Tuesday, August 27, 2013

1946-47 Almanaque Deportivo Cuban Baseball #5, Salvador Hernandez

Over the years, I've come to enjoy baseball's anachronisms, especially as shown on vintage cards. Every modern batter wears a helmet. Fewer today choke up on the bat. Pitchers almost never leg kick like Warren Spahn. And are there any catchers left who dare to don a yellow chest protector?

Salvador Hernandez isn't your typical MLB catcher, though, he's a Cuban Beisbol Hall of Famer (elected 1997) who played and coached for Cuban, American, and Mexican teams, including 1947-48 outlaw league champions Leones de la Habana (Havana Lions), uniform below. The above picture's hand-tinted from a black-and-white photo, but I assume his protector is real-life yellow, as sun-soaked colors abound throughout the region.

1947-48 Havana Lions jersey

Salvador also played two WWII-era seasons with the Cubs, hit an even .250 over 90 games, and paired with pitcher Hi Bithorn to form the majors leagues' first all-Latino battery (more at B-R). Unfortunately, the war also consumed most of America's paper, so no domestic-made sets meant no collectible cards of Hernandez in MLB uniform.

"H-5" means Havana #5, because the checklist keeps each team separate. As with other 1940s Caribbean issues, this card's printed on thin paper and its publisher (Cuba's Sports Almanac) expected collectors to mount all 160 players in a provided album like stamps. Salvador's uneven edges betray these came from larger, 4-card sheets, several of which auctioned for $950 in July 2013.

UPDATE: The AP wrote about Salvador's first game with the Cubs, with details of the injuries that pushed him from Chicago's #3 backstop to #1.

Click through that excerpt for an account of the game itself!

Value: I bought Salvador for $15 from CubaCollectibles.com. Negro League collectors drive up prices for Hall of Famers like Martin Dihigo, but type singles remain affordable.

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

Friday, August 23, 2013

1975 Caruso Phoenix Giants Baseball #5, Skip James

Why the long face, Skip James? Haven't you heard Vin Scully's returning for 2014? Even Phoenix loves Vin Scully.

Card front (blank back)

Caruso used a different color for each PCL team in 1975 and maybe Skip's put off by their choice of lime green. Remember, it could be worse! You could be the 1980 Tucson Toros.

James himself didn't disappoint in AAA Phoenix, playing everyday for 5 seasons and earning a pair of San Francisco call-ups (career stats).

"Skip" is just one of many nouns and verbs in Caruso's Phoenix team set. See also: Hypes, Speed, Pepper, Mull, Rose, etc. And that's not even counting Johnny "The Master." (Players with MLB experience in bold.)
  1. Leon Brown
  2. Jim Williams
  3. Horace Speed
  4. Tony Pepper
  5. Skip James
  6. Jack Mull
  7. Rick Bradley
  8. Glenn Redmon
  9. Larry Herndon
  10. Bruce Christensen
  11. Mike Edan
  12. John LeMaster
  13. Tom Heintzelman
  14. Rob Dressler
  15. Greg Minton
  16. Bob Knepper
  17. Tommy Toms
  18. Ed Sukla
  19. Tony Gonzalez
  20. Kyle Hypes
  21. Don Rose

If "Greg Minton" sounds familiar, it might be because his 1978 card sprang fully-formed from the tip of a Topps airbrush.

1978 Topps #312, Greg Minton

Greg's like a baseball pitcher from the Dutch Realist period.

Value: This #5 cost $2 at MinorLeagueSingles.com and eBay sellers ask $20-40 for team sets.

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

Thursday, August 22, 2013

1962 Pittsburgh "Exhibits" Baseball 5 of Hearts, Ken Boyer & Harmon Killebrew

Some details of this oddball set remain a mystery outside of its Exhibits-like print style. It's 3"x5", blank-backed, and printed on thick stock, so not practical for actual hands of bridge. The 82-card checklist's officially tagged as "1962 Pittsburgh," with expert opinion placing distribution about there and then. (Keyman Collectibles keeps a checklist and more set info.)

Card front (blank back)

5 of Hearts isn't a proper #5 for my type set, but offers a fun excuse to mention excellent third-sacker Ken Boyer. One of the best offensive and defensive players of the late 50s and 60s, our guest's #14 deservedly hangs on the Busch Stadium wall. (#17 is none other than recent comparative Dizzy Dean.)

