Fox and Friends

In 1964 Topps tried to “pull a fast one” by putting Nellie Fox’s picture on the back of Roy McMillan’s 1964 “Giant.”  In this wonderful set, McMillan is on the Mets and Nellie is wrapping up his Hall-of-Fame career with the Colt ‘45s.

Mccmillan BackFox Back

Each “Giant” card has a black and white action photo on the back accompanying the text of a career highlight. A close examination of the grainy images-taken seconds apart-distinctly shows the “short and squat” body of Fox, along with his signature “chaw” of tobacco distending his cheek in both photos. The one on the McMillan card captures the Texas flag emblem and distinctive stirrup striping worn by Houston. Plus, Roy’s signature glasses are nowhere to be found. The .45s insignia and the Houston jersey script on the Fox card “seals the deal.” Finally, the photos must be from ’64 since Nellie was still playing for the White Sox in ’63.

As Mark Armour pointed out in his informative blog post on the ’64 large format cards, the series was not issued until late summer. This means the players’ photos are all up-to-date, and several of the photos on the back are from the ’64 season. The photos on the McMillan and Fox cards appear to be taken on August 1st at Shea Stadium.

Jackson

The exact game can be pinpointed based on the identity of the sliding runner, who’s wearing number 15 on his pinstriped uniform. The Mets, Cubs and Phillies were the only NL clubs to wear pinstripes in ’64. This is not a Phillies player, since they had extra-large numbers in that era. Leo Burke wore 15 for the Cubs, but was not involved in a play at second with Fox. Thus, the runner must be Mets pitcher Al Jackson.

In the third inning of a day game on Saturday, August 1, Jackson singled off Hal Brown and was subsequently erased at second on double play ball hit by Bobby Klaus. The two photos show Fox turning the “twin killing.”

By the way, the Mets beat the Colt .45’s 3 to 2 with Jackson tossing a complete game. McMillan started at shortstop for the Mets, so the photographer had multiple opportunities to snap a photo of Roy.

It is conceivable that the photos are from a ’64 spring training game. Until proven otherwise, I’m going with the “tilt” played at the brand new “Big Shea.”

 

“Ersatz Irks Katz” OR “Topps Baits Boomers”

Kaline

At the risk of further alienating the esteemed collectors who look askance at the ersatz nature of Topps Heritage, I will examine the 1968 inspired posters found in the 2017 Heritage set. This ties directly to my last post on the original, large posters. Incidentally, Mark Armour noted that I was wrong in asserting that the 9-3/4” X 18-1/8” ’68 posters were Topps largest product. The ’69 team posters have this distinction at 11-1/4” x 19-3/4”.

Harper

The 40 different 2017 Heritage posters were released as “Box Toppers.” There are 20 posters in both the base and high number sets. 50 copies were produced for each poster and randomly placed in Hobby Boxes. Thus, the posters are rare, which is reflected by the current prices on eBay and COMC.

My favorite aspect of this retro release are the vintage players. Twelve prominent players from 50 years ago are found amongst mix of modern stars. Frank Robinson, Carl Yastrzemski, Al Kaline and Henry Aaron- who appear in the ’68 set — are reprised in 2017. The 1968 NL Rookie of the Year, Johnny Bench, as well as defending World Champions Lou Brock and Steve Carlton are included as well.

The modern player posters follow the lead of the Heritage cards by mimicking the vintage Topps’ posed, portrait style. The lineup includes many of today’s greats including: Lindor, Cory Seager, Bryce Harper, Joey Votto and Yoenis Cespedes.

Like many of the Heritage inserts and subsets, Topps did not include a poster for each team, as they did in ’68. For instance, my Seattle Mariners got “hosed” again. Obviously, Cano, Cruz and Hernandez are not as worthy of inclusion as players from “back east” or “Tinsel Town.” As Howard Cosell once said: “I’m not bittah.” I’m simply sticking up for “my boys.”

69 Angels Poster

2018 Topps Heritage Hobby Boxes include modern versions of the ’69 team posters. I’ve yet to see a Mariners, but if one appears, I may drink the Topps “nostalgia Kool-Aid.”

 

 

 

A Pitching Evolution, Of Sorts

I’ve always loved getting mail. When I was seven-years old (that would’ve been in the summer of 1970, for those keeping score at home), I sent letters to baseball teams asking for a slew of autographs from each. I didn’t get any autographs back, but I did get an assortment of pictures, decals, schedules, etc. Two years later I honed my letter writing skills, pinpointing individual players. Mail started pouring in, and some disasters were averted. My mother almost threw out a letter for me that had this on the envelope:

 d2dda5ae3c45a4bc035818d77accd803--braves-baseball-baseball-park

She thought it was from a circus. Inside was a Hank Aaron autographed picture. (And why would she want to throw out any letter that was addressed to me anyway? It’s a question I still ponder.)

