Monday, August 29, 2011

Favorite Card Goofs (and Winner) of Friday's Giveaway

Thanks to everyone who nominated card goofs for last week's contest! Here's your roll call of infamy.

Spiegel83: Billy Ripken's many bat handles (original FF, black box, blanked).

1989 Fleer, "black box" variation

Ryan G: Reverse negatives (and Billy Ripken).

1957 Topps #20, Hank Aaron (reversed)

Chris Stufflestreet: Gimme some Topps Joe Rudi, but hold the Rudi.

1973 Topps #360, Joe Rudi not pictured

Hackenbush: The bonus card of Ron Santo.

1963 Topps #113, Don Landrum not pictured

The Lost Collector and Mad Guru: Now pinch-pitching for Al Leiter, Steve George.

1998 Topps #18, Al Leiter not pictured

Play at the Plate: Billy Martin, who may or may not be flipping off the cameraman.

1972 Topps #33, Billy Martin (autographed)

Matt: Juan Gonzalez bats lefty (and Billy Ripken).

1990 Donruss #33, Juan Gonzalez (reversed)

Mark A: "Double threat" Uecker can strike out from both sides of the plate.

1965 Topps #519, Bob Uecker (as lefty)

Greg Zakwin: Topps releases Alex Gordon rookie "by accident."

2006 Topps #297, Alex Gordon (withdrawn)

Night Owl: The younger Pettis brother stands in for Gary.

1985 Topps #497, Gary Pettis not pictured

Jason Shoemaker: George W. Bush and Mickey Mantle can pop up where you least expect them.

2007 Topps #40, Derek Jeter (Bush in stands, Mantle in dugout)

THE WINNER: I threw everyone into the hopper and it decreed that Mad Guru takes home the duplicate of my 1948 R346 Johnny Mize card (and his oddball hat)!

Congrats, Guru! And thanks to everyone for nominating their favorite cardboard shenanigans; you turned up some mistakes I'd never seen before.

UPDATE: Someone asked about the Dale Murphy reversed negative, so here you go! Note the backwards "A," "Braves," and bat handle number.

1989 Upper Deck #357, Dale Murphy (reversed)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Vintage Giveaway Friday!

Soon after this year's National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago, I won an eBay lot of R346 Blue Tints. This obscure 1948 set's one of the last strip card issues sold by coin-op machines at candy stores or along boardwalks and players on its checklist run the gamut from superstar (Ted Williams) to posthumous (Lou Gehrig) to "wearing an unexpected hat" (Johnny Mize, sporting STL as a NY Giant). pointed out that Jefferson Burdick's R346 catalog number for these "Blue Tints" gets an "R for recent" prefix instead of "W for strip cards" because they're a postwar release and thus a generation removed from their 1920s progenitors. By the 1940s, kids expected packs of gum with their baseball players; based on modern scarcity, I assume these didn't sell very well. (See my #5 profile for more, including a "mirrored ink" example.)

Card companies sometimes confuse teams or player photos; Mize hadn't played for St. Louis since the early 1940s, so this card uses an image that's both several years old and sports a curious team logo.

WHAT YOU CAN WIN: My R346 lot from eBay included a duplicate of the aforementioned Johnny Mize, so I'm sending the extra to one lucky entrant. (Then we can both be stumped by the origin of his STL hat.)

HOW TO ENTER: Add a comment to this post with your favorite card goof. It could be Frank Thomas's missing name, Billy Ripken's bat handle, Lew Burdette pretending to be left-handed in 1959, or any other shenanigans preserved forever on cardboard. [UPDATE: Contest is over; find the nominated cards and winner of the Mize here.]

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sports Cards for Insane People, Nolan Ryan Edition

SB Nation editor and professional suit-wearer Jon Bois runs a regular series of columns titled Sports Cards for Insane People that peeks into baseball's cardboard excesses of the 1980s and 90s. His most recent investigation plumbed the depths of Nolan Ryan oddballs and their casting call of plain blue hats, which featured two #5s.

1991-92 Bleachers Promos #5

Look closely and cringe: card editors added "BLEACHERS" to Ryan's hat with cheap digital tools, just before they blew money on 23K gold foil. Must've been a crazy post-production session.

