Topps Updates Yanks, Mets Sets, Adds Teams to Archives Collection Series 2

Topps-YankeesThe Topps Company, Inc. today unveiled a new series of limited edition apparel, hats and wall art to their Topps Archives Collection, which was launched last spring. The new Series 2 launch adds in the legendary MLB teams from the Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals and Minnesota Twins, as well as updating the original seven championship clubs that were put forward earlier this year. Topps mined its archives to create all new collectible products that are inspired by the greatest teams and most memorable moments from America’s national pastime earlier this year, and the response has given rise to this latest limited edition release.

The 1977 Yankees and 1986 Mets are part of the Series 2 updates; both were featured in Series 1.

In addition, Topps will be offering online one of a kind wall art every day during the postseason with the “MLB Playoff Player of the Day,” as selected by Topps and Bloomberg Sports, the world’s leaders in sports analytic technology and the newest member of the STATS global network.

Following the completion of every day of the postseason, fans can go to Topps.com to see who has been selected both by a combination of popularity as well as statistical analysis and download that player’s custom wall art to be shipped to them the next day. The player and wall art will also be featured every day on Bsports’ “Stats Insights,” show on Fantasy Sports Network. Hosted by Shannon Somerville, “Stats Insights” is BSports nightly look at all things in sports analytics at 6:30 pm EDT.

“We see big growth in the collectable area for us as a brand, and are proud to be able to bring this new series to fans as the MLB postseason gets going,” said Jeff Heckman, Manager of Marketing, Topps Digital.  “The access to such iconic images and items gives us a unique position in the marketplace, and the response from fans of a certain age wanting to both re-live and share their memories of their favorite teams with a new generation has been very encouraging. Between the collector’s series and the wall art of the day, fans can have the best of past and present right at their fingertips.”

The Topps Archives Collection, Series 2 honors the following Major League Baseball teams:

  • 1975 Boston Red Sox: “Stay Fair”
  • 1980 Philadelphia Phillies “Back On Top”
  • 1982 St. Louis Cardinals “We’re Red Hot”
  • 1987 Minnesota Twins   “No Place like Dome”

The Topps Archives Collection, Series 2 will be sold in box sets containing the following items:  1 Wax Pack Poster Set (5 posters),  6 Team Patches, 6 Team Buttons, 1 Team Pennant,1 Team T-shirt, 1 Team Hat. It will be boxed and limited to only 99 kits, with the series never to be sold again.

The Topps Archives Collection, Series 2 pays tribute to superstars and unsung heroes alike, capturing players in their heyday, just as fans remember them. The individual collections feature players as well known and diverse as Carlton Fisk, Ozzie Smith, Mike Schmidt, Bert Blyleven and many others.

The Topps Archives Collection, Series 2 is available now on Topps.com.  Fans can collect them all individually or buy each team’s complete box set, just like baseball cards.

To see The Topps Archive Collection video, visit: https://vimeo.com/91329596

Topps and Bloomberg Sports Create Partnership to Revolutionize Baseball Trading Card Statistics with Advanced Analytics

Topps-Bloomberg Screen Shot 2014-09-19 at 4.55.50 PM 2The Topps Company, Inc. and Bloomberg Sports, the world’s leaders in sports analytic technology and the newest member of the STATS global network, today formally unveiled a partnership to provide custom-designed advanced analytics on select trading card offerings for 2014. The new-look analytics have been featured on the backs of Topps Major League Soccer cards, which launched earlier this season, and content will be showcased now on the back of the 2014 Bowman Chrome Baseball, which releases at the end of September, and other select 2014 Bowman trading card products.

“This is a great way to marry the traditional collector with a new audience looking for something different in trading cards, be it baseball or other sports,” said Bill Squadron, STATS EVP and head of Bloomberg Sports. “Our analytic work in a wide range of sports can provide a whole set of unique and compelling data for fans to discuss and enhance their enjoyment of the game, and there is no more elite platform to deliver that data on than a hallmark brand like Topps.”

“Every year we strive to find new ways to engage both the casual fan and the ardent collector, and we feel that the partnership with Bloomberg Sports accomplishes that. These revolutionized card backs has given us another unique point of engagement that is both eye-catching and educational and fun for all,” said Zvee Geffen, Topps MLS and Bowman Brand Manager.  “Analytics are an essential part of today’s conversations in every sport and this new content will document that emerging trend, and the new data we are providing will help enhance the experience for all.”

The just-released Bowman Chrome baseball card sets will feature six different analytical templates created by Bloomberg Sports, including spray charts that document veteran power hitters’ home run locations and strikeout pitchers’ pitch selections. For MLB® prospects, statistics will include organizational rankings and comparisons to minor league averages.

