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Never mind

The other day, in the middle of an epic snowstorm (we were on the national news), I said there was no way I'd be checking out the local big box store for signs of 2020 Heritage.

The roads were barely plowed. Parking lots were a disaster. Three feet of unexpected snow (we were banking on -- heh, get it? Snow bank? -- about 12-18 inches). It all kept people inside from everything. The office was deserted because many of my fellow employees were working from home.

I managed to brave the roads -- and the work parking lot -- to go to the office. Then, after a tiring day Friday, I planned to go straight home.

But, at around 1 in the morning, pulling out work, I looked left, toward home ... then turned right.

Even as I was driving toward that Walmart, I expected something to make me turn around. An unplowed road. A wall of wind-driven snow. A collapsed bridge. The abominable snowman. I anticipated anything. But nothing blocked my path.

I pulled into the barely passable Walmart parking lot, at 90 minutes past midnight, and trudged to the entrance. Inside, in the gloriously empty card aisle (you people showing up at 7 in the evening and encountering pack searchers -- I have no idea what you're talking about), I found lots of 2020 Heritage.

I grabbed a fat pack and one blaster and counted on that being most of what I open of Heritage for the rest of the card season. Then I headed home through the snow and dimly lit empty streets. It felt satisfying. Even victorious.

Anyone can amble down a clear pavement road in broad daylight to their card shop 10 minutes away to get the latest Heritage. It takes something extra to do the same in "the Antarctica of New York State," in the middle of the night, after getting buried by a "snow firehose" and not even sure if the baseball card delivery trucks made it to your abandoned outpost.

So that thing I said Friday? Never mind.

I mean look at that box.

Topps did a very smart thing with its Heritage boxes this year. Instead of slapping Mike Trout or Bryce Harper on the cover and calling it a day like it did for half of Heritage's tributes to the '60s, the 2020 Heritage box reflects the design of the set in a major, gloriously dark way.

I so hope it does this for the rest of its '70s Heritage tributes.

I'm not going to go over the contents of the fat pack, mostly because most of the cards that showed up in that pack also appeared in the blaster, which just reminded me that Topps' collation married with Heritage's short-prints means me no collecty.

But I'll show the just-retired CC Sabathia as it was the first 2020 Heritage card I pulled.

I will also show the following card, because I want to cover a couple of things about this year's set here:

Matt Carpenter's card is #370, which corresponds with Joe Torre's #370 card in the 1971 Topps set. Heritage is well-known for matching up card numbers with the set it is showcasing by attaching players from the same team and/or position to the same card number.

The 2020 Heritage set takes it to a new pleasing level because there are several notable action photos in the '71 set, which is known as the first Topps set to use action photos with some of its player cards. The Torre is a memorable one, so Topps used another Cardinals third baseman -- in action -- to recognize Torre. I like it.

However, you can notice right away a few differences. The biggest one is Heritage does not abbreviate "Cardinals" to "Cards" as '71 Topps did for every St. Louis card. I'm assuming that's because of MLB licensing rules in that THE NICKNAME OF THE TEAM MUST BE THIS NAME AND THIS NAME ONLY, NOT A LETTER OUT OF PLACE OR ELSE THERE IS HELL TO PAY.

Trademark legalese continues to kill modern cards.

Secondly, as pointed out by many collectors who have seen this year's Heritage and have some sort of functioning knowledge of the 1971 Topps set -- the lettering is not right, particularly for the player name and the position. It's not that obvious with the Carpenter card because "Matt Carpenter" is a longer name and the letters were squeezed a little more, but the kerning -- the spacing between the letters -- is too generous on many of the cards. And the font may not be right either.

This is disappointing because Heritage is not Archives. I expect Archives to be clueless about the vintage design it is using -- or appear clueless anyway. Heritage is more faithful to the past design, or at least used to be. I'm a little concerned about the road we're going down here with Heritage with the '70s designs approaching. They'd better get in ship-shape by the time 2024 comes along.

Also, obviously, the Carpenter photo is not exactly like the Torre photo (wrong way, too close, etc.), but I recognize the tribute and that's the important thing. I'm going to recognize a few others as I open the blaster.

So let's get to it.


#237 - Mychal Givens, Orioles

#293 - Mike Leake, Diamondbacks (the kerning is noticeable in Leake's name).

#70 - National League pitching leaders (Yup, I'm calling this a Dodgers card).

#128 - Josh James, Astros -- BOOO!

#NAP-17 - J.T. Realmuto, Phillies, New Age Performers insert

#83 - Indians Rookie Stars (Aaron Civale, Bobby Bradley)
#227 - Drew VerHagen, Tigers
#7 - Seth Lugo, Mets

#355 - Amed Rosario, Mets

If you guessed there is a card in the 1971 set at #355 with a similar theme, you were correct.

