Sunday, May 30, 2021

The 1982-83 O-Pee-Chee Dating Game (Episode 17)


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 16, in an impressive comeback, was Jim Peplinski. (UPDATE: More than two weeks after the episode aired, Lars Molin received a vote to tie the score. However, since the vote was cast at such a late date, we're going to nullify it. We spoke to Lars and he said he was fine with the decision, and he immediately went off to do some more windsurfing.)

Now, let's start the 17th round and introduce the bachelors chosen by the randomizer! [APPLAUSE]
Bachelor number 1: Right wing from the Buffalo Sabres, Mike Foligno
Bachelor number 2: Center from the New York Islanders, Brent Sutter
Bachelor number 3: Defenseman from the Detroit Red Wings, Willie Huber

Last episode it was an all-Canadian team battle. This time it's all American teams. Let's find out more about these gents from the back of their cards.

Alright folks, who's going out on a date with our nice young lady this time?

Bachelor number 1: Softball guy with the nice smile, Mike Foligno.

Bachelor number 2: Former Bronco and one of five hockey-playing brothers, Brent Sutter.

Bachelor number 3: Fishing enthusiast Willie Huber.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Wrestling with a Custom Card

Have a look at smiling Ralph Klassen here:

1976-77 O-Pee-Chee #282, Ralph Klassen

When I first saw that face, it reminded me of a big name from the 1980s sports and entertainment world. Any idea who? 

Here are some hints on the look-alike:

Instead of shouldering opponents into the boards, he flung them into the ropes.

He performed body slams, not body checks.

When I say he was a big name from the 1980s, I mean that figuratively and literally. The guy was huge. You might even refer to him as a giant.

Okay, that last hint probably gave it away, so here's the custom card:

Now that I see both cards together, I'm really not sure there's much of a resemblance. But a few weeks ago, when I first saw Ralph Klassen up there, it did remind me of Andre. So I'm going with it.

At first I couldn't figure out what position to list for the big guy. Probably defense, right? Or even a goalie? But then I thought, "Duh, he's a Giant!" Problem solved.

Before we get to Mr. Roussimoff, though, let's talk about the man on the original card. Here are some career NHL numbers for Ralph Klassen:

497 GP, 52 G, 93 A, 145 PTS, 120 PIM, 7 GWG

Doesn't seem like much to write home about, especially because Klassen was a talented player who put up some good numbers in juniors—so good, in fact, that he was selected 3rd overall in the 1975 NHL Amateur Draft. 

But there's something important to keep in mind here: He played for some awful NHL teams. Have a look at these win-loss records.

1975-76 California Golden Seals (27-42-11)
1976-77 Cleveland Barons (25-42-13)
1978-79 Colorado Rockies (15-53-12) 

Oof. Three straight seasons of cities that were barely hanging onto their franchises. That's got to take a toll on a player. And it didn't end there. After the 1978-79 season was over, look at this two-day transaction roller coaster that Mr. Klassen experienced:

June 13, 1979: Claimed by Hartford from Colorado in the expansion draft. (i.e., goes from an NHL cellar dweller to a WHA transfer team. Not fun.)

June 14, 1979: Traded to the Islanders by Hartford. (Wait! Glory is ahead!)

June 14, 1979: Traded to St. Louis by the Islanders as part of a three-team transaction. (Back to the cellar. The previous season, St. Louis went 18-50-12.) 

Klassen would stick around in St. Louis for a few seasons though, and the team did put up some decent win-loss records in that time, including a first-place Smythe Division finish in 1980-81. For Klassen, that must have felt great.

His best individual season was 1976-77, when he put up 14 goals and 18 assists for 32 points—placing him in the top 10 for team scoring. Not too bad, all things considered.  

As for Andre Roussimoff (a.k.a. Andre the Giant), it's likely you know a bit more about him.

If you were an '80s kid, the guy probably amazed you. Not only was he part of the cast of characters in the World Wrestling Federation, but he also played the loveable role of Fezzik in the 1987 film The Princess Bride

And can you picture Andre on skates? Playing hockey? If you've been a hockey fan at any point over the past 20 years, just picture big, tall defenseman Zdeno Chara, but then add even a few more inches and about 200 extra pounds. There you have it.

I mean, imagine you're a forward carrying the puck. If a guy like Andre is actually mobile on skates and has quick reflexes on defense, you don't have many options. Can't go around him. Certainly can't muscle yourself through him. Just avoid his half of the ice, I guess. Or maybe hope you're traded to his team.

In any case, it'd be a sight.


In the original 1976-77 set, card #264 depicts the Montreal Canadiens celebrating their Stanley Cup championship in a design inspired by the sports pages, complete with black and white image and newspaper-style caption running across the bottom.

I thought Andre's wrestling championship victory in 1988 would make for a good parallel, so I revised the text and swapped out the NHL logo for that classic WWF design. Here's the card:

I had even more fun than usual designing these two cards. And I still chuckle when I look at Andre as a Cleveland Baron up there and picture him skating around, opponents bouncing off his bulk in various directions.

Hope this gave you a chuckle, too. Thanks for reading, as always.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Print Version, Volume II

Toward the end of 2019, I decided to gather up some of the more meaningful blog posts from my first year of blogging in an effort to preserve them in print form.
After doing a bit of research on different photo book services, I chose Mixbook, went for it, and created a book.
It was fun to see those written memories in physical, tangible form—so much so that toward the end of 2020, I decided to do it again for the blog's second year.

Mixbook's platform and interface seemed almost exactly the same as last year, which I suppose is okay. As the saying goes, If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Maybe some other sites (cough-cough blogger cough-cough) would do well to keep that saying in mind.
Anyhow, after getting accustomed to how Mixbook's interface works, arranging the text and images becomes pretty straightforward. I'll spare the details here, and instead refer you back to the post I put up last year if you're interested in doing a similar project with some of your blog posts.

