Monday, November 17, 2008

1945-46 Caramelo Deportivo Baseball #5, Quico ("Kiko") Magrinat

I miss the classic cap-and-tie umpire fashion shown on today's card, since retired in favor of more utilitarian hats and polo shirts. While a good deal more comfortable and movement-friendly, it's nowhere near as natty.

Creasing and fading aside, Quico Magrinat presents well for mid-1940s camera and printing technology. He’s part of a 100-card set from Cuba's Caramelo Deportivo cigars dubbed Felices. They packaged each paper-thin player in packs of tobacco products and most collectors pasted them into an album (see below) directly over pictures of the cards themselves.

Even when cards didn’t end up glued in place, their fragile nature means that almost any example you find will be low-grade. My own copy is creased and stained, but otherwise legible.

American umpires occasionally made cameos in sets and their best showing's from the high series of 1955 Bowman. (Putting umps on cards helped the flagging company fill out their checklist at a time of fierce competition with Topps over "real" players.)

1955 Bowman #303, HOF umpire Jocko Conlan

My favorite contemporary card is of Bob Motley, the former Negro League umpire who appeared in 2008 Allen & Ginter.

2008 Allen & Ginter #261, Bob Motley

Caramelo Deportivo printed this colorful collector album for its 1945-46 set.

The album's opening page includes the league umpires, with #5 Magrinat at right.

This particular album's mentioned in The Pride of Havana: A History of Cuban Baseball by Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria, who calls it "a relic of an age about to end."

Google Books excerpt from The Pride of Havana

The "age about to end" was Cuba's first era of Cuban-run professional baseball, which re-aligned with USA leagues and owners for the decade prior to Castro's 1959 revolution. International tourism rose, American games started appearing on Cuban TV, and kids bought packs of Bowman or Topps in Havana candy stores. Domestic card production continued through 1958 (see for examples), but never reached the quality seen stateside. Post-revolution Cuba broke diplomatic ties and disbanded their pro league, leaving these post-WWII sets as our readiest pictorial record of the teams and players.

Value: I picked up the pictured #5 for $15 from Most cards on eBay are position players and former Negro Leaguers generate the highest prices.

Fakes / reprints: It'd be easy enough to counterfeit these black-and-white cards with modern equipment, but fakers might find limited interest from collectors, given the set's low profile (and pictured umpire).

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