These Two Cards Feature The Same Photo… Or DO THEY??? DAH duh DAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

The subject line works best if you imagine me dramatically taking off my glasses and then staring into the camera.

The dramatic flair is certainly called for, because today’s post is the result of minute after minute of intense research performed by The Shlabotnik Report’s crack investigative team.

But first we need to go back a little bit to explain how this groundbreaking discovery was made…

Back in 1981, Topps created baseball team sets for Coca-Cola.  Sets were made for 11 teams (plus some Yankees were made but never officially released), and most of the “Coke cards” are very similar to their 1981 Topps counterpart,  with the main differences being the Coke logo on the front and back, different card #’s, no “All Star” banners on the Coke cards (where applicable) and occasional minor cropping differences.

Here’s an example from the 1981 Coke Mets set:
1981 Topps & Coke Doug Flynn
The easiest way to spot the cropping difference is to look at where Flynn’s right foot is in relation to the cap in the card design.

1981 Topps and Coke Doug Flynn back

The Coke cards went to press later than the Topps cards, so some of the cards were updated to show players changing teams.  Two years ago I featured an example of this;  The Mets signed Rusty Staub as a free agent late in 1980.  Regular Topps featured Rusty with the Rangers:
1981 Topps Rusty Staub
The Coke Mets set featured Rusty in a different photo that was airbrushed into a Mets uni.
1981 Coke Rusty Staub
There are also a few cards which don’t reflect transactions but just have different photos for whatever reason Topps and/or Coke had at the time.

After deciding that I wanted to get the Coke cards which use different photos, I set about making a wantlist of these pseudo-variations.  To research the cards, I took advantage of COMC’s images and one-by-one compared the Coke card to the Topps version.

So there I was, doing some quick “spot the difference” exercises by looking at one image and then the other… Coke… Topps… Both are the same.  Coke… Topps… Same.  Coke… Topps… OK, this one’s different, add it to the wantlist…. Coke… Topps… Same…

Then I got to the Garry Maddox card from the Coke Phillies set.  I looked at the Coke…
1981 Coke Garry Maddox
…I looked at the Topps…
1981 Topps Garry Maddox
And I called it “Same” and started to move on.

— But just then a little Quality Control guy in my brain hit the emergency shutoff switch and yelled “WAIT!!!!

“…Let me see those again…”

And the other part of my brain said “What are you talking about?  It’s the same photo of Garry Maddox at bat.”  But I went back and looked and…

Here, let me show you both at the same time, but rather than looking at Garry Maddox, check out the blurry Phillies in the dugout….
1981 Topps and Coke Garry Maddox
Holy crap, they ARE different!   ………..but WHY?

If this were intentional, why would Topps do such a minor and pointless change?

If this were unintentional, how could this have happened?

My best guess is that Topps didn’t so much add a Coke logo to existing cards as much as re-create each card.  That would explain some of the cropping differences and other minor changes.  Perhaps they thought they were using the same photo of Garry Maddox on both, when they really weren’t.  Maybe they couldn’t immediately put their hands on the original photo, so they used a nearly identical one… the baseball card equivalent of “Let’s replace the dead goldfish with one from the pet store and hope nobody notices…”

Has anyone ever heard about these Garry Maddox cards before?  It’s been nearly 34 years, someone must have picked up on this…

Before I wrap this up, I’ll give you quickie checklists for both of today’s featured Coke sets along with non-exhaustively researched differences:

1981 Coca-Cola Mets:
1 Neil Allen
2 Doug Flynn (ever-so-slight cropping differences)
3 Dave Kingman (airbrushed into Mets uni)
4 Randy Jones (airbrushed into Mets uni)
5 Pat Zachry
6 Lee Mazzilli
7 Rusty Staub (airbrushed into Mets uni)
8 Craig Swan
9 Frank Taveras
10 Alex Trevino
11 Joel Youngblood
(No #)  Header Card

1981 Coca-Cola Phillies:
1 Bob Boone
2 Larry Bowa
3 Steve Carlton (Coke has no “N.L. ALL-STAR” banner and is cropped slightly differently)
4 Greg Luzinski
5 Garry Maddox (different photo as mentioned above)
6 Bake McBride (same photo, but the Coke card’s colors seem brighter… might just be printing differences)
7 Tug McGraw
8 Pete Rose
9 Mike Schmidt (Coke has no “N.L. ALL-STAR” banner and is cropped slightly differently)
10 Lonnie Smith
11 Manny Trillo
(No #)  Header Card