Bleachers specialized in minor league cards, player-specific sets, and stamping gold foil on things. Lest they seem feckless and reckless, dozens of early 90s card makers competed in those same events. Don't know if any of them "won," but we lost.

1993 Bleachers Promos #5

Jon proposes this is the first time any card featured a real skull. I also wondered: is Nolan the first to wear riding chaps in what's nominally a baseball set? Check out his article for maximal insanity.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

1980 TCMA Quad City Cubs Baseball #5, Tom Morris

TCMA produced 45 numbered team sets in 1980 and the Quad City Cubs mark my 21st blog post about them, so we're almost halfway done. Today's set used the economical black-and-white player photos, a fairly plain card compared to teams like the sun-drenched Hawaii Islanders (#5 profile).

Best thing about this card: Tom Morris and ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr., separated at birth.

Tom Morris's pro career ended after just two seasons in the Quad Cities, a four-town metro area that spans the Iowa-Illinois border and our fair Mississippi River. It's not clear whether he stuck with baseball in another capacity after he hung up the spikes. (See the 1975 Quad City #5 profile for more about my Quad City baseball experiences and its mid-70s squad, the single-A Angels.)

I'm surprised this card doesn't include any 1979 stats, since Tom kept the same uniform in 1980 and TCMA had printed cards for Iowa franchises since the mid-70s and knew the area. Perhaps the team itself kept dodgy stats; his career stats page shows few details outside of an 0-7 record.

Value: This #5 cost a couple of dollars on Beckett Marketplace, like most non-star minor league singles.

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any reprinted TCMA cards.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

1938 Kellogg's Baseball School #5, Infielding

Scavenging through oddball tables at the 2011 National in Chicago turned up today's Corn Flakes box panel, an educational refugee from the late 1930s. This set of tips on handling grounders is just one of a series on position defense, pitching, and hitting that Kellogg's added to their cereal in an effort to compete with General Mills' huge success of players endorsing Wheaties. (See 1936 Wheaties set profile for one example.)

8" x 10" box panel (blank back)

Best thing about this card: Kids trimmed away actual "K"s (from FLAKES) to send away for baseballs, which some probably took right off boxes on the shelves. ("CORN FLAES," anyone?)

I was immediately curious about Kellogg's promotional tie-in with Lew Fonseca. Why sign a former player/manager three years out of baseball to a cereal deal? Did people know him better as an announcer in the 1930s, like Bob Uecker today? The answer was yes, but with longer-lasting significance.

Lew's little mentioned today, but his work with cameras and baseball highlights looms large over modern sports, particularly our TV-driven era. After helping with a Hollywood baseball film in 1927, Lew saw its potential both as an on-field tool for managers and way to share the game to fans around the country. By 1938, most of America knew him for traveling newsreels of World Series stars and All-Star highlights.

1930s Chicago teammate (and future HOFer) Al Simmons picked up the nickname "Bucketfoot" because he stepped out and away during each swing, leaving his front foot "in the bucket" and seemingly far from the plate. Curious why this didn't limit his reach, Fonseca used his camera to figure out how this unusual approach still allowed Al to reach pitches anywhere in the strike zone.

Al Simmons, stepping into the bucket on a hit to left field

Lew's camerawork discovered that Simmons went for the bucket on inside or middle pitches, but stepped straight ahead on pitches away, keeping his bat in the striking zone throughout. (The swing above comes 2:04 into the 1934 All-Star Game highlight film on YouTube.)

This kind of film review seems second nature now, thanks in large part to Fonseca's promotion of traveling highlight compilations. The phrase "highlight reel" came literally from Lew filming, editing, and screening his 16mm films around the country and to troops overseas throughout the 1930s and 1940s.

Read more about Lew in The Innovations of Lew Fonseca, which describes how he built initial support for in-game films, measured the speed of Bob Feller's fastball before radar guns, and captured essential pieces of history like Jackie Robinson's steal of home (above) in the 1955 World Series. It's great stuff.

Value: This low-grade box panel cost $40. They appear so rarely that it's hard to set a market price. (For comparison, the more popular Wheaties panels go for $15 and up, depending on the player pictured.)

Fakes / reprints: Doubt there are any fakes out there, given its lack of a specific player.

