Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Shallow Fakes

The genesis may have come from a photo shoot in the dramatic Spring Training of the dramatic year of 20, 20.

Cards from photographs taken in the Spring sometimes appear later that season, first in Archives -

I like how Allen is standing in front of a shaded part of a "baseball field" but he is in bright sunshine.

They also might appear in Heritage High Numbers:

I think this one might actually be from an image roster in MLB: The Show

Now to be a tiny bit fair to Topps, cards in 2021 releases had to be made from photographs "supposedly" taken during the peak of the virus impacts, which pro sports had to take quite seriously.

How that might have worked in Spring Training, 2021, I can no longer remember.

The results for the Cleveland ball club that arrived with 2021 Heritage High Numbers
however, are quite memorable when held altogether, and, simultaneously not memorable at all:

That guy is pretty good, by the way.
And that's his Rookie Card. $.

Good luck with the next two:

The next year, Plesac has so much Mojo, he brought the cool clouds back with him, too. But you probably already forgot you just saw a Plesac card:

Hey guys, that looks epic back there, can I come over to visit?

My friend Max isn't really into reporting in Port St. Lucie this year, Brad says:

The cool thing about this baseball Mecca of the Cleveland back fields in AZ is all the other visitors.
Time Travelers, even.

all kinds of decades, too

the Sun maybe shined brighter back in '78?

I figure writing the new team names in the 78 script was soooo much work down in the Topps baseball card mines, the miners were given a break after a while.

But look man, except for Max up there, none of those cats are going to the Hall of Fame,
So, what?

(you'd be surprised how few cards of that guy stay in inventory lately)

Yeah, yeah, Nobody cares about Hall of Fame cards after retirement, anyway.
Who cares what those look like?

We want Rookie Cards!
That's what everyone remembers for every player.

yeah, yeah, base cards are dumb and boring, we all know that

we want those rare cards, limited editions, inserts!

Anyone else wanna make a rule that the Rays can't have any more players named "Lowe" ?


Nobody collects any of those 'rooks.

They are just in the packs so all 9 players can be on the field for when The Natural comes up to bat, the guy who's cards put $20 bills in my packs of baseball cards. Those are the important ones:

You may want to run my writings lately through the new Chatbot Detector app that is blowing up right now. It seems that Humanity has grown tired of composing the written word, so it has put Artificial Intelligence to use to now write long (and short) essays that no one reads any more anyway. So just the other day a coder put together his own AI based program to detect the output of the AI Chatbot. Might keep human writing on the up and up for another year or two, I guess.

But I don't think anyone will ever put together an App to find baseball cards like these. For me, these were just low-hanging fruit here. I even cheated and just downloaded the images I didn't have (most of them) in my own collection from Trading Card Database (thanks, peeps!) which I otherwise never do when composing a blog entry, about my own authentically owned baseball cards. But seemed like the authentic way to go here, while looking at anything but authentic baseball cards.

I find that run of cards basically disturbing, and insulting. Even though that with certain cards - to borrow one more I don't have from TCDB -
- software is already heavily involved in their creation.

And that's fine. Some great cards arrive using tech tools. Moving up to the top on my gonna-collect-em list are some mid-90s Pacific Prisms - you wanna talk about Oooohhhh, Shiny — whoa. 

I also look forward to owning a few Cosmic Chrome cards, maybe, though I would in no way choose to prioritize my money on a whole box of the stuff ($250 to start and now climbing over $400, I believe - for 80 cards), nor even have any chance to even buy a sample pack, either. The bottomless well of baseball cards today is a topic I will come back to sometime soon when I check out another blaster pile I have sitting on my card desk.

Overall for the basic idea of "Baseball Picture Cards" I don't know what the cards shown above might portend. On one hand, going forward in Heritage, there will, by the basic concept of the product, be a lot more live game action images on the cards, as mid & late 70s sets freely mixed action, posed, and candid images. So in theory these pitiful shenanigans seen here shouldn't be an option on as many cards, at least, as when Topps re-enacts sets that were 95% or more posed images, before the 1973 set, and that -should- help. I will actually have some good news on that idea here soon when I get back to just enjoying brand new Topps baseball cards.

