As you may recall, back in December I told you the exciting news that I was going to be enshrined on my very own Topps trading card (the photos shown above were the ones I sent them for potential use on the card), and then in February I had an update on how things were coming along.
But all of that was before the world turned upside-down. As the pandemic has unfolded, some of you have gotten in touch to ask me if my card would still be happening. As I explained to those who inquired, I had no idea what the status of the project was, and I figured the folks at Topps, like everyone else, had enough things to worry about, so I didn’t want to bug them about my card. I assumed I’d find out soon enough, one way or another, if they were still going ahead with the product line.
Sure enough, I recently heard from my Topps contact. Unfortunately, it turns out that they’re not going to be doing my card — but that development has nothing to do with the pandemic.
You see, Topps is still going ahead with the card set that I was going to be a part of — they’re just not going to include my card. That’s because their licensor asked for my card to be removed from the set.
Their licensor, of course, is Major League Baseball.
Am I disappointed? Sure — who wouldn’t be? It was exciting to think I was getting my own official Topps trading card, and it’s a bit of a letdown to know that it won’t be happening after all.
Mostly, though, I think it’s funny. Here’s Major League Baseball — this gigantic, bizillion-dollar empire — and apparently a solitary gadfly of a writer covering a niche beat has gotten so far under their skin that they feel the need to swat him (in the midst of a global emergency, no less!).
They’re completely within their rights to do that, of course. I’ve stuck it to them a bunch of times, so now they’re sticking it to me — fair enough. But my gripes with them have to do with their shameful behavior (selling the chest of the jersey to Nike; selling the side of the cap to New Era; pandering to cheap rah-rah-ism; distorting the meaning of Memorial Day; not knowing the difference between the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution; coming up with brutal-looking “holiday uniforms” that are really just merch dumps; the long-running lack of transparency about their supposed support for veterans; and so on), while their gripes with me are, well, that I’ve pointed out their shameful behavior. Apparently the truth hurt, so now they’ve chosen to hurt me back.
That’s absolutely their prerogative — what’s good for the goose and all that. But again, considering the context, I find it more amusing than upsetting.
So that’s the end of that — or is it?
As you may recall, some of my cards were going to be “relic” cards, so I had sent Topps the Uni Watch tequila sunrise shirt I wore during the photo shoot for my card, and they were going to chop it up into little pieces for inclusion in the relic cards.
When my Topps contact told me the bad news about my card, I asked if my shirt had already been chopped up and, if so, if I could have the pieces. I thought it would be an interesting memento of the experience. He said he wasn’t sure but promised to look into it.
Two days later a FedEx package arrived at Uni Watch HQ. Inside was a plastic bag with the pieces of my shirt (for this and all subsequent photos, you can click to enlarge):
Isn’t that cool? Each swatch is 7/8″ square (I included the nickel for scale). And that’s just the tip of the ’berg — I have at least several hundred of these swatches, maybe even a thousand.
Some sort of white backing has been applied to the underside of each swatch. It’s flexible, but stiff enough to transform each swatch from a flimsy piece of fabric into a semi-rigid chip:
The backing was apparently applied to the inside of the shirt before it was cut into swatches, because they also sent me some scraps and larger pieces, all of which had the backing already in place:
It’s all so interesting, it’s almost worth it to have had my card nixed by MLB, because it ended up providing me with this inside peek at the relic process.
And that got me thinking. Now that I had all the relic swatches, I figured I should probably do something with them. They’d be good for some sort of art project, right? Like they always say: When life hands you lemons, make a really good cocktail.
Here’s the cocktail I’ve decided to make:
1. I have hired the great illustrator and longtime Uni Watch pal Rob Ullman to design a new Paul Lukas / Uni Watch trading card that will feature a caricature of me in a classic-looking trading card setting. I will have several hundred of these cards printed at the standard trading card size and offer them for sale.
