Friday, September 30, 2011

Q&A -- Big Klu

Today's question comes from Fred, who asks:
"Ted Kluszewski's cards seem to command a premium. Any reason?"
This is the perfect time to show this gem from the 1957 Topps set

Ted Kluszewski was a big power hitter in the 1950s. He was to the National League what Rocky Colavito was in the American. He was known for his power, as illustrated by his massive muscles that led him to go without a t-shirt in the Reds' uniforms of the era (as in the card above). He was also able to hit for average and keep his strikeout totals low, which many power hitters were unable to do.

Unfortunately, a series of injuries limited his career numbers so "Big Klu" was never able to get Hall of Fame-type numbers. Still, he's well-remembered among fans of 1950s baseball and a source of pride for Polish-Americans. And from what I've been told, he was always good with the fans (another thing that makes certain players beloved).

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mail Call From OKC!

A puffy envelope from Oklahoma City found its way into the mail last week. First of all...a big "thank you" to Jeff from Cardboard Catastrophes for the following:

This card is from the 1949 Bowman set. It features Al Brazle, who was a native of Oklahoma...not far at all from the place the package was mailed. He spent seven years in the minors before finally making it into the majors late in the '43 season as a 29 year-old rookie and got into the World Series. Unfortunately, Uncle Sam stepped in and gave him another uniform to wear for the next two years. He returned to the diamond in 1946 and played in another Series. He stuck around until 1954, when he was 40 years old.

Alpha Brazle died in 1973, just five days after his 60th birthday.

This card is from the 1957 Topps card. I don't care that it's miscut, because this one means I now have 132 empty slots in that binder. Since I still remember the days where I counted the number I had from the set rather than what I needed, I treasure every little piece of cardboard that gets me closer to putting the set to bed.

Not only that, but I remembered as a kid that Gus Bell was the father of Buddy Bell, thanks to his appearance in teh 1985 Topps "Father & Son" subset. He was also the grandfather of major leaguers David and Mike Bell. He passed away in 1995.

Brooks Lawrence was nearing the end of his big league career when this card appeared in 1959. He was another long-time minor league player who didn't get into the majors until he was 29. This card explains his nickname "Bull": he was always ready to go to work and his stats show that. He was used in the rotation as well as in the pen.

Brooks Lawrence has also retired to the Field of Dreams, being called up by the Big Guy in 2000.

The 1960s was renowned as the "Era of the Pitcher," and it wasn't just the eventual Hall of Famers who benefited. In fact, the back of this card names the top 35 pitchers of the year. Only three would get into the Hall of Fame. Whitey Ford ranked seventh, Robin Roberts was eighteenth and Jim Bunning was twenty-ninth.

Thanks to Jeff for chipping some more cards off my wantlist.

Monday, September 26, 2011

An Early Mention of Baseball Card Flipping

While going through some old files in my computer, I came across this little tidbit:

There was an article by Stewart Culin in the Journal of American Folklore dated 1891 entitled "Street Games of Boys in Brooklyn, N.Y."

As he explained the relatively new game of "pictures" he explained:

"This game is a recent invention, and is played with the small picture cards
which the manufacturers of cigarettes have distributed with their wares for
some years past. these pictures, which are nearly uniform in size and
embrace a great variety of subjects, are eagerly collected by boys in
Brooklyn and the nearby cities, and form an article of traffic among them.

This is probably one of the earliest explanations of what later generations called "flipping." Much earlier, there was a different game called "penny pitching," which had similar rules and is probably as old as minted coins.

Part of me wonders if the 14-year old boys of 1891 got a kick out of Jack Glasscock's name.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Q&A -- 1947 Bread Cards

Shane asks:
"Please verify for me I've researched the 1947 Bond Bread and Homogenized Bond Bread Jackie Robinson cards...for over a month now...and I'm still confused??????

Is 1947 Bond Bread a completely different set/different company from 1947 Homogenized Bond Bread cards? Does one set contain rounded corners only and the other set have 13 SQUARE corners?