Monday, August 22, 2011

1978 Cramer Salt Lake City Baseball #5, Kim Allen

Today's guest, a former Seattle prospect, could hit minor league pitching, but performed especially well once on first or second. He stole 259 bases in the minors and another dozen in limited big league action before moving to Japan for lack of playing time.

I remember the Mariners fielding several speedsters back in those days, so maybe Kim didn't stand out like he would've on another club. Unfortunately, "failing" for Seattle in the 1970s gave you few other MLB options; not many teams scooped up guys who couldn't make an expansion era roster.

Best thing about this card: That's great color tone on the bat; I love those coppery Louisville Sluggers with a pine tar patina.

Cramer Sports Promotions, better-known as 80s/90s card maker Pacific, competed with TCMA in the 70s minor league team set market and these full-color cards still look sharp today.

Washington-based Cramer also produced a set near and dear to my heart, the 1980 Baseball Legends, which I bought new at the general store a few blocks from school. Check out my profile of #5 Joe DiMaggio and BA Benny's Pack Rip Cafe for more details.

BA Benny prepares to rip this pack

Value: Kim Allen cost $2 at, about right for late 70s minor leaguers.

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

Friday, August 19, 2011

1979 Family Fun Center Padres Baseball #5, Gene Richards

I remember the San Diego Padres mostly for their 1984 World Series run, as an otherwise moribund franchise blew away the rest of the western division by 12 games. Tony Gwynn and Kevin McReynolds keyed a lineup that, though successful, seems like smoke and mirrors today, with only one great hitter, a handful of decent ones, and no starting pitcher with more than 15 wins (1984 team stats at B-R). My 12 year-old self rooted for Steve Garvey (and thus, the Padres) that post-season and took quite an emotional hit when they lost the series to Detroit. How could someone as American as Garvey lose a World Series? It was simply unfair.

Today's postcard set casts San Diego back a bit further, highlighting those chocolate-and-banana uniforms my 1970s brain likes in spite of itself. The Padres collaborated with local Family Fun Centers (now Boomers San Diego) and Dean's Photo Service (now closed?) on this team issue and gave them away at designated home games. In all likelihood, Family Fun Centers put up sponsorship money and Dean's printed the actual cards, with wood grain borders that evoke 1962 and 2011 Topps.

2011 Heritage #77, homage to 1962 Topps

Family Fun Centers sponsored several Padre sets in the late 1970s and early 1980s and its checklists include HOFers like Dave Winfield, Ozzie Smith, Rollie Fingers, manager Dick Williams, and coach Billy Herman.

Complete sets probably exist, though I've only seen singles at shows.

The 1978 team honored by this set produced San Diego's only winning season prior to 1984 and #5 caught Gene Richards at the start of his peak as a high-average, high-speed player with the glove to play any outfield position. His playing time dropped off soon after age 28, right when most guys play best, so I suspect injuries shortened what could've been a great career.

Value: Found this autographed #5 at the 2011 National in Chicago for $4. HOF players would cost two or three times more.

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

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Jefferson Burdick has a Posse

At this year's National Sports Collectors Show in Chicago, I met Chris Harris of StaleGum, who passed along five copies of his Jefferson Burdick has a Posse sticker, a great take on Shepard Fairey's street art featuring Andre the Giant.

Jefferson Burdick is the best-known early card collector and his American Card Catalog set a base for most of our hobby's organization and practices, such as set numbering, checklisting, and pricing. Tristar immortalized him appropriately (with a modified image) in their 2010 Obak set.

2010 Obak #66 (mini)

Fellow blogger Cardboard Junkie tweaked his own Shepard Fairey-inspired take on Burdick for the post (and image) COLLECT.

I gave a couple of StaleGum's stickers to vintage collector and writer George Vrechek, who researched Burdick extensively and could talk for hours about the American Card Catalog, Jefferson's collection, and other early contemporaries in the hobby. Here's the six minute version, recorded Saturday evening at the dinner. (Background noise from our hotel function room.)

Check out George's articles for much more, including a visit to Jefferson's original collection at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Thanks to Chris for the Posse sticker, George for talking through Jefferson's history, and Junkie for COLLECT! I enjoyed assembling all of these pieces for other collectors and Burdick fans to find.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

1992 Upper Deck Baseball #5, Jim Thome

Congratulations to Jim Thome on cresting 600 homers! Love his team jacket on this suitably named Upper Deck Star Rookie card.

