Wednesday, December 6, 2023

the eras tour

i continued my annual ritual of purchasing at least one box of topps archives. it's a pattern that began in 2001, and my excitement at seeing so many vintage reprints then and in 2002, and then continued with the new photos on old designs that began in 2003 with all-time fan favorites. i picked it back up when archives returned in 2012, but it's a bit less of a thrill with heritage now in its 23rd year which makes the designs not that fresh. 

on that point, i do not understand why topps used 1965 again in 2023 archives - just a year after using it in a flagship insert set - but that is something that i choose to accept when it comes to topps and this release. i will say that topps did pay attention to logos fairly well (or at least tried to) from what i saw, giving us a sampling of franchise histories through cardboard. for example, the twins.

i didn't pull any 2003 design twin cards, but harmon killebrew is featured with the original "tc" logo. that is good by me, although the first time a twins logo showed up on a topps card, it was 1965 and topps went with the "minnie and paul" logo. speaking of the 1965 design, kirby puckett is featured using that templated. kirby is probably the most recognizable twin from the 1987 and 1991 world series champions, and topps used that era's cap logo on his 1965 design card
the underlined m logo matches the one on kirby's helmet, so totally appropriate. also in the 1965 design, we have david ortiz
topps used the same logo within the pennant, but ortiz is sporting the original tc logo on his helmet. i am ok with this because in 2002, ortiz's last season as a twin, the club reintroduced that logo as part of their home uniforms. the underlined m was still the primary logo, or at least an equal logo.

logos aren't a part of the 1956 card design, but max kepler's card
shows a transitional period in twins branding history. his portrait photo shows him sporting the original tc logo that the club fully adopted for home and away unis in 2010. the version kepler is wearing is accented with gold - a tweak the team instituted in 2020. the action photo of kepler shows him in one of the team's alternate uniforms that was first worn in 2023.

finally, simeon woods-richardson's card shows the current team logos
the tc logo has been rounded and is visible on his sleeve, although the new m logo he is sporting on his hat is used as part of the away unis. the tc logo remains on the home hats. unless they are wearing the twin ciies uniforms, and then i think they have a third hat with two flags - one for minneapolis and one for st. paul.

more franchise era stuff is noted on the boxtopper that was included in my collector's box. i pulled the marlins' 1969 team postcard
and immediately noted that it only refers to them as the "marlins". i believe this is because they have been both the florida marlins and the miami marlins. there is a mix of florida and miami players on the card, with a couple of interesting choices and omissions. here's the back
interesting that the back mentions christian yelich and giancarlo stanton, but they are absent from the front of the card. obviously topps didn't know max meyer would miss all of 2023 (or did they?) but i think either of those players would have been a better choice. and i am a big max meyer proponent! still, the most obvious omission is mr. marlin himself, jeff conine. i am not complaining, because topps once thought it was a good idea to include the team's owner jeffrey loria in one of their archives/fan favorites releases. yuck.

i'll have a bit more to say about these cards later in the post. until then, here is a look at some of the other cards from my box

derek jeter
i think the jeter card is probably the best of the 1956 cards i found. it works for me.

i pulled bo bichette
and bo jackson
back to back in one of the packs. back to back bo!

now for a couple of 2003 designs, featuring cardinals paul goldschmidt
and adam wainwright
the goldy shows him either right after contact or way out ahead of a pitch, and it also features the bruce sutter memorial patch. i was worried the patch was worn for too short of a time and wouldn't show up on cardboard (hence my reason for purchasing a topps now card for the memorial collection) but there it is. and it's not the only card it shows up on, either.

as for wainwright, i will always give props to the cardinals and card manufacturers for choosing cards that show the murals on the busch stadium wall. here we can see rogers hornsby and ozzie smith. ozzie is forever celebrating his 1985 nlcs home run on that display. sigh.

you may have noticed that those cards feature the bird on bat logo. topps used the interlocking stl cap logo for the aforementioned smith's card
signifying that different era of cardinal baseball.

similarly, they used different logos for giants
willie mays and buster posey. it's a hat logo for the say hey kid, and the team's current primary logo for buster.

for roger clemens and alek manoah
topps used era appropriate primary logos

and they did the same for ted williams and wade boggs and rafael devers
although the splendid splinter has a hat logo, while boggs and devers get the team's primary logos from their respective eras.

sticking with the red sox, one of the inserts i pulled was boggs' 1957 topps hit stars
those inserts are pretty clean, unlike the 1979 topps comics inserts. i found mark mcgwire's card from that set in one of the packs.
it looks like moving the design to a standard sized card cramped its style somewhat, but seeing william howard taft's large frame is almost worth it.

