Category Archives: Stanford

More 2018s from Tony

Tony is one of the first guys I became friends with on baseball card twitter. He runs two card blogs, his main blog is Off Hiatus and covers his Milwaukee and Brewers collecting focus. His second though, Collecting the 80s, covers 1980s oddballs and it’s in oddball land that we’ve had a lot of fun.

One of the best parts of collecting cards in the 80s and early 90s was how so many different food products, magazines, etc had cards in them. Many of these releases were extremely regional and it’s been really interesting to compare notes with other collectors around the country to discover what cards and sets they grew up with and how different those were compared to what I grew up with.*

*I’ve posted previously about Mother’s Cookies both on SABR and my own blog.

I’ve been meaning to put a trade package together for Tony but it’s been really hard. Most of my duplicates are from the peak junk wax days of the late 80s and early 90s. And the fact that Tony’s collecting focus happens to be the Brewers means I haven’t been able to come across any new cards to send him either. It’s rough out there if you support a “small market” team. Topps is increasingly focusing its new products on big-name teams and players and while I understand the business reasons for this it also feels extremely shortsighted since there are plenty of baseball fans out there who hate the big market teams and are getting increasingly tired of the dominance of Yankees, Cubs, and Dodgers cards.

Tony proudly identifies as a member of that group and has been pretty vocal with Topps about how disappointed he is with their new products and wouldn’t be buying any of them. so of course he won a free box of 2018 Series 1 cards. And of course I found myself laughing at him about it. He got a decent box with a good number of Brewers cards in it. But even after getting a huge head start on the set he decided to stick to his guns and get rid of all the cards he didn’t want.

He was gracious enough to send me his Giants* so now I have seven of the Giants cards in Series 1. Since Peter sent me a couple of Poseys and Cuetos already I now have enough duplicates now to give my sons their first 2018 cards without causing any sibling strife.

*I need to figure out what black magic he used to send a bubble mailer for a buck.

I remain impressed by the photography in this set. It’s noticeably more varied and seems less preoccupied in getting extreme exertion faces and more about catching details like what grip the pitcher is using.

Also, hello Christian Arroyo. We hardly knew you and now you’re already gone. I have such mixed feelings about those orange jerseys. I love them as jerseys by themselves. They really pop on the card. But I hate them as part of the official uniform (though they’re worlds better than the black jerseys).

My favorite card of the batch is the Brandon Belt. First, this year’s design works way better in horizontal formats than previous years’ designs did. It doesn’t feel like the graphic is eating up half the card and the ground fog effect is much much more subtle. I still wish they’d stop using that filter though. What I’m most interested in though is the photograph and how it’s clearly shot from the stands rather than the photographers’ well next to the field.

Looking at the other photos from that game shows that this is the only one shot at that angle. I’m really curious what the photographer was doing to get this shot. Or perhaps there’s something really weird down the first base line at Petco that I’m not familiar with.

Tony also included a Stephen Piscotty card for my Stanford binder. Between this card and the Jed Lowrie from Peter, my Stanford checklist for Series 1 is already all checked off. It’ll be interesting to see who shows up in Series 2. And I do expect to see another Piscotty card in Update showing him with the A’s.

Thanks Tony! One of these days I’ll get enough Brewers cards to send you a thank you package in return.


First 2018s

While I have yet to get any new packs of 2018 Topps, I’ve been encouraged by the generally positive reaction I’m seeing across the web and have been feeling increasingly curious about what they actually look like in hand. I was initially hesitant about buying any new product and since my local Target hasn’t had any in stock, I haven’t even had a choice about whether or not buy.

Thankfully though I didn’t have to wait for my local Target to even get anything in stock. Peter at Baseball Every Night couldn’t resist busting a few packs to celebrate the new season and was kind enough to send me a plain white envelope of cards he didn’t want.

So these two Giants count as my first 2018 cards. I’m still not feeling the waterslide design but I appreciate that it’s less intrusive than previous years’ designs and fits the full-bleed look much better. The photography is also noticeably more interesting. Cueto’s is most-similar to previous years’ shots of slightly-too-closely-cropped action but I love the detail where it looks like we can see he probably just threw a circle change.

