Topps is having a pretty, pretty, pretty good 2021 so far. It was recently announced that, in the first quarter of the year, sales went up by 55%, a clear indication that their wares are a veritable collector’s thirst trap, with the junk wax maven hawking NFTs and a specially-curated line dubbed Project70, where 51 artists and designers created limited-edition cards.
One of those artists, Eric Friedensohn, aka, Efdot, took his initial Topps offering a step further with his Iconic Stadium Series, a series of cards celebrating some of MLB’s most beloved and iconic venues. What’s more, during the design process, he even created a few unique paintings of the stadiums (most of which sold out on the visual artist’s site).
Initially, the collaboration began with Project70, with five cards getting released in December of 2020. The partnership with Topps helped push his illustration work into new avenues and styles, particularly with the sports card crowd.
“Halfway through the project, it was starting to hit me how much of an impact the Pandemic had on this community of sports fans and collectors who no longer had live games to look forward to,” Efdot says. “I haven't been to a baseball game in quite a few years, but I reflected on my childhood memories at Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium and made a series of drawings about it, originally just for fun.”
The idea was to create a series of cards that captured the energy and excitement of taking in a ball game (though why he chose to ignore the Philadelphia toilet bowl-friendly Veteran’s Stadium of 1971-2003 feels like a betrayal to this writer’s heart, but to each his own). Dubbed the Iconic Stadium Series, his latest collaboration with Topps comes loaded with nostalgic touches emblematic of the team and city—think 70s uniform baby blues and Stan Musial’s number on the Sportsman’s Park card or the Camden Yards shout-out to Pickles Pub and Boog’s BBQ.
Other cards in the series include Ebbets Field, Shea Stadium, Forbes Field, Fenway Park, Wrigley, and the OG house that Ruth built, featuring many nostalgic touches, all done in Efdot’s colorfully vibrant and playful style.
“When Topps reached out about working with them, I was excited to dive back into the world of collectibles, using all my new experience as an artist,” Efdot says. “Throughout the project, I have been able to add so many nostalgic elements onto the cards. I still have all that source material in my memory—the team logos, the uniforms, patches, pins, the close games, the losses, and victories. It's impossible to forget the smells, tastes, and sounds of a live baseball game.”
The paintings take on a few personal anecdotes, drawing heavily from his childhood in New York, as is the case with the Shea Stadium piece, enveloping the former Flushing ballpark in a massive apple. For the Mr. November piece, he draws on beloved Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter’s legacy as the first player to bat and hit a World Series home run in November, as he stepped to plate just a tick after midnight on Halloween. You can also see one of Efdot’s trademark blobs skateboarding along the bottom of the painting.
“Before 2020, my career had nothing to do with sports art,’ Efdot admits. “Baseball was so important to me as a kid. I played little league for most of my childhood and learned the ropes from my dad—a lifelong Yankees fan. We would often go to Yankee games together with my mom and brother. My brother and I collected cards and even would trade and sell them to other kids on the playground.”
It’s doubtful that Efdot will be hitting the playground anytime soon to sell his most recent creations from Topps, but you can still snag a few cards and paintings from his website. And if you can convince him to apply some paint to a canvas that happens to be in the shape of the Vet, be a mensch and let me know.