 

So I still get jazzed when the mail comes, and, lately, there are a lot of good card mail days. Most deliveries are fairly routine – a few cards of the same year – but sometimes there’s a combination of cards that is exquisite in its randomness.

 

32222237_10214276168332547_8092677971552239616_n

 

Nothing connects these three other than they are pitchers and they’re all part of sets I’m working on.

 

Ivy Andrews

Finishing the 1933 Tattoo Orbit set is a pipe dream (for now). I’ve never spent as much money on a card as I’ll need to for Jimmy Foxx and Dizzy Dean, but I’ll worry about that towards the end. Right now I have 24 of the 60.

 

Andrews is a short print, books high, but I got this for less than 20% of the VG price (if you’re a frequent reader you know I use the 2009 Standard Catalog). Who was Ivy Andrews and why did he deserve any print run, short or other?

 

When this card came out, Andrews had already been traded from the Yankees to the Red Sox along with Hank Johnson and $50,000 for Danny MacFayden. Andrews performed well for the BoSox from his mid-season arrival in 1932. He was fine in 1933, nothing special, and was traded with Smead Jolley and cash to the Browns in December 1933. Beleaguered by arm problems for much of his eight year career, Andrews is a member of the Hall of Fame – the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.

 

Andrews was hardly needed in a 60 card set, but, as I’ve written about regarding the 1936 Goudey Wide Pens, the selection of players in these sets is odd. The Andrews transaction register is a Who’s Who of long forgotten players that pepper 1930’s sets – MacFayden, Jolley, Lyn Lary, Orel Hildebrand and so on.

 

Of course, Ivy’s nickname was “Poison.”

 

32105397_10214276168612554_1841699066199670784_n

 

Jim Brady

 

I don’t spend a lot of time on card backs, to the chagrin of SABR Baseball Cards Committee HQ, but I have been reading the backs of 1956s. The three cartoons grab me.

 

The back of Brady card got me interested because there’s no statistical information. That was for the best. A Notre Dame alum, he caught the eye of Tigers’ farm director John McHale, another ex-Fightin’ Irishman. Brady was a bonus baby, netting $37,500 from Detroit and, as the rules required, had to spend two years on the big league roster, whether he was ready to pitch or not. He wasn’t. He did pitch for the Tigers in 1956 – 6 1/3 IP, 28.42 ERA.

 

Brady’s success came off the field. He garnered three degrees from Notre Dame, was chair of the economics department at Old Dominion, a member of the eco faculty at ND and Jacksonville U. president from 1989-1996. Solid career, just not in baseball.

 

Tug McGraw

 

I don’t have anything to say about Tugger that hasn’t already been said and isn’t already known. There are few players that always bring a smile, and Tug is one of those. As a still-Mets fan in 1973, “Ya Gotta Believe” is permanently stamped in my heart, and McGraw getting dumped in exchange for Mac Friggin’ Scarce is second only to the Seaver trade in abominably anti-fan front office work for a team that specializes in that trade.

 

And now Tug has a place in my card history – the final one for my 1969 set. It’s a high number (evidenced by the same season info on the card back) and was a bit pricier than I hoped, but for McGraw, it’s worth it. I wouldn’t have felt the same about Bill Voss.

 

 

I think of myself as a well-above average baseball scholar. I’m not top of the heap by any means but I’m pretty high up. At the core of the hobby is finding out about players who I’ve never heard of and lives I knew nothing about. At least that’s a big part of the appeal for me (and probably you too.)

Man Without Portfolio

1968_MANTLE_TOPPSPOSTERS_BOXTOP

Fifty years ago, Topps produced its largest product in scale: the 9-3/4” X 18-1/8” baseball posters. It was very unusual for non-base card products to find their way to my small hometown in Washington State. The various “test issues,” stickers, tattoos etc. were all distributed in larger markets. So, I pounced on the opportunity to collect the posters.

1968_TOPPSPOSTER_PACK-300x276

Since most of you are familiar this product, I will just refresh your memory on a few points. The set is comprised of 24 posters with each team represented. Boston, St. Louis, Houston and Minnesota have two players each. The posters were sold in individual wax packs — folded four times — with a stick of gum-for a nickel.

Due to the large, irregular size of the posters, displaying and storing them is problematic. Binder sleeves don’t exist in this large of a size and standard photo albums are too small as well. At card shows, I’ve seen the posters “shrink wrapped” to cardboard, but this is not a great solution for storage.

Portfolio

Until last week, my posters remained folded and stored in a box. Then, my wife purchased an art portfolio for some photographs. The label listed the various dimensions offered by the company. So, I purchased a 13’ X 19,” 24-page portfolio, which is perfect for the posters.

