Tuesday, June 16, 2015

1963 Sport Hobbyist Famous Baseball Cards #5, Jack Barry

In the mid-60s, advanced collector and sometimes-dealer Frank Nagy published one of the first collecting magazines, Sport Hobbyist. It fit the mold of today's Old Cardboard and Net54 Baseball message boards, printing research articles, describing unusual finds, and connecting vintage collectors. Frank also printed several oddball sets and his "Famous Card Series" might be the first to specifically reprint existing baseball cards for collectors.

Most Sport Hobbyist cards depict players active before WWII, an era largely out-of-reach to modern set builders. The "Famous Cards" checklist goes a step further by replicating actual cards released many years earlier, including this 1916 Sporting News (a.k.a. M101-5) Jack Barry.

This Hobbyist type card shows Jack Barry's picture with no frame or text, possibly to avoid confusion with an authentic example from 1916. Most "Famous Cards" measure larger than the originals; compare this scan with Jack Barry as M101-5 #11.

I believe the Hobbyist printed 6 cards per year from 1963 to 1967, for a complete set of 30, and probably sent (or sold) them to subscribers. (A back scan of #7 from SCD's annual price guide is dated 1964, so the first "series" ends at #5 or #6.) Their full set also includes several E-series candy cards, a handful of the rarely-seen Tango Eggs, and the first known reprint of T206's Wagner.

Frank Nagy pulled double-duty on set backs by including both vintage set details and his Sport Hobbyist business address. He got card dimensions and set count right, but 1960s collectors probably didn't have a complete list of set variations; Old Cardboard's M101-4/5 checklist details those differences. (See also my profile of 1916 Sporting News #5, Leon Ames.)

Just for fun, I searched Google Maps for 12795 Wade St in Detroit, but didn't find anything more inspiring than a locksmith. Anyone out there know more about the Sport Hobbyist's fate?

Value: Vintage reprint sets vary in demand and price, but you might find singles for under $5 and the whole set for $100-150.

Fakes / reprints: It's already a low-value reprint, so I doubt anyone went to the further trouble of counterfeiting them.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

1968 Venezuelan Baseball #5, NL Home Run Leaders (Hank Aaron, Jim Wynn,Ron Santo, Willie McCovey)

A while back, I broke down the 1950-70s Venezuelan sets that started as Topps partnerships and evolved into local knockoffs of American issues (full list of set profiles). After years of hunting, my collection includes all those 1959-77 types except this white whale, a 1968 league leaders card starring 3 HOFers and the Toy Cannon in a black hat.

Jim Wynn's airbrushed portrait encapsulates multiple elements of the 1968 zeitgeist. First, Topps ran into union issues with the new MLBPA, denying access to new uniform photos usually taken in spring training. On the other side of the boardroom table, the revenue heyday of America's Space Race purportedly led the owner of the Astros to ask too high a price for his franchise name and logos. Those business snafus wouldn't have made sense to candy store collectors, so Topps did their best to retouch old pictures and went with "Houston" for a couple of years. All four photos on this #5, in fact, are cropped from earlier 60s Topps sets.

The white Spanish footer text identifies this as printed in Venezuela and those familiar with 1968 backs can tell the set uses darker yellow ink than American cards.

"Hecho en Venezuela, C.A. Litoven" is courtesy of the Caracas-based publisher that printed these cards. All Venezuelan-made sets are much rarer than real Topps, but some still turn up in large lots of 1960s vintage. I've found a half-dozen singles in low-grade show boxes over the last decade and you can generally flip quickly through backs looking for the darker ink.

Value: An eBay seller listed this for over $300, hoping to net a big fish. I'd probably buy one for $50 or under.

Fakes / reprints: This whole set is sort of a reprint and can be mistaken as American-made. It's more important not to overpay for real Topps as if they were Venezuelan.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

1976 Caruso Sacramento Solons Baseball #5, Bob Jones

Bob Jones the ball player or Bob Jones, your dad's bowling friend? Bob Jones could be anyone at first glance, so it's worth reading more about Bob's backstory on 1986 Topps #142 post. He was drafted by Washington twice, first by the Senators in 1967 and then by the military brass for Vietnam service in 1969. The combat left him deaf in one ear, but not dissuaded from his baseball career. Even a surfeit of sea foam green in Caruso's PCL team set couldn't hold him back.

