Author Archives: JT

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Two introduction and commentary by Gary Gerani (2016)

Empire Strikes Back Topps Cards Book

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Two
introduction and commentary by Gary Gerani
Abrams ComicArts, 2016
548 pages

Many fans of the greatest space opera contend that the best film of the series is Episode V, better known as The Empire Strikes Back. It is fitting, then, that the book chronicling Topps trading cards for the film exceeds the initial volume in quality. The creative driving force behind the design and writing of the cards, Gary Gerani, tells the process of meeting with LucasFilm executives to read the script and select images for the cards. The movie’s big reveal was kept secret from Topps at the time; Gerani recalls the first time he learned of Darth Vader’s familial relationship with Luke Skywalker was when he saw the film in Manhattan.

Initially, Gernai and Topps were told they could not use Yoda in their set, as he was a “mysterious creative element” that George Lucas and Irvin Kershner wanted to keep him a surprise for the public. Lucas eventually relented, and Yoda is prominently displayed on several cards in the series. Gerani wrote the copy for many of the cards, making up dialogue that fit with several of the characters’ personalities.

In addition to the reproductions of all three series of cards, front and back, the book also features images of sell sheets, packaging, stickers, and the 30-card set of giant photocards. Also, as in the first volume, actual promotional trading cards are also including with the hard copy purchase. In addition to that, Topps has included a code for a free pack of digital trading cards on their Star Wars Card Trader app.

Learn more about Abrams ComicArts.

Purchase Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Two.

Game 7, 1986: Failure and Triumph in the Biggest Game of My Life by Ron Darling with Daniel Paisner (2016)

Ron  Darling Game 7 1986

Game 7, 1986: Failure and Triumph in the Biggest Game of My Life
by Ron Darling with Daniel Paisner
St. Martin’s Press, 2016
256 pages

Imagine yourself as the starting pitcher in Game 7 of the World Series, and your team wins…what an absolute thrill that must be, right? Ron Darling experienced it in 1986, the Mets and Red Sox tied up 3-3 in the Series, and at the end of the night as he celebrated the victory with his teammates, one thought cast a shadow over the pandemonium: “Wishing like crazy I could forget how it started.”

Darling had long dreamed of this day, though in his childhood fantasies he was on the mound for Boston, not New York. His outing did not turn out the way he had pictured it; in less than four innings, he gave up six hits and three earned runs. He was pulled for Sid Fernandez, who gave way to winning pitcher Roger McDowell and closer Jesse Orosco. The team won, but Darling didn’t. Most players don’t write books about their biggest disappointments, but Darling did.

Game 7, 1986: Failure and Triumph in the Biggest Game of My Life recounts Darling’s preparation for the game, his pre-game ritual which had to be repeated on Monday because of the Sunday night weather cancellation, a vague death threat, notes about the batters he faced in those three and two-thirds innings, and the opposing pitcher Bruce Hurst. Darling touches very briefly on the recklessness of the team off the field, including the night in Houston he was arrested for punching an off-duty police officer outside a bar. But those are passing references; the focus of this book is on Game 7.

While the team won, Darling writes, “I’ve had thirty years to deal with the disappointment of my Game 7 performance.” Despite the victory, he believed he let the team and the city down because he could not shut down the Red Sox bats in the first few innings. He also reflects on the wasted talent of the team, believing that they should have done more, particularly Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden. Considering their talent, they should have been all-time greats, and Darling writes that “the further away I am from my playing days, the more I resent how they squandered their gifts.”

The 1986 team was a special collection of players, one that will always be remembered both for their dominance and their arrogance. Darling’s recounting of the final game of the World Series is a good reminder that it didn’t always go their way, but in the end, they were able to pull off the championship.

Learn more about St. Martin’s Press.

Purchase Game 7, 1986: Failure and Triumph in the Biggest Game of My Life by Ron Darling with Daniel Paisner.

Cards from a Royals fan in Nebraska

Klinker

On more than one occasion, I wondered why Mike was a Royals fan. He lives in Nebraska. There is no connection whatsoever between Nebraska and the Royals, is there? Then it dawned on me…OMAHA! The city has hosted the Royals AAA affiliate since 1969, so it makes sense for Mike to be a Royals fan. (To be fair to Mike, he has probably told me this and I just forgot. My memory seems to be slipping more and more with each passing day.) The Royals actually have an A-ball team about an hour from me; maybe I’ll try to get down there and catch a game sometime this summer with the boys.