McCarver-Mays

As you can see, the sleeves come with a black paper in each. Since the posters have blank backs, a total of 48 items can be displayed.

Mantle

Many of you may have experienced the posters tearing along the fold lines. This is very difficult to prevent, particularly if the poster has remained folded for 50 years.

Rose-Robinson

As a kid, I took the slogan on the wrapper to heart and hung some of them on the wall. The Mantle and Frank Robinson are not in the best shape.

Killebrew-Lonborg

The Jim Lonborg poster may be my favorite. The reigning Cy Young award winner is shown at Fenway Park. Perhaps the photo was taken during the same session held before the game in which Tony Conigliaro was beaned by Jack Hamilton.

The poster series is a who’s who of baseball of the era. Twelve Hall-of-Famers and Pete Rose are present as well as outstanding players such as Richie (Dick) Allen and Rusty Staub. Only Ron Swoboda and Max Alvis don’t make the star grade.

72 Mays-Jenkins

Topps reprised the standalone poster in ’72, with a slightly smaller version. I have 12 of the 24 posters, which I achieved in the portfolio as well. Of course, now I’m inspired to complete the set- Yastrzemski and Rick Wise are on the way.

I’ll end with a rumination. Half of a century has passed since I first collected the posters. It’s very pleasing to me that I finally figured out how to display and store them properly. But, damn! I’m getting old.

“Floating Head” Coaches

The 1960 Topps set contains a unique subset: team coaches. Unlike ’73 and ’74 where the coaches appear on the manager’s card, in 1960 they were given special cards all their own. Topps went with the “floating head” design against a blank background. Depending on the team, there are three or four coaches on each. The backs provide brief biographical information. As with the managers in ’60, the cards are vertical, while the player cards have a horizontal design. Here is a look at some of the erstwhile “lieutenants.”

Yankees

The Yankees card features several familiar faces, including Hall-of-Famer and former Bronx Bombers manager Bill Dickey. Ralph Houk — who will replace Casey Stengel in ’61 — will win back-to-back World Series titles in ’61 and ’62. Former ace hurler, Eddie Lopat, will come and go through Charlie Finley’s revolving door in KC as manager in ’63-’64. Of course, Yankee legend, Frank Crosetti, will be immortalized by serving as the Seattle Pilots third base coach.

Cubs

The Cubs Elvin Tappe and Lou Klein were part of the ill-fated “College of Coaches” experiment the Cubs implemented from ’61-’65. Tappe was “head coach” on three occasions. Klein was the last head coach in ‘65 before Wrigley brought in Leo Durocher to serve as solo manager.

Orioles

“Tall” Paul Richards apparently loved having Luman Harris around. Here he is as one of Richards’ coaches in Baltimore. When Paul took over as GM of the expansion Colt .45s in ’62, Lum came along to Houston and would eventually replace Harry Craft as manager. As Atlanta GM in ’68, Richards hired Harris to be Braves skipper.

Champs Celebrate

Topps gave Dodgers pitching coach, Joe Becker, some serious exposure in ’60. Not only is he on the coach card, but Joe is shown being dowsed with beer on the World Series celebration card.

Cardinals

Two skippers in waiting — Johnny Keane and Harry “The Hat” Walker — are found on the Cardinals coaches card. Of course, Keane will take the reins of the Red Birds and lead them to the ’64 championship. Walker will guide the Pirates and Astros with mixed results.

Indians

The Indians card features future Hall-of-Famer, Bob Lemon. He will manage the Royals, White Sox and, most famously, the ’78 World Champion Yankees. Also, the card has PCL and Seattle Rainiers legend Jo Jo White, who will serve as the Tribe’s interim manager for exactly one game in ’60.

Senators

1960 is the last year of the original American League Washington Senators before they depart for Minnesota. Coach Sam Mele will head to the mid-west with the club and eventually supplant Cookie Lavagetto as Twins manager. Sam will win the AL pennant in ’65.

Red Sox

I will leave you with a look at the Red Sox coaches simply because of Sal Maglie. The “Barber” will direct the hill staff of the ’67 “Impossible Dream” team and be remembered for advising his Seattle Pilots hurlers to “smoke ‘em inside.”

By my count, 19 of the coaches featured on the 16 cards would go on to manage or had managed at least one game in the majors.

 

Let Your 2009 Standard Catalog Be Your Guide

I’ve got a lot of price guides and checklists books scattered around the house. It’s the price one pays for collecting for over 40 years.

IMG_3629

My go-to sourcebook these days is the 2009 Standard Catalog. It’s the first (and so far only) price guide I’ve bought with a downloadable version and that has come in very handy.

