Monday, May 31, 2010

Another Special Card From My Collection

Occasionally on this blog, I'll share some of the cards that are part of my collection. While there are collectors out there that show their pristine, high-end, important and incredibly valuable cards, if you've followed this blog at all, you'll know I don't have any of those cards. Instead, I prefer cards that can tell their own stories.

Cards were meant to bring joy to kids. They've gotten flipped, traded, wrapped up with rubber bands and shoved into back pockets. Then, when baseball season was over they were tossed into a shoebox and set aside. Sometimes Mom cleaned the room and tossed them out, while some survived with all the signs of the abuse their owners lovingly inflicted on them.

On a serious note, here is a card I've always loved:

This is an E90-1 American Caramels card. It was issued during the same 1909-'11 era as the vaunted T206 set. The big difference between the sets was that one was issued inside tobacco products and the others were sold with candy. Though T206 cards are better known and more widely collected, it's believed that most E cards are much scarcer. For more info about the set, my website has a page devoted to the set.

But that's not why I love this card. It's not even the fact that it is now more than 100 years old (even though that certainly adds to its mystique). I love this card because of a very real and constant reminder. The player is Eddie Grant, who was the 3rd baseman for the Phillies here but also played with three other teams before leaving the game and starting a law practice. In 1917, Eddie Grant volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army when the nation entered World War One. He was given a commission as a captain in the Infantry and sent to France. The right is a photo of Capt. Grant in his other uniform:

On October 5, 1918 Capt. Grant was participating in a patrol to help rescue the famed "Lost Battalion" in the Argonne Forest. During that operation, he was killed by shrapnel from German artillery. This made him the first former major league baseball player to be killed in action during wartime. To me, the fact that I have a card from his playing days makes it a special part of my collection.

Today is Memorial Day. It's a day where we should stop for a moment and remember the sacrifices our fellow Americans have given to help us enjoy our Freedoms. Some, like Captain Eddie Grant of Massachusetts, gave their lives for the cause. And they should never be forgotten.

Friday, May 28, 2010


Keith wondered:

Q:  "I see a lot of old cards referred to as "strip" cards.  Can you tell me exactly what that means?"

A:  Strip cards are crudely-done cards (that actually look a lot like "funny page" cartoons and are printed on similar-type paper).  The reason for for the name is that when they were first distributed, they often came as strips of 10 or 12 and were cut apart by their owners.

There are still full strips available in the hobby, but strip cards are usually found as single cards.  Due to their poor pictures and the fact that they are easily damaged, many collectors ignore them.  It's unfortunate, but thanks to that attitude, I picked up the W512 Babe Ruth card shown to the right for about $10 back in '92.

For more info on specific sets of strip cards, check out this page from the Old Cardboard website (just scroll down to the Strip Cards section):

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Player's Been Traded! What To Do?

Say you collect baseball cards.And lets say -- hypothetically -- that one of the players in your collection has been traded to another team. If you're planning on using that player in your card-based baseball game, you have a few options:

  1. You put him with his new team even though the card shows the old one.
  2. You keep him on with his old team, even though you know he's no longer there.
  3. You wait until next year when Topps will put out a new card of the player.
Thanks to something called good ol' American ingenuity, there's another option available. How does an 11 year-old make his own card showing a traded player with his new team?

It's no problem at all if you have a magic marker handy.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

1947 Homogenized Bread

When the United States entered World War Two, civilian businesses were required to play by some new rules enforced on the entire nation by the war effort. Paper, printing materials, cardboard and ink were heavily rationed and resulted in card manufacturers stopping new card issues altogether. Americans on the "Home Front" were asked to recycle, to conserve energy, to grow their own food as they were being handed ration books. This is something Americans aren't accustomed to in an age where servicemen (and women) are being sent overseas but little sacrifice is asked of those who remain here.

When the war ended, it took some time for gum and card companies to start issuing sets again because many had to start again from square one. They had to begin acquiring materials from scratch, and some prewar companies (like Goudey) didn't survive the transition. It took nearly three years for nationally-issued sets to appear again, but in the meantime a small handful of regional sets were released to help fill the void.

Among the regional sets were many by bakeries, which would include a card inside a wrapped loaf of bread. The 1947 Homogenized Bread set was given the designation D305 by Jefferson Burdick's American Card Catalog, but is rarely called that by collectors. At 2 1/4" by 3 1/2", they are slightly thinner than modern cards. The fronts feature only a borderless black and white photo with a facsimile authograph. They are found with either square or rounded corners (read farther for more about that), and backs are blank. It has been suggested that these cards were distributed separately from the company's loves of bread, since the cards are often found without tell-tale signs of damage caused by the odd shape of bread.