2a. Each card will include one of the shirt swatches that were originally intended for the Topps card. So these swatches will become relics of this entire experience — the experience of Topps inviting me to be part of their card set, of my backyard photo shoot, of my Topps card going into production, of MLB nixing that card, and of this new card being created. In short: Every card in this set will be a relic card.
2b. Topps relic cards have a little window where the relic is displayed. We can’t go to those lengths, but Rob’s card design will include a dedicated spot for the relic swatch to be affixed to each card. Once the cards are printed, I’ll apply the swatches to them myself, probably with adhesive dots (although I’m open to other methods, if anyone has suggestions).
2c. I’m thinking I may number each of the relic swatches by writing on the white backing. Or maybe not, since you wouldn’t be able to see the number unless you removed the swatch from the card. Haven’t decided about that yet.
3. I will sign one of the cards in purple ink (it will be numbered “1/1”) and another 10 in green ink (they will be numbered “1/10,” “2/10,” and so on), just as I was going to do for Topps. These signed cards will be randomly scattered in the set.
4. In honor of MLB’s key role in this storyline, I’d like to call this the “MLB Project” or the “MLB Card,” or something like that. I just need a good term that reduces to those three letters. In keeping with the spirit of the whole affair, I’m leaning toward My Little Brouhaha, although there are certainly other possibilities (Making Lockdown Better, Manfred/Lukas Bitterness, etc.). Once I settle on the term, I’ll have Rob turn it into a logo for the project.
So that’s what I have in the works. Not sure when it’ll be available, how much it’ll cost, etc., but it will definitely happen. I’ll keep you posted.
Finally, I want to say that Topps has been awesome throughout this whole experience. Great people, great company. They were really apologetic about how things turned out, although of course it wasn’t their fault. I wish them nothing but the best, and I’m grateful to them for the opportunity and the experience, even though it didn’t turn out the way either of us had hoped.
Culinary Corner: Tomorrow is the first Saturday in May. Ordinarily, that would make it Kentucky Derby day, but we are not living in ordinary times.
Despite this year’s Derby being postponed until Sept. 5, I’ve gone ahead and made myself a derby pie, and I encourage you to do so as well — not only because it’s delicious, but because sports culture isn’t just about the live events themselves. It’s also about the rituals and traditions associated with those events, and for me that means I always make this pie for the first Saturday in May.
I’ve written a short piece about this for today’s edition of The Boston Globe (my first time ever writing for them, whoop-whoop!). Here’s the print version; the web version, which should be available around noon Eastern, will include several links, so I’ll swap that in once it’s available.
Meanwhile, if you want to make your own derby pie, it’s easy:
1. If you know how to make pie crust, make some dough and position it in a 9-inch pie pan; if you don’t know how or just can’t be bothered, get yourself a frozen 9-inch pie shell or some refrigerated pie dough (that’s what I used this year).
2. Set your oven to 350 degrees. While it’s heating up, get a big mixing bowl and use a hand mixer to beat together four eggs, a cup of light corn syrup, 3/4 cup of light brown sugar. and 1/3 cup of melted butter. Then add 3 tablespoons of decent bourbon (or maybe a smidge more than that, if you’re so inclined), a tablespoon of vanilla extract, a tablespoon of flour, 6 ounces of chocolate chips, and a cup of chopped walnuts.
3. Mix all of that together, pour it into your dough-lined pie plate or frozen pie shell, and pop it into the oven for an hour. It’ll puff up high like a soufflé, but it’ll settle back down while it cools, which you should allow it to do for an hour or so.
The resulting pie can be a bit free-form when you slice it and serve it, so it’s not a bad idea to pop it in the fridge for a bit to help it firm up. But whether chilled, heated, or at room temp, it’s a runaway winner, even if there’s no horse race this weekend.
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ITEM! May pin launch: Today is the first day of May, and I’m happy to announce that the Uni Watch Pin Club’s design for the month is now available.
