I’m not a huge Allen & Ginter guy. I don’t like it as a baseball card set but I do enjoy the way it incorporates and re-incorporates concepts from the early years of trading cards. All those animal, national, flag, etc. inserts and subsets remind me of the wonderful world of pre-war cards where trading cards allowed for people to experience and learn about the rest of the world.
This year Ginter has a Flags of Lost Nations insert set. On the surface this looks like a perfect fit for what Ginter does best. A way to learn about the past and a opportunity to imagine what other ways national borders could’ve turned out. As someone whose family lived in Hawai‘i before it was annexed by the United States* I was pleased to see that there was a Hawai‘i card in the checklist.
*This puts me in the small category of having Chinese ancestors who legally became residents of the United States during the time while the Chinese Exclusion Act was enforced and also puts me in the rare category of having Asian ancestors who never immigrated to the United States.
This is not good. Pre-Dylann Roof you could defensibly claim ignorance about this but now? Yeah. Topps has a full-fledged white supremacist flag on its checklist. I’ve been unable to find an image of the card yet but I know it’s going to be a stomach punch when I do—both in terms of how it represents a country which was founded with explicitly racist intent and how it’s used today as a symbol for how black people are inherently threatening and need to be subdued..
But that’s not all. If you look at the checklist there’s also a Nazi-puppet state on there in the Republic of Salo. I’m certain Topps wouldn’t go anywhere near a Nazi flag but this is pretty damn close.
Part of me hopes that this is merely a function of Topps trying to spread things out across the continents and not doing proper vetting on what these countries stood for. In other words, a horribly unfortunate mistake. But then I look at the text on the back of the Salo card and I’m not so sure. Someone had to research and write that and someone else had to green-light it even with the reference to Hitler.
Is it good to know about these countries? Yes. Absolutely. Are these the kind of things you want people to be collecting and seeking and saving and displaying? I certainly hope not.
I know politics is something we try and avoid on this blog and in this hobby. But flags are political. Countries are political. And when you put out a 25-card set of flags you should absolutely expect for people to look at the list, wonder why you chose the countries you did, and expect you to be aware and responsible for how those flags may still be in use today.
1969 Topps was a rough year as the player boycott plus four expansion teams put Topps in a major bind with the photography. As a result, many of the cards featured photos which had been cropped super tightly to obscure out-of-date photos, featured hatless players, involved unflattering low-angle shots to hide cap logos, or had the logos painted over. This, plus the numerous re-used photos overshadowed what could’ve been a great design.
Needless to say I was a excited to see 2018 Heritage since I expected that the 1969 design would look really nice if done well. The results have mostly confirmed this. Photos aren’t cropped too closely—more three-quarters length portraits instead of neck-up headshots—and are distinct from what we’ve seen in Flagship (though there does appear to be some reuse from previous years of Heritage). They’re also generally taken in better light than Topps took photos in in the 1960s. No more squinting in full sun or dealing with shadows across faces.
Many of the Heritage images use fill flash well and balance things nicely with the ambient light. Where in the mid-80s Topps went a bit overkill on the flash and turned many of the photos into impending thunderstorms, 2018 Heritage features sunny days that look perfect for a day game or sunsets that suggest it will be a wonderful night for a ballgame.
It’s a great demonstration of how good 1969 Topps could’ve looked and really illustrates the promise and appeal of the Heritage line. Topps also did very well this year in using photos which overwhelmingly feature white home uniforms or road grey uniforms. In previous years there have been a lot of colored alternates or spring training tops* which clash with the retro-esthetic of the designs.
*As a Giants collector this has been one of my biggest peeves about Heritage.
I’m also glad that Topps used the smallest possible ® and ™ symbols on the team names. In many of their retro sets (including this year’s 1983 throwbacks), adding those characters throws off the alignment and, to my eye, ruins the design. So kudos to Topps for getting it right here.
Being the type/design nerd I am though there are also a few things going on that really bother me about Heritage. One big one is that Topps chose to use the longest-possible position names—including “Outfielder” instead of “Outfield,” a choice I don’t think I’ve ever seen on a card before. This wouldn’t normally be an issue except that in order to fit the positions into the circle Topps had to compress the font. And even compressed, “Second Baseman” doesn’t fit well.
