Topps’ Unintentional Gift To Custom Nerds, Plus A Peek Behind The Curtain

The other day I got this email from Topps shilling some of their “Collectible Posters” and there was a series that featured logo artwork by an artist named Timothy Raines… and no, he doesn’t appear to be related to former Expo Tim Raines.

The Collectible Posters featured Raines’ artwork based on MLB team logos and (because it’s Topps) the 1978 Topps Baseball design.  I went and checked it out, and it seems very nice and well executed, but none of it “spoke to me”.

I noticed a poster for the Rockies, and my initial thought was “Isn’t that interesting, the Rockies didn’t exist in 1978 and here they have the Rockies wordmark in the 1978 style.”

Topps Timothy Raines Art Collection - Rockies

…And then the possibilities of this set in, and I said “Oh, that is interesting….”

One thing you have to understand is that 1978 Topps is one of those sets that people shy away from when it comes time to make Archives sets or custom cards.  The bulk of the design is extremely simple, but the main stumbling point is that script team name.  One can’t just download a font to duplicate it.

One thing I’d played with in the past was trying to piece together letters and sequences of letters and even pieces of letters to fake up one of the five teams that didn’t exist in 1978… Here’s a quickie example for “Nationals”:

Faked up Nationals

I’d done one experiment with this method in the past, as a prelude to making a still-in-the-works “card from another universe” featuring the fictional “1978 Seattle Pilots”:

1978 Topps Pilots wordmark

Faking this script can be somewhat time consuming, but not impossible… and I believe that this is the technique Topps used when they created new wordmarks for the Rockies, Rays, D-Backs and Nationals.

So anyway, the whole gist of this is that I took the images of those Collectible Posters, isolated the wordmarks for the newer teams, added a white ‘border around it (disregard the green part, that’s just a remnant from my methods and I forgot to remove it)….
Nationals red better version

And voila, a word mark ready for customs like this one:

1978 Topps Custom Ryan Zimmerman 2015

(Not happy with the font used for the player name & position, but I’ll play with that when I get time.)

After I made this custom, I decided that I could improve on Topps work… I don’t think they properly adjusted the size of the “o” to match the other letters, so I tweaked it a bit after I made the Zimmerman custom.  Here’s the Topps version again:

Nationals red better version

…and here’s my tweaked version (as it stands right now).

Nationals red my version

I broke the word into “Nati”, “o” and “nals”, squished the “o” and leaned it over slightly, and then pushed them all together again.  I think it looks better, but there are still a couple of things that I wold improve upon.

BTW, when Topps created their capital “N”, I think they used the “M” from Mariners instead of from Mets… and I think the narrower letter works better for a long name like Nationals.

Here are the other wordmarks I isolated from the Topps posters:

Rays Navy better
Rays is probably the easiest of the bunch. “R” from Reds, Rangers or Royals, “ays” from Blue Jays. Voila.

Rockies black better
“Rockies” is a little tricky… One can use the “Ro” from Royals, the “k” from Yankees, the “ies” from Phillies, but none of the teams circa 1978 have a lower-case “c” in their names. I don’t particularly like this “c”, it looks kind of kludgy.  I think I’d tweak it before I used it.

D-Backs Red better
Topps cheats a bit by using the “D-Backs” nickname rather than “Diamondbacks”… But it saved them from fabricating a lowercase “m”, and it probably looks better abbreviated, anyway. They did a better job on this “c” than the one in Rockies.

Some of you may have noticed a missing team – there’s no Marlins. I went to the Timothy Raines website and he did do the Marlins logo, but for some reason Topps is not selling a Collectible Poster of that team… those bastards! (Just kidding guys, I love you, you know that).

I hope I didn’t bore anybody too much, but I thought the “custom people” would appreciate the information, and the rest of you would get a glimpse into the terrible obsession that haunts us customizers.

“Hot Stove” Custom Of The Week: Nats Manager Matt Williams

This is the first of this off-season’s “Hot Stove” custom cards.  I’m planning to feature a different Hot Stove custom each week until Opening Day.

The design is based on the 1959 Bazooka baseball & football sets.

