Sunday, June 10, 2007

Cooperstown 5 – Following a Tough Act, But Not a Tough Act to Follow

When TMP was trying to create a lineup for Cooperstown Series 5 that would be well received, they were performing an almost impossible task. They had set an impossibly high bar to beat with their Cooperstown 4, which was the strongest, most powerful lineup in McFarlane’s history. How do you top a lineup that includes Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Johnny Bench, Steve Carlton, Ozzie Smith and Roger Maris? OK, Maris didn’t belong on this list but he’s a Yankee so they had to stick him in there. But the rest of the lineup was just unbelievable. So how does McFarlane create a lineup that meets or beats Cooperstown 4?

Well, the short answer is, they don’t. Let’s try to be fair and take Cooperstown 4 out of the comparisons . . . Cooperstown 5 is a decent lineup, probably better than Cooperstown 1, but weaker than any other Legends lineup that has been put out.

Cooperstown starts out strong with probably the most requested baseball player on the Spawn board, Hank Aaron. Hammerin’ Hank is a no-brainer. The true home run king in baseball history, Aaron is widely admired by baseball fans for bringing class and integrity to the game, for his phenomenally consistent performance over his long career and for being the only player to legitimately break Babe Ruth’s home run record – one of the best known and most highly regarded records in the history of the game.

The #2 figure in the series is Ty Cobb. Another excellent choice, many consider Cobb to be the greatest all-around hitter in baseball history and he’s well known as well. Some collectors will get their panties in a wad over Cobb’s severe personality disorders and his overt racism and believe he shouldn’t have been included. If a player today held Cobb’s beliefs openly, he’d be drummed out of the majors. But Cobb lived in a different time and I don’t think you can judge the morality of a person from 1918 by modern standards. So I agree that Cobb was a great choice for Cooperstown 5, as most collectors probably do.

Here is one point where I’ll disagree with most collectors regarding Cobb. Most guys will want Cobb shown sliding into third base or flying through the air at a catcher with his spikes up in the air. Those are trademark poses, I agree. I don’t like it for the figure, however. If you take the other players out of those images, Cobb’s poses lose their impact. (Literally and figuratively.) I like the very famous pose of Cobb in mid-swing, with his hands separated on the bat. That would be a much better pose in my opinion. I bet I lose on that one though – I’m guessing we’ll see Cobb in his slide.

You can see the images of Cobb that I’m talking about at

The next most significant figure in Cooperstown 5 is probably Mickey Mantle 2. Lots of Spawn boardies griped about a second figure of a great player in only the fifth Cooperstown line, but I like the selection. DiMaggio has already been done in his trademark pose, as has Ted Williams and Willie Mays. Part of Mantle’s mystique was that he was a great switch hitter, so a second figure of him on the opposite side of the plate is not inappropriate at all. I’m sure there are some economics involved here as well; it probably cost a bunch to get Mantle’s license and TMP will likely have to put out more than two figures of him to recoup those costs. When you think of how many plates and figures Sports Impressions and Salvino released of Mantle, I don’t think TMP will have any problem selling out of a second version now.

From this point Cooperstown 5 fades pretty fast. We have Ryne Sandberg in the #4 slot. I really liked Ryno a lot, great player and a class act. I just don’t think he has the appeal of many other players. He’s like Ozzie Smith without the backflips. Great player, deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, but not a legendary star. If TMP wanted to do a Cub, they should have done Ernie Banks before they did Ryne Sandberg.

Dennis Eckersley . . . again, a great pitcher, historically significant because he was responsible for elevating the position of relief pitcher to one of great prominence on the team. I just don’t think he has much appeal to collectors. Don’t bitch at me – I agree, it isn’t fair that punters, kickers, linemen, relief pitchers and guys in positions like that don’t have the same enduring fan following as your quarterbacks and home run hitters, but they just don’t. Eckersley doesn’t really have much of a hook either – hell, even Rollie Fingers had a funny moustache to remember him by. In the 1980s he would have been popular; in 2008 I don’t think he will be. I can think of about 30 players who would have broader appeal then Eckersley. Maybe they were able to get the contract with Eck pretty cheap, I don’t know. I just don’t think he has a place in a Cooperstown lineup until a lot of other guys have been done. Cooperstown 15, maybe. Not Cooperstown 5.

Finishing out the series is a repaint of Mike Schmidt. I don’t blame TMP for this one. They had another player lined up for Cooperstown 5 but they couldn’t get his contract done in time. At the last minute they had to choose a repaint of a figure they’d already done, and they chose to do a Mike Schmidt in pinstripes, using their new technique for creating pinstripes that looks really good. I think this was the best choice they could make; the pinstripe uniform is probably the one best associated with Schmidt anyway so it makes sense to get one done with him that way. I would have preferred Johnny Bench in gray uniform, but for the widest selection of fans Schmidt was the best pick.

So that’s Cooperstown 5 – two great new figures, a very good second version of a previously released player, a mediocre choice, a poor choice and a repaint. I’d give this series a C+ on the strength of Aaron and Cobb.

How could they make Cooperstown 5 better? Well, we haven’t seen the poses yet. Great poses would raise the grade. Better player selection would have been helpful as well. Here are just a few guys who would have improved this lineup:

Lou Gehrig
Stan Musial
Rogers Hornsby
Cy Young
Honus Wagner
George Brett
Joe Morgan
Whitey Ford
Sandy Koufax
Willie Mays (Negro leagues surprise chase)
Christy Mathewson
Ricky Henderson (I don't like him but he has more noteriety and name recognition)
Tony Gwynn
Wade Boggs
Eddie Murray
Dave Winfield
Robin Yount
Jim Palmer
Paul Molitor
Jim Rice

Etc., etc. I could name several more, but you get the point. I'd rather see any of these guys in Cooperstown 5 than Eckersley, and many of them instead of Sandberg.

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