Two Small Things That Warmed My Nerdy Little Heart Today

I keep my recent cards in binders organized by current rosters, and I just got finished updating some player’s rows with recently acquired cards.  Two in particular made me smile…

The first smile came when I put this card into the appropriate Blue Jays page in my AL East binder…
2013 Topps Erik Kratz_0001
…Erik Kratz was traded to Toronto in December…

It made me smile partially because I got to replace a hand-written placeholder with an actual card, but even more so when I turned the card over and saw this guy’s career:
2013 Topps Erik Kratz_0002
I like to see a guy who’s been around the block a few times get a baseball card… Yes, Kratz was on a Bowman Prospects card a few years ago, but it’s not the same.

The second smile came when updated the Jerome Williams row in my AL West Binder (he signed with the Astros as a free agent).
Jerome Williams row from AL West binder
Before I put this 2013 card into the far left slot, the entire row was occupied with 2005 cards… The 2013 Topps card ended up bumping a 2005 Heritage card out of the far right slot. I love it when a long-dormant row gets new life. Jerome Williams was a hot pitching prospect who ran into problems and ended up playing in the minors and overseas for a number of years, so he was absent from the “card scene” for a while. He did have a couple of cards in between, but I don’t own those cards.

By the way, at least two of the cards he had in between were Upper Deck cards… The fact that they would give cards to guys like Jerome Williams is one of the few things I miss about UD.

I thought it was also worth mentioning that Williams is from Honolulu and describes him as Hawai’ian-Chinese-Portuguese-Spanish-Japanese-Norweigan-African-Filipino-American.

Another Oddball Line Drive Product From 1991 – Lenny Dykstra “Collect-A-Book”

When I was researching the 1991 Line Drive set I wrote about last week, most of my Google hits came from the Line Drive minor league set, but a few others were for the “Collect-A-Books” they came out with that same year.

Over the weekend, I was searching for something when I ran across this Lenny Dykstra Collect-A-Book.  These little booklets are the same size as a baseball card, but they open up to make a little 8-page booklet.  Here’s the front cover:

1991 Line Drive Collect-A-Books Lenny Dykstra_0001

Page 2 and 3 give you the basic details about Leonard Kyle Dykstra.

1991 Line Drive Collect-A-Books Lenny Dykstra_0002

Page 4 and 5 make you turn the book on end.

1991 Line Drive Collect-A-Books Lenny Dykstra_0003

…and the back cover shows a little cartoon of “Nails”.

1991 Line Drive Collect-A-Books Lenny Dykstra_0004

Although I couldn’t find anything about how these were originally sold, I did find that 1990 Collect-A-Books, which were put out by CMC rather than Impel/Line Drive, had been issued in three box sets of 12 “books” each.  Since the 1991 set is also 36 books, can we assume that they were sold in a similar way?  Does anybody know about that?

Interestingly, there was a 1990 Pro Set Collect-A-Books, which were put out by Impel, “under license from JBC”.  I couldn’t find anything definitive, but there were a couple of references  — couched in qualifying phrases like “I think…” and “If I remember correctly…” — to Collect-A-Books being from a concept by Jim Bouton, former pitcher, Ball Four author and Big League Chew guy.  “JBC” could stand for Jim Bouton Corporation, or it couldn’t… but there you are.

1976 SSPC #457 – Tug McGraw (Phillies)

1976 SSPC #457 Tug McGraw

Tug McGraw… was a relief pitcher for the Mets and Phillies, and a fan favorite wherever he went.  If you had to pick two things he’s best known for, I’d go with his rallying cry of “Ya Gotta Believe!” with the 1973 NL Champion Mets, and for striking out Willie Wilson to win the 1980 World Series for the Phillies.

In 1976, Tug McGraw… was one third of what would today be called a “Bullpen by committee”.  He may not have been THE closer, but he was certainly A closer.  He also had a rough postseason as the Phillies got swept by the Reds in the NLCS;  Tug pitched in two games and gave up 3 runs and 4 hits in 2.1 innings.

