Wednesday, March 30, 2011

1964 Topps Giants -- More Recent Pickups

I've started and stopped collecting the 1964 Topps Giants several times over the years. About 8-9 years ago, I managed to get within 10 cards of completing it, but broke it up and sent the cards to help others fill their own needs. Since then, I've collected them but have never done more than pick up a card here and there. I currently need 23 of the set's 60 cards.

I'd like to show off two I recently picked up as a way of showing them to collectors who may not be aware of them. They're actually neat cards that present well.

Topps was on a roll in 1964. In addition to their regular base set, which was issued in wax packs with a set of metal coins (covered here last October), they issued two other sets in separate wax wrappers. One was a set of die-cut cards called Stand-Ups, which are a good idea for a later blog entry. The other was a set of cards
that was featured in a postcard-sized format. For such large cards, they didn't have cluttered front designs:

Card #12 -- Al Kaline, Detroit Tigers

The large photo is only obscured by a small white baseball graphic in the lower corner that contains a name, team and position. The backs are laid out like a newspaper story and tells of a significant feat of the player's career:

While some sources say the 1971 Topps set was the first to use pictures on the back, these were issued a good seven years prior to them. 

There were 60 cards in all, mainly featuring stars of the day. Seven cards were short-printed (Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax, Galen Cisco, Bill Skowron, Dick Stuart, Bob Friend, Wayne Causey). The short prints are not scarce, however, so putting together a complete set isn't a terrible challenge. The large-size format made them ideal for autographs, and there are a few sets floating around that are fully signed despite the early deaths of players like Roberto Clemente, Turk Farrell and Nellie Fox.

Among the books on my reference shelf is a large volume called The Complete Book of Collectible Baseball Cards. Written in 1987, the cover says it is written by the editors of Consumer Guide but the copyright page indicates Bob Lemke was the author. In his writeup about the set, he mentions that the cards are the "Rodney Dangerfield" of 1960s Topps baseball card issues ("They don't get no respect"). While he says the cards were issued in huge quantities and are "generally perceived as being common as dirt," he did mention that collectors have absorbed the cards and gave it an "above average" grade for future appreciation.

At the time, common cards were 15 cents, with Mickey Mantle being $2-3 and short-printed HOFers Sandy Koufax and Willie Mays at $5-7. Boy, have the times changed. As the hobby got hot at the end of the 1980s, all of Mantle's cards escalated in price including the '64 Giant. That said, the card is still inexpensive enough for many collectors to get an authentic card from Mantle's playing days that is a great deal.

Before I go, here's another great card from the set, which commemorates a feat we won't likely see again for a very long time:  

 Card #31 -- Warren Spahn, Milwaukee Braves
350 wins has only been surpassed twice since 1963, by Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux. The active leader is 48 year-old Jamie Moyer with 267. The nearest player under 35 in Roy Halladay, who has 169. That's less than halfway to the milestone.

Monday, March 28, 2011

1966 Topps: A Glimpse

It's almost Opening Day! Time to dive into a baseball-related topic here.

Around the Blogosphere, there really isn't a lot of love for the 1966 Topps set. Since I'm the type of guy who tends to march to the beat of my own drummer, I've decided to present a look that won't be matching what anybody else is writing about. Plus, as a person who also blogs about popular music (for those who aren't aware, I also ruminate on 70s music weekly and 80s music each weekday), any opportunity to add a little about that into an article is always a plus.

Card #50 -- Mickey Mantle, New York Yankees
(I own this card, the other images are borrowed from another source.)

1966. It seemed like an exciting time from those retrospectives they show on TV. I wasn't born until six years later, and grew up in the 1980s when a lot of '60s nostalgia was in vogue. I was fond of "oldies radio" and as a history buff, I watched a lot of documentaries and read more books on that decade than I care to remember. One thing I didn't realize until much later was that I lacked a historical perspective. At that time, when I heard "Dancing in the Streets" on the radio, I didn't have the evening news images fresh in my head of civil rights activists having police dogs and fire hoses turned on them. I also didn't understand the significance of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son" without having to wonder whether I'd get drafted into the service and sent off to fight.

