Wednesday, November 30, 2011

1948 Sommer and Kaufmann San Francisco Seals Baseball #5, Alfred Lein

Thanks to the wizardry of eBay, I finally know what this obscure Pacific Coast League team set's #5 looks like. These scans come from the first time one turned up in years of personal searching, foreshadowing a well-above-guide closing price (to be named below). I mean, who wouldn't pay top dollar for that posed catch in a left-field bullpen?

Al Lein bounced around the low minors as a Yankee farmhand during the late 30s before settling in with the San Francisco Seals for a dozen years. He proved a durable arm and averaged almost 40 games pitched during his decade with the team, serving as both starter and spot reliever (career stats at

The Bay Area's Sommer and Kaufmann chain, sellers of boys and mens clothing, sponsored this set of San Francisco Seals in the same mold as "competing" team sets from nearby Oakland businesses. (Links go to previous #5 profiles.)

With so few Sommer and Kaufmann singles in today's market, I assume the store printed small quantities compared to Smith's and Remar. Count yourself lucky if you've already snagged one as a type card!

Value: This low-grade #5 closed at $65 in its eBay auction, well above the NM guide price. Enough vintage collectors go after team and PCL issues today to make this a high-demand, volatile set.

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any in the marketplace, but they might exist, given overall rarity.

Monday, November 28, 2011

1967-1968 Coca-Cola Atlanta Braves Baseball Caps #B5, Tony Cloninger

Coca-Cola covered a bunch of teams with their 1967-68 baseball bottles, each featuring a set of about 15 floating heads sealed beneath plastic cap liners. There's another series of All-Stars from the same period and several players show up in both sets. (Rusty Staub is All-Star #5.)

The 1967-68 cap sets were one of the first MLB Players Association-licensed products available nation-wide. Coke blacked out hats to save team license fees, knowing that player images help move food and perishable products. (By comparison, team logos sell better for caps, shirts, and clothing.)

On the 3rd of July, 1966, Braves pitcher Tony Cloninger hit a pair of grand slams off San Francisco pitching and remains the only pitcher to do so in MLB history.

Tony hit his first-inning slam off Bob Priddy, already pitching in relief of starter Joe Gibbon.

Ray Sadecki mopped up the last six innings of San Francisco's 17-3 loss and gave up Tony's second blast in the 4th.

Cloninger finished with 3 hits and 9 RBI, a monster game for anyone, pitcher or slugging outfielder. (Hank Aaron hit "just" a solo shot and probably bought the post-game beers.) Might a guy hit three grand slams one day? If so, it probably won't be a pitcher, making Tony's place in history pretty secure.

Read more about Tony's post-playing career and life in retirement at this retrospective article from

UPDATE: Some crowns include Tony's position (P) on the right edge. This might distinguish those produced in 1967 and 1968, but I haven't seen enough to know for sure.

Value: Low-grade Coke caps go for $1 or less. HOFers or commons without edge wear and rust cost a little more. (eBay sellers often ask $10 or more, several times what they sell for at shows.)

Fakes / reprints: It'd be hard to fake a Coke cap profitably and I haven't seen any in the marketplace.

Friday, November 25, 2011

1980 TCMA Arkansas Travelers Baseball #5, Sonny Ruberto

Sonny in name and sunny in disposition, Mr. Ruberto made a career of 60s and 70s minor league baseball, primarily in the Cardinals and Reds organizations. True to the "Travelers" name, he suited up for more than a dozen North American teams, bussing all the way from Winnipeg to Sarasota in 1964 alone.

Uniform detail that interests only me: the big A has two serifs at the bottom, but none on top. Unusual typographical choice.

As with the 1978 TCMA Arkansas set, it looks like they caught Sonny at night, or at least with such a bright flash that he's just a silhouette. Card design's otherwise identical to other 1980 TCMA issues, red border with white text.

Ruberto led Arkansas to the Texas League's best record in 1980, beating out seven other teams.
  • Arkansas Travelers, 81-55
  • Amarillo Gold Sox, 77-59
  • Tulsa Drillers, 75-61 (1980 TCMA #5, Mike Roberts)
  • San Antonio Dodgers, 74-62
  • Jackson Mets, 74-62
  • Midland Cubs, 64-72
  • El Paso Diablos, 50-86
  • Shreveport Captains, 49-87 (32 games back! Ouch.)