2013-14 TSR Hot Stove #2 - Matt Williams

The recent hirings of Matt Williams, Brad Ausmus and Bryan Price are very interesting to me;  it used to be that when a team was expected to win and needed a manager, they would hire someone with… well… experience.  And success.  Often a big-name manager.  It seems like Mike Matheny and his peers have shown that lack of experience is not necessarily a negative.

It makes me wonder if GM’s are starting to view managers like closers… A volatile commodity that, more often than not, isn’t worth the commitment of a large contract.

…or maybe it’s just that all the good, experienced managers are taken.

It’s quite the pressure cooker that these guys are stepping in to.  The Nats, Reds and Tigers will be expected to contend next year.  If they disappoint, how much of the backlash is going to be focused on the newbie manager?

The thing about this trend that I dislike the most is that both Matt Williams and Brad Ausmus are younger than I am.  If you’re not nodding your head knowingly, that’s just because you haven’t gotten there yourself.  Trust me; it’ll happen to you someday.

…and now, I’d like to introduce a new recurring feature I call…

Secrets Of The Computer Graphics Amateurs!

I don’t really know what I’m doing.

I just wanted to set things straight before I go any further.  I’m not a graphic designer; I’ve never taken any classes in computer graphics.  I’m just a guy with an artistic bent who gets his jollies out of playing with his outdated copy of Paint Shop Pro.

…But in the spirit of “writing the blog that I would want to read”, I decided that I would give a quick overview of what was involved in “photoshopping” the images used for each custom I create.

This one was relatively simple.  The original image showed Williams in a Diamondbacks cap & pullover jersey, so the first thing I did was duplicate the original image as a second layer, and then removed everything from that layer except for the D-Backs cap & pullover.  At this point, the duplicate layer contains only red-colored clothing.  I adjusted the brightness & contrast on this layer so that the “D-Back Red” was a bit lighter and closer to “Nationals red”.

Using the Clone tool, I obscured the D-Back logo on the cap.

Finally I copy-and-pasted a Nats logo from another photo, tweaked the size and rotation of the logo, and that’s was pretty much all that was involved.

Because That’s The Way These Things Go

I’ve had 5 packs of 2013 Topps Series 2 sitting around for a couple of weeks, and last night I got around to opening them… Well, actually my wife opened them. Mrs. Shlabotnik doesn’t collect, but she loves baseball and she enjoys opening packs and looking through the cards, especially when there’s a chance of pulling Brian Roberts, her favorite player.

So, did she pull any Brians? Nope.

Did she, in 5 packs, pull anybody at all from her favorite team, the Orioles? Nope.

But she did pull three inserts from my team!

2013 Topps Making Their Mark Ike Davis

2013 Topps Chasing History David Wright

2013 Topps Cut To The Chase Tom Seaver

A pretty good haul for 5 packs. Maybe the powers that be were making it up to me for the fact that, as we were opening these packs, the Mets were being no-hit through 6 innings and would eventually lose a 1-hitter by the score of 9-0. Oh, and they were mathematically eliminated from the NL East division title.

…and although he didn’t participate in the Nationals’ drubbing of the Mets, I also got this Steve Lombardozzi card which got me cautiously excited…
2013 Topps Green Sparkly Steve Lombardozzi
I wasn’t sure if a celebration card like this always meant short printed variation… And a sparkly green short print variation? Maybe I could get a couple of bucks for it on COMC?

Ah, but it’s not a variation, it’s just the regular Lombo card’s green parallel. It’s still going to COMC, I just won’t be financing any 1972 high-numbers with it.

The MASN reporter with the microphone is Kristina Akra, who’s now with the MLB Network.  If you do an Image Google on “Kristina Akra Lombardozzi” you can see a picture or two of this incident.  The Gatorade shower came on 4/16/12 after Lombardozzi went 4 for 5 with a double and 2 RBI in saving a 6-3 win for Stephen Strasburg.

…and no, it wasn’t another Nats win over the Mets, although that would’ve been fitting.

