Monday, November 24, 2014

Texting It In #4

I didn't really want to resurrect this particular series of posts, particularly after the cavalcade of research errors I made last time I used this title. But with Topps baseball cards, I know there will be ever more of these posts to come. I switched up the series title a little but I have reasons for that, with this post.

I was (and am) quite contented to have finished assembling this 50 card set from 2013 Archives. I'm not going to bother finishing the 50 cards of the other three retro styles used. I collect only baseball cards I truly want to visually enjoy again in the future. The 82s and 85s appeal to me, but not quite enough. I'll look at the 85s in more detail in my next post.

Let's take a look at what I found when I corralled these new psychedelic tombstones into the cemetery, starting with the first card:
I like this card a lot. I wish I would have pulled some extra copies of it to put in some other binder pages that I haven't even themed up yet. I like the bright colors, I like leading off the set with Babe Ruth. Classy. I suspect this card might have come from a black&white photo colorized with modern technology, though I can't be certain, but I like the idea of doing that. However, -1 point for slicing off two of the Babe's fingers.

Card #2?
More Classy. How can anyone not like a Gary Carter card? Me though, I can like a card and still nit-pick it. Though I like red-white&blue on my baseball cards and I excoriate 1990 Topps for pointlessly adding colors to the design, for some reason I am OK with any color combo Topps wants to swirl in front of me in 1972. At first I thought the cropping could have given us a much cleaner look at the classic Expos logo on Gary's left breast (and it does get credit for keeping his bat intact), but then I found this card:
Which is a card I do not like, all over-done with too much foil, and really is just a card designed to serve as a bed for the "real" card these days, the auto/gu version. But the cropping is much nicer with the blue sleeves and the piping on the jersey making for a nicely balanced image that would have looked really nice on the 1972 card, particularly with Gary's uniform # on the bat barrel there. Ahh, what could have been. Minus half point for slicing off the edge of Gary's elbow for no reason.

Let's see who will reside to Gary's left on this page:
Hey, just like the Gary Carter card, a nice blue sky Spring Training shot, with a classic baseball player pose you don't see too much any more. And really, you don't see completely on this card, with the cropping cutting off most of Carlos' left arm. When I worked in media, I only supplied flippant text to my editors; it was their job to attach photos to my musings, but I don't think they had much control over the contents of those photos the way imagery editors do today with modern software. Be that as it may, I'm pretty sure it would be considered bad form by anyone in the field of photographic endeavors to just randomly leave a thumb sticking out of the side of the frame.

I do like that Topps went with a near-Powder Blue for these Cards (Faux Powder Blue? I'll just call them Powder Blues for my own fun). A pity they couldn't have used images from a 21st Century go at wearing throwback Powder Blues, which the Cardinals did show off for at least one game in 2012. Anyhow, let's check out another one:
Hey, a photo from a real baseball game like the Babe Ruth card. Looks like the outfielder is going to catch that one. And once again the photo editor doesn't worry about arbitrarily slicing ballplayer parts out of the frame. Instead, the key concern is to make the player as big as possible, but not have their head peek over the top of the tombstone and disrupt that groovy lettering. That is the one rule about cropping all 50 of these cards follow precisely.

I had thought to maybe download some images from cutting-edge-as-I-type Topps sets such as the new Dynasty, Tek, or Finest releases, which are basically insert sets blown out to full checklists, but I'll save myself the trouble and you the boredom. Or I could have used any of the hundreds of thousands of autograph cards that have been released this century. On all other baseball cards beyond these lowly "base" cards, which are so base in appeal I guess, there is no room for background context of the live game of baseball. Once a card has to have room for the autograph and the $/x stamping of it's serial number and some graphical design elements, there is no longer room to see the game of baseball on a card. If an auto card included a player's legs, he would like tiny indeed off in the distance behind his looming sharpie scrawl in the foreground.

That's just the way it is, and apparently that is what collectors want. And for collectors that enjoy autograph cards and overloaded graphic design full of pink hearts, yellow moons, orange stars, and green clovers, err, uhhh, hold on, these tombstones are giving me a flashback to a cereal commercial from my youth…. at least we haven't had a baseball card with three wolves, a full moon, diving eagles, and lightning bolts on it yet. Or have we?

Anyhow, for collectors that enjoy context-less idol-worshipping baseball cards, have at it. It just wears me down to see that design philosophy pulled into the cheap baseball cards I want to collect all the time, particularly when the source image was from a live action baseball game, which could have delivered so much more to the card, and the basic frame design is so enjoyable to start with.