I have no idea why Topps did this especially since both last year’s Heritage and the original 1969 design use short position indicators like “2nd Base” instead.
While I’ve seen a bunch of complaints about changing the color of the Astros dot from light green to dark blue, that doesn’t bother me. I’d actually like to see all the dots updated to better match the team colors. What does bother me is that Topps went with black ink for the position name inside the dark blue dot. This is literally unreadable and an obvious design screwup. I’d love to see the positions in white or orange here instead.
This Gattis card though also takes me into the thing about Heritage that upsets me the most. While Topps has done a great job in updating the design with good photography they’ve also gone ahead and ruined a lot of the effect by post-processing many of the photos with a fake dot pattern which I’m assuming is intended to mimic a traditional halftone screen.
For a few years now Heritage has been printed using stochastic screening.* This results in much cleaner photographic images and generally improves print quality. Or at least it would if Topps didn’t add this silly dot pattern back into the photo. On the fronts of cards it’s especially visible in the skies and I suspect Topps intended it to replicate the vintage look.
For the few of us who would even notice what Topps is doing it’s borderline close to ruining the whole product by sending it into an uncanny valley between looking “authentic” and being a wonderful update which modernizes the design.
This becomes especially apparent on the All-Stars cards. I’ve gone ahead and scanned details from a real 1969 card since it makes the comparison that much more obvious.
Topps, to its credit, has the greyscale background image printed in just black ink. But the fake halftone effect is extremely obvious and extremely large. You can tell its a fake effect because the dots are all the same size—in a traditional screen the dots change size—plus the scale is completely off.
There’s also an artificially large trap where the black and white photo overlaps the red header graphic. This is also something that was done intentionally as it appears on all the All-Star cards and is way too large to have been introduced by the printing process.
Comparing to the 1969 card shows just how different the screening looks. The fake halftone in 2018 distracts from the image since it’s merely imposed on top of it as a texture. In the 1969, the dots are the image.
You can also see here how much better the modern screening is when Topps doesn’t screw with it. In Trout’s cap you can barely make out any noise from the printing screen and what you can notice looks more like film grain. On the 1969 card Hawk’s hair is full of the halftone rosette pattern.
On the backs of the All-Star cards—and from what I’ve seen, the Deckle Edge inserts—this is even more obvious because Topps only applied the fake screen effect to parts of the image. As a result it stands out even more. The Deckle Edge inserts appear to be very similar to this. Rather than improving on the originals Topps has tried a lazy approach to faking an old-time look.
This is especially frustrating because there was so much potential for those inserts to look amazing compared to the 1969 versions. Just printing black and white photos with a stochastic screen would’ve been a huge improvement. But Topps also could’ve considered making them duotones and getting them even closer to looking like real photographs.
There’s also something else weird going on in many of the Heritage photos. This Porcello is the most egregious of the ones I’ve seen but it’s happening a lot. The photos look like they’ve been printed out of register except that printing on the dot and the edges of the photo are all registered correctly.
In the Porcello example there’s severe magenta fringing on his right ear and elbow. There’s equally-severe yellow fringing around the red details on his jersey. I’m a total loss at guessing what’s going on since the rest of the card doesn’t look out of register.* However I am crossing my fingers and hoping that this isn’t another attempt to create a retro look through post-processing.
*It almost look like the purple/green chromatic aberration you get from cheap photographic lenses but it’s not that either since the colors are off and chromatic aberration only shows up in the slightly-out-of-focus areas.
I want to like this set. I really do. Aside from all the short print nonsense* Topps is very close to having something wonderful here in updating old designs to show how good they are and how well they work today. Many of the cards in this set are extremely nice with their good photography, full statistics, and easy-to-read backs. The World Series cards with their box scores are fantastic. There’s so much going on that appeals to me.
*I can ignore the parallels and variants but having 20% of the checklist be intentionally short-printed just to create artificial scarcity is something that directly antagonizes me and the way I collect cards.