It's fellow Mets shortstop Bud Harrelson. No Nolan Ryan cameo in the Rosario photo though. (Also, that kerning again!)


#67 - American League ERA Leaders (The only reason I'm showing this is the card appeared back-side-up in the pack and that usually means it's a parallel or short-print or something. But, nope, nothing fancy about it. Just a bunch of Astros and former Astros ick).

#176 - Dinelson Lamet, Padres
#37 - Luke Jackson, Braves
#319 - Kevin Kiermaier, Rays
#41 - Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

#132 - Jose Martinez, Cardinals

This card is interesting to me only because of other cards I pulled later. Jose Martinez was traded to the Rays on January 9th. He's still in his Cardinals uni.

#380 - Mark Melancon, Braves
#362 - Orioles Rookie Stars (Hunter Harvey, Dillon Tate)

#347 - Jurickson Profar, Padres

Profar was traded from the A's to the Padres on December 9, 2019.


#301 - Freddy Galvis, Reds
#192 - Victor Reyes, Tigers
#370 - Matt Carpenter, Cardinals

#450 - Rhys Hoskins, Phillies

First of way-too-few short-prints in the blaster.

The Phillies' Deron Johnson is card #450 in the 1971 Topps set.

#1 - Shohei Ohtani, Angels, Scratch Off insert (These are back in 2020 Heritage because they returned for 1971 Topps, too).

#29 - Adam Ottavino, Yankees

#10 - Jedd Gyorko, Dodgers

Gyorko's card number corresponds with the Dodgers' Claude Osteen in the 1971 Topps set. Bit odd, as Gyorko was barely a Dodger, granted free agency after the season and is now with the Brewers. But not as odd as using "1st base-3rd base" when Topps was happy with "1b-3b" in 1971.

#367 - Gerrit Cole, Yankees

Cole signed with the Yankees on Dec. 18. So right now the deadline for getting your picture in your updated uniform for Heritage is between Dec. 18 (Cole) and Jan. 9 (Jose Martinez).

#116 - National League rookie stars (Trent Grisham, Padres; Mauricio Dubon, Giants)


#277 - Richie Martin, Orioles
#65 - American League HR Leaders (Soler, Trout, Bregman, Cruz)

#383 - Brian Reynolds, Pirates

#21 - Steven Matz, Mets

#TN-6 - Then and Now, Reggie Jackson, Jorge Solar, AL HR Leaders

#15 - Anibal Sanchez, Nationals

#46 - Adam Engel, White Sox
#27 - NL/AL Rookie Stars (James Marvel, Pirates; Dario Agrazal, Tigers)

#77 - Dylan Bundy, Angels


#322 - Nolan Arenado, Rockies

#376 - Blue Jays Rookie Stars (T.J. Zeuch, Jordan Romano)
#4 - Adam Frazier, Pirates
#155 - Jarlin Garcia, Marlins

#9 - Willie Mays, 1958, 20 Giants Seasons insert

Topps is paying tribute to Willie Mays in this set for reasons unknown to me except that they have some deal going on where Mays has signed stuff, etc. These cards were advertised as saying "20 Gigantic Seasons" in previews, but as you can see it says "20 Giants Seasons" instead.

#226 - Ji-Man Choi, Rays

#385 - Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

A nice sunset background. I hope it's real. Kershaw's #385 corresponds with Dodger Maury Wills in the '71 set.

#316 - Nick Anderson, Rays
#148 - Adam Plutko, Indians

#331 - 2019 World Series, Game 5

As a kid, I thought the World Series cards in 1971 Topps were SO COOL, with the bright, neon lights letters on the night sky background. With this set, Heritage is getting into the cards that I saw as a kid. I was too young to collect '71 Topps but those cards were around a bit (as were the ones from '72 and '73) and I can now remember that fascination I felt for those cards all over again -- this is why Heritage is awesome.


#377 - Alex Colome, White Sox (That just looks like a '71 card. Except the White Sox had blue or red uniforms in the '71 set).

#216 - Cardinals Future Stars (Junior Fernandez, Randy Arozarena)
#363 - Josh Naylor, Padres

#1 - World Series Champions.

Not exactly the team cards that I knew in the '70s, but it works.

#431 - Robbie Ray, Diamondbacks

Just the second SP of the box and the final one of the box. Why are people trying to complete this?

Also, this is a very apparent kerning difference. Here is a '71 card with a similar short player name:

Quite the contrast there.

#173 - Trevor Richards, Rays
#213 - Ian Kennedy, Royals
#56 - Carlos Santana, Indians

#82 - Max Scherzer, Nationals

Scherzer's card number corresponds with this card from the 1971 set:

Loved this card as a kid.