But on the other hand, you can't fake a photograph from a real-live game of Major League Baseball, can you? I think the answer now is, yes, you probably can - thus the title of this post; I hope you all know what "Deep Fakes" are. If you don't, I do think it is an important concept for basically all humans to understand as Moore's Law continues to operate in the 2020s and if you haven't heard either set of 2 capitalized words in this paragraph put together before, well then you know what to do. 

Before the "AI Chatbot" started littering the Internet with fake prose many weeks ago now, "AI Art" was the fun toy of the moment on everyone's screens. I expect that will return soon enough as no one wants to waste their time reading words any more when another funny video just arrived in your "feed." And thus logically the coming Internet sensation will be "AI's Funniest Cat Videos."

This (theoretical) stuff will start out crude, on cards, and at first we will be able to laugh at it. As with the above baseball cards, which show some weird construction of a baseball field in the background but with lines that never seem to add up right with weird shadows and odd grass colors and mental registration confusion and crazy angled lines all over the place until the whole thing looks like a sorta close, AI coder, so not-all-that-close approximation of a baseball field and more like what a baseball field would look like in a 30 year old video game instead. Possibly somewhere in the Topps (digital) Vault there is a base image shot at a Spring Training complex somewhere, the day before Pitchers and Catchers reported. Or, many such images. My dwindling baseball card money remains on Cleveland's place in Goodyear, AZ. Though that could be totally wrong and there is no real base image at all and it is just that small market Cleveland cards were selected for some test runs of this "creative" process. 

It seems to me that over time, AI imagery will continue to evolve until all "Topps" will have to do every Spring is have the players walk through some sort of 3D modeling recording device as used in movies today and the AI will be able to spit out a whole new season's worth of baseball cards of every type - including ones showing "action" inside a Major League Baseball stadium.

The possibilities are as endless as the insatiable demand for more baseball cards, man, make us more baseball cards, we gotta have more baseball cards. OK, Fanatics has your back, valuable card collector, and we can do that for ya. That Hall of Famer with very few existing photographs? We gave his great-great-great-grandson a little pile of money and whaddya know, here we have that famous image from that one newspaper for you re-created in 4K Ultra HD vivid full color detail printed up for you on a baseball card, here yas go. Oh, wait, we only printed 539 copies, so that will be $29.95 please. But since he is your All-Time favorite player cuz your great-grandfather told you stories about him when you were real little, you will just have to have it. And Rookies? Man, wait till you see how many Rookie Cards you can buy, this year. Collect 'em all!

So when your great-grandson some day asks why baseball cards were just so clumsy, back in those archaic early 20s, well, I just don't know what you should tell him. I'm at a loss, all of a sudden, in my lifetime of collecting beloved baseball picture cards. Baseball cards should speak for themselves, and the ones shown above do that, fairly loudly, in my opinion.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

I thought I was going to collect this one

 I looked forward to 2020s Heritage / 1970s Topps for a long time. I knew the second half of the 60s and 1970 were not going to interest me enough to desire owning full sets with their plain designs and plain photography that actually gets more plain, weirdly/sadly enough, in the re-enactment sets Topps makes today. Even the wonderfully vibrant 1965 design couldn't get me to the finish line on the idea.

But starting with 1971 Heritage in 2020, I knew my interest would return. There would be a loving recreation of the epic Thurman Munson card, we all knew that. There was no way Topps would just abandon the tribute completely.

And in my very first hanger pack of the product, a wonderful respite from the craziness of the month of March, 2020, the brand new Gary Sanchez card confirmed my simple, set-collecting, basic baseball card fan faith in Topps, Inc.

Of course what I didn't know is that I would be denied a nice long baseball season of occasionally buying a pack and casually assembling a set, as Life itself went topsy-turvy in so many ways that baseball card supply was way down the list of important things. Aside from the out-of-nowhere virus news, baseball card distribution had subtly changed the year before, anyway. No longer would un-sold product be offered to me at a discount the next season. Instead, the astonishing quantities of baseball cards that my small town could not consume were pulled from the store and simply sold elsewhere as demand had begun increasing faster than supply even in 2019. But I was slow to realize this, particularly with just regular ole Heritage, a product that was always available to me, nearly 365/24/7 for a solid ten years straight before that.

