Monday, June 13, 2011

1953 Bowman Color Baseball #5, Sid Gordon

36 years ago this week, former third baseman and outfielder Sid Gordon passed away at age 57. While not well-remembered today, few swung a mightier stick during his Golden Age peak; only HOFers Stan Musial (179 OPS+), Ted Williams (179), Ralph Kiner (163), Joe DiMaggio (151), and Larry Doby (147) did better from 1948 to 1952.

1953 marked a sea change in card production quality, as Topps, Red Man tobacco, and Bowman all tried to one-up innovations introduced in 1952. Bowman made a splash by publishing these full-color player pictures, a first for collectors accustomed to tinted black-and-white photos. (This undertaking proved so costly they switched to uncolored cards for a later series; its #5 featured Dee Fondy.)

1952's "rather bad Boston season" meant a 64-89 finish, 32 games back of the Dodgers. It was doubly bad for local fans, as the franchise picked up and moved to Milwaukee for 1953, where they won a title--their first in 4 decades--just 5 years later. Ouch.

Modern card makers mimicked 1953's "no frills" photo front so often that I've already profiled 5 direct descendants. Post-1980 collectors have no doubt seen even more.

Value: Low-grade singles cost a few dollars. Mantle, Musial, and contemporary stars run many times that, given 1953's status as a "classic set."

Fakes / reprints: Topps reprinted many Bowman star cards as part of modern issues, so don't confuse newer versions for originals. (Look for modern dates on the back.)

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