Monday, September 28, 2009

1953 Topps #5, Joe Dobson

Joe Dobson placed #54 on a 2007 blogger list of top 100 all-time Red Sox, between 3-time World Series champ Duffy Lewis and 1967 Cy Young winner Jim Lonborg. He won 137 career games, 106 with Boston.

Today's card pictures Joe after his best of three Chicago seasons. The 14-10 record looks pedestrian, but a career-best WHIP of 1.116 led to a 2.51 ERA and made life much easier on the offense.

Card front

Card back

Before we forget about Mr. Lonborg, when old-time folks talk about old-time baseball, they mean things like this quote from his Wikipedia profile.

"After retiring, Lonborg attended the Tufts University Dental School and has worked as a dentist in Hanover, Massachusetts since."

I propose that 2009 MLB rosters do not contain many future dentists.

Friday, September 25, 2009

1960 Topps Venezuelan #5, Wally Moon

We covered the American version of this classic Topps issue one year ago today, but Wally Moon's monobrow deserves a second look. Did the extra hair super-protect from sweat and sun, improving his batting performance? I can't discount the possibility.

Like 1959 Venezuelans, 1960 cards lack Topps' normal surface gloss and the stock feels "cheap" to the touch. Very few cards made it to North American, so eBay or online auctions remain your best "open market" chance. I picked up Mr. Moon for $5 from South American specialist John Rumierz Cards.

UPDATE: I revisited this card in 2011 as part of a series covering all Venezuelan issues. Find it at 1960 Venezuelan Baseball #5.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

1920 W516-1-1 Baseball Strip Card #5, Tris Speaker vs. W516-2-1 #5, Ty Cobb

Some time ago, this blog profiled an odd-looking Ty Cobb card with the opaque American Card Catalog number of W516-2-1. For a player who struck fear into the hearts of opponents, its picture made Cobb look almost mild, just moving to his side with a glove. Today's sibling issue also sucks the energy out of Tris Speaker, one of the game's finest center fielders. Add some garish coloring and you've got one unusual collectible. So what's the W516 story?

W516-1-1 card front (blank back)

First off, "W" designates all strip cards, cheap sets that sold several players together in penny or nickel vending machines for later cutting by collectors. The International Feature Service, an early Hearst news company, starting printing W516s around 1920 and tweaked its checklist as players changed teams, leading to plenty of variations and color changes. In fact, almost every print run looked different--compare the single-card scans in this post, which all came off the same scanner.

W516 uncut strip of 3

The American Card Catalog set its W516 designation in the 1930s, but modern collectors noted many differences in this visually crude issue. Numbering changes--such as Cobb and Speaker sharing #5--created a second checklist, subdividing it into W516-1 and W516-2. (Those with a portion of the Universal Base Ball Matching Cards phrase appear scarcer than others and may not exist for all variations.)

W516-2-1 #5, Ty Cobb (blank back)

Once you're "within" a subset, further variations appear in the type and art. Somewhere along the way, card designers flipped the small "IRC (C)" logo and switched written to typed names. While based on a similar checklist and source photos, the two cards definitely don't come from the same editorial run.

So what's the total number of sets? I found a final breakdown from collector Rhett Yeakley on this Net54 forum thread.

Checklist 1 (Tris Speaker #5):
  • W516-1-1 "(C)" symbol correct, hand-written name (i.e, today's Speaker card)
  • W516-1-2 "(C)" symbol reversed, hand-written name

Checklist 2 (Ty Cobb #5):
  • W516-2-1 "(C)" symbol reversed, typeset name (i.e., the Cobb card)
  • W516-2-2 "(C)" symbol reversed, hand-written name
  • W516-2-3 "(C)" symbol correct, typeset name

That's 5 distinct strip card issues and the "(C)" logo includes either IFC or IFS, so variation hounds might count W516 as 10 different sets. (It's not clear whether IFC/IFS combos exist for all five.) No rest for the wicked collector.

TRIVIA: William Randolph Hearst created the International Feature Service in 1912 as a vehicle for syndicating popular comic strips. It exists today as the King Features Syndicate, which licenses a vast array of well-known characters, including Felix the Cat and The Phantom.

