Monday, June 28, 2010

Insert awkward word play here

Perhaps because I write headlines for a living, I am sensitive to the titles that are selected for insert series in card sets.

The mission for the writer of sports headlines and the thinker-upper of titles for insert series is rather similar. You're trying to come up with something that sums up an idea or theme and you're trying to make it snappy and memorable. If you can make it fun, well then, you're living right.

It's not easy. Writers are constantly complaining about the headlines slapped on their stories, but headline writing is honestly one of the most difficult tasks in the journalism profession. I guess that causes me to wonder whether writing titles for insert series is one of the most difficult jobs in the card-producing profession. Because, given some of the titles that I've seen, a few folks aren't taking their job all that seriously.

While leafing through my Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards, the thought came to me: "good gracious, there have been some agonzingly painful titles for insert series." Yes, there have been some clever ones, too. But the painful ones really jumped out.

So much so that I compiled a top 10 of the most awkwardly painful. I just couldn't resist.

Before I get to that, a few things:

1. Stop using the name "Power Brokers" for the title of an insert series. It's been done several times already.
2. Topps and Upper Deck have done very well naming their inserts. The names make sense and don't make you wince. Fleer, meanwhile, has major issues in this category, as you'll see. They have been very naughty.
3. I had to steal virtually all the images for this post because, sadly, I don't have any of these agonzingly named insert sets. Hopefully, I'll rectify that soon.

There is one set name that would have made the top 10 but I couldn't find an image for it. It is "Hot Hispanics" from 1995 Pacific. That title is uncomfortable in myriad ways, the least of which is that I don't want to collect any set called "Hot Hispanics" unless there are bikinis involved. Women wearing bikinis, for you slow ones out there.

OK, on to the top 10. Get ready to groan:

10. Insert Series Name: Ticket Studs
Set Name: 2003 Fleer Authentix
Reaction: Some folks probably like this name. I can see that. Fleer seemed to like it as they used it a few other times. But all I can think of when I see the name is a radio advertisement for an all-male burlesque review. "Ladies, this Saturday night come on down to see our Ticket Studs!" OK, now I've placed that image in everyone's head and they can't get rid of it. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Truly.

9. Insert series name: Cardfrontations
Set name: 1997 Pinnacle
Reaction: I have a philosophical problem with cards that feature one player on one side of the card and a different player on the other side. It is rather irritating to team and player collectors. This insert series has that problem and compounds it by adding the dorky "cardfrontations" heading. I'd like to "card-front" the person who named this set in a dark alley and smack him silly with a Mike Piazza/Greg Maddux cardfrontations card. He won't know which one hit him.

8. Insert series name: Hall or Nothing
Set name: 1997 SkyBox E-X 2000
Reaction: OK, I get it. You're saying that these players are so determined in their goals, so focused, so narrow-minded, that they are going to make the Hall of Fame or, um, or what? Not have a career at all? "Hall or Nothing" is a play on "All or Nothing," right? Well, I'm pretty sure the folks in the series, A-Rod, Tony Gwynn, Barry Bonds, etc., have either made the Hall or at the very least have had a damn fine career. They didn't blow their entire profession in a poker game.

7. Insert series name: Bidding for the Call
Set name: 2000 Bowman Chrome
Reaction: The title for this series reminds me of headlines that I write when I'm exhausted and my brain can't come up with one more coherent thought, so I simply type out "bidding for the call" and yell "print!" "Bidding for the Call" is as awkward as a first date.

6. Insert series name: Before There Was Topps
Set name: 2001 Topps
Reaction: OK, we go from awkward to pretentious. Leave it to Topps to be self-referential in as smug a way possible. This series featured players who became stars before Topps came down from the heavens and graced us with its regal presence. How on earth did these players ever become known to the masses without Topps' all-powerful publicity? Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb never got to realize how truly fantastic Topps is. Thank Topps for putting these players on a Topps card. And hope that Topps, in its wonderful awesomeness, somehow accepts your thanks.

5. Insert series name: Cal to Greatness
Set name: 2000 Fleer Gamers
Reaction: Poor Cal Ripken. He has an entire insert set to himself and each of his cards has the incredibly cheesy "Cal to Greatness" plastered on it. I can't even say it without the words getting caught in my throat: CAL to Greatness. CAL to Greatness. It makes zero sense AND it sounds stupid at the same time. Nicely done.

4. Insert series name: Brother Wood
Set name: 2001 Fleer Premium
Reaction: All right, if this insert series had anything to do with brothers at all, I'd let it slide. Maybe Vladimir and Wilton Guerrero or Aaron and Bret Boone. That'd be cool. But this particular theme, that they are all "Brothers in wood," as in a "brotherhood of wood," makes me want to scream until I can't scream no more. It makes me feel as if I have ants crawling up and down my spine. Make it stop!

3. Insert series name: Awe Pairs
Set name: 2003 Fleer Mystique
Reaction: Fleer has used this "Awe Pairs" disaster several times. It's beyond stupid. The name is a play on the term "au pair," which is a young foreigner who comes to a country to live with a family in exchange for doing housework. In what galaxy does this have anything to do with baseball? Dontrelle Willis may very well end up being a housekeeper at the rate his career is going, but right now the two aren't connected in the least.

2. Insert series name: Hall's Well
Set name: 2000 Fleer Tradition
Reaction: This is four in a row for Fleer. Perhaps they shouldn't have issued so many sets in the early part of this century. Here we have a play on the title of the Shakespearian play, "All's Well That Ends Well." But Fleer has changed "all" to "Hall" and cut off the second half of the saying, so all that we're left with is the indecipherable and nonsensical "Hall's Well." Perhaps Fleer was really telling us about a guy named Hall and his well. That's about the only thing that'd make sense with this current construction. But apparently the well has dried up, along with Fleer's creativity. By the way, I wonder if "Hall's Well" for Roger Clemens?

1. Insert series name: Boyz With the Wood
Set name: 1999 Metal Universe
Reaction: OK, children of the late 1990s and all you gangsta pretenders, you knew this was coming. Maybe when you were 10, you thought the name was cool. But reality says that when someone mentioned this title in the production meeting, someone should have yelled, "No! NO! Get out now! Get OUT! OUT! OUT!" But they didn't, because it was Metal, and they were too busy figuring out how many spiders they could fit on a card. And that's how "Boyz With the Wood" slipped through and caused years of pain to those who are sensitive to the sounds that words can make. They make sounds, people! Respect the sounds!

I apologize if I insulted your favorite insert series name. But really, you should have better taste. There are much better ones out there. Maybe I'll mention those someday.


  1. Wow, the terribleness is mind boggling.

    Oh, and fittingly Word Verification: scarrio

  2. Worthy abominations all. Boyz With the Wood is so bad it loops back on the continuum of good taste and becomes awesome again.

    I agree on the pretentiousness of the Before There Was Topps. Even worse is the design is by far the ugliest thing in that entire set. To show off All Time Greats and Negro League Legends Topps decides to use the 1959 Topps design's overly foiled douchebag little brother. If you don't have one of those cards let me assure you that you're not missing much.

  3. Awe Pairs 2003 Fleer Mystique
    i need that willis!!

  4. Wow, those are pretty bad.

    Everytime I say Boyz With the Wood to myself, I snicker and laugh like Beavis and Butthead.