This bicentennial-themed Sacramento Solons #5 came after Bob's 1974 MLB debut, but before his 1977 Topps #16 rookie card. Bob swung a good stick in just 26 games for Sacramento in 1976, slugging 10 homers and notching a 1.193 OPS, so they must've missed him when California called him up for half a season in halos.

Good penmanship & sweet shades

Bob flashed occasional power but low average in several seasons as a reserve outfielder, so didn't enjoy everyday duty until he switched to coaching. He's served that capacity in the Texas organization since 1988, with more than 1500 wins under his managerial belt and several tours as MLB base or position coach.

As of May 2015, Bob's the assistant hitting instructor for Texas wearing, yup, uniform #5. Above is a cameo with erstwhile Ranger owner (and President) Bush behind a lucky fan. ("Hey George, IS THAT REALLY BOB JONES?")

Value: 1970s Caruso singles cost a few dollars or $15-25 for the team set, assuming no future stars lurk within its checklist. Perfect game hurler Len Barker is the biggest name I recognize from this Solon set's checklist, so it won't break your bank. Guys with big-league experience in bold.
  1. Dave Criscione
  2. Keith Smith
  3. Dave Moharter
  4. Craig Skok
  5. Bob Jones
  6. Mike Bacsik Sr.
  7. Tommy Cruz
  8. Tommy Boggs
  9. Doug Ault
  10. Greg Pryor
  11. Charlie Bordes
  12. Art DeFilippis
  13. John Sutton
  14. Ed Nottle
  15. Jim Gideon
  16. Don Thomas
  17. Bump Wills
  18. Lew Beasley
  19. Jerry Bostic
  20. Len Barker
  21. David Clyde
  22. Rick Donnelly (Manager)
  23. Greg Mahlberg

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any Caruso fakes or reprints in the marketplace, though it'd be easy enough to do.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Happy Pinky May Day!

Welcome a new baseball holiday for 2015: I christened May 5 as Pinky May Day, given its nice confluence of fives.

Pinky played third base, scoring position 5.
Pinky played for five years, 1939-43.
Pinky is the fifth finger and May is the fifth month.

Pinky May Day!

On this year's Pinky May Day, his Phillies welcomed Chad Billingsley back to the majors after a two-year rehab from multiple arm surgeries; that they lost to Atlanta is relatively small potatoes (more details on Chad).

TRIVIA: Pinky appeared in the 1940 All-Star Game and logged a rare hit-by-pitch, taking a Bob Feller bullet for the team. Of the 35 All-Star plunkings since 1934, everyone's tied at 1: each one a different hitter and different pitcher (full list at B-R).

While Pinky's at-bat doesn't appear in the above 1940 All-Star highlights, it's always fun to see game footage from that era and guys like Joe DiMaggio giving 100% on an infield grounder.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

1977 Caruso PCL Hawaii Islanders Baseball #5, Luis Melendez (and more Dave Roberts)

For all the bicentennial bunting used on its 1976 cards (#5 Dave Roberts profile), Caruso returned to a more familiar black and white in 1977 for Hawaii's PCL set. These days, a good designer with a computer can match Topps stroke for stroke in visual presentation, but I suspect 1970s tech meant a real price difference for any kind of color, so most teams opted for bare-bones photos.

That font is interesting.

WhatTheFont identifies Aurora Bold Condensed as a close match, which looks like this.

Close, but no lei, as there's a lot more curve happening in Aurora. The card font might be completely custom work, but add a note if you can ID it for sure!

1977 "Topps Update," Luis Melendez

Luis Melendez and that excellent mustache were on the downslope of an MLB career; his 1977 big league service time was so slight that this custom version's the only card you'll find, courtesy the Padres page of blog 1977 Baseball Cards Update.

1977 "Topps Update," Dave Roberts

That blog's San Diego page also sports a 1977 version of my 1976 Hawaii Islanders #5 type card, none other than Dave Roberts. His feature page ("Mr. Roberts?") goes into some depth on his career path, which started high as 1972's #1 pick, continued well in 1973...followed by a long slide down from there.

One of that blog's readers noted Roberts made a rather sloppy play to end the 1981 Divisional Series as a Houston pinch-hitter. I've linked the game broadcast above and Roberts' at-bat starts at 1:58:10 and the broadcasters give a slo-mo breakdown a couple minutes later, in case you want to know why you should check for dropped third strikes.

Value: This #5 single currently lists high on eBay ($8 + shipping), but Caruso team sets sell for a more reasonable $15-25, with no stars in its checklist to chase. That says as much about the quality of San Diego's farm system as anything, unfortunately.