The conflict in Vietnam was still escalating but the peace movement had not yet gotten vocal enough. Martin Luther King was still alive and spreading his message. President Lyndon Johnson was pressing forward with his Great Society concept. Yet the memories of the Watts riots were still fresh, and would repeat themselves again in Detroit the next year. Richard Nixon wouldn't be just a failed presidential candidate for much longer. Eventually, more leaders would be tragically robbed of their ability to speak out against perceived injustices.

1966 was a great year for music lovers. Album-oriented artists were beginning to get experimental with their sounds, but adult favorites and a burgeoning "bubblegum" sound kept pop fans satisfied. The Beatles' Revolver, Bob Dylan's double album Blonde on Blonde and the Rolling Stones' Aftermath were enjoyed by critics and fans alike. For those music fans who preferred 45 RPM records, it was a great year for The Monkees, The Association, the Lovin' Spoonful and seemingly any act under the Motown banner. Even Frank Sinatra scored a #1 hit on the pop charts ("Strangers in the Night") for the first time since Elvis arrived on the scene; Elvis, on the other hand, had momentarily stopped being an important singer and was busy making his films. Interestingly, retrospectives showcasing 1966 on radio and television usually fail to include the fact that the biggest single of the year was Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler's "Ballad of the Green Berets," opting instead to play "Cherish," "Monday, Monday" or "I'm a Believer." Or "Last Train to Clarksville," which had a different point of view about the War, even if it's not blatantly stated (Clarksville, Tennessee is near Ft. Campbell, the home of the 101st the words "and I don't know if I'm ever coming home" indicated this man is getting ready to ship overseas).

 Card #126 -- Jim Palmer, Baltimore Orioles

In hindsight, 1966 was something of a transition between the Camelot years of John F. Kennedy's presidency and the much different America of 1969. The Civil Rights movement had started to wind down after the Civil Rights Act of '64, but some of the nation's poorest urban areas were prone to rioting. The protests against U.S. intervention in Vietnam was still largely confined to small pockets but would grow as more Americans questioned why the soldiers were there. The "Summer of Love" was a year away, and the race to put a man on the moon was about to enter its final phase. Soon, Dr. King and Robert F. Kennedy would be killed, and the anti-war demonstrations were about to turn scary ('68 Democrat National Convention) or downright deadly (Kent State).

All this turmoil meant very little to those who were young in 1966. Like most American kids of every era since the Great Depression, they weren't concerned with the stuff they considered unimportant. The U.S. was still in its post-World War Two economic expansion, and the first Baby Boomers were turning twenty. There were more young Americans than at any other point in the nation's history, and they were changing many aspects of American life even then. By 1966, advertisers, movie makers and other businesspeople understood the power of attracting such a sizable audience and coveted the 12-25 demographic.

It was a simpler time for those who were still growing up. For the average 11 year-old kid in '66, Vietnam was an answer to a geography question. A sixth grader was unlikely to know Robert S. McNamara from U Thant in the newspaper but could tell you if that was Sandy Koufax or Don Drysdale pitching on a thirteen-inch black and white TV screen. When major league baseball broke spring training camp in 1966, those kids knew that Topps was once again sending new cards to candy stores. Once the packs arrived on the shelves, hundreds of thousands of nickels were dropped to buy them.

Card #100 -- Sandy Koufax, Los Angeles Dodgers

By '66, Topps was a decade into its era of total dominance over the baseball card market. Since the acquisition of Bowman in 1956, Topps had seen sparse competition from Fleer, Post and Leaf but were on their own after 1963. In 1966, two significant things happened. First, Fleer finally sold their player contracts (including noted Topps holdout Maury Wills) to Topps, which gave them permission to use images of nearly every ball player on the major and minor league level. Second, the players decided to form a union. The Players' Association and their director Marvin Miller wouldn't affect Topps much in 1966, but would eventually cause headaches for Sy Berger and the Shorin family.

Topps' card set that year was decent rather than flashy. The basic design was attractive but not outstanding. The cards featured a large player photo (a head shot or a posed action shot) with very little obscuring the picture. A diagonal banner in the upper left corner of the card named the player's team, and a similarly-colored box along the bottom gave the player's name and position. The card backs conformed to Topps' standard of year-by-year career stats with a short biography where space permitted. The top third of the card back featured the card number and Topps name inside a baseball-shaped circle, a cartoon spotlighting a particular career highlight, and the requisite "vital stats" (height, weight, birthday, etc.).