Among the stars featured in 2014 Bowman Chrome are MLB® rookies Jose Abreu, George Springer and Masahiro Tanaka, veterans Mike Trout, Yu Darvish and Bryce Harper, and prospects Byron Buxton and Kris Bryant. The set also features autographed cards and an assortment of colorful parallel cards.

The 2014 Bowman Chrome Baseball set will be available in hobby stores this week. Topps® MLS Soccer, which also included unique analytics from Bloomberg Sports, are available at retail outlets now.

Baseball Integration Tied To Football In New Film

The_Forgotten_Four_posters_426973One of the landmark moments not for just sports, but for civil rights in America, occurred in 1947 when Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey signed Jackie Robinson to a contract and made Robinson the first player in the modern era of baseball to break the color line. While there were players of color in the early days of professional baseball, Moses Fleetwood Walker in the 1880’s being one of the most prominent, “The National Pastime” had established hard lines against integration for decades before the Dodgers made their move, and Robinson entered the history books.

The story has been documented in film and print countless times, and is memorialized every year on Jackie Robinson Day by every team in Major League Baseball, one of the most all-encompassing and fitting tributes to a pioneer and a leader and those around him. But what about the other sports and those who took the heat so that others would be able to play?

In the NBA it was Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, in the NHL it was Willie O’Rhee, and in pro football, a sport whose integration tied to baseball very closely, it was not one but four players, all of whom had an impact on both Rickey and Robinson directly.

Their stories are told this week in a new documentary from Ross Greenburg, “Forgotten Four,” which debuts Tuesday night on EPIX. Greenburg is no stranger to baseball fans, having done countless pieces on the game over the years, with one of the most notable being the heart-wrenching “Nine Innings From Ground Zero” while he was at HBO.

So how does football’s integration impact baseball? Here are a few ties that lay out in the documentary about Woody Strode and Kenny Washington and the LA Rams and Marion Motley and Bill Willis and the Cleveland Browns.

(1) Strode and Washington were teammates of Robinson at UCLA. Before Jackie and brother Mack starred on the baseball diamond they were elite athletes on the gridiron for the Bruins. Strode and Washington were key members of UCLA’s football success, as was Jackie, who helped build the football dynasty in Westwood way before John Wooden created the “Pyramid of Success” at Pauley Pavilion.

(2) Motley and Willis’ success with the Browns in 1946 had a direct impact on having Rickey move forward in ’47 with his Dodgers plan. In the film, Football Hall of Fame historian Joe Horrigan tells a story about Rickey, who also owned the Brooklyn Dodgers football club of the expansion All-America Football Conference. In ’46, The Browns, also in the AAFC before joining the NFL, played at Ebbetts Field against the Dodgers and Rickey was so impressed by the way Paul Brown’s team handled  their African-American teammates that he saw the time was right to integrate baseball. Horrigan recounts Rickey approaching Motley after the Dodgers brought Robinson in and thanking him for showing that integration in pro sports was possible.

(3)The Four actually broke the color barrier the year before the Dodgers grand experiment, although it gets less play until this landmark documentary. Why the four have been forgotten is up for some debate, but football was there the year before baseball.

“I think there were a number of reasons as to why this story isn’t widely known,” Greenburg said. “First in 1947 baseball was the national pastime, football was an afterthought, so Jackie’s move was much more of a headline and at that time had a bigger impact on society. Second, as it says in the film, Robinson did it alone; these four players did it together, so sometimes the impact of one person is seen as bigger than as a group, although that is probably not true as these men endured bigotry and isolation and challenges that were just as big as anything Jackie experienced in baseball. Their story is certainly none less compelling, and it is great that EPIX has given us the chance to tell it now.”

Some critics have said that the football color line is less impactful because the gap from no players until these four came along was really only about 14 years, as players of color, although small in number, did play in pro football in the 1920’s and early ‘30’s until Redskins owner George Preston Marshall pressured other owners to keep blacks out. Baseball’s color barrier was much longer. However it doesn’t change the fact that these four players turned the ride and set the stage in football, like Robinson and then Larry Doby in the AL, did in baseball.

Regardless of semantics, the film is a great view for all fans and will give baseball fans pause when integration is discussed going forward. The Forgotten Four and their ties to Jackie Robinson, now linked forever in video, just like they have been for decades in history.

