Monday, June 2, 2014

#M-22 Swinging Friar (San Diego Padres)

While I wanted to raise awareness about the Jose Veras card, I never intended to take this long of a break from the blog. I think I made my point although now it’s up to Topps if they want to fix it. Moving forward, since it’s Monday, I’m going to throw another mascot out at you.

#M-22 Swinging Friar
First impression of what’s going on: I knew the San Diego Chicken wasn't the San Diego Padres mascot. And I knew the Padres had a monk/friar swinging a bat in their logo. And I've seen the “live” mascot before. But I don’t think I ever knew he went by the Swinging Friar moniker. The photo itself is pretty good, as is the crop job. The guy in the background is probably a mascot escort or chaperon or event staff or whatever it is they call them at Petco Park.

But wait. Are they in Petco Park? I think I see the top of another mascot right behind the Friar. It’s a little tough to tell, and if I hadn't just seen a card of his as well I wouldn't know it, but I think that is TC, the Minnesota Twins mascot behind him. Usually the Mascots don't travel to road games. Maybe the source photo will give me more info.

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 14: San Diego Padres Mascot, Friar, walks around during the 2013 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Citi Field on July 14, 2013 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Tim Clayton/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

The Reality of the Photo: My suspicions are correct, at least as far as Petco Park goes. The photo was taken at Citi Field (home of the New York Mets) during the All-Star Futures Game. A quick search on Getty Images for “mascot padres 2013’ netted more results for Mr. Met than our Swinging Friar. There seems to be a pre-game (hopefully, based on the empty stands) photoshoot for Mr. Met during a Mets/Padres series.

For those unfamiliar with the All-Star Futures game, it pits minor league prospects from the USA against minor league prospects from all of the other countries. It is played during the All-Star weekend. Check out the Wiki for more information. Team USA leads the overall series 9-6 since its inception in 1999, including the last four in a row. No word on who the Swinging Friar was rooting for.

There’s no conclusive proof of the trailing mascot being TC, but I think in the source photo, I can make out the Twins logo on his hat. Bernie Brewer’s mustache/hair make a cropped cameo in the source photo too. Here’s another photo proving that TC was there that day.

Only the Phillie Phanatic has perfected the "Facebook Duckface" look.
On to the back:

There’s no Rookie Fact on these as it has been replaced by the Identifying Feature.

Identifying Feature: Humble Attire

I guess tonsure is too much for a “kids” card? The blurb does refer to him as a holy man, but there aren’t any other religious references. No history lesson from Topps here.

This was all I could find on the Friar on the Padres official website and it was buried in the A-Z Guide:


Information I’ll be tracking:

Card Number: #M-22
Player Name: Swinging Friar
Team: San Diego Padres
Position: Mascot
Game Date: July 14, 2013
Opponent: N/A
Stadium: Citi Field (but normally Petco Park)
Division: National League West
Home/Away: Away (but almost always otherwise home)
Outcome of the game: 4-0, USA over World
Alternate/Throwback Jersey: N/A
Bats/Throws: N/A
Birthdate: Inanimately, 1961. Live action, 1996.
Birthplace: San Diego
Cameos by: Stadium Staff, TC (Twins Mascot)
Photographer: Tim Clayton
Niche collections this card could fit into: Cameos, Mascots, Awesome Hair
My Grade: Although you can’t see it in this picture, you know the awesome hair is there, so he gets credit. I think Topps did pretty well with the photo selection, especially given the lack of options. I wonder why there is a shortage of mascot photos on Getty Images?

I think 99% of the time you’ll see the mascot at their home stadium. I think it’s kind of cool that the Friar made the cross country trip for a special occasion. I’m going to give this card an A.  

Thursday, May 8, 2014

#CHC-16 Jose Veras

For the most part, I’m going to slowly add the Factory Team sets to my collection but wait and see which cards actually make Series 2 and the Update set before writing about them. With that said, I picked up the Cubs set for my team collection and did a brief write up on my other blog, Once a Cub, where I briefly touched on this card. I don’t want this card to show up in Series 2 or the Update series and I’m pretty sure Topps doesn’t either.

#CHC-16 Jose Veras
First impression of what’s going on: To a non-Cubs fan, this might look like a pretty good card. Jose Veras is making a goofy face. The card is horizontal (one of my favorite attributes) and is framed well. We get to see a nice grip on his breaking ball. In fact, if Topps keeps this card for Series 2 or Update, but makes the correction, this might be one of my favorite Cubs cards of the year. What correction am I talking about?