Yet this straddling of wanting to improve the original while simultaneously weighing it down with faked versions of 1969’s production keeps me from fully enjoying it. I’d love an update. And I’d love an all-period-details replicated set which is actually printed with a coarse traditional linescreen. Unfortunately those two goals aren’t compatible and trying to do both means Topps does neither. Did I enjoy my pack? Yes and it was fun seeing these in person for the first time. Do I feel the need to buy another? Not really.
The annual release of Topps Heritage is always a good time to take a look back at the original set. If time permits I would like to create a series dedicated to the different aspects of 1969 Topps/2018 Heritage. I hope others will also contribute to the series. I know that @SplitSeason1981 has been building the original set and is sure to have some thoughts.
Today we are tackling the All-Star Subset.
1969 Topps #426 Curt Flood (ASG)
Topps has chosen many ways to honor All-Stars, One of my favorites is via a dedicated subset. This is how the first All-Star set appeared in 1958 and periodically throughout the 1960s.
The Sporting News
The cards were often cross promoted with a magazine, in 1969 it was the Sporting News. The TSN masthead was present on All-Star Cards in 1959, 1961 (love these), 1962, 1968 and 1970.
Sport Magazine got the billing on the original All-Star Subset of 1958 followed by 1960,
After 1970 the All-Star subset disappears for a few years, returning unsponsored in 1974.
The All-Star subset remains present in contemporary Topps issues typically appearing in Update/Series 3.
1969 Topps #540 Curt Flood
Often Topps ties designs in consecutive years by keeping an aspect of the previous release. Some folks may think this is redundant or lazy – for me it gives a sense of continuity from one year to the next. The 1968 -> 1969 retained flair is the circle. I think of it as “The Baseball”, it was best executed on the 1964 Jumbos which had the player name in the center with position and team above and below the stitching respectively. The circle on 1969T ain’t no baseball, but it does conjure the image for me.
The circle is also the element of 1969 Topps that carries through from the base cards to the All-Star cards. For the subset the team name has been moved from the bottom of the card to within the circle.
The Wire Photo
There are 2 photos on each All-Star Card. I give a nice try to Topps on these, to punch up the cards they added a black and white action shot. However for the most part I can’t really tell who the player is in the photo. I mean take a look at the Curt Flood Action shot – he looks like a headless outfielder, which he clearly was not.
1969 Topps #426 Curt Flood (b-side/ASG)
For the second consecutive year Topps used the All-Star subber to do something fun – create a puzzle. Above we have the back of Curt Flood’s #426 card. I have already oriented the card so we can tell this is a top right hand corner to the puzzle, beyond that it is pretty tough to tell what we are seeing. Fortunately we have an image of the completed puzzle which involves half of the 20 All-Star cards.
The other 10 All-Star card backs create a picture of Carl Yastrzemski – for a look at the puzzle check out the 1969 Topps Blog.
Topps chose the two League Batting Champs as the puzzle subjects in 1969 (Rose .335, Yaz .301). As of this writing we don’t know the subjects for 2018 Heritage but if Topps follows the 1969 originals, the honorees will be Jose Altuve (.346) and Charlie Blackmon (.331)
I picked Curt Flood to represent the 1969 All-Star cards because we hear so much about what he meant to baseball and free agency that we forget how great a baseball player he was. I believe 1969 is the only year that Flood made the All-Star subset. Flood’s two 1969 Topps cards are also his last two issued with the Cardinals. After that his playing career was pretty much over, He had a handful of ABs with the Senators but a year off clearly hurt the All-Star Center Fielder. Progress often has victims – Curt Flood took the punch for free agency.
1969 Topps / 2018 Heritage Series
If anyone is interested I would love to see a group project dedicated to comparing and contrasting 1969 Topps with this years Heritage release. If you are interested, leave a note in the comments with a topic you would like to cover. Some of the items I came up off the top of my head were:
Today in the second installment in our three part series dedicated to the 1962 Topps Rookie Cup All-Star team we are going to take a look at the voting process. For more on the team check out Part 1.