The result was I just never obtained very much 2020 Heritage, simply because it wasn't in my local grocery store, bottom line. I just don't see myself ordering new boxes of baseball cards for delivery; if I'm going to do that I'm going to buy old baseball cards, not new ones - that simple. Overall that was probably better for me, and my bottom line, knowing that I could later just pick up some small portion of the set that I thoroughly enjoyed for way, way cheaper than I could effectively light money on fire by buying cards at the grocery store. Even though that is straight-up my preferred way to buy them.

That result just made me anticipate 2021 Heritage / 1972 Topps all the more. When it finally arrived, supply was initially spotty and subsequently erratic, but still orders of magnitude more common than cards in 2020 even if still unlike retail supply in the 2010s, and I soon owned several hundred of the cards.

I knew the cards would be 100% posed Spring Training Photo Day cards in the 'standard' cards, since 1972 Topps had the live game photo bases covered with the "In Action" subset. And I was fine with that, as long as something interesting came along occasionally, as with that Rio Ruiz card with the sprinklers still running full blast in the background. Has there ever been another baseball card with some sprinkler action on it? Probably. But I had never seen one before. And plenty of posed baseball cards can be perfectly enjoyable baseball cards, too.

I also knew there be no correlation between the color choices on the good ole 'Psychedelic Tombstones' and team colors, that's the way 1972 Topps worked. So the classic green&gold Oakland Athletics would look like this, which is also quite fine for making a colorful baseball card:

Now my basic apprehension whenever I see a good player on an Athletics card has nothing to do with Topps but rather is a serious problem in Major League Baseball itself, in my opinion. The A's are but one poster child of the current phenomena in the game. 

On that Montas card there is an example of a recurring phenomena in Heritage sets, with that just simply dumb backdrop sucking your attention into it rather than keeping it on the baseball player, though that could be just another of my many opinions. It took me many years of looking at cards like this to understand what that big 'ole black thing back there actually is; finally my regular conduit of MLB education, the radio broadcast crew I listen to for 120 or more games per year accidentally explained it to me. That big black square is an artificial "batter's eye" which is a feature of every MLB stadium design, to give the batter a neutral, uniform field to look into as he attempts to make contact with a 2.9" diameter baseball flying towards him at > 90 miles per hour. Spring Training ball fields don't have a stadium wall as part of their back fences, so they are constructed purposely.

Now as I frequently like to do, I didn't initially sort out my brand new 2021 Topps Heritage baseball cards into checklist numerical order. I like to understand who is playing where, and what they look like, and how a team works, as a team, looking at all the players on it at essentially the same time, which I can best do by sorting cards by team. That's something I have done since I bought my very first baseball cards. And while I didn't have a deep familiarity with what Pirates cards have looked like in the 2010s, compared to the instantly recognizable cards for the Braves, Reds, Red Sox, and Yankees (amongst others) based on the backdrops on those staying the same for a decade or longer, I was still surprised with what I found.

I don't think these cards need any commentary, really:

The run continued in the Short Prints, you know, the ones you get to pay extra for.

When baseball season ended and the High Numbers came out, the Pirates were still standing there

I knew I shouldn't, but I found the experience a bit astonishing. I have been commenting on this very thing for a long time now whenever considering Topps Heritage cards. The last time I had had this many Heritage cards at once, for the 1965 set, there were traces of same-same-ness in various teams, but still nothing like this. An entire team set with a repeated background - that is a very poor photo element to start with. The A's cards have this going on as well though not at the 100% level like the Pirates.

Now ironically I'm not saying the appearance of a Spring Training Batter's Eye Wall automatically disqualifies a baseball card from being very interesting. The Rio Ruiz card at the top of this post has one. And the very first card now finally 'leading off' my Rookie Card collection starting at 2011 Topps has one, also:
On that Trumbo card the basic 'cut-out' for Third Base and a few other baseball context things make the appearance of a Batter's Eye wall just another part of the ball park and the baseball card, which overall I quite like. And that card looks extra good mixed in with the rest of the action shots in 2011 Topps. It's when images just repeat, repeat, repeat that cards become hard to remember and just plain, boring.

