Saturday, December 8, 2018

2018 Topps Triple Threads Baseball Review and Box Break

Topps has made tremendous strides to push 2018 Topps Triple Threads Baseball to stand out more than ever before. The baseball card giant has improved the base card finish while upping the ante on the autographs and relics to polish one of their best high-end releases.

2018 Topps Triple Threads Base Card Set and Design


The two mini-box configuration of 2018 Topps Triple Threads yields 14 cards – two autographs, two relics, four parallels, and six base cards. While most collectors are going to breeze past the base cards in search of the autographs and relics, I urge those opening a box to slow down and enjoy the base cards, which are far from ordinary. Upon closer inspection, one will find a nuanced design that features a gold embossed trim and an ultra smooth finish, all creating a card that looks and feels like no other on the market.

2018 Topps Triple Threads / Topps

2018 Topps Triple Threads Parallels


While one is busy admiring the fancy base card designs, 2018 Topps Triple Threads fashions colored parallels in the same mold. These cards are named after precious jewels, only serving to further the set's premium motif. Lucky collectors will feast on Amethyst (#/299), Emerald (#/259), Amber( #/199), Gold (#/99), Onyx (#/50), Sapphire (#/25), and Ruby (#1/1) toned parallels. The box provided for this review drew the following parallels as displayed below.

2018 Topps Triple Threads Parallels / Topps

2018 Topps Triple Threads Autographs and Relics


With a price tag of $200 per box, collectors opening 2018 Topps Triple Threads have good reason to anticipate the intricate relic and autographed cards. Just as Topps paid great attention to the set’s base cards, each master box’s four major hits are styled in a manner that commands a premium in both price and attention. This box's hits would surely excite Chicago Cubs fans, with a Ben Zobrist autographed relic, and an Anthony Rizzo jumbo relic card. Most fans would be quite content pulling those hits from any Topps product; however, those were only half of the excitement.


We were also treated to a two-toned Chris Sale “Locked In” jersey relic card, and the saving the best for last, we pulled a redemption card for a triple-autographed relic of Cleveland Indians Jim Thome, Corey Kluber, and Francisco Lindor.




2018 Topps Triple Threads Assessment


Topps Triple Threads comes right in time for a holiday treat. Topps’ adjustments to the card design and stock show that they are not willing to rest on the product’s premium hits to enhance the collecting experience. Whether it is for yourself or a special collector in your life, adding a box of 2018 Topps Triple Threads Baseball to your shopping list will deliver a thrill for the winter months.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

How President George H.W. Bush was set to play hero in the 1948 College World Series

President George H. W. Bush’s leadership can be traced back to his days as the captain of Yale University’s baseball team. The first baseman led Yale to the 1948 College World Series against the University of Southern California. His diamond presence was evident even as a young man, demonstrated by how one opponent clearly remembered the President’s role in deciding the 1948 College World Series more than six decades later.

“In 1948, we won the first national title for USC,” Art Mazmanian recalled during a 2009 phone interview from his California home. “We beat George Bush’s Yale team. He was their first baseman and captain. I remember everything. I have a good memory; it was just like yesterday. He got two hits in the three games. He batted seventh in the lineup and both of hits were doubles.”

President George H.W. Bush receiving Babe Ruth's manuscript at Yale / US National Archives
In the first game of the series, Yale had USC pinned down with a narrow one-run lead when Bush scored on an early error. Mazmanian described how USC thwarted Yale’s attempts to advance their margin.

“They had us beat 1-0,” he said. “Bush scored a run on our shortstop’s error in the third inning. In the sixth inning, they tried to double steal and we threw the guy out at the plate. In the eighth inning, [it was] the same thing and we threw the guy out at the plate.”

USC entered the top of the ninth with their backs to the wall as Yale looked to close out the game. The Trojans showed their fighting spirit by scoring three runs in the top of the inning to set up a drama filled final frame.

“In the top of the ninth we scored three runs, so we’re up 3-1,” he said. “They come up, and the first guy singled. The next guy walked, and then the next guy hit a shot off of our third baseman who was a very good fielder. He managed to knock it down, but everyone was safe. It was now bases loaded and nobody out.

