Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Winners from "Teams of Christmas Past" giveaway!

Thanks to all 15 folks who put in claims for my Festivus giveaway of old teams. After assigning everyone a number, the sequence generator kicked out these top 5!
  • Captain Canuck (Milwaukee Braves, St Louis Browns, Montreal Expos)
  • Chris Stufflestreet (Washington Senators, Seattle Pilots, Houston Colt .45s)
  • Dan (Philadelphia Athletics, St. Louis Browns, Washington Senators)
  • Jeremy (Brooklyn Dodgers, St.Louis Browns, NY Giants)
  • Mad Guru (Montreal Expos, Wilmington Quick Steps, Louisville Colonels)

Interesting to see 3 different St. Louis Browns selections make the cut, with a good smattering of other options. Not sure about finding Guru a Wilmington Quick Steps card, but props to him for picking a team I'd never heard of! I'll contact winners for their mailing addresses by this weekend.

Le Grand Orange thanks everyone for participating!

Monday, December 27, 2010

1971 Milk Duds Baseball #5, Andy Messersmith

Do Milk Duds make you think of movie theaters? School recess? How about baseball games?  Candy makers M. J. Holloway took advantage of the MLBPA's taste for player licensing income with this 72-box set; each one pictures an active player from 1971 and originally contained a dozen or so of their chocolate-dipped caramels.

Card front

The lower-right corner text, "Don't Forget! SLO-POKE," promotes another caramel created by Holloway in 1926. Most candy stores still offer Milk Duds, but Slo-Poke switched makers after 1971 and isn't seen much anymore. Find them these days at and similar retro sites.

Hand-cut version, no box

Holloway printed three players for each number from 1 to 24; Andy Messersmith (Angels), Billy Grabarkewitz (Dodgers), and Thurman Munson (Yankees) share #5. Most Milk Duds baseball "cards" survive as just a trimmed portrait--the only baseball element of its package--but trimming away the box panels removes its number and cuts resale value by at least half.)

Messersmith made four All-Star teams, but served the players union more significantly as a key part of the end of baseball's Reserve Clause and free agency's ensuing growth. Check out the history at Andy's Wikipedia page.

Card back

In my mind, Milk Duds remain locked in an eternal war with Whoppers, and I prefer the former's caramel over its competitor's malted chocolate. (This side of the box cross-marketed "BLACK COW," a sugar sucker since retired by Holloway--just another casualty in their war for candy supremacy.)

Value: Most trimmed singles cost a dollar or two and up to $20 for stars like Clemente and Rose. Full boxes start about $10 and that's what I paid for Messersmith on eBay in 2006.

Fakes / reprints: Don't know of any reprints, but there's an entertaining discussion of "refilling" boxes (and any change in value) at

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Best wishes to everyone and good luck to folks already entered in my Festivus 400th Post Give-away of Free Stuff with their "Teams of Christmas Past." Rusty Staub's our honorary Santa, since he played for not one, but two different former teams.

A Young Colt .45

Le Grande Orange

If you haven't chosen your "ghosts" yet, entries accepted at the Festivus 400th Post Give-away Contest of Free Stuff post through Dec 27th!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Festivus 400th Post Give-away Contest of Free Stuff

Yesterday's post on Honus Wagner marked #400 for the Number 5 blog. As thanks to everyone following along, let's give away some cards! It's the giving season, whatever your holiday background. (For non-Seinfeld-watchers, "Festivus" is a noncommercial winter holiday observed on Dec 23.)

The (aluminum) Festivus Pole

Of the three hauntings from Dickens' A Christmas Carol, I ruminated most over its Ghost of Christmas Past. Would Scrooge see his old self in a new light? Could he put the wisdom to good use? In that spirit of our past becoming a better future, I'm giving away cards of teams gone by. Brooklyn Dodgers! Seattle Pilots! St. Louis Browns! Les Expos!