This Pirates team set I had managed to see all together just killed my desire to ensure I had every single possible repeat of this same basic baseball card, i.e. finishing either regular Heritage or the High Numbers set. As it turns out, I had accumulated almost all possible copies of this same-same card, though Ke'Bryan Hayes has a comical "Action Image" variation card showing him posing in this same spot, since that widely collected very short-printed sub$set (more accurately described as a photo variation) was made rather moot by the "In Action" cards that are a part of 1972 Topps anyway. 

I also technically "need" 3 more Pirates from High Numbers (though any player in 21 High Numbers could have been photographed in Spring, 2021) and 2 of those manage to get the puke green Batter's Eye out of the card image while a 3rd is so radically different from any other Pirates card, in terms of background, that's now how to tell who has been traded/photoshopped in one of these sets, which is an odd way for baseball cards to work, functionally.

And one thing that I can't know here is - does Topps have any control over this? Do the teams dictate a quick hour or so for Photo Day, with a short assembly line process to get a basic portrait shot of every player, as fast as possible? Possibly at the very most convenient same-every-year spot selected by the ball club, and no one else? That might be the case. Looking through vintage sets (so easy to do with a complete database of every baseball card ever made at our fingertips at all times), it is clear that Spring Training photos weren't always produced this way, though some seasons and for some teams, yes. Other times one can tell that the photographer just likely wandered around for a day snapping pictures all over the Spring Training "complex" essentially at random. That is never seen in one of these new sets and the loving recreation of the most striking cards never amounts to a very high quantity of such cards.

Oh well. Broken record much? Nobody really cares about this in "The Hobby" because a fair portion of pointless / worthless 'base' cards are simply thrown in the trash, anyway, as they just serve as anachronistic filler included as part of the straight gambling that is a large portion of the real economic activity with cards. That's one reason that helps explains boring cards like these. 

I'll discuss a few more next time I scan some cards, as, not for better but for much, much worse, if you can believe it, Topps has discovered a way around this problem now. The next 2 cards I have scanned for you, well, I actually prefer those snoozer Pirates cards I just showed you.

Get used to these, as there are more where these came from:

Friday, January 13, 2023

You Can't Do That to a Baseball Card!


When I received my very first "manufactured patch" card over a decade ago, this reproduction of a 19-aughts Cleveland "Naps" cap logo (whoever they were), I immediately had a question in my mind: what am I supposed to do with this THING?

I mean, it wasn't going to fit in a binder page, I knew that. At least, not without irredeemable damage and struggling and frustration and becoming essentially worthless from mangling the corners. Can't have that in a baseball 'card' collection. (Can we?) So, then what? Where do I put this THING?

I felt very unlucky with this new memorabilia item in my hand, reading the checklist of possible cool cap logo patches I could have scored instead, there on the side of the blaster box. I got, a letter "C" - way to go, Charlie Brown.

It is, sort of, a Bob Feller "card" I guess, technically. A Hall of Famer, that's cool and all. But that card probably has one of the smaller pictures of a baseball player on any of my quite overly numerous baseball picture products. Some day, I would be squinting down at Bob to see him, and that wouldn't be any good. Plus, he's not even wearing the same cap logo on his photo — even super old man Base Set would still be able to tell that, because no one puts a navy blue patch on a navy blue cap. Though if you gave Topps a chance...

It didn't take me long to realize what I could do with the THING, if I wished. Patches, after all, are supposed to be applied to clothing. So I thought someday when I had finally won the lottery and could buy a whole pile of blaster boxes full of baseball cards and spend a delightful couple three days not going to work but instead reading and sorting all the new baseball cards I had purchased, all at once, I could then turn to all the cool baseball logo patches I now had and create the ultimate baseball card nerd cap, or vest, or, I don't know, something. I would have so much flair even Jennifer Aniston would be impressed. Where the heck I would wear such an item, I had even less clue about. I just thought, these things, except for my super boring letter "C" version, were going to be pretty cool, when I finally got a good one from my good buddies at Topps.