I started this post off with a 2011 Bowman card of Matt Klinker (parallel! green border! numbered to 450!) because Klinker was a career minor leaguer, and 2011 was his last season, split between the Carolina Mudcats and Louisville Bats. He also spent some time in the Venezuelan League in 2011, but has not pitched professionally since according to his B-R page. It would have been nice to have seen Klinker on the big league stage with the Reds; the back of his card says he grew up as a Reds fan in Kentucky. His B-R page shows that he graduated from Lakota West High School in West Chester, OH, a suburb of Cincy. I love the local-kid-makes-good story, but it wasn’t meant to be in this case.

Mike sent over several other awesome cards. Let’s travel back to 1972 with George Foster

Foster

…then to 1984 with an autographed Dann Bilardello

Bilardello

…then to 1989 with an autographed Van Snider

Snider

…before returning to the present time with some 2016 Donruss cards, including speedster Billy Hamilton

Hamilton

…and the best first baseman in the majors, Joey Votto

Vottomatic

I know Donruss gets a lot of grief from collectors because of the lack of logos, but I like the cards and am so happy to see an alternative to Topps this and Topps that and Topps then and Topps now. The 1982 throwbacks are especially nice, though the logo and year seem a bit big and bulky. Other than that, I think Donruss is doing a pretty fantastic job.

Thanks for the cards, Mike, and be watching for an envelope full of Royals coming your way!

There’s been an awakening. Have you felt it?

Don’t you just love it when old friends come home?

On July 31, 2015, Jim (better known as GCRL to many in the baseball card blogging community) made his final post on the Garvey Cey Russell Lopes blog. He had been an active blogger since September, 2008, and was a great trading partner. He continued trading after his blog went silent, but his wit has certainly been missed.

But not for much longer…

FrankenDodger

Mr. GCRL is returning in May with a brand new blog called FrankenDodger. I’m no Dodger fan, but I am a GCRL fan, so I will be following the new blog, and I can’t wait for the first official post.

To hold me over, Jim sent some Reds cards my way. A brand new card of the dearly departed Todd Frazier

Fraz

Some sticky non-cards of a former Red (Aroldis Chapman) and a maybe-soon-to-be-former Red (Jay Bruce)…

Topps stickers

A 19-year old card of Jeff Brantley, one of the Reds’ current announcers that I can’t stand to hear…

Brantley

Now, some of you young whipper snappers may not think getting a 19-year old card is all that special. But consider this: I started collecting in 1985. To get a 19-year old card then—a 1966 card—would have been something pretty spectacular. To get a 27-year old card would have been nearly unthinkable. I mean, 1958? That’s what dreams were made of…

Jim helped make my dreams come true, many years later. That’s not just a 27-year old card, man. That’s a 58-year old card, man! This Johnny Temple All-Star is my very first 1958 Topps Reds card. It’s not the oldest card in my collection, but it’s older than me!

I’m very happy to have these cards (and stickers) in my collection. I still haven’t had time to update the wantlists, but I will soon. Thanks Jim!

Fun Cards: 1978 Topps Prince

Prince

I’m still reeling from the news of Prince’s passing yesterday morning. This year has been particularly harsh, especially when it comes to music icons. David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Lemmy, Merle Haggard, and now Prince. I listened to several songs from Purple Rain and 1999 last night on the way to work and on my lunch break. Such an amazing talent. These lyrics from “When Doves Cry” were especially poignant: “How can you just leave me standing? Alone in a world that’s so cold?”

Prince’s first album, For You, was released in 1978 on Warner Bros. Records, and as I have been doing with several other acts, I have featured him on a 1978 Topps-style card.

Watch Prince blow the minds of Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, and Steve Winwood on this cover of the Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” from the 2004 Hall of Fame Induction.

Fun Cards Submission: 1961 Baseball Scoops Jake Arrieta

Arrieta

Not really a “fun card” when you’re on the losing side, but Jake Arrieta was absolutely dominant last night as the Reds got beat down 16-0 in the pitcher’s second career no-hitter. The 2015 National League Cy Young Award winner is already making a case for himself this year, starting off 4-0 with a minuscule 0.87 ERA in 31 innings. TWJ contributor Patrick captured the 2016 highlight on a 1961-style card, and even though I’m a bigger Reds fan than Cubs fan, I do like Arrieta and hope he does well this year.