That Browns logo is something else

HOW TO ENTER: Add a comment listing 3 favored MLB teams that no longer exist in their original city or under the current name. For example:
  • 1: Seattle Pilots
  • 2: Brooklyn Dodgers
  • 3: Montreal Expos

This contest accepts entries through Monday, Dec 27th. I'll randomize them all and send cards from one (or more) of their teams to 5 lucky folks. Probably can't find them for super-old teams, but be creative! :-)

WHAT YOU WIN: Cards for one (or more) of the 3 former teams you listed! It's a Festivus Miracle.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

1968 Sports Cards for Collectors Baseball #5, Honus Wagner

Sports Cards for Collectors (SCFC), progenitor of the previously-profiled TCMA, produced this 82-card set of retired greats for (and marketed them to) regular buyers of memorabilia, rather than casual baseball fans. They shopped directly to collectors for two reasons: first, few kids would know pre-WWII retirees like Honus Wagner and second, SCFC already knew those "serious" buyers through their newsletter. This audience awareness made a big difference in their success, compared to Fleer's relative failure with Baseball Greats sets in 1960 and 1961.

Card front

SCFC co-founder Mike Aronstein contracted with his uncle Myron for this hand-drawn set, though (according to this interview) aunt Margie also contributed art at some point, so the MSA signature on Wagner's collar could be either one.

Quick recap of TCMA's hand-drawn sets, with links to the numbered #5 set profiles.

Card back (with date stamp)

Look closely to see a reversed image of Wagner on the back. SCFC used glossy fronts and plain paper backs, so this "ghost" is ink transferred from a stack of printed sheets. Cards from the set's second half included stats and a player bio on the back, with this checklist breakdown.
  • #1 - 36: Picture front, blank back
  • #37 - 78: Picture front, stats on the back
  • 4 unnumbered checklists

Value: This Wagner cost $5 eBay in 2008, a nice find given the small number printed. As with most sets, Ruth and Cobb likely cost more.

Fakes / reprints: According to Mike Aronstein, no one reprinted their sets, so I don't expect to find any in the marketplace.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

1973 TCMA Baseball Autographs #5, Pie Traynor

Card collector and publisher Mike Aronstein designed and printed several hand-drawn baseball sets between 1968 and 1977, using two companies, Sports Card for Collectors (SCFC) and The Card Memorabilia Associates (TCMA). "Art cards" represent a small part of TCMA's total output, but the huge 1970s growth in direct-to-collector issues and other "oddballs" trace back--at least in part--to Mike's success selling both fans and minor league teams on small-run, local-interest subjects. (UPDATE: TCMA's also a combo of both founders' initials, Tom Collier and Mike Aronstein, details in this interview.)

Card front

Card artist John Anderson drew today's 12-card set in a smoother style than Mike's uncle Myron used on earlier efforts like 1968 SCFC Sports Stuff (#5 profile here), and added a look-alike signature. Some collector catalogs call this the "Drawings and Autographs" set.

Card back

Many consider Pie Traynor history's greatest third baseman and SABR placed him at #70 on their all-time top 100. He recently reappeared on the US Post Office's baseball series as part of their All-Century Team.

USPS All-Century Baseball Stamps

Given their matching pose and uniform details, I assume both artists (TCMA and post office) used the same source image.

Value: I picked up this TCMA #5 for $6 on eBay. All 12 cards in the set feature HOFers, but demand and prices remain low.

Fakes / reprints: Doubt anyone faked this set--just make sure not to confuse the drawn autograph for a real one.

Friday, December 17, 2010

1973 O-Pee-Chee Baseball #5, Ed Brinkman

If I were to describe any batting stance as "conservative" or even "modest," this half-crouch by Gold Glove shortstop Edwin Albert Brinkman might be the one. His focused anticipation and classic 70s glasses even give the impression one can outsmart incoming fastballs, rather than hit them.

Card front

O-Pee-Chee finally matched Topps card-for-card in 1973, with the same number of players (660) and no checklist changes or on-card variations. Whiter card stock and a PRINTED IN CANADA tag line mark the only obvious differences--(UPDATE: plus French text translations on the back)--though it does seem OPC's print runs dropped off during the mid-70s, making those years harder to come by than singles from 1970 to 1972 and 1978 on. (Building complete sets from those years is not an easy undertaking.)

Card back

Brinkman placed ninth in 1972's MVP voting, an amazing finish considering the .203 batting average and .279 slugging. Ed did play every game for AL Eastern division-winning Detroit and won the aforementioned Gold Glove, good enough to outpace better-known guys like Jim Palmer and Reggie Jackson. (Full results at

Value: Low-grade singles cost a dollar or two and OPC's rarity only seems to impact top-condition stars. (For example, CheckOutMyCards lists a mid-grade Bob Boone RC for $12, the same price as Topps versions.)