Over the years, I've heard a lot of dramatic Key Boyer stories from Midwestern friends. (A major highlight is Ken's take-the-lead grand slam against New York in 1964's World Series.) St. Louis residents remembered him in print as recently as June 21, 2009.

Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew also shows up as five of hearts, one example of the set's multiple players per number and suit.

These Exhibits made me think of other "baseball playing card" designs from over the years. Here's a shotgun profile of the genre.
  • 1888 Base Ball Playing Cards, catalogued as WG1, the designation used for "game" sets. You can't use them for poker, but it's an interesting look nonetheless!
  • 1927 strip cards, catalogued as W560. Much smaller than modern clubs and spades, so more decorative than playful.
  • 1951 Topps Red Backs (and companion Blue Backs) contained 52 cards and a built-in baseball game.
  • 1962 Exhibit of Dem Bums, a rare issue with size and style reminiscent of today's Boyer card.
  • Baseball Heroes cards, the modern, "build to suit" version of putting team stars into play.

Those barely scratch the surface, as you could build a sizeable collection just from playing card sets or playable ones like 1968 Topps Game.

Value: Boyer cost me $10 a few years ago. eBay sellers of other Pittsburgh Exhibits ask from $20-50, depending on the player.

Fakes / reprints: Some Exhibits releases stretched across decades (40s-60s) and went through reprints in the 1980s. It's not clear if this 1962 issue did the same, but it's possible.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Favorite Variations and World Wide Winner

Thanks for nominating great variations and permutations in my final 2013 National Wrap-Up! I'll run down each choice, add my own favorite to the end, and pick a winner for 1934 World Wide Gum #5.

1. Gil Hodges Passes Away

Sean Langon started with a card of significance to many, the 1972 Topps & O-Pee-Chee Gil Hodges.

1972 O-Pee-Chee #465 Gil Hodges (with note)

GCRL compared the Topps/OPC versions on his blog, but the short story is OPC must've edited their set later, so added a tag to let young collectors know why Hodges wasn't on the field anymore.

My dad's a big fan of the Dodgers and loved Hodges and Brooklyn's other Boys of Summer. Gil passed away the day before I was born, making it easy to link childhood stories to baseball and vice-versa.

2. Upper Deck Flips Dale Murphy

Classon of Adventures in 1952 Topps picked an infamous early Upper Deck chase card, the reversed Dale Murphy.

1989 Upper Deck #357, Dale Murphy (correct & reversed)

Radicards discussed the collecting environment that led people to buy pack after pack, hoping to score a well-known error that might've been intentional. The chase for errors and rookies eventually pushed companies to create parallels and other subsets for every issue, rather than depend on collectors themselves to find and hype company "mistakes." However Murphy's card happened, it's a stepping stone to today's collecting environment.

3. Billy Ripken

Some cards grow to outshine a player's own career, even guys with Hall of Fame last names. Greg Zakwin of Plaschke, Thy Sweater is Argyle nominated the infamous half of the only brother team to play for their manager father, Cal, Sr: Billy Ripken.

1989 Fleer #616, Bill Ripken (original)

Wikipedia quotes Fleer as creating "at least ten variations" to deal with Billy's batting practice bat expletive. See the "Versions" link at BillRipken.com for a full rundown of far more than I expected to see. At one point, obscure versions booked $100+ and all permutations continue to sell for well above Cal's own card from the same set.

4. Player I have Player I want!

Fellow OBC vintage collector Jason Chistopherson nominated his take on the "Minnie Minoso to Manny Mota" card I recently upgraded to a plain old Minoso. Let's say you have a 1953 George Crowe, but he leaves after a few years and now Felix Mantilla plays for the Braves. There's an easy solution!

1953 Topps #3, George Crowe Felix Mantilla

Sure am glad I finally found that Felix Mantilla card, yessir.

5. Wait, isn't that...?

Hackenbush of Can't Have Too Many Cards noted how Topps created accidental variations by putting the wrong photo on the right card.

