Monday, May 10, 2021

Willie Mays Turns 90: A Legend Throughout The Years

Willie Mays celebrates his 90th birthday at Oracle Park in San Francisco.

Hall of Fame legend Willie Mays turned 90 on May 6, 2021, and the entire baseball community celebrated the milestone with a variety of tributes including a grand celebration at Oracle Park.

As part of the festivities, the Giants announced the creation of the Willie Mays Scholars program, which will offer college prep and support to Black high schoolers in San Francisco. The initial class this fall will include five students who will receive $70,000 in support, including up to $20,000 in scholarships.

“I have always made kids my priority by helping them in any way I could throughout my playing career and life,” Mays said in a statement. “To have the Giants Community Fund and the Giants ownership group create this program in my name and to provide a path to college for Black children in our community means the world to me. I can’t wait to meet the first class of Willie Mays Scholars to offer my encouragement and support.”

Mays was a World Series hero for the New York Giants in 1954, his infamous catch of Vic Wertz's smash during Game 1 paved the way for the Giants to sweep the Indians. While the World Series odds seemed a longshot at +6000 for the Giants to start the 2021 season, the club's first place standing during Mays' celebration could be the inspiration needed to drive towards another championship appearance.

While honors have poured in across the landscape offering Mays his flowers, we take a look back at our coverage of Mays throughout his career, often through the words of his teammates.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

2021 Topps Athletes Unlimited Volleyball Set Break And Review

Topps and Athletes Unlimited joined forces in 2021 to produce the first volleyball card set in the company's history. The 52-card set highlights all of Athletes Unlimited's volleyball players including Olympians Jordan Larson, Sheilla Castro and Bethania de la Cruz. Topps produced the set as part of its on-demand series and was made available to fans and collectors during the five-week season. The set finished with a print run of 3,048 copies, making it a limited-edition collectible for years to come. 

2021 Topps Athletes Unlimited Volleyball Base Set and Checklist

2021 Topps Athletes Unlimited Volleyball Cards
The base set features 47 athletes and five additional cards dedicated to the league and the upcoming Athletes Unlimited softball season. Click here for the set's checklist. 
The cards are on glossy stock with the backs dedicated to their personal and professional bios, as well as their college accolades. An interesting aspect of the card design is the interlocking feature between cards when placed side-by-side. 
Speaking with Cassidy Lichtman for Forbes right before the season started, she said these Topps card fulfilled an unexpected dream. 
“It’s a dream that I didn't know I was supposed to have,” Lichtman said. “Growing up in volleyball, you just don't expect to get that same kind of level of visibility and recognition because you never had it. I didn't even think I should be thinking about it, but now that it's an actual possibility and an actual thing happening, what an amazing thing! I grew up in a sports family; we used to buy baseball cards, and my brother collected them. To know that Topps, which is the name in baseball cards, is giving us our own set and giving us space within the platform that they have, is just kind of surreal.”

2021 Topps Athletes Unlimited Autographs and Parallels

2021 Topps Athletes Unlimited Volleyball Parallels and Autographs

With each athlete signing 50 cards for Topps, more than 75% of the sets will contain an autograph. The autographs are of the sticker variety, as the short season necessitated a quick turnaround for the set. 
In addition to the autographs, each card has four parallels as part of the rainbow, with the elusive Gold 1/1 being the chase cards here. The three other parallels are: Purple / 50, Blue /25 and Orange /5. 

The set provided for this review featured a Sherridan Atkinson Purple parallel /50 and a signed Nia Grant card. 

2021 Topps Athletes Unlimited Volleyball Set / Box Break Video

Collectors who are finding out about the set after its release will have to hit the secondary market on sites like eBay to pick up a copy. If you want to get a preview of the entire set, watch the box break below as we went through each card in the debut issue. 

Topps' partnership with Athletes Unlimited Volleyball is a major step towards tapping into a huge market for one of the most popular sports in the United States, as girls' volleyball is the second most widely participated high school sport in the country. As interest in the league grows, watch for more young fans turn into collectors of their favorite athletes from the league.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Baseball Happenings Podcast | Cody Bellinger 1 on 1 Interview

Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder and 2019 National League MVP joined the Baseball Happenings Podcast to discuss his new partnership with Flonase and why the move was in alignment with his personal branding, as he has suffered from allergies his entire career. 

He also explained what it was like to play through the pandemic, including winning the 2020 World Series and what the Dodgers are looking forward to in defending the title in 2021. 

Click here to listen to the Cody Bellinger interview and subscribe to the podcast.


Thursday, February 25, 2021

Baseball Happenings Podcast | Cassidy Lichtman Athletes Unlimited Volleyball Interview

Cassidy Lichtman, an outside hitter for the newly minted Athletes Unlimited Volleyball league, joined the Baseball Happenings Podcast to discuss all of the exciting developments the league has planned going into its debut season. The former Stanford star explains how significant it is to be part of this pioneering group, the feelings behind having her own official Topps trading card, and the work she's doing to move the game forward with her organization, Progress Through Athletics (P/ATH)

Click here to listen to the interview with Lichtman on the Baseball Happenings Podcast.


Wednesday, February 24, 2021

'Pretty Good Chance' Fans Could Return to MLB Ballparks in 2021

Dr. Anthony Fauci believes there is a ‘pretty good chance’ that fans will be able to attend MLB games in 2021 provided that the rate of Covid-19 cases continues to drop.

The chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden appeared on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight podcast on February 19th and said: “We could have people in the stands, maybe not right next to each other”. 

Local municipalities will make decisions on fan attendance, and the Tampa Bay Rays have already revealed their plans to kick off their campaign with around 7,000 supporters in the ballpark. 

A small number of fans were able to attend some games last season, and other major American sports leagues have been able to let some people in at a reduced capacity. 

With the Covid-19 vaccine still in its early stages of being implemented across the country, the hope is that more baseball fans will be allowed in as the situation improves. 

The season is scheduled to start on April 1st with all 30 teams set to play. ESPN will be showing live coverage of the Toronto Blue Jays @ New York Yankees at 1:05 p.m. ET, and that will be followed by the World Series champions Los Angeles Dodgers kicking off their title defense at Coors Field against the Colorado Rockies. 

Part three of the quadruple header sees the Washington Nationals host the New York Mets, and the action concludes in LA as the Angels welcome the Chicago White Sox to Angel Stadium. 

The Dodgers are the favorites to win the World Series for the second year in succession, with most of the best betting sites offering odds of +350 on the National League West outfit. 

Next in the betting is the Yankees who lost the American League Division Series to the Tampa Bay Rays in 2020 but are +550 to bounceback and win a 28th World Series crown. 

The San Diego Padres look absolutely stacked this year and it is no surprise to see them priced as a +900 third-favorite. Last week, shortstop Fernando Tatis committed his future to the Padres with a whopping 14-year, $340 million contract. All-Star pitcher Yu Darvish was also acquired from the Chicago Cubs, adding to an already impressive roster. 

The Atlanta Braves have no shortage of star power themselves, and after three straight National League East division titles, they are expected to go deep again with odds of +1200 to win the World Series. 

Both the New York Mets and Chicago White Sox are also in the +1200 range, while the Minnesota Twins are as big as +2000 with some online sportsbooks. 

Despite winning the American League in 2020, the Tampa Bay Rays are +2500 to go one better this year and are +900 to repeat their AL success. There are question marks over their ability to repeat what they achieved last term, especially with so many other American League teams breathing down their neck. 

The Toronto Blue Jays are among those that many believe could mount a challenge this year, and they are +2000 for the World Series.