“They put in a redheaded guy to pinch hit, his last name was Breen. He hit the first pitch back to the pitcher. Wally [Hood] threw home for one out and then [the catcher] threw to first base for a double play. The guy on second base rounded too far and [our] first baseman threw the ball across the diamond, but he threw it in the dirt. If the ball gets by [him], two runs score and they tie the game. Our third baseman Bill Lilly came up with the ball, tagged the guy, and the game was over.”

The Yale base-running gaffe may have ultimately cost the Bulldogs the National Championship, as the Bulldogs won the second game 8-3, before dropping the deciding contest 9-2. Mazmanian, who led the series in hitting (6-11), revealed that the future President was left stranded on-deck during that wild ninth inning of Game 1.

“You know who the next batter was?” Mazmanian asked. “George Bush! And Bush has never forgotten that play. I have an article and a picture of him on the wall, and he calls it, ‘The Play.’ And he’s never forgotten it; he would have been the next hitter.”

Saturday, December 1, 2018

2018 Topps High Tek Baseball Review, Patterns, and Box Break

Topps trots out the major league version of their acetate card series with 2018 Topps High Tek Baseball. The box highlights the 2018 American League Rookie of the Year Shohei Ohtani, who is also the cover boy for 2018 Topps Update Baseball, and 2018 Topps Chrome Baseball. Capitalizing on his international appeal, Topps takes a large bet on his star driving interest towards the set’s futuristic design.

2018 Topps High Tek Baseball / Topps

2018 Topps High Tek Base Card Variations


Each box contains 40 cards, giving collectors one oversized pack to devour. High Tek’s signature has been its base card designs, each created in eight increasingly hard-to-find patterns. Topps has added to the chaos by creating separate designs for the American and National Leagues.

Pattern 1
Pattern 2

Pattern 3
Pattern 4


2018 Topps High Tek Parallels


Topps brings color the acetate designs with their parallel inserts. Player collectors will have their hands full with 18 different variations to track down. The box provided for this review delivered five Rainbow Foil Parallels, ranging from the rarer Red (#/10) to the more common Blue (#/150). The amounts for each parallel card are listed below.

Rainbow Foil Parallels: Blue #/150, Green #/99, Black #/50, Orange #/25, Red #/10, Gold 1/1.
Magma Diffractor Parallels: Green #/99, Black #/50, Orange #/25, Red #/10, Gold 1/1.
Orbit Diffractor Parallels: Black #/50, Orange #/25, Red #/10, Gold 1/1.
Galactic Diffractor Parallels: Orange #/25, Red #/10, Gold 1/1.

2018 Topps High Tek Parallels / Topps

2018 Topps High Tek Autographs


Topps makes hefty promises with two on-card autographs in each box. There is a smooth blend of prospects, current and retired stars, and Hall of Famers available as signers for 2018 Topps High Tek Baseball. Staying in tune with the base card set, the autographs also come in six different numbered parallels. The box provided for this review yielded a Dwight Gooden base autograph and a blue Keon Broxton autographed (#/75).
2018 Topps High Tek Autographs / Topps
Opening a box of 2018 Topps High Tek Baseball is a wild rollercoaster ride, as it is an exciting, but confusing journey to figure out each variation’s place within the set. The lack of a readily available guide without the internet is a source of frustration.

After sorting through the 40-card aftermath, I was left with little direction on what to do next. Pursue a set that you are miles away from? Track down a rainbow of your favorite player? At $100 per box, neither option seems palatable.

While the on-card autographs were a plus, collectors will have to weigh the time and energy needed to pursue 2018 Topps High Tek Baseball this off-season.




