Thursday, December 31, 2009

1946-47 Caramelo Deportivo #5 League Umpires

By the 1940s, America saw baseball cards as a kid-and-candy product, but other countries still marketed them with tobacco and another "grown-up" novelties. Cuba's "Caramelo Deportivo" brand published this set of paper-thin cards across the country's 1946-47 winter league season.

Card front

I believe Caramelo also made an album for this set, so surviving single cards usually sport glue stains or missing paper. (I traded with an experienced Caribbean collector to get this clean example.)

Card back (front printing visible)

Long-time Cuban umpire Raul Atan makes his second #5 blog appearance on this card, preceding the beautiful 1952-53 Victoria set.

Value: The hobby's discovered many more Caribbean sets over the last decade and values jumped as people learned enough about them to become interested. Commons from this year run $10 to $40, depending on condition and provenance. (Guides like the annual SCD have more detailed pricing.)

Fakes / Reprints: It's likely reprints exist for this set, since they definitely do for early 50s Cuban issues. Real examples come on thin, glossy paper that you can almost see through. (Note the ink ghosting on both sides of the scan.)

Monday, December 28, 2009

1967 Venezuelan #5, Octavio Rojas (a.k.a. Cookie Rojas)

This entry was my first profile for 1967 Topps Venezuelan baseball. I've since updated and reposted it as part of a full series about that country's card sets. Find it at 1967 Venezuelan Baseball #5!

Few can Ca-Rock-as the specs like Mr. Rojas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

1975 TCMA International League All-Star Baseball #5, Mike Reinbach

This photo shows Mr. Reinbach dressed in "generic baseball uniform," topped with "typical cap," and sporting a "standard 70s mustache." All you need is a Schlitz sign to capture the whole decade.

Mike's actually wearing a 1974 Baltimore Orioles kit with the hat logo airbrushed off. He started that season on their opening day roster, but didn't perform well enough to stick around--.604 OPS in 12 games--and finished up with AAA Rochester.

Prior to the 1970 Miami stint, Reinbach played with the Alaska Goldpanners in 1969 (team photo), a long-lived amateur team that recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. Alums of this remote franchise include several famous MLBers, including HOFs Tom Seaver and Dave Winfield.

UPDATE: Learned this set's for the Rochester Red Wings (of the International League), so updated the post title.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Image archive poll wrap-up: it's a push

Thanks to everyone who voted in last week's poll, "should I create a high-res archive of #5 type card images?" Got answers for all three options--yes, just for charity, and no--with no clear winner.

Since there's some support for the archive concept, I'll start collating images as time permits, let folks know where to look, and might set up a charity tip jar. (Higher-res images should also find their way back into older posts--everybody wins!)

Expect to see more info in 2010 posts, including how often I've seen each card and any reprints or counterfeits. Add a comment with any special requests or other card info you'd like to see and have a good holiday season.

UPDATE: Why not include a card scan for the heck of it?

Card front: 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle RC

Saturday, December 12, 2009

1967 Topps Baseball Pin-Ups (aka Posters) #5, Carl Yastrzemski

Though technically a mini-poster, great composition and lighting make this portrait my favorite Yaz card. It comes appropriately from his Triple Crown year, when Boston won their 1st AL pennant since 1946.

Topps made annual poster-style inserts from the late 60s to the early 70s and 1967 is smallest at 5” x 7”, but its checklist includes an array of stars, from Aaron to Mantle to Yaz. Mid and late series 1967 wax packs included these posters at one per pack. Each came folded in quarters, so only proofs (and reprints) avoid vertical and horizontal creasing.

Value: The 1967 Topps Baseball blog critiqued several inclusions in the poster checklist. I agree that Rose and Gibson would’ve made better choices than Knoop or Hunt, but lesser-known players also make the set easier and more affordable to complete. This wrinkled Yaz cost me $1 at an oddball show table.

Fakes / reprints: O-Pee-Chee followed with a copy-cat version for Canadian release in 1968, but changed their numbering: OPC #5 is New York Met outfielder Cleon Jones.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

New Poll: Create a #5 Scan Archive?

The #5 type collection currently contains a few hundred examples and about 85% of known numbered, pre-1980 sets. Players range in fame from Babe Ruth to Bob Buhl. Cards measure from postage stamps up to cereal box panels. There's everything from the over-produced to the super-rare, including a bunch of foreign issues.