Alex Torres’ isoBLOX® Protective Cap Goes On Exhibit at Cooperstown

Torres cap on display at HoFAlex Torres of the San Diego Padres made history June 21 when he became the first player to wear the new, MLB-approved isoBLOX® Protective Cap in a regular season baseball game. Torres unexpectedly donned the protective hat when called to the mound by manager Bud Black in the top of the eighth inning that Saturday night at Petco Park. The actual cap worn by Torres that night has been donated to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York for preservation in posterity.

The standout Venezuelan middle reliever and the Padres donated the cap, which made its exhibit debut this week as part of the “This Year in Baseball” case of the “Today’s Game” exhibit, featuring highlights from the 2014 season.  The Museum takes in about 30 artifacts annually from the major league season to celebrate the accomplishments, milestones and historic events of the current campaign.

“The protective elements incorporated into the cap worn by Alex Torres during the 2014 season shows how the game’s equipment continues to evolve,” said Brad Horn, vice president for communications and education at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. “As we document the game as it happens through artifacts, his cap represents an important moment in baseball’s changing technology to protect the player. While it is a highlight of this season in baseball, the cap’s significance will continue to show how baseball equipment has evolved throughout the years.”

Luckiest Man Exhibit A Tribute To Lou Gehrig And Pete Frates

Gehrig-Speech-DayTo commemorate one of the greatest speeches in American history, the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center has opened a new exhibit, “The Luckiest Man,” a tribute to Lou Gehrig’s iconic farewell 75 years ago.

The simplicity and humility of Gehrig’s speech still resonate today, especially with the heightened  awareness of the terrible disease that claimed his life, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), or also commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

The exhibit contains artifacts and rare photos of Gehrig’s life and career, which is forever remembered by his stepping reluctantly in front of the microphone before 61,000 at Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939 and calling himself “the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.”

The Yankee captain, the son of German immigrants and one of the gentlest men ever to wear a major-league uniform, had played in a record 2,130 consecutive games, belted 493 home runs while compiling a batting average of .340.

At the time, he was 36 years old and dying, yet insisted that his disease would not rob him of all the good fortune, good friends and great love he had enjoyed throughout his short life.

The exhibit also tells the story of another stricken baseball captain – former Boston College star Pete Frates – whose courage in the face of tragedy helped inspire the viral Ice Bucket Challenge, the national phenomenon that has generated greater awareness and raised well over $100 million for ALS research.  Frates was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease in 2012.

Like Gehrig, Frates, now 29, considers himself blessed to have played the game he loved and to be supported  by family and friends. Thanks to the power of social media, Frates now has thousands of voices speaking on his behalf, reflecting Gehrig’s humanity and legacy of raising awareness of a devastating disease.

The exhibit runs through Dec. 1. The Museum is open to the public Wednesdays through Sundays from 12 noon to 5 p.m.

Gehrig Day Yankees Jerseys Auction To Benefit ALS Research

SteinerSports_ALSAuction_JerseysThe fight against ALS has gained national attention through the “Ice Bucket Challenge,” and ‎Steiner Sports is proud to support the fight by‎ auctioning off game-used pinstripe jerseys of over 30 Yankee players and coaches worn on ‎Lou Gehrig Day (July 2) at Yankee Stadium. These exclusive jerseys, including
those worn by 2014 All-Stars Derek Jeter, Masahiro Tanaka and Dellin Betances, will be included as part of Steiner Sports “Derek Jeter Farewell Auction” beginning on September 3 and running through October 7.

All proceeds from the Lou Gehrig Day jerseys will benefit the ALS Association in the fight against Lou Gehrig’s Disease. To participate in the auction visit auction.steinersports.com‎.

Cyclones To ‘Slime’ Fans, Benefit ALSA Sans Ice Buckets Wednesday

Cyclones All That JerseysIn the world of minor league baseball, the Brooklyn Cyclones play in very rarefied air, and we are not talking just about the smell of the sea that wafts in from Coney Island over the outfield fence. The Mets’ New York Penn League affiliate has to constantly find ways to come up with promotions that have enough value to pull from the millions of other choices New Yorkers have to spend their discretionary income. They aren’t even the only show in Brooklyn any more, with the Nets at the Barclays Center. But they are a completely unique, and still very fun and affordable subway ride away for tens of thousands of fans and families.

So with that challenge as a backdrop, the Cyclones have sought to raise the minor league promo ante again this year, succeeding with promotions like “Seinfeld Night,” which draw not only a big crowd but big exposure through the media for the team and the event. This Wednesday night they will have yet another, when Nickelodeon, treading further into the fun mix of kids and sports, has their ’90s Are All That Night, when the Cyclones take on the Staten Island Yankees at 7 p.m. Kel Mitchell, star of iconic Nickelodeon ‘90s shows “All That”and” Kenan & Kel,” will throw out the first pitch.