R.I.P. Prince

(June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016)

Music icon Prince has passed away at his Minneapolis home.

R.I.P. Milt Pappas

(May 11, 1939 – April 19, 2016)

Pappas

Milt Pappas pitched for the Orioles, Reds, Braves, and Cubs, winning 209 games in 17 seasons. He was involved in the worst trade in Reds history when Cincinnati received him in a lopsided trade for Frank Robinson. Pappas was a three-time All-Star and pitched a no-hitter for the Cubs in 1972. His first wife disappeared in 1982; her body and the car she was driving was discovered five years later in a nearby pond. Pappas was found dead in his home today.

R.I.P. Doris Roberts

(November 4, 1925 – April 17, 2016)

Doris Roberts

Perhaps best known for her role on Everybody Loves Raymond, Doris Roberts will by remembered by me as Mildred Krebs on Remington Steele. She passed away on Sunday at the age of 90.

Today is Jackie Robinson Day

Jackie

Jackie Robinson made his debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. It is impossible for us to realize the amount of pressure he was under that day, or that season. He persevered throughout his ten-year career, starting in five All-Star Games and helping the Dodgers to six World Series.

Six new hats for each team revealed

Chris Creamer reported on a ton of new hat and jersey designs yesterday. Here’s what the new Reds hats, worn for special occasions, will look like:

Reds hats

So atrociously ugly. I’m glad I’m not a sportswear collector. Had these images been released on the first of this month, I would have expected an “April Fool’s” follow-up post.

I would feel sorry for the guys who have to wear these on the field, but their paychecks prevent me from any form of sympathy. In fact, if anyone wants to pay me the major-league minimum to sit on the bench and dress like a clown on Independence Day or during the Home Run Derby, I’m totally down.

Random Awesomeness (part 209)

Random Awesomeness


Purchase Kiefer Sutherland – “Not Enough Whiskey” on MP3.

Reds junk from the Barves Junkie

Griffey

There has not been a new post on the Cardboard Junkie website in four months. But Dave is still quite active on Twitter as @CardJunk, and after telling him that I wanted to send him some Barves cards, he said he had some Reds set aside for me. His package arrived last week. Here’s some of the awesomeness contained inside:

Hamilton

Perez

A couple of “1st Home Run” inserts from 2015 Topps featuring Josh Hamilton and Tony Perez. I don’t recall seeing any of these last year, and if I did, I certainly didn’t notice that some were silver and some were gold.

red

Lutz

Leake

Cueto

Some parallel goodies. Red-bordered Jonathan Broxton from 2014, and man, Reds players sure look good on red-bordered cards. The emerald green borders look sharp too, but I bet Donald Lutz would look better in an A’s uniform on that card. The Mike Leake is a mini, alternate-colored bordered Gypsy Queen. And a black-bordered Johnny Cueto Heritage. Are there any sets that don’t have some sort of parallel anymore?

Pineda

Autographed goodness! Luis Pineda only played two seasons in the bigs, and only one for the Reds. But I got his scribbles now!

Hoffman

Future Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman never played for the Cincinnati Reds, but he spent some time in the organization before going to Miami Florida in the 1992 expansion draft.

Franco

Another fantastic reliever, John Franco, from the 1987 Topps sticker set.

Larkin

Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, from the 1987 Classic green border set. I already had the yellow border card from the travel edition, but the green border features a different photo and everything.

Perez

Nolan

Cline

Now we’re starting to get vintagey with a trio of ’70s cards. Tony Perez, 1976. Gary Nolan, 1972. Ty Cline, 1971.

Cardenas

Even more vintage. Leo Cardenas, 1968. This card is going to look fantastic with Leo’s scribbles on it. The only question is whether I wait until December at Redsfest or try to catch him at the Reds Hall of Fame this summer.

There was a ton of other stuff in the package…

Junk

…including a card that I didn’t even discover until I went to scan them last night. In addition to all the Reds goodies, Dave included a special 1/1 sketch card of one of my very favorite vampires…

Nosferatu

NOSFERATU!

