Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Bat Around: Make Topps 2021 Better!

How Much is Too Much?



Topps came out with their new design and I just think it's too much. Way too much going on in the border. The honeycomb fade, the multi layer inner border with dashes and dots and bevels and corner structure is just overkill. Add to that the needless multi-layered diagonal slashes and it's just gaudy.

I simplified the design but tried to keep the original feel of the card.  As usual, I couldn't get the font just right.  But overall it makes for a cleaner looking card.  

I'd like to see some of the other bloggers who also design cards give their interpretation.  I'll post this on Twitter, too.

Here's the link to the Getty Image that Topps used for this card:


I know that some of you card creators can do a better version than I did.  And I'm sure it will be better than this Topps version.  My belief is that, in this case, less is more.  You might hold the exact opposite opinion. I'd like to see that, too.

This is my first ever attempt at a "Bat Around".  Please don't leave me hanging.



Saturday, August 1, 2020

2020 Baseball is Back (For Now)


Baseball is back, but looks a little different this year.  I thought I'd make a few card that reflect the current state of things. Here's Anthony Rizzo sharing his hand sanitizer with Orlando Arcia.


I included Mike Trout because he not only is arguably the biggest name in the game, but he was also vocal about his safety concerns.


When designing these cards, I was thinking about a take on the 1983/1963 style with the players' close-up inside a stylized COVID virus.  I also wanted a horizontal version that took on somewhat of a 1960 Topps look.  I thought it might be cool to have the team logos on a surgical mask, too.  (Maybe a bit of overkill?)


A few firsts for the 2020 season: of course Alyssa Nakken, the first female MLB on-field coach and the designated hitter in the National League.  Also that's an MLB sponsored Black Lives Matters t-shirt. And yes, cardboard fans in the seats.



Tuesday, July 28, 2020

The 1980 Donruss Set That Never Was - The Requests

Sorry for the delay.  I'd like to be a better and more consistent blogger.  But as I've said before, life gets in the way. Truly not that many requests this time around, anyway.  So I'd like to begin with a request of my own:


Ed Farmer was the radio voice of the White Sox from 1991-2019.  He also pitched for the South-siders from 1979-1981. He made his only All Star appearance in 1980, so he fit this theme perfectly. Farmer passed away April 1st.  The White Sox organization made a nice video tribute to "Farmio".


Additionally, the Sox will be sporting a "Farmio" patch on their sleeve this season. This one is modeled by Palehose newcomer Edwin Encarnacion. 


 After Yoan Moncada's three run homer in the opener, Andy Masur (Farmer's successor in the booth) also paid tribute echoing Farmer's signature call:

"Hey Ed, this one's for you! Turn on the fireworks! It's a tie ballgame! Light it up!"

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Okay, now for the actual requests. "Night Owl" suggested a 1980 rookie and a couple pre-rookies. Rickey Henderson, who made his Topps debut in 1980, got a "Rated Rookie" card.


For the pre-rookies, Tim Raines and Fernando Valenzuela, I made a "Rated Prospects" card featuring them in Minor League uniforms.  I went with black and white photos similar to the 1979 Topps Prospects cards. (To be honest, if I could have found color photos, I would have used them.)


I liked the concept, but the final product seemed lacking, so I also made "Rated Rookie" cards for Rock and Fernando.They would both debut on Topps and Donruss in 1981.  Valenzuela also appeared in the 1981 Fleer set while Raines had a card in the Donruss set.


A couple more requests were Ron Cey and Mark Fidrych. Fidrych was in the final MLB season of his meteoric career.  After his brilliant rookie season in 1976, he injured his knee then tore his rotator cuff. He never regained his early dominance. In 1980 Ron Cey was coming off of his 6th straight All Star season. I had to include at least one night-game card for Night Owl.


The usual call for more post season cards came up as well. So I made Champion Series recap-cards and a Game 4 card. The Orioles were up three games to one, forcing the Pirates to win three straight.


Finally, Bryan wanted more Pirates and Indians. So here is a Dave Parker All-Star card and a Len Barker card. Barker led the AL in strikeouts in 1980 and 1981. He made his only All Star appearance in 1981 after throwing a perfect game that May.




Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Even More of the 1980 Donruss Set that Never Was

All-Stars, Leaders, Traded, World Series and Diamond Kings

Dave Winfield went 1 for 5 with one RBI and a run scored in the 1979 All-Star game. He grounded into a fielder's choice. With Gary Matthews on first and Mike Schmidt on third, Matthews was out at second and Schmidt scored. In his second at bat he doubled to the right field gap. He scored on a Gary Carter single.

Lynn's only at bat was a two-run homer off Steve Carlton scoring Don Baylor. That gave the American league a 3-2 lead in a back and forth game that was decided in the 9th inning. In the top og the 9th, Jim Kern (who was the 1979 Rolaids Relief Man award winner) walked the bases loaded. He was pulled for Ron Guidry who walked in the winning run. The NL won their 8th straight ASG 7-6.

For the 1980 All-Stars I borrowed the look from the 1990 Donruss MVP.  I added All-Star text to the background similar to the MVP. Although the 1990 is much more similar to the base. I ditched one of the banners to give it a cleaner look.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think Donruss ever had League Leader cards.  If they did, they weren't in the familiar Topps format. But for the sake of this imaginary set, I've created just that. I chose to do them in the Topps style from the '70s with a single card with the AL and the NL leader.