It will be a great night of slime, double dare, giveaways and even a stop by by Keenan Mitchell, star of the hit show “Keenan and Kel.” However the biggest moment of the night will come from the Cyclones themselves, who will done orange and green custom jerseys for the night, and then will auction them off for the charity of choice this month,  the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association (ALSA), and no ice bucket challenge is need.

While some may say the Mets are in need of a sliming now and again (Nick did have a night at Citi Field earlier this year by the way), this Cyclones promo is again all in fun, with a national partner that once again shows how Major league Brooklyn can be in the promo department. Another homer for the Cyclones, who constantly play to a higher level off the field.

New MLB-Mandated Security Measures to Be Implemented at Yankee Stadium Beginning on Tuesday

Metal-DetectorThe New York Yankees today announced that as part of Major League Baseball’s initiative to standardize security procedures at all 30 Major League parks for the start of the 2015 season, metal detectors will be added at various entry points at Yankee Stadium beginning on Tuesday for the start of the Yankees’ upcoming homestand.

These procedures, which result from MLB’s continuing work with the Department of Homeland Security to standardize security practices across the game, will be in addition to bag checks that are now uniform throughout MLB.

The Yankees are introducing metal detection at select Stadium entrances this season – before the 2015 mandate – in an effort to acclimate staff and fans to the new procedure. Beginning in 2015, all game-day entrances to Yankee Stadium will follow this protocol.

Due to the enhanced security measures, the Yankees strongly urge all fans to begin budgeting extra time for entry into the ballpark when planning their trip to the Stadium.

“Nothing is more important to us at Yankee Stadium than the safety of the fans we serve,” said Yankees Chief Operating Officer Lonn Trost. “To that end, we are committed to the procedures that Major League Baseball and the Department of Homeland Security have asked us to implement. We want our fans to feel safe in Yankee Stadium, and our staff is dedicated to maintaining the highest security standards possible.”

Beginning with Tuesday’s game vs. Houston, fans will be asked to remove cell phones and all large metal objects from their pockets before walking through metal detectors at select Yankee Stadium entryways. As has been the policy of recent years, all bags will be checked, and only MLB-compliant bags – 16 in. x 16 in. x 8 in. or smaller – will be admitted.

Those who choose not to go through a walk-through metal detector have the option of being manually checked with a hand-held detector.

Hall of Fame Announces Changes to Voting Process

imageThe National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s Board of Directors today announced changes to the rules for election for recently retired players, reducing the length of stay on the ballot for players from a maximum of 15 to 10 years, while installing a new balloting and registration process for Baseball Writers’ Association of America voting members.

The changes, effective immediately and to be reflected in 2015 Hall of Fame voting, are the first made by the Hall of Fame to the voting process since 1991 and just the second time the Baseball Hall of Fame has amended the rules for election since 1985.

“The Board is committed to keeping the policies and voting procedures of the Hall of Fame relevant,” said Jane Forbes Clark, Chairman of the Board of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. “We believe the BBWAA has done an excellent job of honoring the criteria advanced by the Hall of Fame – player’s record, contributions to the teams on which the player played, character, sportsmanship and integrity – to determine individuals who belong in the Hall of Fame by the highest threshold, a 75 percent majority. The Board believes these changes are necessary to ensure the integrity of the voting process moving forward.”

Candidates for Hall of Fame election who receive votes on at least five percent of ballots cast had previously been eligible to remain on the ballot for a maximum of 15 years of consideration by the BBWAA. Going forward, the maximum years of consideration for a player who meets that criteria is now 10 years. Candidates would then move to the Era Committee system for review in perpetuity. Three candidates presently on the BBWAA ballot in years 10-15 will be grandfathered into this system and remain under consideration by the BBWAA for up to the full 15 years. Don Mattingly (15th year in 2015), Alan Trammell (14th year in 2015) and Lee Smith (13th year in 2015) will be eligible to remain on the BBWAA ballot for a maximum of 15 years of consideration.

BBWAA members earn a Hall of Fame vote from its organization, which is independent of the Hall of Fame, by maintaining 10 consecutive years on a baseball beat. Those Hall of Fame eligible voters will now be required to complete a registration form and sign a code of conduct. The names of those BBWAA members casting Hall of Fame ballots will now be made public with the election results; however, an individual’s ballot will not be revealed by the Hall of Fame.

