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

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

No Rhyme Or Reason #1: A Clearinghouse Of Cards, Comments & Questions

My local Walgreen’s had 2012 Topps Series 1 packs on clearance for $0.49 apiece, in case anyone might want to check their own Walgreen’s.  I bought 4 packs for grins, and for my $2 I knocked 4 base cards off my wantlist and got one of last year’s “1987 minis” of Andrew McCutchen… So the ROI wasn’t there for me.  Maybe it will be for you.

1988 Big Baseball John Franco

A few weeks ago I had a baseball game on the TV in the background, and I heard someone mention Barney Jackson DeJesus. Just as I was starting to wonder who the heck Mr. Barney J. DeJesus is, I realized that they were giving the three Cubs coming to bat in the next half-inning: Darwin Barney, Edwin Jackson, David DeJesus.

Are hand-collated sets a thing of the past?  That question occurred to me when I was at a show a couple of weeks ago.  I walked the floor and saw hand-collated sets from 10-20 years ago, but I didn’t see anything more recent.  Has it gotten to the point where the only people interested in sets are the ones who want to build it themselves?

If you ever want to look around the showroom of a car dealer without being bothered by a salesman, tell them “I’m just waiting on my wife, she’s picking her car up from service”.  I did that the other day, and I was waiting on my wife, but I instantly became invisible to the salesmen.  I will keep that little trick in mind for the future.

Has “retail” Pro Debut ever surfaced in a retail store?

You can’t read the last name on this scan, but it’s Manny Machado.
2012 Pro Debut Manny Machado

The San Jose Sharks’ new uniforms are boring.  Not quite as boring as the generic snooze-a-aplooza that the Phoenix Coyote’s wear, but pretty darn close.

Where Topps Got The Design For The 2013 Archives Wrapper

1971 Topps Super Baseball WrapperDon’t be deceived by the image; this is not a review of 2013 Archives… well, not entirely.

I don’t think I’m alone when I say that one of the the best things about this year’s Archives set is the wrapper. It reminds me of a line from a Beach Boys song:

I threw away my candy bar and I ate the wrapper
And when they told me what I did, I burst into laughter

Obscure pop culture references aside, I got to wondering where Topps got the wrapper design from. I mean, it’s Archives, it’s supposed to be pilfered from somewhere in Topps’ stockpile of designs.

A quick bit of research turned up the above image of a 1971 Topps Super Baseball wrapper. For those who aren’t familiar with the set, they’re oversized cards a little bigger than 3″x5″, and much thicker than a regular baseball card. The corners are rounded and the back is similar to the regular 1971 cards.

I don’t actually have any 1971 Supers – lo siento –  but I do have a couple of 1970 Supers, like this Rusty Staub.

1970 Topps Super Rusty StaubFor me, both years of Topps Super fall into the category of “Why don’t I have more of these?”

I suppose I should say something about 2013 Archives, shouldn’t I?  Well, I appreciate that they made the cheap card stock  more cardboard-like this year, but the set still leaves me a bit cold.  Maybe if they used designs that resonated more with me, emotionally… If 2014 Archives uses designs from 1974, 1976, 1983 and 1991, and if they’re done reasonably well, then we might be on to something… but again, that’s just me.

Oversized Load: 1984 Donruss Champions

1984 Donruss Champions Keith HernandezIn recent weeks, I’ve been featuring cards from the oversized Donruss Action All-Star sets of the early 1980’s. Today I’m going to highlight a little side trip Donruss made in 1984, the 1984 Donruss Champions set.

This set, which is the same 3.5″ x 5″ size as the Action All-Stars, featured a subset of “Grand Champions” painted by Dick Perez. The “Grand Champions” were Hall of Famers who held either a season or career record in certain statistical categories. The remainder of the 60 card set was made up of current players who were supposedly in a chase to surpass that “Grand Champion”.

Chase… chase… where have I heard that recently?

I decided to go ahead and share all the Mets cards from the set. There were a good number of Mets in the set, probably because of the number of older players with healthy numbers. Keith Hernandez, at 30, was the “kid” of the bunch.

Tom Seaver was no longer a Met by the time this set came out; he’d been drafted by the White Sox in the free agent compensation draft in place at the time.
1984 Donruss Champions Tom Seaver

Dave Kingman was also gone in 1984; he signed with the A’s as a free agent.
1984 Donruss Champions Dave Kingman

George Foster was with the Mets and manning left field in Shea.
1984 Donruss Champions George Foster

Rusty Staub was also with the Mets in 1984, but in a part-time role. His games and plate appearances are nearly identical.
1984 Donruss Champions Rusty Staub

These cards were sold in cello packs of 5 cards with the legally obligatory Donruss puzzle pieces, this time picturing Duke Snider.

Mets Monday: One Staub (Not Three)

“One Staub is enough for all of us…”  Isn’t that the line from the Police song?  Or something like it?  Doesn’t matter, because one Rusty Staub is never enough for me, much less all of us.

After spending his 1980 season with the Rangers, Rusty Staub signed as a free agent with the Mets;  As a result, he became of those guys who were fortunate enough to get three different Topps cards in 1981.  This was really cool stuff back then;  keep in mind that at that point the only updates around had been the traded cards in 1972, 1974 and 1976 Topps.  To get one, or maybe two, updates of a player in the current year’s design?  That was beyond exciting.

As for Rusty, there was the regular Topps card which still showed him with the Rangers…

…and the airbrushed 1981 Coke Mets…

…and the actual-photograph Update card…

Only the ‘regular’ card came out of a pack for me.  I bought the Coke Mets set and the Update set in 1981 from a local card dealer.

As an aside, I’ve always hated the 2-button ‘Henley’ jersey that the Mets and Rangers wore at the time.  Just a really awful look.  Do the pullover jersey, or don’t do the pullover jersey.  None of this halfway crap.


I’ve thought about going back and getting some of the other 1981 Coke sets… There were other teams like the Royals, Cardinals, Tigers, Reds, Astros, Pirates, Phillies and Red Sox (and I may be missing others).  I believe the other sets were like the Mets, in that most of the cards featured the same photo as the regular Topps card, but there were some cards which were updated.  The 1981 design is not one of my favorites, but the idea of ‘alternate’ Topps cards may be too much for me to resist, especially now that it’s so much easier to get singles of sets like this.