That squad's best-known player (now) was another manager, Jim Riggleman, who appeared as the #5 in their 1979 TCMA Arkansas team set.

Value: Sonny cost $5, more than my usual TCMA budget, but proved hard to find, so I made an exception. Most singles from this era cost a dollar or two and team sets run $10-20, depending on player popularity.

Fakes / reprints: TCMA reprinted several 1980 team sets later in the decade, as collector interest in minor league rookies escalated. Those cards used black ink on the back. The blue ink means this card is an original.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

1934 World Wide Gum Baseball #79, Larry French

This card made me smile for two reasons.

First, it's a nice vintage design, down to the Lou Gehrig quote and the backset baseball diamond.

Second, it's Larry French. World Wide Gum, Co. licensed this 1934 Goudey design for Canadian distribution, which also meant translating card backs. (The #5 is Brooklyn's Babe Herman.)

French in French! I'm easy to please. Any amusing cards you've seen lately?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

1973 TCMA Cedar Rapids Astros Baseball #5, Bob Dean

20 year-old Canadian righty Robert S. Dean is one of the youngest guys profiled on this blog, but he was already a third-year veteran by 1973, after spending 1971-72 in the Appalachian rookie league (career stats at He's also got a look that says, "wait, is that a camera?"

This black-and-white design echoes TCMA's first set, which featured the 1972 Cedar Rapids Cardinals. All of Bob Dean's cards include the autograph, so they must've used a signed photo as its source.

TCMA started their minor league work with annual Cedar Rapids sets from 1972 to 1974. They expanded in 1975 to four Iowa cities (Cedar Rapids, Clinton, Dubuque, Quad Cities) and one in Louisiana (Lafayette). Odd that I lived in Iowa and attended games with my parents during that era, but never ended up with cards myself. Wait long enough and life comes full-circle.

Can't miss that classic Astrodome logo, complete with orbiting satellites. Single-A affiliate Cedar Rapids eventually "launched" six of its players to the bigs; most successful of those is a toss-up between Mike Stanton and Luis Sanchez.

Value: Not sure how many sets reached today's market, but it took awhile to track down this type card, so I assume the answer's "not many." Some sellers price TCMA singles or team sets as rare treasures, asking $10 or $20 per card for guys who never reached the majors. Wait until you see them for $5 or less. As of writing, eBay offers a team set for $20.

Fakes / reprints: Don't know of any 1973 reprints, but TCMA occasionally did so for 1980s minor league sets.

Monday, November 21, 2011

1971 Topps Baseball Coins #5, Felix Millan

Various baseball makers tried out metal and plastic baseball coins during the 60s and 70s, such as Topps' debut issue in 1964 (#5 Dick Groat). Similar efforts include Coca-Cola's cap liners and the Salada/Shirriff plastic coins.

Topps punched these coins from a metal sheet and then rounded the edges to keep kids from cutting themselves. My scanner got hung up on Millan's knurled lip, so here's a clearer scan of one of his more famous teammates.

Topps packaged these coins in wax packs of their "regular" 2nd series and even printed a separate checklist as 1971 Topps #161, the first time they'd made such an overlap.

Find just about everything there is to know about 1971's coin color-coding and other set peccadilloes at The Topps Archives' coin posts. (Checklist scan borrowed from its feature article, Post Pattern.)

As the tag line says, Topps minted a set of 153 coins, which itself divided into three sheets of 51 players (3 rows of 17); uncut proofs pop up occasionally in auctions.

Value: Single coins are common; Felix cost 25 cents at a show several years ago.

Fakes / reprints: It'd be quite a feat to fake one of these coins and I haven't seen any in the marketplace.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Off-Season Giveaway: New York Yankees

Let's not beat around a bush with these giveaways. It's time to send someone several dozen Yankee cards.

As with the first giveaway, these cards are from all over the place, and cover quite a range of players. Even guys with famous elbows.

Some of the Donnie Baseball cards include mustaches, but others do not.

There are also several Jeter cards, including this 2009 OPC Black Border.

UPDATE: Congrats to winner AstrosFreakCam, who picks up this lot of 70 Bronx Bombers.

MY FAVORITE GAME: By mid-July of 1979, both Seattle and New York sat several games back in their division standings, though at least the (defending champion) Yankees were above .500.

Dad and I went to a Mariners home game on July 11, expecting to see Tommy John pitch and Reggie Jackson swing. We did not expect for Seattle to knock New York pitchers around for 9 runs in the first inning, the final two scoring on an upper-deck homer by Ruppert Jones, which itself followed a two-run triple by Mario Mendoza.