As in previous years, Topps peppered its 1966 set with several different specialty subsets. A small handful of regular cards featured the familiar "Rookie All-Star" statue. Manager cards shared the same front design but carried no cartoon or statistics on the back, all teams' managers and two Astros managers (Lum Harris and Grady Hatton) are featured. Rookie cards are presented horizontally, with two (but sometimes three) players generally grouped by their team. League leader cards are also horizontally formatted, with the leader and two runners-up from each league pictured for six different categories. Team cards showed a team photo against a solid background, with the team's league and 1965 standing in the box that runs along the bottom. Card checklists returned, with cards listed numerically by series. Returning in 1966 after a one-year layoff were multi-player cards, which featured teammates together.

Card #99 -- Buc Belters

A full set of 1966 Topps cards features 598 different cards, but a number of variations show up for advanced collectors. Four cards (62, 91, 103 and 104) are found with or without a line that mentions that the player had been optioned or traded, and those that do not have the line are more valuable because of their scarcity. The series two checklist (#101) can be found with either Warren Spahn of Bill Henry listed as card #115.  Henry was on card #115, and the error card listing Spahn is less common. Spahn had recently retired and was probably slated to be in the '66 set before he called it a career. Topps made a sad but unintentional mistake on card #447. The player was identified as Dick Ellsworth but actually showed Ken Hubbs, a promising infielder who had died in a plane crash before the 1964 season.

Card #34 -- Series 1 Checklist

Since 1952, Topps had issued its sets in series throughout the season. Sy Berger has stated in a 1973 interview that sets were usually released in "six series, six weeks apart." The first 110 cards showed up during spring training, and 370 cards were available by the All-Star break. Generally, the series concept was flawed: by late summer, candy sellers weren't willing to buy new cards from Topps because they still had cards from the earlier series they hadn't yet sold. Also, kids began to lose interest in baseball cards by the first day of school; those who weren't interested in football were often burned out from a summer of baseball. As a result, the rest of the set is a little harder to come by. Cards 371-446 are only slightly scarcer than cards 1-370, but the final two series are much tougher to complete. Cards 447-522 are known to collectors as "semi-high numbers," difficult but not impossible. Cards 523-598 are called the "high numbers" and are the hardest series to find. To make matters worse, Topps arranged the printing sheets so that the 76 cards of the final series fit a larger printing sheet and caused over two dozen to be "short printed." Many high-numbered rookie cards were short printed (including #524 and #591, which often are among the final cards collectors need to complete the '66 set), as were the cards of Denny McLain and the set's last card, Gaylord Perry. Thanks to the scarcity of the high number series, the SP status and Perry's membership in the Hall of Fame, card #598 is especially valuable in top shape.

Card #598 -- Gaylord Perry, San Francisco Giants

Reading card backs is part of the fun of owning baseball cards, and a lot of kids undoubtedly spent rainy summer days in '66 flipping through their stacks and crunching the stats. Some of the backs are entertaining. Card #147 shows Astros manager Lum Harris, and the biography on the back is in the same format as every other manager's card except for the last sentence: "Lum was released as manager of the Houston Astros on December 12, 1965." It appears that the Topps design people had already made the cards up for the second series and the news of Harris's departure came too late for them to pull his card. Harris's former fireballer, "Turk" Farrell, appears on card 377. The cartoon on the back states that "Turk is the all-time winningest pitcher in Houston's history," but a quick check of the statistics show his record with Houston as 46 games won and 54 lost. Cards # 400 and 450 show Zoilo Versalles and Tony Oliva, two of the young stars of the Minnesota Twins team that won the A.L. pennant the previous season. As mentioned on this blog in June, Versalles and Oliva both are named the 1965 A.L. MVP (the winner was Versalles, but Oliva's card was never corrected). 
Card #400 -- Zoilo Versalles, Minnesota Twins (Back)

Few collectors at the time cared about "rookies," but several players make their first appearance on a baseball card in the 1966 Topps set. The three most notable rookies are all Hall of Fame pitchers: Jim Palmer, Fergie Jenkins and Don Sutton. Palmer appears on a regular card, while Jenkins and Sutton each appear on a "Rookies" card with a teammate. Other rookies found in the '66 set are Bobby Murcer, Roy White, Bobby Tolan, Lee May, Andy Etchebarren and Davey Johnson. Ollie Brown also makes his first appearance on a card as a member of the Giants, but he would later become the first player drafted by the San Diego Padres when they began playing in 1969.

