Amazing Stuff

In the wake of the Mets winning the World Series in 1969, a flood of cool items hit the market -buttons, records, Daily News portraits (“A Portfolio of Stars,” drawn by cartoonist Bruce Stark), ugly Transogram action figures, even an IHOP placemat (which I have, which is remarkable considering I’ve eaten at an IHOP maybe three times in my life).

IHOP Mets Placemat 1970

The one that grabbed my interest the most was a gas station giveaway that came out during that championship season.

Nostradamus-like, Citgo put out an 8 card set BEFORE the Mets won the World Series. Way to get on the bandwagon before the bandwagon even existed! At 8” X 10”, are they cards? I don’t know. They’re card-y enough to make it into the Standard Catalog. The fronts of the cards have both portrait and action shots, the eight lucky Mets featured were Tommie Agee, Ken Boswell, Gary Gentry, Jerry Grote, Cleon Jones, Jerry Koosman, Ed Kranepool and Tom Seaver. No Jack DiLauro? No Bobby Pfeil? For God’s sake, where the hell is Nolan Ryan?

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The backs have brief bios of the players (Cleon Jones, football star), some statistics, and a longer bio of the artist, John Wheeldon. Wheeldon gets some pretty heavy duty coverage here. Clearly he was a big deal – he painted Gene Kelly! There’s solid PR for him on the back, as well as for Citgo. “A nice place to visit” – really? I can’t think of a place more dirty and sad than a 1969 era Citgo gas station. Only your local porno theater was more gross.

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I didn’t collect these when they came out. I was six- years old, going on seven, in the summer of ’69, and didn’t have my card collecting and gas station promo game down. By 1972, when Sunoco issued NFL stamps, I was all over it.

Years after the Citgo Mets were issued, I found a nice set at a Chicago National and, having completely forgotten about them, was consumed by a flush of warm nostalgia when I saw them. I was instantly brought back to the Canarsie of my youth and the pure heaven of the Mets World Series win. I stopped being a Mets fan years ago (mid-1977 to be exact), but 1969-70 has a special place in my heart, as does this set, which was yours for $0.35 per gallon.

Author: Jeff Katz

Jeff Katz is Mayor of Cooperstown, the “Birthplace of Baseball” and home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. His latest book, Split Season:1981 - Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball, (Thomas Dunne Books, 2015), received national attention, with coverage appearing in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Sporting News and NPR’s Only a Game, among others. Katz appeared on ESPN’s Olbermann and The Sporting Life with Jeremy Schaap and MLB Network’s MLB Now, with Brian Kenny. Split Season: 1981 was a finalist for the 2016 Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year.

10 thoughts on “Amazing Stuff”

  1. The same artist did this for some other teams, but at least some of them were Arco (Atlantic Richfield). My 1969 Arco Red Sox (12 “cards”) rank just behind my children on my list of possessions. And not far behind either.

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  2. If you Google “John Wheeldon artist baseball” and then click Images, you will see other examples. They seemed to be distributed by widely different companies besides Arco and Citgo.

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  3. Yes Citgo put out a Redsox set in 69 and 71. Have two sets for each year. I know they also did a Yankees one in 71. Along with the 8×10’s in 69 they issued a set of 4 tumblers (cups)in 4 different colors and a pitcher that had all the portraits on them. I have one of the cups. Theater was also a plate that pitcher sat on. These are super tough to find. You could also mail order a monogrammed hardcover book to hold the portraits. I’ve seen these most are in rough shape. You can also find the original order forms occasionally.

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  4. I believe these were not Citgo products — they were Arco, which is/was a different company. I have the two Red Sox sets, but only one of them is John Wheeldon drawings, the other is photography.

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  5. Wheeldon did a set for the Seattle Pilots. I believe they were only given away at Sicks’ Stadium. There isn’t a sponser printed on the back. I have Tommy Harper still in the plastic bag. I traded A Notre Dame pennant from Wheaties for it. The kid I traded with got it at a Pilots game. Others players in the set: Segui, Mincher, Oyler,Pattin, Comer, McNertney and Began.

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