#291 - Kris Bryant, Cubs

#69 - American League Pitching Leaders (Wins) (Verlander, Cole, E. Rodriguez)

#318 - Andrew Heaney, Angels

I knew this '71 card number tribute right away.

Rudy May is #318 in the 1971 set.

#107 - Tucker Barnhart, Reds

#THC-310 - Michael Conforto, Mets, chrome parallel

The chrome parallels are a bit disconcerting given the usual black borders. The photo, though, is awesome and I need to get the regular base card. Conforto's #310 lines up with this 1971 card:

#279 - Starlin Castro, Marlins
#218 - Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Blue Jays
#136 - Cesar Hernandez, Phillies


#285 - Will Smith, Dodgers (Nifty card)

#5 - Gary Sanchez, Yankees

If you don't know what '71 card this card is paying tribute to, then you probably discovered baseball cards a month ago.

#5 - Thurman Munson, 1971 Topps

I don't like Sanchez and I didn't like Munson, so excellent match!

#297 - Brandon Workman, Red Sox

#23 - Scott Kingery, Phillies

Kingery's 23 matches up with ...

... the late, great Oscar Gamble, #23 in the '71 set.

The Dodgers didn't have any cool action shots in the 1971 set, so they miss out on these tributes. Fans of teams like the Mets, Yankees, Angels, Cardinals, Astros, Royals, A's and Phillies will benefit though.

#252 - Nick Wittgren, Indians
#253 - Joe Jimenez, Tigers

 #400 - Yadier Molina, Cardinals

#280 - Kirby Yates, Padres
#101 - Brad Hand, Indians

And we're done (I just read that the average person looks at a blog for 37 seconds. LOL. It's too late for me to stop now!)

I forgot to show the back, so let's bring out Carsten Charles again.

The '71 Topps backs are famously (or infamously) brief. I'll bet Topps copy writers breathed a sigh of relief here. Just a couple lines of stats and some brief bio info and you're done!

Also, I wanted to cover one more card number comparison from a card I pulled in the rack pack. I like this one:

Both card #35.

I had no plans to try to complete this set and even intended to pare down on my usual "when I feel like it" Heritage buying, going so far as to buy the Dodgers' base team set online to prevent sudden Heritage pack-busting urges.

I'm still sticking to that, but while going through the cards, I got that feeling that I haven't had about Heritage since 2011 when Heritage trotted out the 1962 design. That design so impressed me in the Heritage set that year that it felt more like collecting just another set.

I have the same feeling with 2020 Heritage. Those beautiful black borders really get to me. They did back when I was 13 years old and they do now.

So this might be my go-to set for 2020, depending on how much I think I've soured on usual favorites like Allen & Ginter and Stadium Club. We'll see.

But it's nice that I could say "never mind" to some reservations I had about the set -- even the letter spacing.

And it's nice to know that I can drive through the aftermath of a blizzard to get to cards.


Blaster Power Rankings (2020 Heritage)

1. Indians - 5
2. Cardinals - 4
2. Mets - 4
2. Padres - 4
2. Phillies - 4
2. Rays - 4
2. Tigers - 4
8. Angels - 3
8. Dodgers - 3
8. Nationals - 3
8. Orioles - 3
8. Yankees - 3
13. Astros - 2
13. Blue Jays - 2
13. Braves - 2
13. Diamondbacks - 2
13. Marlins - 2
13. Pirates - 2
13. Reds - 2
13. White Sox - 2
21. Cubs - 1
21. Giants - 1
21. Red Sox - 1
21. Rockies - 1
21. Royals - 1
Twins, A's, Rangers, Brewers, Mariners - 0

Total blaster rankings (since 2017)

1. Dodgers - 39
2. Yankees - 35
3. Mets - 34
4. Astros - 33
4. Braves - 33
4. Tigers - 33
7. Cubs - 31
7. Red Sox - 31
7. Blue Jays - 31
7. White Sox - 31
11. Cardinals - 29
12. Phillies - 26
13. Giants - 25
14. A's -24
14. Reds - 24
16. Angels - 22
16. Indians - 22
16. Pirates - 22
19. Nationals - 21
20. Royals - 20
20. Padres - 20
22. Brewers - 19
22. Diamondbacks - 19
24. Twins - 18
24. Rays - 18
26. Rockies - 17
27. Mariners - 16
28. Marlins - 14
28. Orioles - 14
30. Rangers - 12

Orioles out of the basement, Rangers new basement tenants


Jeff said…
I'm one of the ones who theoretically attempts to complete Heritage. 1) I don't collect does nothing for me lately. 2) I don't really sweat the SPs. Just get as many as I can. It seems as though the variations might be a little higher this year though, which really sucks.