I’ll tell you, looking at the Phillies’ reliever stats from 1976 really underlines how the game has changed in the last 30-40 years.   The 1976 Phillies had three pitchers with 10-or-more saves:  Ron Reed (14), Tug McGraw (11) and Gene Garber (11).  Even though Reed had the most saves, McGraw & Garber finished more games than he did.  Not only that, but Ron Reed actually started 4 games that year.

This card is… the first 1976 SSPC Phillies card I’m sharing on this blog;  I didn’t get any Phillies in my original SSPC haul, and I now own two Phillies that I got on Black Friday.

Shea-o-meter:  You can’t see much of the background, but one can see enough to know it’s Shea.
Shea:  29
Pretty sure it’s Shea:  6
Can’t tell:  6
Not Shea:  5

Sad To Say… Today is the 10th anniversary of Tug losing his battle against brain cancer;  he passed away on January 5th, 2004.

1976 SSPC #457 Tug McGraw back

Post-Halloween, State Of The Collection & Some Fairfield Repack Cards

We gave away baseball cards for Halloween again this year.  It’s something we’ve been doing for a number of years… If you’d like more details about what we do, you can see the post I wrote last year here.

This year, we gave away 20 homemade packs of 28 cards each, for a total of 560 cards. It’s fun to give out cards for Halloween… The kids enjoy it, they get some decent cards – I make sure every pack has at least two household names in it – and I get unwanted cards out of the house.  Winners all around.

Lesson learned this year:  Putting the All-Star cards from Topps Update on the top of each “pack” just confuses the kids who are trying to pick as best they can within 5 seconds.  I could have a stack of cards of Robinson Cano and Derek Jeter in American League BP jerseys, and they’ll ask “Excuse me, do you have any Yankees?”

As long as I’m talking about getting cards out of the house, I feel obligated to do a “weigh-in”, something I haven’t done in 9 months.  Posting my progress in organizing & purging helps with both motivation (if I do well) and guilt (if I don’t).  I used to do these weekly, then I told myself I’d do them monthly, then I told myself I’d do them quarterly.  You can see how much I listen to myself.

Just so I don’t publish an image-free post, I’ve scattered some completely unrelated Fairfield repack acquisitions among my stats.

Net change in the collection since 2/3/13: -448  (2,505 added, 2,953 purged – I need to step up the purging)

1987 Star Steve Carlton All Star Stats

Total # of cards purged from the collection to date: 6,447

Net change to the # of cards in the house since 2/3: -4,268  (4,642 in, 8,910 out)

1987 Topps Mail-In Glossy Reggie Jackson

Total # of cards which have left the house to date: 22,598  (It’s sobering every time I update this number, because it seems like it must be a small fraction of what I actually have)

Number of individual cards tracked in my Access database: 47,022  (up from 20,418… and the organization continues…)

Number of cards that make up the complete sets in my Access database: 14,558  (meaning a total of 61,580 “confirmed” cards in my collection)
1982 Fleer Dave Concepcion

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!

Sandberg Tribute in 1994 Topps Traded

Yesterday I was trying to further the organization of my collection and my database didn’t have any record at all of 1994 Topps Traded… which cards are in it, whether I have a complete set, whether I have any cards at all.

I had to go to my binders to confirm – yes, I’ve got the set.  I’d be greatly surprised if I didn’t, I used to faithfully buy the factory traded sets each year, and 1994 was the last year they weren’t issued in packs (if they were issue at all).

While I was checking my binder, these two cards caught my eye:

1994 Topps Traded Ryne Sandberg 130T
1994 Topps Traded Ryne Sandberg 131T

These are nice cards that I’d forgotten about, and relatively timely given Ryno’s new managerial stint.

The “Topps Topps Topps Topps Topps Topps Topps Topps” watermark is a little obnoxious, but it admittedly comes across more strongly in these scans than they do in real life.

I’m going to make a public plea to the Phillies – because I know that Ruben Amaro and his bunch all regularly check in on The Shlabotnik Report – and ask that they get Sandberg into some throwbacks like the one in the photo above… And then Topps can get him to pose the same way and make a similar card, and then it’ll be like the photos used on the Beatles’ “1962-1966” and “1967-1970” albums.

I Am Definitely Not Collecting 1972 Topps… And I’m Making Good Progress!