Todd Radom and I designed this pin right around the beginning of March, before the world went bonkers. Since the Indy 500 takes place in May, we thought that would be a fun theme for the pin. As it turns out, the Indy 500 won’t be taking place in May this year (it’s currently scheduled for late August, although I have my doubts about that), but the pin still looks totally boss — I love the car, I love the pin shape, and the blue sky is a nice addition to our usual color palette.
This is a numbered edition of 250 pins. As usual, the numbering and the month are laser-etched on the back:
I launched this pin at midnight on Twitter, and as of 8:30am we had already sold 42 of them. That’s a fast sales pace out of the gate — it means this pin will likely sell out, just like the April design did, so move fast if you want to get in on this one. (Meanwhile, if you need to get caught up, the January, February, and March pins are still available.)
As an aside: June’s pin is really, really good, and the July pin is going to blow your minds — really. You’ll see!
LAST CALL for the hockey jersey: Today is the final day to get in on the next batch of Uni Watch hockey jerseys. Available in three color options, two tailoring options, and with your choice of number and NOB — full details here.
Click for maximum cuteness
Membership update: Reader Christopher Jones, who’s a professor at BYU in Utah, recently ordered two Utah Stars-themed membership cards — one for himself and one for his seven-year-old son, Joaquin, with first initials as part of the NOBs. As you can see above, Joaquin was very excited to receive his card yesterday!
He just happened to go get the mail today and couldn’t figure out what might be in the envelope addressed to both of us. He was ecstatic when he opened it, and after showing it off to his mom and siblings, placed it in his basketball card binder, where not just cards but all of his most prized possessions go for safekeeping.
Oh, and he went and changed into that Nets hat before I took his picture, explaining it was because he noticed the return address was in Brooklyn.
How great is that?
And there’s more. It turns out that Joaquin likes to draw jerseys — and is following in his father’s footsteps in that regard:
So imagine my delight when, upon returning home from a weekend trip last night, I found this on the 6yo’s dresser. Looks like we might have another @UniWatch-er in the family. pic.twitter.com/pSGIDk7dvF
— Christopher Jones (@ccjones13) May 19, 2019
Oh, man — this family definitely Gets It™!
If you’d like to help support Uni Watch by ordering a membership card for yourself and/or your completely adorable uni-obsessed kid, this is a good time to do so, because price has been reduced from $25 to $20 until further notice.
By Anthony Emerson
Baseball News: An old newspaper clipping tells us that A’s P John “Blue Moon” Odom switched from his usual No. 13 to No. 10 on Aug. 10, 1968, when he was going for his 10th win of the season. A’s C Dave Duncan, who was wearing No. 10 that year, was on two weeks duty with the Marine Corps Reserves at the time. Interestingly, Baseball-Reference.com does not show Odom’s number switch (from Roger Faso). … A Cardinals blog has taken a look at the 1899 uniforms that inspired the team’s name. That same blog also has a two–part list of the Cardinals’ best players by uni number (all from Kary Klismet). … Tony Gwynn’s flip shades had a “19” label back in the day (from Brady Phelps and @comish4lif). … Five years ago, Wayne A. Jones found what appeared to be a 1997 Pirates road jersey prototype in a thrift store. The Pirates ultimately ended up sticking with their pre-1997 road uniforms, but added pinstripes. … I believe the Rockies have just become the first team to make Turn Ahead the Clock jerseys available at retail (from Aidan, who did not give his last name). … We may have covered this before, but just in case: Expos owner Charles Bronfman reportedly designed the team’s ’80s unis himself. He did an excellent job — perhaps he missed his true calling (from Andreas Papadopoulos). … MLB.com has a retrospective on the Hawaiian Winter League, with some great shots of unis and logos (from Ray P.) … Michael J. Miller caught some screengrabs of Lloyd Moseby wearing what appears to be a makeshift ascot while taking BP. … The Akron RubberDucks are still moving forward with their “Conetown” promotion.