To get an idea of what therounded corners look like, here's Bob Elliot's card from the set:

Some collectors refer to the set as "Homogenized Bond Bread" even though the "official" name is simply Homgenized Bread, and that designation gets this set confused with the 1947 Bond Bread set. Both sets feature a similar design and are the same size. Bond Bread cards also have rounded corners. Both sets feature Jackie Robinson cards, however, there is advertising on the back of Bond Bread cards. The biggest difference is that while all 13 of the cards in the Bond Bread set feature Robinson, he is only one of 48 subjects in the Homogenized set. The set features 44 baseball players and four boxers. A omplete set checklist (including boxers) can be found at my Vintage Baseball Cards site.

Twelve of the 44 baseball players in the set are Hall of Famers, and the cards of Yogi Berra, Ralph Kiner, Stan Musial, Phil Rizzuto, Jackie Robinson and Enos Slaughter predate the Bowman and Leaf cards called "rookie cards" by some collectors. Despite the historical significance of the set, they haven't really caught on with collectors. There are some known reprints floating around the hobby -- some "graded" by unscrupulous and little-known companies -- while a large cache of twenty-four of the set's cards (all with square corners) discoverd in the 1980s keeps these cards easily found in hobby circles.

Among those discovered in that warehouse "find" was this Harry Brecheen card:

 It is worth mentioning that some hobbyists consider square-corner cards to be fakes since the original cards were distributed with rounded corners and the warehouse find may not have been entirely legitimate. In any case, the final say comes down to the individual collector and whether that person wants to add Homogenized Bread cards to a collection. Fortunately, the cards aren't overly expensive.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Practical Jokes on Baseball Cards

Baseball players have sometimes been known to enjoy a laugh, especially at another's expense. Books are filled with stories of practical jokers in the clubhouse, the bullpen, the dugout and on the field. It's conceivable that some of the fun will spill over to baseball cards.

While hobby legend likes to mention how Lew Burdette posed as a left-handed pitcher for the Topps photographer, they're forgetting the best part of the story. It wasn't Burdette's idea to pull the stunt; rather, one of the guys in his starting rotation put him up to it.

Warren Spahn was known to be a practical joker. When the Topps photographer showed up to take pictures in 1958 for the next year's set of cards, Spahn talked Burdette into switching gloves and seeing how long it would take for anybody to notice. So, Spahn posed as a righty and Burdette used Spahn's left-handed mitt.

When the 1959 Topps cards came out, Spahn's picture on card #40 was a close-up of his face (perhaps the Topps proofer noticed that he wasn't supposed to be throwing righty and cropped it out, but we'll never know for sure). However, card #440 has Lew -- misspelled "Lou" on the card -- posing as a lefty.

Ten years later, it was Aurelio Rodriguez's turn to fool the photographer. In '68 he was a rookie and virtually unknown, so he asked Angels batboy Leonard Garcia to pose in his place.So while his rookie card says it's Rodriguez, the picture is really Garcia's.

This is one of the cards featured in the great 1973 book The Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading and Bubble Gum Book by Brendan Boyd and Fred Harris.  Most of the book is a pictorial gallery of cards with an accompanying comment about each.  Under the 1969 Rodriguez card is the following (which still makes me chuckle):

"The 1969 baseball card of Aurelio Rodriguez is not Aurelio Rodriguez at all but the Pittsburgh Pirate bat boy.  This is in the nature of a little joke by Aurelio who could very easily be mistaken for a batboy, except that most batboys could easily outhit him. 

"And were considerably more mature in the bargain."

No, the Pittsburgh Pirates mention wasn't an error on my part; the author screwed it up and the editor never caught the error. The card above the written passage clearly shows the name "Angels" on it. Talk about your egregious errors...

And while I'm on the topic...he may not have been a batter who could hit for average, but Rodriguez sure could throw from third to first in a big hurry. Some players have said he'd play with them by waiting to throw and still getting them out easily.

Since that's long been one of my favorite hobby books, here's a link to pick it up on Amazon. It can sometimes be picked up used for a great bargain. I've written a review of this book and will share it on this blog eventually. If you don't have it yet, do yourself a the link below and get a copy. You'll thank me later.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Where's the Chief?

Tom writes:

Q: "Thanks for putting up the webpage about the 1956 Topps set!

When I was about 7 years old (1958) a neighbor boy handed me about 30 of these beauties... I loved baseball but had never seen anything like these before!  That's how my collection got started and I think I still have every one of those original cards.

I also have a question about the set you may be able to answer.  Looking at some of the Cleveland Indians cards, I noticed that some have a "C" emblem on their cap while others have the "C" but with the Chief Wahoo emblem inside.  Do you know why that is?

Did they have 'home' and 'away' hats?  I know teams today have home & away uniforms but I never noticed if their hats are different too or always the same."

A:  I didn't have an answer right away, so I asked some members of SABR (Society for American Baseball Research).  It looks like the Indians added Chief Wahoo to their caps in 1953. There weren't separate "home" and "away" caps back then.

After finding that out, I went through my 1954 Topps and Bowman cards. All the Indians in those sets have the wishbone "C" without Chief Wahoo. I'm guessing that the pictures were taken in 1953 Spring Training before the cap change took place.

