By some minor miracle, I actually managed to find some 2023 Topps Heritage on a Target shelf last week.
I was so surprised at the sight that I might've gone a little overboard - I bought five hanger boxes(!) - but still felt justified since this mid '70s period of Heritage is one I've been waiting for since I was a young fan of the brand. I seemed to be one of the few who enjoyed last year's '73 tribute, and I was eager to see what the '74 edition had in store, and share my findings.
Yet, as someone who didn't actually grow up with these '70s sets in real time, I always feel a little silly writing Heritage posts because I'm admittedly nowhere near the most qualified judge in the room.
Still, whether you're 30 or 60 or 90 years old, there are some universal truths to Heritage - one being that these fake-background photos Topps keeps insisting on using in this set are weird and just not that interesting.
Combine that with the inexplicably blank city name on Angels cards this year (see: Ohtani) and you have the usual flubs that Topps just can't seem to nail down.
But that's not even what I hate most about 2023 Heritage.
No, that dubious honor has to go to the fact that all the Postseason and World Series highlight cards are short-prints this year. I look forward to these highlights cards every single year, and to know I'll never see most of them - because we know how tough Heritage SPs tend to be - is a gut punch to this longtime Heritage devotee (though I did mercifully manage to pull a couple from my hanger boxes).
If every other Heritage flaw is disappointing, then this one is just plain aggravating.
But after hopping over the fence of negatives, I found that there's actually quite a bit I like about 2023 Heritage.
Inserts are unnecessary for a supposed "throwback" brand, but I still kinda like them in Heritage - as per my annual tradition, I'll be attempting to complete the "News Flashbacks" set, and dig the Davey Lopes cameo on that Aaron!
Maybe I'm being too lenient here, but in the end I feel like the good parts of this year's Heritage are terrific enough to make me give Topps a pass for the bad parts.
Like they did last year, I think Topps nailed the action shots this time around with a fun (and, more importantly, varied) blend of pictures that ring true to actual '74s.
The key to what makes the action cards so great this year is that you can actually see the entire player on most of them.
At risk of sounding like a broken record, one of the problems I have with the modern hobby is that almost all the photos are zoomed-in and repetitious after a while, resulting in just plain unmemorable stuff. But a lot of what you'll find in 2023 Heritage is zoomed-out joy that matches the beauty of so much actual vintage.
It's the main reason I think you can safely place this set into the fun category.
The horizontals in this year's Heritage are especially choice - that Jeremiah Estrada is glorious and might be my favorite of any of the cards I pulled (major '74 Milt Pappas vibes!).
Here's a card that, theoretically, shouldn't work - it uses a photo taken from across the diamond, Witt's body weirdly contorted and his tongue is sticking out, and there's a headless umpire in the background.
But damn if I don't absolutely love this thing (and not just because it also fits into my "42" mini-collection). It proves there's sometimes a backward beauty to baseball cards, in that the most off-kilter stuff tends to impress us. I point to the distant Bobby Witt Jr., the off-center Jeremiah Estrada, and so many other examples here for proof.
Unlike a lot of what you'll find these days, 2023 Heritage understands that fun cards like these make a set of baseball cards a true experience, and not just a fistful of cardboard to be looked at.