Monday, November 30, 2015

1976 Caruso Phoenix Giants Baseball #5, Skip James

In my last post (Carlos Lopez), I lamented how card maker Caruso picked green bunting for a 1976 bicentennial team set, when the situation obviously called for red. Ugh.

It's only now that I realize: I'd forgotten about this post from 2013.

Orange bunting and beige player.

I also forgot this other post from 2013.

Red bunting! But green player.

Is Caruso never going to put all the pieces together for today's PCL team, starring Skip James?

No, they will not. Red bunting and yellow player.

1976 Hostess, Garvey/Rader/Blue

Unlike the forthrightly patriotic 1976 Hostess, "red, white, and blue" never quite happened for Caruso. On behalf of America, I will accept it and move on.

Skip served five years in the Phoenix heat and had already been a Giants 1975 type card. After two brief stints with SF, he emigrated to Japanese pro clubs in the 1980s, like a growing number of guys who couldn't find steady MLB work. I haven't heard if Pacific Coast players were more likely to try Japan than their Atlantic equivalents, but can see how it'd be easier to transfer fan interest overseas, given the larger Japanese communities in PCL cities.

Value: This Caruso #5 cost $2 from, the source of many of my MiLB types. The team set includes a young Jack Clark and a few other future MLB players, so costs a little more than PCL sets with stars, about $20-25.

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any Caruso reprints in the marketplace, though it's possible Jack Clark's card got this treatment during his heyday.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

1976 Caruso Salt Lake City Gulls Baseball #5, Carlos Lopez

With my lengthy history as a Mariners fan, I should've gotten to know Carlos Lopez by now, but for some reason I haven't. I might've even known off the top of my head that he played 99 games for their 1977 expansion squad and was traded thereafter in a swap for pitcher Mike Parrott, but I didn't. Hmph.

1978 Topps #166, Carlos Lopez

Given this limited knowledge, my thanks to the 1978 Baseball blog for the (above) happy-go-lucky scan of Carlos Lopez and check out that powder blue Seattle expansion uni. The only way to make Carlos any bluer would be to print him entirely in blue ink. Which is what (below) today's type card did.

1976 Caruso SLC Gulls #5, Carlos Lopez (blank back)

Caruso printed a lot of 70s team sets and some render better than others. All that stars & stripes bunting is a fine nod to the 1976 USA bicentennial, but you need red bunting with the white card and blue player to complete its "AMERICA!" effect. All that green bunting puts me off my hot dogs and apple pie.

As a player, Carlos Lopez did a lot more than pose in blue and green. He played at least 17 seasons of pro baseball, starting as a fresh-faced Mexican Leaguer in 1969, "peaking" in the US as an Angel, Mariner, and Oriole (1977-79), and returning to the Mexican League for his 30s (1980-1985). His known career stats tells a story lived by many Latino players, who traveled far from home to follow their horsehide dreams.

Seattle Police postcard, Mike Parrott

Compared to Carlos, I know a lot more about aforementioned trade-mate Mike Parrott, who's still coaching in the PCL and "putting sanity to the test," as pitching coaches do in a league known for its hitter-friendly environments. Check out that linked article for a nice look at Mike's state of mind after 40+ years in pro ball.

Value: After years of watching eBay for Caruso singles, I nabbed Carlos in early 2019 for $2 + shipping. None of the 1976 SLC Gulls became a MLB star, so others should cost about the same.

Fakes / reprints: Caruso cards use thin white stock and were sold at ballparks in bagged, complete team sets. Haven't seen any Caruso fakery in the marketplace, but minor league cards of future star players are vulnerable to it, so be aware of that chance, if you prefer to purchase type cards of well-known players.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Fall 2015 Baseball Collectors Album

I end up downloading a lot of baseball pictures, and cards, and pictures of cards while planning posts here or on the Twitter @Number5TypeCard. Today's post spills those photos onto the blog table like a family album of summer and fall recollections.

World Wide Gum, a Canadian affiliate of Boston-based Goudey Gum, marketed their 1936 baseball set as "Play Ball Bubble Gum" and this is one of their ad placards. Still boggles my mind that a photo card + gum + wrapper + distribution could generate a profit on 1 cent.