UPDATE: This mis-cut Speaker includes a fragment of card #4, catcher Ray Schalk. Interestingly, the jagged but symmetrical edge cuts look more like a machine error than poor scissor work.

UPDATE #2: Another Speaker with parallel mis-cuts, but nowhere near straight. What kind of machine would create these angled edges?

UPDATE #3: This Speaker shares the UNIVERSAL header seen above, so likely came from the strip's leftmost edge.

Value: I bought two of the Speakers pictured on this page for under $30 each. It's an affordable set for finding Hall of Famers during their careers.

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any personally, but they're so cheap to reproduce that fakes of Ruth and Cobb are likely.

Monday, September 21, 2009

1961 Peters Meats Minnesota Twins #5, Don Mincher

Major League Baseball felt their foundations shake throughout the 50s and 60s, as franchise moves and multiple waves of expansion shifted the game from a bus-based tradition to a sport of cross-country travel. While the St. Louis Browns moved east to Baltimore, most teams went west into markets previously left to the Pacific Coast League. In all, 14 teams moved or debuted between 1953 and 1969. The Braves and Athletics even changed cities twice each during that time! Minnesota started smack in the middle of this shell game, playing their first American League season in 1961. While newcomers to the Great Lakes region, the Twins weren't an expansion team, as the franchise lineage points back to Washington's first baseball team, the Senators, one of the AL's 8 charter clubs.

In one of the majors' most unusual "trades," Washington, D.C. and Minneapolis-St. Paul essentially swapped the rights to receive a new team. After the 1960 season wrapped up, the Senators loaded up moving vans and relocated to Minnesota, leaving only the name behind. With them went rising stars like Harmon Killebrew, then-prospect Don Mincher, and a suspect cast of supporting characters. Baseball owners then awarded our nation's capitol a new franchise under the old name, much like NFL's Browns retained their moniker when Art Modell moved the organization from Cleveland to Baltimore. In a political sense, it worked like a presidential changeover, as the old staff packed up and new folks took their place. The departing squad consistently finished at the bottom of the standings prior to 1961, so I assume fans (and baseball owners) hoped Washington's fresh start meant a brighter future.

The Peters Meat Corporation printed this set as wrap-around panels for their "porkette" link sausages and hot dogs to welcome Minnesota's new team. While a 22 year-old Mincher played in only 27 games for the 1960 Senators, he merited this 1961 card on the strength of high expectations. 1962 and 1963 saw him in backup and pinch-hit duties, but he eventually became the everyday 1B when Killebrew moved to the outfield. Don led the 1965 pennant winners in slugging at .509 with 22 homers.

Card front

This set used colorful, retouched photos reminiscent of 1954 Bowman. My copy of Mr. Mincher lacks the top half of the complete blank-backed wrapper; see All Marty's Stuff for a scan of the full product. This poorly trimmed example cost $10 on eBay, a fair price given the multiple creases and sullied front. Most full cards run at least $20-30 in average shape and go much higher in complete, unused condition. Affordable copies seldom reach the market, as many are already in team or player collections. recently auctioned off a full, high-grade set for the final price of $1,065.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

1921 W516-2-1 Baseball #5, Ty Cobb

We find today's guest in an unfamiliar role: on the field, with a glove, just moving to one side. No incredible batting skills, no legging out a double, and no savage slides with spikes high. Other than a certain set of the Georgia Peach's jaw, this card could be anyone. Is it the only time he failed to stand out from a crowd?

Card front (blank back)

I'll leave aside Cobb's legendary temper and vitriol in favor of interesting aspects of the card and W516 issue itself. As a lefty batter, you could miss that he fielded right-handed, so the glove should be on his left hand. That identifies this card as a reversed image. (Check the southeast corner for confirmation, where "IRC (c)" is also a mirror-image of what it should be.)

While W516s look like a fairly typical strip card issue, the catalog number comprises 3 distinct issues that share a common list of players. Old Cardboard does a great job profiling their differences and respective checklists. As a reversed image with typeset name, my Cobb's officially a W516-2-1. Fortunately, this gaffe doesn't detract from an interesting horizontal layout and vibrant background. Against all strip card odds, I'd want this for my collection, #5 or not.