Another thing that didn't seem to change very much from last year was the cost. My 2020 book was very close in price to the 2019 version, for a similar number of pages.
Briefly put, there's a flat charge for the blank book, varying slightly with the sizes and types you can choose from. Regardless of which style you choose, each book comes with 20 fresh pages for you to fill. There's a per-page charge for every additional page you add after that. (Be on the lookout for coupon codes that'll give you big discounts—they're often available and advertised right on the home page.)

Whether you use Mixbook or one of the many other photo book services out there (such as Snapfish, Apple, Flickr, and Shutterfly), I highly recommend giving it a try. I stuck with the blog posts that held special childhood memories, or ones that I just thought turned out really well.

So why not go through your blog history, choose 5 or 10 entries (or more) that hold special meaning for you, and consider making a print version? It's a great way to look back on some of the work you've done, especially if you've been blogging for years. You'll be preserving some of that work in print form, and there's nothing else like it.
If you are indeed thinking about doing a project like this, do any specific blog posts immediately come to mind?
Share in the comment section, and thanks for reading, as always.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

From the Favorites Box: New York Mets Team, 1968 Topps #401

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

I first noticed this card a few months ago on Bo's blog, Baseball Cards Come to Life!



In that blog post, Bo (a.k.a. he of the eagle eye) directed our attention to the scoreboard in the background, where in small letters it reads as follows:
It was an important message. Over the first few years of the franchise's existence, those fans endured some pretty rough win-loss records. (40-120, 51-111, 53-109, 50-112, 66-95, and 61-101)
However, in 1968, the year this card was printed, things looked slightly better. The Mets ended up with 73 wins, the most they'd ever posted. And although it meant another finish toward the bottom of the standings (they edged out Houston by one win to avoid last place in the N.L.), the fans continued to stick around. Good thing, because the very next season their team would go on that miracle run and become World Series champs. Who could have guessed? 
But forget about all that for a moment, and have a closer look at the card again—specifically the three guys in the front row.
I like how they're sitting cross-legged on the grass with their hands clasped in front of them and their mitts on the ground. Place a homemade sign between them featuring the team name and a local sponsor, and it would be a scene right out of my 1980s Little League days. (The first sponsor I remember having was "Madeo's Plumbing". The company name was silk-screened proudly across the foam-paneled fronts of our mesh baseball caps.)
Really, all that's missing from the scene is someone's mom walking out of the dugout with fresh orange wedges or paper cups filled with fruit punch. Toss an ice cream truck in the parking lot, and everything would be right in the world again.
And I'd like to think that, despite hovering near the bottom of the standings yet again when this team photo was taken, at least some of the Mets on that card had similar good feelings. They were playing baseball for a living, after all.
For the care-free days of Little League, playing baseball with your friends, and loving it regardless of wins and losses, 1968 Topps #401 has a spot in my box of favorite cards.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Two Highlights, One Day

Thirty years ago today, a pretty remarkable thing happened in the world of Major League Baseball. Actually, two pretty remarkable things.

That afternoon in Oakland, California, Rickey Henderson stole his 939th base, topping Lou Brock's mark of 938 and setting the new all-time record.

Later that evening in Arlington, Texas, Nolan Ryan baffled the visiting Toronto Blue Jays, throwing his 7th career no-hitter, striking out 16 along the way.

These records didn't go unnoticed by trading card companies.
1991 Leaf managed to squeeze both players into one of their insert sets that very same year.
1991 Leaf Gold Rookies #BC25 Nolan Ryan and #BC26 Rickey Henderson

Smart decision. It also must have been a late decision, because this insert set is titled "Gold Rookies". It consists of 24 rookies, and at the end of the set, with the final two cards, you get Ryan and Rickey.
The following year is when both players received the rest of the recognition. 
1992 Donruss gave both players their individual "highlights" cards.
1992 Donruss #154 Nolan Ryan and #215 Rickey Henderson

1992 Fleer gave both players their individual "record setters" cards, back to back in the set, which was a nice touch.
1992 Fleer #681 Rickey Henderson and #682 Nolan Ryan

1992 Score gave Ryan a special "No Hit Club" card and Henderson a "Highlight" card. The image of Henderson is from the actual record-setting day, which is another nice touch.
1992 Score #425 Nolan Ryan and #430 Rickey Henderson

In the 1992 Topps set, Henderson got a record-breaker card for the 939 steals, again featuring an image from the record-setting stolen base. Ryan got a record-breaker card too, but it wasn't for the no-hitter. It was for 22 straight seasons with at least 100 strikeouts. (Side note: Wow.)
1992 Topps Record Breaker #2, Rickey Henderson

1992 Upper Deck missed the boat on Ryan, but gave Henderson a Diamond Skills card ("Best Baserunner") that showed him lifting third base in the air triumphantly after stealing #939, and mentioned the record in the write-up on the back.

1992 Upper Deck #648, Rickey Henderson

And don't get me wrong, it's all fine and good that so many baseball card companies recognized Ryan and Rickey for their accomplishments. But both players set their records on the same day, for goodness sake. How often does something like that happen? Hardly ever, I'd guess. And none of the card companies documented that aspect of it.
So, to commemorate such a great day in baseball, I thought it would be fun to give Rickey and Ryan a combination "Highlight" card like the ones featured in the 1984 Topps set. 

And here's the card back.

This has turned into a little series, as I've already used the 1984 Topps Highlight template for two other custom cards (Joel Youngblood's amazing feat and a Beastie Boys highlight). I think I might keep it going. Not only are the cards fun to do, but they give me a chance to write some press-style blurbs on the back.

Thanks for reading, everyone.