Here is a review I wrote for Sport in American History about Jack Gilden's new book, "Collision of Wills," about the dynamic and struggle between Johnny Unitas and Don Shula when both were with the Baltimore Colts during the 1960s:
To say I love Topps baseball cards from 1967 to 1972 would be an understatement. Those years represented the highlights of my youthful collecting career, so I always look back on those designs fondly.
That’s why it is fun to tear through Topps Heritage this year, since it utilizes the company’s simple and clean design from 1969. The Topps Heritage High Number set picks up where the main Heritage set left off, with a 225-card base set that places more emphasis on traded players and rookies who have made an impact this year.
As has been the norm with these reviews, I am looking at blaster boxes of the product. But for the Heritage High Numbers I bought two boxes, so I will draw from what I pulled from both of them. I am flush with success after completing the base and SPs from the 2018 Allen & Ginter set strictly from blasters and packs and will try to do the same with Heritage High Number.
A blaster box contains eight packs. Topps tries to make the deal sound sweeter by advertising seven packs plus a bonus pack, but any way you slice it there are eight packs in the box. There are nine cards in each pack.
By the way, if you decide to buy a hobby box, Topps is promising either an autograph or relic card.
The design is faithful to the 1969 Topps design, with a bubble at the top of the card that lists the player’s name and position. Some of these circles are positioned at the top left-hand corner of the card, while others occupy the top right. The team name runs across the bottom of the card in large block yellow letters.
The card backs are a pinkish color with the Topps logo and card number in the upper left-hand corner. The player’s name and vital statistics are to the logo’s immediate right, and at the far right of the card is a small cartoon drawing.
The bottom half of the card is reserved for the player’s year-by-year and total career statistics.
The high number series starts at No. 501 and ends at No. 725. The last 25 cards in the set are short prints and can be found every three packs. I pulled five from the two blasters I opened. I also pulled 125 base cards between both boxes, or just over half the set. The way it worked out was 65 base and short prints per blaster, with the other seven being parallels or inserts.
Some of the old standbys are visible in the High Number set. Now & Then takes a key achievement from a 2018 date and compares it to the same date in 1969. For example, the Albert Pujols card recaps his 3,000th hit, collected May 4, 2018, and honors the Houston Astros, who turned seven double plays against the San Francisco Giants during a 3-1 victory on May 4, 1969.
There are 15 of these inserts in the Heritage High Number set, and I pulled one from each box.
Award Winners is a 10-card insert that recognizes players who had outstanding achievements in 2017, and I found one in each blaster (Max Scherzer and Corey Kluber.) There also was Rookie Performers card in each box (there are 15 cards in the subset).
Combo Cards is a 10-card insert set that celebrates two players on a particular team, and I found cards for the Indians and Nationals.
The 1969 Collector Cards, with a photo framed by a large yellow border, is a retail-exclusive product and contains 15 cards. I found one card in each blaster, pulling Nolan Arenado and Gleyber Torres.
Rounding out the inserts was a Deckle card of Jordan Hicks in one box, and a Miracle of 1969 insert in the other. The “Miracle” refers to the 1969 Mets, who shocked the baseball world by winning their division, the NLCS, and finally the World Series. This is a five-card insert, and the card I pulled featured a young Nolan Ryan.
The Heritage High Number set depicting the 1969 Topps design is slick, clean — and for me — sentimental. I’ll be heading out for more blaster boxes soon.
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about the 1963 Sports Hall of Fame Busts set:
Here is a book review I wrote for Sport in American History, where I look at "Ty Cobb Unleashed," by Howard W. Rosenberg.
If you like foil and cards that have a mirror-like shine, then the 2018 Panini Absolute Football set by Panini America should fit the bill. And for those who do not want to spring for a hobby box — which would cost upwards of $130 — a $19.99 blaster works just fine.
That’s because Panini is promising at least one autograph or one relic card in every blaster box. The box I opened had a relic card — a blaster-exclusive Newcomers card of Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst. There are 35 cards in the Newcomers set.
A blaster box holds eight packs, with eight cards to a pack. The base set includes 100 veterans and 50 rookies, and there are 40 Rookie Material Autograph cards.
The blaster box I opened had 53 base cards and four rookies. The design on the card front is vertical, with the team name running up and down the right side of the page with letters perpendicular to the cutout action shot of the player. The team name is printed in an italic block font, with one of the team’s primary colors used to fill in the letters. In most cases, another team primary color is used as the background on the card front.
The player’s name is stamped in gold foil underneath the player’s photograph. The city and team nickname appear beneath the player’s name in tiny white block letters. The background on the card front also includes the team’s helmet logo.
The design for the card back borrows the front photo but tints the background with a primary team color. The photo runs down the left-hand side of the card. In the middle of the card is a seven-line biography, and beneath that are stat lines from the 2017 season. The team logo is in the top right quarter of the card.
There are plenty of elements at play with this set, but it surprisingly is not intrusive or busy looking. The only complaint I have is for player cards whose teams have gold as a primary color. The player’s name blends into the background too easily. Cards featuring Washington Redskins players are a prime example.
The design for the rookie cards is different than what is used for the veterans’. Instead of a team name running down the right side of the card front, the word “Rookies” runs down the left side. The cutout action shots of the players show them wearing the logos of the teams that drafted them. The rookies I pulled were Logan Woodside (Bengals), Vita Vea (Bucs), Jordan Whitehead (Bucs) and Kurt Benkert (Falcons).
A rich, red background is a nice enhancement for the rookie cards, as it helps make the player’s gold-stamped name shine through more easily. A silver shield with red cutout “RC” and “Rookie Cards” designations dominate the right-center area of the card front.
The card backs are similar to the designs used for the base cards, with red a dominant color.
There were four different inserts inside the blaster box I opened.
Introductions is a 20-card subset that gives information on rookie players. The two cards I pulled were of No. 1 draft pick Baker Mayfield and the Steelers’ Jaylen Samuels.
Late Game Heroics takes a horizontal design and showcases a player’s clutch performance; there are 20 cards in this set, and I pulled a Russell Wilson card that showcased a 41-38 Seahawks victory against the Texans.
The 1-2 Punch insert set also consists of 20 cards. This subset highlights player combinations that have been effective in the NFL. The card I pulled featured Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and running back Christian McCaffrey.
Another insert card I found was a Revolutionaries card of Miami Dolphins Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino. This 20-card insert set features players who were groundbreaking players during their NFL careers.
That plays into the final insert card I pulled, appropriately called Covering Ground. This insert features running backs and receivers who chew up chunks of yardage every time they touch the football. The card I pulled is an excellent example: Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones.
The 2018 Absolute Football is shiny, with lots of foil and plenty of vibrant colors. There is a good mixture of veterans and rookies, and collectors who prowl retail stores can pick up a nice hot card from a blaster box. It’s a nice guarantee.
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about Tom Daniels, a longtime card shop owner in Madison, Wisconsin, whose shop was flooded after heavy rains last month:
Here is the link to the podcast I did on the New Books Network with David George Surdam, co-author of "The Age of Ruth and Landis," which I reviewed in print on Aug. 4:
Here is a review I did for the Sport in American History website about "The Presidents and the Pastime" by Curt Smith, from University of Nebraska Press:
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.