Sunday, July 26, 2020

The 1982-83 O-Pee-Chee Dating Game (Episode 11)

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.

The big winner of episode 10 was Glenn Anderson.

Now, let's start the 11th round and introduce the bachelors chosen by the randomizer! [APPLAUSE]

Bachelor number 1: Left wing from the New York Rangers, Don Maloney
Bachelor number 2: Left wing from the St. Louis Blues, Jorgen Pettersson
Bachelor number 3: Center from the New York Rangers, Mark Pavelich

For the first time we've got two players from the same team vying for a date with a special lady!

Let's find out about all three gents from the back of their cards.

Who wins this round?

Bachelor number 1: Canadian man Don Maloney, who's ever so close to reaching the 30-goal mark for a season.

Bachelor number 2: Swedish man Jorgen Pettersson, who plays golf and tennis in the summer sun.

Bachelor number 3: American man Mark Pavelich, a 1980 Miracle Olympian and fishing enthusiast.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

No Sleep Till Custom

I'm going to guess that Fuji over at the Chronicles knew what was coming as soon as he saw the title of this post.


If the Beastie Boys were Major League baseball players, their rookie season would have fallen around 1981 or 1982. And if their opening campaign turned out well, Topps would have likely given them a Future Stars card like the 1982 version you see above.

I stayed true to the original design, using headshots of the young trio and listing them in alphabetical order. I also borrowed some spring training backgrounds from a couple of original Future Stars cards. For the fielding position, I used each member's stage name. (Although it's important to note that all three played musical instruments as well.)

As a 1980s kid growing up in lower New York, it seemed hard to avoid the Beastie Boys. Their names would come up in school, on the radio, and in the news. Early on I remember thinking they were just a novelty; three city kids trying a little too hard to be bad boys. Kind of a spoof. But they kept going, developed their talents, created a style and sound all their own, starred in some rather creative music videos, and my goodness did they ever build up a huge following and sell a lot of records. They also inspired quite a number of the next generation's musicians and performers.

If you want to continue with the baseball card theme, by the time the 1990s arrived you would have certainly found Mike D, Ad-Rock, and MCA on all-star cards and league-leader cards in addition to their base cards.

They even linked some lyrics to baseball, saying "I got more hits than Sadaharu Oh" in the song Hey Ladies.

That's a fun line, isn't it? 

It's so fun, in fact, that it inspired me to cook up another custom card.



The highlight card template is from the 1984 Topps baseball set. The song Hey Ladies wouldn't be released for another five years, and because of that the card doesn't make sense chronologically. But the opportunity was just too perfect. Three image frames, three Beastie Boys. And in the empty space, a blue text box to describe the highlight. So I went for it, and just switched the date on the front to 1989.

This was a fun mash-up, for sure. Thanks for reading, as always. 

Sunday, July 12, 2020

The Only Kid at the Art Auction?

I'm going to paraphrase a conversation between my dad and I that took place at some point during the summer of 1991.

Dad: Want to come to an art auction with me tonight?

Me: Umm. I don't know.

Dad: Pat Lafontaine will be there, signing autogr...

Me: I'll go! 

1991 puts me in middle school. Safe to say I wouldn't have wanted much to do with an art auction back thenespecially if the event was being held at a random car dealership in the middle of my summer vacation, as was the case here.

It's not like my dad and stepmom were art collectors, either. But I don't know. It's certainly possible that they were looking for a new painting for the walls. Or maybe dad knew that I'd recently gotten into the sport of hockey and that Pat LaFontaine was the biggest hockey name on Long Island, and the whole "wanting to go to an art auction" thing was just a case of dad doing something cool for his boy. 

In any case, I'd already gotten busy flipping through my hockey cards and decided to take out the most recent LaFontaine printing from Upper Deck:

1990-91 Upper Deck #246, Pat LaFontaine

Nifty-looking card. And that, I told myself, is what I'd ask Mr. LaFontaine to sign. 

Soon we'd arrive at the dealership. A decent crowd had gathered, but it wasn't exactly a throng of hobnobbing artsy folk. (I don't think the auction was a widely advertised thing.) All the cars had been cleared out of the main showroom and rows of folding chairs had been arranged in front of an auctioneer's podium. Dad and I found two seats and waited for the games to begin.

Well, they began. There were lots of generic oil paintings. One after the other. I wasn't paying a whole lot of attention, but there must have been a few bidding wars, which I can only assume I enjoyed at least a little bit. (Dad bid on a couple of different items, but wasn't the high bidder on either occasion.)

They didn't have the air conditioning turned on, so it was certainly stuffy in there. I do remember that. And although the auction probably didn't last more than and hour or two, it sure seemed like forever to me.

Finally, the last painting came off the block, and we got on the line for autographs.

When we approached the table and I handed Mr. LaFontaine the Upper Deck card, he looked at me with a little smirk, as if he wanted to sarcastically ask, 

"So, you like art auctions, do you?"

Or maybe he appreciated the fact that a kid would sit through an entire auction just to get an autograph from a hockey player.