next up is the 1989 topps double header card i found. it features mike trout
and shohei ohtani
this two player format is not consistent with the original design of these cards - back in 1989 (and 1990 for that matter) these cards featured one player with their rookie card on one side and their (then) current topps card on the other side.

i found a 1997 number crunchers card of jeff mcneil
which is actually a "season's best" insert. the back says both "season's best" and "number crunchers" but the numbering (just like in 1997) is "sb-#". the more you know.

while i recall finding the number crunchers/season's best inserts in '97, i have no recollection of baby boomer inserts in 1998. i found one of the 2023 archives versions in my box - that of riley greene
i guess i was unfamiliar with these because no dodger was featured back in '98. this year miguel vargas is part of the set, so maybe i will finally get a dodger in this design.

i found one parallel card in the box, and it was a blue foil parallel of tyler o'neill
o'neill is also sporting the bruce sutter memorial patch, but what i like most about this card is that it features the first pitch clock i have seen on cardboard. it's also numbered to 25
sticking with the cardinals theme, my guaranteed autograph is of hall of famer scott rolen
on the 1972 design. i could have done much, much worse. i think i will stick with the card i already have for rolen in my hall of famer collection, however.

as for dodgers, i didn't do so well with this box. i found the will smith
and mookie betts cards
along with michael grove's card
the grove card is weird because topps copied and pasted the state farm text to the right of grove's portrait for some reason. actually, i think they needed to extend the frame of the action photo (here's the original) and so the text behind him looks like it says state state farm.

with that poor showing of dodger cards, i wound up picking up the team set. here are the other 1956 design dodgers:
nice to know i will have an amed rosario dodger card, and it's a double play turn to boot!

here are the 1965 design los angeles dodgers
and the lone brooklyn dodger
with an appropriately different logo.

the two logos can be more readily compared on the 2003 cards of james outman and roy campanella
and i am left to wonder why topps didn't use the brooklyn era logo that was on the 1952 cards for jackie robinson and campy. it would be closer to what they used on the original 1965 cards and it would be heckuva lot more visible on the 2003 card here.

i mentioned that the box i purchased was the "collector's box" and that was because it gave me the only shot i had to pull a steve garvey card. he is only featured on the 1969 team postcards, but as you saw earlier, my box had the marlins.  so, i went and purchased the dodger version:
here's the back:
i am not going to nitpick the player selection as the team has been blessed with some really great players in their history. instead, i'll mention that the team gets the same treatment as the marlins since they have played in both brooklyn and los angeles, and both eras are represented. that makes sense to me, and franchises in similar situations - the giants, braves and even the angels - get the same treatment. for once, it makes sense to just see "angels" on a card since their california, anaheim, and (second) los angeles eras are all represented. other teams like the brewers and a's are recognized as the "milwaukee brewers" and "oakland athletics" since there are no seattle pilots or philadelphia (or even kansas city) a's featured on those cards. this all makes sense to me!  however, topps called the nationals the "washington nationals" on their card even though they feature a few expos on that card. i suppose with a complete relocation and name change there isn't a point to omitting the current franchise location. i can't see any better way of handling that team's card.

for the rays, formerly the devil rays, the card just says "tampa bay", and for the guardians, it just says "cleveland". it is noteworthy that the players featured on that card that did not play under the guardians name, the hats are blacked out of any logos. topps avoided the logo issue on the base cards, too, by only featuring current franchise players in the set. just something i found interesting in a set that recognizes the game's history through cardboard.

finally, one of the other exclusives to these collector's box is a lunch box tin. jackie robinson is on the checklist, but i got roberto clemente.
which was fine by me.

all in all, i am happy with my purchase(s) and with archives this year. it's fun to me to see the different eras of teams represented on different topps designs. still, let's put 1965 out to pasture for a while, shall we?

Sunday, December 3, 2023

the ballad of the ballot

the hall of fame ballot is out and we can officially begin looking forward to the induction of adrian beltre. i am guessing he will go in as a ranger, but i, of course, think of him as a dodger. i think it was about this time last year that i finally picked up his most coveted (non-parallel) rookie card - 1997 bowman chrome #182
i've left it slabbed since it arrived. i have a tinge of remorse unslabbing a couple of cards so i've been leaving them be for a while. not that i've picked up many - maybe three in the last year.

in addition to beltre, joe mauer is on the ballot
and i would sure vote for him if i could.

there are a couple of interesting cases that have dodger ties - chase utley being one of them
utley is a borderline case for me. he compares well against some of the earlier era hall of fame second basemen like joe gordon, bobby doerr, or tony lazzerri and is actually not that far off from ryne sandberg. still, one could say the same thing about guys like lou whitaker and bobby grich who aren't in the hall of fame so i am not sure about utley.

the other former dodger of note on the ballot is adrian gonzalez
despite the best intentions of the 2016 topps update insert, gonzalez finished well shy of 500 home runs for his career - he hit 317 - and i don't think he has much of a chance to be inducted. he's in mark grace/don mattingly territory for first basemen which is still pretty good, just not hall of fame caliber.

of course, returning players like todd helton, billy wagner, andruw jones, and gary sheffield will get well deserved consideration too. i am looking forward to the announcement in january to see who will join jim leyland (elected by the contemporary eras committee earlier tonight) in the 2024 hall of fame class. 