From my Web site page about the 1947 Homogenized set...Bob Elliott's card, with rounded corners.
There are two different sets. One features 13 cards of Jackie Robinson, while the other is a 48-card set that features baseball players (one of whom is Jackie Robinson) and four boxers.

The Robinson set has square corners and a back design. The regular set has both square and rounded corners (my article will explain why, as well as the disagreement between collectors about them) and a blank back. 

Good luck on the sets, those Robinson cards are some of the "real" cards available from his rookie year.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

That's "Life"...

A couple of weeks ago, fellow blogger Mark from Mark's Ephemera showed a scan from a 1962 issue of Life magazine that included two free cards inside. The card shown in that entry had Mickey Mantle, and here's the other one:

It's not in the greatest shape, but it celebrates what was a great season.

That issue of Life only included two cards, and all of them feature the M&M boys. As recently as the 1980s, it was possible to get an issue of the magazine with the cards still inside from a magazine dealer who didn't know they were in there. It's gotten a lot harder to do that once word got out about them.

The back of Maris's card looks like this:

This can be seen on the insert in Mark's entry. So Maris was on the other side of the paper. "Regular" Post cards featured blank backs, and this one is made of thick paper rather than cardboard.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Disappearing Act -- the Football Edition

There was one really lousy thing about collecting Topps football cards when I was a kid.

They didn't look right. The logos were airbrushed off the helmets, and when I was young I didn't understand why the players on the cards didn't look like they did when they played on TV.

Here's a card in my collection from 1968:

Andy Russell is posing helmetless, as most players of that era did. However, he's holding his "brain bucket" in his hands, and you can see the familiar logo.

In 1970, Topps lost its right to include NFL logos (including team logos) on its cards. It wasn't really noticed that year, as all the pictures used had players in positions without their headgear. In '71, only three cards needed to get the airbrush treatment; since none of the three were Steelers, I don't have one to show here.

In 1972, there was a subset of "Pro Action" cards and an increased commitment by Topps to show "game day" pictures...and they really stand out by how awful they are. And in the high-number set, here's one of the two Steelers:

It's Andy Russell again, but the helmet in his hands has an ominous shadow right where the logo should be. And he seems to be inadvertently giving "the finger" to Topps as an expression of disapproval.

There was one other thing that needed to be removed from some of the cards...

Take a closer look at the football in Terry Bradshaw's hand:

It's been airbrushed as well, in order to get the NFL logo off of the pigskin.

It would take until 1982 before the logos returned to Topps cards. It was a really long decade for football card collectors.

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Shameless Plug

One of the links I have listed off to the side of this blog is Cardboard Connection. I don't generally recommend specific sellers on this blog, but this one is an exception because I'm helping out behind the scenes there.

No, I'm not selling. The site's owner Mike has asked me to help him with descriptions of vintage sportscard sets (all sports, not just baseball) and I'm working on getting them done in a somewhat timely manner. Many of them are now listed on this page, and I provided the info on most of the pre-1980 sets listed. What i think is really neat about some of the sets is the way there are links to eBay auctions. That's not always helpful -- the first several auctions for Obaks on this page are actually for modern cards using the same name -- they are helpful in tracking down material from certain sets.

I actually got that gig simply because Mike looked online and saw what I've put online about cards, both with this blog and with my Vintage Baseball Cards site. There will be more to come, but feel free to check out his site now and see what is there.

And if you end up doing business with Mike, let him know I sent you there.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Player's Been Traded -- 1960 Edition

I've featured a few cards in this blog over the year and a half I've been writing it that exhibit some of the means a young collector will use to make their cards as "current" as possible. Take this card for example:

In 1960, Andy Carey was traded to the Kansas City A's, which was something like getting sent down to the minors for Yankee players at that time. In fact, the deal brought Bob Cerv back to the Yankees, so it really was like an internal roster move.