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any fake Caruso minor league cards in the marketplace.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

1976 Caruso Hawaii Islanders Baseball #5, Dave Roberts

I like it when cards get a little ostentatious, going the extra mile to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, as the saying goes. Let's say you can only print in one color on white. Any other year, you might seem cheap, but that's no problem in 1976! America!

The bicentennial was all over the place for 1976, hence the stars and stripes and bunting borders for Caruso's PCL team sets. Barack Obama would've been 15 and living in Honolulu at the time, so it's not beyond the pale to think president #44 saw this set for sale at an Islanders game himself.

The Islanders played AAA for San Diego, who drafted Dave Roberts first overall in 1972. While never a star, he played long enough to overlap careers with another Dave Roberts, hence my confusion as an 8 year-old when these came around.

1981 Topps #57, Dave Roberts

Being a kid in Seattle, this was "my" Dave Roberts. The "other" Dave played in Texas.

1981 Topps #431, Dave Roberts

Topps didn't stop there, because "other" Dave switched Texas addresses during the 1980-81 offseason.

1981 Topps Traded #824, Dave Roberts

No matter what decade you're in, that's a lot of Dave. (Gotta whole lotta Dave! Whole lotta Dave!)

UPDATE: Enjoy even more Dave Roberts in my 1977 Hawaii Islanders post. This time, there's video of Dave's only post-season appearance, as he pinch-hit with two outs in the ninth in the deciding game of the 1981 NL Division series.

Value: As of writing, this #5 lists for $8 on eBay, a little higher than I'm willing to go for minor league type cards. Teams from this era cost $15-25, since Caruso-made sets rarely include a major star.

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen reprints in the marketplace, as Caruso's PCL sets are obscure and inexpensive enough to discourage the requisite investment of time.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

"I feel like pigs in a waller," a.k.a, Topps exhibit at the Louisville Slugger Factory!

Louisville's hosted baseball since before a bat rolled out of Bud Hillerich's woodshop and into Pete Browning's hands (1884, courtesy their history page), but the Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum is my favorite icon in a town synonymous with the pastime. I make it to Louisville about once a year, and this time, I lucked into extra baseball, as a Topps-themed spread occupied the factory's free exhibit room.

Here's my @Number5TypeCard twitter rundown of exhibit highlights; click through for bigger photos. Note how the mega-Mantle sits alongside Star Wars, reflecting Topps' open mind toward selling what's popular throughout their history.

Topps legend Sy Berger's smiling mug appeared ten feet inside the door, placed above a table of card components as "Cookin' Up Cards In The Kitchen."

Mounted on the wall, here's my favorite piece in the exhibit: a custom Louisville Slugger bike with a card pinned in the spokes! Now you can move that 1986 Topps Sid Bream faster that Sid Bream ever could himself! (I kid Sid, but he really could've benefited in a sport with bikepaths instead of basepaths.)

I voted on a bevy of competitions between Topps subjects, spanning Superman to Major League's Jobu totem. Heck with you, Elvis, it's Beatles across the board for me.

A bunch of Hollywood ephemera on display came from a deep-pockets collector of both cards and props, who coordinated with Louisville Slugger to fill cases with Luke's lightsaber, Indy's whip, and...damn, that really is Indy's whip. A variety of Topps sports cards filled other cabinets, covering football, hockey, soccer, basketball, and more.

There's the real Jobu totem, which (heads up to Cleveland fans) sits in neighboring Kentucky for another month or two.

Several autographed bats by huge names sat on display in the factory store and looked, to this fan's opinion, quite vulnerable to theft. Maybe they have a bunch more in a back room? At the other end of affordable, the blacked but unfinished bats cost $20 each, thanks to errors prior to the finishing process.

This run-through doesn't even cover the factory tour itself, which guides you through the process from raw timber to a sweet range of pro finishes. Slugger's factory isn't just a thing to do in town, it's really a baseball Mecca not many steps behind Cooperstown. Pair it with a Louisville Bats AAA game and you've got the meat and potatoes of baseball, past and present.

(And Slugger wasn't the only baseball meal I enjoyed on this trip. Next post, I'll cover a Cuban exhibit just around the corner.)

Saturday, March 28, 2015

1979 Cramer Hawaii Islanders Baseball #5, Sam Perlozzo

Hey there! I'm Sam, and is this a great day for baseball or what? How about a game of pepper and a non-cola soft drink?

