Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily previewing the 2023 Topps Tribute baseball set:
Big League baseball returns after a one-year absence, and the fun-friendly set has made some changes to its 2023 product.
The 310-card set will have five tiers of scarcity. The first 200 cards will be commons, but then it becomes more difficult to complete the set.
Cards 201 to 250 are Uncommon Foil cards, with Rare Blue Foil covering cards 251 to 275. Those can be found in every 18 packs.
Super Rare Red Foil cards, which will fall one in every 90 packs, cover cards 276 to 300. And the hardest cards to find — Legendary Gold Foil — make up the final 10 cards of the set and fall once every 360 packs.
As usual, I bought a blaster box, which contains five Electric Orange parallels. This product has 10 packs, with eight cards to a pack. The box I opened had 59 commons and 10 Uncommon Foil cards.
The design is simple and understated. On the card front, an action shot of the player is set against a blurred background of fans in the stadium. The photo is framed by a white border with some thin lines thrown in for show.
The player’s name begins across the left-hand side near the bottom of the card. His name is in all capital letters, and his team and position is in smaller type. The team’s logo anchors the right-hand corner of the card front.
The design appears to be mostly vertical, which I prefer. There are some horizontal designs, too. The Big League logo — “BL” is found in the upper left-hand corner.
The design for the card backs uses a horizontal format. It’s clean-looking and attractive. Every player has a four-line narrative that points out highlights and fun facts.
There are also year-by-career and career statistics, which take up the bulk of the card back.
The Electric Orange parallels include one Uncommon Foil card of Ryan Mountcastle. The other subjects featured are Mookie Betts, Michael Massey, Josh Naylor and Bryson Stott.Inserts are colorful in the Big League set, with some of them having a cartoonish look.
The Mascots insert comes over from Topps’ Opening Day set and has 27 cards. The card I pulled was of the San Diego Padres’ mascot, the Swinging Friar.
The 8 Bit Ballers has a 1980s feel to it, with the background resembling a video game. There are 20 cards in this subset, and collectors can expect to find one in every four packs they open. The cards I pulled featured Derek Jeter, Adley Rutschman and Jazz Chisholm Jr.).
I pulled two cards from the 20-card City Slickers subset. These also fall one in every four packs, and I pulled Mike Trout and Juan Soto cards. The players in this insert are depicted wearing their City Connect uniforms.
Roll Call Wildstyle Edition, another 1:4 insert, features the player set against a cartoon-like background.
he artwork was done by CES, which is among the artists featured in the Topps Project70 series. The card I pulled was Bo Jackson.
The Big Leaguers set, which has 30 subjects, features interesting typefaces, Some look like 1960s or 1970s artists inspired them. The cards I pulled were of Willie Mays, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and a rookie card of Riley Greene.
I did not pull any autographs from the blaster box, nor did I expect to. That is for hobby box buyers to seek.
Topps Big League is a fun product. It is straightforward in its main design, and there is room for fun in the inserts. Unlike the Opening Day product, this early season release does not mirror the flagship product too closely. That’s a good thing.The base set seems easy enough to complete if you are a set builder, although the four foil tiers may pose a challenge.But it is a pleasant task.
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about Upper Deck obtaining the exclusive license to producer USFL cards in 2023.
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about Capt. Dan Adams, who discovered an incredible array of baseball memorabilia while driving through southwestern Maine in 1975:
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about a pair of 1983 sets by Donruss -- the Action All-Stars cards and the Hall of Fame Heroes:
Here’s another book that will be sure to spark debates among sports fans.
It’s what we do. Who’s the best? Who’s the greatest? We could argue all day.
And that’s what ESPN host Mike Greenberg and his producer, Paul Hembekides, help sports fan do. They play a numbers game in a fast-paced look at sports legends and the numbers we associate them with.