As a result, his cards weren't needed to have a complete Yankees team set. Tom Tresh, on the other hand, wouldn't get his own card until later, so his name could be written on a piece of tape that covered up Carey's name.

Interestingly, I looked over Tresh's career...he wasn't active as a major leaguer until really late in the 1961 season. He appeared on a first series Topps card in 1962, and never was a regular in the outfield (as noted on the card) until 1963. It looks like a previous owner didn't yet have Tresh's card from '62 or '63 and fixed that problem in a big hurry.

Monday, September 12, 2011

From the West Coast...

Here's a card that doesn't get much notice:

It really doesn't deserve to get overlooked, though. It's from 1918 and is part of a long-running series of Pacific Coast League cards known as Zeenuts.

Zeenuts were a candy made by Collins-McCarthy, a confectioner based in San Francisco. They issued sets every year from 1911 through 1939, which was the longest uninterrupted run of cards before Topps came along. That long run of cards made these very popular with collectors. They are classified as caramel cards and the E136 designation is given to every Zeenut issue between 1911-14, regardless of year and E137 refers to the sets from 1915 onward. This is confusing to some collectors, since another Collins-McCarthy set called Home Run Kisses also has an E136 designation.

It's relatively easy to get a "type" example of a Zeenut card, but the challenge is in getting a complete set. For one thing, they're tough to find in nice shape. For many years, a coupon was attached to the bottom that was good for a valuable redemption. As a result, many of those years' cards are found with poorly cut borders.

Some years are easy to identify by the date on the card (as seen above) or by their design, such as the red border above, which was only used in 1918. By the 1930s, though, it gets confusing because the year was dropped from the card. In those years, a detailed checklist is needed for many cards, and cards with the coupons intact -- with the expiration dates visible -- help to determine what card was issued in a certain year.

Since the PCL was very competitive, many of the players on Zeenuts cards went on to play in the majors and many Hall of Fame players are included. Early cards of all three DiMaggio brothers show up in the 1930s sets, with the family name misspelled "DeMaggio" on all of them.

They're worth checking out (as are Obak cards) as a reminder of baseball on the West Coast before the Dodgers and Giants moved there.

A little diversion:

Another blogger (Nachos Grande) is doing a contest right now where a lucky reader can win scrapbooking software. Check out his post here.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

This Entry is Only About Cards a Little Bit

Like many of you, I distinctly remember where I was and what I was doing on September 11, 2001.

It was a Tuesday, which meant that it was an off day from work. My daughter had just turned 3 and was part of a preschool. Since I wasn't scheduled to go to work, I was in charge of getting her to the center. It wasn't far from the house, so I went and was back home at about 7:45.

At the time, I was still building my Vintage Baseball Cards website and was working on my page about the history of baseball cards. At some point, I went to check my email and saw that something had happened in New York City. So I went and turned on the TV.

At that point, there was only one plane that had hit the World Trade Center. I specifically remember thinking, "looks like somebody's head is going to roll at the air traffic control center." A few minutes later, the second plane hit and I knew right away what had happened.

I am a native (Upstate) New Yorker, but my wife is from Long Island and we had family and friends who were working in the city, including inside the WTC. One of her cousins worked there (she got out), and a kid from my Little League baseball team did too (he was sent to New Jersey that morning, which saved his life because he would have been in the path of one of those planes). I lost count of how many phone calls I made that day, as well as the number of emails I sent friends, family, people I went to college with.

I thought about getting my daughter out of preschool, but realized that she was better off there. Since she was so young, I was fortunate; I didn't have to answer her questions about why this was happening like some of my co-workers did.

At some point, I went back to what I was doing on my computer. I pulled up the page about the history of baseball cards...and at the bottom was the last thing I wrote before I learned what had happened: "Last Updated -- September 11, 2001."

I never changed that line, even as I tweaked and updated the info in the page. And I won't. Not as long as I remember what happened that day.

