Monday, June 27, 2011

1979 TCMA Waterloo Indians Baseball #5, Troy Wilder

If you entered the world as "Troy Wilder," what would you do? Would you look to master a curve ball or the highball? Practice in the batting cage or the firing range? The name sounds so grandiose for low-minors pitching, like pouring Dom Perignon into a coffee mug.

It's been 30 years since his flirtation with pro ball, but I like Troy Wilder, International Man of Mystery or Sgt. Troy Wilder of the Yukon Patrol over Troy Wilder, Man with Undersized Chief Wahoo Hat.

Troy Wilder achieved the rare feat of appearing on three different 1970s single-A minor league cards, first with the 1976 Batavia Trojans and then Waterloo for 1978 and 79. There's a big empty space for stats here, but you can combine his Baseball-Reference page and Baseball Cube pages to fill in the gaps.

Wilder spent five years in the Cleveland farm system at single-A and AA, and while I don't think of the 1970s Indians as rich with pitching, something must've stood in Troy's way, because neither he nor many of his bullpen mates reached the bigs. In 1979, their AA Chattanooga squad had a decent season, going 75-69, but none of their 17 pitchers went on to appear in the majors. Zero!

Certain leagues are known to be "easy" on hitters or pitchers, but going 0-for-17 with a pitching staff sounds like bad management. Senior execs probably fell all over themselves to promote slugger Joe Charboneau, who victimized Southern League pitching for a 1.019 OPS prior to his inspiring-but-brief major league run. Too bad those early-80s Indians couldn't just start Bert Blyleven and Rick Sutcliffe every other day, Old Hoss Radbourn-style.

(Speaking of good pitching, check out Sutcliffe's post-trade performance in 1984, when he won the NL Cy Young after being traded to Chicago in mid-June! Amazing.)

Value: Troy cost $2 at, about right for non-stars from that era.

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any in the marketplace.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

State of the #5 Type Collection

After posting my 500th article last week, I wondered how many number fives remain to write about. After all, it only took 3 years to get this far. Are there enough sets to last much longer? Will I have to start collecting number sixes by 2014? (Ha ha, not gonna happen.)

I'll stick with #5 Ted Williams, thanks

Here are the pre-1981 numbered sets to cover, broken down by decade. (Links jump to all posts from that era.)

That leaves 150+ set profiles and other topics to cover, like polls, giveaways, and comments on managerial shenanigans. (Oh Jim Riggleman, will you ever find a team that just wants you for you?) Should be good for another couple of years! *Phew*

To say thanks for reading along, here's Chewbacca throwing out a first pitch.

My strategy's to let the Wookiee win

Friday, June 24, 2011

1952 Red Man Baseball AL #5, Dom DiMaggio

"The Little Professor," youngest of three major league DiMaggios, spent all of his 11 years patrolling centerfield for Boston, a counterpoint for brother Joe's HOF career in New York. It's debatable who played better defense, given Yankee Stadium's cavernous dimensions and Fenway Park's crazy angles, but they were both great with the glove.

Not to be left out, older brother Vince DiMaggio joins Dom on this short list of guys who appeared in 1000+ games and played at least 95% of them in center field. (Only 8 guys all-time!)

  • Brian McRae (1990-99)
  • Gary Pettis (1982-92)
  • Curt Flood (1956-71)
  • Bill Virdon (1955-68)
  • Bill Bruton (1953-64)
  • Dom DiMaggio (1940-53)
  • Vince DiMaggio (1937-46)
  • Tris Speaker (1907-28)

Joe joins this list if you lower the bar to 90%, still an impressive level that includes just 29 players. Center field isn't an easy position to hang on to! features checklists for all 4 years of Red Man cards (1952-55). My DiMaggio's missing the bottom tab, which included the #5 card number. Here's a complete version, which commands somewhat more money.

Value: Low-grade #5s cost about $10 and creep up as condition improves. I recommend checking eBay values only by completed auctions, since some sellers set unreachably high asking prices.

Fakes / reprints: Red Man set reprints use white card stock, black borders around the front image, and say REPRINT on the back.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Winners from Father's Day Giveaway!

Wow, that was amazing. Thanks to everyone who entered my contest and shared so many memories! 38 different families make for a great assemblage of baseball stories. I think my favorite is grandpa's foam brick inscribed "throw at TV when Yankees win."