Another 1930s throwback, this pair of fuzzy eBay scans come from the Goudey's obscure 1935 Knot Hole League Game set; see my relevant post for more. Fronts had the Cards/Tigers matchup from the 1934 World Series and backs had in-game plays. You were supposed to obtain enough of them to flip through a full game and keep score on the front. This flip game carried over to Goudey's 1936 set of black-and-white player photos.

"CAUGHT NAPPING BY A SIZZLING STRAIGHT PITCH." Vin Scully might still say this during broadcasts.

Play result cards for two 1933-34 Goudey Varsity Football, an older cousin to the Knot Hole League game set. Not easy to find, whether singles or lots.

This is a modern, made-for-collectors homage to the late-40s PCL team sets sponsored by San Francisco men's clothier Sommer & Kaufmann. It's not really a reprint, as those sets covered 1948-49 and I believe this is based on 1950 team photos of the SF Seals.

More pitchers from the Sommer & Kaufmann set. Give me a high leg kick over a static pose any day.

Rick(e)y Henderson's minor league RC is one of the hardest on my type list and this one auctioned for over $3K. I'd expect to spend $1K+ for one at any grade.

Found this terrific Wheaties panel of a leaping Joe DiMaggio right after the Supermoon Eclipse happened in late Sept. I love the moon-like color and composition here.

I tracked down a scan of this special 1962 Venezuelan #200 of "Little Louie" for context in my post on the last Venezuelan type I needed, 1968 NL HR Leaders #5. His regular Topps card is #325, but the Venezuelan set stopped at #200 that year, so the printer moved their local hero to an accommodating spot.

HOF Tris Speaker in a Boston uniform, but printed after his move to Cleveland. Note backwards photo and "IFC ©" in the lower-right corner, one of many peccadilloes for the 1916 W516 strip set. Still not satisfied that I (or the whole hobby) has an authoritative understanding of this set and its variations.

Bowman box panel for their early-1950s baseball packs. In this context, "inferior substitutes" meant that upstart Topps Gum company. Don't be deceived by kids wanting their big cards and star players! Buy more Bowman!

Grabbed this scan of Manny Mota as support for my 1951 Bowman #5 profile of Dale Mitchell. Many was great and this is a great card. Respect to the photographer for using a fill flash and killing the midday shadows under his helmet. Also check out that NL Centennial (1876-1976) patch on his sleeve.

Dale Mitchell Jr. holding his dad's 1953 Topps card, also for that 1951 post.

This is technically a #5, but it caught my attention for the HEY LADIES look. Not many cards with branded tank tops out there.

1930s Goudey Premium of Bill Swift. Cool work on the inverse text over his jacket and jersey.

TRIVIA: Two men named Bill Swift have played Major League baseball. They were both right-handed pitchers and finished with nearly identical records.
  • Bill Swift, 1932-43: 95-82
  • Bill Swift, 1985-98: 94-78

Baseball history: always new things to learn.

Friday, October 16, 2015

1968 Topps Venezuelan Baseball #5, NL HR Leaders (Hank Aaron, Jimmy Wynn, Ron Santo, Willie McCovey)

Hank Aaron, Jim "Toy Cannon" Wynn, Ron Santo, and Willie McCovey? This who's-who of late-60s power hitters holds a special place in my heart as the last vintage Venezuelan on my #5 wantlist. It's got tape stains, missing paper, and creases, but you can't tell me it ain't beautiful.

It was such a pitching-friendly era, these guys were the only four to hit 30+ homers in the National League that year. Most credit tall pitcher's mounds with those late-60s depressed power numbers, enough that 1969 saw a lowering of the mound to 10", the height still used today. More details on the mound's history at "Why are pitcher's mounds higher than the rest of the baseball field?"

Most surprising player in a high spot on that HR leaders list? HOF speedster Lou Brock, who managed a career-best 21 big flies that year, even as he led the NL with 52 steals.

Venezuelan backs don't scan well, so here's a closer look at the printing credit, "Hecho en Venezuela, C.A. Lithoven."

Topps executives kept tabs on the Central & South American baseball market throughout the 50s and 60s, so I assume their periodic licensing to local printers like Lithoven made financial sense, especially as more native sons entered the MLB, spurring more national interest. Their 1962 set, for example, included Venezuelan-only cards for Elio Chacon (see my 1962 set profile) and Luis Aparicio (below).

