Sunday, April 26, 2020

Neal and Nickelodeon

Today's custom card was inspired by a pro who played multiple positions for the same team, and features a young actor who played multiple characters on the same show.

First, here's the original card:

1959 Topps #427, Charlie Neal

And here are some hints for the look-alike:

He was a cast member of a well-loved sketch comedy series on Nickelodeon back in the 1990s.

The characters he portrayed were usually a little wacky in one way or another.

He and another character from that show would spin off a show of their own. Plus a movie.

And this next hint is going to give it away for some of you, but...


Okay, here's the custom:

I deliberated for a while on how to style the text on this custom. Should I go with the actor's full name on the top, Kel Mitchell, or his character's name from Good Burger, "Ed"? And if I went with Ed, would adding Mitchell's facsimile signature be inaccurate? Would it be better to leave it without a signature? (On that note, I wonder what Ed's signature would look like.)

Well, I tried placing the name "ed" at the top of the card, but it was just a little too odd-looking all by itself. And I figured adding the facsimile signature would be a respectful nod to the original card. So I went with Kel Mitchell as the player name and signature, with the team name as "Good Burger" and the position name to match the character he's portraying in the photo: "Ed the cashier".

Now let's talk about the ballplayer who inspired the custom card.

In eight total MLB seasons Charlie Neal collected 858 hits, including 113 doubles, 38 triples, and 87 home runs. He tallied 391 RBI and posted a .259 lifetime batting average. 

His best season came in 1959, when he put up a .287 batting average on 177 hits, including 11 triples, tying for most in the majors with Dodger teammate Wally Moon. He also led the majors in sacrifice bunts with a whopping 21. Best of all, though, he earned a World Series ring. And he really did earn it, going 10-for-27 (.370 avg) with 2 doubles, 2 home runs, and 6 RBI in 6 games played.

And what a season, as he'd also be named an All-Star and take home the Gold Glove Award for N.L. second basemen.

Interesting note from later in his career: After the 1961 season he was traded to the New York Mets, and he'd appear in the starting lineup for their first-ever game. He went 3-for-4, driving home the first run in team history.

And what about Kel Mitchell?

That sketch comedy show mentioned at the top was, of course, All That. It featured Kel Mitchell, Kenan Thompson, and a bunch of other wacky kids who'd go on to have successful acting careers. Then came Kenan & Kel and the Good Burger movie. On top of that, Kel's had a long, successful, and varied acting career, even playing the voice of a canine character named T-Bone on the animated show Clifford the Big Red Dog.

As for Kenan Thompson, you might know him best from Saturday Night Live, but he's had an equally varied and busy acting career. And to tie it back to sports, in the second and third Mighty Ducks films, a young Kenan played the character Russ Tyler (you'll know him best as the creator of the "knuckle puck").

Since Kenan also played a big role in Good Burger along with Kel, and because the two are still good friends to this day, I thought about doing a custom Good Burger card for Kenan as well. But I think I might wait to see if I can find a ballplayer look-alike for him. 

Besides, I thought of something even better. 

The 1959 Topps set contains some of the greatest multi-player cards ever made. "Hitting Kings" Ashburn and Mays, "Fence Busters" Aaron and Mathews, "Keystone Combo" Fox and Aparicio. And since Kel Mitchell's custom card is already based on the 1959 set, what better opportunity to get the two dudes on a card together?

Here's the second custom:

I used the Fox-Aparico "Keystone Combo" card as a base, and found a similar font for the text. I really like the way this one turned out—maybe even more than the Ed custom above.

Finally, here's a compilation of skits from All That. The "Okrah" bit that starts at the 1:38 mark shows Keenan and Kel at their goofy best.

Any fans of All That out there? Do you have a favorite character or skit? Share in the comment section. And thanks for reading, as always.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

From the Favorites Box: Claude Lemieux, 1987-88 O-Pee-Chee #227

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

I know, I know, what a jerk, right? 

