I go about creating my faux 3D cards, so that in the future if I decide I want to revisit them, I’m not sitting here trying to remember what kind of blur I used for the background (side-to-side motion blur).

And the easiest way to make sure I cover all the bases is to go through the process of creating one…. and so…
1968 Topps 3D Pat Neshek

I also wanted to post a custom to remind everybody that I create custom cards… It’s been a while since I shared one because I’ve been working on a couple of projects, not least of which is my 2015 TSR set, which is already behind schedule.

Update shortly after posting:
*sigh* I didn’t mean to post that just yet, I was still working on the text, but I absentmindedly clicked on “Publish” rather than “Save Draft”.

Oh, well. What’s done is done. I’ll just have to move on and have a better post for tomorrow to make up for it.  2015 TSR is coming soon, I promise.

Contrast & Compare: 1981 Topps/Coke Don Sutton And Art Howe

For today’s post I’d originally written more about 2015 Topps, but even I was bored by the final result.  I’ve scuttled that post and will instead focus on two 1981 Coca-Cola Astros cards I’ve recently acquired.

For anybody new to 1981 Coca-Cola sets, they were made by Topps to be largely Coke-sponsored versions of the 1981 Cards, they were issued in small cello packs by team and there were a handful of cards which were significantly different than the corresponding cards from 81T.

As best I can tell there are two of these “variations” in the 1981 Coke Astros set.  I’ll start with Don Sutton.

Up through 1980, Sutton pitched for the Dodgers, and it was with the Dodgers that the 1981 Topps set pictured him.
1981 Topps Don Sutton
However, over that winter he’d left Los Angeles as a free agent and signed with the Astros. The Coke cards, which went to press later, featured Sutton with the Astros border and some “Tequila Sunrise” striping airbrushed on to his jersey.
1981 Coke Don Sutton

Art Howe is the other card that differs significantly from the 1981 Topps counterpart… but he didn’t change teams and I couldn’t tell you why it’s different.

His 1981 Topps card shows him waiting at first base for something to happen.
1981 Topps Art Howe

His 1981 Coke card shows him at home plate waiting for a pitch.
1981 Coke Art Howe
Did someone at Coke reject the fielding photo?  Did they want something more in linke with the Coca-Cola corporate zeitgeist of the early 1980’s? Were they just not able to find the original photo in a timely manner? Damned if I know. I just know that I got to add two cards to my 1981 Topps binder, and since I’d originally completed the Topps set 34 years ago, that doesn’t happen often.

Update:  Jeff from One Man’s Junk (Wax) commented that Art Howe’s position on the card is different to reflect his moving from first to third for the 1981 season.  Topps & Coke probably decided against having a card that says “3rd Base” and shows a guy clearly at 1st.  Thanks, Jeff!

Quick aside: I did do a bit of research into today’s original post topic, and certain people might find it moderately interesting, so I’ll give you the Cliff’s Notes version of that research…

The 2015 card of Mets reliever Carlos Torres is not his rookie card because he had a card in 2009 Bowman Sterling. The Carlos Torres in 2006 Bowman Prospects is a different guy.

Torres pitched in Japan in 2011, which lead me to discover that has Japanese baseball checklists… something I am excited about because I’ve been searching for such a thing for some time now.

1976 SSPC #60 – Bob Watson (Astros)

1976 SSPC #60 Bob Watson

Bob Watson… might be best known today as an MLB executive, or maybe as the GM of the Astros and Yankees, but Watson had a 19-year career highlighted by two All-Star appearances and a .295 career batting average.

He is in second place among all-time Astros in batting average, and we have to extend the decimal to illustrate how close it is between Watson, Jeff Bagwell and Lance Berkman;  Bagwell’s Astro average is .2968, Watson’s is .2965 and Berkman is .2964.

Bob Watson is credited with having scored the millionth run in MLB history;  on May 4th, 1975 he scored from second on a Milt May home run, beating Dave Concepcion to the honor by a very narrow margin.

In 1976, Bob Watson… batted .313/16/102 as the Astros’ starting first baseman.