Friday, December 1, 2023

remembering 2023 memorials

with update having been released, i've been able to find some non-topps now cards that show images from the 2023 season. i am always looking for examples to include in my armbands and memorial patches mini-collection, and i found a few!

once bruce sutter's patch was removed from cardinal jerseys early in the season, i went ahead and bought a topps now card just to be sure to have a card for the collection. you can read about that memorial here.

other teams wore memorials for all or part of the season, and i'll begin with the san francisco giants. in december of 2022, hall of famer gaylord perry passed away and the team responded by wearing patches with his last name and jersey number (36) on their sleeves as seen on anthony desclafani's rainbow foil parallel card from 2023 topps update
although he had his best seasons elsewhere, perry pitched for the giants over the first 10 seasons of his career, and the club retired his number in 2005.

when bay area favorite vida blue passed away in may of 2023, the giants added a second patch to honor him. the patch was typically worn above perry's with his first name and number (14). both patches are visible on patrick bailey's update card
blue only pitched for the giants for four seasons, but he was an all-star for three of those four years and he finished third in the nl cy young voting in 1978. 

i mentioned that blue's patch was typically stacked under perry's because once the giants added an advertising patch to their jerseys, space was limited on the opposite sleeve of their city connect uniforms. in that case, the patches were worn side by side. there is a topps now card that shows this configuration i believe, but i haven't bothered to grab it.

the oakland a's also honored blue, and coupled the patch bearing his first name with a patch for sal bando who had passed away in january. both patches were added to the home whites at the same time, and they can be readily seen on this 2023 topps now card of esteury ruiz and rickey henderson
there is a card or two in update that show the patches, albeit poorly, so i went ahead and picked up the topps now card. the patches are readily legible and i get another rickey card in my collection! both blue and bando were big parts of the oakland a's dynasty in the early 1970's, with bando having been with the team since their kansas city days.

the washington nationals wore a patch all season for their late owner ted lerner bearing his initials (tnl) in a blue oval, and it is visible on thaddeus ward's update card
lerner had bought the club from mlb back in 2006. he passed away in february of this year. i am guessing that the padres will do something similar in 2024 for their late owner peter seidler who just passed away. i was not aware that seidler was related to the o'malleys who owned the dodgers for decades. anyway, i am assuming that the padres' big motorola patch won't preclude them from a memorial patch, but only time will tell.

the remainder of the memorials worn this year haven't shown up on cardboard (yet). first, the guardians wore a patch just twice. here's a photo of myles straw wearing the patch on opening day
and here's gavin williams wearing it on august 24
this patch was worn to honor longtime fan john adams who beat the drum at home games dating back to the 1973 season. he passed away in january of this year, and the patch was a nice touch from the franchise. 

the umpires continued their tradition of wearing square initial patches for their late cohorts. in the 2023 season, some umpires wore a dd patch for don denkinger (as seen on cory blaser's left sleeve in june) 
and a dm patch off and on for their former colleague dan morrison as worn by tripp gibson in august
notice that the ftx patches they wore in past seasons were removed from their uniforms (with haste). there didn't seem to be any uniformity to the wearing of these patches as sometimes i would see them during games i was watching and sometimes i wouldn't.

finally, the orioles added a "5" patch for brooks robinson during the alds as seen on adley rutschman's jersey in this photo
robinson was, of course, one of the all-time greats and i wonder if the team will honor him with a patch throughout the 2024 season as the yankees did yogi berra and whitey ford - both of whom passed late in the baseball season and were honored during the postseason and the following season. either way, i sure hope ito see that number 5 patch on to some 2024 cardboard.

unfortunately, there are already some players who have passed away this fall that may be honored in 2024. tim wakefield is one, and i wouldn't be surprised if frank howard is honored by the nationals, even though he has no connection to that franchise. he is still part of their ring of honor given his time spent in dc with the senators. we will have to wait and see.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

i can get accustomed to this

if you follow "when topps had balls", then you've seen gio's cards celebrating his 1970s all-decade team. i sat up and took notice back when he announced the first baseman on the national league squad
gio's post included a nice writeup about steve garvey, and he shares my opinion of the garv's hall of fame worthiness. so, when gio emailed saying that his complete set of the nl all-decade team was available, i sent my money posthaste.