The Topps All-Star Rookie team has been selected a number of different ways over the years. Originally they were selected via a vote by “the Youth of America” . I am not positive but I believe currently Topps has MLB Managers vote on the squad.
In 1962 that responsibility of picking the team was the belonged to a fairly complete roster of the players coaches and managers of Major League Baseball. Thanks to the Sporting News we have a record of that vote.
1964 Topps #457 Jesse Gonder
We will get to Jesse Gonder in a minute, for now I will just mention that he did not lead the voting, nor did NL Rookie of the Year Pete Rose.
According to an article published in The Sporting News (1963 Sep 21) There were 563 players, coaches, and managers involved in the voting. During the 1963 season there were 20 MLB teams, this means that an average of more than 28 people voted for each team.
On September 15th 1962 Topps Sports Director Sy Berger announced the All-Star Rookie Team and the overall vote winner was…..
White Sox Pitcher Gary Peters who received 522 of those 563 votes or 93%.
A solid selection, Peters was Rose’s AL ROY counterpart. The rest of the voting went as follows:
I broke the Rookie All-Stars into two groups, Position Players and Pitchers just to make the the MLB Stat columns a little clearer. Both tables are sorted by the Number of votes received in the All-Star Rookie tally.
The hitters break down into two groups the first 5 that all received at least 2/3 of the vote. The final 3 players were more contested and all finished at 50% or less. Both pitchers won their positions easily. It appears the “eye test” worked in 1963, The five hitters chosen had WAR numbers of +2.0 or better while the final 3 were all +1.0 or below. One cannot question the selection of Gary Peters and his +7.0 WAR.
We chose Jesse Gonder as cover card for a couple of reasons. To start off Catcher was the most contested position of the voting:
Nice to see Twitter favorite @JohnnyBateman7 on the board. As we can see Freehan won the WAR however in 1963 that was obviously not known. Gonder won the vote, likely due to his .304 batting average. Of course voting for him meant ignoring the fact that he had less than half of the plate appearances of either Freehan or Bateman.
The second reason we decided to focus on Jesse Gonder is his card. Take a look, notice anything odd for a rookie cup card? Yep, no Rookie Cup. Not sure why it happened but the Trophy icon was missed on Jesse Gonder’s 1964 Topps card. Of the Ten cards in the All-Star Rookie subset it is the highest numbered, one of two on the series 6 checklist which runs from from 430-506. Perhaps by the time Topps got to their penultimate series the quality control had slipped a tad.
I would like to close by discussing Pete Rose who won second base but did not garner as many votes as either Gary Peters or Vic Davalillo.
This may be due to the fact that Pete Rose likely had competition from HBP specialist Ron Hunt. TSN did not publish the Topps voting results for all the positions, it is notable that the only player to garner Rookie of the Year votes yet not receive an All-Star Rookie Cup was Hunt.
I am a little stunned how much better Rose did in the ROY vote considering how similar his and Hunt’s numbers were in 1963. Apparently Hustle counts.
Once again I will mention if you want to read a fine article on the 1963 Topps Pete Rose card check with Wax Pack Gods.
A while back I received a package of Tampa Bay football cards. One of the cards in it was a 1991 Spanish-language ProSet card and it got me wondering why I had never seen any Spanish-language baseball card issues. I grew up in the Bay Area and even as a 6th grader realized that learning to speak Spanish would be an important skill to have. I even occasionally listened to Tito Fuentes broadcasting Giants games in Spanish on KLOK but I never saw any of that creep into my baseball card hobby. So I resolved to start looking for non-English cards and Spanish-language cards in particular.
The only non-English cards I remembered were the French/English O Pee Chee and Leaf cards from Canada. Those were cool but very clearly weren’t intended for the US market and as I’ve thought about the novelty of the 1991 Spanish ProSet card, I realized that it was the idea of releasing Spanish-language cards explicitly for the US market which most interested me here. So while I learned about of the Venezuelan Topps cards,* they weren’t what I was looking for.
*Which are very cool and also up my alley.
