Sunday, December 29, 2019

A Milestone

Hey Mr. Hershiser, how many years old is this blog? 

1991 Topps #690, Orel Hershiser

He's right. My first entry is dated December 30th, 2018, which means tomorrow makes it a year already. 


My intention from the start was to post once a week—every Sunday—and I'm happy to say that I've held to that schedule the entire year. I think the format works well (hope you do, too), and I'm certainly going to try to stick to it for year number two.

All in all, it was a fun first year of blogging. 

If you're a reader, thanks so much for spending some time here throughout the year. If you're also a fellow blogger and collector, thank you for providing inspiration through your blogs and collections. I'm grateful.

Goals for the second year include completing a few more sets, creating more custom cards, and running a contest of some kind. But I think I need a larger readership before I try the contest. 

If you know someone who might enjoy this blog, would you do me a favor and share it with them?

Here's to another great year of blogging and collecting for everyone.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Art Prints

The original version of Tron hit theaters when I was still just toddling around. Even as I grew into childhood, though, I wasn't much of a sci-fi/tech/computer kid. I didn't watch the film back then in the '80s, and although I've seen it since, the story line still doesn't do it for me all these years later.

The artwork, however? That's a different story.

A big reason I appreciate that portion of the franchise is that one of my favorite concept artists, Syd Mead, was a main contributor. Look at the colors and circuitry within the mainframe's world. Definitely look at the light cycles. Yep. Syd Mead.

And a few months ago I had the opportunity to pick up some prints that feature Mead's design work.

The shapes, the angles, the colors. There's 1980s goodness everywhere you look.

Now, these prints were made in 1982, the same year the film was released. I should also mention that each print is pretty small: 3.5 inches by 2.5 inches. And I should also mention that they were produced by a company called Donruss.

Okay, okay. They're trading cards.


But just look at how cool they are.

And because an original art print from Syd Mead probably costs more than I'd like to spend, I'm going to consider these art prints. Is that alright?

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Two Timeless Beverages

While preparing a big stack of 1990-91 Upper Deck hockey cards for a trade, I came across a bit of an anomaly. Have a look at the player names on these two cards, which happen to fall right next to each other in the set:

#124 Paul Coffey and #125 Bob Beers

Ah, coffee and beer. Two timeless beverages that many people can't seem to do without. 

Do you think someone at Upper Deck was exhibiting their sense of humor by placing these two cards next to each other? Well, at first I wasn't convinced. But not much farther into the stack I came across another two, also consecutive:

#98 Garth Butcher and #99 Daniel Shank

Butcher and Shank. Hah. 

Well, now I had to look through the rest of the set. 

And I did. Thoroughly.

Although I didn't find any other consecutive cards featuring food or drink pairings, there were some other food-related names scattered throughout. In fact, along with the Coffey and Beers, it turns out that you could put together a pretty decent meal. Here's the menu:

#543 Kari Takko

Appetizer: Takkos

#99 Daniel Shank

#30 Basil McRae and #146 Jari Kurri

#462 Steven Rice
Main course: Lamb Shank in a Basil and Kurri sauce, served over Rice

#173 Adam Oates and #131 Dirk Graham

Dessert: Oates bar with Graham cracker crumble and icing 

Icing. Please don't boo me for adding that hockey rule to the dessert.

Overall, a pretty good meal from one single hockey set, yes? 

I'm sure there are plenty of other food-related names out there in the sports world. (Coco Crisp, anyone?) Can you think of any? Leave some examples in the comment section.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

The 1982-83 O-Pee-Chee Dating Game (Episode 7)

Welcome back to The 1982-83 O-Pee-Chee Dating Game, where we'll randomly select three eligible bachelors from the set and you, the reader, will choose which one wins that date with a special lady. How do we know they're bachelors? Why, it says so right on the back of their hockey cards, that's how!

Previous episodes are available here.

