1976 SSPC #264 – Toby Harrah (Rangers)

1976 SSPC #264 Toby Harrah

Toby Harrah… was an infielder who played short, third and second during his 17 years in the Majors with the Rangers, Senators, Indians and Yankees.  His level of fame may suffer from the fact that he was very good at many things – good speed, good range, strong arm, decent power, good eye while at bat – but did not stand out in any particular statistical category.  He was a four-time all-star and is in the Rangers’ all-time Top 10 in games, at-bats, runs, hits, RBI, stolen bases and walks. He was named to the Rangers’ HOF.

In 1976, Toby… was named to the All-Star team as a shortstop and finished 2nd in the league in walks.  He would lead the AL in the same category in 1977.

Betcha didn’t know:  Toby was the last player from the 1961-1971 Senators to play in the Majors.

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?”

No question – that’s the Shea scoreboard.
Shea: 51
Pretty sure it’s Shea: 8
Can’t tell: 12
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…

Toby’s got sideburns and a mustache.
Total Cards: 78
1970’s Sideburns: 39
Fu Manchu: 4
Mustache other than Fu Manchu: 25
Afro: 1
Perm: 2
Aviators: 6
Long Hair: 17

1976 SSPC #264 Toby Harrah back


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

“Rainbow Friday”: Because Nothing Is Black When You’ve Got 1972’s

Yes, I’ve still got more COMC “Black Friday” goodies to share with you.  Today I’ve got several 1972 Topps cards that were on my “complete series 3 and 4” wantlist.

1972 Topps Clay Carroll IA

1972 Topps Dave Concepcion

1972 Topps Frank Howard

1972 Topps Johnny Bench IA

I guess they could be considered “Red Friday” cards… it’s funny, since only one of the cards actually says “Reds” on it, it wasn’t until I saw them here in this post that I’d realized that three of the four were Cincinnati Reds… and it looks to me like all three of those photos were taken at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park.

Frank Howard has a red cap, but it’s a Senators cap masquerading as a cap of the newly-relocated Texas Rangers.  Now that I think of it, it’s interesting that even the hi # Rangers cards feature airbrushed hats.

Sugar-Frosted Black Friday: Some Kellogg’s Cards I Got From COMC

Even though I grew up in the 1970’s, I never got any Kellogg’s baseball cards.  That didn’t bother me at the time, because I didn’t view them as “real” baseball cards, but recently I’ve been trying to make up for lost time on my Kellogg’s collection.

This is the first 1973 Kellogg’s card I’ve ever seen in person.  You know what’s unique about the 1973 Kellogg’s set?
1973 Kelloggs Jon Matlack
They’re “2-D”!!!! That’s right, they’re just baseball cards, no extra dimensions involved. I can just imagine the disappointment of kids pulling these out of a box of Sugar Pops and wondering why it isn’t 3D.

For 1974, Kellogg’s came to their senses and added the third dimension back in.
1974 Kelloggs Felix Millan

Felix Millan takes that third dimension very seriously.  “The third dimension is a significant part of a nutritious breakfast!”

Just to wander off-topic for a moment, I’m already trying to figure out what oddball design to use for next winter’s “Hot Stove” custom cards, and one idea I’ve had is to use a Kellogg’s design, possibly the above 1974 design… Anybody have any thoughts on that idea?  When the time gets closer I’ll probably share a few prototypes, maybe even do a vote.

Here’s a 1976 Kellogg’s card, and of course 1976 = Red + White + Blue.
1976 Kelloggs Ken Singleton

I always liked Kenny Singleton, even though his time with the Mets came a few years before I started following the team. It says volumes about him that his 16 years in the Yankees TV booth are not held against him.

Another Jon Matlack card, this one from 1979, this time with the Rangers and this time with a huge facsimile autograph.
1979 Kelloggs Jon Matlack
Matlack went to Texas in a confusing 4-team trade which also involved the Pirates and Braves. O! The carnage! Players flying everywhere! From a Mets-centric standpoint, they gave up Matlack and John Milner and in return got Willie Montanez, Tom Grieve and Ken Henderson. Other notables in that deal were “Circle Me, Bert” Blyleven and Al Oliver.