Card #254 -- 1966 Phillies Rookie Stars

One thing that is missing, however, is the highlights from the previous year's World Series, a source of disappointment to fans of the Dodgers, who won the '65 title, as well as the Twins, who needed 22 years to get back to the Fall Classic. It would be the only year between 1960 and 1978 where Topps failed to issue at least a single card commemorating the World Series. This blog highlighted those cards in four previous posts: 1960s World Series cards, 1970s Postseason Part 1, 1970s Postseason Part 2, 1970s Postseason Part 3.

The 1966 baseball season saw some surprising highs and lows. In the National League, fans were treated to a late-season pennant race, with the Los Angeles Dodgers edging out San Francisco and Pittsburgh. In the American League, the race wasn't as close; the Baltimore Orioles (and Triple Crown Winner Frank Robinson) led the second-place Twins by nine games. Roberto Clemente and Frank Robinson won the MVP awards, and Sandy Koufax won the Cy Young award in the last season before it was awarded in each league. When the World Series got under way (there were no playoffs yet in '66), Baltimore shocked the defending champs by sweeping the Dodgers in four games.

It was a changing of the guard. The Orioles were to become one of the A.L.'s dominant teams for the next decade, and the Athletics -- still playing in Kansas City in '66 before their move to Oakland -- were building their own burgeoning dynasty. When the New York Yankees packed up at the end of the 1966 season, their fans probably bristled at their record: 70-89, which made them dead last in the American League. Although the Mets had a worse record, they finished higher in their league than the Yankees did for the first time in their short history. For the Yanks, the season was a disappointment. Mickey Mantle spent much of the season on the disabled list. None of their regular batters came close to hitting .300, and their ace pitcher (Mel Stottlemyre) lost 20 games. Whitey Ford was finishing out his stellar career in the bullpen and had a losing record for the first time in his 16 seasons. Bobby Richardson was about to hang up his spikes, and the off-season would see Roger Maris dealt to the Cardinals and Elston Howard sent to the Red Sox. Yankee fans chalked up 1966 as an "off year" but didn't know then that they would have to wait another decade before a new generation of Bronx Bombers would play in another World Series.

Card #204 -- Chicago Cubs Team card

Topps has had a lot of great sets over the years. Some are roundly described as classics (like the '57 and '67 sets), and others have their detractors (like the polarizing '72 and '75 sets). In the case of the 1966 set, it doesn't really fall into any category. It rarely gets mentioned as being one of Topps' best designs, but it hardly gets singled out as one of Topps' misfires, either. For the kids who remember pulling them -- five at a time -- out of gum packs after buying them for a nickel, they bring back memories of being young and a time when things still made sense.

Friday, March 25, 2011


Bill writes:

"I have come across about 20 baseball cards (Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, etc) that have a copyright date of 1950 and B. E. Callahan on the back.  The cards are about 1 1/2 inches wide and 2 1/2 inches tall.  They are black and white.  The pictures are like an ink drawing. The back has a bio of the player.

Can you steer me in the right direction to find out more about these cards?  I can't find anything about these cards anywhere.


Your cards are from the 1950-56 Callahan set (W573 in the American Card Catalog). They were issued as a boxed set through the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY and featured every member then enshrined in the Hall. Each year, the new Hall of Famers would simply be added to the set. In other words, cards of Dizzy Dean (inducted in 1953) are harder to find than those of Babe Ruth, Jimmy Foxx, Cy Young and all other pre-1950 inductees, because his card was added to the set in 1953. Additionally, Hall of Famers who were inducted in 1955 and 1956 -- which includes Joe DiMaggio -- are the hardest players to find. 

There really is little information about this set, probably because many collectors stay away from cards that feature retired players (and in the case of this set, executives and umpires as well). The cards are not really expensive compared to other early-1950s sets, and are worth seeking out if you have an interest.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Another Collection Piece

Here's a card I've had in my collection since high school. I picked it up at a local card show more than 20 years ago for $15:

1934-'36 Diamond Stars #35 -- Earle Averill, Cleveland Indians

That's an example of a great deal that is found for early birds -- I was there when the door opened and picked this up at the first table I looked at -- and probably one of the better deals I've done over the years.