For my 1955 cards, I see that Topps Indians show both cap designs. Most have just the wishbone "C" but four (Hal Newhouser, Ray Narleski, Dave Hoskins, and Don Mossi) have the Chief.  Looking a little deeper, I discovered that none of the four was on the team before '54. As I wrote in my 1956 Topps page, they were known for recycling pictures from year to year (for example, Hank Aaaron's "head shot" photo was the same in '54, '55 and '56).As for Bowman in 1955, all my Indians cards seem to show Chief Wahoo.

If you look through your '56 Topps cards again, you'll see that the Tribesmen with the newer-style caps (Mossi, Santiago, etc.) weren't with the team before the change, and a few veterans who were (Feller and Wertz) but didn't appear on Topps cards in 1954 and '55. Many of the photos of the players without the Chief are recycled.  In fact, Rosen, Avila and Hegan all have "head shots" that were used in the 1955 set (and Hegan's was used in '54 as well, just compare the card below to the first one shown in the post).

What a great question...I'd never noticed that before.  It was fun looking through my cards for an answer.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Another Prized Card

Here's a card that has a great story:

While it looks pretty beat up, it's a very special card in my collection.

1979 was my first year of collecting baseball cards. I was six then, but still remember opening those packs as clear as day. I had also become a Yankee fan when they won the previous year's World Series. So, as I opened wax packs that year I had a routine: I would rip open the wax...since the cards were packaged with a scratch-off game card I split the stack at the insert card and flipped one side over so all were facing teh same way. I then quickly looked through the cards for an orange banner at the bottom. Any Yankees went to the top of the stack. That sometimes meant getting annoyed that the Padres also used an orange banner, but getting a Yankee card was the best feeling. Once I sorted through the cards, the wrapper and gum were tossed into the trash.

Every summer, we'd go visit with Mom's family in upstate New York.  During the summer of '79, we went up there and discovered that Grandma had gotten cable. Not just cable, but WPIX out of New York City...Channel 11, the television home of the Yankees! For the first time, I got to watch the games and hear Phil Rizzuto yell "Holy Cow!" whenever a great play was made.

I also ended up playing baseball in the evenings with some of the local kids in a field behind my Aunt Mary's place. One day the game was broken up when my cousin Lori came out the back porch crying that Thurman Muson was dead. The game broke up immediately and we all went home to see what had happened.

As I learned about the crash and dealt with the news that he was gone (and at 6 it may have been the first time I actually understood that). I also began looking through my baseball cards (they came up with me in a shoebox) to see if I had Munson's card. Since the cards were sorted by team (each one neatly bound with a rubber band), I pulled out the Yankees (on top, as always) and went through them. Reggie, Piniella, Dent, Gossage, even Ken Clay and Gary Thomason!  But no Thurman to be found.

Of course, my older cousin Jimmy had one. He began to hammer me about it. He had the card and I didn't. It was going to be worth "a hunderd bucks" and he had it. Since Jimmy was much bigger and stronger than me, I just sat down and felt sorry for myself as he continually taunted me about it.

A couple days later, I went down to the store on the corner -- a small store owned by an older couple -- and bought a pack of cards. I gave Mr. Forney my quarter and walked back to where we were staying. I tore open the wrapper,  took out the cards, tossed the wrapper -- gum still inside -- in the garbage can and walked up the road. As always, I oriented the stack of cards so the game piece that came in each pack was on the top. Then I went looking for any orange banners.

Somewhere in that stack was this Munson card. It was poignant, because I realized the man in the picture was no longer alive, yet there he was on a piece of cardboard. It may not look like much, but I'll likely own the card until the day I can shake hands with Thurman himself.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

My Early Days in the Hobby

Now that I'm writing this blog, I suppose it's a good idea to explain some of my hobby beginnings and try to explain how I became the collector I am today.

I grew up in Carthage, New York. Don't be afraid to say you don't know where it is, because not a lot of people do. The village is about 80 miles north of Syracuse, located outside of Watertown. It's close to the U.S./Canada border (the Thousand Islands) and near Ft. Drum, home of the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division. This Google map shows exactly how out of the way the town was:

That's right...there's a lot of nothing between Watertown and Lowville (that rhymes with "Cowville" by the way), and my hometown is located right in the middle of that nothingness.

By the mid 1980s, I was interested in making hobby contacts. I had a lot of baseball cards, and was interested in getting more (especially older cards, because I had a great deal of interest in baseball's "golden ages"). By that time though, many of my friends had developed other interests and weren't into collecting anymore.

In 1985, there were no card shops in Carthage, and a kid my age wasn't going to be allowed to bicycle 18 miles to Watertown and visit one. The only nearby dealer was an elementary school gym teacher, and he worked out of the garage of his house in the country, by chance or appointment. The only other place I could get cards at that time were in gum packs at little mom-and-pop stores with family names (Forney's, Waite's, Johnson's Dairyland and Williams' Market). There were a few card shows nearby then: the "Second Sunday" show in Syracuse, held monthly, an annual show at the State Office building in Watertown, and an annual "Collectibles convention" each July in Clayton. When I found out about these shows, I shifted into a mode familiar to any parent of a teenager -- I became quite persistent about wanting to go.