But Allen Craig had done scrolled off the screen there, so let's check out something else - the backs of these cards:
A nice, '72 authentic card back, with the correct orange-on-grey tints to what looks and feels like cardboard card stock, minus quite a bit of heft as compared to real 1972 cards. I must note that it is my scanner that gives these backs the greenish, lit-up tint there, sorry. 

I like it when I get the complete career stats from the stars of the past. This card now makes me want to find a card with Babe Ruth's Major League Pitching Record to complement it. That would be cool.

I like that the trivia question is included, though knowing the MVP of the 2002 World Series, is well, trivia, whether I am interested in that one or not. But the next card has a great question that bodes well for the small set:
Another perfectly executed card back from rookie call-up to sunset season back where it all began. And of course, for a long career like Ruth's or Carter's, small type is needed for such completeness. 

So what will happen when I flip over Allen Craig's card, who has had a relatively short contemporary career so far?
And this is where the Topps card-back writer was probably just texting his or her buddies all day about that new MLB .gif file that was making the rounds on social media that day.

Topps card back writers have long been inconsistent on when to include a player's MLB stats, and when to print their minor league stats along with those. Can't come up with two pithy sentences about another random Major Leaguer for the 59th time that day? Simply print his minor league stats, fill up the card back, and call it done.

And that is perfectly fine. I don't really need those two pithy sentences that are usually totally forgettable. But I might take an interest in a player's minor league stats. Is he just newly a power hitter as he has reached his late 20s, or did he show power on the way up? Speed on the bases? Strikes out too much? (Actually, collectors weren't privy to that particular info in the mid-70s).

But one thing I am not going to do is squint to read tiny type all spaced out on the card for no real reason. I suspect two different card-back writers slaved away in the card-back mines underneath, which really should make card-back authoring a piece of cake, these days. Why do I think two different individuals were involved here? Some of the other cards:
Now there is much more of an effort. Intelligent observations about the player, and stats you can actually read, in bold font and of a legible size that matches the space available. This card-back writer was doing the job the right way, not texting LOLs back and forth while simultaneously "working."

But wait, what is that trivia question there. Who was the World Series MVP in 2002? Haven't I seen that one somewhere before?


I was really looking forward to competing this set and reading all 50 trivia questions. I was going to rank the dumbest and most clever and try and have a little fun with my baseball memorabilia while I lovingly put it on display, sort of, for all eternity. I thought with those cool trivia questions in the 1972 set, these cards would be so binder-worthy each 9 of them would get their own page, so I could read the backs again some day.

Instead I will just double them up like other grade D card-back efforts, like 2011's Lineage. The repeats actually start immediately in the set, with the same exact question on card #2, and card #3, though a different little drawing to go with. Topps puts their laziness on display right away.

This BS also flows from the hit-centric and self-absorbed nature of collecting today. Topps can just copy/paste repeat material on the card backs because they know more people will be glad to have the 709th Gary Carter card in their collection than will actually assemble and peruse a whole set of these. There is no need for craftsmanship any more; baseball cards are just a chase item for grown-up guys with truly disposable income, and the cards aren't moving bubble gum any more either of course. But I really don't think Topps managers in the decades not being copied would ever have cheesed the product out this way, even in the decades when they held a monopolistic license from MLB as they once again do today.

That's one theory, along with the idea of straight laziness by those flunkies down in the cubicles of the card-back department. It all reminds me of how Lily Tomlin explained monolithic monopolies back in the 70s:
Let's hope we don't lose Peoria. But actually, Topps lost Peoria long ago, to video games, Magic, and adults constantly chasing "hits" and telling children their cheap baseball cards were laughably worthless.

So, yeah, you've read all this before probably. I didn't really expect to end up here assembling retro style cards. I wanted to enjoy a trip down memory lane with baseball trivia.

I did assemble all of the trivia questions for you, as I wanted to see just how much effort they did  put into writing for a 50 card set.

The answer is, 12:

Who was World Series MVP when the Angels won it all in 2002?

Troy Glaus.

Which team has had the most Hall of Famers?

Giants, 55

Which pitcher won a record 59 games in 1884?

Old Hoss Radbourn

How many World Series titles did Yogi Berra win?

10, a record

Who's been the only catcher since 1976 drafted #1 overall?

Joe Mauer

Which is the only team that's had 2,000 different players?

St Louis Cardinals

Who threw 8 consecutive complete games in World Series competition?

Bob Gibson

Who K'd a batter in a record first 349 career games?

Dwight Gooden

Who hit the first walk-off homer in a World Series game?

Tommy Henrich, 1949 Yankees

Who was the career pitching strikeouts leader prior to Nolan Ryan?

Steve Carlton, until 1984

Who was the first DH in a World Series game?

