Monday, January 30, 2012

Type Site: Cards That Never Were (and Don Schwall)

For the last several months, baseball blog Cards That Never Were has riffed on the 1975 Topps MVP subset (#189-212) with custom "Rookies of the Year" that count up from Topps' 1951 debut year. Compare an original pair of Topps MVPs...

1975 Topps #199, 1961 MVPs

...to its latest Rookies of the Year post for 1961.

Cards That Never Were, 1961 Rookies of the Year

This 1961 version caught my eye because Don Schwall also appeared on my very first card from the 1960s, not something a young collector soon forgets.

1965 Topps #362, Don Schwall

Man, that's just so old, right? At least it used to seem that way before I turned over a few decades myself. These days, 1965 seems well within the bounds of youthful exuberance.

Thanks to Cards That Never Were for this trip down memory lane and find more great work in its series of custom 1975 Topps cards.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Type Site: 1977 Topps Baseball Cards Updated

Traveling through Mariners country today, an excellent excuse to point people to the blog 1977 Topps Updated and their treatment of Seattle's second expansion team.


This pair of articles compares original Seattle Topps cards with updated custom cards and gives the "real photo" treatment to guys who missed the 1977 set entirely, including this chaw-enhanced Rick Honeycutt, one of my favorite early M's.


I love to see this much work go into card posts. Check out 1977 Topps Updated for plenty more!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

1960 Darigold Farms Spokane Indians Baseball #5, Joe Liscio

You won't find well-groomed today's guest, Joe Liscio, in Spokane's 1960 batting or pitching stats, but he still meant a great deal to their PCL title--11.5 games in front of second place Tacoma--as clubhouse trainer and planner of their off-the-field workouts. It's likely, in fact, that the Dodgers sent Liscio to AAA after spring training to help young players strengthen up for MLB debuts or guide older guys through rehab. Of the 30 men who played for Spokane in 1960, an amazing 23 reached the majors, a great record of success for any minor league staff.


Joe trained baseball players from the 1940s to the 1970s and Baseball Digest quoted him several times during stays in LA, Philadelphia, and Montreal. My favorite story's a 1964 article on his work with the Phillies, "Sea Kelp, Wheat Germ and B-12." It covers in detail what supplements players used at the time--"Tony Gonzalez thinks daily B-12 injections give him dynamite!"--and calls back to past practices, like Ted Williams' wrist exercises with a weighted roller. I particularly enjoyed the author's closing line:
"The Phils may not win it all, but they will be excruciatingly healthy. Pass the sea kelp and give me a slug of that wheat germ oil."

Darigold Farms glued singles from this 24-player set to their milk jugs during baseball season. Cards prove hard-to-find today, thanks to its small print run and regional nature.


Original Darigold cards like this one include a foldable tab and prove tough to locate in today's market. Joe married another scarce commodity: "women named Orilda."

Since Joe's a trainer, I borrowed a back scan from Check Out My Cards to show how the set handled player stats.

1960 Darigold Farms Spokane Indians #24, Ford Young

Ford Young never did reach the majors, but at least one fan kept close track of his goings-on. They (correctly) added both his middle name (Lester) and earlier minor league seasons with Shawnee, Thomasville, and Des Moines (career stats). It even mentions "Honolulu '63," perhaps a team he tried out for (the Islanders), but didn't stick with.

Value: The pictured low-grade Ford Young's listed at $60 on Check Out My Cards. The only #5 on eBay's listed for $120, which strikes me as optimistic (and it's been sitting there for awhile). The latest SCD annual guide puts NM singles at $145, VG at $40.

Fakes / reprints: I assume people have reprinted Darigold Farms cards, given their rarity and inclusion of eventual major league stars like Frank Howard, Willie Davis, and Ron Fairly. Since original cards had the blank tab, cutting off that tab often leaves a ragged top edge. Reprints might have a factory-cut top border.

