Friday, October 29, 2010

1974 Laughlin Old Time Black Stars Baseball #5, Willie Foster

In July 1933, Major League baseball pitted the AL and NL against each other in an inaugural All-Star Game. Connie Mack and John McGraw faced off as managers, fans helped select the lineups,  and Comiskey Park roared when an aging-but-powerful Babe Ruth hit its 1st homer. Then as now, the game entertained fans and made money, without much regard for the final outcome.

Today, folks look back nostalgically at the Negro Leagues, but it was a business and owners took competition very seriously. Only two months after MLB's success, "East" and "West" teams trotted onto the very same Comiskey field for a game of all-black All-Stars. The Western team starter (and Chicago American Giants star) was Willie Foster.

Card front

Foster threw a complete-game victory in 1933, beating a trio of East pitchers. The West team played their starters all 9 innings, a rare move for star-driven games of any sort. Both All-Star games became annual traditions, with MLB running theirs in July and the Negro Leagues playing in August or September.

The Negro Leagues struggled financially following WWII and surviving teams returned to barnstorming by the 1950s. Their annual All-Star game lasted until 1962 and teams occasionally played a second game outside Chicago. A semi-integrated MLB also ran two All-Star games from 1959 to 1962, perhaps in an effort to "drown out" interest in the all-black teams. (My conjecture, but plausible given baseball's cutthroat management style.)

Card back

Artist Bob Laughlin self-published this 36-card salute to Negro Leaguers and sold them by mail order, like his 1968 World Series (#5 set profile) and 1972 Great Feats sets (#5 set profile). It apparently proved successful enough to warrant a follow-up, 1978's Long Ago Black Stars (#5 set profile).

This set contains a bunch of HOFers, scans available at this Collectors Universe forum post.

Value: Foster cost me $8 in 2006. I estimate singles run at least $5 and definitely more for HOFers.

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

Thursday, October 28, 2010

1972 Laughlin Great Feats of Baseball #5, George Sisler

For a team with rare on-field success (a handful of winning seasons and 1 pennant in half a century), the old St. Louis Browns fielded plenty of HOF-caliber players. "Gorgeous George" Sisler proved one of their best, batting over .400 twice, winning the AL's first MVP award in 1922, and setting a single-season hits record that stood for 80 years. (Full stats at Baseball-Reference.)

Card front (blank back)

Artist Bob Laughlin turned this clean, nostalgic art style into two lines of business during the 1970s. At the candy counter, Fleer published his World Series cards (1971 #5 profile here) for several years, possibly until 1980. They also planned to collaborate on these "Great Feats" cards until Topps printed their own 1971 "Greatest Moments" set. Fleer ultimately backed out of the plan, so Laughlin sold it by mail order and continued to self-publish oddball sets throughout the decade. ("Long Ago Black Stars" is my favorite.)

Mail order ad for 1972 Great Feats 

For more info on Laughlin's sets and overall excellent card research, read "How Topps Foiled Fleer's Plans" at the superlative Fleer Sticker Project. (It also provided the ad scan above.)

Value: Most of the set features well-known players, so singles can run up to $10.

Fakes / reprints: While not technically a reprint, Laughlin produced versions with both red and blue borders. A year further removed from the Topps set, Fleer decided in 1973 to go ahead with a "Famous Feats" set that reuses some pictures from this set.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

1970 Fleer Baseball World Series #5, 1908 (Cubs vs. Tigers)

This 66-card set profiled all the World Series match-ups from 1903 to 1969. If the math doesn't add up, it's because 1904 had no series and this set gave it no card. NY Giants manager John McGraw refused to face the Boston Americans that year, in part because he didn't get along with AL President Ban Johnson. (It might also be because Boston defeated Pittsburgh in 1903, so were no pushovers.)

The 1971 version, which this blog profiled recently, copied this set almost exactly, but inserted a 1904 "no series" card at #2. 1970's jump from 1903 to 1905 means everything in 1971 after #1 is one number higher, probably confusing collectors with cards from both years.