1963 Topps #113, Ron Santo / Don Landrum

That's Santo's large photo, Landrum on the inset, and I bet Cubs collectors dream of finding a double-autograph version. (Landrum passed away in 2003 and Santo in 2010, so there's a good shot of at least one kicking around.)

Ron's normal card #252 is Santo through and through.

6. Cards that go Bump in Toronto Texas

Night Owl (of the eponymous card blog) called out the first variation I remember as a young collector, Topps' errant forecast of an off-season trade from Texas to Toronto.

1979 Topps #368, Bump Wills

Bronx Banter delved into the insider rumors that fed Topps' mistake, complete with recollection from the seminal Sy Berger. This card doubly stood out to me when Bump's father Maury Wills took over my Mariners for the 1980 season. Despite Maury's "unmitigated disaster" as the man in charge, having both father and son active in the same AL division gave games against Texas some extra sizzle.

7. Two Ted Williams, two Jackie Robinsons, two Mickey Mantles...

At one point, I sought to build a "master version" of my favorite set, 1956 Topps, an issue rife with multiple backs, dated-or-undated team cards, and minor print layout variations. The primary focus is on card stock for #1-180, which came in white or grey. Buying both backs for the type collection meant paying twice for this guy.

1956 Topps #5, Ted Williams

Here're the other HOF and star variations from that series that you need (at least) two of.
  • #10 Warren Spahn
  • #15 Ernie Banks
  • #20 Al Kaline
  • #30 Jackie Robinson
  • #31 Hank Aaron
  • #33 Roberto Clemente
  • #79 Sandy Koufax
  • #101 Roy Campanella
  • #107 Eddie Mathews
  • #110 Yogi Berra
  • #113 Phil Rizzuto
  • #118 Nellie Fox
  • #120 Richie Ashburn
  • #130 Willie Mays
  • #135 Mickey Mantle
  • #145 Gil Hodges
  • #150 Duke Snider
  • #164 Harmon Killebrew
  • #165 Red Shoendienst
  • #166 Dodgers team
  • #180 Robin Roberts

I eventually ditched the master set goal because DAMN that's a lot of card spending. It's an admirable long-term goal to pursue and includes terrific variations along the way, but remains an expensive road to travel.

GIVEAWAY WINNER: I should probably send an obscure 1930s Canadian card to everyone as reward for reading this far. But since I have just one spare Flint Rhem, let's roll a virtual six-sided die.


Congrats to Hackenbush, who nets the Flint Rhem with that 1963 Santo/Landrum nomination! Will contact him for a current address and thanks to everyone else for entering, I enjoyed poking around the history of those variations.

Friday, August 16, 2013

2013 National Wrap-Up Part 3 (and Vintage Giveaway): Type Cards

Part of the magic of big card shows like this year's National Sports Collectors Convention is knowing that unexpected treasures abound. Despite becoming a quite difficult wantlist to hit, friends and dealers added three cards to the type collection and I only had to pay $1 for all of 'em!

It's been too long since we've done a giveaway, so look for your chance to win a rare vintage #5 after the roll call.

1969 Topps Baseball #5: AL Home Run Leaders

I recently sold my 1969 baseball set (*cough* eBay ID late_innings *cough*), which meant the #5 needed replacing. This EX version starring three fan favorites (because who doesn't dig the long ball?) popped up in a $1 box and fit the bill nicely.

Wow, there was a big drop from the top 3! Even 4th place Reggie's 29 homers trailed Frank Howard by 15, a huge gap in the pitching-dominant 1960s.

Jim Northrup's grand slams include two in one game (June 24 box score), when he also became the second player to hit them in consecutive at-bats. Jim hit another in game 6 of the World Series, making 5 for 1968, regular and post-season combined.

1976 Twinkie Panel #5, Bob Watson

The uniform, the sunglasses, the Astroturf. Bob Watson is still cooler than school.

Hostess put together a nice run of 1970s sets attached to snack boxes, including this red-white-blue design on America's bicentennial. This single-player panel supported a pair of Twinkie cakes that left telltale staining and still emits a faint chemical scent. Mmm, preservatives!

Some collectors try to build both Hostess (printed on snack boxes) and Twinkie (one per panel) sets. If you find them trimmed down to card size, those vertical black bars delineate Twinkies from "regular" Hostess cards.