Finally, my persistence won out. The first show was in Watertown during the Summer of '85, and it hooked me on the hobby for life. That was the day I began collecting cards that were older than I was. At the time, I was even able to identify most Topps issues, and remember how some of the dealers were surprised that such a young kid knew what a 1954 Topps card looked like. Pete Rose was closing in on the all-time hits record and his cards were displayed at every table. There were also cards of hot rookies like Dwight Gooden, Eric Davis and the previous year's cards of Darryl Strawberry.

At one point, i saw a stack of about 60 cards from the 1952 Topps set, and started looking through the pile. The dealer told me I could have them for a dollar each, but my mother (who had the final say in all matters of financing my collection) told me there was no way on earth she was paying that much for a baseball card.
While I wasn't able to take home any '52 cards, I stopped at the table of that local gym teacher, Gary Rosintoski. He had a box on the table with hundreds of cards, and they were a nickel apiece. That was more along the lines of what the First National Bank of Mom was looking to pay, and I got a nice stack.

From that box, I pulled a handful of cards from each Topps set of the 1960s, including about 20 from 1962. I had cards of teams that didn't exist anymore or had moved to different cities. Most importantly, I had my first card from the 1950s: the classic 1959 "Lou" Burdette card. I soon learned that not only was Lew Burdette's first name misspelled on the card, but he pulled a stunt to fool the Topps photographer by borrowing Warren Spahn's glove and posing as a left-handed pitcher. I still own that card today:

Around that time, I made another great discovery: Baseball Cards magazine, by Krause Publications.  I bought every issue I saw on the newsstands for the next several  years and read them from front to back, including the ads. They gave me a great deal of information and probably started the chain of events that led me to designing my web site.

My first trip to the Clayton show in 1987 was just as memorable as the first show in Watertown. On that day, my mother finally realized that I was well-versed in the Hobby. This happened as I stopped at the table of a long-time dealer from New Jersey named Vin Minner. He had started collecting cards as a kid back in the 1930s and specialized in all kinds of vintage cards. He had tobacco cards of all types: baseball, Indian chiefs, actresses, flags of the world, airplanes, flowers, etc. He had strip cards, Goudey cards, Bowman and Topps cards through the 1950s. I think he saw a budding collector in me, because we spent a great deal of time talking about baseball cards. While he showed me what he had, I think I impressed him because I knew a T206 from a T205, and even knew that "T" stood for 20th century tobacco, and I was all of 14. That day, I finally bought my first 1952 Topps cards. In Mr. Minner's bargain box, I found cards of Pat Mullin and Sam
 Dente for a dollar each (ironically enough, this time I was allowed to buy them). On the way home that day, I remember how Mom told me how neat it was to watch me go toe-to-toe with a hobby veteran and how I came across as very that age, I was flattered.

I went back to that show every year until I moved out of the area, and always stopped to visit with Mr. Minner. I bought quite a lot from him: a half dozen T206s, some T205s, my only Old Mill red border card, a W516 Babe Ruth card, some Goudeys, my first '53 Bowman Color card (George Kell), a bunch of 1955 Bowmans and a dozen 1952 Topps cards. A few items I should have taken when offered were a Ty Cobb strip card, a '63 Fleer Maury Wills and a '52 Topps Andy Pafko (for $25). We always talked about cards. The last year I visited, I brought along my soon-to-be bride, and Mr. Minner mentioned how he had only seen me once a year, but had watched me grow up from a teen to a young man, through my time in the service, and here I was, a college student who was about to get married. I never saw him again after I moved, but I'll always remember how he took the extra time to talk to a young collector about the hobby and passed along some of the old stories.

As I got a little older and could hop in the car, I visited card shops in Watertown and the one I liked the most was called the Square Lion. It was in Watertown's Public Square (the city center) and was a store that sold jewelry and antiques. There was a large baseball card display and a lot of vintage cards available. The store was owned by a gentleman (and I use that word because it's a perfect adjective) named Doug Berry. Mr. Berry was another seller who seemed to have plenty of time to talk about baseball and the hobby. He was also so dedicated to his store's success that he would often sleep in the back of the store after balancing the books and taking inventory. Whenever I brought in my extra cards, he'd be happy to make a trade. Once, when I traded a 1987 Fleer Will Clark rookie for a 1972 Hank Aaron (a fair trade at that time), I began to consider selling my duplicates off to make money...which would allow me to buy more cards.