There are two things I'd like to point out here. First, Diamond Stars (read about the set at my site) get sorely overlooked by the 1933 and '34 Goudey sets. Its Art Deco design truly makes it a work of art and make them stand apart from the solid backgrounds Goudey used. Second, Earle Averill is overlooked as a Hall of Famer. His career was short (12 years, from 1929-'41), but he was a great hitter. He's still the career Indians leader in RBIs, runs and triples and third in hits despite only 11 seasons on the team. He was named to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1975.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Recyling -- Topps Style

Last month, I showed how Topps used the same exact design for their football and hockey sets in 1966. There was no attempt to make a subtle change for the sake of collectors who pick up different types of cards so they could avoid getting Stan Mikita mixed up with Nick Buonticonti.

It turns out it wasn't the first time they did that.

That post I mentioned earlier got some feedback from a reader who goes by the handle 1967ers. Shortly after that post, he let me know about his blog, where he says he'll focus on hockey material. This post described the 1964-'65 Topps hockey set, which looked like this:

Card #3 -- Terry Harper, Montreal Canadiens

I immediately recognized the design because of another set:

Card #26 -- Wray Carlton, Buffalo Bills
(Image borrowed from the Virtual Card Collection)

It's the exact same design (and dimensions) Topps used for the 1965 football set. While the team name on the hockey cards are replaced by a city name, they still retain the curvature at the bottom. In addition, the corners are similarly rounded. While both of the cards shown above feature partial body shots and equipment, both sets feature an awful lot of head shots, which look really weird on such large-format cards.

There was a minor change to these cards. Here's the back of that hockey card:

Now look at the back of the football card:

A little more color was added to the cartoon on the back of the football card, a black bar was added to the area around the name, and the stats are in a different place. Oh yeah...the football card shows that it was made in the U.S.A. rather than in Canada. However, the formats are quite similar.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Rob from New York asks:


"Today I went to the White Plains show and saw a few 1965 Topps Embossed...Should I do the set or not? I need some help on this one...I liked  these guys.  Can you tell me a little about these cards? I know nothing  about them."

Card #3 -- Max Alvis, Cleveland Indians


The 1965 Embossed is a nice set to collect if you're not overly condition-conscious.

For starters, they're considered ugly by a lot of collectors because the players on the cards really don't look like they guys they're supposed to represent.  They're known to be damaged easily (like T205s -- the gold leaf they used to emboss the cards can be chipped easily if you're not careful), so a lot of collectors don't bother with them.  The demand is low, so the prices are, too.

With only 72 cards, it's small enough to keep you from spending a fortune on commons.  It's also one of the best places to get a Mantle card from his playing days for around $20-25 if you look closely.  Good luck on the set if you go after it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"Talkin' Baseball"

With the recent passing of Duke Snider, I've been pulling out some articles I wrote in my old newsletter. This one first appeared in 2005:

Baseball was in the blood of Dennis Minogue since he was a child.  He was born in New York City and grew up when the city hosted three major league teams.  His father was an NYPD cop whose partner was the father of Frank and Joe Torre.  He even managed to play in the Detroit Tigers' minor league system from 1959-60.

For all of his achievements in the game, Minogue knew he wasn't going to go very far in baseball and begin to work on his other passion -- music.  While shagging flies for the Detroit rookie league team, he was also singing with a group called the Chevrons.  They released a few records and even appeared on American Bandstand.  His connections with baseball and music would eventually come together nicely.

By 1966, Minogue's baseball career was a distant memory and his group had long since disbanded.  He was working in the music buisness as part of the promotion department of ABC records, but was still writing and performing music on the side.  To keep ABC in the dark about his "moonlighting" activities, Minogue assumed the pen name Terry Cashman.  He teamed up with Tommy West and they wrote a few tunes familiar to those who liked to listen to the radio during the late 60s and early 70s:  "Sunday Will Never Be the Same" by Spanky & Our Gang, "Cinnamon" by Derek and the duo's own "American City Suite."  Their best success came through their work with Jim Croce.  "Bad Bad Leroy Brown," "I've Got a Name," "Time in a Bottle" and "I'll Have to Say I Love You in a Song" were big hits and are still in heavy rotation on oldies-format radio.  Sadly, that partnership ended when Croce was killed in a plane crash near Natchitoches, Louisiana in 1973.