My longtime collecting friend Steve (fellow member of OBC) gave me both this and the next #5, so it cost $0, my favorite price!

1933 World Wide Gum #5, Babe Herman

Slugger Babe Herman played the key role in Brooklyn's infamous "three men on third," as a head-down runner too committed to advancing to let something like a base coach tell him what to do.

While a great card to have, this #5 is special for what's on the back.

Prior to this year, I'd owned several Canadian-made World Wide Gum cards, but all with bilingual English-French back text. Steve gave me this rare permutation on an already scarce set, the "English-only" back that fills a previously-unknown slot in the type collection, which now includes both back variations. A+!

VINTAGE GIVEAWAY: 1934 World Wide Gum #5, Flint Rhem

Drunk with the possibilities of capturing both World Wide Gum back variations at this year's National, I also bought this 1934 #5 of Flint Rhem, gambling it was the one I didn't already own. Wrong for me, as it's a duplicate of the English-French back text, but good for you as it's now free to give away.

Even in low-grade, these World Wide Gum cards don't pop up often, and you'll learn a little French on the side. (I enjoy that "has plenty of smoke" translates to "est très agressif.")

HOW TO ENTER: Add a comment naming your favorite baseball card variation from any player, team, or year. To collectors, that usually means an error that the card company later corrected, but surprise me if "variation" says something else to you. (OBC members, for example, might call a crossed-out player--see my National upgrades post for examples--a "new name variation." :-)

I'll leave entries open through Sunday night and pick a winner early next week!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Topps Baseball Checklists and 1961 Series 1 to Series 7 Photo Identification

While flipping through cards at the 2013 National Sports Collectors Convention, I noticed something for the first time. Something about checklists.

1956 Topps 1st & 3rd Series Checklist

Consider the process of checking off names and numbers from a list. It feels elemental to the image of "collecting," right? Yet fierce competition between Topps and Bowman insured neither would issue one. Every year, both companies withdrew planned cards over contract disputes, so they didn't risk creating a reference list of players, only to have it change at the last minute.

When Topps purchased Bowman player contracts in 1956, it finally freed them to make real checklists, helping collectors fill in every number the company produced. What began as unnumbered ledgers for 1956-57 (see above) moved to the back of team photo cards for 1958-60.

1959 Topps #476, Indians Team & 7th Series Checklist

Checklists first became "equal members" in 1961 and all 7 series included 1/3-sized action photos without hinting why that game and play mattered. Were they highlighting players from the checklist itself? Are there patterns in Topps' photo choices? That's what I wondered at the National.

Pittsburgh won the 1960 World Series in fantastic fashion, as Bill Mazeroski's walk-off homer beat the Yankees in game 7. It doesn't surprise me that Topps gave the champs a little extra attention in 1961, including this Pirates action photo on their Series 1 checklist. Upon first noticing it as card #1 on checklist #1, I assumed that's reigning NL MVP Dick Groat, which would be cool. Unfortunately, Mr.  Groat wore #24, so that's not quite what's going on.

1961 Topps #17, Series 1 Check List

Thanks to Baseball-Reference, I learned that's Pirates 1B Dick Stuart (#7) batting and Cubbie Moe Thacker (#22) catching. While Moe appears in Series 1 as card #12, Stuart's not found until #402, killing the "checklist players" correlation. So can we tell what's happening? Assuming their game's from 1960, seeing both Thacker and Stuart together limits this at-bat to one of six Wrigley contests.

Other than revisiting 5 painful Cubs losses, the Series 1 checklist doesn't tell us much. Stuart might've hit a homer to left or grounder to third, who knows.

VERDICT: Unclear alone, but linked to Series 4 below.

1961 Topps #98, Series 2 Check List

That's Chicago playing at home again and Milwaukee visiting. 2B Don Zimmer approaches SS Ernie Banks with the ball, Zim notably shorter (5'9") than Ernie (6'1"). The Wrigley service door behind that runner is in left-center, so that's likely Cubs LF Richie Ashburn walking back to position after throwing to the infield. Banks' indifference to other bases makes me think that guy on second's the only runner, with any others having scored. (His uniform # is just out of view, but doesn't look like a 1.)

