Tuesday, November 12, 2013
2013 Panini Hometown Heroes: Driving without a license
Panini is just full of surprises.
Triple Play is one of the funnest and most affordable sets out there. Cooperstown is the all-legend checklist that I've long been begging for from Topps.
And, although I haven't sampled much of Panini's other products, I'm sure they have some finer points as well.
As it happens, a brand-new Panini set called Hometown Heroes recently hit the shelves. Even from just the first little blurbs I heard, I knew this was going to be a must-have product for me.
Trouble was, I thought it'd be a hobby-exclusive set. After all, Hometown Heroes hobby packs come with a staggering 24 cards per. There's no way a retail outlet would offer 24-card packs.
For a while, I was resigned to (hopefully) picking up singles from the checklist at the card show I'll be attending in a couple weeks. I don't have a source for hobby packs at the moment.
But, during a recent trip to Target with my dad, I was caught way off-guard. They actually had Hometown Heroes packs. Sure, they only had eight cards each, but who cares? Hometown Heroes was here!
Although I'd offered to pay for them, my dad was once again gracious enough to treat me to a few packs of the product.
I knew we'd be in for a treat.
We'll start with the inserts.
After looking through the set's "Nicknames" checklist, Michael Morse is the only non-binder guy Panini included. But, as fate would have it, he's the one I pulled.
No matter, though. These are sweet and genuinely funny cards, regardless of who happens to be pictured on the front.
Here's something we haven't seen in a while.
An entire insert set devoted to managers. That's exactly what Panini decided to do with their "Calling the Shots" series.
For just the novelty alone, I'm a big fan of these.
Managers have rarely gotten their dues in this hobby.
The last insert I pulled was this "Curtain Call" issue of Mr. David Freese.
I quite enjoy the black borders on these. They really make the card pop.
As great as the inserts are, though, they're not the real draw of Hometown Heroes.
From what I can find, this set has a 300-card base checklist.
Numbers 1-260 are standard commons, while 261-300 are short-prints.
I could do without the SPs, but I must say that this is one of the best checklists I've seen in a while. End to end, it's hard to find many flaws.
First off, the design. Panini obviously took a page from '65 Topps with the banner for the team names. I'm fully on board with that concept. As you might know, 1965 remains my all-time favorite year for Topps.
The yellow backdrop is a doozy as well. While it certainly stands out, the colors don't impede on the actual photographs all that much.
It's a win all around.
As you might have guessed with "Big Papi", Hometown Heroes contains a good deal of current stars in its checklist.
And, in accordance with the set's name, the backs give a bit of insight into the hometowns of each respective player. The Kershaw, for example, harks back to his high school days of playing both baseball and football in Texas.
Another plus is the card stock Panini chose to use for this set. These singles have a very old-school and almost vintage feel to them.
Which is nice, because I must say I'm getting a little tired of all the glossy fronts these days.
For me, though, the biggest draw of Hometown Heroes is one they've used before.
There are a ton of older heroes in this checklist. As I've said in the past, it's a great way for Panini to get the most out of their sets without the benefit of a license.
Of course, one of their big advantages over Topps is the fact that they can print Pete Rose cards.
As you'll probably hear (or have already heard) in other reviews of this set, Hometown Heroes doesn't include your standard catalog of past greats.
I found myself wondering "When's the last time he had a card?" many times while opening these packs.
Aside from a short-print in this year's Archives release, I can't recall the most recent Denny McLain I own. And I honestly can't remember the last time I saw a card of "The Penguin".
That's a shame.
I'm still not sure Topps knows guys like them even exist anymore.
I've always wondered why Mark Grace isn't included in more sets these days.
Before Hometown Heroes came around, I think my most recent card of his came from around 2007 or 2008. That's way too long.
That said, I can cut Topps some slack for not including guys like Joe Charboneau in their sets. The guy did only play in the bigs for three years, after all.
Still, that doesn't mean I don't want to see more Charboneau stuff. I doubt the guy has more than a couple dozen cards on the market.
It's nice to know that Panini's around to fill those crazy little needs of mine.
Again, I give credit to Topps for including Jim Abbott in a few of their 2013 sets.
But Panini is still keeping pace with them in the Abbott department. I was ecstatic to pull his card out of my Hometown Heroes breaks.
I miss the days when the team was simply known as the California Angels. I'm into the whole brevity thing.
All in all, Panini once again scored big time with their latest effort. Hometown Heroes is one of my personal favorite products of the year. I can't wait to find more of these puppies.
At this point, I think Panini has shown that they can play with the big dogs. Their wonderful efforts in 2013 have pushed the envelope even more.
All I can say is this.
Just give Panini a license already!