Like this, but lighter

Here's the full list, filled with classic teams (Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs, Tigers) and a few from the expansion era (Brewers, Blue Jays, Nationals)
  1. MattR: Giants (both), Reds
  2. The Dimwit: Astros (both)
  3. Baseball Dad: Indians (both)
  4. Cardanathema: Cubs (both)
  5. Jim: Phillies (both), Yankees
  6. Capt Canuck: Braves, Blue Jays
  7. mmosley: Mets, Yankees, Phillies
  8. Jason: Indians (both), Reds
  9. The Drizz: Tigers (both)
  10. --David: Indians, Pirates
  11. Greg Zakwin: Dodgers (both)
  12. dawgbones: Phillies (both), Yankees
  13. dayf: Braves (both)
  14. The Lost Collector: Yankees (both)
  15. Chris Stufflestreet: Yankees, Red Sox/Rays
  16. TheBrooklynMet: Mets, Yankees
  17. Dhoff: Tigers (both)
  18. AdamE: Red Sox, Pirates
  19. Matt Pederson: Cubs, Twins
  20. BA Benny: Mets, Yankees
  21. Anthony: Giants, 49ers/Rams
  22. Ryan G: Giants, A's
  23. madding: Yankees, Cardinals
  24. Red Sox (both)
  25. Play at the Plate: Twins, Rangers
  26. Ryan LaMonica: Yankees (both)
  27. - potch: Reds, Cubs
  28. CL: Yankees, Mets
  29. Commishbob: Yankees, Orioles
  30. Bo: Yankees (both)
  31. Thorzul: Brewers (both)
  32. Jeff Laws: Cubs, White Sox
  33. Night Owl: Dodgers, Red Sox
  34. Kirk Jacobson: Senators/Nationals, Orioles
  35. Nathan: Blue Jays, A's
  36. Stealing Home: Dodgers, Giants
  37. toddkjacobson: Nationals, Orioles
  38. Dion's IP Autos: Angels, Phillies

Tossing all 38 numbers into generated...20, 32, 16, 1, and 27. Congrats to MattR, TheBrooklynMet, BA Benny, potch, and Jeff Laws! I'll contact you privately to arrange sending your winnings.

Now, the drawing of cross-blog promoters, this time for vintage HOFers.
  1. MattR
  2. The Dimwit
  3. cardanathema
  4. Jason
  5. Greg Zakwin
  6. dawgbones
  7. dayf
  8. The Lost Collector
  9. Matt Pederson
  10. Ryan G
  11. Play at the Plate
  12. BA Benny
  13. Jeff Laws
  14. Kirk Jacobson

Just one number this time and Randomizer kicked out...3. Congrats to cardanathema, who wins on behalf of the Cubs! The older, pre-Brewer generations of my family would be pleased. :-)

Thanks to all for reading and my best to fathers and fans everywhere.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

1975 7-11 Tulsa Oilers Baseball #5, Rich Leon

TCMA and Cramer produced the lion's share of minor league team sets during that market's mushroom growth in the late 1970s, but others popped up here and there, thanks to individual team popularity or marketing creativity. Today's effort doesn't break any new design ground, but did help a AAA city connect with hometown fans in a new way. (Ditto 1975 Phoenix Giants #5 and others.)

On the heels of back-to-back American Association titles in 1973-74, Tulsa and 7-11 co-produced this team set for the then-Cardinals AAA affiliate. A pretty amazing percentage of that season's roster reached the majors, including future stars Keith Hernandez, Larry Herndon, Jerry Mumphrey, and John Denny. (Unfortunately for Rich Leon, he's one of a handful not to get the call, despite a respectable .836 OPS in 106 games.)

The full set checklist contains 24 cards and a (team photo?) placemat. You can see by Rich Leon's stats that he didn't play in Tulsa until 1975, so I assume set makers snapped photos that spring and distributed it throughout the year. Fan favorite Keith Hernandez doesn't appear, saving some the headache of tracking down a rare issue. (St. Louis Cardinal collectors, on the other hand, might want the manager card of Ken Boyer.)

Value: Non-star singles cost a few dollars. I've seen sellers list team sets list for $80, but doubt they'd fetch more than $50 on a regular eBay auction.

