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