1962 Topps Venezuelan card front

1962 Topps Venezuelan card back

Many folks focus on newer sets and only "collect" old stuff vicariously through Google Image Search and baseball blogs. (Indeed, a solid 50% of this blog's visitors come directly from GIS!) Since it would take quite a while to read through everything on the site, there looks to be value in a hi-res, front-and-back archive of vintage #5s.

Let me know if you're interested (or not) in a buyable archive via the new poll, which I'll keep open through Dec 17, 2009. Scans would include a #5 site watermark and cost would be low. (I consider $19.95 expensive, so more like $10.)

If people prefer that proceeds go to charity, I would send it to a Child's Play children's hospital or one of the school projects. They're both excellent groups that I contribute to each year.

Also add your thoughts to the comments!

1920 W519 strip card #5, Babe Ruth

30 Helens Agree: "It's hard to beat a vintage Babe Ruth card."

This #5 still looks hale and hearty, though a previous owner slimmed it down significantly with some scissors. Fortunately, they left behind the name, number, and the Babe's sly smile. That's enough to catalog it as a W519, part of a 1920 set of 20 strip cards.

W519 card front

This blog already profiled a mirror twin to today's Bambino, the 1921 W521 #5. Both sets probably used the same distribution, as horizontal paper strips sold for a few cents at stores, carnivals, or arcades.

W521 card front

Old Cardboard's profile for W519 notes several design and numbering variations, but the serious collectors at Net54Baseball are still exploring and developing the set's full scope. See a December 8, 2009 thread for discussion, checklist questions, and example scans.

The Babe Ruth Cards site includes scans of several W519s, all slabbed and ready-to-buy. (No connection or endorsement implied.) Of note, the PSA and SGC graders didn't originally distinguish W519-1 and W519-2 varieties, but some recent Net54 scans include that detail.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

1915 Cracker Jack E145 #5, Ward Miller

As the tobacco era of baseball cards waned, candy and snack makers stepped in with similar cross-promotional ideas. Cracker Jack, already immortalized in the chorus of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," produced a pair of such sets, now cataloged as E145-1 and E145-2, across 1914 and 1915.

Unlike the narrow, ad-back cards produced for smokers, Cracker Jack went with broad images on the front and detailed player bios on the back. 1914's text refers to a "complete set of 144 pictures," but 1915 numbers to 176, their easiest distinguishing feature. Card stock also changed between the years, probably to match up with 1915's collectors album. (See Old Cardboard's profile for further production details.)

If you had a family hand-me-down set of Cracker Jacks, where would you take it? Perhaps an Antiques Roadshow in Kansas? It happened in 2008 and the show appraiser provided some set details (and value) in the transcript.

Cracker Jack started with 144 cards for their 1914 set and expanded to 176 in 1915. Look for the "complete set of 176 pictures" card text (or "144 pictures" in 1914) to tell them apart.

Ward Miller played for the St. Louis Terriers of the outlaw Federal League, an 8-team attempt to compete directly with the American and National Leagues. They were rewarded with his finest seasons at the plate--122 OPS+ in 1914 and 125 OPS+ in 1915--and league-average work in the field.

When the Federal League dissolved after 1915, Terriers owner Phil Ball "joined" the AL by purchasing the St. Louis Browns and merging both teams' rosters. Miller stayed with the franchise through 1917, so is one of the few players to play in all 3 "major" leagues: American, Federal, and National.

Value: This #5 cost $30, an OK price for low-grade singles. Unfortunately, the sheer quantity of graded and faked Cracker Jacks in the market makes it difficult to find low-grade authentic cards at any price.

Fakes / reprints: So many counterfeit and reprint Cracker Jacks cards exist that I recommend you buy a graded type card or work with dealers who know pre-war vintage inside and out.

1988 Topps #5, Niekro Brothers Record Breaker

Mark of the eponymous blog Mark's Ephemera recently sent a nice package of #5s and its plethora of years, sports, and types looked like an cardboard cornucopia. The box included 1988 Topps #5, which honored Phil and Joe Niekro passing Jim and Gaylord Perry for brotherly victories. (I don't normally profile post-1980 sets, but wanted to thank Mark for the great gift!)

Card front

This blog recently profiled the knuckleball brothers when Joe appeared in the 1978 Burger King Astros. Coincidentally, he and Phil both went 7-13 in 1987 and split the year between multiple teams. Phil made 22 starts with Cleveland prior to short stints with Toronto and Atlanta. Joe began the year in pinstripes, but finished with the champion Minnesota Twins and threw 2 innings in game 4 of the World Series.