Shea-o-meter:  That’s Shea’s scoreboard and batter’s eye in the background.
Shea:  35
Pretty sure it’s Shea:  7
Can’t tell:  6
Not Shea:  5

Betcha didn’t know… Bob Watson was the first player to hit for the cycle in both leagues;  he did it on 6/24/77 in the Astrodome against the Giants, and again on 9/15/79 in Baltimore with the Red Sox.

1976 SSPC #60 Bob Watson back

A 2018 Heritage Card Which Came To Me Through The Space/Time Rift In My Garage

As I’ve mentioned before, my garage contains a minor rift in the space/time continuum, and on occasion small objects from the future will fall through it.  Over the past couple of months, I’ve had a couple of baseball cards come through…  Here’s one that appears to be a 2018 Heritage card.

2018 Topps Heritage Bryce Harper 2
This card is both brilliant and scary at the same time.

“Brilliant” because it appears to take the replication of the 1969 Topps set to the extreme.  It wasn’t unusual for the photos used on late 1960’s cards to be several years old… and that certainly is the case here.  It’s a card from 2018, but the photo is from 2012 or 2013.

Even better, the cap is airbrushed using that minimal-effort way that was often done in the 1960’s, obscuring most of the cap behind a black, cap-shaped blob.

This card is “scary” for precisely the same reason that it’s brilliant:  It takes replication of 1969 to an extreme.  It would be disappointing as a base card, but awesome as a short-print variation.  Let’s hope the latter is the case.

How does Bryce Harper ends up as Houston’s DH?  Your guess is as good as mine.

Are We Not Stars?: 1972 Astros Rookie Stars

…Answering the age-old question, “Who are these guys?”

BTW, this is the rookie card for all three Astros.
1972 Topps Astros Rookies Greif Richard Busse

Bill Greif

Bill Greif played 7 of his 231 Major League games with the Astros, but they all came before this card was issued.  In December, 1971 he was traded to the Padres where he spent most of his 6-year career.

His first big league victory came in 1971 with the Astros when he entered a game against the Padres in the 20th inning.  Something you’ll never see again:  the starting pitchers – Ken Forsch and Clay Kirby – went 13 and 15 innings, respectively.

Getting back to Bill Greif; according to the cartoons on  his Topps cards, his nickname is “The Texas Tiger” and his hobby is hypnosis.  His other cardboard claim to fame comes from having been one of the “Washington Nat’l Lea.” cards in the 1974 set.

J.R. Richard

J.R. Richard was a heck of a pitcher in the late 1970’s.  He won 20 games in 1976 and won 18 games in each of the following three seasons.  During two of those seasons, he had 300+ strikeouts.  In 1979 he lead the NL in ERA and in 1980 he was a starting pitcher in the 1980 All-Star Game.

Shortly after that All-Star Game, he tragically suffered a stroke that ended his career.  He attempted a comeback, but never  made it all the way back.

J.R. Richard’s photo on this card intrigues me;  his cap is airbrushed in something that approximates orange, but it looks like his jersey says “HOUSTON”.  Richard got drafted in 1969, so it’s not a Colt .45 cap.   I can only guess that the original photo featured a black Astros cap, and Topps decided that a badly-airbrushed cap was better than an  out-of-date cap.

Ray Busse
Busse played a grand total of 68 Major League games over three seasons.  He was traded to the Cardinals before the 1973 season, and then got traded back to the Astros halfway through the season.  He spent all of 1972 playing for AAA Oklahoma City.

Busse also appeared on a 1973 Rookie card with Pepe Frias and Mario Guerrero.

Closest To Being A Star:  Although  his career was cut short, there’s no question that J.R. Richard was a star.

1976 SSPC: #59 Doug Rader (Astros/Padres)

Doug Rader… Was a 5-times Gold Glove third baseman, mainly with the Astros, but also played for the Padres and Blue Jays at the end of his career. He managed the Rangers and Angels in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

1976 SSPC #59 Doug Rader

This card is… One of my favorites from this set. If I’d seen this card back in 1976, Doug Rader would’ve instantly become one of my favorite players.

‘Round here, folks call me:  The Red Rooster.