Monday, January 23, 2012

1979 TCMA Waterbury A's Baseball #5, Dennis Wysznski (actually Wyszynski)

Today's TCMA team set includes another (tough-to-spell) name correction, as Dennis Wyszynski drops a letter to become Wysznski. He's right up there with Carl Yastrzemski for big-money SCRABBLE name scoring, but I'm not surprised he avoided the Yaz-style nickanme, since that'd be "whizz" or even "The Whizzer."


Dennis looks pretty nonplussed in this shot. Maybe the catcher told him to throw a spitball and he's got a bad case of cotton mouth.


Wyszynski toiled for 4 years in Oakland's farm system, but retired at age 23, probably to pursue another career. Several Waterbury teammates did successfully reach the majors, including another notable name, Shooty Babitt.

1982 Topps #578, Shooty Babitt

Here's the full 1979 TCMA Waterbury A's checklist, courtesy of TeamSets4U.
  1. Dennis De Barr
  2. Rick Tronerud
  3. Walt Horn
  4. Bart Braun
  5. Dennis Wyszynski
  6. Keith Atherton
  7. Leroy Robbins
  8. Frank Kolarek
  9. Ed Nottle
  10. Al Armstead
  11. Shooty Babitt
  12. Randy Green
  13. Rob Klebba
  14. Mike Patterson
  15. Mike Davis
  16. Al Minker
  17. Larry Groover
  18. Paul Mize
  19. Bruce Fournier
  20. Bob Grandas
  21. Ron McNeely
  22. Tim Conroy
  23. Scott Meyer
  24. Dave Beard
  25. Robert Moore


Value: This #5 cost $2 at MinorLeagueSingles.com. Teammates Mike Davis and Keith Atherton achieved some big-league success, so might run more as singles.

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

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

1979 TCMA Memphis Chicks Baseball #5, Bryn Smith

After a veritable cavalcade of TCMA minor league cards featuring players who never achieved MLB success, today's #5 features a bona fide big league hurler who won 108 games over 12 seasons, mostly for Les Expos de Montreal.


This card shows a clean-cut 23 year-old, but I remember Bryn as Captain Redbeard.


Smith's beard was mighty enough to rate a Badass Beard entry on the Sorting By Teams blog.


Team set checklist, courtesy of TeamSets4U's 1979 minor league page.
  1. Steve Lovins
  2. Steve Michael
  3. Bill Armstrong TR
  4. Julio Perez
  5. Bryn Smith
  6. Larry Goldetsky
  7. Doug Simunic
  8. Charlie Lea
  9. Dave Hostetler
  10. Anthony Johnson
  11. Randy Schafer
  12. Mike Finlayson
  13. Rick Williams
  14. Rick Engle
  15. Bob Tenenini
  16. Ray Crowley
  17. John Scoras
  18. Jeff Gingrich
  19. Dennis Sherow
  20. Tim Raines
  21. Billy Gardner MG
  22. Pat Rooney
  23. Warren Hemm
  24. Godfrey Evans

Value: This #5 cost $2 at MinorLeagueSingles.com, a decent deal considering Bryn's MLB success. His 1979 TCMA Memphis teammates included future Montreal stars Tim Raines and Charlie Lea, so the team set's more expensive than most.

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

Monday, January 16, 2012

Type Site: Section 36, "5 is for..."

During the off-season, Red Sox fan site Section 36 covers a wide range of baseball topics, numbered 1 to 36. It fills the chilly winter months for locals like me, who spend most of February creating spreadsheets that analyze snow accumulation. Today's fifth post for 2011-12 talks about Fenway's short (5') wall in front of its side-by-side outfield bullpens.


But why a 5' wall? To quote Section 36:
"To me it looks like a fairly careful calculation. Obviously they took an average player and stood him up against a wall. They had him take a little hop, as if he were reaching for a ball. They then marked the spot where his ribs were. 5 feet. That way, anyone crashing into the wall would be sure to at least bruise a rib, if not break it completely and puncture their lung."