One of you Nats fans or Kristina Akra fans out there should get this card autographed by Kristina… it seems like it’d be a fun addition to one’s collection.

A Really Big Schu

News item:  The Washington Nationals fired hitting coach Rick Eckstein and replaced him with organizational hitting coordinator (and Shlabotnik favorite) Rick Schu.

Before I get started:  My apologies to Mr. Schu for the subject line and what’s about to follow.

1990 Donruss Rick Schu

I’ve already talked about my fondness for Rick Schu here, but I can’t resist another opportunity to highlight my Rick Schu PC… So right now I’m going to share with you my top 10 songs which have something in the title which sounds like “Schu” (starting with the favorite, roughly speaking, and working down):

1. Shoehorn With Teeth – They Might Be Giants
I freakin’ love this song, it’s catchy, cheesy, goofy and just plain ol’ bizarre, all rolled into 1  minute and 13 seconds… How the heck can you resist a song where one of the verses is “Tour the world in a Heavy Metal band, but they run out of gas – the plane can never land”.

2. Old Brown Shoe – The Beatles
Beatles. ‘Nuff said.

3. Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes – Paul Simon
1987 Topps Rick Schu

4. (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes – Elvis Costello & the Attractions
There’s a group called Hem which does a really interesting version of this song.

5. Shoe Box – Barenaked Ladies
BNL used to be one of my favorite bands, but that was at least 6 studio albums ago. Sorry, guys, but you lost me with “Everything To Everyone”.

6. Blue Suede Schubert – The Rutles
The Rutles are a parody of The Beatles, as done by Eric Idle of Monty Python and Neil Innes, who was sort of “The 7th Python”… or maybe the 8th, you could make a good argument that Carol Cleveland was “the 7th Python”. Anyway, there was a very funny TV special called “The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash” which featured Idle, Innes and had cameos from an amazing bunch of people: Mick Jagger, Paul Simon, half the original cast of Saturday Night Live, even George Harrison.

7. Shoo Be Doo – The Cars
More of a link than a song. Too bad. It’s my list and “Shoo Be Doo” is cool.

8. Blue Suede Shoes – Carl Perkins
Elvis? Elvis who? Carl Perkins was much better.

9. Goody Two Shoes – Adam Ant
1987 Fleer Rick Schu

10. Wing Tip Shoes – Henry Lee Summer
I saw Henry Lee Summer open for Chicago years ago. Chicago was OK, but Henry Lee put them to shame.  Pity there’s no commercially-available version of this song which does it justice.

1994 BBM Rick Schu

This is the second time I’ve featured this card, but it’s too awesome of a card to not post again.

It’s Been A While Since I Featured Any Of My TSR Custom Cards, Hasn’t It?

Oh, sure, I’ve done a bunch of my “Shoulda Been” Heritage cards, and I have more on the way, but my TSR virtual card set has been neglected. Let’s see what we can do about that…

This photo was one that just begged to be used with my card design:
2013 TSR #200 - Andrew McCutchen
The Pirates may not be the best team in the majors right now, but we’re past the halfway point and they’ve still got the third-best record. I sincerely hope they can avoid the collapses of the past couple of years and give the fans in Pittsburgh some postseason baseball. I’m a Steelers fan, but I would be very happy if the hearts and minds of the Iron City were not focused exclusively on football when September rolls around.

Kurt Suzuki may not be on the fast track to the Hall Of Fame, and his offensive numbers for the season aren’t particularly impressive, but it seems like whenever I watch the Mets play the Nats, Mr. Suzuki is causing us some kind of grief.

2013 TSR #155 - Kurt Suzuki

…and unlike a certain other player, he’s not averse to the name “Suzuki”.

I’ve Softened A Bit On 2013 Archives… But I’m Still Bugged By Things Like THIS

A few weeks ago, I bought a rack pack of 2013 Archives and my reaction at the time was “meh”.

Since then, I’ve put the 18 cards I got into my binders of current team rosters, and I have to admit, I like the way they look in those binders.

