Sunday, July 22, 2018

The best 2018 card never made

I received my first taste of Topps' new Big League Baseball product last week.

No, I didn't buy any packs. Lately, I've made too many trips to stores I don't actually want to visit in the name of Allen & Ginter and Stadium Club. That's enough.

But a couple of Big League Baseball cards happened to fall out of a package from reader Dave (more on what he sent tomorrow). And, unfortunately, with those two cards, my gradually diminishing enthusiasm for Big League Baseball took another dip.

The cards are fine for what they are -- a basic brand with limited inserts targeted toward set collectors (I keep reading that this is a set for kids. I'm still looking for those kids buying baseball cards in the card aisle. A dozen years now, I've been looking. They're not there). But BLB doesn't quite do the job as a traditional set, because it's only 400 cards and as someone who grew up on sets that were regularly 660/726/792 cards, 400 is laughable.

I do appreciate the straightforward approach to the set, the inclusion of borders, the fun aspect of the design in that Logan Forsythe's bat is traveling outside of the inner border.

The photos? Well ... I was figuring on a bit more when news of Big League Baseball replacing Topps Bunt hit the internet a few months ago. Maybe it was just bloggers' expectations at the time, but people were praising the photos on these cards. However, what I've seen since BLB has hit shelves is Topps flagship stuff. Guys pitching. Guys hitting. There are some lookers in the set, but there are some lookers in Series 1 and Series 2, too.

It's definitely more collectible than Opening Day and if the speculation is true that this will one day replace OD, then, yes, please go for it. (I think if it does replace OD, it either needs to do a better job with the inserts -- I'm not impressed -- or scrap the inserts altogether and go with a larger base set).

When I received the two cards from Dave, I was a bit surprised with how flimsy they seemed. I think that's probably because the cards are not glossy. But it's true, the individual card doesn't seem substantial at all.

These are the backs. I appreciate the traditional set-up that was understood as what a card back should be for at least the first 20 years that I collected cards. But they are not easy to read, at least for 50-year-old eyes. Not only is it printed in a thin font, but everything is so very small. I keep thinking how much room there would be for larger print if all that legalese wasn't at the bottom.

One thing that fascinates me is the name header and card number at the top. They look they glow in the dark.(Quick test: they do not).

Also, it has been driving me crazy, but the backs reminded me of some other card back that I've seen somewhere.

I eventually figured it out.

Frequent blog commenter and host of Stubby's House of Christmas, Stubby, sent me this custom card of one-year wonder (more like one-start wonder) Ray Hathaway a couple of years ago.

I'll put that card back under the Big League Baseball card back:

Similarities, no?

OK, they're not exactly the same. For one, Stubbly Bubbly features a cartoon. Also, it's a heck of a lot more readable.

However, all of this nitpicking about what is basically a perfectly pleasant card product, and more collectible than several products out on the market, is simply the aftermath of the biggest letdown of the entire hobby season for me.

There was one Big League Baseball card that was advertised to us, showcased when I first became aware that Big League Baseball was a thing and it boosted my enthusiasm for this new product. This set was going to be great because of this card.

But that card does not exist.

This is the card that was never made, pretty much the only card I needed to own from Big League Baseball for the set to be a success.

This was the card that appeared on the sell sheets. Big League Baseball was going to contain some quirky inserts (or maybe subsets, I don't know what they were going to be), like Bark in the Park. How cool would it be to have a bulldog with sunglasses in my Dodgers binders?

I've heard the card was pulled before the set was issued. I don't know the reason why. (There is a subset of cards called "Ballpark Landmarks," but this card doesn't fit into the landmark theme).

I am quite bummed about this card being omitted and I admit it has affected my view on the entire set. Since the sell sheets first appeared, it's been a steady trickle of "oh, that's too bad" utterances about BLB, but it all comes from one source: WOOF! WOOF! WHERE'S MY BARK IN THE PARK PUPPY?????

I WILL make this into a card of my own. I tried to do it for this blog post, but I'm out of color ink and you all know that color ink costs approach the amount for a hobby box of Big League Baseball.

Hopefully, when I get my own custom card prepared, I'll feel a little better about Big League Baseball. It does feature some cool aspects, like cards you can cut off the box and four different wrappers.

But for me, right now, it's an OK set with a missing doggie card. Maybe cat lovers will see it differently.


  1. Agree. I was really looking forward to adding the bark in the park card to my collection.

  2. I understand the complaints on this set, if baseball was my thing I'd be making them too...but a lot of it just seems like we are collectively just sort of jaded at this point. It has everything we ask for except a large checklist, but I see most people are unhappy anyway. I think a lot of that is that we know and remember when things were done right, and the constant lack of things being done right is getting to us.

  3. The card backs use different colors - team colors. The red ones are definitely the hardest to read as the red is indeed a bit overly dark. All the teams that don’t have red as the pinstripe color on the front of the card are much easier to read.

    This set made me realize I do like Leader cards, and they have been missing from S1 lately.

    There is an insert set of hand drawn caricature sketches - I pulled the Kershaw from that. I can send it along next winter if you don’t run across it by then.

    The players are all in their correct 2018 team uniforms, without photoshopping I think. The Matt Kemp card is a very good Dodger card.

    I really like the Nickname cards from ‘Player’s Weekend’ last year - these also show off the special uniforms from that weekend. They are sort of parallels, with (I think) the same card # on the back, and largely the same card back as the base card, but without some of the shading = even easier to read those.

    I predict full stats will return to S1/S2 next year, so the minions in the Topps mines don’t have to come up with 2 sets of flattering comments for every player in the same year. I mean, do they really want to come up with something positive to say about the Jordan Zimmermann signing in Detroit - twice each year?

  4. Oh and so far, I have only seen cards where the bat “crosses the frame” in dramatic 88 style. That is interesting, but it could be used on lots more cards - like the Kenley Jansen card pictured above. (He has a nickname parallel too, by the way).

  5. I heard the dog didn’t sign with the Players Union so it can only be featured in Panini products.

  6. Topps should hire Stubbly Bubbly.

  7. I think Topps really dropped the ball on this one. This is basically their Collector's Choice set (which is an awesome idea.) But this set really falls flat in the design department. I'm sorry, just because you're supposedly making a kids' set doesn't mean you come up with a design as dull and uninspired as this one. This one is sleep-inducing, like one of those crappy K-mart sets Fleer used to do in the 80s. Sorry for being so harsh, but I had such high hopes for this set. The bulldog rocks, though!

  8. I give the set a B+. Unlike docsamson198, I love the design. Bringing back borders, yes, and this one doesn't even look recycled. And its soooo much better than that Bunt nonsense they were peddling and sooo much better than the annual deja vu of Opening Day. I thought 400 cards was a decent compromise, given it's larger than OD (IIRC). Agree on the card backs--love the stats, wish they were readable. But where Big League falls down for me is the photography. What's it going to take to get a set that's a decent mix of posed, candid, action? All the pictures in Big League (with only one or two exceptions) look the same to me. As an aside, as the maker of Stubbly Bubbly, I have done many different card backs over the years and the ones with the cartoons are the best. But, let me tell you, doing cartoons for even 200 subjects (which is about as large as the Stubbly Bubbly sets ever got) is a LOT of work. A lot more than you'd think. I came to dread doing them.