Jay Buhner made one of Seattle's pinnacle defensive plays by leaping this wall to bring back a bomb hit by Moneyball binky (and former Sox slugger) Scott Hatteberg on June 29, 1997.

Another Mariner high point: "Buhner Buzz Cut Night"

Jay's effort was great enough to rank first on Mariner Top 5 Home-Run Robbing Catches (video at the MLB.com link). "It was the kind of play outfielders always dream about‚" Buhner said. (No doubt!)

Thanks for the highlight reminder and find more Sox stuff at Section 36.

Friday, January 13, 2012

1961 Bazooka Baseball #5, Roger Maris

Given the special love vintage collectors and fans have for Yankee teammates Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle racing to beat the Babe's home run record in 1961, it's pretty cool that Maris himself appeared on a #5 from that year. And what else says BOOM to a kid like BAZOOKA gum?

Card front (blank back)

Roger's power didn't come out of nowhere, as he averaged ~20 homers in Cleveland and KC prior to reaching New York. The cozy Bronx fences boosted that to 39 homers and an AL-leading .581 slugging in 1960, numbers that could've been higher if he'd played every day (career stats at B-R.com).

After setting the new 61-homer mark in 1961, Topps gave Roger the prestige spot of 1962 #1.


This blog recently featured Roger as one of the 1960 Cleveland CouldHaveBeen-dians and his stop in KC made him one piece in a larger puzzle of Athletics-to-Yankees talent shifts. Read David Fleitz's analysis of the KCA-NYY trade history for a fuller picture of how New York stocked many of those late 50s and early 60s World Series lineups. (1961's squad ranks high in any list of "all-time teams.")

Value: Low-grade Bazooka stars cost $15-20 and commons run a few dollars.

Fakes / reprints: 1961 fakes probably exist, given Bazooka's basic cardboard stock and blank backs. Look to buy from sellers that have a spread of vintage from that era, rather than just stars like Maris, or stick to commons for your type collection.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

1979 TCMA Burlington Bees Baseball #5, Sam Gierham (actually Gierhan)

Does today's card look a little off to you? Too smoothed on the crown? Oddly blended along the logo? I doubt that TCMA spent precious money on airbrushing--at least nothing like what Topps does every single year--but I could swear there's something unoriginal about Mr. Gierham's visage.


Speaking of that name, "Sam Gierham" doesn't really exist, but Sam Gierhan does, and pitched three years of minor league ball between 1975 and 1979. (There's a two-year gap for 1976-77, which I assume he committed to college studies.) Based on Google results, this TCMA card's the only time a "Sam Gierham" has ever existed.


TCMA got Sam's name right on their 1978 Newark Pilots team issue, but neglected to carry over his 0-1 record for this card back. He won a total of 2 games in the minors, both in 1975 rookie league play.

1979 Burlington Bees checklist courtesy of TeamSets4U.com; player names appear correct to me, other than Sam.
  1. Larry Edwards
  2. Russell Ramirez
  3. Pat Seegers
  4. Jim Robinson
  5. Sam Gierham (Gierhan)
  6. Rocky Hall
  7. Willie Lozado
  8. Nick Hernandez
  9. Ron Buggs
  10. Dan Gilmartin
  11. Mark Lepson
  12. Doug Jones
  13. Steve Gibson
  14. Bob Gibson
  15. Johnny Evans
  16. Roberto Diaz
  17. Duane Espy
  18. Vince Bailey
  19. Randy Boyce
  20. Greg De Hart
  21. Stan Davis
  22. Vince Pone
  23. Jim Padula
  24. Steve Norwood
  25. Steve Manderfield

Value: This #5 cost $2 at MinorLeagueSingles.com. A few of Sam's teammates reached the majors, but no one's famous enough to run more than a few dollars. (#14 is the other Bob Gibson, who won a dozen games for Milwaukee in the 1980s.)