If "Sam Perlozzo" rings a bell, it's likely from his mid-2000s stint as Orioles manager, during a time of team roster and management turnover. Along with a shuffling of their front office in 2006, vets Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, and B.J. Surhoff all left Baltimore and touted prospect Nick Markakis made his debut. This double-handful of new contracts didn't change the year-end standings, as Baltimore still placed 4th in the AL East. They wouldn't finish higher until 2012 (2nd) and finally won their first division crown in nearly 20 years in 2014.

"Cramer Sports Promotions" is the same company that first received a MLB license during the 1990s as Pacific, thanks to their focus on Spanish language sets. They were later granted a "full" English language card license, but lost it, as did several others, when MLB cut back licensees to Topps only after the junk wax era imploded.

In 1979, Cramer Sports and TCMA both sought business from western minor league teams and Hawaii is just one of several franchises who purchased a set from both.  I ran into a problem tracking down today's type card, at least as the "real #5." The above card is Sam's TCMA version, which shows a "5" right on the front. So why doesn't it appear that way in catalogs? I'll blame the confusion over "numbering by checklist" or "numbering by player uniform."

Many team sets simply used a player's uniform for their card, even if that meant skipping over unused team numbers in the checklist. Other times, they created a real checklist without gaps, regardless of the player's jersey. In 1979, TCMA blended these concepts by putting "5" (his uniform) after Sam's name, but checklisting him as #11. So the TCMA isn't a "real" #5 for my type collection, but the Cramer version at the top is. One small mystery solved.

That's not the San Diego Chicken on Hawaii's 1979 souvenir yearbook, it's a bird. What kind of bird?

Just "The Bird." I feel the Islanders marketing department could've tried harder here.

Team photos likely came from MLB spring training, so you get to see most of the squad in San Diego uniform. As the Padres AAA club, many received a MLB call-up somewhere along the way.

Cramer used the aforementioned "uniform number" scheme, so its set checklist goes to 29 but includes 23 players plus a title card. Players who reached the bigs in bold.
  • Team Insignia Card
  • 3 Al Zarilla (Coach)
  • 5 Sam Perlozzo
  • 8 Tucker Ashford
  • 9 Steve Brye
  • 10 Vic Bernal
  • 11 Chuck Baker
  • 12 Bob Mitchell
  • 13 Juan Eichelberger
  • 14 Craig Stimac
  • 16 Tom Tellmann
  • 17 Dennis Kinney
  • 18 Rick Sweet
  • 19 Al Fitzmorris
  • 20 Lynn McKinney
  • 21 Jim Beswick
  • 22 Randy Fierbaugh
  • 23 Fred Kuhaulua
  • 24 Dick Phillips (Manager)
  • 25 Jim Wilhelm
  • 26 Gary Lucas
  • 27 Tony Castillo
  • 28 Andy Dyes
  • 29 Dave Wehrmeister

For those scoring at home, #28 Andy Dyes is TCMA's #5 for the "other" 1979 Hawaii Islanders team set.

Value: Singles like Sam Perlozzo run a dollar or two, when available. It's more common in the minor league marketplace to buy complete team sets for $15-20. This particular card came from a trading friend (Sam of OBC) who purchased a lot of Islanders team sets from eBay and pulled a type card for me.

Fakes / reprints: Haven't heard of any Cramer Sports reprints and it's unlikely this particular team would've been reissued, since it lacks big name MLB stars.

Site news: This year, 2015, I finally registered Number5TypeCollection.com as a real domain for this blog. Pop the champagne!

Monday, February 16, 2015

1914 T222 Fatima Baseball Players #5, Ed Reulbach, Jimmy Archer, Larry McLean, Oscar Vitt

2015 vintage card forums continue to bustle with gossip and check-ins, as collectors take the temperature of what their market likes on a regular. Buyers (and thus, sellers) appreciate certain teams or players today more than our forebears and there's a continual hunt for discoveries in dusty estates or cigar boxes. Part of advanced collecting is feeling poised on the edge of new cardboard territory, even when "new" means "compared to Abner Doubleday."

I'm ten-plus years into the type collection, but discovered a new-to-me, 101-year-old, Turkish cigarette entry just this week: T222 Fatima Baseball Players, a follow-up to their unnumbered T200 Team Cards. As seen in this excellent OldCardboard.com gallery, four of its players feature a "5" below their name and team, which is good enough to pique my curiosity.