Fleer republished this World Series set from an original design by artist Bob Laughlin (1968 version #5 profile). His 1908 picture merges famed fielders Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, and Frank Chance into one number, a .345 batting average. Here's how the trio did individually in 1908's series.
  • Tinker .263, .684 OPS, 1 HR, 2 steals
  • Evers .350, .781 OPS, 2 steals
  • Chance .421, .921 OPS, 5 steals

Player-manager Frank Chance's gap power, great speed (403 career steals), and good batting eye (~70 walks/year) made him Chicago's key player for most of their "championship decade" (titles in 1905, 1907, and 1908). Checking his career stats made me wonder--has another first baseman led their league in stolen bases twice?

Fans of double play combos like Tinker-Evers-Chance should read "A Record with Legs" by Bob Warrington, a nice profile of the 1949 Athletics, who own the season record with an amazing 217 twin-killings. A's first baseman Ferris Fain holds the top individual mark by being involved in 194 of them.

Value: World Series singles cost a dollar or two, plus a few dollars for cards with Babe Ruth or other superstars.

Fakes / reprints: The 1971 re-issue is a real set, so not exactly a reprint. Haven't seen any fakes in the market.

Monday, October 25, 2010


Full credit to the Rangers and Giants for taking baseball's AL and NL pennants! It's the first time for Texas, whose franchise is technically a 1961 expansion team that moved from Washington D.C. prior to 1972. (Read more about it in this blog's 1961 Peters Meats Twins #5 profile.) SF grabbed their second 21st-century title, 8 years after losing to Anaheim in the 2002 World Series.
On Oct 15, I challenged readers to guess the combined runs for all 4 teams in 2010's ALCS and NLCS. Even below-average scoring (7 runs x 12 games) would total almost 90, but actual numbers ran slightly higher, thanks to those burly AL hitters.

ALCS: 57 runs
NLCS: 39 runs
Total: 96 runs

The top estimate was 98, so our 4 highest-end folks proved winners.

  • AlbuqwirkE: 83
  • Steve D: 88
  • Dan: 94
  • Night Owl: 98

Congrats to these baseball sages! I will package up some pre-war goodies and contact each of you for a mailing address.

Friday, October 22, 2010

1971 Fleer Baseball World Series #5, 1907 (Cubs vs. Tigers)

This set covers all baseball title match-ups from 1903 to 1980. Originally released in 1971, Fleer continued to sell it off and on through the decade, updating with new champions as the years passed. 1907 saw the first of back-to-back titles for Chicago, but the Cubs remain winless in the World Series since. (At Wrigley last year, one of the bittersweet fan-made t-shirts said, "any team can have a bad century.")

Card front

Is this the only card to feature two different players sliding? It might very well be. 25 steals is already impressive, but consider they came in a 5-game series. These days, teams are lucky to take 10 extra bases combined.

Card back

Baseball and cartoon artist Bob Laughlin first self-published a black-and-white World Series set in 1968. (This blog profiled its #5 in early 2009.) When Fleer contracted with him to republish a color version, they replaced active MLBPA union members--including 1967 series hero Bob Gibson--with non-player images.

There's a ton of great World Series set info out there, but these 2 articles also talk about Laughlin's influence on collecting, publishing, and cards in general.

Value: They run a couple dollars each, perhaps more for cards picturing legends like Babe Ruth.

Fakes / reprints: This is a fairly popular re-issue set, but I haven't seen any reprints in the market.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Type Site: 1207 Consecutive Games

Number 5 Type Collection follower and fellow Garvey fan Steelehere runs his own blog over at 1207 Consecutive Games, so named for Steve's NL record-setting playing streak. That stretch of daily work in LA and San Diego placed 4th on the all-time list, behind Cal Ripken (2632), Lou Gehrig (2130), and Everett Scott (1307). (Get full details at

I rank two of Steelehere's posts as "essential card reading", one of which I referenced in a Lou Piniella retrospective. That post is "Hope Springs Eternal" and shows off guys with more than 1 multi-player rookie card.