Ed-die! Ed-die! Ed-die! What can I say about Hall-Of-Famer Eddie Murray that isn’t rehashing what you already know? Well, he lead the league in intentional base-on-balls three different years. How about that?
1981 Kelloggs Eddie Murray

In the early 1980’s, Hubie Brooks was among the young Mets players that every Mets fan had hoped would lead us out of the dismal mess the team was in. He was a good player, but one could argue that the biggest role he played in Mets history was being one of four players traded to Montreal for Gary Carter.
1982 Kelloggs Hubie Brooks
He played with Bob Horner at Arizona State University; in 1978 the Braves drafted Horner first overall and the Mets drafted Hubie third overall.

Black Friday: 2002 Topps Total Pre-Production Set

Back in 2002, Topps issued a 3-card promotional set of cards for the then-upcoming inaugural Topps Total set.

Thanks to Nick over at the “Dime Boxes” blog, I found out about these cards in time to include them in my COMC Black Friday frenzy.  I got all three for under $1.50.

All three promo cards feature different photos, and have some variations on the back as well.

First off, we’ve got Ichiro.  Mr. Suzuki was coming off his ROY/MVP season when this card was issued, so it’s no surprise he would be featured here.
2002 Topps Total Pre-Production Ichiro

…and here’s the “regular” Topps Total card; they should’ve stuck with the pre-production photo:
2002 Topps Total Ichiro

Like Ichiro, Barry Bonds had also been the MVP the previous season. Here’s the pre-production card:
2002 Topps Total Pre-Production Barry Bonds

…And the regular card; again, I prefer the pre-production card of the big jerk:
2002 Topps Total Barry Bonds

The final card of the trio is for Hank Blalock, who was a top prospect at the time… Baseball America ranked him at #3 in 2002, calling him “the best pure hitter in the minors”. I believe this photo is from the 2001 Futures Game.
2002 Topps Total Pre-Production Hank Blalock

You want to know who the two guys ranked above Blalock were, right? Josh Beckett and Mark Prior.

Here’s the regular Total card. This is the only one of the three where the pre-production card is the lesser of the two.
2002 Topps Total Hank Blalock

And because I can’t just let things slide without showing how the backs differ… The most obvious difference is the card number. The numbering of the “team set” in the lower right-hand corner differs as well in that they went from a two-letter to a three-letter abbreviation (“SM” to “SEA”).  Topps also couldn’t decide whether to put Ichiro’s name up top or down low.

2002 Topps Total Pre-Production Ichiro back

2002 Topps Total Ichiro back

Ichiro and Bonds have different write-ups on their backs.  Blalock’s back has the same text, but some minor differences in how the minor league stats are presented.

In terms of how much I enjoyed it at the time, 2002 Total is one of my top sets of the 21st century.  After being bombarded with shiny, foily, garish, “More is MORE!” sets since the early 1990’s, the idea of an understated, simply designed and relatively appealing 990-card set which included relief pitchers and bench players was very exciting to me.  I first saw packs of Total at a show;  I bought a couple of packs and immediately ripped them… I can still remember standing in a show aisle, thumbing through cards and maniacally giggling about my wishes coming true.

I won’t suggest that the set has held up well over the years, but it’s still a personal favorite and is the only Total set I’ve completed to date.

I miss Total, and while I know it’s never coming back, I do wish that the base Topps set would be more Total-y.

2013/14 “Hot Stove” Custom – The Rangers Trade For Prince Fielder

It wasn’t quite two years ago.

2013-14 TSR Hot Stove #6 - Prince Fielder

Prince Fielder was a free agent, and Tigers President & GM Dave Dombrowski said that the Tigers & Prince weren’t a good fit.

And the next thing you know, Prince Fielder is at a press conference wearing a Tigers cap.  And who was that standing next to him?  The guy with the huge grin?  Tigers owner Mike Ilitch.

It wasn’t hard to figure out who’s idea the big contract was.

That was one of the first things I thought of when I learned about the trade; Dombrowski is taking the construction of the team back into his own hands.  You can almost picture Dombrowski emerging from the shadows as he says “I didn’t start this… but I’m sure as hell going to finish it”.

Even so, I think this trade helps both teams and it’ll be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

Secrets Of The Computer Graphics Amateurs!

If someone who deals with digital forensics examined the custom card above, they’d find that it’s actually a combination of several images… Prince himself, the sleeve patch, the cap logo, the background, the jersey lettering, all came from different images. If there were ever a “Franken-card”, this is it.