So, On December 2, 1989 (my 17th birthday) I went behind the table and became a seller. A picture from that show ended up in the local weekly paper (that's me behind the table. Sadly, some of that hair is gone today, as is the six-pack):

It was the first card show ever held in my little home town. I tried to be a seller who was hobby-oriented. Like Mr. Minner and Mr. Berry, I had no problem just talking baseball, even if the person wasn't buying. Gary Rosintoski (who had sold me a bunch of cards over the years) was at the table across from me, and I learned a lot about the business side of the hobby from observing him. After making back the money for renting the table, most of my profits went to other dealers, because I bought cards from them. I also did a lot of trading, so when the show was over I had a much better collection that I had when I set up the table. I worked a number of shows until 1992.  I never made much money, but I had a lot of fun.

Unfortunately, I never had a chance to thank Doug Berry for helping me realize -- even indirectly -- that I could sell my duplicates at card shows. A couple of months before that first show, somebody broke into his store after it had closed. That night, he was in the back and was murdered. 

A few years ago, I returned to the little town I once called home. I went and visited the Square Lion. It was still there, but was closed for the day. I didn't see if Gary Rosintoski was still selling cards. A card shop opened in town around 1990 but never lasted, and all those little mom-and-pop stores that sold me the hundreds of gum packages I bought as a boy have different signs today (and none sell candy anymore). Even the baseball field that hosted so many summer sandlot games in my youth looks different. 

I guess it's true that once you leave home, you can never go back. The town I grew up in is as different today as the hobby I grew up with. Yet, if enough people take the time to share the hobby with newer collectors -- in essence, take a young collector under our wings like Vin Minner and Doug Berry did for me -- the hobby will continue to flourish. Even if many newer collectors are foreign to the concept of wax stains, gum residue or 25 cent packs, there will always be some collectors who are as immersed in the "old stuff" as I was in the 1980s. They should get the chance to enjoy it as well.

Monday, May 17, 2010

New Set on My Website

Just last week, I posted a blog entry about the C46 Imperial Tobacco set. Thanks to that post, I have added a set checklist and description to my website. If you'd like to be among the first to see it, you can read the new page here.

My main site, as always, is right at the top of the links section on this blog. I'm looking to add some more sets to the site in the future. Among the candidates: Obaks (as the site hosting me is, Allen & Ginter and '35 Schutter-Johnson. If you have anything you'd like to see, just drop me an email and I'll be happy to consider it.

In any case, any additions to the site will be mentioned right here, so feel free to follow this blog or add it as a favorite and come back to find out whenever something gets placed there.

Friday, May 14, 2010

"Mean" Joe

I've mentioned before in this blog that I am a Steelers fan. When it comes to football, all I collect are Steeler cards. Well, that's not exactly accurate...

I do have a card of one Cleveland Brown in my collection. It's a 1975 Topps card of Greg Pruitt:

And you can probably understand why it's in my collection. In the photo, Pruitt is about to have his clock cleaned by "Mean" Joe Greene. It was also one of the few "action" cards of the 1970-'81 era that needed minimal airbrushing from Topps to remove the logos, since the Browns didn't use a distinct logo and the Steelers' familiar icon is on the right (hidden) side of Greene's helmet.

Greene was my favorite player when I was a kid. When I saw that Coke commercial, I wish I could have given the man a bottle so I could get his jersey too. When I played football in high school, I played defensive tackle and wore #75 proudly. So, when I was flipping through some common football cards at a show and saw this one, it just had to go into my collection.

Two of the other Joe Greene cards I own are from 1972. The NFL Players' Association released three sets that year showing some of its members, but since it was a union-sponsored set, the team logos were missing. One set consisted of stamps and an album to hold them, and at this time I don't have any of those (and besides, there's no Joe Greene stamp in the set anyway). The other two sets were distributed through those coin-operated vending machines you see on the way out of retail stores and supermarkets. So, for a dime or a quarter, you'd get one of these:

Another great image of Greene about to make somebody sorry, even if it is a cartoon. These are vinyl stickers, with blank backs that could be removed to expose the adhesive that allowed you to stick it somewhere. There were 20 players included in this set. Terry Bradshaw is the other Steeler, while Alan Page and Ron Johnson were short-printed. Also, Joe Namath and Dick Butkus are both found with and without a reversed negative. The 1972 NFLPA Vinyl Stickers are occasionally sold as a "set" of 18 with one Namath and Butkus variation and the two SPs missing.

In addition to the vinyl stickers, the NFLPA also sold fabric "cards" that could be ironed on to clothes. They were sold through the same vending machines as the stickers. Joe Greene's photo may look familiar:

There were 35 players in the set of fabric cards, and Bradshaw would again be the only other Steeler in the set. The backs are blank and somewhat transparent. Some collectors seek out Roger Staubach's "card" from this set, as it is from the same year as his Topps rookie card.

I'm not sure why the player's union decided to issue three oddball sets in one year. Perhaps they were exploring possible revenue streams, or testing the market to see whether they could find a loophole to bypass Topps' stranglehold on the football card market. In any case, they're neat little pieces that go well with any collection, whether the focus is a team, a player or a general football motif.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Now That's an Upgrade!