All through his successful songwriting career, Cashman never wavered in his love affair with baseball.  He enjoyed discussing the sport, and was told by several friends that he should write a song about the sport.  Many songs had been written about the sport and its players through the years, but by the late 1970s it had been a long time since baseball had been mentioned in a popular song; perhaps the last time had been when Simon and Garfunkel asking "Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?" in 1968's "Mrs. Robinson." 

Cashman decided against writing a "baseball song" until a friend gave him a photo in 1979.  The picture was taken at an old-timer's game at Shea Stadium and showed the three starting centerfielders from Cashman's days growing up in New York.  Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Duke Snider had been photographed from behind as they entered the field together, with the numbers clearly identifying them.  The picture inspired Cashman to pick up his guitar and spend about 20 minutes composing a song.

Even after quickly coming up with a tune, Cashman still held on to the song for more than a year.  He finally decided to record the tune in late 1980 and planned to get it into record stores by the time the 1981 baseball season opened.  After making the arrangements, booking the studio, paying the musicians and pressing the vinyl, the record was released.  "Talkin' Baseball (Willie, Mickey and the Duke)" wasn't a big radio hit like "Bette Davis Eyes" or "Jesse's Girl" but it was an immediate hit with the Baby Boomers who grew up at the same time as Cashman and felt the nostalgia of that era.

During that summer something happened that even Cashman  couldn't have forseen: the players began a labor strike that would eventually last 54 days.  As fans lamented the absence of their beloved sport, Cashman's song was held up as a reminder of a different era, when players didn't quarrel so publicly with owners about money.  His song was a big hit with baseball fans.

In Duke Snider's autobiography The Duke of Flatbush he repeatedly calls the tune "catchy."  He's right, but some of the lyrics puzzle fans who missed out on the era.  For instance, there's the line "One Robby going out, one coming in."  It's clear the Robby going out was Jackie Robinson, but is the one coming in supposed to be Brooks Robinson or Frank Robinson?  It's also worth noting that the line "The great Alexander is pitching again in Washington" is lost on those who don't know that he meant Ronald Reagan (who played Grover C. Alexander in a movie called The Winning Team in 1952).

Since "Talkin' Baseball" became a surprise hit, Cashman has continued to record songs about baseball.  In fact, he has earned the nickname "the Balladeer of Baseball."   Among the songs he's released are "The Money Doesn't Matter To Me," "Ichiro," and "The Ballad of Herb Score."  He's written songs about Pete Rose, sung versions of "Talkin' Baseball" specifically for almost every major league team, and "A Tattered Flag in the Breeze ('Michael's Song')," wirtten after Mike Piazza's home run during the first game played in New York after Sept. 11th, 2001.

For the benefit of those who've never heard the song, here are the words.  Cashman's single is hard to find as a 45, but it's been included on some compilations and shouldn't be difficult to add to your music collection. Here's a link to listen to it (available for a short time before I have to take it way)

Lyrics - "Talkin' Baseball (Willie, Mickey and the Duke)" - Terry Cashman, writer.

The whiz kids had won it,
Bobby Thomson had done it,
And Yogi read the comics all the while.
Rock 'n roll was being born,
Marijuana we would scorn,
So down on the corner,
The national past-time went on trial.


We're talkin' baseball!
Kluszewski, Campanella.
Talkin' baseball!
The Man and Bobby Feller.
The Scooter, the Barber, and the Newk,
They knew them all from Boston to Dubuque.
Especially Willie, Mickey, and the Duke.

Well, Casey was winning,
Hank Aaron was beginning,
One Robby going out, one coming in.
Kiner and Midget Gaedel,
The Thumper and Mel Parnell,
And Ike was the only one winning down in Washington.

(Repeat Refrain)

Now my old friend, The Bachelor,
Well, he swore he was the Oklahoma Kid.
And Cookie played hooky,
To go and see the Duke.
And me, I always loved Willie Mays,
Those were the days!

Well, now it's the 80's,
And Brett is the greatest,
And Bobby Bonds can play for everyone.
Rose is at the Vet,
And Rusty again is a Met,
And the great Alexander is pitchin' again in Washington.