A pleasant surprise slid in between two other cards in one of the hard cases. I absolutely love this sketch card!

Fun Cards Submission: 1961 Nu-Card Baseball Scoops Robert Stephenson

Stephenson

TWJ contributor Patrick sent this “fun card” over last week, but I was tied up with traveling and other projects. I appreciate Patrick’s efforts, and I apologize for being so late in posting.

Robert Stephenson was the Reds’ 1st round pick in 2011; I featured him on a 1992-style “Draft Pick” card way back then. In his four minor league seasons, Stephenson has compiled a 25-32 record with a 3.80 ERA, striking out 488 batters in 449 2/3 innings. He is back at Louisville now, but will likely be up and down for the Reds several times this year.

After sweeping the Phillies, the Reds won two against the Pirates in a three-game series. The last time the Reds started the season 5-1 was in 2011; they finished in 3rd place that year.

The team is traveling to Chicago tonight to face off against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, where Gary Cieradkowski’s fantastic work will be on display by the Cubs.

I’m just going to leave this here…

Fun Cards Submission: 2008 (2016) Upper Deck Documentary Scott Schebler (Game 2)

UD Documentary

I need to begin this post with an apology for mentioning the 2008 Upper Deck Documentary set, both to those who had forgotten about it, and to those who, were up until my post yesterday, unaware of its existence. It was a ridiculous 4954-card set that never should have been produced. The concept was great, but the execution was dreadful.

TWJ contributor Patrick decided to pile on and create a “fun card” for the Reds’ Opening Night walk-off victory. Rookie Scott Schebler, acquired from the Dodgers in the Todd Frazier trade in December, delivered a ninth-inning double that drove in two runs to win the game. What an unexpected start to the 2016 season. Could this be magic?

R.I.P. Merle Haggard

(April 6, 1937 – April 6, 2016)

Country music icon Merle Haggard passed away today on his 79th birthday. He had been battling illnesses for quite some time, and cancelled several concerts recently due to bouts with pneumonia. I was going to see Haggard several years ago in Gatlinburg during a Duke of Hazzard fan festival, but he was forced to cancel that performance as well due to health issues. His brand of classic outlaw country will be sorely missed.

This is a reminder to enjoy our legends while they are still with us, and to take advantage of the opportunities you have to see them perform.

Fun Cards Submissions: 2016 Topps “Now” Tyler Holt and Billy Hamilton

Holt

Topps introduced a new type of baseball card this year, commemorating on-the-field achievements as they happened and making the cards available for purchase for just 24 hours on their website. The concept is called “Topps Now,” and the cards appear to cost $9.99 each. So far, David Ortiz, Bryce Harper, Trevor Story, Francisco Liriano, and the Kansas City Royals/2015 World Series trophy have been featured. Only the Ortiz is currently available for purchase.

I like the concept, but not the execution. This is the way the Upper Deck Documentary set should have been done a few years ago. A short write-up of daily events, with a photo from the actual game. But $10 per card? Not in this lifetime. I suppose I should be glad the Reds are not expected to perform well this year; that just means there are fewer Reds cards I will never add to my collection.

Hamilton

“Fun cards,” however, are another story. TWJ contributor Patrick saw fit to commemorate Tyler Holt and Billy Hamilton‘s spectacular ninth-inning defensive plays Monday afternoon that saved the Reds from an embarrassing start to what is expected to be an embarrassing season. Look at how fast Hamilton was moving when he dove for that ball! It’s like the Flash, so difficult to get a clear photograph because of his lightning speed!

Thanks for the great “fun cards,” Patrick!

Congratulations, Thomas More Saints women’s basketball team

Thomas More

The Thomas More Saints women’s basketball team has been undefeated for two seasons, repeating as NCAA Division III Champions! TWJ contributor Patrick is an alumnus of Thomas More College, and delivered with a great original “fun card” to commemorate the girls’ wire-to-wire season.

R.I.P. Mike Sandlock

(October 17, 1915 – April 4, 2016)

Sandlock

Former MLB catcher for the Boston Braves, Brooklyn Dodgers, and Pittsburgh Pirates, Mike Sandlock passed away Monday at the age of 100. At the time of his death he was the oldest verified former major leaguer. That distinction now goes to 99-year old Eddie Carnett.

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