The 1968 Venezuelan set tops out at 370 cards, a few hundred less than America's version, with Mickey Mantle, Nolan Ryan (RC), and Johnny Bench (RC) being the biggest names.

The Topps Archives article El Fin de Invierno includes more scans and info about this final Topps parallel, but the short story is that no Venezuelan set attempted the match USA's card size and presentation after 1968. A few 1970s sets copied American player fronts, but as knock-offs rather than the real thing.

One question never answered about Topps Venezuelan sets is why they skipped years through the 1960s. Rumors persist--with me as a willing participant--that many Topps unsold packs found their way to Caracas, Venezuela candy stores in the years between their licensed printings of 1960-62-64-66-68. Reselling leftovers to a baseball-hungry country seems a lot more likely than dumping stock into a nearby waterway, as the story of 1952's high numbers goes (here's a version with Sy Berger commentary). We might never know for sure, as few Venezuelan collections survived to the present day.

Value: After failing to win an earlier #5 at auction for $120, I pulled the trigger on a Buy It Now listing for the same price. That seems high in retrospect for its low grade, but anything in nice shape would sell for many times that.

Fakes / reprints: Venezuelan are in demand from speciality collectors and used lower-quality materials, so are at higher risk of counterfeiting than USA-made cards. Try to buy type cards from experienced foreign collectors or dealers and get to know the different back colors and other printing peccadilloes so you're adding the right thing to your collection.

Monday, September 21, 2015

1977 Cramer Pacific Coast League Baseball #5, Bob Knepper

Do you like orange? Here's future big leaguer Bob Knepper, modeling a Dutch-orange hat against orange trim and orange borders. His card background shows a Southwestern staple, well-watered grass that ends at a fence line. This hints at an interesting question: do water costs pinch the ability of desert teams to compete with those in temperate cities?

Water issues didn't slow Phoenix in 1977, who finished with the PCL's best record, if by foggy statistical means. On one hand, the Giants' 732 BB and .382 OBP led the league. On the other, second place Salt Lake City (150) more than doubled Phoenix's league-worst homer total (67). Despite posting also-ran ratings in both hitting (.796 OPS) and pitching (6.02 runs/game), Phoenix overachieved with a .579 winning %, perhaps due to superlative work by manager Rocky Bridges.

Teams who get on base but can't hit homers usually blame the ballpark. Phoenix's 345-410-345 dimensions back that up, as do their league-leading triples (84), where long flies bounced off walls instead of over them. Bridges could've adapted his team's performance for the surroundings, working free bases where he couldn't expect big flies and turning them into enough runs to win more games than the average roster, but that remains speculative until we can enjoy fuller season-by-season histories for teams like the AAA Giants.

The MLB version of Knepper went on to become Houston's top lefty, winning 93 games as an Astro (1981-89) and garnering two All-Star selections. He also sparked 1988 controversy with a Sports Illustrated interview that criticized one of pro baseball's few female umpires, earning blowback of his own. Beyond those particular comments, S.I.'s piece dives deeper into the flip sides of loneliness and family, something all traveling athletes must deal with. It's worth a read for its "pre-Internet-ness," compared to today's always-on, media-aware careers.

Value: This #5 cost $2 at the 2015 National, unburied from stacks of fellow minor leaguers.

Fakes / reprints: I doubt you'd make money reprinting minor leaguers like Knepper, but future HOFers from similar sets could be replicated, given its thin stock and today's scanning technology. If you have the means, stick to established dealers for top "pre-rookie" minor league type cards.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

1886 N48 Allen and Ginter's 'Dixie Cigarettes' Lady Baseball Players #5

I recently came across my second 19th century type card, a woman in hazy sepia pretending to catch a ball dangling on a string. While unusual in style, I didn't realize they created un scandal in their time, likely because women weren't socially accepted as "athletic."

Those pants! So form-fitting! Her black stockings and shoes cut quite a figure, and passersby responded, for good or ill, when cigarette sellers hung Allen & Ginter's promotional cabinet cards (below) in their sidewalk windows.

Despite the quality difference, a close look shows both photos are the same woman, who herself appears in most of their 1886 studio photos, occasionally with an "opponent" in matching uniform.