Ernie Banks, Don Zimmer, Richie Ashburn in LF, and a caucasian Brave taller than Ernie Banks doubling to left or center limits us to these contests.

Joe Adcock is 6'4", so looms over 5'11" Johnny Logan as clearly taller than Ernie Banks, even leaning to one side. The double's credited as deep LF-CF, so I'm not surprised Hank Aaron in his prime would make it home from first without a throw.

Todd Schultz of Net54 pointed out this could be an easy fly ball where the runner held up, making it quite tough to pick out the situation. Given that all Topps' other checklists use "active" plays, I'm OK with thinking this represents something more dramatic. In this case, the first runs of the game.

VERDICT: Calling it for Joe Adcock's double on July 24.

1961 Topps #189, Series 3 Check List

Next up, the Reds came to town for a midday Wrigley game and caught someone in a rundown. That grandstand divider between CHECK and LIST appears to be just right of the left-center 368 marker, so I searched Chicago-Cincinnati contests for a second-to-third pickle.

Play-by-play recorded Santo's CS as C-3B tag outs instead of rundowns and neither happened with a Reds righty on the mound, who'd be running to back up third base, so I expect a more "developed" play than a straight steal attempt.

Lefty Jim O'Toole pitched during Zimmer's pickle, but that's likely another Red moving to cover, as Cubs had already scored from 2B and 3B during the play. 3B (at left) is #14 Puddin' Head Jones, who just threw to SS Leo Cardenas. If O'Toole backed up home as usual, that'd be 2B Roy McMillan or 1B Gordy Coleman running to third. (The other would've stayed near second to keep batter Glen Hobbie from advancing.)

VERDICT: Looks like Don Zimmer on August 30. (Originally thought it was a Santo pickoff, but Todd Schultz of Net54 prompted me to reinvestigate.)

1961 Topps #272 273, Series 4 Check List

The Wrigley Field pattern continues, this time with several Cubs arguing an infield call while a Pirate runner waits for resolution. Cubs #11 is 1B Ed Bouchee, #40 is pitcher Glen Hobbie, and #17 is 2B Don Zimmer.

If that's the same game from Topps' Series 1 checklist (it matches both camera position and "softer" photo quality), combined rosters include Moe Thacker, Dick Stuart, Ed Bouchee, Glen Hobbie, and Don Zimmer. That narrows it to Pittsburgh's 11-3 win on June 9, where Cubs starter Hobbie lasted just 3 innings. His nine-out window IDs this photo as Hal Smith's 2nd inning, 2-run double, the only non-walk play when a Pirate ended up at second.

The guy in that umpire's face could be manager Lou Boudreau or 3B Ron Santo, as SS Ernie Banks looks to be just out of sight behind the knot of players. Boudreau might've come out to argue a tag at second or third, without causing enough ruckus to get tossed, since he finished the game. But speaking of ejections...

Thanks to Google News archive for this 1960 coverage of Don Zimmer's ejection in the third inning of that same June 9 game. Umpire Ken Burkhart made a combo safe/out call on a close tag play and Zim took exception to the mixed message (and being called out). Chicago's Jerry Kindall took over at 2B for the remainder.

VERDICT: Taken with Series 1, this is June 9.

1961 Topps #361, Series 5 Check List

Ah, we're in Chicago once again and that's Ernie Banks sliding in safely to third as Phillies #4 Ted Lepcio takes the outside throw from left or center. Banks ended up on third plenty of times that year, so several possibilities loom. Did he run first-to-third on a single to center? Triple deep into the ivy? Advance from second on a fly ball?

Fortunately, Ted Lepcio's a utility man and his rare Wrigley Field time offers just one match, the Cubs 5-4 win on August 27. Ernie Banks hustled the winning run out of an infield double, the pictured advance to 3B on a fly out, and Frank Thomas' single to center.

VERDICT: This is Ernie Banks advancing on August 27.

1961 Topps #437, Series 6 Check List

Full disclosure: this Series 6 picture kicked off my research into 1961's checklists. I paused in a long aisle of dealers at the 2013 National convention hall, lifted the card from its 50-cent box, and thought with sincerity:

"Why the heck did Topps put this on cardboard?"