2009? Are you mad? Those prices are hopelessly out of date! I’ve heard that from some other collectors, some who I’ve traded with and have asked me what I’ll pay for, say, 1968 and/or 1969 commons. When I tell them my price,  they demur, telling me there’s no way I’m getting cards for those prices these days. When I tell them I do, almost always, I’m accused of picking off some poor dealer who has no idea of value. I have never been unable to get commons, low numbers and high, and semi- to real stars, even superstars, for what the ’09 catalog quotes.

IMG_3630

My reality has been that I’m never far off from paying 2009 guide prices and have consistently finished sets well below book. I struggle sometimes to get those decade old prices, but I do end up getting them. When I have to pay a bit more, it’s usually for a better condition card than my usually EX, or something truly has gone out of whack. (The 1952 Parkhurst Bob Betz springs to mind, a card that seems more scarce than the books think it is.) When I feel like I may have missed some seismic shift in the market, I either have someone online email me a scan of a more recent price guide or I sneak a peek at Barnes and Noble. There’s usually been no real change.

The biggest fluke in all this is how lucky I’ve been to use 2009 as a baseline. It was clearly a good pricing year. This week I closed the door on my 1968 Topps set, getting a solidly EXMT Ryan rookie for $230. More than the $175 I was hoping to pay for in EX, but a much nicer card and a bargain for an EXMT. I turned to my older books out of curiosity.

IMG_3627

The 2000 Standard Catalog has the Ryan at $400 in EX. The 1993 Beckett has the card in VG-E (an interesting lumping of two different conditions) for $650! Thank the heavens for 2009!

IMG_3631

I’ll stick to 2009 as long as that’s tenable and there’s no sign it won’t be. In fact, I’m slowly putting together a 1933 Tattoo Orbit set and, while I know I’ll pay up for some big stars, the Ivy Andrews, a short print that booked for $225 in VG in 2009 was mine for $39.06 (and in VG-EX to boot!).

Card Shows — Who Needs ‘Em?

On February 9, 2017, I declared eBay the clear winner over card shows. The hassles, unfriendliness and time spent (as well as back pain) that come with card shows was, for me, a thing of the past. Didn’t miss ‘em, didn’t care.

Then I went with my friend Greg to the East Coast National in White Plains and, as to be expected, had a lot of success, whittling away at my 1960 Topps, 1964 Coins and 1971 Kellogg’s want lists. It was, I’ll admit, kind of great.

More surprising was a local show in Albany that I went to earlier this year. A fine show – manageable, with binders of commons. Right up my alley. I made huge headway with my 1968 and 1969 lists. Yesterday there was another Albany show put on by the same promoter. I had high hopes. Why wouldn’t I?

Sheets of paper in hand, I had already played out in my mind that I’d get the last cards I needed to wrap up a few sets and, once I did that, I could really focus on the remaining commons and semi-stars I need for my 1956 Topps set. My son Joey, his interest in cards recently revived, came along. Everything seemed the same to me; Joey pointed out it was a new hotel and, when we walked in, it was a new cast of dealers. A cursory walk around showed that this was going to be a colossal disappointment. It was.

It took a ton of work to find 2 1969s and 3 1956s that I needed, at good prices. Best find – a ’69 Ed Charles, which goes for $4 or so on eBay, was mine for a buck. (I’m now down to one – Tug McGraw. I feel I should pay a buck for it; I’ll end up paying $5. It’s the premium of the last card which we all have paid.).

167506ef5de745d980ac64d52c545e07_front

All of my show gripes from Feb ’17 came roaring back. I went through a small stack of 1956s and pulled out a Billy Martin, Ted Kluszewski and Giants team, all in EX (maybe EXMT) to me, all unpriced.

“How much for these three?” I asked.

The dealer opened his book (not sure what it was) and said “They book for $245.”

“Not in this condition,” I said.

“I can give you 40% off.”

“No thanks.” He was shocked I walked away from such a deal.

But it wasn’t a deal, never is. He took NM book prices, slashed a big percentage off, but the result was a specious bargain. The price was still too high. I know I can get all three for $75 tops, with some patience, but why even play this game. It made no sense to offer him $60; he was already a self-proclaimed martyr because of the price drop he deemed enormous.

Joey, freed from my world of lists and completion needs, found a dealer with a solid assortment of old non-sports. He picked up some Horrors of War and Red Menace cards. Very nice.

s-l225

I left the show pretty down, trying to come to some conclusion on how I feel about shows. I still don’t miss them that much, but a good one is worth it. Once I got home I headed to eBay to see if I could work on what I’d hope to accomplish at the show. I immediately nabbed a couple of cards, bid on some more that I think I’ll get and knocked another 5 1969 Topps decals off my list. By the end of the day the bad vibes of the show had gone.