Posey’s is a little oddly cropped for me. Topps still likes to center players within the card rather than suggesting movement within the frame. All too often you can see in the original images that there’s plenty of space for a more dynamic framing. The photo of Posey is no exception. I want to move him a quarter inch to the right, get the full mask in the frame, and give him space to look into. Still, the shot itself is more interesting than the usual full-exertion swing we’ve had the past years.

Peter was nice enough to include doubles of these so my kids will also get a chance to start their 2018 card collection without having to spend money or, if they do, be disappointed if they don’t get any Giants in their packs.

Jed Lowrie is part of my Stanford project. I like this card a lot. Again a more interesting image with lots of small details—like the extra pair of gloves in his back pocket—to notice.

And yeah, the fronts of these are very nice and suggest that there’s a lot more variety in the photo selections this year. I’m looking forward to seeing more of these cards over the next few months.

The backs though? Sigh. I didn’t scan anything because they’re pretty boring. I miss having complete stats. My 8-year-old even complains about this. He wants to know where the players have played each year they’ve been in the majors (and ideally, each year in the minors too). It’s funny, I liked the stats when I was a kid.  He, however, likes the story about where in the country each player has played and how the different minor league levels fit into the club organization.

Also, the huge amount of space devoted to twitter and instagram handles is going to age horribly. I know it’s a little silly to complain about the future of these cards but at the same time, much of the allure of this hobby is how it’s part of a history of card collecting. There aren’t many things now that kids can share with their grandparents this way* and those social media handles won’t age nearly as well as the cartoons from the 1950s have.

*As much as I make old man jokes this is what I love about the hobby too.

The last card is a Buster Posey insert. I’m increasingly disenchanted by all the inserts. Yes, I guess I’m glad that they’re inserts instead of yet another set to buy, but the explosion in insert sets was something that helped to push me out of the hobby 25 years ago. There are just so many of them now that most of the people in the hobby who I follow now just mail them to whoever they know collects that team.

I’ve tended to pull Dodgers inserts and have sent them off to Night Owl. Peter seems to get Giants one so I’m the lucky beneficiary. It’s good. They end up in my Giants album and I enjoy them there. But they’re just not something I’m excited to pull from a pack. The inserts are almost invariably over-designed and as I’ve gotten older I find myself liking cards for the photography more than a anything else.

Stanford Project

While focusing on Giants team sets is something I foresaw when I felt myself being pulled back into the hobby, I quickly found that I was interested in anther project—namely collecting cards of Stanford Alumni.

Stanford was the local college team I grew up with and is my alma mater. I used to love going to games and getting autographs from the players. I only stopped when I became a teenager and the age difference started to feel too close.  I realized that there was a high probability of my going to a different college and so I figured continuing to be a Stanford fanboy wasn’t the wisest course of action. When I did get in and attend Stanford, it just felt weird to treat classmates that way. And then once I got older than the players it felt even weirder.

Getting back into card collecting made me realize that searching for cards of the guys I went to school with would be a fun project that could help me get more acquainted with the baseball card landscape that I missed after I quit in 1994. Since I’ve got all of 1987–1993 covered as well as a decent amount of 1986 and 1994, I also figured that I may as well include the guys who played before 1986 as well. So I put together a list and have even received some maildays already as a result.

I’m concentrating on Topps (and 1948–1955 Bowman) as the cards of record here. I’m not against or excluding cards from other brands, it’s just that they’ve often had their own distinct niches and I don’t feel like growing the wantlist that much yet.

Also, any players who predate 1948 Bowman are outside the scope of this due to there not being a proper card of record then. Though yes, getting a Bert Delmas Obak card* or an Ernie Nevers Zeenut card would be awesome even though they’re not even Major League cards.**

*Such as the one at The Met.

**I do have the Conlon Collection Nevers card however.

I’m also focusing on distinct Stanford people which is why I haven’t included Bobby Brown (despite him being in the Stanford Hall of Fame). It’s not just that his cards are a bit more spendy because they carry the Yankees surcharge. He also only played for Stanford for one year and ended up playing for two more schools before he went pro.

And there’s a grey area of baseball guys who went into football (Elway, Lynch, Hutchinson, Gerhart, Gaffney) which I should think about. I wouldn’t want a complete set of football cards of these guys but including a few of them might be fun.

Anyway, I figured it would be fun to start this project off by getting cards from the 1950s. This is a decade from which I had zero cards when I was a kid and so I get a little giddy still when I handle any of these. Also, there appear to be only four guys on the list who played in the 1950s. I bought three of them but decided to leave Chuck Essegian for the 1960s.

