Monday, April 19, 2010

1979 Sports Reading Series Baseball #5, Ted Williams

This unusual combo of story and photo looks more "place mat" than "baseball card," given its 9-inch x 14-inch size and washable, laminated finish. Its front-side story tells of Ted's last at-bat, a long home run into fading September light, and career dinger #521.

Card front (9" x 14")

The "Sports Reading Series" tells 1 baseball story each, with 50 pages in all. The back adds some vocabulary and reading comprehension questions, so it's obviously meant as a reading aid for kids. I assume they marketed (or gave) them to schools.

The checklist covers a whole range of eras, from a 19th century Cy Young to 1970s Ron Guidry. A lot of 1969 Mets fans probably need this for their collection and Eddie Gaedel's single at-bat get its very own card, a nice choice given his kid-size appearance. They don't show up very often, so building a set piecemeal should prove quite a challenge.

Card back (9" x 14")

History matched Ted Williams with the quote, "I want people to say, 'there goes the greatest hitter who ever lived.'" (Albert Pujols gets the same association today.) It's deceptively easy to jump from that assertion to a belief Williams actually was the best and I'm as guilty as anyone for buying in. It therefore felt refreshing to get a fuller treatment from John Updike, excerpt below.
"In sum, though generally conceded to be the greatest hitter of his era, [Ted Williams] did not establish himself as "the greatest hitter who ever lived." Cobb, for average, and Ruth, for power, remain supreme. Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Joe Jackson, and Lefty O'Doul, among players since 1900, have higher lifetime averages than Williams' .344. Unlike Foxx, Gehrig, Hack Wilson, Hank Greenberg, and Ralph Kiner, Williams never came close to matching Babe Ruth's season home-run total of sixty. In the list of major-league batting records, not one is held by Williams..."
Read Updike's complete "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu" story in the The New Yorker archives for more!

Value: $10 fetched this from eBay in early 2010. They don't turn up very often, but shouldn't cost more than $20, even for NM or mint examples. (I also doubt any grading companies can handle a piece this big.)

Fakes / Reprints: It would take a lot of work to reprint this kind of "card," so I don't expect to ever see one.

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