Ernst and Young will continue to verify the count, with added responsibilities in verifying the process. The 2015 ballot will be announced by the BBWAA in late-November and those who have completed the registration process will receive their ballot around that time. Ballots are to be postmarked by December 31. The 2015 BBWAA Hall of Fame results will be announced at a yet to be determined date in early January.

Of the 211 players in the Hall of Fame, 115 have been elected by the BBWAA, 96 by Veterans Committees. Of the 115 BBWAA electees, 102 (89%) have been elected in years 1-10 and 13 (11%) have been elected in years 11-15.

The BBWAA has held the exclusive voting privilege to consider recently retired players for election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame since 1936. Since that time, the BBWAA has presided over 70 elections in 79 election years, with no elections being held in 1940, 1941, 1943, 1944, 1957, 1959, 1961, 1963 and 1965.

In the nascent stages of Hall of Fame voting, election rules were not codified. By World War II, they began to take shape, with evolution over ensuing years featuring changes to the eligibility criteria and qualifications for earning election. The rules for election are maintained and governed by the Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors.

The last rule change implemented by the Hall of Fame came in 1991, formalizing a long-standing unwritten rule that anyone on baseball’s ineligible list cannot be an eligible candidate for Hall of Fame election. Prior to that, in 1985, the Board made candidates eligible for future elections if they were named on five percent or more of ballots cast in preceding elections.

A Yankee Fan On Screens Big And Small

CaviezelJim Caveziel has played a legendary golfer (Bobby Jones), has traded hoops time with the likes of John Stockton and others (from his time growing up in the state of Washington), spent hours listening to John Wooden (who coached his dad at UCLA), and now plays legendary high school coach Bob Ladoceur in the upcoming film When The Game Stands Tall.

Yet for his wide ranging connections to sport, baseball seemed to be in the distance for the current star of “Person of Interest.”  However that could not be further from the truth, as we learned when the veteran actor took the stage in June at, of all places, Yankee Stadium for the Beyond Sport Conference.

Caveziel was joined by ESPN’s Kevin Negandhi to talk about the values that sport played in his life, especially with the roles he has engaged in during a prosperous career, and baseball fit well into the conversation.

“It’s quite amazing to be at Yankee Stadium, when you think about the history and tradition of what this team stands for,” Caveziel said. “Right now I get to play a legendary coach at the high school level in Bob Ladouceur, and when you compare that to the legendary coaches that have worn the pinstripes—Joe Torre, Casey Stengel, Billy Martin, Joe McCarthy—it’s nice to be even associated with such legends by being here and talking about their craft.”

The feature, which comes out in late August nationwide, is about De La Salle High School in Northern California, and tells the story of how the team put together the longest winning streak in sports history under Ladouceur, but then had to find its way back to moral, academic and personal success after a series of tragedies rocked the team. Directed by Thomas Carter, the film is much more about the values of team and the challenges of everyday life than the glitz and glamour associated with elite athletics on every level. Caviezel, along with co-stars like Laura Dern, Michael Chiklis and Clancy Brown, bring the positives and the negatives of those life lessons home.

“It is a film about a high school football team, yes, but the message transcends sports, and I’m sure will resonate with any coach or parent who has had to deal with the issues we have in life,” Caviezel added. “However I think for elite coaches who have had success, the message can be even greater, because maintaining that level of success and the pressure you have placed on yourself and your team can be very daunting. It’s something you see and understand at Yankee Stadium for sure, with all those banners hanging. There are a lot of ghosts looking down on the team, and keeping that tradition alive can be very taxing.”

While growing up a Mariners fan in the Pacific Northwest, Caveziel always admired the Yankees tradition and now as he makes his home in New York, he has come to call the Yankees more of his team, both for their success on the field and the way they carry themselves in the community.

“Just being in the stadium and looking out onto that field brings such a sense of awe, and when you factor in what has gone n on the field, and how a person like Derek Jeter carries himself in his life, it’s pretty inspiring,” he added. “Plus you factor in all the former Mariners who have come to New York and seen success, from Ichiro to Randy Johnson and on and on, and it’s hard not to get caught up in all that the Yankees are about, even for someone who has such deep ties to Seattle.”

So while fans will see Caveziel as a high school coach in the coming weeks, could there be a baseball story in the future as well? “Sports as a theme in entertainment can be very powerful when done right as a metaphor for life,” he added. “I think people will see that in When The Game Stands Tall, and there certainly are any number of baseball stories that fit the mold, so who knows what the future brings. It certainly would be interesting to see what’s out there, and I’d welcome the challenge if the timing and the story fit.”

But for now, Yankee fans can take pride in seeing one of theirs as a star both on TV, and now in an upcoming film on a legendary coach.