But why stop at one great post? In Sept 2010, he added "Hope Spring Eternal - Part Two." It features, among other cool stuff, a Topps fumble-and-fix, where they ran 2 different cards for George Korince in the same 1967 set.

Twice the players means twice the stories! Check out more of his cards and research at 1207 Consecutive Games.

Monday, October 18, 2010

POLL UPDATE: Runs scored over the weekend

Thanks to all who entered Friday's TOTAL RUNS IN THE ALCS and NLCS contest. What people guessed depends on both how many games you think will be played and what you think of the pitchers and hitters. Lowest possible is 8, should both winners sweep all 1-0 games. Reality's far above that, and A.J. Burnett hasn't even taken the hill yet.

New York's game 4 starter, baby!

The Yankees dropped 8 of A.J.'s last 10 starts, but for my Yankee-rooting friends, it probably felt like all of 'em.

Let's check the contest entries, from low to high.

  • Ryan: 42 
  • Don: 54 
  • Mark: 57
  • AdamE: 63
  • Captain Canuck: 67
  • Chris Stufflestreet: 69 (dudes)
  • Play at the Plate: 73
  • BA Benny: 77
  • AlbuqwirkE: 83
  • Steve D: 88
  • Dan: 94
  • Night Owl: 98

After the weekend, we stand at 34 total runs, or 8.5 per game (ALCS has 20 and NLCS 14). With both series tied 1-1 and at least 6 more games coming, the top end of our range is looking good. Might we break 100 with room to spare?

Friday, October 15, 2010

CONTEST: Pre-War Playoff Giveaway 2010

Tonight, the curtain rises on baseball's League Championship Series. To salute the 4 teams who made it thus far, I'm giving away pre-war cards to 4 folks who get closest to this question.

"How many TOTAL RUNS will all teams score in the ALCS and NLCS?"

This is every game from both best-of-7 series, even the easy-to-count, 1-0 masterpieces. No need to predict games or winners, just total runs! Can we believe the hype of ace pitchers blowing everyone away?

How do you qualify?

Add a comment to THIS POST with your guess. Entries accepted until MIDNIGHT PACIFIC TONIGHT, so you CAN wait for tonight's game result, if you think it'll make a difference.

Make sure to guess using a Blogger profile or leave another way to contact you, like an email address. Also, tell your friends! (Want to win without diluting your own chances? Tell your friends who are bad at math!)

What stuff am I giving away?

"Pre-war" means anything issued prior to World War II, so I'll pick from that era. This includes Goudey's famous sets, Play Ball, and candy cards. It's a good bet they'll be low-grade, but still 70+ year-old cardboard!

When will I give it away?

Once we know who's playing in the World Series, I'll total the runs and post a list of winners. Will people tie for 4th place and make me give away MORE cards?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

1969-70 Montreal Expos Baseball Postcards #5, Mike Wegener

Ah, the dilemma of "new" amid a sea of "familiar." Expansion teams, which baseball added four of in 1969, scramble to connect new fans and players as quickly as possible, since neither side knows each other. As the first non-American major league team, Les Expos faced extra competitive and financial hurdles, as they overlapped NHL's hockey season and worked within a different economic system.

Montreal did own a significant minor league past--Brooklyn even seasoned Jackie Robinson there prior to breaking the color barrier--but now needed to familiarize a roster of youngsters and expansion draftees. Without some shared recognition, players feel out-of-place and teams fail to make money. (Lousy management led Seattle's Pilots to move after only one year, becoming the Brewers prior to 1970.)

Card front

This postcard clearly came from 1969 spring training, given the palm trees. Montreal selected Mr. Wegener from Philadelphia during its expansion draft, finally giving him a chance to start after 4 years as a farmhand. Mike batted well for a pitcher, going for .241 with 7 RBIs that year, and hit a high point on June 14 by shutting out the Giants in Candlestick Park.