Jim hit exactly 1 major league homer in 1991, 2 in 1992, and 7 more in 1993 across 114 total games. Thome's power stroke developed in 1994 and he went to enjoy 11 straight seasons with 20+ homers. (Career stats at B-R.)

For all his top-10 MVP finishes, Thome's only been to 6 All-Star games in 21 years, a low total for someone with such consistent power numbers. Like fans in Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Minnesota, I'm glad to see Jim getting recognition now and look forward to a few more moon shots before he finally hangs up his spikes.

Monday, August 15, 2011

1979 Mitock LA Dodgers Baseball Postcards #5, Andy Messersmith

Today's postcard sits right in Night Owl's wheelhouse, as a night-time Dodger photo from the 1970s. Check out his blog's ongoing series of awesome night cards, if you haven't already. They remind you how different the game looks under man-made light.

Can't tell if Andy's throwing a real pitch, but the photographer caught a nice windup pose of his curve ball or close-grip heater. Nice design choice on that white-on-black autograph, too, something you don't see much on cards from any era. 

Messersmith's solid + green + mound card composition reminds me of this 1933 Goudey set. All he's missing is an ad for BIG LEAGUE Chewing Gum and that 1930s patina.

Today's Mitock Publishing-made postcard turned up at the 2011 National in Chicago mixed in with many others published during the 1960s and 1970s. According to what I can find online, the KVB11955 tag line means 1979 and includes at least these Dodger players.
  • KVB11955-1: Bob Welch
  • KVB11955-2: (Terry Forster is KVB11956-2, perhaps also in this set?)
  • KVB11955-3: Joe Ferguson (thanks gcrl for picking that out)
  • KVB11955-4: Derrell Thomas
  • KVB11955-5: Andy Messersmith
  • KVB11955-6: Garry Thomasson
Let me know if you've seen others from this series and we'll fill out the checklist.

Value: I paid $4 for Mr. Messersmith, who grades a solid VG-EX.

Fakes / reprints: Don't know of any in the marketplace. I suspect it'd be hard to make money faking baseball postcards, unless you went back to the pre-war era.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Friday's Giveaway Winner!

Thanks to everyone who nominated a "best core lineup" for Friday's giveaway of this three-man 1961 Topps #25!

Read all 19 comments for the full list, covering teams from the defunct Federal League up to modern Astros and Phillies. I'm partial to Night Owl and Spiegel's nomination of the 1950s Brooklyn Dodgers trio of Snider, Campanella, and Hodges, both for their golden age success and (*cough*) to make my Brooklyn-loving dad happy.

I fed all entrants into and it selected Greg Zakwin as the winner of this card and some moderns of his chosen team. (It looks like that'll also be the Dodgers.) Congrats to Greg and look for more giveaways soon!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Giveaway: Your Team's Best Power Trio?

This last featured pickup from the 2011 National in Chicago is cool for a few reasons.

Scan from COMC, where 1961 Topps #25 starts at $2

First, just 50 cents netted me Frank Robinson, Gus Bell, and Vada Pinson in a nice pre-game shot from 1960. Second, those sleeveless Reds uniforms always mean classic baseball; who can forget Ted Kluszewski in 1957? Third, Topps reused Gus Bell's own uniform number (25) for the card itself.

Seeing these guys together--the top 3 in total bases for Cincinnati in 1960--made me wonder what the best 3-man slugging combos were for Seattle, my hometown team from ages 6 to 26. Who would I want anchoring their 2-3-4 or 3-4-5 lineup positions, year after year?

This is how we all think about cards, right?

The Mariners are an easy franchise to build a best-ever trio for, given their inconsistent (i.e., lousy) 1970s and 1980s teams. By the mid 1990s, though...
  • Ken Griffey, Jr. hit 50+ homers regularly
  • Edgar Martinez picked up the nickname "Dr. Double" (35+ of them 8 times)
  • Alex Rodriguez started doing what he's always done
That trio of teammates from 1996-1999 gets my vote as Seattle's best. Thus, the giveaway question!

HOW TO ENTER: Who do you think is the best lineup trio for another franchise? Just add a comment with team, players, and basic rationale.