Any respectable Cubs fan and even a lot of good baseball-in-general fans can tell you that the Cubs retired the #31 in honors of Hall of Famers Fergie Jenkins and Greg Maddux. For you non-Cubs fans, this happened five years ago, May 3, 2009 in a joint number retirement ceremony.

The problem begins with the source photo.

Screen grab courtesy of Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 11: Jose Veras #31 of the Detroit Tigers in action against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on August 11, 2013 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankees defeated the Tigers 5-4. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The Reality of the Photo: Veras signed with the Cubs as a Free Agent during the off season so Topps does what it normally does and uses a photo from the player's previous team but touches it up a bit. As you can see, Veras wore #31 with the Tigers last season and Topps just carried over that number to the Cubs, regardless of the fact that it is retired.

For what it’s worth, Topps did an otherwise pretty good converting the Tigers road jersey to the Cubs road jersey. They even added the logoed sleeve patch to his left arm.

Enough with the “error” and let’s go to the BOXSCORE to see how Veras did in his game against the Yankees when the photo was taken.

Screen grab courtesy of

A walk off loss after coming from behind doesn’t look good. Hopefully, Veras wasn’t the closer this game.

Screen grab courtesy of
Whoops! Veras got through two thirds of an inning but took the loss, his fifth of the season.

Screen grab courtesy of
It took 13 pitches to get the first two out, but the 15th ended the game with a solo home run from Brett Gardner. As Yankee biased as Topps can be, I wonder if this was a subtle dig on Veras with the photo selection. But Veras is a former Yankee so I’m probably just reading too much into it.

We do get the Nike swoosh on Veras’ undershirt for a little Free Advertising credit.

On to the back:

Rookie Fact: Jose retired the only batter he faced in a 1-run game for his 1st save.

I like the fact that Topps carried over the Rookie Facts to the Factory Team sets. As I mentioned, Veras is a former Yankee, making his MLB debut with them in 2006. His first Save came on September 18th that year against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Screen grab courtesy of
After the Yankees extended their lead with three runs in the top of the 9th, the Troy Glaus brought the Blue Jays back to within one run with a three-run home run.

Screen grab courtesy of

A single by pinch-hitter JasonPhillips chased reliever Mike Meyers and Jose Veras was able to induce a fly ball from Aaron Hill to end the game.

Information I’ll be tracking:

Card Number: #CHC-16
Player Name: Jose Veras
Team: Detroit Tigers (Chicago Cubs)
Position: Pitcher
Game Date: August 11, 2013
Opponent: New York Yankees
Stadium: Yankee Stadium
Division: American League Central
Home/Away: Away
Outcome of the game: 5-4, Yankees over the Tigers, Loss for the player depicted
Alternate/Throwback Jersey: No.
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Birthdate: 10/20/1980
Birthplace: Dominican Republic
Cameos by: Greg Maddux, Fergie Jenkins
Photographer: Jim McIsaac
Niche collections this card could fit into: Cubs, Horizontal, Photoshopped, Error, Free Advertising

My Grade: I really wanted to like this card. As I already said, it’s horizontal, it’s cropped well, Veras is making a funny face. This card was destined for an A+ grade, but with one Topps oversight, it goes straight to an F. No offense to Veras or the photographer, Jim McIsaac. They did their parts. This one rests solely on Topps.

Normally, if a card gets a failing grade, I'll look for some photos that would have worked better. But I really like this photo and just want them to correct the number, not change the photo. 

Hopefully this was caught early enough that someone at Topps can change the “3” to a “4” before it goes to print in Series 2 or the Update series. As I mentioned in my other post about the team set as a whole, last year Edwin Jackson was a National in Series 1, a Photoshopped Cub in the factory team set and had a different third card altogether in the Update series. So it can be done. 

I tweeted Topps earlier today from my Once a Cub twitter account pointing out the error, but haven’t heard anything back yet. I've never been a “rally the troops” kind of guy but do we bloggers and collectors have any power here? Can this oversight be corrected in time? I don’t ask for much from this tiny blog, but let’s see what the power of the people can do!

Here’s a link to my tweet. Please retweet that or this post to @Toppscards and make our voices heard!