Naturally, scoring another one didn't take long. I was back in the "Big Box" store to buy a little box of baseball cards soon enough, and I got: another letter "C" - there's two of these snoozers on this checklist? Are you four-letter-wording kidding me? The new one was an even more boring block capital letter "C" featuring Grady Sizemore on the card. Navy blue again, too, possibly the most boring of all so-called 'colors.'

Nevertheless, I persisted. At least, in my thought of getting a cool baseball memorabilia patch out of one of these blaster boxes, and putting it on something, somewhere. I still wasn't sure what I would somehow apply one to, but that didn't dampen my desire to get a really cool "manu" (ewww) patch.

I don't think that ever really happened, to me. Topps kept making them and sending them to me, but I could just never get a really cool one. They were always for some team I didn't like, or some weird concept like an All-Star Game when I was 4 years old, and all manner of Why Do I Own This? gimcrackery that just never had a cool-ness factor, for me. Why couldn't I get some bad-ass Pirate, or a hip Maple Leaf from one of the Canadia teams, or a classic orange Tiger, or even just a simple MLB "Logoman," please, Topps?

It took several more years of accumulating these ever more useless THINGS from all the blaster boxes I was buying before I figured out a way to put one of the little patches to work, without having to somehow wear one out in public anywhere except a Major League Baseball stadium, which are far far away from where I live, anyway. But then, since Topps had moved on from really cool baseball iconography things on these THINGS to naturally going back to celebrating Topps itself, instead, I was now faced with a bit more of a dilemma. Because even in an MLB stadium running around with a miniature patch copy of a Josh Hamilton Rookie Card somewhere on your attire would probably still draw some looks. I mean a mini patch of Hank Aaron's Rookie Card - Dude, where did you get that cool THING? But Ryan Zimmerman - who the heck is that?

For some other fans and collectors out there, elsewhere, I'm sure each one of the THINGS I had would delight somebody, somewhere. But you are probably already thinking - to apply one of these patches, I would have to take the card apart. It would be fully ruined, destroyed, no longer a collectible item, once it was permanently attached to my used clothing, which you wouldn't want to collect, I hope. -1 of them, in the world. Some other collector would thus have that much less chance of ever owning one of these basically odd memorabilia products.

And that, is something you just can't do to a baseball card. But last night, that is precisely what I did.

So eventually, a blaster box coughed up this THING:

Though by this point, Topps had moved on to "medallions" and I just knew that none of them would really hang on the end of a chain around my neck, just exactly perfectly, cuz Topps stupidly forgot to include any place on the "medallion" to actually attach a chain.

But for this little piece of probably fake metal baseball card "medallion" gestalt, I had the perfect mission:

Now, now, don't freak out here people. You didn't really think I would put Ryan Braun in the Official Spot for the 2012 binder, did you? 

And that's not an authentic Platinum 1/1 copy (way back then the 1/1 version quite appropriately shines like the Sun so if you are ever so lucky to see it, bring sunglasses) of the single most famous baseball card of the 2010s, #US175, possibly getting completely wrecked being stuck in the Official Spot for my super cool binder full of generally completely worthless Rookie Cards. Not Rookie Card cards - the real deal, only one (err, not quite) RC logo Rookie Card officially blessed by the Commissioner in a secret ceremony every year the day after the All-Star Game when everyone is asleep, for each and every newly minted Major Leaguer from 2011 until, forever and ever. Or, at least, most of them. Believe it or not, Topps does still somehow occasionally completely miss the appearance of a Rookie in Major League Baseball. I know, I know, I'm just making up lies now. 

So I must confess the honest truth — that Mike Trout Rookie Card seen there is a, gasp, reprint. Don't tell anybody.

Now by this point people who just scroll on by all these tl;dr wordy words are about to start scrolling again so it's time to look at some cards and make people stop scrolling. I recently got my Rookie Card binder much further along the path to real collector organization and installed page 2, so I scanned that one, since I already posted page 1 last week. Let's go to the tape:
Do you have a Rookie Card wearing shades?

2011 Topps is a pleasant set to gaze upon. It will be a nice way to kick off paging through a binder mostly full of baseball players you can't remember any more, or just never ever heard of ever before anyway, like those two fresh fish from Miami. 