But little things about this set just bug me. At the top of that list is this card:
2013 Topps Archives Gio Gonzalez

On the surface, there’s nothing objectionable about the card, except when you consider that a 1985 Expos card looks like this:

1985 Topps Dave Palmer

I expect to get a little “Natitude” from Nats fans who insist that the Nationals are NOT the Expos.  Fine, I’m not going to argue that point.

…But why use the color scheme used on the Cardinals’ cards when the Expos scheme would’ve looked much nicer?  …Especially given that there’s red and (navy) blue in the Nats colors, but no yellow.

OK, I’ve said my peace.  You can all get on with your day now.

2012 Topps Golden Moments Die Cuts, Just Before The Deadline

I unlocked three cards through the Topps “Golden Giveaway”, and even after trading 2 of them for players I collect, I debated for quite a while whether or not to even redeem these cards…  All of the selling points of these cards are just “meh” to me.

Shiny?  Meh.

Die-cut?  Meh.

A design rather than the photo’s original background?  Meh.

I let it go until pretty much the last minute, and finally decided that it would be better to buy them and see if they’re more exciting in person, rather than to skip them and risk buyer’s – or  non-buyer’s – remorse.

So here are the cards. They’re much thicker than I expected, about the thickness of four normal Topps cards.

Please forgive the wavy white lines in the scans… Because I haven’t committed 100% to keeping these cards, I didn’t remove the protective film from the front.

2012 Topps Golden Moments Die Cut Jose Reyes

2012 Topps Golden Moments Die Cut Ryan Zimmerman

2012 Topps Golden Moments Die Cuts Tom Seaver

I hope some of you will say something along the lines of “Whoa, awesome cards!”

…Because I’m still saying “meh.”

Does Anyone Know The Way? There’s Got To Be A Way To Blockbuster!

If I’m not making semi-obscure references to 1970’s music, then I’m not doing my job.  Making comments on Topps Update cards is another part of my job…

I was surprised – in a good way – at the Blockbuster insert.  These are pretty nice looking cards, despite the huge “Trademark” symbols at the end of the team names.  I wonder if there’s a legal reason for this, that the symbol has to be a certain percentage of the text size, or if they just use the symbol that comes in that font and they don’t bother making it smaller.

“Well, that’s a pretty crappy photoshop job,” is what I said when I first saw this Eric Chavez card, but after a few seconds I realized that it was from the game where the Yankees and Red Sox both wore 1912 throwback uniforms.  OK, fine, it still looks weird.  I know a lot of people were gushing about those uniforms, but sometimes you can “throw back” too far.

Speaking of throwbacks, this C.J. Wilson card is the kind of card I like to see… almost, sorta.  As my regular readers know, I’ve been broadly hinting that Topps should feature throwback uniforms on throwback card designs, and we’ve certainly got that here… Unfortunately, it’s an early 1970’s uniform and a late 1980’s card, but I’ll give Topps some tiny little props anyway.  “Topps Propps”.  Wonder when that’ll end up on the shelves at Target….

Tyler Moore hit the go-ahead hit for the Nationals in Saturday’s Game 1.  Moore’s not exactly one of “my guys”, but I saw him play in the minors, which makes him a “potential guy”.  It’s always fun when a guy you’ve seen in the minors does good in the Majors.

What’s that? You want me to tell you what the subject line is referring to? It’s “Blockbuster” by Sweet… and if you want to get REALLY obscure, this song was one of the samples in “Doctorin’ The TARDIS” by The Timelords.

A Variation Coming To A Pack Near You…?

I was watching a baseball highlight show this morning, and got to wondering how long it’ll be before we have clubhouse celebration variation cards.  We’ve already got the “shaving cream pie in the face” variation, why not “goggles and champagne” variations?  Or have there already been such cards?  I can’t remember any.  Maybe they don’t want to promote alcohol use among minors (as if kids don’t see these celebrations on TV).

So with that in mind, here’s a Ryan Zimmerman regular card and the ultra shortest-of-the-short-print variation (seeded 1:10,000,000,000,000 hobby packs) from the 6th Series of 2012 TSR:

I can’t help but think that retired players from ‘back in the day’ see the players wearing goggles and think something along the line of “Wusses”.