Regardless, he was very cordial, said hello with that smile still on his face, and happily signed the card even though I think he was mostly signing photographs that the dealership (or the Islanders) had provided. Here's the card, with autograph:

Dad and I gave our thanks and commended him on a great season, and then we scooted from the line to allow the next fan to receive an autograph.

As it turned out, just a couple of months later Mr. LaFontaine would be moving up to Buffalo in that big trade involving Pierre Turgeon. (The full trade was LaFontaine, Randy Wood, Randy Hillier, and a 4th-round draft pick for Turgeon, Benoit Hogue, Uwe Krupp, and Dave McLlwain.)

It worked out pretty well for both teams. Turgeon had some monster years on the Island, and LaFontaine made absolute magic with Alexander Mogilny in Buffalo. Have a look at these numbers from the 1992-93 season, for example:

Turgeon: 83 GP, 58 G, 74 A, 132 PTS, 24 PP Goals, Lady Byng trophy, 5th in NHL scoring

LaFontaine: 84 GP, 53 G, 95 A, 148 PTS, 20 PP Goals, 2nd in NHL scoring

Still, Patty was really missed by the fans on the Island.

I'm glad I had the chance to briefly meet him before the trade. Even happier to still have this card, in addition to the memories. Was the card the best piece of art in the auction that night? The 1991 version of me would probably say yes.

You readers and fellow collectors must have a good childhood autograph story or two. Feel free to share in the comment section.

And thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Completed Set: 1988 Topps UK Baseball Minis

Here's a set that I put together solely through trades. That might sound impressive (or foolish), but the entire set consists of just 88 cards, and I received about half of them from a single trade, so it really didn't take immense effort to complete.

The small number of cards isn't the only thing that makes this set unique, however. Here are some other details:

  • It was produced and marketed in the United Kingdom.
  • The cards were sold in a box as a complete set, and also in individual packs (5 cards, 1 stick of bubble gum).
  • Here in North America they're referred to as "Topps UK Minis", but over in the UK they were sold as "Topps American Baseball".
  • The cards are in fact mini. They measure 2-1/8 inches by 3 inches. 

 Here are some of my favorite cards in the set:

Good, simple design. The yellow color bar across the bottom is eye catching, and highlights the player name and position well. Using each team's official wordmark across the top instead of the same standard font for all teams is a really nice touch, too—especially for the UK market.

Here are three top-notch hitters who've just connected. Tony Gwynn almost resembles a cricket batsman with the way he's following through there. As for Rickey, he didn't hold back, did he?

The photography in this set isn't spectacular, but for Topps in the year 1988 I'd say it was a little bit above average. And that does have some importance, as surely some of the UK kids opening these packs didn't know a whole lot about the sport and its stars.

At the time, there were 26 teams in Major League Baseball. All 26 were represented in this set. That's another check-mark for the designers. You'll find more good design on the card backs.

I'm impressed with the amount of information here. The player name really stands out. Same goes for the card number, which is surrounded by stars—a nice tie-in to the star design on the front. Next you've got a simple one-season stat line, with career numbers too. That's fine with me, considering the market Topps was going after with this set. Besides, that leaves more room for what we find underneath. 

There's a baseball graphic on the right, with the player's facsimile signature and bio-type information printed on top (notice the weight listed in stone!). On the left, you've got a classic Topps cartoon that shares some information about the player. Below that, perhaps the most interesting aspect of the card.

Topps really nailed it with the Talkin' Baseball box. Each box describes a baseball rule or action which would seem far too rudimentary for those of us who grew up watching baseball here in North America, but served a great purpose for the market in the UK. Just think about how helpful a Talkin' Cricket box would have been if you were opening a pack of "Topps UK Cricket" cards when you were a kid.

Continuing with the fronts now, we've got two legendary Orioles surrounding Kirby in the Homer Dome. I have a feeling some of the Twins and Cardinals photos used in this set were taken during the 1987 World Series. The catcher and player (or bat boy) in the background of Kirby Puckett's card here seem like Cardinals.

Here's Nolan in that classic Astros jersey, Ryno with a mustache(!), and Ruben with a strong swing. On the back of Sandberg's card, the American spelling of "favorite" is used, not the British "favourite". I wonder if that was just an oversight. Other copy is a little bit more British. For instance, the cartoon on Dave Stewart's card mentions how he signed his first professional "pact" as a catcher. We'd have used the word "contract" instead.

You can see that the set features a nice combination of headshots, players in moments between game action, and action shots. It also includes a good amount of pitchers (20).

Have a look at the red, white, and blue bunting in the background of Frank Viola's card here. Another World Series shot? In the middle, Robin Yount swings for the fences. And on the right, the final card of the set, which is a checklist. Another nice touch.

I'm happy to have completed this one. There are 9-pocket pages designed for smaller cards, and I'm thinking this set might look nice displayed in a binder. I'd only need 10 pages, after all.

Have you ever collected trading cards that feature a sport that's more popular outside of North America? Did the cards themselves help you learn about the sport?

Share in the comment section, and thanks for reading!