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any in the marketplace.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

1975 TCMA Lafayette Drillers Baseball #5, Tommy Smith

Today's set profile marks the first time TCMA created a team set beyond Iowa's borders, after promoting Cedar Rapids, Dubuque, Clinton, and the Quad Cities (set profile) in 1975 and earlier years. They only produced black-and-white cards until 1979, probably to save printing costs for both the company and their small market clients.

If Thomas Jefferson Smith looks slight, it's because 160 pounds hang light on a 6'1" frame. I once had the same dimensions, which my dad called "scrawny." Thanks, pop! (Guess it's not Fathers Day anymore. :-)

The Drillers played in Lafayette for just two years (1975-76), but managed a 1975 co-championship with Midland, TX. Minor league teams release players to their MLB affiliates by September, so title game rainouts forced a tie that year, a pretty rare occurrence in the league's 100-year history.

Value: Minor league singles cost a few dollars, unless they became a star in the majors later on.

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any in the marketplace.

Monday, June 20, 2011

1948 Bowman Baseball #5, Bob Feller

Today, 80 year-old Jack McKeon officially agreed to take over as interim manager for the last-place Florida Marlins. He's got 15 years of managerial experience and won a World Series with the fish just 8 years ago, so makes a good choice on paper, but 80 years old sets a new standard for modern baseball helmsmen, a fact few sports writers let pass without comment. (And certainly not me!)

To put McKeon's baseball life in perspective, kids could still buy Bowman's 1948 debut set in candy stores when Jack played his first pro season for the class D Pirates of Greenville, Alabama. Jack might've seen those very cards, hoping to reach the majors and go head-to-head against maestros like Bob Feller.

1948 Bowmans don't impress the eye compared to classics like 1933 Goudey (#5 Babe Herman) a decade before or 1956 Topps (#5 Ted Williams) eight years after, but broke new ground as the first major post-WWII baseball set, and thus the beginning of its Golden Era. As the first such set, it's loaded with significant rookie cards (set checklist), including Yogi Berra, Stan Musial, Ralph Kiner, and Warren Spahn. Few of its photos look like much, but at least #47 Bobby Thomson caught a nice swing (and NYG jersey-jacket) by the Flyin' Scot.

Value: Bob Feller's a big name, so commands $20 or more even in low grade. Non-star beaters cost a few dollars, sometimes more for the short prints.

Fakes / reprints: I assume fakes exist for 1948's big stars and there are definitely reprints of the whole set, thanks to Topps Heritage.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Fathers Day Giveaway 2011

Last year's Valentines Day giveaway went so well, let's do another for Fathers Day 2011.

Topps ran father and son subsets in 1976 and 1985 (the latter profiled at Trader Crack's Card Blog), connecting current players to formative years of watching their dads play 50s and 60s baseball. The combos don't provide many stars--only Yogi/Dale Berra come to mind--but did give collectors a look at sets that were hard to build prior to eBay.

While an interesting enough concept on its own, this double-photo format's also a good subject for custom projects. The New Jersey baseball blog 11th and Washington published their 13-player update in late March, The Collective Mind did a 1976-style Chris/Justin Speier last year, and I made my own fictional version for a contest at Rain of Error.

HOW TO ENTER: Today's giveaway theme is favorite teams. Add a comment to this entry with both your favorite and who your parents like best. Any Dodger/Yankee household rivalries out there? (ChiSox/Cubs?)

WHAT YOU WIN: I'll pick five winners from the entrants and send out cards from those teams.

BLOGGER BONUS: Link to this contest entry from your own blog and you'll be entered in a second drawing for vintage HOFer cards. As they say, "I ain't too proud to beg!" :-)

UPDATE: Entries accepted through Wednesday, June 22 and I'll pick winners on June 23.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

1975 TCMA Quad City Angels Baseball #5, Stan Cliburn

TCMA picked up the pace with their minor league team sets in 1975, expanding from Cedar Rapids (set profile) to Lafayette (Louisiana) and Clinton, Dubuque, and Quad City (all Iowa). Fresh-faced Stan Cliburn, just 18 in this photo, played 27 games for the Quad City Angels, an A-ball affiliate for California, where he went on to play a single MLB season in 1980. (His twin brother Stew Cliburn also played for the Angels, going 13-5 over 3 years as a middle reliever.)