After asking the Twitter hive mind and searching through the Standard Catalog I started to put a list together of sets and things to look for. Some of the cards (or card-related ephemera) like the 1972 Esso Coins or 1989 Bimbo Discs are from Puerto Rico and, like many other things Puerto Rican, fall into a grey area where they’re both part of and completely distinct from the US. That these two sets are also either impossible to find or ridiculously expensive when they do pop up encouraged me to further limit my search to cards released just in the continental US.
So I consulted the Twitter hive mind and searched the online Standard Catalog and have a list, of sorts, that I’m pursuing now. There aren’t many sets and there were only two which came out when I was actively collecting as a kid so I’m no longer surprised that I hadn’t encountered any of these. Anyway, the list which I currently have is as follows.*
I’m sure there’s more. I’m pretty also sure that I didn’t miss much. I’ve been going down this search list and grabbing cards which also fit my other projects since I don’t want or need complete sets of everything. And in the process I’m enjoying seeing how the companies are creating and designing cards for a segment of the US market which obviously doesn’t get a lot of cards marketed specifically for it.
I also plan on posting about the different sets on here. There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on and through both their target demographics and the way so many of the sets fall into that post-strike period of baseball history a lot of these sets don’t appear to be that well known.
The Topps Zest is in many ways the perfect way to start this series. It’s a small five-card set which predates the rest of the sets by a dozen years but it covers many of the things that I’m noticing in the other sets.
But first, some background. This was a promotion aimed at the Spanish-speaking market with a mail-in coupon which was completely in Spanish. Mailing Proctor & Gamble the redemption certificate along with the wrappers from two bars of Zest bath soap got you the set of five cards in return. It was a short promo too—August 1 to November 1—so you only had three months to take advantage of this.
The front of the cards are mostly indistinguishable from their 1978 Topps base cards. Eagle-eyed readers who know their 1978 cards will recognize that Topps updated Willie Montañez’s card with both a new photo and team to reflect that he was traded from the Braves to the Mets. My eye caught instead how Topps didn’t change the position abbreviations. Joaquin Andujar is a Pitcher instead of a Lanzador and Manny Mota is an OutFielder instead of a Jardinero.
The backs are where things get interesting because of how Topps made them bilingual. Again it’s Montañez’s card which deserves the most attention because of how Topps added the tilde to his last name* in addition to the other translations. I also can’t help but look at the statistic headers to see how the different stats got translated—or how in the case of Batting Average Topps still used .AVG.
*Some early #PonleAcento action and the reason why I’ve been writing his name as Montañez in this post.
One of the nice things about a statistically-heavy back is that since numbers don’t have to be translated, fitting everything in isn’t too bad. When there’s more text on the back like with Ed Figueroa’s card, the designer has to figure out how to avoid things getting too confusing. This appears to have involved working with the translator to create text which is about the same size in both languages as well. I found it especially interesting that while none of the team names were translated anywhere else on the cards that Red Sox did get translated as Medias Rojas on Figueroa’s.
A sequel to my first Lifers post featuring guys I missed the first time around. Most of these were mentioned in the comments so a big thank you goes out to everyone who participated. Also I did finally find an image of Dusty Baker’s 2016 Allen&Ginter Mini so I’m including it above.
I don’t know how I missed Mack the first time around as he’s the definition of a baseball lifer. I love his Old Judge card with the posed hanging baseball. And that strip card is TINY. Mack also has a 1940 Play Ball card as a more-traditional last card which still makes him a 54-year baseball lifer. It’s also nice to have one guy on this list where both cards look nothing like modern cards.
1955 Bowman–2005 Topps All Time Fan Favorites
I’m still waffling on whether or not to include Zim. Not because he’s not a lifer but because the All Time Fan Favorites set doesn’t feel like a real set to me. It’s a checklist full of players (and other figures) from baseball’s past which, while a lot of fun, isn’t the kind of thing which reflects on the current state of the game.
Still, Zim’s in the set as a current Bench Coach and since he was the successor to Jimmie Reese as baseball’s lifer mascot of sorts I’m going to put him here.
A super obvious one to miss even though I did kind of forget about his time with the Dodgers. The weird thing about Topps Heritage here is how with the design reuse results the last card having a design which predates the rookie card design. So in this case it kind of looks like Torre’s first card was in 1962 and then he travelled back through time to manage in 1960.