I picked this card because the Brothers Niekro actually tied for the most wins in 1979 with 21 wins each. Of course with knuckleballers you take the good with the bad.  Joe also led the league in wild pitches. Phil led the league in homeruns surrendered. In the AL Mike Flanagan had a career high 23 victories.  He also had career highs in shutouts  with 5 and strikeouts with 190. He was the AL Cy Young award winner.


Even though these guys led their respective leagues in homers, neither look too happy here.  Maybe because both of them also led their leagues in strikeouts.  Yup, Dave Kingman smashed 48 dingers and whiffed 131 times. In the AL, Gorman Thomas hit 45 round-trippers but fanned an incredible 175 times.

As for the traded cards, I reversed he players names and team names and tried to create a "traded" icon in the same vein as the "Rated Rookie" icon. A couple of big name trades here. Nolan Ryan was a free agent who signed a 4 year $4.5M with his hometown Astros.  He became the first player to earn more than $1M a year.  The Angels GM, Buzzie Bavasi reportedly commented that Ryan "could easily be replace by two 8-7 pitchers", referring to his 1979 record of 16-14.  


In 1980, Rusty Staub was competing with Warren Cromartie for first base. The Expos ended up dumping him for two nobodies at the end of  spring training. Rusty ended up sharing time as DH, first base and outfield for the Rangers. He hit an even .300 in a somewhat limited role. He was traded to the Mets the following season for the second time.
In some sets, Donruss did include World Series cards. But they weren't quite the same as we were used to with Topps.  They were visually similar to the player's card except with a World Series logo on the front. The back would detail their World Series feats.  I kept mine similar to Topps but included the World series logo.  In this particular card you can see Ed Ott easily tagging out Eddie Murray after a laser throw from Dave Parker.


It wasn't until their second issue in 1982 that Donruss included their Diamond Kings subset. But I've got one for the 1980 set. While Donruss relied on Dick Perez for their art, I tried to use photo effects to recreate the style.  Here is "Stretch" McCovey on a 1980 style Diamond Kings card.


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As usual, I am taking request for cards based on this design. So if there are any players or even subsets you'd like to see in a future post, leave a comment.





Friday, June 12, 2020

More of the 1980 Donruss Set that Never Was

Rookies, Team Cards, Managers, and Award Winners



"Super" Joe Charboneau was the beer-drinking, softball-playing Rookie of the Year for the Cleveland Indians in 1980. His career was cut short by an injury sustained the following strike-shortened season. In 1980 he played 131 games and hit .289 with 23 homers and 87 RBIs. He only played 70 more games in his career (1981 & 82). He batted .211 with 6 homers and 27 RBIs. 

Steve Howe was the 1980 Rookie of the Year and an All Star Reliever in 1982. But he was plagued by substance abuse. He was suspended 7 times for drug policy violations, including the entire 1984 season. He was given a "Lifetime Ban" in 1992 which was overturned on appeal. He died in 2006 when he crashed his car. There was methamphetamine in hes system. 

As for the design, I used just base cards with the Rated Rookies logo that we came to recognize on Donruss cards.  Donruss didn't begin making "Rated Rookie" cards until the 1984 set.  Even then it wasn't the iconic logo that I am using on this imaginary set.  In 1984 it was a banner that was similar to the team name design that year.


For the team cards, I didn't stray far from the base. Simply went horizontal and dropped one of the pennants.

In 1980 the Angels were coming off a year in which the won the AL West division. It was their first post season appearance in team history. Although the loss of Nolan Ryan had to hurt, falling to 6th place 30 games under .500? 

The 1980 Braves were in their 3rd season under Booby Cox. After two last place finishes, the 1980 Braves would end the season one game over .500 and finish 4th. It wouldn't be enough to save him. By the end of 1981 Cox would be gone. He would, of course, return in 1990 for 21 more years managing the Braves.




Speaking of managers.  Donruss tended to just put managers on base cards.  I went a different way because I think the coaches can be interesting, too.

Particularly on this Mariners card.  Darrell Johnson was the manager of the 1975 Pennant winning Red Sox. He was named first manager of the expansion Mariners. But his coaching staff! Hall of Fame second baseman Bill Mazeroski.  All-Star shortstop, 1962 MVP, perennial stolen base leader and future  Mariners skipper, Maury Wills. The speedy All-Star outfielder Vada Pinson and veteran pitching coach of the Swingin' A's, Wes Stock.

The 1980 Expos also had ties to the Swingin' A's with Dick Williams at the helm. Their coaching staff included future Expos manager Felipe Alou. Norm Sherry was a coach under Williams for the Angels in 1976 and took over as manager after Williams was fired. Galen Cisco was a veteran pitcher and pitching coach. Ozzie Virgil Sr. broke the color barrier as a player for the 1958 Detroit Tigers. He went 5 for 5 in his first home game for the Tigers.

One of the things that Donruss did right from the start was make Award Winner cards. In my last post you can see the 1981 Brett MVP card and the 1981 Carlton Cy Young card.  So in this imaginary set from 1980, I included a card of the NL Co-MVPs from 1979, Keith Hernandez and Willie Stargell.




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As usual, I am taking request for cards based on this design. So if there are any players or even subsets you'd like to see in a future post, leave a comment.