There is only one town on the planet that I can say that I have visited five times that wasn't prompted by family, friends or work responsibilities.
That place, of course, is Cooperstown.
Since I was a tiny tyke, Cooperstown has always been just a drive away for me. Once I lived just to the south. Now I live just to the north. For those who have never been, it's everything you've heard. Small, quaint, picturesque and baseball everywhere.
But it's been awhile since I've visited, and I blame that on life, along with living with people who really don't give a damn about baseball.
For example, I was in a girly girl store today. I tried my best to look inconspicuous. But if a 40-something guy in a tiny store overrun with pink and purple doesn't scream "father shopping for Christmas" then I don't know what does. This is what I do now -- and have been doing -- instead of making day trips to Cooperstown. Enjoy it while you're young, day-trippers.
Just to take the edge off, I stopped at another nearby store, made a detour through the card aisle, and spotted a box of half-digested Panini Cooperstown. I grabbed five packs -- because that's all I can afford in the midst of Buy Me Something Or Else season.
You'll see four of the packs here. I saved one for A Pack To Be Named Later. It's up over there already.
Now, I'm normally not a Panini fan. No license and poorly designed cards is no incentive for me. But I have to admit that they've stepped up their game this year, enough for me to notice. I nabbed some packs of Triple Play and now they have this Cooperstown line, which is the first new all-legends card product in like five or six years.
So, that, alone deserves a listen.
And with that, here are four packs of Cooperstown. With the usual commentary featuring a half-hearted night owl.
#51 - Jimmie Foxx
OK, I'm going to get this out of the way early. I have read only vague references to what Panini did to avoid the whole "showing logos" thing. I can't figure out how people can just gloss over it when it's all I see.
On the majority of the cards, the top part of the frame cuts into the head of the player, obscuring the logo on the cap. By doing that Panini avoids the wrath of MLB, but also annoys the heck out of me. I can't stand it when design infringes on the photo (see 2008 Topps), and this is a major infringement. "LOOK OUT, YOU'RE GOING TO BUMP YOUR HE -- awww too late."
But if you can get past that, then this might be the set for you.
#149 - Tony Lazzeri
Poor Tony has a look on his face like he just hit his head. I wonder why?
#143 - Catfish Hunter
OK, I'll be nice now. The rest of the design is quite enjoyable. I like the "year of induction" element at the top. I like the Baseball Hall of Fame logo at the bottom. It has a classy look that fits in with the whole Cooperstown village theme. I just wish I could stop this constant urge to duck.
But back to positive, I enjoy the '70s ballplayers the most. Thank goodness Hunter is not pictured as a Yankee. In fact, this set lacks Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth, for what I'm guessing are licensing issues. Now, there's incentive to collect the set!
Tom Seaver, Credentials insert, #1
There are several inserts with this set. This particular one is "Credentials" and might qualify as the most visually boring insert ever made.
I can appreciate the different fonts and all, but basic facts in various type-sizes does not qualify as a card front.
I actually like most of the inserts in this set a lot. This is the lone dud.
#3 - Honus Wagner
Now there's a nice card of the Flying Dutchman. Looks like he got his head down just in time, too.
Each pack comes with a sweepstakes card in which you can enter the accompanying code in a bid to win a 3-day trip to Cooperstown. Not exactly an exotic trip in these parts, but cool nonetheless.
#80 - Carl Yastrzemski
For some reason, the close-up shot seems to work better. I don't mind the cap cropping as much. In fact, I like the Yaz so much, let's turn the card over and look at the back.
The type in the write-up is pretty teensy. But I appreciate that most of the cards have a different picture on the back than on the front. And I always like the full-name treatment.
#37 - Frankie Frisch
Sorry, not going to show all the scans.
#126 - Buck Leonard
But I have to show that there are Negro League inductees in the set. That's certainly a bonus.
Nolan Ryan, Induction insert, #12
And that's certainly a better insert than the last one.
#31 - Harry Heilmann
Almost no one talks about Heilmann anymore. Not even Tigers fans. So that's why I scanned the card.
#9 - Alexander Cartwright
The "father of modern baseball" was a fire chief in Honolulu.
And now you know.
#67 - Dave Winfield
To me, Dave Winfield is a Padre, plain and simple. So I'm glad to see him as a Padre here, even though Panini is trying very hard to disguise the fact.
#156 - Al Simmons
The last 20 cards in the 170-card set are short-printed and all of those cards feature colorized photos. I don't know how common these SPs are -- there are no odds listed on the wrapper. But I'd say I did pretty good, considering someone just opened a box of this and pulled only two SPs.
#118 - Orlando Cepeda
#61 - Gaylord Perry
So close to being a photo of a headless pitcher.
#25 - Fred Clarke
#82 - Tommy Lasorda
The only Dodger I pulled from these packs. This photo reminds me of the stuff that Upper Deck used to do in its early days when they'd produce Dodgers with goofy photos because some dork didn't like the team.
If that's the plan, thwarted again. I like this picture.
#138 - Johnny Bench
Yup, horizontal cards, too. The person at lower left looks either very excited or very bored.
Luis Aparicio, High Praise insert, #1
The best-looking of the inserts I received. It features a complimentary quote about the presented player.
#19 - Paul Molitor
This is probably the closest thing I received to what you would get in a fully licensed set.
And there you are.
Glad there's a set out there recognizing just Hall of Famers. It's been too long.
Aside from that, it's a nice effort for having no license.
But in the end, there's no license.
And players bumping their heads against the top of the design.
So I won't be collecting it.
Cooperstown is my kind of town. But not exactly my kind of set.