Here's a cool card I got from a collector buddy recently:

While it may not look like much...take a look at the card it replaced in my 1957 Topps binder:

Yes, I've said before that I'd rather have a hole in the card than one in the binder...but I still know I can always upgrade a card later.

While I'm at it, that '57 Skizas card is still available in my dupes box. Let me know if you want it. Seriously.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Ron asks:

A "non-computerized" elderly friend has an early card 1 1/2" x 2 5/8" depicting "Wells" with "Jersey City" on his shirt---a history of this player is on the back, some of which is missing because the card was poorly removed from a scrap book and "Baseball Series No. 56" along the bottom. I can find nothing about this series but suspect it is pre-WW I. It is not among the sets you show that I checked up to the 1930's nor is a Wells listed. Are you aware of this set of cards?---any help you can give would be appreciated.

A: The card is from the C46 Imperial Tobacco issue. It's a Canadian set from 1912 that featured players from the International League. In fact, it's the only "major" Canadian baseball card issue before the 1930s. It's a set I haven't yet added to my site but would be a great addition in the future.

Here's a page about the set from the Old Cardboard website.

Monday, May 10, 2010

My First Cards

I was looking around the internet the other day and came across something I'd like to chime in about for a moment and venture away from sportscards for a little bit.

I became a collector of cards late in 1978. I had just turned 6 and -- like many kids of that era -- was engrossed by a phenomenon called Star Wars. I had all the Kenner action figures (but not the bigger ones because they were deemed to expensive by my parents) and a couple of the playsets. At the time, my father was moonlighting at a nearby 7-11 store and brought home a pack of Star Wars cards for me. And I was promptly hooked.

When I began collecting, Topps was selling its third series, the ones with yellow borders. After breaking open a few packs and playing with the cards as only a 6 year-old can, I was naturally curious about why the cards numbered from 133-198. There had to be others, so asking a few of the neighbor kids I quickly found out that there were Star Wars cards with red borders and blue borders as well! And that revelation began a trading frenzy.

As I grew up, I did a lot of things with those cards. I took them and recreated the film, with the cards in their aired "sequence," I used them as models to pose my action figures, I grouped them by actor/subject, and when I was tired of that, I'd simply put the cards back in numerical order.

As you might guess, the poor cards didn't exactly handle such loving abuse at the hands of its young owner well. Many show their scars to this day:

If you're wondering about the number "106" shown below the R2-D2 of my neighborhood chums used to write numbers on all the cards he owned, and ended up trading some of them to me later on. The blue-bordered Luke Skywalker card was the #1 card of the set and was especially manhandled (the image doesn't really show the crease that runs down the center of the card). The yellow-bordered Skywalker card was very well one of my original stash. There's a section of paper loss to the left and the corners have long since lost their sharpness. Even though replacing/upgrading these cards won't cost me a whole lot...I don't really want to. Just opening my binder and looking at them takes me back. I'd rather see the exact pieces of cardboard that gave me such joy as I retreated into my little fantasy world back then than looking at antiseptic cards that weren't with me in those days. Values be damned, I love these cards.

While collecting these cards, I continued picking them up as Topps issued Series 4 and then 5 as 1979 wore on. Among the ones I picked up at the time was apparently not really for the eyes of a kid my age. The card in question was #207, which showed C-3PO as he emerged from the lube bath his first night at the Skywalker home:

As you might have guessed...the one on the right was the "controversial" one. I had it as a kid (note the corner wear) but at 6-7 years old, I think the "wow, he must have really enjoyed that lube bath" jokes weren't really anything that came to mind for me. In fact, during the years I really would've noticed that (12-16 or so) the cards had been put away while I focused on baseball cards. There are a lot of rumors about this card -- a disgruntled LucasFilm employee, a Topps prankster who got fired, a "light effect," whatever -- but I'm not sure anybody will really know how the card showed Threepio with an appendage that really isn't necessary for a droid. I picked up the corrected copy on the left for a quarter last year. As for the "dirty" card, there are people asking ridiculous amounts for it, even though it really isn't scarce.

I finished my base set in 2002 by trading for the last few cards I needed. Once I finished that (and eliminated any desire to open them), I picked up some unopened wax packs:

The R2-D2 pack is Series 2, Vader's profile is a Series 3 pack (the first of any type I ever opened) and the X-Wing fighter is from Series 5. I'm still looking for unopened Series 1 and 4 packs. I also need several stickers from 4 of the series and a wax wrapper from Series 4. If anybody happens to be holding on to some or has extras, drop me a line. I'm seriously looking to pick them up.

Sorry to detour from talk of vintage sportscards for this post...but the fact that these cards take me back to that moment in time whenever I open up the binder is one of those things that keeps me collecting today.

Friday, May 7, 2010

RIP Robin Roberts

This has been a sad week for baseball fans. First, legendary broadcaster Ernie Harwell has gone behind The Golden Microphone in the Sky, and now I've learned that Robin Roberts has also passed away.

Better writers than I have written moving tributes to both men, so I won't add to the philosophical wind that always picks up when legends depart. However, I do have a card to share.

