Using My Fantasy Team As An Excuse To Make Customs, Part 2

Fantasy-wise, Greg Holland was the biggest surprise for me in 2013. I drafted him before the season, but admittedly didn’t know much about him other than he’d been named the the Royals closer during the 2012 season.
2013 TSR #756 - Greg Holland

He ended up with 47 saves, a 1.21 ERA, a 0.866 WHIP and 13.8 K’s per 9 innings – all very impressive numbers.

When doing a Image Google to find a photo of Greg Holland, I somehow ended up with the same image as was used on this Simon & Gintfunkel card:
2013 Gintfunkel Gloria Estefan

When I clicked on the link provided, I ended up on a page full of HTML and no reference to who this singer in the photo was, nor what she had to do with Greg Holland. I did ultimately find out that it’s Gloria Estefan; why she came up in a search on Greg Holland remains a mystery to me.

When it comes to fantasy baseball, I pride myself on my ability to pick up impact rookies during the season. Last year it was Mike Trout; this year, I picked up a couple of kids you may have heard of…
2013 TSR #669 - Yasiel Puig

I won’t deny that Puig’s had a an impressive season and may well have turned the Dodgers’ season around, but when it comes to the NL Rookie Of The Year award, my money’s on this guy:

2013 TSR #702 - Jose Fernandez

Before recapping some of Fernandez’ achievements, I will remind you that all of this was with a very bad team that lost 100 games…

He had a 12-6 record, which means he got nearly 20% of the Marlins’ wins but only 6% of the losses. He also had a 2.19 ERA (2nd in MLB), 0.979 WHIP (4th in MLB), .182 Batting Average Allowed (1st in MLB) and 187 K’s in 172.1 innings.

Most other years, Puig is a shoo-in… but I have to think that Jose Fernandez takes home the hardware.

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…”

Take Two Mets And Call Me In The Morning

At the beginning of the week I was talking to my friend Frieda, who’s a Braves fan. Forgetting who was playing who after the wild card games, I said that the only matchup that could result in my rooting for the Braves was if they’d played the Dodgers. As a kid in the 1970’s I took a general dislike to the Dodgers, and I’ve never completely let that go.

Frieda said, “The Braves do play the Dodgers on Thursday, so are you going to root for the Braves?”

The rivalry hasn’t been much over the past 5 years, the Braves aren’t AMERICA’S TEAM! anymore, and Chipper’s gone, so I grudgingly said I would try… although I’d still be rooting for the winner to get no further than the NLDS.

So I happened to have the beginning of the game on last night. The foam tomahawks came out, the extremely obnoxious chanting started, and that was as much as I could take. Sorry, Frieda.

So my more realistic assessment of the series is that I hope it’s a high-scoring, extra-innings 5-game affair that will leave the winner worn out for the NLCS.

…and I feel a strong need to cleanse the palate…

1976 Topps Tom Seaver RB

1995 Donruss Top Of The Order Todd Hundley

…Aaaaah, that’s better.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

The Funny Hats Of ’76!!!!

Yesterday’s post was about America’s bicentennial in 1976.  Something else that happened in 1976 was the National League’s Centennial.  Several teams observed the Centennial in ways which people confused for observing the Bicentennial.

Of course, everybody knows the Pirates wore funny hats…
1977 Topps Jerry Reuss

The Cardinals wore funny hats almost as much as the Pirates…
1977 Topps Al Hrabosky

…and did the Pirates one better by wearing funny helmets to match their funny hats…
1977 Topps Lou Brock

…The National League All-Stars wore funny hats (but not during the game)…
1977 Mets yearbook Photo of 1976 all-stars

…The Mets wore funny hats (but not much, and the only image I could find in my collection was this shot from 1976’s Old Timers’ Day: This is Don Cardwell and Sal Maglie)…
1977 Mets yearbook photo of Don Cardwell and Sal Maglie

The Reds and Phillies and NL umpires also wore funny hats, but I couldn’t find any decent images of them.

…and every team, funny hat or no funny hat, wore a “National League Centennial” patch like Manny Mota has.
1977 Topps Manny Mota

Everybody but the Pirates would abandon the funny hats after the season.  The following year the Pirates would add funny uniforms to go with the funny hats, and would continue to wear those up through the mid-1980’s.

1976 SSPC: #83 Steve Yeager

Moving on through the 1976 SSPC set…

1976 SSPC #83 Steve YeagerHi, I’m Steve Yeager!  You may remember me from…  Catching 1181 games with the Dodgers over 14 seasons, plus playing in 5 NLCS’s and three World Series.

In 1976, Steve Yeager… was the starting catcher for the Dodgers and lead the NL in assists by a catcher.  He also had a career high (tied in 1983) with 3 triples.  1976 was also the year that a piece of a shattered bat pierced his throat which resulted in some extensive surgery.  He later invented a throat guard which hangs off the bottom of a catcher’s mask.

So… take your time… and tell me… Is it Shea?  This is one of the easier ones because of the scoreboard.  Hell yeah, it’s Shea!

Steve Yeager’s card is brought to you by… The ads on the left of the card are for Schaefer Beer (which I’m surprised to find still exists) and Manufacturers Hanover (a.k.a. “Manny Hanny”, a bank that was merged out of existence 20+ years ago).  Both used to be major sponsors of the Mets, and Schaefer used to be a major sponsor of the Brooklyn Dodgers, judging from photos I’ve seen of Ebbetts Field.