Monday, November 26, 2018

Why Gil Hodges' Hall of Fame case is a no-brainer for one Washington Senators player

The annual Baseball Hall of Fame elections are popular topics for hot stove discussions across the country. Currently, the Eras Committee (formerly the Veterans Committee) is debating the merits of those whose careers peaked after the late 1980s. While Gil Hodges is not eligible for this current vote, the mere mention of any Hall of Fame committee meeting is still a hot button issue for many baseball fans.
Gil Hodges 1967 Topps / Topps

Fred Valentine should know a thing or two about Hodges’ Hall of Fame worthiness. He played under Hodges for four seasons (1964-67) with the Washington Senators and recently sat down with Baseball Happenings at the Firefighters Charitable Foundation Dinner in Long Island to express support for his fallen manager.

“He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame,” the 83-year-old Valentine said. “The biggest thing I remember from Gil was that when I came [to] spring training, the only thing he asked was for 100 percent. Regardless of how the game turned out, he just wanted a hundred percent from his players, and I always felt I didn't have any problems with that. He was going to give me an opportunity to play, and I told him that I was going to give him a 110 percent, and I think I did.”

While Valentine’s hustling spirit resonated with Hodges, he suggested that his leader’s stoicism might have contributed to his early demise. He said too often, Hodges would bottle up his emotions when players made boneheaded plays, and on those 1960s Senators teams, they were aplenty.

“He was a great manager,” he said. “The only problem I could see he had was that he wasn't another Earl Weaver. He kept so much in [when] players would make all kinds of dumb mistakes. Instead of throwing them out or cursing them out, he held it in, and I think that was his downfall from holding stuff in like that.”

Friday, November 23, 2018

How Nick Testa made a lifetime baseball career from only one major league game

Nick Testa made the most out of his one major league appearance with the 1958 San Francisco Giants, spending seven decades in the game as a player and a coach. A professional career that started in 1946 took him across the globe to far-reaching baseball venues such as Colombia, Italy, and Japan. The well-traveled baseball lifer passed away November 16, 2018, in Hastings-On-Hudson, New York. He was 90.

Nick Testa / Author's Collection
Testa’s lone major league game came on April 23, 1958, when he pinch-ran for Ray Jablonski in the 8th inning. He remained in the game as the catcher, where he was charged with an error in the 9th inning when the San Francisco winds blew a pop-up out of his reach. That error made his only mark in the record books, as he was two batters away when Daryl Spencer launched a two-run home run to cap the Giants’ comeback victory.

Shortly after his cameo, Giants manager Bill Rigney made Testa an interesting offer. With Bob Schmidt and Valmy Thomas holding down the catching duties, it was clear that Rigney did not need a third-string receiver.

“About a month into the season the other two catchers were doing so well, there was no way I was going to play,” Testa said to Steve Bitker in The Original San Francisco Giants. “So he says, ‘Would you consider being a bullpen coach the rest of the year?’ And I says, ‘Oh, sure, I’d love to.’ I was probably the youngest bullpen coach in the majors at 29.”

Testa finished the season as their bullpen coach and in 1959, he returned to the minors, where he played through 1964. During this period Testa became part of the early group of Americans to play in Japan when he spent the entire 1962 season with the Daimai Orions. 

Nick Testa 1962 Japanese Baseball Card

While Testa was no longer playing affiliated ball, it was far from the end of his time on the field. He returned home to the Bronx to work as a health and physical education instructor at Lehman College, where he piloted their baseball program to the 1974 CUNY Baseball Championship. During his summers off from teaching, Testa played in the Canadian Provincial League well into his 60s, often facing high-level competition half his age.

Testa catching at 45 in Canada / Attheplate.com

The professor was a fixture for both of New York’s professional teams, serving as a batting practice pitcher for the Mets and the Yankees. Testa continued with the Yankees through their championship run in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

In 2001, the Yankees tasked the 73-year-old Testa with the responsibility of preparing then-President George W. Bush for his historic first pitch at the 2001 World Series. Before Game Three, Testa patiently caught the President's warm-ups in the Yankee Stadium tunnels before he made his way to the mound.

Testa remained a pillar of physical fitness well into his 80s, serving as an exemplar for the multitudes of students he prepared for work in the field. Lehman College inducted him into their Athletics Hall of Fame in 2001.