When I was in high school and beginning to collect more vintage material, I picked up 1952 Topps cards when I could get them cheaply. I picked up my first two '52s in the Summer of 1988, but I wouldn't pick up my first Hall of Fame player from the set until the next year. At $6 I thought it was quite a steal.

In fact, I still do.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Roberts. You may have been called up to pitch in the Field of Dreams, but you'll be missed here.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Pop Quiz! And Another Gem...

Time for a quick question...but no worries, I won't keep score and won't tell if you get it wrong.

Here's a quote:

"The trouble with baseball today is that most players are in it for the money; not for the love of it, the excitement of it, or the thrill of it."

These words were spoken by a Hall of Famer near the end of a storied career.  Can you guess who said it?

A) Robin Roberts, in 1965
B) Johnny Bench, in 1981
C) Nolan Ryan, in 1992
D) None of the above

Think it over for a second...and while you're doing that, here's another gem from my collection:

This is a high number from the 1952 Topps set. These usually sell for $150-250 and this one looks great, especially when you consider some of the other cards I've already shown here. I purchased this card for $4 and from a brick-and-mortar hobby store. Would you like to know how?

It appears the store owner didn't check to see what the number was. Since the back had damage from being placed in a scrapbook -- there's both missing paper and extra paper -- he priced it according to how the front looked. There really was no excuse, as he merely needed to scan one of the catalogs he kept on hand for Hearn's name.

That was quite a surprise when I took it home and went to look at my own checklist.

Now for the answer to the question above:

The answer is...D) None of the above.

The quote was a statement made by Ty Cobb in 1925! So when somebody tries to tell you about how players were more into baseball for the love of the game during the 1950s/'60s, you can tell them that as long as players needed to pay their has been an issue in the sport. For what it's worth, even when the game was an amateur sport during the 1800s, there were certain players who had "agreements" with club owners where they would be given a job title and salary with the owner's business specifically in exchange for filling a roster slot on the baseball club.

I guess the saying is true; the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Jeff writes:

I’ve been pulling out my old baseball cards to finish some sets and see what I put away nearly 20 years ago when I got married. I have a Pete Reiser card. Can you tell me what this card is?  I also have a Tom Henrich of that year and I’ve not been able to match them to a particular set. 
This is the card in question:

Any help is appreciated so I can quit Googling and poring through the SCD Standard Catalog of ball cards.
Thanks for your thoughts.

 A: Thanks for sending the scan. It's from a set that you probably won't find on Google unless you know the name of the manufacturer...which isn't on the card, making it frustrating (as you well know).

Your card is from the 1943 MP & Co. set. It was one of the few issues that was released during the World War Two years. There was a similar set issued in 1949 but Reiser wasn't in that one.

Here's a page that will give you more info about the set.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Third Major League

Every so often, the Players' Union and Major League Baseball work towards a new collective bargaining agreement, and negotiations often spill over into the press as "updates" on the progress. Both sides talk tough, and sometimes there's a strike or a lockout. This is nothing new.  During the two longest strikes (1981 and 1994), many fans stayed away from the game out of disgust but most came back eventually. 

Something that gets mentioned by fans during these deliberations is the fact that players are welcome to form their own league if they aren't happy with the "pittance" they make now. It's happened before; in 1890, several National League players quit their teams and formed the Players League. It only lasted one season before the players realized how much it cost them to run things. A generation later, a new group of players figured they could beat the system, and the Federal League was their solution.

Many owners at that time were notorious cheapskates. Players then had no union to represent them, and many were shackled by one-sided contracts that tied them to their teams. At the time, owners were also allowed to be partners in the ownership of other teams, so they held a great advantage that players weren't able to overcome. Even without having part ownership, they could influence other owners simply by making deals to prevent another team from signing certain players. At that time, players couldn't charge owners with collusion and since they weren't organized they had no real power to change their position. The new league was seen as a way to help gain some bargaining ground.

In 1913, there were six teams (mostly in the Midwest) in the independent Columbia League. This league was formed and run by investors who wanted to profit from professional baseball but weren't able to buy a franchise in either the American or National League.  Trying to avoid legal trouble, they only offered contracts to players not already under existing contracts. 

The league did very well financially that season, so the owners decided to turn their independent league into a third major league. For 1914, the Columbia League was renamed the Federal League. Plans were made to expand to the east coast (preferably in existing major league cities), build new ball parks, and actively pursue established major league ballplayers with promises of higher salaries.

For baseball card collectors, Federal League players were featured in a couple of sets. While some are pretty tough, like T214 Victory, the 1915 Cracker Jack set is much more common. A few Federal Leaguers from that set are shown here as a means of illustration:

At the time, players' contracts routinely had a "10-day clause" allowing owners to give a player ten days' notice that he was going to be released outright. White Sox first baseman Hal Chase decided to use this clause against Chisox owner Charles Comiskey and gave the team ten days' notice before jumping to the new league's Buffalo franchise. Joe Tinker and Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown were other early defectors to the new league. The new league had an immediate effect on the other two major leagues as well as the minor leagues. Team owners were forced to open up their wallets in order to keep key players. Ballplayers were quite happy with the increased salaries, and welcomed the prospect of the increased competition.

