Monday, April 18, 2011

1972 Venezuela Baseball Stamps #5, Jim Fregosi

1972 is one of those years Topps took a ton of card photos on spring training practice fields, leading to several marginal "action" poses with chain-link fence backgrounds. This not-really-swinging look captures both the malaise of Florida afternoons and Jim Fregosi's "my knee hurts again" ennui.

Sticker front (blank back)

If found this post following the bread crumbs of my other Venezuelan posts, you probably know their native pro ball (aka, Liga Venezolana de BĂ©isbol Profesional) occupies the MLB's winter months, so this stamp set likely hit Caribbean stores and ballparks in late fall. Local card sets usually came in small packs of 4 or 6, which I assume was also the case here.

1972 stamps feature a plain, gumless back, which most collectors mounted in albums. Unfortunately, that habit makes card damage a common occurrence and few survived the 1970s at all, let alone in decent shape.

While most of the set's pictures came directly from 1972 Topps cards, Venezuelan editors cropped Jim's from his high-series "traded" card.

Thanks to a Jan 6, 2011 blog post from Who Made the Grade, I learned that Fregosi appeared on three Topps cards that year: #115 (as an Angel), #346 Boyhood Photos (as a Met), and #755. NY traded for Jim in December 1971, so the first series must've already been closed for printing by then, and only caught up in the next go-round.

Who Made the Grade also made the point that Nolan Ryan--the focus of the swap--deserved a traded card more than Fregosi. Failing knees put Jim's prime behind him, though he still helped teams as a platoon player and unofficial coach. (I feature his unusual final days as a fielder in the 1966 OPC #5 profile.)

If you enjoy that early 1970s "look" on these cards, check out the blog 1973 Topps Photography, which is running through the whole set.

UPDATE: Bad news for me! Turns out that rounded font for JIM FREGOSI means this stamp's a counterfeit printed in 2009 and sold into the modern hobby on eBay. See this Collectors Universe forum for more details on how that happened and cards to avoid. This Brooks example and (its blockier font) should be legit. Some fakes made it into PSA slabs, reminding us that professionals get fooled.

Value: Found Mr. Fregosi on eBay for $12. HOFers like #184 Nolan Ryan cost triple digits--well above Topps equivalents--given the set's rarity.

Fakes / reprints: Collectors Universe confirmed that many counterfeits exist, even in professionally graded slabs. Look for rounded lettering with whiter borders and avoid too-good-to-be-true pricing. It took real expertise to ID and call out these fakes, given their low profile in the hobby.


Chris Stufflestreet said...

Thanks again for pimping my blog, Spike!

sliced tongue said...

BTW, I came across this piece on Jim Fregosi while I was writing an entry for the Mets360 blog that might be of interest to you:

FWIW, I also write Who Made the Grade, which you referenced in this Fregosi article.

Really enjoying your site!

Matthew Glidden said...

Thanks for that link and glad to make the connection!

The more I see those Venezuelan stamps, the more I suspect Topps had nothing to do with their printing. Would love to find some 1972 wrappers or albums and check for publication details...

Matthew Glidden said...

(by "nothing to do with," I mean that Topps might not have licensed Venezuelan re-use of their 1972 photos--a local printer could've bought a set and done their own copying.)