Lloyd Merriman

Lloyd Merriman 1950 Bowman Lloyd Merriman 1950 Bowman
Lloyd Merriman 1951 Bowman Lloyd Merriman 1951 Bowman
Lloyd Merriman 1953 Bowman Lloyd Merriman 1952 Bowman
Lloyd Merriman 1955 Bowman Lloyd Merriman 1955 Bowman

I’ve been a Topps only guy for ages so these are also the first vintage Bowman cards I’ve ever had. They’re fun. Printing is nice. It’s interesting to see how different the backs are compared to what I’m used to from Topps. I particularly love how the backs specifically mention Stanford—especially because these stem from a time before Stanford had become the academic powerhouse it is today.

Lloyd Merriman is also a nice throwback to when players routinely went off and did other things. That he was away in the military for a few years explains the gap between his 1952 and 1955 card. I’m a bit sad that I didn’t have an excuse to get a 1953 Bowman card but I’ll figure one out eventually.

Jack Shepard

Jack Shepard 1955 Topps
Jack Shepard 1955 Topps

Jack Shepard is an other example of a player doing more than just baseball. He continued his education in the offseason while he was playing pro ball and ended up going into business instead. As a result he has only one Topps card from his career.

Dave Melton

Dave Melton 1958 Topps Dave Melton 1958 Topps

Dave Melton on the other hand only played a dozen games in the big leages and spent most of his career bouncing around the Pacific Coast League. I do enjoy though that this card does double duty as both a Stanford Alumni card and as a sample of the Kansas City Athletics project I mentioned last week.

Anyway I wrote this post a while ago* and I’ve since acquired a bunch more Stanford Alumni cards. Many of them are more-recent players as I’ve been using this project as a method of catching up on the 1995–2016 baseball card landscape that I missed when I was away from the hobby. But I’m also gradually filling in the 1960s and 1970s guys and hope to be able to put together more posts like this as the project progresses.

*I blog in spurts and schedule them out well in advance.

Mailday from @mjpmke

A great mailday from Matt Prigge (@mjpmke) which manages to hit a bunch of different projects I’m working on. Matt’s a Brewers fan whose All-time Brewers project seemed daunting until I found out about his Brewers Autograph Project. He also has some cool history writing about Milwaukee.

This is one of those rare cards which satisfies two projects at once. This fills a hole in my 1974 Giants but it’s also a record of the Padres aborted move to Washington DC. I’ve been sort of working on a moves/expansion project for a while now and the 1974 Washington cards are a key part of that.

I’m also working on a project of Stanford Alumni. I’ve not gone after any of the cards from after I stopped collecting in 1994 so this stack is fantastic. It’s a good mix of players like Sprague and Hinch who I collected (and chased autographs) when I was still a kid and players like Lowrie and Storen who I’m older than and would’ve felt really weird about trying to get their signatures.

Some Junk Wax Giants, most of which I’m pretty sure I don’t have. 1988 Donruss is one of those sets which, as nostalgia-inducing as it is, looks worse and worse each year. 1990 Donruss and 1990 Fleer though are growing on me. I love the Topps Gold Righetti card and that Upper Deck Triple Crown subset is also brand new to me.

And a half dozen holiday cards. I have to admit that these confuse me greatly. Googling suggests this was a Walmart exclusive set released around Christmastime. The idea of replacing the smoke effect in 2016 Topps with snowflakes is mighty weird. Baseball is, after all, a summer game so the resulting look was never going to make sense.

For some reason though I find myself kind of liking these. I don’t know, maybe the holiday tackarama hits a different sort of feel for me. Yes I think they’re stupid but they’re kind of gloriously self-aware and embracing of the stupidity. The only thing that could have made things better was replacing all the caps with Santa hats. Maybe that’s what we’ll get this winter.

Anyway thanks Matt! I’ve got a handful of 1975s I need to send your way in return.

Junk Wax

When I was a kid I lived off of cheap packs of common baseball cards. I didn’t have the budget for buying old packs* so instead I saved up for the packs of random commons which always seemed to have fallen off the racks at Toys-R-Us. The majority of these packs were 1985 or later but they always had a handful of cards going back to around 1979. It was always exciting to discover which old cards I got—to a 10-year-old kid anything five years old was old—and the idea that I could find a card which was almost as old as I was was especially exciting.