Fakes / reprints: Don't know of any OPC reprint issues and doubt someone would fake the set, given its low profile.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

1972 O-Pee-Chee Baseball #5, John Bateman

Wow, check out that front. Bright yellow over lime green with a baby blue sky? O-Pee-Chee copied Topps' 1972 design as-is, so all those funky American combos carried right over into their Canadian version. 40 years later, these 1972 card borders still look psychedelic crazy! (Ow, my eyes.)

Card front

After matching Topps card-for-card in 1971, OPC stopped at #525 in 1972, more than 200 short of the full 787-count (!) American checklist. Canadian editors made one prominent change, adding a "deceased" note to #465, Gil Hodges, who passed away on April 2. (See details at Oh My O-Pee-Chee's article.)

Card backs include French translations of player bios, stats, and even cartoons, which Canadian law mandated on printed materials starting in 1970. This also taught English-speaking fans a whole pantheon of new phrases like grands chelems (grand slam) and fiche comme frappeur (batting record).

Card back

In Dec 2010, posted a fun article called "How many clicks to Babe Ruth?" (If you haven't seen their player stat pages before, each and every one features a Top 10 Similar Batters list, helping us understand how that guy performed relative to others, independent of year.) The "how many clicks" idea is like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon for baseball: start with any player and follow Similarity Score links until you reach Babe Ruth. (Hank Aaron and other historic sluggers are one step away.)

One B-R submitter said he's never failed in linking a player to Ruth, though it can take dozens of in-betweens. Unfortunately, medium-power, low-average catchers like Bateman seem to be their own world and it's tough to break out to other, higher-performing positions. (I reached the underrated 60s backstop John Romano quickly, but stalled out getting any closer.) Have you successfully linked a favorite player to the Babe?

Value: OPC printed far fewer cards than Topps, but non-star singles come relatively cheap at a dollar or two. Higher-grade superstars often cost more than American equivalents because they're both rarer and harder to find in nice shape. (OPC used cheaper, easily dinged card stock.)

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

Poll wrap-up: Would you pick up this card?

Thanks to everyone for "picking up" results for last Friday's poll. 14 folks chimed in on what cards they'd rescue from the dustbin, with these rough percentages of yes votes.
  • 1964 Torre: 90%
  • 1975 Tiant: 75%
  • 1984 Ripken: 50%
  • 1992 Sierra: 15%
  • 2003 Gwynn: 30%
Good to see folks haven't lost their goodwill toward modern cards. Of course, I didn't include this fine fellow, on display over at the Ugly Baseball Cards post "A Word From Our Sponsors."

1992 Fleer #708

Oy vey.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

1967 O-Pee-Chee Baseball #5, Whitey Ford

1967 marked both O-Pee-Chee's third baseball set (adapted from Topps, anyway) and a growing interest in Canadian big-league baseball. Prominent businessman Gerry Snyder successfully proposed a Montreal franchise to league owners at their December meetings and the team ultimately used Expo 67 as its naming inspiration.

Card front

You might find this pose unflattering for a future Hall of Famer, but Topps used a lot of follow-through pictures on their Whitey Ford cards. (Page through them at In my opinion, they pale in comparison to his exuberant and artful 1951 Bowman rookie.

1951 Bowman #1

I love the 1951 and 1952 Bowman sets for work like this.

Card back

OPC's 1967 set reprinted Topps' first 196 cards, same as the previous year's total. Fronts and backs match up almost exactly, save for the tiny PRINTED IN CANADA tag line.

More than 40 years after his retirement in 1967, Ford remains baseball's all-time leader in World Series starts (22), wins (10), and strikeouts (94). Whitey broke the scoreless innings record in 1961--surpassing Babe Ruth's mark set with Boston in 1916 and 1918--and only stopped there because of an injured ankle in game four. (His two scoreless victories also garnered series MVP honors.)

Value: Low-grade Ford cards cost several dollars and move up quickly from there. He starred for a lot of pennant and World Series winners, so remains a high-demand player.

Fakes / reprints: Topps used Whitey on a number of reprint and throwback cards, but I don't know of any OPC reissues.

Monday, December 13, 2010

1969 O-Pee-Chee Baseball #5, AL Home Run Leaders (Howard, Horton, Harrelson)

For the fifth year in a row, O-Pee-Chee printed a Canadian baseball set depicting our national pastime, covering about one-third of Topps' American version. (OPC tops out at #218, but Topps went to 664 cards, plus several variations for master set collectors.)

