Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Caribbean flavor at the 2011 National in Chicago

This is my second post on cards and experiences from the 2011 National in Chicago. Yesterday, I showed a smattering of cards from different eras; today, the focus is a trio of previously-unknown-to-me sets from the Caribbean winter leagues. I'm a fan of vintage cards from Central and South American countries, given their unusual look and those leagues' key role in breaking open MLB rosters for foreign-born players during the 40s and 50s.

Venezuela's close connection with 1960s Topps makes them the best-known offshore sets within our hobby, but pros in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Mexico also got cards. MLB signed a 1947 contract with Cuba's pro league to develop players during winter months, which led to this type card I plucked from a dealer's vintage box.

1949-50 Acebo Tobacco, Ben Wade ($12)

Brooklyn Dodger pitcher Ben Wade donned a Tigres del Mariana uniform for this 1949-50 Acebo tobacco set, whose checklist includes several names familiar to vintage fans. (I've enlarged his scan a bit for detail; the card's 1.5" square in real life.)

Only a couple of National dealers specialized in Caribbean or South American cards, but I saw singles from those 1960s Topps-licensed Venezuelans at several booths. What I didn't expect were two Dominican League cards that rarely turn up anywhere in any condition.

1960s Puerto Rican or Dominican League, Amado Samuel ($5)

Amado "Sammy" Samuel, who has a nice profile over at SABR's biography project, broke ground as the first regular Dominican-born MLB shortstop and currently stymies my powers of set identification. Amado played winter ball regularly prior to his 1967 retirement, making this either Puerto Rican or Dominican. The cap logo looks like QC or GC, but I can't find an easy match for that team and era in either country's pro league. Looks like I'll need help from real Caribbean card experts.

1960s Dominican League, Chilote Llenas ($5)

While still obscure, this one's a little easier to pin down. Chilote (a.k.a., Winston) Llenas starred for Águilas Cibaeñas in the late 1960s and might be wearing the same uniform he donated to Cooperstown's Viva Baseball exhibit, so this is definitely Dominican. Winston also played several MLB seasons and Night Owl profiled his 1975 Topps card just a few weeks ago

Those three cards represent the obscure stuff, but there's more to come. I get excited when oddballs appear in a low-grade box or mixed lot because it means a learning opportunity. As a kid back in the 1970s, cards taught me a lot about reading and numbers. These days, it's more about history and business, both things that sports seems inextricably connected to...

If you're new to South American cards, see these Venezuelan set profiles for scans and more info.


AdamE said...

Cool pickups.

AdamE said...
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