Card back

Best I can tell, Montreal produced a 16-player postcard set in both 1969 and 1970, for a total of 32 numbered cards. Its combined checklist includes team All-Star Rusty Staub, veteran reliever Roy Face (previously profiled on a #5 TCMA Pirates card), and best-name-nominee Coco Laboy. (See the full roster at

Value: This cost $3 on eBay, about right for lesser-known players. As a Montreal favorite, Staub would probably run $10 or more.

Fakes / reprints: This is a rare set, but I doubt anyone tried reprinting them.

Monday, October 11, 2010

1975 Oklahoma 89ers Baseball #5, Thomas Brennan

Not many sets show pitchers as batters, but 12-year pro Tom Brennan got the privilege on his very first card. Speaking of other rarely seen features, are those...muttonchops? Those 1970s never stop being the 1970s.

Card front

If you believe who doesn't--Brennan batted like most pitchers do. In 12 major league plate appearances and 20 more in the minors, he managed 2 singles and a double. (That's still 3 more professional hits than me!)

Card back

This 24-card debut set from Oklahoma City's erstwhile 89ers (now the RedHawks) features black-and-white players and a scrubby Midwestern background. Plenty of Tom's 1975 teammates forged long careers in the majors, including Duane "1 homer in 3,379 at bats" Kuiper and Larry "Traded for Jeff Bagwell" Andersen.

Bonus scan: Pitchers batting who aren't really pitchers! Read more at The Great 1965 Project.

1965 Topps #472

Value: supplied Mr. Brennan for $2.50, a good deal given the rarity of pre-1977 minor league cards.

Fakes / reprints: My desktop inkjet could reprint these cards accurately, but I'd have a hard selling them to anyone.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

How's this for synchronicity?

Today turned up one of those excellent overlaps in the world of card blogging, thanks to two of my favorites.

First, The Topps Archives ranks high on any list of great card blogs, given its constant fountain of info on both familiar and obscure issues. Next, Baseball Nerd by MSNBC (and former ESPN) host Keith Olbermann captures his thoughts on the sport and our hobby. As a long-time collector, he knows how to weave cards into the pastime's larger context.

Today, Topps Archives did a great breakdown of the 3-series 1967-1968 Venezuelan Winter League set called Limite Loco. That issue's a fascinating combo of local players, retired stars, and images borrowed from Topps.

1967-68 Venezuelan Joe Foy

Baseball Nerd posts often show minor league cards of current players to make light of hairstyles or "what were they thinking?" uniform design. Today, Olbermann covered the managers for all 8 playoff teams. What to my wondering eyes would appear but this Bobby Cox from Venezuela?

1967-68 Venezuelan Bobby Cox

Coincidence? Probably. Awesome? Definitely.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

1978 TCMA 1941 Dodgers Baseball #5, Tom Drake

If my art history 101 class had it right, Pablo Picasso spent the early 20th century painting in muted shades of blue and green. This "Blue Period" reflected both his deep depression and fascination with European street life and its people. Months of daily work went onto canvases like this Spanish guitar player.

The Old Guitarist (1903)

By contrast, Pablo could've knocked out this salute to the residents of Flatbush Avenue (aka Ebbetts Field) in one afternoon.

OK, OK, that's hardly art, but it looks like TCMA published this 43-player set during their own "Blue Period." I think they tinted black-and-white photos to match Brooklyn's own uniform colors. This looked distinctive--if drab--without using a more expensive, multi-color printing process.

The onset of WWII cut many teams to the quick, as most fit men of fighting age enlisted. The veteran-based Dodgers, however, kept theirs largely intact and stayed above .500 through 1943.

Speaking of players in the service, see a young Pee Wee Reese (and many others) in TCMA's own 1975 WWII Postcard set.

Value: Mr. Drake cost $2 on eBay. HOFers Reese and Ducky Medwick run a few dollars more.

Fakes / reprints: Don't know of any reprints, though it'd be pretty easy to do, given the one-color fronts.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Great package from The Year It All Began!

Credit MrMopar of the excellent blog 1978, The Year It All Began with persistence in getting a nice assortment of Garveys and #5 cards to my door. Here's what he did to make that happen.