Mariner starter Floyd Bannister spun a complete game 3-hitter, limiting the Yankees to a single run: a homer by future NYY/SEA manager Lou Piniella. Final score, 16-1. (In all the years since, I've never attended such a lopsided game.)

Let me know what NYY-connected games you've enjoyed, from either side of the ledger.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

1980 Mitock LA Dodgers Baseball Postcards #5, Jay Johnstone

This smilin' Jay Johnstone postcard, from one of several team sets printed up by LA area photographers Mitock and Son, figures into one of my formative childhood baseball beliefs and one shared with many others: TEAMS DON'T LIKE EACH OTHER. Franchises should seek out rivals to challenge, fight, and beat. Every pitch is a potential bench-clearing incident. Fans have long memories for victories, mishaps, and offenses. That's part of why this postcard looks...wrong.

Between 1970 and 1980, Johnstone played for several teams: California, Chicago, Oakland, Philly, New York, San Diego, and Los Angeles. It's hard to imagine a guy with that resume feeling "anchored" to one area, but my young mind only cared about one team in 1978: the Dodgers, NL pennant-winners over Philadelphia for the second straight year.

LA's World Series opponent, the Yankees, included one Jay Johnstone, a man who played only 59 games for the Bombers over parts of two seasons, but did enough to snag a World Series ring that year, over the Dodgers. Jay appeared twice as a defensive replacement without batting, so figured only slightly in the result, but I remembered: JAY JOHNSTONE WAS A YANKEE.

But if Jay was a Yankee, wasn't he also a Dodger? The crazy part is that Jay won another title in 1981, as a Dodger, over the Yankees. He even hit a crucial pinch-hit homer off Ron Davis in game 4, a win that squared the series at 2-2! So why am I stuck on him as a "hated" Yankee? Those six year-old feelings are hard to shake. These days, I have to remember that rivalries are more about nostalgia than records of what really happened on the field.

According to scattered Internet sources, the KVB12953 prefix (at bottom middle of the card's back) covers Mitock's 1980 postcard set and these known players.
  • KVB12953-1:
  • KVB12953-2: Jerry Reuss
  • KVB12953-3: Dave Goltz
  • KVB12953-4: Rudy Law
  • KVB12953-5: Jay Johnstone
  • KVB12953-6: Rick Sutcliffe
  • KVB12953-7: Don Stanhouse
  • KVB12953-8:
  • KVB12953-9:
  • KVB12953-10:

Let me know if you have others and we'll update the checklist.

Value: Jay cost $1 at a recent card show. (I've seen autographed versions online for $5.)

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any Mitock postcards I'd call a "reprint," though the company might've printed more of each player as long as they stayed with the team.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Winner of St. Louis Cardinals Giveaway

Thanks to fellow bloggers Ryan G (Cardboard Zoo) and Matt (Tenets of Wilson) for adding their stories to my St. Louis Cardinals giveaway. They made it easy to pick a winner; I gave Ryan heads, Matt tails, and went to's coin flipper.

Spanish 5 Pesetas piece; love the on-coin soccer ball

Congrats, Matt! Here are just two of the cards headed your way.

2007 Fleer Ultra Swing Kings, Albert Pujols
2009 OPC black border #579, David Freese

Look for another giveaway later this week!

Friday, November 11, 2011

David Segui Wantlist Hits from Mad Guru

Big thanks to Rain of Error's Mad Guru for a pair of hits to my David Segui wantlist. I've been at this player collection a while, so getting two new ones at once is much appreciated.

First up, 1997 Fleer Circa Rave. Headline-sized text, on-card pull quotes, and bar charts instead of stat grids? They're the New York Post of baseball cards.

Keeping that card company was 1995 Donruss Top of the Order, one of several 90s attempts at a baseball-themed collectible card game (CCG).

This game set requires at least one starter box, which contains rules, and as many booster packs of extra players as you care to purchase. In most CCGs, people who spend more tend to amass better and more powerful cards. It's a real design challenge to keep all player levels interested. (See a ripped booster at A Pack To Be Named Later.)

Anyone tried playing Top of the Order? If so, was it fun?

Thanks for the hits, Guru! I've updated my David Segui wantlist to reflect the arrivals.