We didn't receive any votes for episode 6, so we'll leave voting open for the time being. Now let's start the 7th round and introduce our bachelors selected by the randomizer! [APPLAUSE]

Bachelor number 1: Defenseman from the Toronto Maple Leafs, Jim Korn
Bachelor number 2: Center from the Chicago Black Hawks, Denis Savard
Bachelor number 3: Defenseman from the New York Rangers, Ron Greschner

It's an Original Six showdown!

Now lets find out more about these gentlemen from the back of their hockey cards.

Ron, Ron, Ron. You've got to be a little more friendly than that.

Time to choose your winner. Who will it be?

Bachelor number 1: Collegiate man and water skier Jim Korn.

Bachelor number 2: Denis Savard, who just bought his own home and can probably do a good spin-o-rama on the dance floor.

Bachelor number 3: Ron Greschner, who can put up some really good point totals from the blue line despite being the most quiet bachelor we've ever had on the program.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Custom Combination: Brett Hull

While putting together some information for a 1990-91 Score hockey set review earlier this year, I was reminded of something:

It's that many of the new brands of hockey cards released in the early 1990s were surpassing Topps in the photography department. Specifically, while Topps was still featuring a few too many images of hockey players standing around during warmups, new brands such as Upper Deck and Score were taking better advantage of hockey's speed and grace and dynamic nature, using more action shots on their cards.

Have a look at Brett Hull's 1990-91 Topps card, for instance.

1990-91 Topps Brett Hull, #77

By itself, there's nothing wrong with this card. You get a clear shot of Brett Hull smiling confidently right at you. (And why not, when you score a million goals a year?) And I completely understand that it's nice to feature some of the league's star-studded players up close and without helmets obscuring their faces and glorious hockey hair.

But when you have too many of these images in your set, it gets a little stale. Especially compared with another Brett Hull card from the 1990-91 season.

1990-91 Score Brett Hull, #300

Now that's an image.

When I look at this card from Score, I think If only Topps used an image like that.

Well, I finally put thoughts to [digital] paper and created a custom card mash-up.

The Score image wouldn't work very well on the vertical Topps layout, but there's good news: A horizontal layout did exist for the 1990-91 Topps set. It was reserved for the team cards.

1990-91 Topps St. Louis Blues Team, #220

So with a little bit of editing and cleaningand mixing and matchingI came up with the following "what if" card.

Topps matched the colors of their card borders to each team's uniform very nicely for this set, and you can see that here. Also, the stars running across the top of the card happen to follow the action and direction of Hull's follow-through, and that really helps nail this card down as a success in my book.

I think the adolescent version of me would have been pretty happy finding this card inside a wax pack during the 1990-91 season. 

And you know what else? This is my ninth custom card, which means I've got enough to fill up a binder page. Here's how they look:

Thanks as always for reading.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

From the Favorites Box: John Candelaria, 1976 Topps #317

A series where I post some thoughts about favorite cards. Previous cards in the series are available here.

Have a look at Brooklyn-born pitcher John Candelaria on his rookie card:

I think I see a little bit of that New York swagger.

He's looking down toward the camera lens (all 6-foot-7 of him), pounding his fist into that mitt, head tilted, hair whipping in the breeze.

It's a look that's sometimes mistaken for cockiness, or a bad attitude. And let's be fairwith some New Yorkers that's exactly what it is. But I don't think that's the case here. What you're seeing instead is a combination of confidence and youthfulness.  

Try and hit this pitch. 

Let's say you're stepping into the batter's box right now. Regardless of what you say to young Candelaria theretrash talk, psych-outs, put-downs, whatever you could do to take him off his gameyou just get the feeling that he's going to throw the next pitch right past you anyway.

And the very next year, 1977, he sure did prove it.

The youngster would go 20-5 with 133 strikeouts, 6 complete games, and a league-leading 2.34 ERA. Such a dominant performance earned him a spot on the National League All-Star team. And just two years later he'd move beyond All-Star status, playing an important role in bringing the Championship to Pittsburgh.