In 1976, Doug Rader… was the Padres’ starting 3rd baseman, and hit .257 with 9 homers and 55 RBI.

SSPC vs. Topps: Like most players who were traded in December, 1975, Doug Rader appeared in an Astros uniform in the 1976 Topps set, and had an airbrushed “Traded” card later on. SSPC shows him with the Astros, but has him listed as a Padre on the back.

1976 SSPC #59 Doug Rader back

This song made it to #2 in 1976:

Cards I Got From “Diamond Giveaway”… OK, So I’m A Little Behind…

I didn’t know what to write about today, I wasn’t feelin’ the posts I had in my Drafts folder, so I went poking around my unused scans… and that’s when I found images of these cards I’d redeemed from Topps “Diamond Giveaway” promotion back in early 2012.

…And I said “Ah, what the hell.”

Rule #1 with Diamond Giveaway was always “Fill the oldest need possible”, but not everybody was willing to trade their 1963 Duke Snider for my 1991 Milt Thompson. So, Rule #2 was “work towards completing sets which I’m reasonably close to completing”. In this case, I turned a 1983 Bruce Hurst (which I already had) into this Winfield. Naturally, a recent Fairfield repack I got had this card in it… But how was I to know that in 2011?
1986 Topps Dave Winfield
I don’t know why, but I think I appreciate Dave Winfield more now than when he was active… Maybe because as an all-around athlete (drafted in three sports!) he just looks good on a card.

I’m not a fan of the Cardinals or Alex Johnson, but this is easily the best card I got from Diamond Giveaway, and many others agreed with me – I got far more trade offers for this card than for any other.
1967 Topps Alex Johnson
I’m not even 100% sure about what it is that I find appealing, I just know that I look at it and think “Now that’s a baseball card!”

This is “Action” only in the sense that takes place during a game. Doesn’t matter to me, I’m not one to turn down some free-but-not-really-free 1972’s!
1972 Topps George Mitterwald

1980 Topps was another set I worked towards through Diamond Giveaway. I’ve got 99.85% of the 1973 set, complete sets from 1974 to 1978 and again in 1981, and I feel like I should have complete sets from 1979 and 1980 as well. Maybe I should bump up the priority on those two. Like Dave Winfield, 1980 Topps has also grown on me over the years. At the time I thought it was a little too much like a reworked 1974 design, but I think I’ve grown to appreciate it on its own.
1980 Topps Jimmy Sexton
I like Sexton’s belligerent expression in this card. He’s either trying to look bad-ass or he’s angry because he doesn’t like to do Standard Baseball Card Pose #27. “There, I’m doing your stupid pose. Are ya happy? Huh? Are ya?”

I’ve got plenty more Diamond Giveaway cards to share… Maybe they’ll surface on another uninspired Saturday.

Why A Div. III School In Phillies Country Loves The Mets… Kinda… Sorta…

Alvernia University is a Division III school located just over an hour from Philadelphia.  It’s in Reading, Pa., which is also home of the Phillies’ AA team, the Reading Fightin’ Phils.

…So why would anyone from Alvernia have any interest in the New York Mets?

I’ll give you two reasons: Mets catcher and Alvernia alumnus Anthony Recker…

2013 TSR #308 - Anthony Recker

…and infielder/Alvernia alumnus Zach Lutz.

2013 TSR #317 - Zach Lutz

Few Division III schools have had any alumni in the majors, but the Mets have two from the same school.  This is the first time two former Division III players from the same school were on the same MLB roster at the same time.  Recker is three years older than Lutz, but they did overlap at Alvernia, playing together in 2005.

And just to add to the jealousy of other D-3 baseball programs, neither one is the first Alvernia Crusader to play in the Majors.  That would be this guy:

2002 Topps Heritage Wade Miller

Wade Miller was the Astros’ 20th round pick in the 1996 draft and had a career 62-46 record with the Astros, Red Sox and Cubs.

A couple of the other former D-3 players currently in the Majors are Padres outfielder Chris Denorfia (Wheaton College in Massachusetts) and Nationals pitcher Jordan Zimmermann (University Of Wisconsin/Stevens Point).