NFL News: Why is wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin wearing a 1995-99 Patriots jersey with the number “3:16“? Well, judging by the Massachusetts State Trooper immediately behind him, he’s in Massachusetts. And Austin adopted “3:16” as his own after taunting Jake Roberts, who is a born-again Christian, in 1996. Whoever made that jersey even went the extra mile with the TV numbers (from Kyle Coppola). … At the 1:03 mark in the latest Pat McAfee Show, McAfee and his guest AJ Hawk discuss how they got their numbers in college and the NFL (from @Pftsponge). … Browns coach Marty Schottenheimer must’ve decided that one turtleneck wasn’t enough (from @CLEVELOVE1). … Nancy Reagan once received a Washington jersey at midfield from Doug Williams with “Just Say No” on the back. Find me a more 1980s picture, I dare you (from David Versel).
College Football News: Wisconsin has released renderings on what an updated Camp Randall Stadium will look like (from Kary Klismet). … The Campbell’s Soup cans are instantly recognizable — it’s hard to imagine them in any other color scheme, except maybe in an Andy Warhol painting. But they were originally orange and blue when they first launched in the late 19th century, and only switched to the red/white scheme after the company’s general manager and treasurer, Herberton L. Williams, watched a Cornell/Penn football game and was impressed by the Big Red’s unis (from Mike Wilson).
Hockey News: Here’s a cool picture, and not just because of the gorgeous sweater the usher at Maple Leaf Gardens is wearing. All ushers wore those sweaters at MLG in the 1980s (from Andreas Papadopoulos). … The Athletic had a “draft” (paywalled) of the best NHL jerseys of all time (from Kary Klismet).
Hoops News: The Continental Basketball Association has been getting some attention since Phil Jackson mentioned briefly coaching in the league in the the most recent episode of The Last Dance, so Jorge Cruz dug up an old Beckett Basketball magazine which featured a map of CBA teams, with logos. … This article tries to work out how the sneaker-verse would be different if Michael Jordan had signed with Spot-Bilt rather than Nike (from LaHoi G. Lover). … LeBron James revealed the logo for the new Space Jam movie. Here’s a much better look (from Jakob Fox, Timmy Donahue, and @OVOBeachBum). … A USA Today columnist listed his picks for the top 24 NBA throwback jerseys of all time (from Kary Klismet).
Soccer News: Premier League side Brighton and Hove Albion are selling kits with “Thank You NHS” in place of the chest ad and “Thank You Kind Workers” in place of the sleeve ad. All proceeds will go to charities related to the UK’s National Health Service (from multiple readers). … The Chicago Red Stars’ gorgeous new change kit features the names of every Chicago neighborhood sublimated into the two blue stripes, forming the Chicago flag (from multiple readers). … New away kit for Scottish side Dundee (from our own Jamie Rathjen).
Grab Bag: New logo for Caribbean Airlines (from Timmy Donahue). … Longtime reader and Ticker contributor @PhillyPartTwo, who works in direct care, was provided with a mask made from Phillies jersey fabric. … Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has custom Vans with “Madam” on the heel of the left foot and “Mayor” on the heel of the right foot (from @VerbDC). … SB Nation’s Syracuse blog ranked the Orange’s top five unis across all sports (from Kary Klismet). … New logo set for Wayne State College (from Jay Wright).
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What Paul did last night: Uni Watch HQ is just a few houses from the end of our block. If we walk to the corner and turn left, it’s a short three-block walk to the subway.
It has now been nearly two months since we made that walk, or since we even turned left. The subway — such a big part of New York life, such a big part of being a New Yorker — is right there, visible from the corner, but it’s no longer part of our lives.
That feels very weird. It’s not so much that I miss it; it’s more that it feels like something’s missing, if that makes sense. Yesterday the Tugboat Captain even said she’s tempted to spend a fare just to go through the turnstile and hang out on our station’s platform for a bit, just so she can see what’s it’s like up there these days. I agreed that there’s something very appealing about that idea, although I can’t quite explain why.
That’s it for this week. Enjoy Phil’s weekend content and I’ll see you back here on Monday. Stay well. — Paul