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

Monday, January 9, 2012

The 1960 Cleveland CouldHaveBeen-dians

Today's post is both a trade "thank you" and callback to what could've been in Cleveland, if team management hadn't been so free to trade away their young talent. Most squads have good what-if stories, but it's been almost 65 years since the Indians won their last title, so any opportunity missed looms large.

First off, thanks to an OldBaseball.com trading friend for this 1961 Post Cereal #40 of Norm Cash, longtime Detroit first-sacker. His solid bat helped the Tigers win the 1968 World Series, just one of 15 seasons Norm spent in their uniform.

1961 Post Cereal #40, Norm Cash

As noted on the card, Norm changed hands twice in one off-season, moving from Chicago to Cleveland to Detroit following 1959. Picturing him in a Cleveland uniform reminded me of another high-ceiling hitter they traded away that year, Rocky Colavito.

1960 Topps #400, Rocky Colavito

Rocky's departure was significant enough to cast a Colavito curse, but Cleveland's potential power lineup didn't end there. This fellow also started in an Indians uniform, before being traded away in mid-1958.

1958 Topps #47, Roger Maris

The Mantle and Maris home-run race sold so many newspapers and magazines in 1961 that I think Mickey and Roger deserve credit for making baseball cards a mass-market item, acceptable for purchase by kids and adults alike. Post cereals featured the teammates on both store shelves and as a 1962 LIFE magazine insert.

Would this power trio have spurred repeated pennant runs the way Maris-Mantle-Howard made New York such a force in 1961? Context and coaching makes a big difference to team performance, but this Cash-Colavito-Maris lineup sounds pretty good to me...

Friday, January 6, 2012

1979 TCMA Newark Co-Pilots Baseball #5, Mike Overton

Mike Overton took this his time in uniform quite seriously. Mike Overton was all business. After this photo shoot, I bet Mike Overton went right over to the Newark Chamber of Commerce and created some local jobs.


Notice anything unusual about that jersey? Someone in the clubhouse added M.O. to Mike's undershirt--the first time I've seen handwritten initials appear on a baseball card--possibly to keep track of everything they spent money on. (Most minor league teams operate on a shoestring and that goes double for unaffiliated teams like the Co-Pilots.)


Unfortunately, this set captures Newark's final year of play. They spent ten years farming for the Seattle Pilots and Milwaukee Brewers, but dropped affiliation for 1979 and folded after one season as an independent. (Find Mike's stats at B-R.com.)

Some TCMA minor league team sets include sponsorships, which the team likely arranged in advance and included with their print order. McKanes Sporting Goods seems to be gone for good, though I found a few mentions of Newark's Pro-May Mall, including this 1984 newspaper article about a videotape service hosted in the same mall. And speaking of mustaches and videos, wish I could grow one half as good as Mike's.


UPDATE: Sadly, Mike passed away in 2011. Thanks for the visits and comments from his family and teammates. Here's the full TCMA set checklist, so others can also find his card.

  1. Tom Dann
  2. Steve Nicastro
  3. Joe Rigoli
  4. Bob Bill
  5. Mike Overton
  6. Mike Fichman
  7. Steve Dembowski
  8. Mike Oleksak
  9. Don Clatterbuck
  10. Michael Lacasse
  11. Kevin MacDonald
  12. Joe McCann
  13. Harry White
  14. Mark Grier
  15. Carl Adams
  16. Bob Cross
  17. Billy Clay
  18. Keith Gainer
  19. Richard Block
  20. Kevin Rose
  21. Mitch Wright
  22. Len Spicer
  23. Lance Viola
  24. Andy Pascarella


Value: This #5 cost $2 at MinorLeagueSingles.com and team sets run as little as $10 on eBay.

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

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Virgil Trucks, still throwing fireballs (and TTM autographs)

Congrats to William of Foul Bunt for snagging this hard-to-find Virgil Trucks rookie card, a short-printed #5 from the 1948-49 Leaf baseball set.


