Saturday, October 13, 2012

Manu Excellence

Topps has been issuing manupatches for the past five years.  While they weren't necassarily the first company to use manupatches in their products, they have continued to evolve the products throughout the years.  Topps started off in 2008 when they issued an All-Star Patch for the members of the National and American League teams.  While the cards didn't really look like a patch, they were still really fun to collect.
2008 Topps Matt Holliday National League All-Star Patch

2008 Topps Justin Verlander American League All-Star Patch

Note the bottom corner of the Holliday Patch card differs from the Verlander patch.  The World Series logo was added to the bottom of his card since the Rockies appeared in the World Series in the fall of 2007.  Kind of unique.  Topps also issued a set of Red Sox patches commemorating their 2007 World Series Championship.  

2008 Topps Jason Varitek World Series Patch

Topps continued their venture into manupatches in 2009.  They issued two forms of patches that year in the form of letter patches and All-Star and Postseason patches.  The manupatches took on more of a patch appearance.  The letter patch sets were very similar to the By The Letter set that Upper Deck used in their SP Authentic releases.  The Topps letter patches, unsigned, featured many great Hall of Famers.  I worked on putting together a few of these sets for some different Cardinals players and Browns Hall of Famer George Sisler.  

2009 Topps Legendary Letters Commemorative Patch Rogers Hornsby

The All-Star and Postseason Patches were also pretty cool and continued into the 2010 Topps releases. I enjoyed the 2010 All-Star and Postseason patches a little bit more than the 2009 version.  The 2009 manupatches had a strong focus on the All-Star games.  For example, Topps did issue a Postseason patch for the Cardinals in 2009 that featured Stan Musial's 1942 appearance in the World Series.  The Cardinals All-Star Patch release in 2009 actually featured Frank Robinson as an Oriole and not a Cardinals player.  

The 2010 manupatches aligned the players and teams to a specific event that was likely memorable for for fans.  Willie Stargell was decked out in an all yellow Pirates polyester jersey with a 70s inspired 1979 Word Series patch.  Where there Cubs cards?  My two favorite Postseason patches were the Evan Longoria 2009 American League Championship Series patch and the 1982 World Series Patch of Ozzie Smith.  

2010 Topps Ozzie Smith 1982 World Series Patch

2010 Topps Evan Longoria 2008 ALCS Patch

Topps also release a set of hat patches in 2010, but I wasn't a huge fan of the set.  Some of the logos followed the traditional hat logos, but some of them mimicked the holiday hats that the Major League teams wear on Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day.  Pretty ridiculous when you team up a modern tradition with a player like Mickey Mantle, Frank Robinson, or many other retired greats from a previous era.  

The 2010 Topps Update featured manu-bat barrels.  Really cool.  Topps also offered variations on the barrels with limited print runs.  Plain wood barrels were numbered to 99, black to 25, and pink to 1.  Excellent concept from Topps to give the patches a bit of a break.  

2010 Topps Update Alfonso Soriano ManuBat Card 

Topps returned to the patches in 2011 and went with a retro theme picking out cool logos from the past and pairing them with a current player on the franchise.  There were many cool patches issued throughout the set and were really fun to collect not only across a favorite team, but also remembering some of the cool logos in other teams pasts.  Thought about going with the Mariners pitchfork, but here are two equally cool examples:

2011 Topps Evan Longoria 1998 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Patch

2011 Topps Andrew McCutchen 1984 Pittsburgh Pirates Patch

This year Topps went manucrazy for some baseball history.  They started out with three manu-products in their initial Topps base products.  First, they had player patches that featured the last names of Hall of Famers stitched in cursive across an older piece of fabric.  These reminded somewhat of the 2008 manupatches, because they were patches in name only.  Not really very patch like at all.  Not their best effort, but just a warm-up for the manu-excellence that would follow.  

2012 Topps Historic Stitches Bob Gibson Patch 

The other two manu-products followed closer to the bat barrel products issued in the 2010 Update set.  They took a piece of baseball and turned it into a cool product.  For example, the second product in the initial Topps base releases this year was a set of Retired Rings.  This set featured some of the all-time greats of the game with a cool piece of ring with the player's retired jersey number on the ring.  Topps also issued a similar set of patches in their retail boxes, but the reitred number was stitched and not displayed on a ring.  I love the rings, but the retail numbers are also excellent.

2012 Topps Commemorative Retired Number Patch Stan Musial

2012 Topps Retired Rings Stan Musial

Topps also issued an excellent set of World Series pins in their base set this year.  Assuming your team has won a World Series in recent years, then they likely have at least one card in this set.  The pins are metal and generally follow the same design pattern across the different eras of players shown on the cards.  For example, the 1967 Cardinals pin on the Bob Gibson card is nearly identical to the Albert Pujols pin for the 2006 World Championship team.  It would be cool if the pins were somehow unique, but this manu-concept was another excellent collectible for fans.  

2012 Topps Bob Gibson 1967 World Series Pin

Which brings us to the end and in my opinion the best manu-product Topps has issued over the past five years.  I really enjoyed tracking down these two cards from the 2012 Topps Update set featuring Ozzie Smith and Stan Musial.  The cards hail from the Gold Hall of Fame Plaque Set.

2012 Topps Update Stan Musial Gold Hall of Fame Plaque

2012 Topps Update Ozzie Smith Gold Hall of Fame Plaque

I have had a stand alone blog post for a Sandy Koufax autograph, but never a manupatch.  However, these cards might be worthy of such a distinction.  I have been impressed by how much Topps has been able to evolve the manupatch cards over the past five years and think that this latest effort is by far their best effort.  Definitely worthy of a tip of the cap to Topps for producing a quality product and continuing to innovate the manupatches.  Looking forward to what the 2013 releases bring.  


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