Local fans finally got to delight in their own players, as expansion Montreal took the field on April 8 (in New York) and broke champagne for their home stadium (Jarry Park) on April 14, hosting St. Louis. Les Expos won both openers, but ultimately finished last in the NL East, 48 games back.

Card front

Interesting to see Topps and OPC "honor" Harrelson with this generic hat on a league leader card. Compare his look to Frank Howard--it's the same midnight blue with red piping, which Ken also wore for a year in Washington, and almost certainly an alternate take from 1967's photo shoot, just with blotted-out "W."

1967 Topps / OPC #188

But why stop the Harrelson goofiness there? Check out his redecorated image for the Topps / OPC Deckle Edge sets, which slapped Boston's logo over a Kansas City A's hat. This is just the beginning, since Ken appears on 4 different 1969 Topps cards and in several test issues, none as a "real" Boston player.

1969 Topps / OPC Deckle Edge

Ken Harrelson also led the AL in RBIs for 1968; that multi-player card simply re-cropped 1967's card pose. (Frank Howard gets an alternate take from #5's photo shoot.)

1969 Topps / OPC #3

Harrelson's "normal" and All-Star cards take us back to Kansas City, but ditch the hat completely. (Ken changes overshirts and hairstyles, so they're also different years.)

1969 Topps #240 (no OPC)

1969 Topps #417 (no OPC)

Last but not least, Topps' 1969 team poster and decal sticker test issues show more alternate takes of Ken as a Senator, one with pushed-up hat and the other with that slapped-on Boston "B" logo.

1969 Topps Team Posters #3

1969 Topps Decal Sticker

Not sure if Ken Harrelson holds the record for most off-uniform shots in one year, but it's a full catalog of what Topps did when they didn't have current pictures to work with.

Card back

Two things make OPC backs stand out from American versions, at least when sifting cards by hand: orange ink on its borders (Topps used a lighter pink) and the PTD. IN CANADA tag line. Quebec law started requiring bilingual text in 1970, but 1969 cards look otherwise identical to their American siblings.

Value: No HOFers on this leader card, so low-grade versions cost a few dollars. OPC printed far fewer cards than Topps, but the rarity only seems to affect star pricing.

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

Friday, December 10, 2010

Poll: Would you pick up this card?

Long ago--we're talking the 1980s--I read an article about collecting different grades, probably in Beckett or another magazine from that era. It covered cards rated mid- and high-grade, meaning excellent (EX) on up to mint (MT), but didn't really address VG and below, which is in my wheelhouse, being both cheaper and easier to find than low-population PSA 9 players. (More power to folks with enough money and patience to work in that stratosphere.)

This selfsame article included one low-grade sidebar question: Would you pick this card off the ground in a public place and keep it? It pictured a poor-condition 1954 Topps Whitey Ford and readers could "choose"  from provided answers like "No, leave it to the proles," "Yeah, he's a Hall of Famer," and "Sure, any card is a good card." (Or something like that.)

Much better shape than the original poll

I bet any 21st century collector would fish Whitey out of the gutter, so let's update this question a bit. Which of these guys would you grab off the floor, even when stepped-on-and-creased-all-over? In other words, does a card's condition trump its age or star power? (Voting in sidebar at right.)

1964 Topps Joe Torre

 1975 Topps Luis Tiant

1984 Topps Cal Ripken

1992 UD All-Stars Ruben Sierra

2003 Topps Fan Favorites Tony Gwynn

UPDATE: Added two junk wax specials!

1990 Topps Jeff Jackson

1992 Score Jeff Reed

Thursday, December 9, 2010

1966 O-Pee-Chee Baseball #5, Jim Fregosi

Canadian candy company O-Pee-Chee (OPC) licensed Topps baseball set designs and player checklists starting in 1965, a tradition that continued into the 1990s. It's hard to know how many MLB fans lived north of the border in the mid-1960s, but Montreal would get their expansion team in 1969, so it must've been enough to make a card set worthwhile.

Like their 1965 debut, O-Pee-Chee's 1966 set reprinted just the first two Topps card series and stopped its checklist at 196 cards. While that means Canadian collectors missed out on 2/3 of American players, even this limited version contained stars like Mays (#1), Mantle (#50), and Jim Palmer's rookie (#126).