Hopefully, this doesn't come off as too whiny. I don't want anything but a fixed card!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

#34 Buddy Boshers

#34 Buddy Boshers
First impression of what’s going on: Buddy Boshers just closed out a game and is getting a congratulatory “good doggy” pat on the head from his catcher. I think battery shots like this would make a good insert along with double play combos. Maybe for Gypsy Queen like they do for Sliding Stars or Glove Stories. Unfortunately, a lot of mound conferences are negative as they’re usually calming the pitcher down or pulling him.

SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 24: Relief pitcher Buddy Boshers #54 (L) of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim is congratulated by catcher Hank Conger #16 after defeating the Seattle Mariners 5-1 at Safeco Field on August 24, 2013 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
The Reality of the Photo: Like I thought, this photo is pretty self-explanatory. We can see from the caption that it wasn’t a save situation and I’m not even sure that Boshers is the Angels official closer. American League. Pfffft. Anyway, let’s take a look at the BOXSCORE and see if Boshers was in any kind of trouble at all.

Doesn’t look like much trouble unless he pitched the 7th inning.

Nope, just the 9th. And two strikeouts to boot.  Let’s see who he got.

Dustin Ackley fly ball. Nick Franklin for the backwards K. And finally Brad Miller for the swinging K. Not a bad day’s work.

But let’s play I Spy for a minute back on the picture. With two players being featured, there’s a lot going on.

On Boshers, we have a Nike logo on his undershirt.

And his clearly marked (twice) Rawlings glove.

Also, on his chest, he is wearing the LEW patch. The patch is in memory of team doctor, Dr. Lewis Yocum. But his influence wasn’t limited to the Angels as some other players wore the patch as well.

Moving over to catcher, Hank Conger, we see the Mizuno logo on his glove and juuuust barely on his catcher’s mask.

And a new one that I’ve either missed a dozen times already or just didn’t get a clear enough shot, under the Angels patch on Conger’s sleeve, we see the Majestic Athletic logo. Majestic Athletic is the current official provider of MLB uniforms.

On to the back:

Rookie Fact: Buddy held lefties to a .158 average as a rookie.

This is one of those facts that I’ll trust Topps to get right because I’m too lazy to actually do the digging myself. If anybody has a quick and easy way for me to verify this kind of information, please let me know!

Information I’ll be tracking:

Card Number: #34
Player Name: Buddy Boshers
Team: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Position: Pitcher
Game Date: August 24, 2013
Opponent: Seattle Mariners
Stadium: Safeco Field
Division: American League West
Home/Away: Away
Outcome of the game: 5-1, Angels over the Mariners, Win for the player depicted
Alternate/Throwback Jersey: No.
Bats/Throws: Left/Left
Birthdate: 5/9/1988
Birthplace: Alabama
Cameos by: Hank Conger
Photographer: Otto Greule Jr
Niche collections this card could fit into: Southpaw, Cameo, Free Advertising, Patch

My Grade: I like this card. Probably more than I should considering I’m not an American League fan and it is not horizontal. It does fill quite a few niches though and I like that it shows a congratulatory mound conference instead of one of the negative ones. The crop and centering is really good and the only drawback that I can think of is that Boshers isn’t the one front and center. Not that Hank Conger is, but they kind of co-share the space. Like I said earlier if this was a “Battery” themed insert, this photo would have been perfect.

It still gets an A+ from me though and as you can see by the grades in the left hand column, I don’t give those out willy-nilly like!

Monday, May 5, 2014

#M-10 Dinger (Colorado Rockies)

I know my posting schedule here has been a little out of whack but I’m trying to find my groove again. I’m back today with another Mascot from 2014 Topps Opening Day.

#M-10 Dinger (Colorado Rockies)

First impression of what’s going on: Unlike the Orioles Mascot, the Colorado Rockies mascot gets a name on the card, Dinger. There isn’t much “mascotting” going on here as Dinger looks more like a deer caught in the headlights. I have no idea if Dinger is male or female so I’ll say “it” until my research tells me otherwise.

Dinger is a purple triceratops with some multi-colored freckles(?) on it’s head. No pants, just a too short jersey.
DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 25: Dinger the mascot of the Colorado Rockies adorns a beard to commemorate Todd Helton #17 of the Colorado Rockies as he plays his last home game at Coors Field on September 25, 2013 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The Reality of the Photo: The caption didn’t help much for Dinger’s gender because anybody can sport a fake beard to honor longtime Rockie, Todd Helton. I noticed the black around the mouth but I had no idea what it was supposed to be. Let’s take a look at the BOXSCORE and see if Dinger did its job of cheering the Rockies to victory.