UPDATE: Saw this purported W516-2-1 Cobb on eBay. It uses handwritten text with name/position on the right, though, so looks like a W516-1-2 instead of the typeset version above.

Horizontal W516 strip cards normally cut along the dotted line below, with name/position at left. This Cobb might be badly mis-cut or could be another W516-related card issue.

UPDATE: Found this W516-2-3 on eBay, to see what the corrected version (with type-set name and position) looks like.

Value: W516s probably hold the title of cheapest Cobb from his playing days. I plucked this one off eBay in 2004 for the low, low price of $26. Another trimmed version appeared in a $20 box at the 2008 National. Online sellers usually ask a lot more (tsk tsk), but it should be your best shot at the legendary Tiger outfielder for reasonable money.

Fakes / reprints: They might be out there (being Cobb), but I haven't seen any personally.

Monday, September 14, 2009

1922 W501 #5, Bobby Veach

In 1925, today's guest appeared in a single game for the Boston Red Sox. Bob (aka Bobby) made 3 catches in left field, rapped a two-run single, and walked once in 6 trips to the plate. As a career .300+ hitter and competent outfielder, you'd expect more work. Unfortunately, Beantown sank quickly into last place and older players--Veach was 37--became expendable.

In May, the Sox shipped Bobby to another troubled team in search of a supporting cast, the Yankees. While Bronx's Bombers played well at home (42-36), a lineup of sluggers Ruth, Gehrig, and Bob Meusel couldn't save their road record (27-49). Veach batted well off the bench, even pinch-hitting for the Babe on August 9th, but New York cut him soon after. A final fortnight with the pennant-winning Senators in September closed his career at 2063 hits and 127 OPS+.

1922's W501 set includes 120 players with hazy black-and-white photos and white borders. Being strip cards, they often feature ragged edges and other wear. The design closely resembles caramel cards like the E121s and E135s, with rarity somewhere between the two. Low-grade commons cost $10 to $20, depending on the trimming and picture quality. I cropped rough edges from today's scan to make the picture less muddy. It's a solid PR-FR and cost $22 from eBay last year.

Friday, September 11, 2009

1971 Topps Super Baseball #5, Boog Powell

First base seems an ideal spot for big-bat fan-favorites. Today’s guest shared the goal of most men with biceps like F-16s: swing hard. Do it early. Do it often. Over a 17-year career--mostly as an Oriole--Boog hit 339 homers with a career 134 OPS+. This card pictures him a year after winning the 1970 AL MVP; he also finished in the top 3 twice.

For the third year in a row, Topps distributed a "Supers" test issue in limited numbers across the country. Initially conceived as a regular-sized, high-quality set in 1969 (set profile), they grew in size for 1970 (set profile), and made their swan song in 1971 (gallery and checklist).

All Supers feature full-bleed photos and decent composition, but 1971's set feels lower budget than previous years. There’s not much gloss, so fronts can look dusty. Card backs reuse the normal set’s inset photo and stat grid, which seems unnecessary. While it features the thickest card stock I’ve seen in a Topps issue, edges split and peel fairly easily when handled. At least the rounded corners mean no "dog ears." (I cropped them out of my front scan, as my card's mis-cut on an angle.)

Back scan courtesy Topps Archives

Can't get enough of the birds? See Orioles Card O the Day for another 1971 Super profile, #18 Dave McNally.

Value: Despite a high percentage of HOF players, the market doesn’t value 1970 and 1971 Supers highly. You can find ungraded cards easily and likely build a set for under $100. A trading partner sent today’s card gratis a few years back and eBay lists them for less than $5. (As a high-numbered short-print, Boog’s “normal” 1971 #700 card costs significantly more than that.)

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

Thursday, September 3, 2009

1962 Venezuelan Baseball #5, Sandy Koufax

Today's post originally profiled this 1962 Venezuelan set in detail. In 2011, I updated its entry as part of a complete series on cards from that baseball-loving country, with each new entry linked below.