Forget when and where this happened. Nameless dude protecting his head from an outfield throw while the third baseman flaps his arms? That's worth committing to the prime real estate of a checklist's only photo? Horsefeathers! Pshaw and poppycock! Good day to you, sir!

Ugh, fine. I'll investigate.

JollyElm at Net54 proposed that, unlike other checklists, this is Comiskey Park, not Wrigley Field, and that's White Sox #4 Gene Freese at 3B. I agree, given his bright white home uniform and road grays on the batting team (NYY or DET). You've also got a home plate umpire making the call at third, so something about the play pulled the 3B ump out of frame. No obvious shadows mean this could be an overcast day, but warm enough for no player undershirts. I checked every Yankees and Tigers game at Comiskey, with two gut-feeling matches.
  • June 19 (game 1), 6th inning: NYY runners on 1B & 3B, Jim Coates singles to left. Runner from 3B scores easily, then Chicago LF Minnie Minoso makes unspecified error that allows Bobby Richardson to score from first. If that's the play, it looks like Freese didn't expect to receive a throw at third until Minoso's error and that's Richardson in mid-play, about to head home.
  • August 9, 1st inning: NYY runner on first, Yogi Berra singles to left, but is thrown out trying for 2B. I can understand the runner (Bobby Richardson) protecting his head with action behind him. An ideal photo match puts Freese in a better position to receive a throw, but the hit was deep enough to make Berra try for second, so Freese could've been between third and home, backing up the cutoff man, and the 3B ump could've shifted into left to monitor the outfield play.

VERDICT: Feel better about play on August 9. Home plate ump would be Red Flaherty and third base coach is Frankie Crosetti.

1961 Topps #516, Series 7 Check List

More horsehide fumbling at Wrigley, as Milwaukee's shortstop races to recover a throw while #13 Chuck Cottier looks toward home or first. An umpire without his topcoat and jerseys without undershirts imply a hot afternoon. Everyone's focused around second base, so I looked for an attempted 2B-to-SS force or double play that went awry, with two decent matches.

Cottier appears to be checking home plate as Johnny Logan kicks the ball, giving an edge to the August 31 play, where Richie Ashburn scored the game's first run.

VERDICT: Tentatively Logan's run-scoring error on August 31.

FINAL TALLY: Of the 7 checklists, we have 1 stadium, 5 positive play IDs, 2 tentative play IDs, and 1 arm-flapping third baseman. Some plays rest on assumptions, but what's amateur research without enthusiastic pursuit of continuity?

Thanks for following the photo ID work and chip in if you see a detail I missed!

UPDATE: Al Richter of Net54 noted variations for all 7 checklists, if you're after a master set.
  • CL1: names either even with or slightly below the boxes and #s
  • CL2: "CHECK LIST" can be red or yellow; on yellows the card number circle can be black or white
  • CL3: jersey #4 (part of #14) visible or cropped out (mine is the latter)
  • CL4: copyright text on back starts at #336 or #339
  • CL5: "TOPPS BASEBALL" is yellow or black and backs have an ad or not
  • CL6: #440 is "Louis" or "Luis" (Aparicio)
  • CL7: either grass or no grass under the umpire's left foot

Thursday, August 8, 2013

2013 National Vintage Wrap-Up Part 2: Upgrades

Prior to the 2013 National, I leafed through several vintage sets for upgrade options. Plenty of dealers offer Good-to-Ex cards for $1 or less, cheaply bettering my binders and giving me extras to share with other collectors. After a successful return with 100+ such improvements, here's a handful of who will look for new homes.

1955 Bowman #139, Bob and Bill Shantz

That's one beat-up TV of Kansas City's former brother battery, Bobby the pitcher and Billy the catcher.  Billy's platooning meant they didn't match up often; Bobby called their best game together a 6-0, 3-hit shutout of New York on April 29, 1955.

1957 Topps #137 Bob Rush

Check out those missing edges! Bob's hair wasn't the only thing subjected to a keen but wandering blade.

1955 Topps #151, Red Kress

In a world that already stole Little Red's face, Big Red seems resigned to his encroaching fate. Chief Wahoo tries to grin and bear it.

1958 Topps #370, Yogi Berra

Does this lipstick make my eyes pop? It's that new shade, "Warning Track."