Got Your Number: The Greatest Sports Legends and the Numbers They Own (Hyperion Avenue; $25.99; hardback; 317 pages) is more than just assigning a uniform number to a player and saying that athlete “owns it.”
For example, golfing great Jack Nicklaus never wore a uniform number while on the links. But Greenberg writes that the number 18 — signifying the Golden Bear’s major championships — tops the number worn by quarterback Peyton Manning. Joe Louis had 25 title defenses, Vin Scully was in the broadcast booth for 67 seasons with the Dodgers, and Rocky Marciano was unbeaten in 49 professional fights.
Greenberg runs the gamut from No. 1 to No. 100, and just about every legend is represented, from Red Grange to Tiger Woods.
It’s “heated debate with zero consequence,” Greenberg writes.
And there will be some sharp disagreements. Right off the bat, I took issue. Greenberg, who lives in the New York City area, assigned No. 7 to John Elway. Not a bad choice, since Elway won two Super Bowls in five appearances and had a slew of eye-popping statistics to back it up. But No. 7 has to be Mickey Mantle — at least in my book. With 12 World Series appearances and seven championships, the Mick owned No. 7. A powerful switch-hitter who played hurt—and many times hung over — Mantle was the guy.
Take away Greenberg’s subway tokens for that one.
But hey, that’s the point of this book. Many will argue that Elway is indeed who one thinks of when No. 7 is mentioned. “The Drive” against the Browns was awesome.
“It is hard to imagine there will ever be an athlete as beloved in any city as John Elway is in Denver,” Greenberg writes.
It’s a generational thing, perhaps. We can discuss it over a bottle of Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7. Can’t quibble with that number.
Many of the numbers that Greenberg assigns are slam-dunks — Bill Russell (No. 6), John Havlicek (No. 17) and Michael Jordan (No. 23), to keep it in the basketball family.
In baseball there is Ozzie Smith (No. 1), Derek Jeter (No. 2), Babe Ruth (No. 3), Joe DiMaggio (No. 5), Pete Rose (No. 14), Roberto Clemente (No. 21), Willie Mays (No. 24), Jackie Robinson (No. 42) and Henry Aaron (No. 44). And in hockey, Bobby Orr (No. 4), Gordie Howe (No. 9), Mario Lemieux (No. 66) and Wayne Gretzky (No. 99) are perfect selections.
I was curious to see who Greenberg would present No. 12 to, but it really was no surprise. You knew it had to be the G.O.A,T., Tom Brady. Same with No. 32. You had candidates like Sandy Koufax and even O.J. Simpson (if you could stomach that), but was there anyone who owned that number better than Jim Brown?
It was a nice touch to dedicate 72 to the perfect Dolphins of 1972, and 60 to the number of matches played between women’s tennis greats Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. The number of Grand Slams won by Serena Williams (in addition to her singles titles) could have yielded to the Dolphins’ No. 39, Larry Csonka, but I understand that you have to get Serena in there somewhere.
Without revealing every number (why buy the book at that point?), other athletes receive Greenberg’s attention.
They include Pat Summitt, Richard Petty, Mildred “Babe” Didrikson, Walter Payton, Bob Gibson, Rod Laver, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, Billie Jean King, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, LeBron James and Wilt Chamberlain.
What would have been fun: The inclusion of 1/8, for Eddie Gaedel. He certainly owned that number.
What Greenberg sets out to accomplish in Got Your Number is a fun time for sports fans, and he achieves that goal. He has a sharp wit and is not afraid to make fun of himself, as the title of one his previous books, Why My Wife Thinks I’m an Idiot, can attest.
The book has plenty of the kind of nuggets that sports fans love. And a reader does not have to follow it in numerical order.
Got Your Number is a fun read. And if you should happen to disagree with Greenberg’s choices, or have a different opinion than a friend, that’s OK too.
That’s what sports fans do.
I love to blog about sports books and give my opinion. Baseball books are my favorites, but I read and review all kinds of books.