*Old in this case being anything before 1987.

A week or so ago I was at the Dollar Store and I noticed they were selling packs of 30 random baseball cards. Of course I bought one. When I opened it up at home I was surprised and pleased to find that it was just like I remembered.

Almost literally.

Around a fourth (eight of the 30 cards) of the pack were new-to-me post-1994 releases. But the rest were an assortment of cards which I could’ve discovered 25 years ago. Twenty from the peak junk wax era (1986–1992) which made up most of my collecting and two from 1983. I still got excited to find the 1983 cards.

So the next time I was in the area I bought a handful of packs.* They were even better. This time I got cards going back to 1981. How cool is it for a kid, for just a buck, to be able to buy a pack of cards which comes with cards that are over three decades old? I can’t imagine. Anything in the 1960s was basically untouchable for me—my goal as a kid was to have one, just one card from each year. And pre-1960? Forget about it. Not possible. Not even conceivable.**

*What can I say, I’m in a pack-buying mood right now.

*Yes I know this isn’t a fair comparison but from a kid’s point of view there’s something compelling about old that “rare” can’t come close to.

And yeah, seeing all those old cards with their mid-1980s logos and uniforms—especially the old Twins and the elb Expos logos—made me think of and remember all kinds of things.


It surprised me how the players I liked when I was a kid are the cards I still get excited to see in a pack. Whether it’s a purely-local favorite like Jose Uribe, whose name every Giants fan from the late 80s chanted whenever he made a good play or came up to bat. Or Scott Garrelts, our closer-turned-starter whose almost-no-hitter is still one of the games I remember distinctly 27 years later.

Or the stars of the team who I ended up liking even after they left the Giants. Jeffrey Leonard was The Man when I first became a fan. Our power hitter with the special one-flap-down home run trot and the double-zero jersey who was my first favorite player. I love how you can see in the card that he kept the 00 on the Brewers.

And Will Clark was a rookie the year I first started paying attention but he quickly became The Thrill, the player we all loved and sang Happy Birthday to at spring training. I coveted his jersey when I was a kid. I’m still giddily happy to have a throwback version of it now. And every time I wear it I get comments from other fans my age about how he’s still their favorite player too.


I used to look forward to the Stanford Baseball Alumni game every year. I’d collect baseball cards from Stanford alumni and cross my fingers that they’d show up each January. This meant that I also used to be on alert for their cards in every pack or set that I acquired.

It turns out that those instincts are still there. When I came across Mike Aldrete and Al Osuna, I found myself realizing that I was comparing every card against my Stanford Alumni checklist. It’s a pretty random group of names which I’m surprised I still remember.

Mike Aldrete was the first autograph I got in the field. I had no idea what I was doing. Wrong kind of pen, way overawed and nervous, put the card away before the ink dried, etc. etc.  I’ve still got the card somewhere (1987 Topps) and I should dig it up to see if it’s as bad as I remember. I enjoyed that he played for the Giants in addition to being a Stanford guy as it felt like I was killing two birds with one stone by getting his signature.

The Al Osuna rookie card on the other hand reminds me of one of the things I did—and do—love about rookie cards. When getting autographs, especially at Stanford, it was always a treat to have a player’s first baseball card ever. Getting your own card is a tangible sign of having made it to The Show and it was apparent to me how much the players enjoyed seeing them at the alumni game.


I totally forgot about these. I didn’t even recognize them at first when I came across them in the packs. I had to let the Leaf name sort of percolate through my brain for a while before I remembered why it was different from the mainline Donruss set.

It was always exciting to find a random Canadian penny or quarter. It was just as exciting to find a random Canadian baseball card. That Donruss had a parallel Leaf edition of their cards was a little weird* in the same way that Dreyers/Edys and Oroweat/Arnold still kind of weirds me out. But I loved the dual-language backs and the idea that there were “foreign” cards which featured the same players I was collecting.

*This got weirder when Leaf became Donruss’s upmarket card brand.

Also, while I know Topps had the O-Pee-Chee Canadian cards I can’t recall ever running across them. Part of me feels like I must have encountered one of them at some point. But even with the prodding of the Leaf cards nothing comes to mind. Maybe Leaf was more common in California? Or maybe, because I collected Topps sets I wasn’t as tuned in checking for the O-Pee-Chee logo.