i was surprised to see a different version of garvey's card
but enjoyed it nonetheless.  here's the back:
i appreciate the fact that the backs are written with a 1980 sensibility.

here's the full squad:
with the bonus card being a pete rose "player of the decade" card
i really liked the all-star banner on the 1980 cards back when i was opening packs. they are my favorite banners (over the 1979 and 1981 cards) but i still prefer the red, white, and blue all-star shields from 1978.  one more thought on the 1980 design - seeing it without the facsimile signature, the 1980 design is even more obviously a tweak of the 1974 look. at least in my opinion.

gio also released his series 14 set for purchase, and i decided to pick it up for my collection. this was a standard set that included a variety of his themes - not quite missing in action, career capper, dedicated rookie, fantasy cards, etc.

i'll show the bonus card first, it's a diamond/miscut dedicated rookie card of willie randolph!
jerry reuss also shows up as a dedicated rookie in the 1970 design
while carlton fisk is featured on a fantasy card from 1971
also using the 1971 design is this japanese special card of sigeo nagashima
i have to admit, even with everything i read during the height of nomomania, i was not familiar with nagashima until i received the card and read gio's post.

the next two cards were a big reason why i decided to purchase the set. first up is a "missing in action" card. literally
dick allen did not have an in action card in the 1972 topps set, and he wasn't shown as a dodger on his base card anyway. this card pairs beautifully with the custom that gavin sent me a while back.

and then there is this "gimme a do-over" 1973 topps frank robinson card
of course, robinson's actual 1973 topps card is fantastic, and really just needs the dodger script across his chest reinstated and his team affiliation changed from the angels, but this one is great, too.

speaking of the angels, here's a dedicated rookie of frank tanana
who was definitely a fan favorite of mine until he was dealt to the red sox, even though the halos got freddie lynn in return. speaking of the red sox, here's a missing in action 1975 topps dick mcauliffe card
complete with the slanted oakland coliseum background!

gio created another "gimme a do-over" with this 1975 topps billy williams card
that keeps him as a cub as opposed to an airbrushed athletic as he was presented by topps.

this next one is a special request "career capper" card for tony c
who finished his career with the red sox in 1975. he managed to hit a couple of home runs in his return to boston, but we are left to wonder what if? when it comes to his career.

similar to the williams card above, gio created a "gimme a do-over" card for my one-time favorite non-dodger don baylor
he was an airbrushed angel in the original topps set and so didn't have a card recognizing his one year stint in oakland. i like this custom very much.

here's another 1977 card, although this one is a "not really missing in action" card of willie wilson
wilson played in a handful of games in 1976 and 1977 but didn't get any cardboard love from topps until 1979. gio has also created a fantastic 1978 card of wilson, but i don't think it's been available in any sets yet.

also missing from the 1978 topps set were a couple of angels - willie mays aikens
and mike cuellar
no joke - aikens is 22 or 23 at the oldest in that photo. i thought at first it was from an alumni event or something but it is from the late 70's when he was the talk of my neighborhood. i still don't understand how he failed to receive any rookie of the year consideration in 1979. the aikens card is a "missing in action" and the cuellar is a "career capper". cuellar appeared in only two games for the angels in 1977, bringing an end to his career.

apologies to bruce robinson, but this 1979 topps a's prospects card
looks a lot better with rickey henderson on it. gio has also made a dedicated rookie card for dwayne murphy and a 1979 solo card for rickey. i would have loved this card as a kid.

finally, gio created a "dedicated rookie" card for another player who appeared on a 1979 prospects card - the dodgers' own pedro guerrero
when the card arrived, i emailed gio saying that i was pretty sure cesar cedeno made his way on to the card instead of guerrero, and gio confirmed it. he noted that the image was mislabeled as guerrero and he went with it as an intended error card. there aren't too many cards showing cedeno as a dodger, so i'll take it. as an aside, i've noticed some photos mislabeled back when i was doing a lot of customs including bobby castillo identified as davey lopes. must be the mustache.

here's the original guerrero card that gio created for his blog
i wouldn't mind getting one of those in hard copy form someday.

the dodger heavy checklist, along with the two 1978 cards, made this set a no-brainer for me. gio also fulfilled my request for an extra garvey from the first set and extra cuellar and aikens cards from the second. the garvey dupe goes to the pc and the two 1978 angels go in my 1978 "master set".

thanks gio!