1958 Topps #285, Frank Robinson

You got a little something under your nose, Frank. No, it's still there. OK, allllmost got it...

1958 Topps #295, Minnie Minoso "Manuel Mota"

Acquired a bunch of these "updated" 1958s in the past and finally swapping a few of them out. Interesting that this 1958 Minoso became Manny Mota, who didn't debut until 1962, but did play 2B/3B/OF that year for San Francisco. Accuracy counts!

1958 Topps #238 Bill Mazeroski "Jim Coughty"

It looks like the same collector updated both Maz and Minoso, so "Jim Coughty" might've played after 1958. He likely meant James Marlan Coughtry, who never appeared on his own MLB card, sharing only "floating head" space with Bob Sadowski, Ed Charles, and Felix Torres.

1962 Topps #595, Infielders Rookie Parade

It's a rookie parade! Get the rookie clowns, rookie floats, and rookie cotton candy machines!

For fans who've seen the Jackie Robinson movie 42, that's the same Ed Charles who appears as a Florida youngster inspired by Jackie. Ed showed similar persistence, spending 9 years in the minors prior to his 1962 MLB debut, and went on to win the 1969 World Series as a Met. (Charles also did it wearing uniform #5.)

1957 Topps #203, Boyt Wilhelm

"No, I'm Hoyt's brother, BOYT Wilhelm. Sports aren't my thing, I'm more of an accounting guy."

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

1934 World Wide Gum Baseball #5, Flint Rhem

Five things to know about pitcher Flint Rhem and this 1934 World Wide Gum card, a Canadian type card I upgraded at the 2013 National in Chicago. (For me, "upgrades" often mean moving from 75% of a card to 90% of a card--NM is still a long ways off!)

1. He's a two-time champ

Rhem won two World Series with the Cardinals just prior to its Gashouse Gang era, so-called for their willingness to wear smelly uniforms and play to a lower-class image. The team's still well-known thanks in part to star Frankie Frisch's later manipulation of the Veterans Committee. Frisch used his influence and support from other friends with voting power to enshrine several teammates of questionable qualification as Hall of Famers, cementing a successful team as "legends" (more at Wikipedia).

2. The set's origins

Boston-based Goudey Gum licensed their card design and checklist to Montreal's World Wide Gum for Canadian distribution during the 1930s, so many collectors know those sets as "Canadian Goudey." They're available with English-only backs or, like this one, mixed French-English.

3. Flint's wearing a Philadelphia Athletics uniform

This card calls Rhem a Cardinal, but its blue-and-white uniform mean the picture's from Philly, where he spent 1932-33. The back text is current in the sense that Flint returned to St. Louis for the start of 1934, but soon departed for Boston's Braves (career record).

4. Half of 1933 Goudey designs, including Rhem's, reappeared in 1934 World Wide Gum

American-made Goudey cards feature banners with "Lou Gehrig says..." or "Chuck Klein says...," but World Wide Gum didn't adopt that design until their midpoint. Cards 1-48 reuse 1933 fronts (and perhaps even printing sheets), only updating bio text. This #5 looks the same as Rhem's 1933 card, down to the "G.G. CO (c) 1933" stamp at lower-left.

1933 Goudey #136, Flint Rhem

Uncut World Wide Gum sheets show the 1933-34 differences.

5. World Wide Gum cards are scarce, but not especially expensive.

I recently sold several low-grade 1933-34 cards on eBay and they all closed between $6 and $20. You'll have a hard time tracking them down, given a smaller print run and foreign distribution, but don't expect to pay much more than equivalent Goudeys when you do.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

2013 National Vintage Wrap-Up Part 1: 1954 Red Heart Baseball

This weekend, I took my yen for vintage cards to Rosemont, IL and the 2013 National Sports Collectors Convention, meeting with two dozen friends from OBC and wandering a labyrinth of dealer tables that stretched from John Rumierz, source of dusty Venezuelan type cards, to shiny plastic slabs by the caseload at the Collector's Collection booth. Between those extremes, thousands of hobbyists wandered the concrete aisles with money to burn. Toss in carpeted corporate booths for Topps and Upper Deck in-between and you've got a party: a stubbled, t-shirted, cargo shorted, and New Balanced party.