"The Candy Man" would start Game 1 of the 1979 NLCS against the Cincinnati Reds, pitching seven strong innings to help his Pirates to a win. His team would also take the next two games to sweep the Reds right out of the playoffs.

Then in Game 6 of the World Series, with the Pirates down to the Baltimore Orioles 3 games to 2, Candelaria took the mound. He threw six great innings of shutout ball, earning a big win to keep the Pirates in the Series. The next day his team would take Game 7 and the Championship.

Despite that early-career success, though, Candelaria would never get back to that high ground of a Championship. And after about 10 seasons in Pittsburgh, the second half of his career resembled that of a journeyman. Angels, Mets, Yankees, Expos, Twins, Blue Jays, Dodgers, and then back to the Pirates for one final season.

But all told, in 19 years of Major League ball Candelaria went 177-122 with a 3.33 ERA, 54 complete games, and 1,673 strikeouts. Not too shabby.

And he probably still has some of that late-'70s New York swagger. I mean, just look at his mitt again. Zoom in on the pinky finger. 

It has "CANDY" written across it in big, bold letters.

For providing us with a glimpse of what it's like to be a care-free, talented 21-year-old pitcher in the big leagues, 1976 Topps #317 has a spot in my box of favorite cards.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Here's to Linemates

The record shown on this card escaped my knowledge for all this time:

1981-82 O-Pee-Chee Record Breakers #391

Details on the back:

I've got to admit, it surprised me.

I figured the first linemates to each score 100 points in a season would have been Bossy-Trottier-Gillies on Long Island, or Kurri-Gretzky-Anderson in Edmonton.

But no, it's the Triple Crown Line in Los Angeles! Here are their final numbers for the 1980-81 season:

Marcel Dionne: 135 points in 80 GP
Dave Taylor: 112 points in 72 GP
Charlie Simmer: 105 points in 65 GP

Pretty impressive, no?

As for those Islanders, the Trio Grande almost did hit the mark in 1978-79.

Bryan Trottier: 134 points in 76 GP
Mike Bossy: 126 points in 80 GP
Clark Gillies: 91 points in 75 GP

But that's as close as they'd get. Gillies was more of the rugged power-forward type, protecting the two stars on his line with physicality and fisticuffs. However, the guy could definitely score, too. I figured he would have tallied a 100-point season at some point during the high-flying '80s, but no.

And what about Kurri-Gretzky-Anderson? Well, that one is more complicated.


First, Kurri (75 points in 75 games) and Anderson (53 points in 58 games) were just rookies during that record-breaking season, so putting up 100 points each would have been a tough askeven for a couple of kids boiling over with talent. Secondly, that trio of Kurri-Gretzky-Anderson wasn't exactly a trio as I thought. Gretzky and Kurri stuck together as a formidable center-wing pair, but it seems like they rotated through a few different wingers on the other side. Glenn Anderson was only one of them. So you can't really call those three a line.

With those great teammates out of the equation, how about some other notable lines that almost hit the mark?

In 1971-72, the GAG Line (goal-a-game) came ever so close for the Rangers.

Jean Ratelle: 109 points in 63 GP
Vic Hadfield: 106 points in 78 GP
Rod Gilbert: 97 points in 73 GP

In 1974-75, the French Connection Line in Buffalo came tantalizingly close as well.


René Robert: 100 points in 74 GP
Gilbert Perreault: 96 points in 68 GP
Rick Martin: 95 points in 68 GP

In 1975-76, the LCB Line in Philadelphia almost got there.

Bobby Clarke: 119 points in 76 GP
Bill Barber: 112 points in 80 GP
Reggie Leach: 91 points in 80 GP

The 1976-77 Dynasty Line in Montreal wasn't too far from it either, but Jacques Lemaire was more of a two-way center (who still managed a point per game, sheesh). 


Guy Lafleur: 136 points in 80 GP
Steve Shutt: 105 points in 80 GP
Jacques Lemaire: 75 points in 75 GP

And the Stastny Line came reasonably close in 1982-83 for the Nordiques. That would have been amazing.