Compare the "cabinet" (above) and cigarette card (below) to see how Allen & Ginter rendered the same picture with varying print quality. Their flashy "real photo" cabinet would draw attention to shop windows and in-pack cards would adapt the image for non-photo printing, this one with a branded "Sub Rosa Cigarettes" foil stamp.

While 19th century women's teams played ball in many cities, it's no accident that Allen & Ginter used these uniformed women to promote Dixie, Sub Rosa, and Virginia Brights, as these were A&G's female-targeted brands. Some kept a blank obverse to save print costs, but others continued their "unexceptionably fine" quality pitch onto card backs.

For some history of a real 1890s women's team, see Baseball History Daily's post sub-titled A Riot in Cuba.

In 1886, Allen & Ginter covered a range of topics on tobacco cards, but when competitor Goodwin & Co. used their Old Judge brand to show off almost every ballplayer of the day starting in 1887 (OJ details at PSA), other brands followed suit and got the base-ball rolling for a nearly uninterrupted run of sports-first sets that continues to the present day.

Value: While more affordable than 19th century male stars of the same vintage, low grade Allen & Ginter cards are always pricy and this #5 cost $130. Larger cabinet cards run much more, especially when the photo presents well.

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any fakes or reprints of the women's ballplayers, but they're of an era always vulnerable to counterfeiting. If you're looking for a 19th century type, stick to experienced dealers who know their cards or get something already graded.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

1922 W503 Baseball #5, Bill "Rosy" Ryan

As a fan of baseball eras long past, it's fun to think every player has their own piece of history. The one thing they did that few others have. Lou Gehrig played 2130 straight games. Roger Clemens struck out 20 guys twice. Jamie Quirk hit a walk-off homer in his only at-bat as a Cleveland Indian. Legendary stuff.

So what has Rosy Ryan done? To date, he's the only reliever to go deep in a World Series game, taking fellow Senators pitcher Allen Russell out in 1924's game three on October 6 (box score). Many champions have come and gone, many relievers have swung the splinter, but only Rosy got to circle the bases at a leisurely pace.

Ryan earned this opportunity in part from his versatility. No fainting flower on the mound, Rosy also led the NL in ERA (1922) and games played (1923) as a key part of three straight Giants pennant winners, 1922-24 (career stats). He even pitched half of that "relief homer game," nearly five innings in all.

Why include the PSA tag? Because "Gaints."

As for W503 itself, its 64 black-and-white photos are technically strip cards, as they were hand-cut from a multi-card sheet and perhaps distributed with food or candy. They prove so hard to come by that I assume both a small print run and some kind of trade-in promotion. To quote a 2015 Heritage Auctions listing, "Still unknown is exactly who produced and how this scarce set of 64-cards were circulated. The cards are hand-cut...and there is some speculation they may have been issued as a bonus with the purchase of candy or gum."

While finishing a set would be like catching ghosts, you can enjoy more 1922 W503 images for free at

2023 update: This Ryan's more trimmed than folded, leaving a clearer image.

Value: Yet to find a W503 #5 to call my own and I assume it'll cost $100+ when I do.

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any in the marketplace, but the HOFers are certainly at risk for fakery. Any deal that seems too good to be true goes double for this kind of set.

Monday, September 7, 2015

1951 Bowman Baseball #5, Dale Mitchell

Have you seen this man? Last spotted rounding second at full speed?

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If baseball fans mention Dale Mitchell in conversation, it’s usually as the trivia answer for “who did Don Larsen catch looking to end his World Series perfect game?” (Video and highlights at

And yet! For that one-game notoriety, Dale was no choke artist. He ranks #17 in OPS+ (115) for all MLB hitters in the decade following WWII and was even harder to punch out, ranking #14 on MLB’s career list at 33.48 AB/K. An all-time contact hitter getting caught looking to end a World Series perfect game says a lot about Larsen’s performance that day. (Better men than I question the ump’s eyes, but it’s now inseparable from history.)


For all the clean lines of 1951’s hand-colored front, that back design shows a conceit common to the Bowman era : "text, text, and more text." Read me, said the cardboard. Numbers must be described and put in the context of history! Statistical grids are for college professors, not kids in a candy store!

195 Minoso, Orestes.jpeg

Topps successfully moved many of those stats “south” for their 1952 debut and discovered how readily kids responded to the “grid.” Now, it’s hard to find a card that doesn’t do stats this way, other than intentionally retro versions like Allen & Ginter.