While so many potential stories to tell, let's open with my started-at-the-show set, 1954 Red Heart Baseball. Its hand-colored portraits of 33 players nicely capture the mid-50s style and I ramped up with this handful of $5-10 purchases.

10-time All-Star Harvey Kuenn was known for a great batting eye and varied defensive abilities, sort of a 1950s Rod Carew. Like Carew, he's one of the handful of batters with 2000+ career hits to garner under 100 homers.

After his 15-year playing career, Harv also helmed the 1982 Brewers (a.k.a., Harvey's Wallbangers) to their only World Series appearance (so far), earning AL Manager of the Year honors despite being in charge for just 2/3 of the season.

Why would Red Heart Dog Food make baseball cards in the mid-50s? Most likely, they saw a chance worth taking. The sport exploded after WWII and Red Heart recognized how fierce competition between Topps and Bowman brought kids to the candy store--why not try another family product? While printed in 1954, Red Heart continued to offer their sets via mail order into the 60s and 70s, so singles aren't hard to find today.

COOL: Kuenn debuted as a pro in Davenport, Iowa, the first place I ever saw a game (at age 3).

COST: $5.

The 33-card checklist includes 11 future Hall of Famers, most notably Warren Spahn, Mickey Mantle, and Stan Musial. Red Heart managed to get Stan the Man when he didn't appear in 1954 Topps or Bowman, quite a signing coup. (Later, Musial said Red Heart was willing to pay what he asked, something the others wouldn't.)

Many of the bios mention a player's heritage ("popular ball player of Irish ancestry"), something with real cultural significance following WWII, when the American government and media spoke to a shared, somewhat homogenized national identity. In part, this recognized the significant wartime contributions from immigrant families, but also acclimated young fans to a newly-integrated sport. Many 40s and 50s movies and books echoed this melting pot sentiment on a broad scale, reflecting the grassroots march toward expanded civil rights in ensuing decades.

COOL: Yeah, Brooklyn Dodgers!

COST: $10.

Red Heart printed three 11-card series of players with blue, green, and red backgrounds, the last being somewhat scarcer. I didn't pick up any green in my starting salvo, but saw a sharp (if miscut) Duke Snider for $35. Hope I don't grow to regret not pulling that trigger.

Note how much text Red Heart dedicated to fielding stats on their cards. These days, you're lucky to get a brief text comment about a player's glove work while batting or pitching dominate the stat grid.

COOL: Nicknamed "The Walking Man," Eddie collected nearly as many free passes (1614) as hits (1863) in an 18-year career.

COST: $5.

Miñoso's already on one of my favorite #5s, his 1952 Bowman rookie card. This Red Heart portrait might've been a young Chicago fan's bulletin board highlight, given those tack holes but otherwise nice treatment.

Minnie holds a special place in history as the oldest batter to hit safely (a single in 1976 at age 50) and oldest to bat in 1980, giving him appearances in the 1940s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. His 1976 games represent another rarity as DH at-bats from 9th in the batting order.

COOL: Miñoso batted in those 1980 MLB games a full three years after his son (Orestes Miñoso, Jr.) retired from pro ball.

COST: $10.

Here's my first player from the set's scarce "red" series, which also includes Hall of Famers Stan Musial, Ralph Kiner, Richie Ashburn, Bob Lemon, and Red Schoendienst. Cleveland catcher Jim Hegan's nowhere near the hitter of those five (even his battery mate Bob Lemon had a higher career OPS+), but he played in 17 seasons and 5 All-Star games on the strength of defensive skills & game management. As Bill Dickey said, "When you catch like Hegan, you don't have to hit."

"Leading catchers in double plays" usually meant throwing out runners after a strike out and Hegan averaged 50% caught stealing. The particulars of his unassisted double play aren't clear (other than "4th inning on June 21, 1949"), but given Philly's bases loaded situation, Hegan probably fielded a nubber, then forced a runner at home and tagged the batter in quick succession (box score).

COOL: Hegan's top-20 all-time for games caught and never appeared at another position.

COST: $5.

That's my newest set (and effective wantlist) thanks to the 2013 National. See my next post for scans of other hits from the show, 1933-1962!