Peter Stastny: 124 points in 75 GP
Anton Stastny: 92 points in 79 GP
Marian Stastny: 79 points in 60 GP

Then a decade later (1992-93) the Sky Line in Pittsburgh almost did it.


Mario Lemieux: 160 points in 60 GP
Kevin Stevens: 111 points in 72 GP
Jaromir Jagr: 94 points in 81 GP

Look at how many all-stars and hall-of-famers appear in those trios. It goes to show you just how tough the accomplishment is.

And it also provides a reminder: 

In today's game it would be very difficult for three forwards to set the mark as a unit—not only because of the line-juggling strategies that coaches seem to employ throughout the season, but also for the much more structured style of play across the league. Oh, and goalies all seem to be 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds with big, puffy pads and catching gloves as big as one of those novelty foam #1 finger-pointing things that sports fans wear at the stadium.

And here's something else we're reminded of: Because forward lines don't remain intact as long these days, the great line nicknames don't come around as much. Add these legendary nicknames to those mentioned above: The Kid Line in Toronto (Conacher-Jackson-Primeau), The Punch Line in Montreal (Lach-Blake-Richard), The Legion of Doom in Philadelphia (Lindros-Leclair-Renberg), The Russian Five in Detroit (Fedorov-Kozlov-Larionov-Konstantinov-Fetisov), the JAM line in Colorado (Sakic-Hejduk-Tanguay).

But who knows? It seems like offensive numbers have been up a little bit over the past couple of seasons, at least for some of the really big stars, and nothing remains constant in professional sports. Maybe we'll see this kind of milestone set again one day.

No matter how the game changes, though, the Triple Crown Line of Simmer-Dionne-Taylor did something remarkable that should not be overlooked. And when your team has a forward line that's just freewheeling it, game in and game out, you won't find much better entertainment.

Here's to linemates sticking together and having enough success to make a name for themselves.

Sunday, November 10, 2019


This is the first wrestling card I've ever owned:

1987 O-Pee-Chee WWF #26, Hulk Hogan

It came as part of a recent trade with a collector from Canada, hence the O-Pee-Chee version.

As a child of the '80s, I did get caught up in the wrestling thing for a year or two—right around the time this card was printed. How could you not, with characters like Hulk Hogan, "Macho Man" Randy Savage, The Ultimate Warrior, Andre the Giant, for goodness sake.

It was a weird, wacky combination of drama, intrigue, flamboyance, aggression, brute strength, and body slams. But it worked.

And because this particular card is the O-Pee-Chee version, I've got to show the back.


That works, too.

I can't imagine my wrestling card collection getting much larger, but I'm happy to have the Hulkster on my side of the ring.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

The 1982-83 O-Pee-Chee Dating Game (Episode 6)

Welcome back to The 1982-83 O-Pee-Chee Dating Game, where we'll randomly select three eligible bachelors from the set and you, the reader, will choose which one wins that date with a special lady. How do we know they're bachelors? Why, it says so right on the back of their hockey cards, that's how!

Previous episodes are available here.

Dale Hawerchuck from the Winnipeg Jets was our big winner from episode 5. 

Now let's start the 6th round and introduce the bachelors chosen by our randomizer! [APPLAUSE]

Bachelor number 1: Left Wing from the Calgary Flames, Kevin LaVallee
Bachelor number 2: Left Wing from the Vancouver Canucks, Curt Fraser
Bachelor number 3: Left Wing from the Detroit Red Wings, Mark Osborne

Three left wings, all from the Campbell Conference!

Let's find out more about these gents from the back of their hockey cards.

Quite a list of hobbies, there. So who will it be this week, ladies?

Bachelor number 1: Fishing enthusiast and 30-goal scorer Kevin LaVallee?

Bachelor number 2: Vancouver man Curt Fraser (or is it "Tony"?), who enjoys both boating and playing the guitar?