Card back

Phil retired (at age 48!) after 1987 and Joe pitched part of 1988 for the Twins before hanging them up. He collected the last of their 539 victories on April 12th by pitching 2 scoreless relief innings in a 7-6 result over Cleveland.

Monday, December 7, 2009

1940 Wheaties Champs of the USA #5, Joe Medwick

Like the recent 1939 Wheaties Series 12 profile, General Mills published today's "set" as a group of box panels during 1940. Each measures 6" square and features 3 sportsmen, all recent champions of their chosen profession.

Card front

The full panel checklist includes several variations, though none are known for #5. I've embellished the card text with a few links of my choosing.

Joe "Ducky" Medwick: "A terror at bat! Holds a three-year-straight record for runs batted in; voted most valuable player in National League 1937; led the league in batting! Houston got Joe in '31 from a Carteret, N. J. prep school, where he starred in basketball, football, track--and baseball! Cards signed him in '33, following his meteoric two years with Houston. Teammates call him 'Ducky.'"

Medwick made 7 straight All-Star games for St. Louis's Gashouse Gang from 1934 to 1940 and placed in the top-10 MVP voting 4 times.

Madison "Matty" Bell: "Head football coach of Southern Methodist University's Mustangs. Starred four years at Centre College (last two on undefeated teams). Coached at three colleges, became S.M.U. head coach in '35, inspired team to Southwest Conference Championship, same year to the Rose Bowl--the first and only Southwest team so honored! Coaching record: 112 wins, 12 ties, only 63 losses! Stands 6', weighs 190."

Centre College, my parents' alma mater, played strong football in the early 20th century, going 25-2-3 during Bell's years as a player. Their 1921 defeat of Harvard was called the "The Upset of the Century."

Abbott "Ab" Jenkins: "Acclaimed America's safest, fastest driver! Born near Salt Lake City, Utah. Began his steel-nerved career very young. First raced on a motorcycle. Then bought a car, began setting speed records. Invited English drivers to Utah's world's-best race course, broke the records they set! Holds nearly 750 world speed marks. Has driven over 1,400,000 accident-free miles!"

A devout Mormon, Ab's great popularity resulted in a term as SLC's mayor from 1940 to 1944. See Barracuda Magazine's more detailed tribute to the "Racing Mayor," with pictures of his Mormon Meteor III.

Friday, December 4, 2009

1980 TCMA Portland Beavers #5, Rob Ellis

Do you like those red-on-white TCMA minor leaguers the way I do? This team set serves up the Portland Beavers, a 1903 Pacific Coast League charter franchise and current AAA affiliate for San Diego.

Card front

Baseball's seen a few men named "Rob Ellis" take the field. This one--middle name Walter--skipped the minors entirely after the 1971 draft and played 29 games that year for the Brewers. Only a handful in baseball history made that jump, with HOFer Al Kaline being the most successful.

Portland's 1980 team finished 7th, just one in a series of mediocre years. From 1978 to 1988, they used 11 different managers and even Charlie Manuel--2008 champion Philly manager--guided them to an awful 45-96 campaign in 1987.

Card back

Unfortunately, Milwaukee sent Mr. Ellis down for development after a punchless .494 OPS in 1971. Aside from a pair of mid-70s call-ups, Rob's career continued at the AAA level until his 1980 retirement, with stats for those who care to see them. This TCMA set contains the last of his 5 known baseball cards.

Paul Lukas's Uni Watch recently talked up Portland's classic 1956 uniforms in several columns. His links include an excellent Flickr album with both posed shots and in-game action.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

1939 Wheaties Baseball Series 12 #5, Jimmie Foxx

General Mills' iconic breakfast flake started cross-promoting with baseball in 1927 and continues to the present day. In the 1930s, their increasingly sophisticated ads expanded to outfield walls, radio shows, TV broadcasts, and lots of players on cereal boxes. The 1939 All-Star game rosters featured an absurd 46 Wheaties player-spokesmen.

While not sets in the traditional sense, General Mills printed rolling groups of pro endorsements, many with playing tips, on 1930s and 40s Wheaties box panels. They created no less than 17 different series in all! 1939's "Series 12" placed Jimmie Foxx (the reigning AL MVP) at #5 and its text helped kids with their batting stance.

Card front (click for detail)

Alex Rodriguez recently passed Foxx as the youngest player to hit 500 homers. Unfortunately, "Double-X" tailed off considerably after that milestone, finishing his career with 3 part-time seasons and only another 34 long balls. "What if he played today"discussions often mention Jimmie, since elite sluggers fade more gracefully with modern conditioning (and whatever else they've got going on).