Until just tonight, after all these years of owning it and even finally bindering it up last week, it had escaped my notice that that Brandon Snyder RC is a really good Lead-Off card - there aren't too many of those in the Topps Baseball oeuvre. And every Brewers fan knew Jeremey Jeffress was just basically squirrelly even before you finally saw his Rookie Card card. Meanwhile it looks to me like Jeremy Hellickson might have been easy to run on. This binder is going to be chock full of fun. 

Now that hole there in spot #4 illustrates a small dilemma with this ultimate cool project: what do I do with those rare, once-or-twice-a-season, maybe, pretty actually valuable Rookie Card cards? Which in turn illustrates the dilemma with putting a Face Card in the Official Spot in the Rookie Card binder - US175 might well be the Face of the Franchise, here, but you just don't want to use an actually valuable card in the Official Spot.

Here is some real news you can use: have you ever tried to take a card back OUT of the Official Spot on the spine of the binder? That, is not pretty. Sliding it in there is as easy as pie, but the reverse, yikes! I almost had to go get a pair of needle-nose pliers to pull that #US175 reprint back out of there. And that, is not good; like, Andy Pafko levels of not good, though not for Ryan Braun card #1 in Topps Baseball card sets, unfortunately, especially since there are TWO of those cards. In my case, it was not good because even reprints of #US175 fetch a pretty penny, these days, eleven years after its original issue.

That missing card here on Page 2 is where the 2011 Topps #145 Freddie Freeman RC would go. But even with that not well centered, PSA 7-8, no-soup-for-you copy I scanned in last week, I'm not sure I want to put THAT card in a binder. Freddie seems on his way to the Hall of Fame, if you ask me, but Roger Bernadina, bunking with Freddie forever after over on page 1, is not, for one. So for now, I am equivocating on that spot on page 2, expecting that Topps will finally issue a reprint of #145, as they so much like to do with their famous, actually valuable Rookie Card cards, over and over and over again for decades yet to come. But so far whenever that idea has presented itself, they have picked #US175 to represent 2011 Topps in the Rookie Card reprint parade, even though #145 now has more rings, as they say, than #US175. But #145's day will come, and my copy will be living in a much safer plastic tomb than this one, which is designed for pleasant shiggles, really, as well as basic Baseball history appreciation. I am also fortunate that reprints of #US175 exist, and that I just won't have any qualms about the Jose Altuve RC card, for some reason, or, the Alex Bregman issue. To the binder tomb they will go.

I do have an ultimate dream for a card to put in the Official Spot of the Rookie Card binder. That would be finding a Rookie Card logo card for a player that ultimately never appears in Major League Baseball. I know it's going to happen. I know it already happened or, I think it did, anyway, on one of those floating head Rookie Cards in the 60s, or one of the four-way Rookies in the 70s, back when each player (well, almost) got one and only one Rookie Card - didja ever wonder just how did collectors survive in those dark days before Fleer and Donruss rescued us all by finally creating Rookie Card cards? 

I want a never happened card from the Modern Era, the one I actually live in, and I feel certain I will find one, eventually. Lately, the Tigers have been so bad that Topps just has no idea what to do with Tigers spots on their checklists any more - they have already issued 2 RC Tigers cards for players that never actually sported the olde English "D" in an MLB game, though those guys did make it onto the field of play for other teams. Those make for great RC trivia, but are just close but no cigar as they still aren't as epic as RC Zero will be. It almost finally happened last year, when a Tigers Pitcher injured his leg during warm-ups before what would have been his Major League Debut, with a Rookie Card already under construction back at Topps HQ. Luckily for Topps, he eventually did make it into an MLB game, though I have my doubts he will ever appear on Topps cardboard ever again, otherwise.

This year, I think I found my lowest Rookie Card card MLB participation level yet - just 4 At Bats. The 0 AB, 0 IP RC card is coming, I can feel it. Maybe it even already exists, and I just haven't coughed up enough subscription fee to Baseball-Reference dot com to find it. Or stayed awake long enough. Those auto-load ads on there are just so annoying, they are going to wrangle that subscription fee out of me if I ever hope to complete my RC Zero quest. Topps sure isn't going to be the entity that tells me which Rookie Card card is the Grail, here.