Many people remember Claude Lemieux this way, in large part from his actions in a playoff game against Detroit where he hit Kris Draper from behind, sending him face-first into the boards. Draper sustained numerous facial injuries as a result.

"Not the only dirty play from that guy", you might be saying. And you'd be right.

But hear me out.

Any good story needs heroes and villains, and Claude Lemieux, despite what most of us so readily remember, played both roles throughout his NHL career very well. That's quite rare, and I think you could even call it remarkable.

Consider these numbers:

1,215 games played
379 goals
407 assists
786 points
1,777 penalty minutes 
58 game-winning goals

Also consider that across his career he put up five 30-goal seasons, and came very close to four more (29, 27, and 27, and 26).

They're not exactly Hall of Fame numbers, but then there's also this:

Claude Lemieux's name appears on the Stanley Cup four times. He won it with Montreal as a rookie in 1985-86, with New Jersey in 1994-95, with Colorado in 1995-96, and with New Jersey again in 1999-00.

And he wasn't just along for the ride on any of those championship teams. In that rookie season with Montreal, for example, he scored 16 points in 20 playoff games, including 4 game-winning goals. In 1994-95 he led the entire league with 13 playoff goals, taking home the Conn Smythe trophy as MVP. And even in 1996-97, a season when his Colorado Avalanche lost in the semifinals to the Detroit Red Wings, Claude put up 13 goals to tie for the NHL lead, four of those again being game-winners.

Let's dive even a little deeper. Here are the ten players who've scored the most game-winning goals in the Stanley Cup playoffs throughout their careers:

Brett Hull: 24
Wayne Gretzky: 24
Joe Sakic: 19
Claude Lemieux: 19
Maurice Richard: 18
Mike Bossy: 17
Chris Drury: 17
Glenn Anderson: 17
Patrick Marleau: 16
Jaromir Jagr: 16

Did you catch the guy who's fourth from the top, with 19?

That number doesn't happen by accident. That's a coach putting a player out there when the team needs a goal, and when a championship is within reach. Just look at all the other names on that list, my goodness; every one a brilliant, clutch player. Now try being a guy with that ability while simultaneously playing a rough, sometimes over-the-edge game that makes you the cowboy in the black hat.

I don't think many players would want that role. I don't think many players are capable of even playing that role.

What's the point of all this?

To be clear, I'm not asking you to soften your stance on the guy. You can still hate him all you want.

But as you look at young Claude Lemieux on that rookie card and see his laser focus as he bears down on the goalin pre-game warmupsjust remember there's more to the picture. 

And for playing both the hero and villain better than just about anyone in the page-turning story that is professional hockey, 1987-88 O-Pee-Chee #227 has a spot in my box of favorite cards.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

The Well-Traveled Envelope: One Year Later

A year ago, I sent out a particular trade package with the intention that the bubble mailer (and packing supplies within) be reused as many times as possible, giving it the chance to visit as many bloggers and collectors as possible.

Here's a list of bloggers who've received and sent out the envelope, at least to my knowledge, along with a link to their blog entry showing the cards they received and the cards they proceeded to send out to the next recipient. (Please add a note in the comment section if I missed your stop.)

4/11/19 (Oregon): Gavin from Baseball Card Breakdown

4/29/19 (Ontario, Canada): Angus from Dawg Day Cards

8/7/19 (Rhode Island): Shane from Shoebox Legends

8/14/19 (New Jersey): Chris from The Collector

8/22/19 (Ohio): Adam from Cardboard Clubhouse

1/24/20 (Illinois): Nick from Dime Boxes

Then Nick sent the envelope to Greg from Night Owl Cards (New York), and I believe Greg sent it on to the next collector, but that's where my trail stops.

Regardless, that makes eight collectors. Pretty cool! 

What's even more cool? Over this past year I've realized that many collectors already do make it a practice to reuse envelopes, as well as supplies like top loaders, team bags, and nine-pocket pages, when sending out cards. Nice going, everyone!

But what does that mean for this particular well-traveled envelope, especially with the current epidemic out there? 