The one different thing I tried on this one was using the “soften” tool to smooth out the edges between Fielder and the borrowed background he’s in front of. It did do quite the nice job of removing the “jaggies”… Not something you’d consciously notice, but it makes for a less jarring transition between foreground and background and subtly helps maintain the illusion.

1976 SSPC #263 – Mike Hargrove (Rangers)

1976 SSPC #263 Mike Hargrove

Mike Hargrove… was the 1974 AL Rookie Of The Year, was an All-Star in 1975 and played 12 seasons with the Rangers and Indians, as well as half a season with the Padres.

He also managed the Indians, Mariners and Orioles;  with Hargrove at the helm,  the Tribe won 5 straight Central Division titles and made it to two World Series (losing to the Braves in 1995 and the Marlins in 1997).

‘Round here, folks call me:  The Human Rain Delay.

If you want to know why he’s called that, watch this video.

He did this kind of stuff before every pitch.  Drove a lot of people crazy.

In 1976, Mike Hargrove… was the starting first baseman for the Rangers and lead the league in walks.  His on-base percentage (.397) was second in the AL only to Hal McRae (.407).

Betcha didn’t know… His first name is actually Dudley.

Fun Fact from Hargrove’s 1977 Topps Card… As they put it, he was “born to be a Ranger”.  Aside from the Texas Rangers and minor league Gastonia Rangers, his high school team was the Perryton H.S. Rangers, his college team was the Northwestern Oklahoma State University Rangers and his American Legion club was the Rangers.  The Topps card says his 1972 team was the Geneva Rangers, but baseball-reference.com says they were the Geneva Senators, so I’ll leave that to you to figure out.

1976 SSPC #263 Mike Hargrove back

Pack Animal! — 2013 Topps Update

A lot of you consider Topps Update to be SSDW – “Same Stuff, Different Wrapper”.  For others it means updated base cards, different subsets and a couple of different inserts.

…And for bloggers, it means a day of not having to think about what to write… and that made the impromptu, hasty trip to Target completely worthwhile.

For those who haven’t seen these in the store yet, this is what the wrapper looks like.
2013 Topps Update Wrapper
Unfortunately, Matt Harvey here is as close as I got to getting a Met, but I did get some Orioles.

Topps likes to load the Update set with rookie cards, like promising Orioles rookie Henry Urrutia.
2013 Topps Update Henry Urrutia
I’ve seen Urrutia play in AA, I’ve seen him play in the majors, and I’m still not sure how to pronounce his last name. Oo-roo-TEE-ah? Oo-ROO-tee-ah? I certainly can’t count on the Orioles announcers, who never met a Latino whose name they didn’t mangle. I tried going to LasMayores.com, the official Spanish-language MLB site, but my meager Spanish knowledge – thanks to a former co-worker I know more “bad words” than anything  – prevented me from navigating the site to find out if there should be accent marks over any part of his last name.


Along with rookie cards, we also have rookie debut cards, which allows Topps to get more Rookie Card logos in there… even though I wouldn’t think that anybody considers these to be rookie cards.
2013 Topps Update Gerrit Cole
The “Rookie Debut” text looks black in this scan, but it’s silver foil.

A new insert also seems to focus on rookies…
2013 Topps Update Franchise Forerunners Miller Gibson

There’s also the usual cluttery subsets of All-Stars and Home Run Derby participants. This card confused me briefly because I didn’t see the All-Star logo on the card, but it gets lost in Darvish’s jersey.
2013 Topps Update Yu Darvish AS

You may have heard that the Update series is introducing 1971 Minis rather than extending the 1972 minis of the regular set.
2013 Topps Update 1971 Mini Stan Musial
I will now officially declare that minis have jumped the shark.

I generally don’t care for minis, but last year’s 1987 minis were OK. This year’s 1972 were “meh”, and when I saw this card I declared it “stupid”.

…Out loud, but it’s OK because I was sitting in my car in the Target parking lot.

Something about these minis just diminishes the 1971 design, one of my favorite designs of the 1970’s… and when 1971 Topps are diminished, aren’t we all diminished a little bit?

Yeah, I don’t like minis.

One last thing I ran across in my packs — there are also traded players!
2013 Topps Update Bud Norris
I know!!!!!

Remember when the set was called the “Traded” set?  Yeah, that was awesome…

So, yeah, that pretty much covers what I found.  I also got a couple of parallels, a “Chasing History” insert and a “Making Their Mark” insert, none of which I deemed worthy of scanning.