Dave Magadan

Sometimes a single card triggers a lot of memories. The Dave Magadan Future Stars card is one of the first cards I specifically remember getting. I’m pretty sure it’s because of that Future Stars label which I must have taken at face value in a “Look mom he’s going to be a star!” kind of way. But I remember pulling it out of  the pack and treating it as something special.

Looking at the card now and I suspect that a lot of the appeal was also in how the card itself is representative of the best of Topps photography. It’s not necessarily a great photo, but it’s the kind of photo that makes a great baseball card. Decent light, bright sunny day, a sense of the location where the photo was taken, and a clear view of the player’s face.

What‘s funniest now is that despite this card being something that caught my attention as a young collector, I paid literally no attention to the rest of Magadan’s career. Yes he never became a star but he did have a decent career—sixteen seasons, an MVP vote in his best year—even if he never became an established starter.

Turn back the clock and team leaders

I’d totally forgotten about these too. The Team Leaders cards are like the Future Stars cards in how I remember enjoying finding them. I still like them from a nostalgia point of view but the cards themselves are a horrible mashup of design elements.

The Team Leaders card also reminded me of the Topps Minis—another set I’d completely forgotten—which used the same design to feature the individual team leaders.

The Turn Back the Clock cards though I never liked. Yes it was nice to see the old cards, but having baseball cards with pictures of baseball cards on them still confuses me. Pairing 1962 with 1987 at least looks sort of okay, but most of the times the designs clash horribly and the weird drop shadow on the card and the T is just awful.

Topps backs

I always preferred the backs of Topps cards to the other brands. It’s not just that all the major league stats were on there, Topps was very generous in including minor league stats. It was rare to come across a card with fewer than five seasons on the back and in addition to finding cards with the oldest stat lines, I also just compared stats and learned about where minor league affiliates were located.

Of all the statistics though I remember being most infatuated with Game-winning RBIs. It’s an admittedly awful stat* but the apparent simplicity of it combined with the way that Topps always listed them in their own line at the bottom of the table made it the stat I compared the most between cards.

*I’m not alone in wondering why hasn’t its awfulness destroyed our trust of pitching Win-Loss records.

It’s such a compelling thing. Who won the most games? Who’s won the most games in a career?

As a kid, where “you lost the game” is the ultimate post-game insult, the idea that you could quantify those things suggests a magic wand to settle all playground arguments forever.

Donruss backs

Donruss’s backs also had full stat lines but the fact that they always looked the same meant that I ended up kind of ignoring them. The bright colors are nice and I can certainly appreciate not messing with a functional layout.* But being able to recognize what year a card is just by the back design is important. I don’t like having to check a stat line or copyright date and with Donruss that’s what you had to do.

*Not that Topps’s different designs really changed anything either during these years.

Fleer backs

Fleer kind of split the difference between Topps and Donruss. The vertical bars which highlight important stats were Fleer’s trademark look and I appreciate the way that they kept the bars consistent between pitching and batting stats. I’m a little sad that Fleer no longer exists since I’d be curious how they would have changed this look to deal with things like OPS and WAR which have become more important than traditional stats.*

*One thing I neglected to mention in my previous post was how the current Topps backs have OPS and WHIP and WAR on them and it’s nice to see how the statistics on baseball cards have evolved. 

And new things

About a third of the cards were completely new to me. New designs, new sets, new players, new everything. It’s been two dozen years since I stopped collecting and, for everything that feels the same, there’s a whole lot which has changed as well. Most of the new cards are the ones which came out after I stopped collecting. But I was pleasantly surprised to find some cards from my era which I had never seen before

The Swell Baseball Greats cards are one example of this. I didn’t recognize the set. I’d never heard of the set. I didn’t even know about the brand of gum. Looking at the checklist for this set I’m even more confused. It’s a decent list of all-time greats but some of the inclusions—such as the two cards I got—are just bizarre.

The other weird thing about these is that they’re fully-licensed. I collected my fair share of cards which felt like these except someone had airbrushed out the team logos because of licensing reasons. I’d probably like these more if they were like that. Those oddball non-licensed cards are one of the most fun parts of this hobby since they hearken back to the way that cards used to be packaged with food and other product.