Bachelor number 3: Basketball guy from Ontario, Mark Osborne?

Sunday, October 27, 2019

From the Favorites Box: Darryl Strawberry, 1987 Topps Kay-Bee Superstars of Baseball #31

A series where I post some thoughts about favorite cards. Previous cards in the series are available here.

Oh, the majesty of this follow-through:

Darryl Strawberry had one of the best-looking swings of his era. Some might even venture to say one of the best of all time.

And it wasn't just looks, of course. Darryl was utterly dominant for a few years there in the 1980s, and played a big part in leading the Mets to the World Championship in 1986, the year before this baseball card hit shelves at Kay-Bee toy stores everywhere.

Mr. Strawberry hit 27 home runs in that championship year, and it's quite possible that the very swing you're looking at resulted in one of those 27. Just look at his eye line. Seems like he's tracing the flight of the ball as it soars through the air, soon to be headed over the right-center field wall at Shea Stadium.

In 1987, while kids were sorting through the 33 cards in this boxed set, Darryl was busy adding up even more home runs and stolen bases, and would join the esteemed 30-30 club by the end of the season (39 HR, 36 SB).

Here's a scan of the card back:

The blurb about the majestic home run he hit in Game 7 of the World Series matches perfectly with the image on the card front, doesn't it?

And here's another perfect match:

He hit that home run 33 years ago today.

As for the man himself, he had a great career (1983 NL Rookie of the Year, 8 All-Star games, 2 Silver Slugger awards, 3 World Series rings, 335 home runs, 1,000 RBI). But some troubles off the field, injuries, and illnesses meant that career could have been even better. And if his career had panned out so completely, the image on the front of this baseball card could have very well been used as a study for the bronze statue the Mets would have made for him and placed outside of Citi Field. Just scroll up one more time and picture that image in bronze.

For celebrating the athlete's dominance, wondering what could have been, and most of all for that glorious follow-through, 1987 Kay-Bee Superstars of Baseball #31 has a spot in my box of favorite cards.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Have it Your Way (with Baseball Cards)

Until a few months ago, I didn't know that Burger King ever issued baseball cards in panels like this. And when I saw this particular version on a trade partner's list, I had to grab it. 

1987 Burger King All-Pro Panel, cards #13 and 14


Well, I like oddball cards. But also, the guys you're looking at were two of my favorite players when I was a kid. I'll explain this way: 

The mitt I used for most of my Little League years was a Rawlings Ozzie Smith signature model. And my favorite bat? A Louisville Slugger Don Mattingly signature model. 

So, this Burger King panel spoke to me. It said, Have it your way. (With baseball cards. About 30 years later.)

Like many oddball sets, the quality of the design and photography can vary. However, I think this panel is better than average. Even with the team logos having been airbrushed from the player caps, I like it.

Here's the back:

Also better than average. Nice job on the write-ups, I say.

And here's the complete list of players in the 20-card set, by panel:

1-2  Wade Boggs / Gary Carter
3-4  Will Clark / Roger Clemens
5-6  Steve Garvey / Ron Darling
7-8  Pedro Guerrero / Von Hayes
9-10  Rickey Henderson / Keith Hernandez
11-12 Wally Joyner / Mike Krukow
13-14  Don Mattingly / Ozzie Smith
15-16  Tony Pena / Jim Rice
17-18  Ryne Sandberg / Mike Schmidt
19-20  Darryl Strawberry / Fernando Valenzuela

Mostly predictable choices, but some unexpected ones too. What I find interesting is that the cards almost run in alphabetical order. But not quite. If they had, Don Mattingly would have been paired with Tony Pena instead of Ozzie Smith. So, due to a clerical error it seems (or maybe removing a player at the 11th hour and replacing him with another?), two of my childhood favorites appear on the same panel. Bonus.

Now here are some questions for you:

(1) Which two players from your childhood would you want to appear side by side on a Burger King panel?

(2) Should I go with the Croissan'wich for 99 cents, or the free Whopper?