Why no hat for Mr. Fregosi? My "Men Without Hats" article explained the complete lack of Angels headgear in 1966 Topps and OPC versions got the same treatment. I assume editors did it to save the cost of sending a photographer to every spring training, every year. Unfortunately for them, the Angels changed team logos prior to 1965, sticking Topps with outdated, and perhaps legally unusable, headgear pictures. Pre-70s teams often used older kits at spring training facilities, making them out-of-date following uniform changes.

OPC cards used slightly grayer stock, and their singles mix easily with US versions, so it's worth checking backs for PTD. IN CANADA (lower right corner) if you built a 1966 Topps set by hand.

Looking at any card back will make you think about baseball stats, especially a guy who lost significant time to injuries like Fregosi. While perusing his Baseball-Reference page, something about Jim's career numbers stood out to me. In 18 years as a multi-position defender, he played a single game at 2B, and only 1/3 of an inning at that! While versatile in his younger years, that's not where you expect to position a pinch-hitter with bad knees close to retirement. So what happened exactly?

This outlier game happened wearing a Pittsburgh uniform in 1978, his last year as a player, where the Pirates used Jim primarily to pinch-hit for pitchers (and probably as an unofficial bench coach). Of 26 total appearances, only 5 games saw him take the field with a glove.
  • April 14: Started at 1B, Stargell pinch-hit for him in 8th
  • April 26: Started at 3B, replaced defensively by Mendoza in the 11th
  • May 9: Pinch-hit, took over at 2B in the 9th
  • May 30: Pinch-hit (a double off Steve Carlton), took over at 3B in the 8th
  • May 31: Started at 3B, replaced by Mendoza in 2nd inning (after making 2 errors on same play in 1st)
Facing San Francisco on May 9th, Pittsburgh made five playing substitutions in the top of their 9th, swapping out four hitters and one runner. They came back to tie the game (good), but those moves emptied their bench for the bottom half (bad). Forced to field multiple players out-of-position, manager Chuck Tanner put Fregosi in at second and moved normal LF Bill Robinson to third.

What happened when San Francisco came to bat? With one out, Jack Clark bunted to third, knowing Bill Robinson couldn't field the position well. Clark then stole second and took an extra base when catcher Ed Ott's throw went into center (past Fregosi?). Larry Herndon slapped a single up the middle and Clark trotted home with San Francisco's winning run, thanks in large part to Pittsburgh's out-of-position fielders. Tanner credited Clark's "heads-up baseball" as key to the Giants win. (Full story from May 10, 1978 Beaver County Times.)

1979 Topps #424, Angels Team (with airbrushed Fregosi cap)

Given diminished skills with both bat and glove, Fregosi jumped at the chance to manage his original team, the California Angels, when they asked about Jim's availability. Pittsburgh gave their creaky 36 year-old two final appearances (May 30th and 31st, as above) and then released him to the Angels, who replaced Dave Garcia with Fregosi on June 2nd. Jim went on manage 15 years total with 4 teams, capturing one NL pennant with Philly in 1993.

Value: 1966 commons in raw condition should cost a dollar or two, with stars like Mays or Mantle running many times that. OPC printed far fewer total sets, so set-builders might find its 196 cards just as challenging as the much larger Topps version!

Fakes / reprints: Don't think OPC reprinted anything, apart from their own adoption of Topps' designs.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

1954 Quaker Sports Oddities #5, Harold "Bunny" Levitt

Baseball off-season means two things to American sports, at least in places colder than Florida and Hawaii. 1) Team owners assemble for their "winter meetings," hemming and hawing over free agents. Media folks hype up for it, as our only source of team news until the kickoff of spring training. 2) We watch or practice other sports, like basketball. I am dead certain Bunny Levitt--record holder for consecutive free throws--spent many winters practicing, at least from fifteen feet away.

Card front

Levitt set this record for consecutive free throws (499) at a promotional event in 1935, ultimately missing the 500th. (We assume more people attended than his one friend pictured on the card, though after 300 consecutive shots, I can understand people drifting away to other things.)

Harold went on to tour with the Globetrotters, lived a long life, and passed away in 2006. His New York Times obituary mentions this very card!

