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Bob D’Angelo

Bob is a longtime member of the Florida sports media, having served as a reporter and copy editor for more than 30 years. His true sports passion, however, is the history of the various games, exhibited by his in-depth book reviews and hobby of collecting cards and other sports memorabilia. He blogs for TBO.com on both subjects, transferring his work for the Tampa Tribune to the realm of cyberspace.


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Topps rolls out apps for iPad, iPhones

Posted Apr 9, 2012 by Bob D'Angelo

Updated Apr 9, 2012 at 08:40 PM

When it comes to smart phones, I am still fairly dumb. Although I have an Android and can access the Internet and text, I’m sure I’m not completely taking advantage of the vast number of apps out there. Predictably, my kids run circles around me when it comes to new technology.



I’ll tell you what, though. I’ve still got ’em beat on history, politics and trivia, you know, things my generation learned by reading books. So, take that …

But realistically, the future lies with digital technology. Taking a cue from that reality, Topps has introduced a pair of apps that the venerable sports card company hopes will appeal to a broader — and younger — cross section of the population.

Making their debut are Topps Pennant and Topps Bunt. For now, both apps are available only on iPhones and iPads. Topps Pennant will cost $3.99 (although right now it is being offered at $2.99 for a limited time), while Topps Bunt is free.

Topps has indicated that the apps eventually will be available for Android phones and tablets.

Topps Pennant is a digital box score app that includes plays from every team, game and season since 1952 — the first “real” year of Topps baseball cards (fans of the 1951 Topps Red Back and Blue Back cards are howling at me, I know …). That amounts to a staggering 115,000 games including this year’s results.

I watched the demo for the product, and it reminds me of a smart phone version of retrosheet.org. And if you’ve ever used Retrosheet, it’s a great way to find out a game result, check a player’s batting and pitching line that day, and even note the standings from the day of your choice.

The demo video for Topps Pennant was slick, informative, and amusing, too. A man is scrolling through teams and chooses the Red Sox, then starts leafing through previous seasons. Fine, I thought, he’s going to check the game where the Red Sox finally broke the Curse of the Bambino.

But, no! He chooses the 1986 season and fast forwards to October. To Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. To Mookie Wilson, who grounds the ball to …

You know the rest.

In the demo, this is called “The ones you wish you could forget.”  And the play reads, “Mookie Wilson reached base on an error. Ray Knight scored.”

I am sure Bill Buckner is thanking Topps for its discretion.

Fear not, Red Sox Nation. The next part of the demo will be more to your liking. It’s titled: “And the ones you’ll always remember.” Scroll ahead to Oct. 17, 2004, and you can read this: “Dave Roberts stole second base.” Boston fans can smile now.

Here is a link to the Topps Pennant demo:

http://vimeo.com/39745318

Topps Bunt is more of a fantasy league app. It features rows of baseball cards with biographical information provided. It allows users to draft teams, trade players and even compete against other people. Topps has termed this app “an irreverent social game.”

Of the two apps, Topps Bunt would appear to appeal more to a younger set of collectors, since it can be played on an iPad.

Here is a link to the Topps Bunt app:

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/topps-bunt/id514398862?mt=8

The key here for Topps will be to generate interest for a younger generation that did not grow up with a love for baseball cards that their parents and grandparents did. While the baseball card boom peaked in the early 1990s, its decline led to more specialized and expensive cards that in many cases, priced kids out of the market.

If you’re a 50-year-old who still collects with childlike enthusiasm, that’s great. But if you’re a teen interested in “Call of Duty” or Angry Birds, well, baseball cards are not a priority.

Can Topps change that perception? I’m not sure, but giving potential collectors an avenue to become interested in the hobby is a good thing.

For a thorough look at Topps’ new apps, I recommend a long article that appeared in Sunday’s New York Times. Here is the link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/09/business/media/apps-take-positions-in-the-topps-baseball-lineup.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=topps&st=cse

It’s an easy-to-read article that takes a complex concept (well, it’s complex to me …) and simplifies it. It’s well worth the read.

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