1976 SSPC #83 Steve Yeager backBetcha didn’t know: Steve is the nephew of retired Brigadier General Chuck Yeager, former test pilot and the first man to break the sound barrier. I started to wonder if there was a connection when I saw that Steve is from West Virginia, and I knew Chuck is from WV because I’ve flown into Yeager Airport in Charleston, WV (They chopped the top off a mountain to build it so you don’t land as much as the airport comes up to greet you).

1976 SSPC: #16 Dusty Baker

1976 SSPC #16 Dusty BakerYou may remember me from… 19 years as a player and 20 years as a manager, including managing the the Cincinnati Reds since 2008.  I also won a Gold Glove and played in the 1981 and 1982 All-Star Games!

In 1976, Dusty Baker was… Disappointing, hitting .242/4/39 for the Dodgers after going .261/19/72 with the Braves in 1975.  (Don’t worry, he bounced back in 1977)

SSPC vs. Topps:  Both sets picture Dusty in a Braves road uniform, but SSPC acknowledges his trade to the Dodgers, something Topps didn’t do until the Traded set.

1976 Joe says:  Why does the National League think Atlanta is in the west?

2013 Joe says:  I am glad to see that the concept of “stadium tilt” was not a Topps exclusive.

So…take your time… and tell me… Is it Shea?:   Most of the photos for this set were taken in Shea Stadium, and I was confident that this was no exception… But when I asked myself which part of Shea was pictured here, I said “Um… It’s… aahhhh… well… oh.” I ended up digging up my 1970’s Mets yearbooks, and I’m pretty sure this lovely bit of scenery is right behind home plate, with the corrugated metal filling a gap between the Field Level and Loge seats.   1976 SSPC #16 Dusty Baker back

And Now, A Word From Joe Shlabotnik:  Here we go with the first of what will likely be a very long series of posts featuring cards from the 1976 SSPC set.  I gave some serious consideration to doing it up as a separate blog, but I’ve only got so much time and I didn’t want to dilute my brand (as they say on Madison Avenue).  I’m also a bit wary of presenting myself as any sort of expert on the set, because I am anything but.  Whatever knowledge about the set that I’m passing along is most likely stuff I just learned myself.

Dodger Fans Rejoice! Jim Wynn Is The Hostess Card Of The Week!

1975 Hostess Jimmy WynnMuch to my chagrin, this is the first Dodger in nearly a year to be the Hostess Card Of The Week. If it makes you feel any better, there are six other teams which have been just as neglected.  (Phillies fans, you’re up next week.)

Jim Wynn was the first Major Leaguer I ever met in person, during his single season with the Atlanta Braves. It was the summer of 1976 and despite my nearly complete lack of athletic abilities, I was attending a local baseball day camp. That’s how much I loved baseball, I was willing to look foolish and get yelled at all in the name of experiencing the game.

One day when the Braves were in town Jim Wynn made an appearance at our camp in full uniform. Looking back on it, he seemed like a nice guy, but even though I was thrilled to meet a baseball player, someone who appeared on a baseball card, I was so shy and intimidated that it was about all I could do to get his autograph in the first place. I had him autograph a 1976 Topps card… and now that I think of it, I probably should’ve saved this story for when I feature that autographed card. Do me a favor… When I get there, just be polite and pretend you’ve never heard the story before, OK?

Custom Mattingly – Quickly! There’s No Time!; Also A Faaaascinating Card-Related Link

2013 TSR #234 - Don MattinglyThe Dodgers were pre-season favorites, but they’re languishing in last place.

Yeah, yeah, injuries, bad luck, blah blah blah.

What it really comes down to is the hard, cold truth that the Marlins learned last year and which other teams have apparently thought wouldn’t apply to them – big-name shopping sprees are no substitute for an actual plan.

And now Don Mattingly may pay the price for the Dodgers’ slow start. Does he deserve to take the fall?  I don’t know, maybe some of the blogospherical Dodger fans would like to weigh in on the subject.

Either way, I figure that if I’m going to make a custom of Donnie Baseball, I’d better do it now.

By the way, this custom and last week’s Rick Ankiel are from the just-released Series 2… which is completely meaningless other than the card numbers I’ve assigned fall between 133 and 264.

Paul Lukas, of Uni Watch fame, has a really interesting article and video on about the Jefferson Burdick collection at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Whether or not you know the general story, it’s a really interesting look into the collection that was donated to the museum by Burdick. Highly recommended.

Check out the ESPN article here

As well as the Met’s current Burdick exhibition, called “A Sport for Every Girl: Women and Sports in the Collection of Jefferson R. Burdick”.

1970 Fleer/Laughlin World Series: 1966 Dodgers vs. Orioles

I was in Baltimore yesterday to see the Dodgers playing in Camden Yards… While I had a good time despite the Oriole loss, an all-day event like that didn’t help me with regard to being behind in my posting. In an attempt to tread water, I thought I could do worse than featuring this card…
1970 Fleer World Series 63 Orioles Dodgers

1970 Fleer World Series 63 Back