As the Federal League started its 1914 season, it had eight teams: the Baltimore Terrapins, Brooklyn Tip Tops, Buffalo Blues, Chicago Whales, Kansas City Packers, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh Rebels, and St. Louis Terriers. The 1914 season was exciting, with the pennant race going to the final week of the season. Indianapolis edged out Chicago by a game and a half. Several previously unknown players took advantage of the opportunity to play, like Benny Kauf, Dutch Zwilling, and Eddie Roush.

To draw fans into the stands, Federal League owners tried some innovative methods. Chicago owner Charles Weeghman allowed fans to keep any foul ball hit into the stands.At that time, foul balls were considered property of the host club and fans were expected to give balls back to the usher when they came over to retrieve them. Those who refused were sometimes arrested. Also, the Buffalo team offered ownership to its fans; preferred stock in the team cost $10 a share and were offered in newspaper ads.

After the season, the Federal League enticed more stars from the other 2 leagues and even signed Washington Senator ace Walter Johnson, as well as A's stalwart Eddie Plank. The signing of the "Big Train" was an immediate boost to the new league, but Johnson never played for the Whales. According to legend, Johnson signed to play for Chicago and received a $6000 signing bonus, but was talked out of going through with the deal. Unfortunately, he had already spent the bonus, so Senators owner Clark Griffith tried to get the money from A.L. President Ban Johnson. When Johnson refused to pay, Griffith went to White Sox owner Charles Comiskey, a legendary tightwad. Convinced that it would be better for Chicagoans to see Walter Johnson filling the seats in his stadium rather than having those customers attend games at Weeghman Field, Comiskey came up with the six grand and Johnson voided his contract.

In addition to the player changes, one team changed location. Indianapolis may have won the 1914 Federal League pennant, but it was not profitable. The team moved to Newark for 1915 and became the Peppers. It was an attempt to break into the New York City market and made for another innovation...doubleheaders were scheduled that season between Newark and Brooklyn, with one game played in each team's park. There were three such doubleheaders that season (Memorial Day, July 5th and Labor Day). Brooklyn was considering scheduling night games during the 1916 season, which would have been the first major league games played under lights.

The 1915 season featured one of the tightest pennant races ever seen in major league baseball. Once again, the race was not decided until the final week. Chicago won the pennant, but four-thousandths of a percentage point separated the top three teams.

As the 1915 season ended, the American and National leagues hoisted a white flag. The Federal League had taken a toll, not only by taking players away, but also by drawing fans away. Representatives from all three leagues met and agreed to dissolve the Federal League. All the players who had jumped to the Federal League would be allowed to return without penalty and Federal League owners would be compensated for the loss of their teams. All owners were treated differently, however; some were allowed to buy existing major league teams, some were offered large settlements, and the others were offered small sums. The owners of the Baltimore franchise were not pleased with the result and sued Organized Baseball in a case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court found for the defense, claiming that baseball was a game and not interstate commerce, subject to the principles of free trade. This gave Major League Baseball exemption from anti-trust legislation, a status it enjoys today.

One of the owners who benefited greatly from the dissolution of the Federal League was Charles Weeghman, the owner of the Chicago Wales. He was allowed to purchase the crosstown Cubs and moved his new team to Weeghman Field for the 1916 season. The field was renamed Wrigley Field, and the Cubs still call the park home. It appears he continued his foul ball policy when he joined the National League.

Some players who stood out in the Federal League went on to have decent careers. Benny Kauf went to play for the New York Giants until 1920 and gained some respectable numbers. Eddie Roush went on to the Reds, sparked them to the 1919 World Series, and is enshrined in the Hall of Fame today. Hal Chase joined him on the Reds, but quietly retired a few years later after being suspected of throwing games and consorting with gamblers. Another former Federal League player who left the game under a similar dark cloud was Chicago Whales ace Claude Hendrix, who went on to play for the Pirates. Neither Chase nor Hendrix were officially banned for life like the eight Chicago "Black Sox" players who were accused of throwing the 1919 World Series, but both left the game at the same time as the Chicago players and never returned.

Dutch Zwilling, who had been a standout, played for the Cubs in 1916 and never played in the majors again. Also returning to the Cubs for the 1916 season and then retiring were veterans Joe Tinker and "Three Finger" Brown. Many other former Federal League players were unable to stay on with any major league teams and went back to the minors.

When modern players threaten to use whatever means they can to force a better deal, few know about the Federal League. Though the league was short-lived, its impact on baseball was felt then and is still being felt now.

Author's note: Much of the information I used in this article was pulled from a web site devoted to the Federal League. History, league standings, team photos, ball park information and player statistics are a few items that can be found on this superb site.  It's a great reference for anybody interested in the Federal League.