Now until that card appears, I have a back-up plan for the Official Spot on the spine in case the binder fills up with players with 2.2 IP and 13 AB and it's time to start up a second binder, before RC Zero finally arrives. Plus, it's time to show a card again before people start looking for links to click away from this craziness. So the following is Plan B, & easily my all-time favorite Rookie Card card with essentially no 2nd place (until RC Zero arrives to dispute things). Though I have posted it before somewhere on this herky-jerky baseball card blog, here yas go:
The GOAT Rookie Card card

Plus, it's a Bubble Gum card - betchya didn't even notice that, right off the bat. Singleton didn't even notice the batter swung the bat, he is busy chillaxing with his bubble gum. Priorities. Find me another RC Bubble Gum card - betchya can't. I have a whole binder full of the things. This one looks at that Sunglasses RC card up there and says: "Trump." Plus, Jon Singleton is like the Ricky Williams of Major League Baseball, except Ricky Williams might could be a better baseball player, not sure. How good you are at actually playing baseball isn't really all that important for Rookie Card card collecting, when you collect the players who never got a single vote for the All-Star Game, that nobody else collects. I mean, who else plays First Base like this, out on an MLB field? Who? C'mon now. GOAT. '51 Bowman Mantle, step aside. That one doesn't even have an RC logo - lame.

So probably I should just put that Jon Singleton RC on the Official Spot on the RC logo binder, but, I just like it too much to ruin it up in there (down in there?), since it's the GOAT and all. But I might, some day; after all I could just buy an extra copy of the GOAT RC for just one whole dollar, which seems sadly underpriced for a GOAT card, but that's the way she goes, boys, when it comes to Rookie Card cards, that's just the way she goes. They ain't making more of 'em. No, wait, they are, actually.

Thus until I resolve this existential dilemma of which card to put in the Official Spot in the all-time greatest Rookie Card card collection anyone has ever assembled (the decision is a heavy one), this is where that Tony Gwynn RC "medallion" comes in.

Or, did, before I found a much more pleasing RC logo baseball card memorabilia product for this mission, than that chintzy little "medallion" Topps sent me. "Medallions" should be big, bold, and beautiful, like the ones on Pascual Perez baseball cards. 

I don't remember precisely how it happened but I somehow stumbled upon the ultimate Rookie Card "manu" (eww) patch card, from 2010 Topps Finest:

The official deployment of the official RC logo there on the left side is the best part. Why didn't they do that on the Tony Gwynn "medallion" RC card? Topps is always screwing up these key details, we all know that. If it doesn't have the official RC logo, it's just not a Rookie Card card, is it?

Now you probably already know what is about to happen, so make sure no kids are reading this. There will be scissors involved. But before we break a cardinal rule of baseball card collecting, let's read this card it's Last Rites, err, Yeah, I Read the Backs. Always:

Gah! It's a real card back, like a real baseball card, not just the "Congratulations! You have just received a valuable baseball memorabilia product from the Topps Chewing Gum Corporation Incorporated" totally phoned-it-in cheese that adorns the back of all the "manu" (eww) patch cards I have ever luckily received, for free, in my blaster boxes, thank you very much.

An actual "real" baseball card? I totally didn't see that coming when I coughed up my $3 (worth 3x more than the GOAT? What's up with that?) to order this one. 

Even more oh-my-garsh-what-next is something hard to see in the scan, because it is printed with foil text: this card has a serial number! Its #10, of only 50 copies! "They" will know precisely which card I am about to break rule #1 of baseball cards with, forever and ever. Leave no trace of the crime, they told me. Oops. Luckily, #10 was not Tommy Manzella's uniform #, which just might have derailed the whole gosh durn project completely.

Plus, it has a fiendishly clever baseball Trivia question on the back that all you 2022 smart-alecks will get wrong, I guarantee it:

Among pitchers who have never yielded a walk-off HR, who has the most saves?

A. Eric Gagne
B. Mariano Rivera
C. Jonathon Papelbon
D. Jeff Reardon

Mariano, that's an easy one, you say? He's the GOAT Closer, whatever that is. Sounds difficult. Don't ever mess with Goats, would be my advice.


That would be Eric Gagne. This is a 2010 baseball card. But really, Fanatics, whoever wrote that trivia question - put them back to work, right away.