I'm talkin' baseball!
Like Reggie, Quisenberry.
Talkin' baseball!
Carew and Gaylord Perry,
Seaver, Garvey, Schmidt and Vida Blue,
If Cooperstown is calling, it's no fluke.
They'll be with Willie, Mickey, and the Duke.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Question -- Feedback Requested

Some of you who remember my newsletters and other writings a long time ago might remember this:

(Copyright 2003)

This is a booklet I wrote and sold through my newsletters and website. They sold well, and I had a great time putting it together. Here are a couple of sample pages from inside:

(Click on the image to enlarge)

One of my favorite parts was that when I sold them, several buyers asked if I'd give them a signed copy. That wasn't a problem at all, except my signature is barely legible and I needed to take a little extra time to make it out neatly.

I was looking at my personal copy of this booklet and realized that I have learned a great deal in the last eight years. It's made me want to go back and do it again. This time, however, I'd like to make it more of a hobby guide and include basic hobby info such as grading, buying/selling, and other stuff. The color photos inside would be changed to black and white to keep down costs, but it would be a much more informative guide.

My question(s): If this booklet were to come out...say, at about 48 pages and a price (including shipping) of $15...would you consider buying one? If it were available as an eBook and could be used on a Kindle or iPad, would that be something you'd consider buying? How about if the eBook were free along with the hard copy? It would be entirely self-published and done through a local print shop, so I have a lot of say over how this would work.

I'm seriously considering this and can probably put it together within a couple of months if I decide to do it. I really appreciate any feedback that might be given about this. Thanks in advance.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Book Review

Since learning about the recent passing of Duke Snider, I dug through some archives of material I'd written for a hobby newsletter between 2002 and 2008. Here's a book review that I really should have featured earlier:

The Duke of Flatbush by Duke Snider with Bill Gilbert (1988)

I have no memory of the Brooklyn Dodgers other than what I've read in books, seen in pictures or heard from stories.  Fans -- still bitter that the team moved west -- let me know as I was growing up how much they hated the Yankees for beating their beloved Bums six times in the World Series, how great it was in '55 when "Next Year" finally arrived, and how heartbroken they were when Walter O'Malley announced that the team was leaving.

Duke Snider's autobiography is a good place to start if you'd like to understand why the Brooklyn Dodgers still hold a special place in the hearts of their fans.  Snider's story is presented here in plain English (though most of the credit for that should probably go to cowriter Bill Gilbert), and doesn't stray into the gritty "tell-all" tabloid material found in far too many sports-themed memoirs.  Duke follows the old saying that if he couldn't say anything nice about somebody, he shouldn't say anything at all.  There are no stories of raw deals from the front office, no sordid details about teammates and nothing at all about locker room gossip.  You get the sense that Duke realized how lucky he was to play baseball for a living, and that time only made him appreciate that more.  Snider's only real negative comments were reserved for Roger Kahn's The Boys of Summer, and he was even nice in the way he described what he felt was wrong about the book.

Duke tells about growing up in Southern California, watching Jackie Robinson play for UCLA and being honored to join the Dodgers the same year as Robinson did.  He talks of carpooling to Ebbets Field with Carl Erskine, Gil Hodges and Carl Furillo from Bay Ridge, and how they all had to take jobs in the winter months to provide for their families.  Snider grew up in the Depression, lost time from the game to do menial service in the Navy during World War Two (the Navy kept him away from danger because he was a ballplayer), and saw some of the worst in people when they reacted to Robinson, but Duke doesn't dwell on the bad parts of his story.

It was a great read and really gave a feel for what the game was like during the 1950s and helps explain why the Brooklyn fans were so fanatic about their team.

(The Amazon link below lets you pick up the book for as little as 1 cent.)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A 95 Year-Old "New" Discovery

Here's a card that is 95 years old, yet has been seen by very few collectors:

(This may be the first time I've ever shown a card here that's been graded)

This is not my card. Nor do I have any sway with its owner. This was graciously shown to me by a person who helped make the discovery.