My own #5 takes up considerably less space, thanks to a youthful hack job (1948-49 Leaf Baseball set profile). Virgil also looks a little creepy, thanks to poor alignment of the print registers.


"Fire" Trucks (also called "Fireball" Trucks on his Leaf card) remains a ready signer for the price of a donation to his church, even at the age of 94. Foul Bunt's post adds more detail and includes a letter from Virgil.


TRIVIA: Jack Morris pitched a no-hitter for the Tigers (over the ChiSox) on April 8, 1984, the first no-no for Detroit since Jim Bunning tossed one in 1958 and Virgil threw a pair in 1952. The above video breaks down Jack's performance, complete with 80s hairstyles and not-so-subtle jabs at Ron Kittle. (B-R.com has the complete list of Tigers no-hitters, 7 in all.)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Van Lingle...Van Lingle...Mungo

A happy 2012 to three gentlemen tied together by two American staples: pop music and baseball.


Dave Frishberg (b. 1933) wrote his bossa nova tune "Van Lingle Mungo" after enjoying the musical sound of golden era player names while piano noodling. As his song profile notes, former Dodger hurler Mungo hoped for some income based on the song, but learned he'd have to write his own to do so.

Two players mentioned in Frishberg's tune are still with us!


Boston fan favorite Johnny Pesky (1919-2012) played for teams other than the Red Sox, but he's been inseparable from the franchise since 1968, serving as instructor, coach, and namesake of Fenway's right-field foul pole.


UPDATE: Sad to say, Johnny "The Needle" Pesky passed away on August 13, 2012. What a life he lived in (and for) baseball!



WWII-era player Eddie Basinski (b. 1922) spent only a few years in the majors, but spun his war time opportunity into two MLB stints, first with the Brooklyn Dodgers and later with Pittsburgh. Eddie jumped right from the semipro sandlots to the bigs, an almost unheard-of feat detailed further in Slangon's write-up for his autograph (and custom card) of Mr. Basinski.

Happy 2012 (and many more) to Frishberg, Pesky, and Basinski! (And Van Lingle...Van Lingle...Mungoooooo.)

Monday, January 2, 2012

1971 Milk Duds Baseball #5, Billy Grabarkewitz

Happy 2012 to all baseball fans! This year, I resolve to cover more of my dad's favorite squad, the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers. Thanks to Vin Scully's promise to return for his 63rd season, Chavez Ravine will continue to feel (and sound) like home.


Boys of Summer step one: a third pull from the sweets barrel of Milk Duds, that chocolate-and-caramel confection that's so much better than those malted, chalky Whoppers.


Milk Duds called itself the MLBPA's "official candy," an advertising tactic that's ubiquitous today, but comparatively rare in the 1970s. The scholarly study Applications and Implementation: The Effects of Endorsements on Product Evaluation even cited chapter and verse on a legal objection filed by the Federal Trade Commission over this kind of marketing.

"[The FTC] challenged Beatrice Foods, producer of Holloway Milk Duds, for their ad that showed Lou Brock stealing bases. The FTC claimed that the ad implied that eating the candy is necessary for improving one's athletic performance. The advertisement states that Milk Duds are 'the official candy of the Major League Baseball Players Association.' This endorsement was not based on nutritional superiority of the product, but rather on monetary consideration."

Many adults shrug off this kind of "we're the best!" advertising message, but I assume some kids took it at face value. Otherwise, why advertise in the first place? (Full paper accessible to Wiley.com subscribers.)


Beatrice/Holloway didn't grok the one-player-per-card concept and assigned three guys to each numbered flap (see scan's lower-left corner). Grabarkewitz ended up sharing checklist honors with a Yankee and an Angel, each on separate boxes.

Value: Full boxes cost about $10 these days and trimmed players run a dollar to two.

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any in the marketplace, though some dodgy sellers have repackaged empty boxes with candy and plastic wrap to make them seem rarer and more valuable. I recommend sticking to empty boxes for a type set.