The first #5, Ed Reulbach, would be a special find as one baseball's hardest-to-hit pitchers. He threw one of its finest curves and is the only man to pitch a doubleheader shutout (Sept 26, 1908); much more at his SABR bio.

How difficult is it to capture catcher Jimmy Archer in a single sentence? This Irish-born member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame could gun down base-stealers while crouched thanks to an industrial soap vat accident that bestowed upon him the proportional powers of a spider shortened and quickened his throwing arm. That's about three different novels in one guy.

While I don't own any of the #5s yet, The Trader Speaks' set gallery showed me what all four guys look like. How do they look? They look warm.

Phew, the sweating! Those dark woolens on Larry McLean speak to season after season of humid afternoon games, dreaming of 21st-century light-knit uniforms and cool evening start times.

(If Larry looks like a tall drink of water in that photo, it's because he stood 6'5", still the tallest catcher in MLB history.)

Like Billy Martin, Ossie Vitt's antagonistic managing style eclipsed his skills with the bat and glove. The public kerfuffle over his handling of Cleveland's Crybabies made the 1940 season especially juicy for fans of tight playoff races.

Despite its claimed "Collection of 100 photographs," collectors agree only 52 baseball players exist. Eight other athletes and cinema stars round out the T222 set at 60 total and there's a full checklist at Sports Collectors Daily.

Not a #5, but T222 Vic Saier is the most gleeful prewar card you'll see today. Omg weeeeeeeeeee!

Value: HOFers Walter Johnson and Grover Cleveland Alexander fetch 4-digit prices, but non-star singles can run under $100. (I hope to find the #5s for below $50.)

Fakes / reprints: Fatima cards are old enough and interesting enough to be a high risk for reprinting. How to detect the bad ones? Fatima cards are real photos, so won't show any dot-printing pattern under magnification. Also, as with most prewar shopping, know your dealer when buying type cards.

Monday, February 2, 2015

1948-49 Caramelos "El Indio" Cuban Baseball #5, Orlando "Tango" Suarez

With the loosening of Amerca's decades-old Cuban travel and trade embargo on our horizon, I dusted off a dormant entry for one of my type collection's White Whales: the Caramelos El Indio cigarette set. These black-and-white photos celebrate Cuba's 1948-49 Winter League, a warm-weather haven for baseball pros from a time before Castro's revolution. This particular #5 features Orlando "Tango" Suarez, catcher for the Almendares city team and veteran of several Cuban pro seasons.

Multiple Latin American and Caribbean countries hosted "winter leagues" between November and February, so Cuba wasn't the only such off-season league. Mexico, Puerto Rico, Panama, and others  have hosted similar leagues on-and-off since the early 20th century.

On the collectibles front, various tobacco, photo, and magazine publishers printed cards or stamps to support these winter league seasons. The 96 cards packaged with El Indio products show 24 players for each city in Cuba's 1948-49 league: Almendares, Cienfuegos, Havana, and Marianao.

The bio text notes Suarez played regularly for the Havana Cubans of Florida's International League (a Cuba-Florida crossover) and this Havana club served as a low-level affiliate for the Washington Senators for several years.

Baseball Reference has a starter profile for those new to Cuba's league history, though its easiest demarcation is pre- and post-1961, the year Fidel Castro banned pro sports nationwide. This socialist shift also put an end to the scouting connection between MLB teams and Cuban winter league rosters, though some players took the risk of defecting to America when they felt baseball success was within their grasp.

Tango's APBPA card for the 1949-50 season reflected his move to America's Southwestern minor leagues and he appeared on their pro rosters through 1953, though he never made the bigs (minor league stats).

This isn't a union card, as the APBPA's a fraternal assistance organization for current and former players; find the summary of their mission at APBPA.org.

Why is this type card a White Whale? In short, rarity. Very few El Indio cards survived to reach modern collectors hands. As of writing, PSA's report lists just six total, with half-a-dozen players graded once each. Old Cardboard's set profile says a collector album exists, but I've never seen a scan for it. As with many vintage winter league sets, completing something from this era's almost impossible, no matter how much money you can throw at it.

Value: Low grade El Indio singles have auctioned for $40-50 at CubanBaseballAuctions.com, with much higher prices expected for Hall of Famers or Negro League stars. Many of the Negro Leagues' best played in Cuba and other winter leagues, which sported integrated teams well in advance of an American equivalent.

Fakes / reprints: It'd be hard for fakes or reprints to surprise advanced collectors, so I doubt you'd see something so rare faked for the marketplace.