FREE STUFF: Don't forget you have until the end of Friday, Nov 11, to enter my St. Louis Cardinals giveaway.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Off-season Giveaway: St. Louis Cardinals

Congrats again to the Birds on the Bat on their 11th championship. My Missourah-based aunt didn't send a commemorative six-pack of Budweiser yet, but I bet one shows up in a stocking at Christmastime.

Budweiser's 2006 Championship Bottle

Speaking of times for gifting, this blog will spend the off-season shipping out variety packs of team cards, starting with the title-holding Cardinals. Each will contain a mix of extra #5s, 2009 OPC, 2008 Allen and Ginter, oddballs, and who knows what else. I'm excited and intrigued just speculating what they might contain.

MINOR SPOILER: I'm pretty sure that the St. Louis assortment will have an OPC box panel with Albert Pujols, though not the one shown above (an image borrowed from elsewhere).

WHAT TO DO: Interested in receiving the St. Louis pack? Add a comment with your earliest memory of the Cardinals, a favorite game, or moment that's special to you. I'll pick a winner from entries this Saturday, so you've got a few days to percolate.

MY FAVORITE MOMENT: Former STL greats Lou Brock and Stan Musial attended a Boston-area card show several years ago, the first time I'd seen either HOFer in person. The car carrying them both arrived before show opening, with a bunch of us gathered at the entrance waiting to get in.

Stan got out first, pants hitched up high enough to be a grandfather's grandfather. He sort of shuffled through the doors without much acknowledgement, but who knows how much he could see or hear at the time.

Lou came next and departed the guest van like a president stepping off Air Force One, resplendent in suit, tie, and fresh coiffure. He smiled big, waved big, and acknowledged just about everyone within sight. It was a cool experience, just seeing how much Brock wanted to let us know he was feeling good and happy to meet fans after traveling halfway across the country. Just one of those times that makes collecting fun and memorable.

Monday, November 7, 2011

1976 Mitock LA Dodgers Baseball Postcards #5, Charlie Hough

Jamie Moyer (who this blog recently profiled on 1995 Fleer Flair #5) plans to pitch again in 2012 at age 49. Doing so would push him past other 40-something hurlers like Phil Niekro (48), Nolan Ryan (46), longtime Dodger/Ranger/Marlin/ChiSox Charlie Hough (46), and into rarified air with Hoyt Wilhelm (also 49). Since the second wave of MLB expansion in 1969, only those two gents will have pitched so close to 50 years old.

Niekro and Hough threw low-impact knuckle balls, which no doubt helped their longevity. Moyer's also known for soft stuff, with fastballs that top out in the low-80s. All three are polar opposites of the 100-MPH Ryan Express, but if Jamie's plan comes together (and several teams with pitcher-friendly parks DO need mound help), Moyer will need just two seasons to tie Ryan's mark of 27. (He's already level with Hough's 25.)

TRIVIA: Of all pitchers to win and lose at least 200 career games, Charlie Hough leads all pitchers in games finished with 240. In the same category, Jamie Moyer trails all pitchers with just 33.

I sifted this Mitock Publishing #5 out of a group of Dodger postcards at a local card show last weekend. They ran several years of similar sets, delineated by catalog prefix number. According to what I can find online, "KV8861" came out in 1976 and includes these Dodger players.

  • KV8861-1: Walt Alston
  • KV8861-2: Ron Cey
  • KV8861-3: Tommy John
  • KV8861-4: Davey Lopes
  • KV8861-5: Charlie Hough
  • KV8861-6: Steve Garvey
  • KV8861-7: Mike Marshall
  • KV8861-8: Joe Ferguson
  • KV8861-9: Dusty Baker
  • KV8861-10: Burt Hooten

Let me know if you've seen any numbers above 10 from this series and I'll update the checklist.

Value: Hough cost $1, which I considered a good deal. Fan favorites like Lopes and Alston could cost more.

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any fakes and I think it's too specific a collecting niche to make money reprinting modern players.

Friday, November 4, 2011

1978 TCMA Holyoke Millers Baseball #5, Bernardo Leonard

TCMA produced dozens of 1970s oddball sets aimed at collectors and small-town fans, but this is their earliest minor league set I've seen with full-color fronts. I assume it went to press with their major league retrospective, The 1960s (#5 profile), so proved economical to print both.