While I’m sort of skeptical about Heritage in terms of design reuse, it’s doing a lot other things I wish Flagship were still doing. In this case that it’s the only place where manager cards can be found now is a point in its favor. Still it’s no surprise that many of the guys I missed all have manager cards which aren’t part of Flagship.
Anyway Davey Johnson is one of those guys who’s been a manager as long as I can remember that I had kind of forgotten that he used to be a player. That his name did not some up in the SABR comments either suggests that he’s slipped a lot of our minds. As with Torre I appreciate that he’s travelled a year back in time from 1965.
Another manager in the 2010 Heritage set. Another time traveler, this time from 1964 to 1960. And the one lifer I’m most embarrassed to have missed in my original post even though I actively try and forget about “The Genius” and his school of overmanagement.
The funny thing about this list is that everyone I missed feels like someone I should’ve thought of originally. Since these are all lifers they’re all baseball names and as such, people who I recognize immediately.
As with the first Lifers post I’d love to see more guys I missed in the comments. I arbitrarily set the cut-off at 45 years (counting inclusively). While moving to 40 years wouldn’t change things much, there’s a distinct challenge in finding guys who stay around for 45.
One of the things I enjoy most about collecting cards is putting together checklists of things that interest me. Sometimes these become projects like the action cards or photographer cards that I try and collect. Other times just the exercise of figuring out the checklist and thinking about the theme is enough.
One such checklist I’ve been working on is about baseball lifers and trying to find cards that reflect the longest periods of time in organized baseball. Many of the cards on this list are unobtainable for various reasons but it’s been a fun project to research. I’ve limited to 45 or more years in the game but moving to 40+ would only add a few more guys like Clay Bryant. Also, before anyone questions my math, I’m counting inclusively.
It’s fitting that Jimmie Reese’s first and last cards are both regional issues from the West Coast. I remember fascinated by him as the ancient Angels coach in the late 1980s and he was one of the few (if not the only) coaches who occasionally showed up in regular sets as well (he has cards in both 1991 Leaf Studio and 1991 Bowman).
Stengel was the obvious standout in this department. He benefits from the sheer number of card releases in the pre-World War 1 era. When I was researching this checklist there were a decent number of guys who debuted in pro ball between the wars but who didn’t get cards until after World War 2.
As with Reese, I really enjoy the difference between his first card and his last card. All the pre-war cards just feel like they’re from a completely different world.
The first pair on this checklist that I can conceivably acquire. While a Frank Robinson rookie is also something that I could get, it’ll always be out of my price range. But these two, as a Giants collector, are pretty much already on my wantlist as it is.
As with the Robinsons, these both feel familiar although I appreciate how both of them are so of their time while also sharing the common Topps DNA.
1971 Topps–2016 Topps Allen & Ginter Skippers minis
Dusty was actually the first name I thought of when the topic of baseball lifers came up. Sadly Topps doesn’t make manager cards in Flagship anymore. Nor do they appear to be in Heritage either. So Dusty’s last card as a manager is part of an Allen & Ginter mini set which is either so rare or so boring that the only images I can find online are the Topps promotional ones.
I miss manager cards and wish Topps would bring them back. Dusty also hasn’t retired yet so there’s a possibility he could move up this list if he gets another gig and Topps produces manager cards again.
1964 Topps–2009 Topps
Because of Ball Four I always associate Piniella as being a rookie in 1969. But as has been pointed out before, he was one of those multi-year rookie stars and his first rookie card from 1964 gets him into this checklist.
I’m glad I found one lifer whose last card is in the 1970s. As I mentioned earlier, the hardest part here is finding rookie cards in the 1920s and 30s. Which is too bad since the way that Topps includes coaches in 1973 and 1974 means that there was a possibility for more lifers to have last cards.
Anyway I’m sure I’ve missed some guys. I don’t have anyone whose last card was in the 1980s. Nor do I have anyone whose career started in the 30s or 40s. So I look forward to being corrected in the comments here.