[Greg Zakwin won the giveaway of this 1961 Topps #25, but feel free to add more "best lineups" to this post.]

UPDATE: Vintage Sportscards is also running a National-based 1952 Topps giveaway! Entering both is like the Doublemint gum of vintage contests.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Fourth round from the 2011 National in Chicago

Yesterday, I said that National show dealers divide along the modern and vintage line, with relatively little overlap; new stuff looks white and shiny, older stuff looks grey. Booths that sell those old cards and memorabilia further subdivide into the walled castle (look but don't touch), general store (c'mon in and look around), and rec room (wow, what a mess), with communication styles to match. Most of today's scans came from the last group, a bunch of messy tables I sifted through with good success. 99.9% of their low-grade boxes will be junk, but that just makes the hits feel twice as good.

1909 T205 Polar Bear tobacco, Tony Smith (Brooklyn Superbas) ($8)

Just about everyone knows the Dodgers moved to L.A. from Brooklyn. Their shortened version of "trolley dodger" was just one of several early team nicknames, though; Superbas also showed up regularly and that's what they're called on this 1909 T205 card, which came in pouches of Polar Bear, a brand of loose tobacco. (Scans of all 208 players at the Virtual Card Collection.)

1963 Topps #25, Al Kaline ($3)

Top-notch career achievements and HOF enshrinement don't mandate that your cards will cost a mint. Low-grade Al Kaline cards, for example, popped up all over for small money: 1960 and 1962 Topps for $5, this 1963 for $3, 1969 and 1971 for $1, and 1973 for 50 cents. I expect to find bargains in low-grade, but this bordered on a bonanza.

1968 Venezuelan #102, Jose Cardenal (50 cents)

Topps added a 25-card "Venezuelan" insert set with Spanish text to their 2011 Lineage product. (Checklist at Baseballcardpedia.) They're based on 1960s cards like this Jose Cardenal, when Caracas-based publishers reprinted several sets for South American fans. Most local collectors glued their baseball treasures into albums like this one, which pulled away paper on later removal.

Card stock's pretty close to our American version, but backs look darker and those printed by C. A. Litoven include this HECHO EN VENEZUELA tag line.

I don't expect to complete a vintage Venezuelan set without hitting the lottery, but will always pay 50 cents for a single.

1976 Shakey's Pizza West Coast Greats #12, Duke Snider (50 cents)

L.A.-native Duke Snider always takes a nice picture; find more set info in my profile of #5, Ernie Lombardi.

1977-84 TCMA/Galasso, Gil Hodges (50 cents)

Check out those guns! Hodges knocked plenty of baseballs out of Ebbets Field onto Flatbush Avenue and now we know why. (See fellow Dodgers Campanella and Furillo at the 1977 TCMA/Galasso set profile.)

1950s Exhibit card, Hank Sauer (50 cents)

These purple-tinted 4" x 6" Exhibits come on thick, postcard-sized stock and cover both sport and non-sport celebrities. Hank Sauer wasn't the prettiest ballplayer, but slugged 288 career homers and won the 1952 NL MVP with Chicago, which is probably when this card came out.

1970s Seahawks team issue, Jim Zorn (50 cents)

Being a Seattle semi-native, I pick up oddball cards of former Seahawk quarterbacks. Jim Zorn couldn't win many games as Redskins head coach, but did plenty under center for my favorite team in their expansion era.

1990 Donruss Aqueous Test #102, Spike Owen (free)

Spike Owen's my favorite player from Seattle's other 1970s expansion team and this came to me courtesy of a trading partner. (I've used "Spike" as a collector nickname and he's the reason why.)

1980 Laughlin 300/400/500 #29, Lou Gehrig (50 cents)

Cool oddball card of the Iron Horse for half a dollar? Yes, please! The set itself celebrates player milestones like 300 wins, .400 average, and 500 homers. I like the choice by artist and publisher Bob Laughlin to include Lou's World Series dingers and help Lou crest the 500 milestone. (Set profile of #5, Christy Mathewson.)

This week's scans covered my favorite pick-ups of the 2011 National in Chicago, with one or two more set aside for tomorrow's vintage giveaway. Start thinking about your favorite team's best sluggers now!