This set's got more than novelty value for me, as I lived in one of the Quad Cities during this very era and saw my first live baseball game at its riverbank park. I can still remember crawling under a fence into the "closed" seating to retrieve a foul ball around age 3, the perfect time for squeezing into places adults can't. (What's got two thumbs, a free ball, and probably nagged his parents to leave by the third inning? This guy.)

The Quad Cities metro area straddles the Mississippi River, with two communities from Iowa (Davenport and Bettendorf) on its west riverbank and two more from Illinois (Rock Island and Moline) on the east. Baseball's got a long history in the town and built its stadium right on the water. A flood wall surrounds the park itself and elevated walkways lead fans to the stands, creating high water images like this.

Game (and flood) in progress at Woodmen Park, Davenport, IA

Value: Non-star major league singles cost a few dollars. I bought this one from

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any in the marketplace.

Friday, June 17, 2011

1952 Red Man Baseball NL #5, Murry Dickson

Quick, who won more career games, grizzled vet Murry Dickson or HOF legends Sandy Koufax and Dizzy Dean? Like many stat questions, it's the unexpected guy, Dickson, who registered 172 victories against Sandy's 165 and Dizzy's 150. It's a solid career total for someone who didn't get going until age 29, but there's more to his story than a few good years.

The "weak hitting" Pirates lineup starred (legitimately) Ralph Kiner and (sorta) Gus Bell, but dropped off a cliff thereafter. Their first and second basemen, to pick just one position, hit a total of 4 homers all year. What do you call that level of performance? "Donner-Party-esque?" But while it's true that most Pittsburgh batters couldn't hit a barn with hay-targeting missiles, this card text oversimplifies Dickson's 1951 season.

I think Murry won 20 games (against 16 losses) in 1951 by sheer volume, as he started 35 times and relieved 10 more. All that work meant bigger numbers across the board: Dickson led the league in hits allowed, earned runs, and homers, thanks to a career-high 1241 batters faced. (For comparison, only one MLB pitcher since 2005 faced 1000+, and just barely: Felix Hernandez pitched to 1001 in 2010). Someone had to get credit for Pittsburgh's 64 victories and Dickson filled the role. Good on him for sticking it out, but his 20-win season doesn't mean quite what it seems on the surface.

Red Man tobacco released these colorful sets of AL and NL stars every year from 1952 to 1955, fronts featuring painted players and backs with mail-in product offers. The collector-made site offers set checklists and a ton of scans; check it out for more of this classic 1950s look.

Value: Lesser-known Red Man players in low-grade cost $5. Note the "cut along this line" bottom border; higher-grade collectors want intact cards with a tab, so pay more for those uncut versions.

Fakes / reprints: Red Man reprints exist for both original sets and as a base design for modern players. I haven't seen any fakes in the marketplace, but it's possible, given the stature of guys like Willie Mays, Stan Musial, and Yogi Berra.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

1979 TCMA Knoxville Knox Sox Baseball #5, Richard Barnes

This is the first minor league card I've seen that looks retouched. "Airbrushed" would be an exaggeration, so let's call it "eraser-brushed." Very halo-like!

TCMA produced two distinct styles of minor leaguers in 1979. This is the "black-and-white" version, which looks cheaper (and clearly costs less) than full-color cards from the same year.

1979 TCMA Charleston Charlies #5, Gary Woods

I suspect that TCMA offered both options to minor league teams (black-and-white for $, color for $$) and the team decided which one was worth their advertising dollars.

Speaking of advertising, #5 Richard Barnes lost his personal info and stats to a spot for Shakey's Pizza Parlors. For the record, he was born in Palm Beach, FL, on July 21, 1959 and started pitching rookie league ball at only 17 (minor league stats). He debuted in the majors for Chicago in 1982 and won his only MLB game for Cleveland on September 10, 1983 (box score).

Value: Most minor league singles cost a few dollars.

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any in the marketplace.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

1954 Johnston Cookies Baseball #5, Hank Aaron

This (young!) card of Hammerin' Hank, a food tie-in photo from his first MLB season, remains one of my all-time favorites, #5 or otherwise. The self-conscious hand-coloring, his broad smile, and Johnston Cookies picture-first design all make it a winner. (It doesn't hurt that I'm from Wisconsin...or that it's Hank Aaron...and a rookie card. Win, win, win.)