I don’t have a lot to say here on top of my previous post except to admit that I’m kind of shocked at how few of these designs do anything for me. Laying them out like this allows me to see the progression toward all action all the time. Some of the most-recent designs are disturbingly close to looking like HDR photographs* too which suggests that Topps has been trying to pump up the intensity in every aspect.

*2015 is especially egregious here.

I can also see that there was a period where Topps really lost its way and I didn’t miss much at all in terms of card design. If most the 1980s—or, well arguably, 1973–1993 with a few exceptions like 1975, 1986, 1987, and 1990—are mostly conservative and trend toward boring, 1994–2010 is mostly a disaster of “I have a computer and glossy finishes and foil stamping but no discipline.”

Yes I like some of the designs in there but on the whole it’s like Topps lost faith in the product and kept trying to distinguish itself in some way. The post-2010 sets* are mostly better so that’s some degree of comfort.

*Except 2015.

It was interesting to see how, once Topps went to white card stock and glossier finishes, that the Stadium Club cards no longer felt as upmarket. The full-bleed photos are still nice but other than that there was nothing distinct about them. Meanwhile there was one Topps Total card which felt like the old-school cards of my youth but I don’t understand the point of that set at all.

Upper Deck

Oh man. I loved Upper Deck as a kid. Great designs. Great photos. Nice coated white card stock. Everything an upmarket set should be. I wish I could’ve afforded more of them.

Looking at the newer Upper Deck cards was super disappointing. All the nice photos have been ruined with computer graphics and effects and, while each card on an individual level still looks kind of cool, as a set they all look kind of the same and generic. Also, from what I can tell on Google, Upper Deck went all-in on the relic card bullshit* to the point where it feels like the regular cards are packaging waste for the special cards.

*The act of cutting up uniforms or equipment for inclusion in a baseball card offends me on multiple levels.

While I’d normally call those special cards inserts, in this case it’s clear that you just paid a ton of money for a pack, always got something “special,” and discarded the rest of the regular cards. Looking into those checklists reveals a bunch of 200-card sets consisting of a mix of stars and rookies. Such a set feels optimized for collector interest, but mine completely evaporated after looking at a bunch of similar checklists where the only difference is what special cards they came packaged with.


Speaking of sets of stars and rookies, I’m not sure I get the idea of any of the Bowman sets. I remember when Topps relaunched the brand and it became the ROOKIESROOKIESROOKIES set. I’ll even admit to kind of liking them at the time. Now though? It looks a lot like Upper Deck’s offerings where there are now a bunch of small 200-card sets which feature the same players over and over again with just different designs.

And I think that’s probably my biggest problem with these sets. I’ve come to like the common cards and recognize that not only is it impossible to get rid of them, dropping 75% of the cards in a set order to get rid of most of the commons results in an awful set.

As a fan it’s not just the star players we like. Every fan I know forms attachments to minor players on their team. Heck, I even started this post by being happy to get random Giants or Stanford players. A set is so much richer by including the complete 25-man roster rather than just the starters or stars.*

*That late-1990s Topps are only ~500 cards and include only a dozen or so players per team makes me very glad I wasn’t collecting during those years.

Fake retro

Which brings me to the fake retro cards. I will readily admit that I would’ve loved these as a kid. But now? Oof. I can’t help but see these as an indictment on the modern card designs.

The Fleer Tradition, Bowman Heritage, and Topps Heritage cards aren’t awful. They at least recognize that it’s not just the card designs which are retro and that, in the age where the base sets are all action photos, posing the players traditionally is just as important. These three designs are also not particularly dated—more generic than anything else—which helps make their updates work acceptably well.

The Fleer and Bowman cards though could still use better uniforms. One of the reasons to reuse the simpler, older designs is because they appeal to baseball’s sense of tradition and nostalgia. The dark batting-pracitice uniforms and the way that colored polyester tends to shine totally ruins the nostalgia effect.

The Topps Heritage card on the other hand—even with a Reds jersey that doesn’t look at all like the vests which the Reds wore in 1966—looks really good because the jersey is traditionally-designed. That there’s no spot for the team logo means that this card design is also a lot more likely to work for all teams.* The only problems are the ® symbol after the REDS,** the Topps Heritage branding,*** and that stupid RC badge.**** And those are all enough to bother me.

*Logo design is one of those areas where super-slick new logos don’t work that well on old-fashioned card designs.