Now I have a sorta real baseball card holding on to a cool logo patch, and I wants it. But who is this Tommy Manzella guy, anyway? Never heard of 'em.

Of course you are holding this thing in your hand, right now, that answers all questions, ever, if you just ask it, out loud. Just say "Alexa, what was Tommy Manzella's career WAR?" Use your outdoor voice so Alexa gets it right on the first try.

I know, I know, it's still kinda weird to talk to an inanimate object, out loud at least, though SkyNet will probably animate things soon enough, like it or not. So I went ahead and asked them for you. After being drafted after college, looks like from his birthdate, it then took Tommy four more seasons to get a crack at the Bigs - not an encouraging sign, so far. Manzella had a thoroughly authentic Rookie Card career of a first season (remember, that's not his "Rookie" season) with a whole 5 At Bats in 2009 - qualifying him for the creation of a whole bunch of Topps Rookie Card cards, automatically, followed by a near perfect average of the genre the next year, when he appeared in 83 Games or essentially half of one season, somewhat authenticating the trust Topps placed in him when they created Rookie Card cards for him in no less than 9 different products, including commissioning 2 distinct paintings of him for National Chicle and a full load of autographed Rookie Card cards in Topps Chrome. 

Manzella managed to hit above the Mendoza Line, about which it is important to remember - hitting the baseball successfully more than 1 in 5 times in Major League Baseball is an incredible human achievement, facing Pitchers currently ranked in the top 250 in the world, as certified by their presence on a Pitching mound out there in front of you. No one reading this could even manage to hit the ball into a real Hit, facing any one of those 250 guys with a world class fielding defense of the top 485 Fielders in the world behind them. YOUR only chance at success would be a super lucky dribbler down the baseline while an overly tired Catcher is behind the plate, most likely. Tommy Manzella had a very good baseball career arc, if you keep things in the proper perspective. Not that I ever lose that perspective, nope.

Now beating the Mendoza line is more than can be said for Jon Singleton (the GOAT RC, don't forget), but Singleton bested him in WAR with a -0.9 mark to Manzella's -1.4, so maybe there is some hidden strategery to playing the field in that cop-a-squat position at First Base, possibly. Since Topps for some reason didn't memorialize Manzella's actual 2010 Rookie campaign with further cardboard, I had to ask Alexa/BaseballReference for all the deets. I maybe would have rather had another baseball card to check out, but then I probably would have one less 29 AB 2011 Rookie Card card in my cool RC binder, and therein lies the rub, or something.

Now while you were trying to remember just where Mendoza was when he drew that Line, I just went ahead and finally liberated a manufactured patch like I've wanted to do ever since I pulled that Bob Feller card for the Cleveland Naps, a team he never actually played for and is quite possibly the very worst Major League baseball team name, ever, in a sport that puts people to sleep way, way too much for it's own long-term good. Go, Naps! Though that does sound kinda good, to me at least.

I thought about shooting some video, but I would have to charge extra for you to see that, and, remember, there might be applicable baseball card laws at play here. This is the result:

Houston, we have a winner.

err, well, however Houston now can only drool over somehow finding the other 49 copies of the 2010 Topps Finest RC MLB Logo Patch [Memorabilia] (see, it's official Memorabilia, or, was), so Houston is a slight loser on this one. The vast majority of them haven't surfaced for sale lately, but they still might. Don't give up hope. Keep up the quest. We love you.

And that's how I finally put one of these "manufactured patches" to an actual use, rather than just have it float around my card desk for all eternity, which is what is happening with that Cleveland Naps cap logo patch THING, since COMC deemed it too damaged for them to sell to anyone cuz USPS somehow scuffed it up on the way to Washington, and then COMC sent it straight back to me so it could float around my card desk for all eternity, or until I find a Cleveland Naps fan who actually wants this exciting piece of baseball memorabilia, knowing that Topps will congratulate them and then has to figure out some way to make it stop floating around their card desk for all eternity, which is quite a challenge. 

Unless, you have a pair of scissors. And you really really want to put a script letter "C" that is just kinda trying too hard with those curly-cues, on something, somewhere. Got any ideas?