This white-bordered look also calls back to 1953 Bowman Color, the vintage company's initial try at full-color photos in card packs (#5 profile). That experiment proved so expensive, Bowman Gum switched to black-and-white fronts for a late-season series of 64 cards and even renumbered it, a somewhat confusing strategy for issues with similar card backs (#5 profile).

Nice to see TCMA include Holyoke's team logo. It's modeled after the eponymous paper mill smokestacks that lined their town's canal system, first developed in the 1800s. Most of this infrastructure now supports the generation of electricity, a common changeover as railroads carried American industry west over the last 150 years.

Value: Bernardo cost $2 at

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

Thursday, November 3, 2011

1980 TCMA Tidewater Tides Baseball #5, Sergio Ferrer

When I think base runners on cards, multi-sport champion Herb Washington comes right to mind.

The 1970s track-and-field title holder appeared in 105 career games for Oakland, always as a pinch runner, and nabbed a World Series ring in 1974 during their 3-year title run. (Note the single white glove, pre-Michael Jackson, and excellent penmanship. Personal style counts!)

The 1970s strategy of "run early, run often" also paid the big league bills for guys like Sergio Ferrer, who tripled more than he doubled and split 1979 duties evenly between Mets pinch-runner and AAA Tidewater infielder (career stats at

5'8" and 145 pounds sounds like a lean dude, baseball or no baseball. I can see why a guy with that frame would be quick around the bases.

If you like that white-text-on-red-background look, also see the Cards on Cards salute to Gold Glove catcher Yadier Molina, which co-stars several 1980 Portland Beavers. TCMA used that design for all its minor league teams, so they're easy to pick out at show tables or online stores.

Value: Sergio proved elusive; I finally found him last month on eBay for $6. The team set includes popular Mets like Mookie Wilson, Hubie Brooks, and Wally Backman, so goes for $20 and up.

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

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

1995 Fleer Flair Baseball #5, Jamie Moyer (and Type Site for Orioles Card O The Day)

Orioles Card "O" the Day featured this 1995 Fleer Flair card in 2009 to check in on Moyer's recovery from a series of minor medical procedures. Blog author Kevin averages a new post each day and covers cards from throughout Baltimore's long team history.

Moyer went on to start 19 games for Philly in 2010, but missed 2011 with Tommy John surgery, his first year out of the majors since 1992. Jamie says that he rehabbed all year and plans (hopes?) to pitch again in 2012.

This set came to mind when a fellow OBC collector sent this hit to my David Segui wantlist, 1996 Fleer Flair #313.

In hand, that speckled background really jumps out at you and Segui's righthand pose has an embossed edge.

Fleer tried some of everything on these Flair cards, going with four different poses per card, each with different framing and photo effects. I like the choice to show players in home/away jerseys, but prefer the horizontal look of Moyer's 1995 card when companies arrange both portrait and action on card fronts.

Segui's action shots might be from the same game, as it's clearly an afternoon contest with identical uniforms. Critics of 1990s cards say the crowded design (and, of course, set overproduction) fatigued collectors and eventually killed the market, but I'm happy to have another hit for my player collection.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Topps Decades (and Type Site for This Card is Cool)

2011 marked the 60th anniversary of Topps packaging baseball sets with chewing gum and candy, hearkening all the way back to a quintet of 1951 issues. I've profiled the Red Back #5 (Johnny Pesky) and Blue Back #5 (Phil Rizzuto) before, but they also created three odd-sized sets that year, the Connie Mack All-Stars, Major League All-Stars, and Team Cards.

1951 Topps Connie Mack All-Stars, Connie Mack

Connie Mack All-Stars featured retired greats and a die-cut around player silhouettes, so you can fold the backs over and stand them up.

1951 Topps Major League All-Stars, Yogi Berra

Major League All-Stars used active players on the same die-cut design and prove almost impossible to find today, possibly due to legal wrangling with Bowman over contract exclusivity.

1951 Topps Team Cards, Chicago White Sox

Team Cards are full-squad photos. Topps printed only 9 of 16 active teams, possibly for lack of pictures at design time.

It's quite expensive to build any of these three sets, given their rarity. Find a wealth of detail on their checklists and printing peccadilloes in The Candy Men post at Topps Archives.

The Topps 60th baseball anniversary came to mind when I came across a 1980s set summary at the This Card Is Cool blog, another great source of card scans and writing from any era. Author Ryan G turns out more than 1 post per day, so you'll never run short of reading material. Combine our decade profile posts and you've got all six covered!