***I understand why this exists but part of the charm of the old card designs is that they aren’t branded.

****Hate, hate, HATE this. There’s no reason for it to be there. At all.

I’d much rather see cards which take the lessons of the older cards with their clean portraits, simple designs, and large photos and create a new set which understands what it is about baseball cards that pulls people into the hobby beyond just collecting rookie cards and short prints.

In other words, do the exact opposite of whatever Topps is doing with the Gypsy Queen cards. Holy. Crap. Those. Are. Awful. I understand the look they’re going for and I’d love to see cards done in a proper old-time style. But good lord it’s like Topps doesn’t trust the old designs at all. Instead of black and white studio photos, we have action photos which have been HDR’d beyond all recognition and then given a pseudo-painted look. Then we have a bunch of graphic design gingerbread trim around it. These are like a bad snapchat filter with too much going on. It’s a shame that these don’t disappear after a few minutes.


On to the random cards. These are from another set where I don’t understand the checklist but reminded me of TCMA cards which I managed to accumulate as a kid without ever really buying any of them. They just showed up in grab bags like this or as starter-sets in a “my first baseball card binder” kind of way. I never knew what to do with those cards either. I didn’t “like” them because they didn’t feel “real.” But I couldn’t help reading and rereading them either.

I think I like them better now. It is indeed nice to see cards of the old guys. I’m glad that these kinds of sets still exist and that kids are still getting a few “who the hell is this” history lessons in their packs.

I got one post-1992 Donruss card. Good lord what happened? Googling shows that the 1994 strike (and the NHL lockout the same year) kind of crippled the company but wow. That I found more pre-1984 cards than post-1994 cards is kind of an amazing drop off.

I laughed out loud when I found a Wizards of the Coast collectible card game card. I’m not surprised that such a set existed. I am curious how they planned to make that game work. With games like Magic or Pokemon, my understanding is that each new set gets added to the previous years’ sets and you keep building and evolving your deck. With baseball this kind of approach seems impossible.

The Bazooka card also made me laugh. I really hope these came with gum and a proper wax pack. I also remembered realizing that buying Bazooka, collecting the comics, and sending those in for a complete set of Topps baseball cards was a more cost-effective way of getting a complete set than buying packs of cards.

And speaking of Donruss’s disappearance. Fleer is basically non-existent too. a bunch of single cards which hint at a bunch of tiered options* none of which feels like a proper mainline set. Googling here suggests that their merger with Skybox kind of killed the brand.

*Fleer Ultra, Fleer Premium, Fleer Focus, and Fleer Tradition.

And that’s probably the weirdest thing about poking through this grab bag. I grew up with Topps, Donruss, and Fleer as the big three. The idea of a Topps-only world was something I couldn’t imagine as a kid. That we’re back in such a world—even with Topps releasing too many parallel products* now—is taking a bit of getting used to.

*From what I can tell: Topps, Topps Heritage, Topps Archives, Bowman, Gypsy Queen, Allen & Ginter, Topps Tribute, Topps Opening Day, and Topps Now.

I’m glad that with all those sets that Topps has a mainline set of around 700 cards where you have a good chance at getting most of the players on your team. We’re still not back to the mid-70s when you had close to 30 cards on the team checklist but things are better than they were in the late 1990s.

Weaning from football

For a while now, I’ve been trying to wean myself from football. This is due to a combination of multiple things.

I hate the way it’s corrupting colleges. The number of teams with lousy graduation rates is embarrassing. The way players are used, essentially for free, is appalling. I’m glad that my school is doing things the right way. But it’s one of very few and I think things are going to get worse before they get any better.

The ongoing concussion/brain injury situations are scary and depressing. Why would anyone let their kid play this sport? How can I watch, let alone root for, an activity which is literally killing its participants. This is not something I want my sons to do. Nor is the behavior anything I want them to model.

The complete lack of interest in any drug testing is astonishing. No one’s asking these questions now. We’ve been aware of the issue for over 40 years. Other sports have, to various degrees, been addressing the issue. Soccer is getting flak in Europe for being too lenient. Baseball is also a bit of a joke. But both of those sports seem to have their houses in much better order than football.

The way football teams are demanding public financing for stadiums or TV deals which then stiff the public is disgusting. Best-case scenario is a dozen games a year at a football stadium. That’s a lot of money to spend for 12 days. It’s not even 25% of the weekends. Yes you can do other things at the stadium. But that involves having to go out and bid on those events. That the public is expected to recoup its costs due to increased business to the area just doesn’t add up. Especially when the teams are raking in the luxury box deals and advertising revenue.