The original idea was that I'd compile its travels at the one-year mark and see if it would be worth tracking for another year. It's understandable if some folks would rather hold off on receiving mail for a while, but for those who want to keep the cards moving, I'd say by all means, keep sending it around (safely), adding your info to the sheet (safely), and posting about it on your blogs (have you wiped down your keyboards and phones lately?). In your post, feel free to list the States or countries it's already visited.

Most importantly, keep making all your envelopes well traveled by reusing as much material as you can (safely). It's good for the environment and good for your wallet.

If you haven't yet received the well-traveled envelope but would like to participate, feel free to comment below. That might give the current envelope holder an idea of who to send it to.

So, where will the envelope visit next? How banged up has it gotten? What cards will it contain? Hopefully we'll have many more installments over this next calendar year.

Thanks for reading. (And participating!) And stay safe, wherever you might be.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Best Nine-Pocket Page from a Completed Set

Back in October, the Five-Tool Collector posted some attractive cards from his 1957 Topps baseball set build. He mentioned how the smaller size of the set lent itself to high quantities of star power on each binder page, and wrapped up a particular paragraph by saying, "For me there is nothing like flipping through a set and just seeing stars on top of stars."

I fully agree.

Interestingly, around that same time I was putting together a set of 1984-85 Topps hockey cards, and I too had one of those star-studded experiences. It happened as I turned to the sixth page, card numbers 4654. Here they are: 

I think this might be the best nine-pocket page from any set in my collection. (Aside from the obvious pages that contain a bunch of all-star subset cards.) Here's why.

First, the players:

#46 John Ogrodnick 928 NHL games played; 827 points; All-Star game; scored 100 points in a season; led the 1984-85 Detroit Red Wings in scoring (105 points) and the 1989-90 New York Rangers in scoring (74 points).

#47 Brad Park Hall of Fame (1988); 1,113 NHL games played; 896 points; 9 All-Star games; member of Team Canada during the 1972 Summit Series.

#48 Greg Stefan Nine-year NHL career; won 20 games in a season three times.

#49 Steve Yzerman Hall of Fame (2008); three-time Stanley Cup winner; 1,514 NHL games played; 1,755 points; 9 All-Star games; Olympic Gold Medal (Canada 2002); Conn Smythe, Selke, Masterton, and Pearson trophy winner.

#50 Paul Coffey Hall of Fame (2004); four-time Stanley Cup winner; 1,409 NHL games played; 1,531 points; 14 All-Star games; three-time Norris trophy winner.

#51 Wayne Gretzky WAYNE GRETZKY.

#52 Jari Kurri Hall of Fame (2001); five-time Stanley Cup winner; 1,251 NHL games played; 1,398 points; 9 All-Star games; Olympic Bronze Medal (Finland 1998); Lady Byng trophy winner.

#53 Bob Crawford Seven-year NHL career; scored a career-best 36 goals in 1983-84.

#54 Ron Francis Hall of Fame (2007); two-time Stanley Cup winner; 1,731 NHL games played; 1,798 points; 4 All-Star games; Lady Byng, Selke, and Clancy trophy winner; more career assists than any NHL player not named Wayne Gretzky.

To summarize, that's 6 out of 9 players in the Hall of Fame, 18 Stanley Cups, a few team captains, 7 out of 9 all-stars, and too many points, records, and awards to count.

Above all that, these nine players shake out well when it comes to icing a team by position:

Centers (3) Gretzky, Yzerman, Francis (how's that for your top three centers??)

Left Wings (1) – Ogrodnick

Right Wings (2) Kurri, Crawford

Defensemen (2) Coffey, Park

Goalies (1) – Stefan

Yes. I do believe you could build a team around those nine players.

I also thought this would be a fun opportunity for all of you bloggers and collectors to flip through some binders you haven't flipped through in a long time and find some star-studded pages of your own.

So, what's the best nine-pocket page from a set in your collection? It can be any sport.

I hope you'll give it a try, and even share your findings!