Yikes! Nope. Well it didn’t help the team, but maybe sporting that honorary fake beard helped Helton.
Yes! In his Coors Field swan song, Helton went 2-3 with a double, home run and a sacrifice fly.

On to the back:
There’s no Rookie Fact on these as it has been replaced by the Identifying Feature.

Identifying Feature: Colorful Dots on His Head

Nice! I identified his identifying feature in my first impressions. Score! And in case you missed it, his head. Dinger is male!
The write up on the back provides Dinger’s origin story. Apparently, during contruction for the stadium, the construction crew found dinosaur bones. Maybe it did, but I’m surprised this didn’t cause some kind of delay or even relocation of the facilities.

I couldn’t find much information on Dinger through the Rockies website (just his rates for private appearances) and it appears he doesn’t even have his own Wikipedia page. There does appear to be a lot of anti-Dinger propaganda out there though. It’s a hard knock life for a mascot.

Information I’ll be tracking:
Card Number: #M-10
Player Name: Dinger
Team: Colorado Rockies
Position: Mascot
Game Date: September 25, 2013
Opponent: Boston Red Sox
Stadium: Coors Field
Division: National League West
Home/Away: Home
Outcome of the game: 15-5, Red Sox over the Rockies
Alternate/Throwback Jersey: N/A
Bats/Throws: N/A
Birthdate: Hatched: N/A
Birthplace: Colorado
Cameos by: N/A
Photographer: Doug Pensinger
Niche collections this card could fit into: Awesome Hair, Mascots

My Grade: I mentioned at the beginning that Dinger didn’t seem to be doing any “mascotting” in this photo and that, to me is kind of a detractor for a mascot card. He should be hooting and hollering and pumping up the crowd. I know there are some mixed feelings on mascots and their place in the game, but I think they’re fun.
To be fair to Topps, there wasn’t much of a selection to choose from though.

This card is getting a C.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

#301 Shane Victorino

#301 Shane Victorino
First impression of what’s going on: At first glance you might think Shane Victorino is trying to steal a home run. But that yellow line on the wall behind him is the foul marker and he’s going a ball that pushed foul. It doesn’t look good as far as making the catch because he is out of room and the ball is not in the picture. I like how none of the Boston fans are interfering with the play. That home team crowd knows what’s up.

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 4: Shane Victorino #18 of the Boston Red Sox leaps over the right field wall in foul territory while missing a pop fly in front of a young fan during the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on August 4, 2013 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

The Reality of the Photo: After looking at the source photo, the ball does look catchable but the caption claims it was not caught. And after zooming a bit out, we do see a young Red Sox fan sticking his cap out to try and catch the ball too, but I’m not sure how much he would have actually interfered. With no out recorded, the BOXSCORE won’t be much help but let’s see how Victorino did overall anyway.

The Red Sox came away winners, 4-0.

Victorino had two hits, including an RBI single in the 6th inning.

We do see most of the Nike swooshes on his shoes as he’s flying through the air.

And I’m pretty sure these are sunglasses.

There are several fans although I wouldn't call any of them notable. Maybe if that kid reaching out his hat had made the card and not just his hat.

On to the back:

Rookie Fact: On 5/11/2003, Shane entered as a pinch-runner, and stole second and third.

Victorino was a rookie with the San Diego Padres. I don't think I knew that. I've mostly associated him with the Phillies. That May 11th game was the 30th of Victorino's career and up to that point had only a few meaningless hits and RBIs.

With the Padres down by one with one out in the top of the 9th, Victorino entered as a pinch runner when pinch-hitter Dave Hansen drew a walk. As noted in the rookie fact, he steals second and third, still with one out. Unfortunately, Victorino gets stranded there as the game ends when the next two batters can't drive him.

Information I’ll be tracking:

Card Number: #301
Player Name: Shane Victorino
Team: Boston Red Sox
Position: Outfield
Game Date: August 4, 2013
Opponent: Arizona Diamondbacks
Stadium: Fenway Park
Division: American League East
Home/Away: Home
Outcome of the game: 4-0, Red Sox over the Diamondbacks, Win for the player depicted
Alternate/Throwback Jersey: No.
Bats/Throws: Both/Right
Birthdate: 11/30/1980
Birthplace: Hawaii
Cameos by: N/A
Photographer: Jared Wickerham
Niche collections this card could fit into: Free Advertising, League Leader in Italics, Sunglasses

My Grade: When I first saw the card I thought it was pretty cool. Then I thought it may be coasting on the Victorino’s attempt. I have nothing against the Red Sox but I seemed to be looking for ways to give this card less than an A. I almost missed the Nike logos and sunglasses. Despite not making the catch, it is an amazing shot, so it gets it’s A.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

#26 Josh Phegley

#26 Josh Phegley
First impression of what’s going on: Here’s a guy I have never heard of outside of baseball cards. Granted I’m not a big American League guy but I've seen a few White Sox games on WGN when the Cubs aren't on. Phegley’s rookie card is in last year’s Update series.