Dan Driessen, 1976

At what bases is a runner said to be in scoring position?

2nd and 3rd

That last one is pretty much as bad as the one I discovered on a 1989 Classic card the other day about Umpires, and goes to show just how lackadaisical this effort was, and really holds up poorly next to some great questions.

And do you think they put the Joe Mauer question on the Gary Carter card, or the Giants HoFers question on the Marco Scutaro or Angel Pagan card, or the Troy Glaus question on the Albert Pujols card, or the Yogi Berra question on the Derek Jeter card, or the 2,000 Cardinals in history question or the Bob Gibson question on any of the Cards' cards? Or even the Dwight Gooden question on the actual Dwight Gooden card?

Of course not. That wud b, lk, wrk, dood. 

Sigh. I recently learned what TL;DR means. If you don't know, you'll laugh at me when you Google it. But I am definitely off in that territory once again. I think, though, that Topps can definitely show signs of living in the TL;DR world sometimes.

So let's go back to looking at baseball cards, that's always pleasant. May I present, the 2013 Archives 1972 style Baseball Cards in all their glory:
And the Cardinals win the page with a diagonal FTW, fittingly, after taking the Series the previous October, even after the Powder Blues started off with an errant Ryan Braun there in the corner.

Favorite Card? I have to pick between Gary Carter and The Babe? We'll call it a draw.

And the Powder Blue team goes for the clinching win with a dominating diagonal, and straight-across double victory!

It almost looks like Hanley there is going to punch the photographer and has the bandage to prove his experience with the idea, until you realize it is a game action shot forced to match the Spring Training portraits. And Topps can just never decide if Mr. Morse is Mike, or Michael.

Favorite Card? I'll go thumbs up with Yoenis there in the dug-out.

Finally Sunshine Yellow ends the Powder Blue reign while stopping Neon Green's Go.

That black leather back-drop on all the Orioles cards all the time is just straight horrible. Manny also seems a little upset that he doesn't get a bat too. Tough luck, Rookie.

Favorite Card? The Zobrist is a work of art there. Great lighting and shadows and classical colors against a 51-Bowman-esque sky. Rays drawn with rays…if only we could get the right hand on to the card we'd have another all-time classic Rays card. The Topps photog always sets up that team this way, and it works.

Sunshine Yellow and Neon Green both try to get a win in this Series but just can't quite get there.

I don't know who pissed on Corey Hart's bubble-gum that day, but that card will earn itself another appearance in my binders, also quite near an amusing Wade Boggs card I'll share with you eventually. And is that a night card there in the primetime center slot? I thought Topps was determined to get rid of those cards. Is Adam Dunn trying to compensate for all the frumpiness everywhere else on this page?

Favorite Card? Still the Wade Miley. You can hear the wind in the cemetery on that one.

Pastel Orange goes for gold but our second hat-less baseball player shows it how to shine. As a member of the no-hair on middle-aged-men club, I still approve of Mariano's card there. A winning smile still wins over any crowd. And Powder Blue, it just got confused by which part was the design and which part was the image, or it could have taken another page, but it did manage to stop Sunshine Yellow there at the top. Who let the word Pastel into this set anyway? I get it Topps, I get it, especially when you hit me over the head with two cards from the same team sequentially in the checklist. Tigers are orange, yes. Not Tan. 

At this point I have to note that some might think perhaps this is an effort by Topps to match the style of the original set they are re-using, as they generally do with Heritage releases. The very-very-rare-these-days over the head pitcher's delivery pose on the Fister card might indicate that, though too much white on a baseball card is always a little frightening, and the no cap touching the frame rule just did not work out there at all. Especially at the center of this page like a white-bread vortex. Just, no. But I don't really think the editor of this set considered the actual images in the 1972 set, which had a bit more variety than torso, torso, torso.

Favorite Card? Though I think the Chris Davis card might have fallen out of a copy of Teen Beat magazine, the Starling Marte card is far more delightful. It gives me hope that I can still enjoy the game of baseball, and baseball cards, like a kid again.

On this last effort in the top of the 9th, Powder Blue sends it Sky Blue to pinch-hit but with results nowhere near as good as on the Marte card.

Miggy jogging to first base, again, wins this page all day, every day.

Well there you have it. 1972 baseball cards, manufactured in 2013. I still need a half-dozen such cards form the minis in Series 2 last year, as well as 3 of the '72 Chromes in Chrome. I'll share those Complete Sets here with you, someday.

I'm not sure we'll see any more '72 stylee cards for a while; I just hope that when a full set of them appear in 2021 Heritage, Topps puts in quite a bit more effort than they did here.

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