Oh, and if any of you are wondering about the "have it your way" reference, here you go:

Sunday, October 13, 2019

A Custom Card with a Custom Backstory

Today's custom card was inspired by an obscure Major League pitcher, and features a man with special powers who tried to spend some of his younger days in obscurity.

Here's the original card:

1974 Topps #261, Jerry Bell

Any guesses for the look-alike? Here are some hints:

Grow those sideburns down even farther, and make the hair a little more wild.

Add him to a well-known team of superheroes.

Just hope he keeps his claws from tearing up that baseball glove.

Got it?

Here's the custom card:

Wolverine (a.k.a. Logan) has been everywhere over the past couple of decades. But I've got to say that I'm not a big comic book or superhero guy. I haven't even seen any of the X-Men films. That means for this custom card I had to do a little research on the guy.  

It turns out that he spent some of his young manhood in the Yukon, living in deliberate obscurity on a mining colony. In fact, that's where he adopted the name "Logan". And all of that is excellent news, because it helped me come up with the perfect name for his baseball team: The Yukon Miners.

How well does it work? 

Just have a look at the image on the card once more. There's an "M" on his cap, originally for Milwaukee, but that can easily stand for Miners. And on his jersey you can only make out the E-R-S from the word BREWERS. Well, now it's the E-R-S in the word MINERS. There's even the edge of a mountain and a wide-open blue sky in the background, which would certainly match the scenery of the Yukon.

And after a long week of mining, I could picture Logan and the boys winding down with a game of baseball on Sunday. After all, the same sort of thing happened in farming towns all across America in the early 20th century.

Maybe someone from Marvel Entertainment will read this post and add the baseball-themed backstory to a future X-Men film. They've got to run out of material at some point. And Logan would make quite a pitcher, don't you think?

Now let's get to the man on the original card, Jerry Bell.

After being selected in the second round of the 1969 amateur draft by the Seattle Pilots, he'd have a short four-year career in the majors, all with the team the Pilots would soon become: the Milwaukee Brewers.

Seems like he spent some time as a middle reliever in 1971 and 1972, and in 1973 got his chance as a starter, going 9-9 in 25 starts, logging 183.2 innings along the way. 

Here are some career pitching numbers: 17-11, 3.28 ERA, 283 IP, 89 SO.

Interesting note: Bell threw right-handed, but batted right-handed and left-handed. Not quite Wolverine superhero level, but rare for a pitcher nonetheless. The switch-hitting didn't do much for him, though. Bell only had one hita singlein 14 career at-bats. He also had a sacrifice bunt.

There's not much additional information out there on Mr. Bell. According to his 1973 Topps card (which has a very similar picture on the front compared with the 1974 version), Bell had good control and spotted his pitches. And he was a basketball MVP in high school.

So I guess you could say that both Logan and Jerry Bell have a bit of a mysterious nature.

At least now they're both captured on a baseball card.


The design of the 1974 Topps all-star subset diverged from the norm. Not only did the cards have a horizontal layout this time, but they also featured two all-stars per card: the National League and American League representative at each fielding position. This resulted in some attractive combinations, such as Carlton Fisk/Johnny Bench, Dick Allen/Hank Aaron, Rod Carew/Joe Morgan, and Reggie Jackson/Billy Williams.

It also provided a great opportunity to feature two superheroes on the same card. I chose Wolverine as one all-star, of course, and for the other I went with Thor.

I know that's quite an outdated image of Wolverine, but it shows him in a uniform of sorts, and that makes a better parallel to baseball players and their uniforms. (Otherwise he would be wearing a leather jacket or flannel shirt or something.)

As for the rest of the card, the "A.L." and "N.L." designations that appeared next to the banners in the original design didn't really make sense, so I replaced them with the star design. The player name and team name, however, work perfectly, as Wolverine is a member of the X-Men and Thor is a member of The Avengers.

Another fun project complete. Thanks very much for reading, as always.