Hate seeing Hoskins in the SPs though. Went to my high school and college, so I'm attempting some sort of a PC.
Bill@Bravestarr said…
Great post! I completely agree with how this set makes me feel compared to previous years. I think the idea of even the pictures in the cards tying into it to just drives it home. I know they did that last year too but this design is so different, just like it was back then.
SumoMenkoMan said…
The thing I like about the backs is the matte finish that Topps used. It makes the front and back sharp!
That card (with Kershaw) on it, nah not a Dodger card, it's a Braves card. :)
Nick Vossbrink said…
Thanks for calling out the photo homages. I wish Topps did even more of these instead of the increasingly all-look-same portrait sessions. I'm going to have to grab a hanger just for to see the typesetting awfulness in person though.
Brett Alan said…
I'm impressed with how well Topps is paying tribute to the action cards from 1971 Topps. I had seen the Sánchez/Munson card on another blog, but I didn't expect they'd do it for even the likes of Casey Cox and Rudy May! I guess I can forgive the kerning and position issues in exchange for that. I wonder how much they'll keep up with that going forward. Makes me look forward to the "In Action" cards in next year's Heritage--I hope they'll do something to riff on the ridiculous Bob Barton "In Action" card where he's just standing by the netting at the fence. (You know, all these years with the yellow cap I thought he was on the Pirates, but it's actually the Padres. Apparently they went with yellow road caps for one year only in 1971. Huh.)
Nick said…
One recent Heritage trend I like is that it's starting to pay tribute to very specific cards in the original sets, as opposed to just matching up the card numbers and teams. Last year had Neshek/Palmer & Frazier/Harrelson, and I'm happy to see it continue this year with the Sanchez/Munson and such.
Marc Brubaker said…
I'm very impressed that Topps has actually seeded many action shots in the set, and done fairly well approximating the shots from the '71 set. I've grown into a bitter old man, I suppose. Anyhow, I have a spare Conforto for you, and I'll take that James off your hands. FWIW, he didn't make the majors until 2018...
bbcardz said…
Topps did a pretty decent job with 2020 Heritage. Of course it helps that 1971 Topps was such an original, beautiful, eye-catching design to begin with. The postseason cards look great, both the 2020 and 1971 version. Even the parallels and inserts look pretty good.
night owl said…
BSC: Good point!

Marc: You got it.
Matt said…
Topps really did a good job matching up the photos to their 1971 counterparts. I didn't realize how well until seeing you post the cards together.
Fuji said…
A. Topps did a great job of paying tribute to 2002 UD Vintage :)

B. Kudos to them for attempting to make connections with some of the famous action shots.

C. My boy Kurt looks like a caveman on that WS Champions card. Wish I could grow a beard like that.
Billy Kingsley said…
People contstantly ignoring the the cards are slightly different on purpose and complaining about it nonstop is seeming a right of spring. I don't know why Topps even bothers considering how ungrateful most people are. Some of the stuff I've seen on Twitter is just horrible. They put so much effort into the little "Easter eggs", and yet I hadn't seen anyone mention them until reading this post. I've seen dozens complaining about the letters being slightly different before coming here.
GCA said…
I'm all in on these - well, to a certain point anyway. I'm usually very critical about matching the design since it would be so easy. But the difference is tolerable. Maybe you explained why they're different on purpose Billy, but I guess I missed it.

This design is so iconic, and they did a nice enough job that I'm happy I got four retail boxes. I don't miss the buybacks or box toppers and (spoiler alert) I got three relics out of them anyway!

I'm disappointed you're getting the team set, N.O., I was going to set aside any Dodgers I didn't see in this post. (Fuji, I've got an extra Suzuki base for you and will look for his WS card too).

I was really struck with the insert ratios, but since there aren't any 100 card-times-three bloated whales in this product, it's not nearly as disheartening as in flagship. I'll trade for any you don't want.
Bo said…
I really like how this set pays homage to specific cards. Will be something to look for as I eventually accumulate cards from this set.

I also really like that Seals Stadium card.

The Anibal Sanchez background is weird - looks like he is pitching in a football end zone.
Fuji said…
GCA - Thanks for setting a Suzuki aside for me.
Jafronius said…
Read about that snow firehose thing...3 to 4 feet of snow!?!? Glad you're safe / kinda used to it.

Maybe collecting just the 2020 action shots would be a cool "subset" for you to collect, if you decide against getting the complete set.
Nick Vossbrink said…
As one of the guys who's been bellyaching about the fonts. I'm not complaining that the text is different, I'm complaining that the text is bad. Especially the word spacing.

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