It's my way of saying I won't forget.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Mantle Rookie That Wasn't

I was straightening some stuff out and came across this neat little item:

This was actually included as an insert into Baseball Cards magazine in October 1984. It was a mock-up of a minor league picture of Mickey Mantle that was designed to look like a 1949 Bowman card. The other side had the back:

Fortunately, there was a line explaining that the card was made in 1984. There isn't a lot to stop somebody from cutting this up and trying to pass this off as an "authentic" but unissued/unnumbered '49 Bowman card.

I'm guessing that this was an early project of Bob Lemke, who was the editor of the magazine at the time and who still creates custom cards on his blog. I know Bob is an occasional reader of this blog; perhaps he'll leave a comment if this was truly one of his projects.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Passing the Trophy...

A couple of weeks ago, this card was featured in Night Owl's blog and I commented on it. As a public service to fans and collectors, I'll mention it here as well.

In his blog, Greg showed this card:

1972 Topps #624 -- Minor League Player Award

At first, some collectors might do as Greg did and wonder why there was any reason to include the award for the Minor League player of the year in a subset along with the Cy Young, the MVP and others. I might agree, except for one little issue.

Take a close look at those two trophies.

Do they look familiar?

They should, at least to long-time Topps collectors.

The first one looks like this:

While the trophy on the right looks like this:

That 1972 card may have been the first look collectors were given at the new Rookie All-Star trophy that would adorn cards in 1973 and from '75-'78.

I have no idea why they are shown as the award for Minor League player of the year, though. Or why two trophies are given for one award. Perhaps a back had been made for the card and no image was available...and somebody grabbed a mock-up of the Rookie All-Star trophy switch in order to get something out for the series.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Evolution of a Classic Design

Last week, I mentioned 1956 Topps cards and left out how the look had been part of a three-year "evolution" as Topps perfected what many consider a great-looking design. In some cases, Topps even used the same photo as they went. Let's look at Hank Aaron's first three cards as a prime example:

1954 Topps #128

In 1954, Topps went with a format that placed two pictures of a player against a solid-colored background. The larger picture was always a head shot, while the smaller one was a black-and-white action pose.

 1955 Topps #47

In 1955, Topps used the same format, but made the cards horizontal, which made better use of the two picture format. There were a couple of other changes, though. The action shot was now in color, and the background was a solid color that tapered to white.

The facsimile player autograph remained, as did the team logo (a standard element of all Topps sets since 1952). And Hank is still staring over to the left side.

1956 Topps #31

Topps once again used that picture in 1956 and retained the two picture format. This time, however, the action shot was given a full-color background that gave it some real character. Let's forget for a moment that the action picture is actually an airbrushed picture of Willie Mays...but the format allowed for some tremendous "play at the plate" shots, as well as players jumping into the stands (like Mickey Mantle) and fielding grounders.

However, the team logos were gone, even as the facsimile autograph remained. And Topps had taken three years to produce a great-looking baseball card. That's not to say that the '54 and '55 designs were bad (they weren't), but the '56 was just improved. The only thing they could do to improve on that was to use full-color pictures...which they did in '57.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Old Hobby Stuff

At the National, one of my trading buddies handed this card to me:

It's a postcard-sized advertisement for a card show. As a hobby enthusiast, I think I enjoy the fact that this card survived all these years even more than the fact that it shows two Yankee legends.

It's not a postcard, though. The back had info about the show:

Nearly 37 years ago, sports memorabilia collectors converged in New York City for a weekend to look through stacks of cards and check out other sports-related items. The admission price seems a little high (It only cost $1 to get into the first National in 1980), but the NYC location may have had an influence there. However, considering that a single-day pass at this year's National was $ doesn't seem out of sorts today.

One thing I can't get past...the line about the memorabilia spanning 1880-1974. It's odd to think that -- at that time -- 1880 was less than a century before.

Google Maps shows this image at 140 E. 8th Street in Manhattan:

The show was likely in the building to the right.