On July 14th, 1968, Hank Aaron slugged his 500th home run off of Mike McCormick in a Braves home win over San Francisco (box score). Team lineups that day included Willie Mays, who hit his 500th in 1965, and Willie McCovey, who hit his 500th a decade later. Few match-ups offer so many members of that elite group!

The four HOFers of 1964 Topps #9

For all their power--three homer leaders in the NL's top four--the 1963 Giants finished in 3rd place, 11 games back of the pitching-heavy Dodgers.

This set numbered its cards by player uniform, so surprised me to see Hank as #5. It's true, though; he wore the number for a single season before switching to the iconic #44.

Milwaukee-based Johnston Cookies included most of the set info in their byline.
Braves COLORED PICTURES in every package of Johnston delicious Cookies. 35 New Pictures of 1954 Team in Complete Set. Get COLORFUL WALL HANGER for mounting all Braves Pictures. Send 25 cents to cover handling and mailing to ROBT. A. JOHNSTON CO., MILWAUKEE I, WIS. 

Johnston started distributing the set in early 1954, but withdrew Bobby Thomson's card when he broke an ankle in spring training. This both gave Aaron a chance to start in left field and created a short-print for set collectors.

Here's a completed wall hanger, with cards inserted in pre-notched slots like classic photo albums.

Thanks to Johnston for making such a cool card and to you all for reading! Today's profile marks the Number 5 Type Collection's 500th post.

Value: This Aaron rookie card isn't well-known in the hobby, but still runs well over $100 in low grade. Nice condition versions run $500 and up.

Fakes / reprints: Both reprints and fakes exist for Johnston cards, especially stars like Aaron, Warren Spahn, and Eddie Mathews, so I recommend buying lesser-known players if you want a type card.

Monday, June 13, 2011

1953 Bowman Color Baseball #5, Sid Gordon

36 years ago this week, former third baseman and outfielder Sid Gordon passed away at age 57. While not well-remembered today, few swung a mightier stick during his Golden Age peak; only HOFers Stan Musial (179 OPS+), Ted Williams (179), Ralph Kiner (163), Joe DiMaggio (151), and Larry Doby (147) did better from 1948 to 1952.

1953 marked a sea change in card production quality, as Topps, Red Man tobacco, and Bowman all tried to one-up innovations introduced in 1952. Bowman made a splash by publishing these full-color player pictures, a first for collectors accustomed to tinted black-and-white photos. (This undertaking proved so costly they switched to uncolored cards for a later series; its #5 featured Dee Fondy.)

1952's "rather bad Boston season" meant a 64-89 finish, 32 games back of the Dodgers. It was doubly bad for local fans, as the franchise picked up and moved to Milwaukee for 1953, where they won a title--their first in 4 decades--just 5 years later. Ouch.

Modern card makers mimicked 1953's "no frills" photo front so often that I've already profiled 5 direct descendants. Post-1980 collectors have no doubt seen even more.

Value: Low-grade singles cost a few dollars. Mantle, Musial, and contemporary stars run many times that, given 1953's status as a "classic set."

Fakes / reprints: Topps reprinted many Bowman star cards as part of modern issues, so don't confuse newer versions for originals. (Look for modern dates on the back.)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

1975 TCMA Cedar Rapids Giants Baseball #5, German de Los Santos

Today's set features former San Francisco, Cleveland, and Houston farmhand German de Los Santos ("of the saints"), who stands poised and ready for something. It's not exactly a catching position, unless you're expecting something breadbox-sized, like a baby. Dr. de Los Santos, future obstetrician? (Credit Bill Cosby with the mental image.)

TCMA started producing these minor league team sets in the early 1970s, typically in partnership with a local business. For Cedar Rapids (Iowa), they picked up McDonald's locations on 1st Ave and Williams Blvd. I can't help but wonder: after almost 40 years, are those addresses still selling burgers under golden arches? For the latter, the answer is "yes." Not sure when the Williams location opened, but Google says it's still there.

After several years in the infield for A and AA teams (career stats), de Los Santos tried a switch to pitching for Houston. He put up serviceable numbers as a middle reliever, but left American pro ball after the 1979 season, perhaps to continue a career in the DR league. (Check out their recent championship-winning managers for some familiar names, including a Jose Offerman sighting.)