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 9.21.39 AM.pngScreen Shot 2015-09-06 at 9.22.02 AM.png

Furthermore, when the self-proclaimed GIANT SIZED (2 ⅝” x 3 ¾”) 1952 Topps set arrived, kids bought so many palm-filling Mega Minosos that Bowman had no choice but to relegate Mini Minoso’s card size (2 1/16” by 3 ⅛”) to the dustbin of competition. By 1953, they closely followed the Topps example, as seen below.

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The added expense of keeping pace with design innovations proved key to Bowman’s eventual 1956 bankruptcy. In short order, Topps owned the whole MLB market and collectors wouldn't see a similar paradigm shift until Upper Deck's high-quality photography arrived in 1989.


Back to Mitchell, who figures into some interesting baseball footnotes. When Roy Halladay (nearly) matched Larsen with a 2010 postseason no-hitter, Mitchell’s son noted that Brandon Phillips got the unenviable “last out” credit shared by his dad; see “Was No Goat” by Dave McKenna. (That’s the younger Mitchell above, with his dad’s 1953 Topps card.)

Dale notched a singular achievement in 1949, tallying 23 triples and just 11 strikeouts. No one before or since hit 20+ triples at twice the pace of their strike outs. Not Stan Musial, not Willie Mays, not Joe Shlabotnik. Only dead ball star Wee Willie Keeler came close with 12 triples and 5 strikeouts in 1901.


As a career comparable, Dale’s like Manny Mota, who could always make contact and hit for average. Mota spun his pinch-hit skills into a 20-year career and Mitchell might’ve done the same, if he’d played during an era of expansion and specialization.

Value: Low-grade 1951 singles cost a dollar or two and I acquired this #5 while building that Bowman set. Those hand-colored fronts are still one of my all-time favorite designs.


Fakes / reprints: You can buy 1951 Bowman as a complete reprint set, so look for differences between vintage and modern cards when seeking type cards. Most legitimate reprints use brighter card stock, higher gloss, and include REPRINT somewhere on the card itself.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

1933 Goudey "World War Gum" (R174, military) #5, Practice At Camp

Today (August 23) in 1914, over 35,000 British troops encountered Germany's 1st army in Belgium, following similar engagements by France earlier that week. It was Britain's first continental battle of WWI, and while at numerical disadvantage, their forces withstood extended artillery bombardment before choosing retreat over potential envelopment and capture. The German army proceeded into Belgium, pushing Allied forces back to the Marne, where...(Wikipedia can take it from here).

I looked up this engagement (the Battle of Mons) thanks to another of Goudey's 1933 sets, World War Gum. It's largely what you see, as a set of 96 black-and-white photos from a war almost 20 years old by that point. Goudey released it as a pair of 48-card series, likely using sales of the first (and other products, like my favorite: Big League Gum) to finance printing of the second series, later that year.

1933 Goudey World War Gum #55, Surprise Attack

The second series used red borders and enlarged its photo space with a "World War Gum" stamp instead of the bottom edge tagline.

While WWI forces weren't immobile, the European ground war went slowly, and as "practice at camp" describes, soldiers commonly met enemies hand-to-hand with rifle butt and bayonet. Moving from trench to trench by foot meant surging into harsh, open terrain that left you open to enemy fire. A line of soldiers going over the lip of a trench remains an enduring image of WWI combat and one that future armies strove to replace with more nimble, mechanized units.

Why did Goudey produce this set in 1933? Hitler had just come to power that January, and it's likely the roiling European political climate appeared regularly in American headlines. While wide-scale conflict was still years away, Goudey could've guessed that kids would snap up the excitement of wartime events, even those from their parents' generation.

For this set, Goudey used the same dimensions and card stock as their better-known 1933 Big League Gum (baseball) and Indian Gum. These World War Gum set galleries seem drab today, but with 30s cinemas showing mostly black-and-white movies and newsreels, collectors of the day might've accepted it as readily as color.

Value: I bought this low grade #5 at the 2015 National in Chicago for $3. With no special "stars," scarcity and context drive prices for individual cards. A graded set auctioned in 2013 for ~$3000.

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any in the marketplace, but my knowledge of non-sports (and its potential shenanigans or pitfalls) is far behind that of baseball sets.