Card back

Quaker still makes their Puffed Wheat and Puffed Rice cereals, previously profiled in my 1934 Baseball Trivia #5 profile. This "Oddities" set rolls together a bunch of different sports--football, golf, and basketball among them--including one baseball card noting no hitter ever knocked a ball completely out of Yankee Stadium. (I've seen sets still wrapped in cellophane, so assume you could mail order one directly from Quaker Foods.) Find the 27-card checklist at

Value: Found this card for $5 on eBay, PSA holder and all. Several of Quaker's football players (Amos Alonzo Stagg, George Halas, Bronko Nagurski) made the football Hall of Fame, so will cost more.

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

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Naked Gun Tribute Card: Jay Johnstone as a Seattle Mariner

R.I.P. and thanks to Leslie Nielsen for decades of acting excellence. It's nigh-impossible to pick one "best" film from his resume, but I love Airplane! for bringing out straight-faced comedy from former dramatic actors Nielsen and Peter Graves (who played the pilot). The latter worried his creepy one-liners would turn off audiences, but they hit just right for people tired of cliched disaster movie characters. ("Joey, do you like movies about...gladiators?")

2009 Upper Deck Spectrum of Stars

Thanks to Seattle Times writer Larry Stone for reminding me The Naked Gun also made Jay Johnstone a Mariner for one day, batting leadoff against the California Angels. (Jay donned uniform #29 for it, digits he never wore as a major leaguer.)

My 1956 tribute card of Johnstone and Drebin

Watch the scene again (at YouTube) and relish how long Nielsen and Zucker milk the first strike call. Superb.

Monday, December 6, 2010

1965 O-Pee-Chee Baseball #5, AL RBI Leaders (Robinson, Stuart, Mantle, Killebrew)

2010 Hall of Fame voters elected former GM Pat Gillick on December 6, joining three of the men pictured on today's card: Mickey Mantle, Brooks Robinson, and Harmon Killebrew. Only slugger Dick Stuart misses out, given his offensive drop-off after peaking from 1961 to 1964.

Card front

Want to know the relative importance of fielding and RBIs? All-time glove man Brooks Robinson won 1964's AL MVP with 18 of 20 1st-place votes. "Dr. Strangeglove" Stuart posted similar offensive numbers--and finished 28th.

Glove worries aside, Dick did make the All-Star game in 1961 with a SABRmatrician-friendly season. Despite leading the AL in only one category (strikeouts!), he hit for 139 OPS+ and 3.2 offensive WAR, both significantly better than what 1964's apparently similar "core" stats (hits, homers, and RBIs) produced.

Card back

1965 marked Canadian candy maker O-Pee-Chee's first Topps-licensed baseball set and matches the American design word-for-word, other than "PRINTED IN CANADA" on its back. (Compare this to my 1965 Topps #5 profile for confirmation.) OPC stopped at #283, less than half of Topps 598-card checklist. It's rare and includes plenty of stars, making a full set tough to assemble.

Value: This #5 cost $15 on eBay, probably because of the blue ink. OPC HOF cards usually cost more.

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen O-Pee-Chee "reprints" in the market, but it's possible someone faked it for the Mantle.

Friday, December 3, 2010

1968 O-Pee-Chee Baseball #5, NL Home Run Leaders (Aaron, Wynn, Santo, McCovey)

Most consider the late 1960s a low-offense era, with high pitching mounds and tiny ERAs. Few of baseball's best sluggers cleared 40 homers, and no one in either circuit hit 50+ between 1965 and 1977. Today's card pictures the only National Leaguers with at least 30 in 1967.

Card front

Top-shelf third baseman (and all-time Chicagoan) Santo passed away this week after a lengthy battle with diabetes. He left behind many fans, if not quite enough HOF voters to reach Cooperstown during his lifetime. Supporters of Ron's candidacy prominently point to years like 1967, when he led the NL in both offensive and defensive Wins Above Replacement by nearly two full games, standings at (For comparison, Albert Pujols is the senior circuit's most recent player to lead both WAR categories.)

Card back

O-Pee-Chee reprinted Topps' first 196 cards as their 1968 set, similar to other limited runs earlier in the decade. That makes the #177 Koosman / Ryan RC its most valuable card by far and a tough find for Mets or Nolan Ryan collectors. Backs use muted colors and say "PTD. IN CANADA."

Value: League leaders aren't impossible to find--I picked up this #5 for $10 on eBay--but completing a 1968 set would be tough work.

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