Value: This #5 cost $3 on Beckett Marketplace. Singles vary by team popularity and seller, but most go for less than $10.

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any in the marketplace.

Friday, June 10, 2011

1950-51 Toleteros Puerto Rican Baseball #5, "OUT!!!"

Late 1940s and early 1950s Toleteros cards, a hard-to-find series of tobacco issues from Puerto Rico, capture the first peak of pro ball in their island state. Attendance grew throughout the league following World War II, stadiums installed lights for night games, and major leaguers became "winter ball" regulars on team rosters. Must've been a heady time for local fans! (Find more league history at Wikipedia.)

You don't often see an umpire divorced from a play's context like this. We can be sure, though, that someone is OUT by at least six punctuations.

Puerto Rico offered greatly reduced racism (perhaps none at all?) compared to the American majors, so its winter league attracted many of the best African-American hitters and pitchers. This card of HOFer and Negro League legend John Gibson appears in the unnumbered Toleteros set, a parallel of sorts to the "Action" scan shown above, which used on-field photos.

Total set size is 192 players and 180 action, a considerable effort for that era. Backs are blank, I assume to allow for mounting in the accompanying album.

Value: Action singles like "OUT" cost $5-20, but run more for recognized players. (A handful of the action cards feature HOFer Willard Brown and cost several times that.)

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any fakes of this obscure set, but it's a risk for players of Gibson's stature. Buy Latin American cards from dealers you know and trust!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

1977 HRT/RES Philadelphia Favorites Baseball #5, Al Simmons

Only a few collector show promoters in the 1970s could afford Topps-style promo cards, but Philly Show founders Ted Taylor (HRT) and Bob Schmierer (RES) turned out several complete sets starting in 1975. Some issues "extended" older vintage material, such as 1942 Play Ball and 1947 Bowman, while today's stood alone as a tribute to former Philadelphia A's and Phillies players.

Today's set includes 24 players, many of whom were still alive in 1977 and might've been guest signers at the Philly Show. Card #25 features Connie Mack Stadium, a nice bookend to the issue, as #1 is Connie Mack the manager. HOFer (Al Simmons died in 1956, so you'd never see his autograph on a #5.)

HRT/RES cropped their Simmons image from this 1936 Goudey Premium, which few collectors would've seen back then. Is it ironic that its picture came from his time away from Philly? (Simmons spent 1933-35 in Chicago and even started for the AL's All-Star team each year.)

Do you like baseball nicknames? Simmons apparently opened up or "stepped in the bucket" during his swing, so picked up "Bucketfoot Al" early on.

Value: Despite being HOFers, singles cost just a few dollars. (Here's one place to find most of the set cheaply.)

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any in the marketplace.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Type Site: Six Degrees of Ron Santo

Serendipity struck for me this week, as both NPR (Kevin Bacon Plays Not My Job) and the card blogging world (Six Degrees of Ron Santo) referenced the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon Game in less than 24 hours. Who am I to fight the invisible hand of destiny?

Ron Santo, who passed away in December 2010, played his full career in Chicago, 14 years anchoring third for the Cubs and a final season with the White Sox. Many argue he deserves HOF enshrinement thanks to 9 All-Star Games, 5 Gold Gloves, great hitting during a pitchers ERA, and his decades of involvement with Chicago baseball. (He's also better than most everyone here.)

Six Degrees marked this week's D-Day Anniversary by connecting gunner's mate Yogi Berra to Ron Santo, starting with these 1965 player-coach cards.

Topps used to feature coaches more than they do now, in part because fewer stars need to remain in the game for a paycheck. I'd forgotten Berra and Spahn both fit the bill in 1965, with Yogi playing his final four career games after coaching exclusively in 1964. Spahn got more field work, going 4-12 in 19 starts, but was released mid-year and finished his MLB career with the San Francisco Giants.

Check out Six Degrees of Ron Santo for more connections or to make a player request of your own!

UPDATE: After hitting publish, what should I find but a third Kevin Bacon reference, courtesy of Seth Godin.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

1963 Post Cereal Baseball #5, Harmon Killebrew

Today's profile closely resembles another recent post, the 1963 Jell-O Baseball set. Post and Jell-O shared a common look in 1962 and 1963, thanks to their common parent company, General Foods. Its business history stretches all the way back to 1897, when C.W. Post developed Grape-Nuts, but by 1963, their signature nugget was just one of many brands featuring cut-out cards of major league players. (Others include Shredded Wheat and Raisin Bran.)