  1. Sent multiple mails to get my mailing address right, since I'm not the, uh, promptest replier. 
  2. Braved USPS line in person, where a postal employee cautioned him the package might be searched. (Implication? "It's totally within our rights to confiscate your Garvey cards.")
  3. Waited patiently for their slowest boat to deliver it, possibly using carrier fish to cross the Mississippi.

But it's now in my hands! Check out this 2-part haul.

6 Garveys (1 w/Fernando) and a Quirk auto!

MrMopar astutely selected several Garveys needed for my player collection and added an autograph to my less well-known cache of Jamie Quirks! Pictured cards include a video tape guide to collecting by National show promoter Mike Berkus (with appearance by Steve), Fun Foods promo card, and 1971 Dell stamp RC (which shares a photo with Ticketron's 1971 postcard). Woo!

Many, many #5 cards

Wow, what a stack of cool stuff. Stickers, HOFers, minor leaguers--they run the gamut. Note the blue-bordered 1977 San Jose Missions card at upper left and look for its profile on this blog soon!

Other players in this cornucopia range from the infamous (Jose Canseco appeared on several #5s during his career) to the timeless (Julio Franco in Cleveland) to the really, really slow (Sid Bream).

Thanks for the hits, sir, I treasure every card! (And video tape.)

Oh yeah--one last thing I noticed.

Garvey, circa 1979

Tom Brady, circa 2005

"Is that you, dad?"

1977 TCMA 1960 Pirates Baseball #5, Don Hoak

In 1957, Cincinnati fans--nothing if not enthusiastic--performed baseball's most successful stuffing of the All-Star ballot box, electing no less than seven hometown starters: Wally Post, Johnny Temple, Gus Bell, Ed Bailey, Roy McMillan, Frank Robinson, and...Don Hoak.

Baseball commissioner Ford Frick made 2 changes prior to the All-Star game itself. First, he dropped two Reds from NL's starters, benching Gus Bell and dropping Wally Post altogether. Fans also lost their ability to elect starters and wouldn't regain it until 1970. (Rumors say he also told some greasers to get off his lawn.)

Extra ballots aside, third baseman Hoak deserved the spot, as he led the AL that year with 39 doubles, hit 19 homers, and posted a .381 OPB from a key defensive position.

This 42-player set celebrates a classic World Series, as Pittsburgh's Pirates overcame New York's Yankees in 7 games. HOF glove man Bill Mazeroski hit the homer every 10 year-old dreams of, a bottom-of-the-ninth title-winner.

TCMA honored the 1960 Pirates with multiple times in a fairly short span. A second 42-card set followed in 1980, with a similar checklist, but more polished front design.

1980 version of the hero himself

Value: Hoak cost $2 on eBay, about right for 1970s oddballs. HOFers Clemente and Mazeroski run several dollars more.

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any reprints in the market (and don't expect to).

Friday, October 1, 2010

1977 TCMA Galasso Baseball #5, Roy Campanella

It's hard to quantify everything Campy did for the Dodgers, but his shadow looms much longer than "just" 10 years of catching in Brooklyn. I'm a big fan of his cards, which cover a great range of batting, fielding, and posed positions (scans from CheckOutMyCards).

Card front

TCMA picked an interesting shot of Campy in full gear for this baseball history set. As with their 2-series issue that covered the 1960s (#5 profile here), this Renata Galasso co-produced set added a new crop of players every few years from 1977 to 1984, eventually totaling 270 cards. (Some players appeared multiple times.)

Card back

Even though a car accident restricted Roy to a wheelchair at age 36, he remained with the Dodgers, cheerfully coaching catchers for many years. The team recently created an award in his name and gives it annually to the player who best exemplifies his spirit and leadership. Jamey Carroll received their 2010 award on Sept 23.

Value: TCMA and Galasso printed quite a few of these sets, so they're both easy to find and relatively cheap. This Campy runs a few dollars at most.

Fakes / reprints: I've never seen any reprints in the marketplace.

UPDATE: 1977 TCMA Galasso #11, Carl Furillo, a classy Dodger with a cannon arm.