David HasselHOF…or Jimmy HOFfa…or I’ve gone off the rails

I feel like I’m drowning in Panini lately.  Between basketball and black friday, they’ve had me posting Panini for what feels like a month.  Now they are getting me with Baseball too.  (Note: I should have some Bowman and Topps soon, for those who care)

2012 Panini Cooperstown is in the house.  Or the retail outlet as the case may be.  I grabbed a few packs, so I could bring you, my loyal reader(s), a timely and reliable review.

This product is exactly what it sounds like, cards of Hall of Famers.  A checklist can be found here and I’m sure you can find boxes on eBay or elsewhere which contain one Hall of Famer autograph and a few manufactured patch cards.  Boxes are running about $90, so I would recommend a purchase if you’re an HOF guy or a vintage autograph hound.  I am not either of those things, though I do appreciate the Hall of Fame and will take a vintage auto where I can get it.  As such, I purchased two packs.  Here we go…

Panini lacks an MLB license, so my first order of business when opening my packs of Cooperstown was to see how they handled getting the logos out of the pictures.  This was a hit or miss proposition.  About half the cards contained pictures where the player’s back was turned or had otherwise naturally obscured the logo, the other half cropped the pictures in a way to cut off the hats of players.  Fortunately for Panini older uniforms generally did not have a lot of text, so this limited the need to photoshop logos out which I appreciate, because nothing is worse than a doctored photo.  The cards that were cropped to obscure the hat logo seem off somehow, like the picture was accidentally placed off-center or something.

2012 Panini Cooperstown Harmon Killebrew

Good photo selection.

vs.

Distracting photo cropping.

Distracting photo cropping.

I have no qualms with the card design themselves.  The photos are nice action shots and are black and white, which is pleasing.  The tan borders adds a vintage feel, with a texture that resembles an old wool uniform.  The Cooperstown logo is present on all the cards, which is a nice celebration of the institution.  Panini does not burden the cards with their logo.  Overall a solid, understated design though I think they could have benefitted from a matte finish to enhance the vintage feel.

I thought the backs were where the cards shined.  Each one contains a thoughtful player bio and the statistics from the players best season and career.  It also shows the years the player played at the top and contains a photo that differs from the one on the front of the card, which is something Panini has been failing to do in alot of their other products (nothing screams lazy like the same photo on the front and back of the card).

2012 Panini Cooperstown Rod Carew

Unsuprisingly, my two packs did not contain an auto.  The auto checklist is solid, which could go unsaid considering its all hall of famers.  A slightly cheaper price tag (something in the $60 range) would likely lead me to purchase a box just for the off chance of getting a Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, or Nolan Ryan autograph.  I did get two inserts: an Induction and a Credentials.  The Induction card features a picture of the player on their induction day and doesn’t really improve on the base cards at all.  The Credentials cards are an abortion, they are god awful.  They don’t have a picture on the front, just a bunch of stats (which are fine…on the back).  I guess that is one way to avoid licensing issues.

2012 Panini Cooperstown Harmon Killebrew Induction

2012 Panini Cooperstown Juan Marichal Credentials

There is one insert set that I am interested in: The Ballparks set.  I love old ballparks.  They were quirky and interesting with their funny dimensions and odd design elements.  I could look at pictures of old ballparks as a pasttime, which is kind of sad but don’t you dare judge me.  You have no right.  I may try to track down the set on eBay.  I can’t imagine it costs too much.

Overall Panini Cooperstown is a solid product for vintage auto collectors and as a tribute to the institution.  Panini finds it in themselves to create an understated design and to serve a valuable niche.  I would have preferred less cropped photos, but I understand the difficulty in finding a good photo of each player with no logos so it is a minor gripe.  I don’t love it enough to buy a box, but I don’t hate it enough to tell you not too.  I’m guessing the people who want it already got it, so my opinion is probably moot anyway.  3/5.

While we are talking about Cooperstown, I did want to weigh in on this years ballot.  I have vacillated on whether or not any of the confirmed, or practically confirmed users, should get in.  However, I have mostly leaned towards having them included for a few reasons.   First, guys like Bonds and Clemens were, regardless of how they got there, the major stars of a generation.  They defined baseball for twenty years and posted amazing stats (go to fangraphs and look it up), to exclude them from the hall of fame is to leave part of the picture of baseball unpainted.  I believe the same is true for Pete Rose and Joe Jackson, so I’m not being inconsistent.  Those guys belong in as well, they were baseball and their displays should include the good and bad.  Same for Bonds and Clemens.  Second, steroids were part of the era.  While I understand that not all players took them, enough did that they changed the game, therefore the best players from that era should be given their due.  This is the same as a deadball era pitcher being inducted. Pitchers in that era had it a lot easier than current pitchers do, so rather than compare across eras just the best pitchers from the deadball era should, and have, been inducted.  Same goes here, just induct the best roid guys.  Juan Gonzalez and Mark McGwire may have made it twenty years ago on homers alone, but they should be held to the Bond’s standard, not the Carew standard.  Therefore, you take only the guys who truly excelled from 1988ish to 2005ish.  Finally, in the case of Bonds, like Rose, it feels wrong to exclude the all-time leader in a major statistical category.  How can the Hall be a record of baseball history without the leaders.

I hope that Bonds and Clemens make it in.  Do I think they will? No.  The BBWA is a funny organization, they thrive on these controversial figures to make a living, but then they refuse to honor them because they were not angels.  Que sera sera.

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