On this card, he could be launching a bomb or merely flying out, but either way, his eye line looks like it’s headed towards the outfield.

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 26: Josh Phegley #36 of the Chicago White Sox bats against the Houston Astros at U.S. Cellular Field on August 26, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. The Astros defeated the White Sox 10-8. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The Reality of the Photo: Cropping bats is ok with me, but it’s a little tight at Phegley’s elbow. The caption didn't give much detail about the at bat but let’s see if we can narrow it down with a little help from the BOXSCORE.

We knew the White Sox lost from the caption, but maybe Phegley had a good game?

Pretty good actually. Two hits, two runs, an RBI. Let’s see if we can pin down the photo.

A single to center in the third. That’s a possibility. And he came around to score. What else?

A groundout to shortstop in the fifth. Probably not.

An RBI single to center in the 5-run sixth that led to Phegley scoring another run too.

And finally a flyball to left field. If this was left center, I’d call it a maybe, but his eye line doesn’t say “left field line” to me. So the photo probably comes from one of those two singles from earlier.

Phegley was also involved in what seems to be an interesting double play in that game too, although its hard to tell from just a boxscore interpretation.

It looks like a squeeze play gone wrong for the Astros. With a runner at third and one out, Phegley fields the ball (bunt attempt?), throws to first for the second out. The first baseman, Paul Konerko, then fires home to the pitcher, Andre Rienzo for the third out for the uncommon, 2-3-1 double play.


After a little search, I found the play on I can't figure out how to embed it but here's the link:

So it wasn't a sacrifice attempt, just a weak hit.

Unfortunately for Phegley, there isn’t much to latch onto with this card. No real niches. There’s a partial Astros cameo in the background, but the photo is too blurry to make out who the player is.

On to the back:

Rookie Fact: Josh threw out 13 runners and picked off two in 64 defensive games.

I couldn’t figure out if Topps was underselling Phegley behind the plate or overselling him so I decided to do a little research myself. How many innings was he behind the plate in these defensive games? Was he a pinch hitter who stayed in for one defensive inning with no runners? Did the White Sox pitchers give up tons of singles and walks last year?

I was actually a little surprised by these numbers. Of his 64 defensive appearances, 47 of them were complete games. That seems like a lot for a backup, but what do I know?

Phegley’s 13 thrown out base runners was good for 30% of the attempts. That seems like a pretty high, or at least decent, percentage to me. Nearly one in three. But again, I’m no expert on the catcher position, so what do I know.

This blurb actually gave a fact and followed up with the others who have done it so I didn’t have to do the research myself. Yay!

Information I’ll be tracking:

Card Number: #26
Player Name: Josh Phegley
Team: Chicago White Sox
Position: Catcher
Game Date: August 26, 2013
Opponent: Houston Astros
Stadium: US Cellular Field
Division: American League Central
Home/Away: Home
Outcome of the game: 10-8, Astros over the White Sox, Loss for the player depicted
Alternate/Throwback Jersey: No.
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Birthdate: 2/12/1988
Birthplace: Indiana
Cameos by: Unknown (Astros)
Photographer: Jonathan Daniel
Niche collections this card could fit into: Former 1st Round Draft Pick,
My Grade: This card isn’t bad. There isn’t much wrong with it at all, just some slight mis-cropping. But there isn’t much great about it either. It is the definition of average. Other than him being a younger player and no options, I don’t know why card manufacturers wouldn’t always showcase a catcher in their gear and/or a play at the plate. And I’m not even a catcher guy.

This card gets a C.

Although not a failing grade, here are some photos from earlier in the season than this one that could have been used to improve it.

A play at the plate where a Cub is safe? Yes!
A double high five with cameos? 
Broken Bat?

Celebrations and throwbacks? And a potential horizontal layout ? Ding! Ding! Ding!
Whoops, too many more and Topps might start to feel bad.