1916 Tango Eggs weren't assigned a number in the American Card Catalog, because Jefferson Burdick and his fellow collectors didn't know they existed. In fact, little was even known about the set until a large cache of them appeared about 20 years ago. Even then, it isn't known how many of the cards make up a complete set. There were 16 different cards in the "find" but it isn't yet known if there are 18 or 20 that make up the set. Among the speculated "extra" cards was one of Ty Cobb, but one never materialized.

The card above is proof that one does, in fact, exist.

Tango Eggs were originally offered by L. Frank and Co., a New Orleans-based poultry company. The fact that the South really isn't as baseball-crazy as Northern cities (where most collectors are from) probably explains why these cards went unnoticed for so long. The card above was discovered in Louisiana, which gives hope that the two "missing" Tango Eggs cards -- Honus Wagner and Joe Tinker -- will also surface someday. The Cobb card is likely being sold to the highest by a major auction house in the coming months.

For additional information about the Tango Eggs set, check out this blog post from Dean's Cards.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Setting Sun

Back in November, I showed this "card":

It's a modern creation by Gary Cieradkowski (of The Infinite Baseball Card Set Blog) featuring Wally Yonamine, who was a pioneer in two sports. First, he was the first professional football player of Asian descent when he suited up for the 49ers in 1947. Second, he was the first American-born player in Japan's professional baseball league, and played at a time when there was still a great deal of uneasiness from the Japanese that was caused by several years of war with the United States.

As a man who was ethnically Asian but brought up in another country, Yonamine was often seen as rude and aloof when he simply didn't understand the culture. His aggressive style -- learned on American ballfields -- seemed odd to his Japanese opponents and fans, which led to him being booed until enough people began realizing that games were being won. Later, he served as a liaison with other American players, giving them pointers on the differences they would experience. After his playing days were over, he went on to manage and earned a place in the Japanese baseball Hall of Fame.

Sadly, Yonamine died last week at 85. Though death is a natural event that is going to happen after enough time passes, it still leads me to pause and think about the stories that are now forever silenced.

Wally Yonamine's story is an interesting read. Most readers of this blog don't know much about him (and, to be fair, neither do I) because we tend to focus on the sport from an American perspective. However, most fans realize that baseball is a huge sport in Japan. My post in November had a link to a book about Yonamine's life and times. Feel free to check it out now that the final chapter has closed for him.

Friday, March 4, 2011


Occasionally, I share questions sent to me from readers and visitors to my website. Here's a neat one from last week from a visitor named Steve:

Q: "I have two Gold Coin Chewing Tobacco cards with the first design.  They are Flint, catcher, Chicago and Clarkson, pitcher, Chicago.  They are both encased in plastic covers.  Can you tell me the value of these or where I might find out this info?"

(Here's a example of a "first design" card from my site)

(This is one of the three possible backs from the set)


You can find some basic info about the set from my Vintage Baseball Cards website, but one thing you won't find there is a price. For that, here's a link to the set description from Old Cardboard, which says a common in VG condition can fetch about $145. That covers your Flint card, but the card you have of John Clarkson will be much more valuable since he is a Hall of Famer.

Buchner Gold Coin cards feature generic artwork rather than genuine photos, which makes them less sought-after than other sets. That said, there are enough collectors of 19th Century material that you'll likely get a decent amount if you are looking to sell them.

All of this info is assuming that "encased in plastic" means that they're either in the holder of a third-party grader (which will help you get a good price) or a screw-down holder.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Another Card From the Collection

Today, I'll share another card from my personal collection. While I usually take this space to show off some of my "cards with character," this one is actually a really nice card for its age.

It's a W515-1 strip card from 1923. Although it's missing the bottom part that identifies him as a Yankee, it's in excellent shape considering it's printed on a 88 year-old piece of thin paper. Strip cards in general get little respect from hobbyists because they arrived after the end of tobacco and caramel issues but before bubblegum issues, yet represent an excellent way to pick up stars at a great price. 

Here's why having a car from 1923 of Bob Shawkey is neat: 1923 was the first year the New York Yankees played in Yankee Stadium, and Bob Shawkey took the mound for the very first game they played there. He pitched the complete game against the Red Sox on April 18th and won by a 4-1 score. He was aided by a home run by Babe Ruth in the 4th inning.

At the end of the season, Shawkey was a member of the first Yankee team to win a World Series and won Game 4. Later, he was the team's manager for the 1930 season.