I’ll be buying more of this, but as is always the case with Topps Update, I’m really just looking for the base cards that do what the wrapper says they do – update the base set.  I want rookies I don’t already have, I want players in new uniforms. I can do without the clutter, except when its for a player I collect.

Using My Fantasy Team As An Excuse To Make Customs

I had a really good season in my points league;  I wish I could tell you that I won, but I didn’t.  Had a “knock ’em out, drag ’em out” fight with another team and I lost by 14 points… Just to make clear how razor-thin this margin is, the actual totals from the league was 8,187 to 8,173… Close enough to give me thoughts like “If I hadn’t started Ricky Nolasco when he got shelled, I would’ve won…”

Once again, done dirty by the Dodgers.

As a way to begin wrapping up my 2013 TSR set, and as a way to pay tribute to this almost-team, I present customs of some of my better fantasy players.

We’ll start with my #1 pick (3rd overall), your MVP and mine, Miguel Cabrera!

Cabrera lead the majors in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, and was second to Chris Davis in homers and RBI.
2013 TSR #700 - Miguel Cabrera
Not surprisingly, Cabrera earned the most points of any position player on my team. It is nice for a #1 pick to actually pan out.

Joey Votto batted .304/24/73, lead the majors with 135 walks and was second in MLB in on-base percentage.
2013 TSR #720 - Joey Votto

Dustin Pedroia was tied with Cabrera for 2nd in the A.L. in hits. He batted .301/9/84.
2013 TSR #730 - Dustin Pedroia

Yu Darvish went 13-9, 2.83 and was the ace of my virtual rotation – at least in terms of total points earned.  He lead the Majors in K’s and was second to Jose Fernandez in batting-average-against.
2013 TSR #742 - Yu Darvish

I will be back with more customs before I’m through;  if nothing else, I intend to get at least one custom for every team, and I’m not there yet.

After Bud Selig Steps Down And I Become Commissioner…

You know what?  I don’t think I’m supposed to say anything about my taking over from Bud in January, 2015… But what the heck.  I trust you guys, and I know you won’t say anything to anybody… Let’s just keep this between us… our own little blogospherical secret.

Even though I’ve got 15 months before I take over, I’m starting to take notes of things to change.  I got one idea on Saturday when I saw highlights of that day’s Angels-Rangers game.

It’s easier to show you than to explain;  Here, take a look at this custom I made…
2013 TSR #669 - Elvis Andrus

You may ask “Why is Elvis Andrus attempting to slide past his teammate?” Because – despite the red helmet and the red jersey, Chris Iannetta is not his teammate, he’s on the Angels.  The Rangers were wearing red jerseys, red caps and white pants, and the Angels were wearing red jerseys, red caps and grey pants.  It’s perfectly obvious which team is which, right? Shaaaaaa, right.

Every other major sport has requirements about some sort of color contrast between teams, and I’m going to bring MLB in line with that.  The home team declares their uni choices before the beginning of a series, and the visiting team has to pick out clearly different uniforms.  I haven’t yet worked out the specific definition of “clearly different”, but I’ve got some time to hash that out.

…and as long as we’re talking about the Angels’ red jerseys – no more red numbers on a red jersey.  There has to be a minimum contrast between numbers and jerseys.  If I’m sitting in the upper deck, I need to be able to read the uni numers, otherwise what’s the point of having uniform numbers except for the Yankees to retire them?

I’ll be sharing  more plans for my Commissionership here in this blog, but if any of you have suggestions – and I know you do – leave me a comment, or write your own post about it and leave me a link.  I’d love to know what you’re thinking.

As long as I’m here, let’s take a look at a couple of more customs, shall we?  I’d like to have posted at least one custom for every team, so I’ll just throw out a couple of more here…

Hisashi Iwakuma put together a nice season, going 14-6, 2.66 with a .220 Batting Average Against and a 1.01 WHIP for the 71-90 Mariners. His ERA, BAA and WHIP were all among the top 10 in the Majors.
2013 TSR #761 - Hisashi Iwakuma

I stole the red/yellow/grey color combination from 1974 Topps Indians cards, and I have to say, I really like the way it looks. I’ll probably do something similar for my 2014 TSR customs (although not necessarily for the Indians).
2013 TSR #675 - Michael Bourn