The amount of money and attention lavished on the Super Bowl is obscene. What are we up to, $4 million per advertisement? Craziness. The entire country has a holiday which consists of watching TV for 4 hours and talking about the commercials we’ve seen. What is wrong with us?

I don’t even really like the games anymore. I can appreciate the tactics—in fact, this is really all I still like—but I’m finding that neither the violence or the athleticism is appealing. Besides, most of time during a football game does not involve playing football.

Weaning though is hard work. Football is so engrained into the fabric of America that it’s difficult to not be aware of the NCAA or NFL seasons and top teams. Super Bowl Sunday is, at this point, as legitimate an American Feast Day as Thanksgiving. It’s especially hard if the local teams, my teams, are doing well. In this case, it’s the curse of being a local.

Stanford won the Rose Bowl. And the 49ers went to the Super Bowl. I found it hard not to root for them.  However, I can report progress.

When Stanford won, I was happy, but not the way I used to be. I felt no compulsion to blog about it. I was not worried about the game (one way or another). I did not feel like I had to purchase anything to celebrate. I didn’t even brag about it to anyone.

When the 49ers lost last weekend, I realized that I’ve made even more progress. I was not nervous during the 4th quarter when things got tight. I felt no anger in the loss nor any sadness. I did not even have any of the stomach-punch feeling I’m used to getting as a long-suffering Giants or Barça fan.*

*Not recently for either of those teams but I’m talking about my long-term experiences.

It’s liberating to not care.

I’ll try to stick on this path. I may always have a residual rooting interest but if I don’t feel it in my gut, it’s not a real one. We’ll see what happens when my sons get older though, I fear they may pull me back in.


True to his word, Miguel followed it up with a post which has me thinking a bit both on why I started following Barça as well as the greater implication of what it means to take part in a rivalry.

I’ve told my Barça origin story before but I haven’t been completely honest about it. I’ve always had an affinity toward the underdog and a tendency to avoid the most-popular choices. When I chose to be a Barça fan, it was with the full knowledge that the team I was choosing was somewhat dysfunctional and carried a lot of historical baggage. Yes, it was also a successful big club with big stars, but it wasn’t the big bandwagon club.

This is also due to soccer’s relative unimportance in America at the time. But I really came of age as a fan during the Gaspart years and learned a lot about how the club is expected to sabotoge any success and can break the hearts of its fans in the cruelest ways possible.

Where Real Madrid was the Yankees, Barça was the Red Sox.

While this analogy still holds, it means something completely different now than it did before 2004. I kind of miss the previous world even though I enjoy the current one where the former ne’er-do-well teams are now yearly contenders and the former top dogs have had a long run without ultimate success despite their payrolls.

In short, I miss the Real Madrid from the early 2000s. It was nice to have a rival which I respected and which I knew would approach the game in the correct manner. There were no players I actively hated for how they played the game* and I looked forward to the clásicos even though I was never at all confident of a result.

*The Figo situation was about betrayal, not about playing style. I understand the fan anger but I do not condone the pig tossing and abuse.

It was an honor to be able to call them our rivals and contrasts greatly with the current situation where there is so much bad blood between the players and in the press that it’s almost impossible to stay above the fray. All of us risk getting pulled into the trap of fanaticism and hate and it’s getting to the point where many of us are actively wishing to avoid playing our rival.

It’s not even too much of a good thing. It’s just too much.

Some of my thinking may be helped by the fact that I’m not Catalán and so do not understand the history and hatred which resulted from the Franco years. Barça is not a proxy for any of my politics. But most of my sense of what a proper rivalry is comes from my college years.

Stanford and Cal are rivals, but they don’t hate each other. Not really. The rivalry cuts across all aspects of the universities—sports, Nobel Prizes, Robber Barons, etc.—and most of the people associated with the schools realize that maintaining a rivalry like this requires mutual respect. It’s no great achievement to do better than something which sucks. The quality of your rival should push you to do even better.

Which means that I root for Cal whenever they’re not in direct competition with Stanford and appreciate Cal’s academic achievements since I know that they’ll force Stanford to keep pace.

Where’s the fun in a rivalry dominated by hate and cheating? It’s far more enjoyable to be better because you were pushed to do so.