1963 Post Cereal

While both food sets use a similar design and the same 200 players, editors made minor layout changes prior to printing. Boxes in the scan below show how to distinguish them by photo cropping and stat line.

1963 JELL-O Pudding

General Foods distributed players unevenly across their brands, so lower-selling cereals in 1963 meant fewer cards for collectors today. These "short prints" number in the dozens, but I haven't seen an authoritative list. They're interesting cards to collect, even in low-grade, but set completion proves challenging given those tough cards.

UPDATE: Post included 5 players per cereal box panel and Killebrew appears on this one with a couple of other notable sluggers.

Value: Killebrew cost $10 at a show, similar to most HOFers. Mantle and other superstars will run higher, especially in nice shape. Full box panels are often several times that, depending on players and condition.

Fakes / reprints: Have't seen any in the marketplace, but assume some exist for Mantle, at least.

Monday, June 6, 2011

1978 Dearborn Baseball Show #5, Leon (Goose) Goslin

While best know for his decade as a slugger in Washington and three World Series wearing their cap, Goose Goslin also helped Detroit reach back-to-back Series appearances in 1934 and 1935, winning a title the second time. That (and his HOF credentials) earned Goslin a spot in this Tigers tribute set, in spite of his sparse two years in their uniform.

So how did Leon get the nickname "Goose?" According to Wikipedia, it came from his limited fielding ability.
"Goslin’s difficulty in judging fly balls contributed to his nickname 'Goose.' Opposing players said Goslin resembled a bird flapping its wings when he ran after a ball with his arms waving."

Goslin also sounds like "gosling" (baby goose), so one supports the other.

Show promoters created this set in part to honor their hometown Tigers, but also to encourage visitors to get autographs from its guests. Several formers players appeared at each Dearborn show, held twice a year back in the late 1970s. I can't find current dates for a similar show, so assume it changed locations or folded in the intervening decades.

Dearborn Youth Center, scan from 

Value: This #5 cost $3 at Beckett Marketplace. Al Kaline, Rocky Colavito, and Norm Cash rate as the set's stars, running $10 or more in nice shape. (Checklist at CardPricer.)

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any in the marketplace, but it'd be easy to fake this kind of black-and-white set.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

1961 7-11 Baseball #5, Jack Fisher

I enjoy fellow blogger Core Contrarian's daily roll of baseball anniversaries, quotes, and players from every era. Each captures a little something of the player, decade, or card design and they're always worth reading. (Lou Gehrig's a recent favorite.)

In that spirit, here's a Contrarian salute to the peripatetic righty pictured on this obscure 7-11 card, who started pitching for Baltimore in 1959, but went on to San Francisco, New York, Chicago, and Cincinnati before hanging up his cleats a decade later.

On this date in 1965, Jack Fisher beat Pittsburgh 2-1, raising his record to 5-4. Being the Mets, he dropped 20 of his next 23 decisions and led the NL in losses. Only twice in those games did his New York teammates offer more than 3 runs of support.

Fisher rated not far below league average (89 ERA+) in 1965, so can pin most of his failings on New York's moribund post-expansion era. Al Jackson (1962), Roger Craig (1962, 1963), and Tracy Stallard (1964) all pitched competently but lost 20+ decisions for the Mets in those early years. (Few franchises have even one of these seasons; NYM had five in just four years.)

Founded in 1927, 7-11 now serves 18 countries and almost 40,000 locations. Modern collectors know their plastic discs inserted in Slurpee and Big Gulp cups, but this crude 30-player set marked the chain's first attempt at sports cards. Vending machines in 1961 offered seven cards for a nickel and featured both active stars and a couple of retired HOFers (Jimmie Foxx and Met Ott). Unfortunately, stores soon ceased the promotion and few cards survive.

Value: This low-grade #5 cost $10 on eBay a few years ago. I fortunately didn't have to pay a premium for Yogi Berra's signature on the back--such a deal! Roger Maris and Willie Mays prove most valuable at $200 or more for cards in decent shape.

Fakes / reprints: It'd be easy to fake this black-on-pink set, so be careful when purchasing stars and buy from dealers you trust.