1972 Topps baseball, a 787 card set with “real” high numbers, is such a daunting set to collect that even though I’ve been picking up cards from the set for 35+ years, I always told myself I wasn’t actually working on completing the set, I was just buying cards I liked.  I always took the attitude that I’d end up wherever I end up.

Sometime within in the lifespan of this blog (just about 2 years) I decided I would continue my general pattern of picking up cards here and there, but my official goal would be to finish Series 1 and see what happens from there.

A few months ago I completed Series 1 with this card of Billy Martin surreptitiously giving the photographer (and, consequently, all of us) the finger.

1972 Topps Billy Martin

I’d never been a fan of Billy Martin in the 49 different times he’d managed the Yankees, but from numerous stories I’ve heard about “Billy The Kid” over the years, I feel fairly safe in saying that the man was a bit of an arse.


With Series 1 completed, I decided to work on series 2, and continue to accumulate any cheap cards from later series.  Well, I’ve now completed Series 2 with a number of cards like these:

1972 Topps Dave Giusti

1972 Topps Deron Johnson IA

I’ve also made progress on Series 3 and 4, and picked up some lovely, cheap 5th and 6th series cards.  At this point, I need 8 cards to complete the third series, and 16 cards to complete the fourth, plus I need only one high-numbered card to complete my Mets team set.

So at this point you’re probably asking if I’ve changed my goals and I’m working on completing the entire 1972 set.

Are you nuts?  It’s too hard!

Congratulations And A Custom to Ryno

Yesterday the Phillies changed Ryne Sandberg’s job title from “Interim Manager” to “Manager”. I’m happy for Ryno, and I wish him…


…a moderate amount of success in his new job.

Let’s not get carried away, I’m a Mets fan and he’s managing the Phillies.
2013 TSR #786 - Ryne Sandberg

To further add to the celebration, here’s a glossy card I recently pulled out of a Fairfield repack.
1987 Topps All-Star Glossy Ryne Sandberg
Until I get a current card (or figure out a way to print out my customs in color), this card is occupying the Phillies’ manager’s slot in my NL East “40-man roster” binder.

I’m thinking that’s a blurry Leon Durham on deck.  Anybody care to confirm or deny that?

2001 Upper Deck Confusion

Let’s meet our two contestants!

I’m Justin Pope, I’m a “Star Rookie” and card number 25 in the 2001 Upper Deck set.

2001 Upper Deck Prospect Premieres Justin Pope

2001 Upper Deck Prospect Premieres Justin Pope back

I’m Damian Rolls, I’m a “Star Rookie” and card number 25 in the 2001 Upper Deck set.

2001 Upper Deck Damian Rolls

2001 Upper Deck Damian Rolls back

This situation is something I had to deal with yesterday when I was organizing/purging my 2001 Upper Deck cards.  In 2001, I probably bought more packs of Upper Deck Prospect Premieres than I bought of the regular set.  I liked Prospect Premieres because it got me cards of players I didn’t already have cards for, and I could use them in my “40-man roster” binders.

Back in 2001 it wasn’t a problem;  I knew which pack I pulled them from.  But going back to them 12 years later and trying to figure out which cards were which?  Yeah, it was a bit of a challenge.

An aside to the card companies:  Please, please, please put a line of text on the back of each and every card, telling us which set it belongs to.

After sorting things out a bit, I realized the easiest method of telling them apart is looking for the stat line.  The base set has stats, Prospect Premieres does not (because there was no Major League experience to list).

When you have the cards side-by-side and do a little “contrast and compare”, the other differences are more obvious.  The foil on those Prospect Premieres cards are more of a bronze than gold, although it’s certainly not anything that jumps out at you.

The other differences I found are that the Prospect Premiere cards don’t have a MLBPA logo on the back, and don’t include the players uni number next to their position.

With all that information at hand, you can go back and tell that Justin Pope is from Prospect Premieres, and Damian Rolls is from the flagship Upper Deck set.

Now that we’ve sorted all that out, here are some 2001 Prospect Premieres cards of guys you may recognize…

Ricky Nolasco

2001 Upper Deck Prospect Premieres Ricky Nolasco

Ryan Howard

2001 Upper Deck Prospect Premieres Ryan Howard

Jacob “Jake” Peavy

2001 Upper Deck Prospect Premieres Jacob Peavy