Lifers

One of the things I enjoy most about collecting cards is putting together checklists of things that interest me. Sometimes these become projects like the action cards or photographer cards that I try and collect. Other times just the exercise of figuring out the checklist and thinking about the theme is enough.

One such checklist I’ve been working on is about baseball lifers and trying to find cards that reflect the longest periods of time in organized baseball. Many of the cards on this list are unobtainable for various reasons but it’s been a fun project to research. I’ve limited to 45 or more years in the game but moving to 40+ would only add a few more guys like Clay Bryant. Also, before anyone questions my math, I’m counting inclusively.

Jimmie Reese

69 years
1925 Zeenut–1993 Mother’s Cookies

It’s fitting that Jimmie Reese’s first and last cards are both regional issues from the West Coast. I remember fascinated by him as the ancient Angels coach in the late 1980s and he was one of the few (if not the only) coaches who occasionally showed up in regular sets as well (he has cards in both 1991 Leaf Studio and 1991 Bowman).

Casey Stengel

56 years
1910 Old Mill Cigarettes–1965 Topps

Stengel was the obvious standout in this department. He benefits from the sheer number of card releases in the pre-World War 1 era. When I was researching this checklist there were a decent number of guys who debuted in pro ball between the wars but who didn’t get cards until after World War 2.

As with Reese, I really enjoy the difference between his first card and his last card. All the pre-war cards just feel like they’re from a completely different world.

Frank Robinson

50 years
1957 Topps–2006 Topps

Compared to Reese and Stengel, Robinson’s cards are much more familiar feeling. If anything, his 1957 card feels much more comfortable to me than that awkward 2006 design.

Felipe Alou

48 years
1959 Topps–2006 Topps

The first pair on this checklist that I can conceivably acquire. While a Frank Robinson rookie is also something that I could get, it’ll always be out of my price range. But these two, as a Giants collector, are pretty much already on my wantlist as it is.

As with the Robinsons, these both feel familiar although I appreciate how both of them are so of their time while also sharing the common Topps DNA.

Del Baker

47 years
1914 B18 Blankets–1960 Topps

Baker is actually the inspiration for this post. I found a 1917 Zeenut card of him at my grandmother’s house and subsequently acquired his 1954 Topps card. When someone else posted about a different 1954 Topps coach card we started talking about baseball lifers, Casey Stengel’s name came up, and then I started thinking about who else should be on the list.

Dusty Baker

Baker1971Topps

46 years
1971 Topps–2016 Topps Allen & Ginter Skippers minis

Dusty was actually the first name I thought of when the topic of baseball lifers came up. Sadly Topps doesn’t make manager cards in Flagship anymore. Nor do they appear to be in Heritage either. So Dusty’s last card as a manager is part of an Allen & Ginter mini set which is either so rare or so boring that the only images I can find online are the Topps promotional ones.

I miss manager cards and wish Topps would bring them back. Dusty also hasn’t retired yet so there’s a possibility he could move up this list if he gets another gig and Topps produces manager cards again.

Lou Piniella

46 years
1964 Topps–2009 Topps

Because of Ball Four I always associate Piniella as being a rookie in 1969. But as has been pointed out before, he was one of those multi-year rookie stars and his first rookie card from 1964 gets him into this checklist.

Leo Durocher

 

45 years
1929 Exhibits Four-in-One–1973 Topps

I’m glad I found one lifer whose last card is in the 1970s. As I mentioned earlier, the hardest part here is finding rookie cards in the 1920s and 30s. Which is too bad since the way that Topps includes coaches in 1973 and 1974 means that there was a possibility for more lifers to have last cards.

Anyway I’m sure I’ve missed some guys. I don’t have anyone whose last card was in the 1980s. Nor do I have anyone whose career started in the 30s or 40s. So I look forward to being corrected in the comments here.

Author: njwv

Blogging about Photography, Museums, Printing, and Baseball Cards from both Princeton New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area.

18 thoughts on “Lifers”

    1. Zim’s an interesting case here. He does have a 2005 Topps All-time Fan Favorites card as a Yankees bench coach (so 1955–2005 = 51 years). My gut has never thought of the Fan Favorites set as a “real” set but that’s a total personal call on my part.

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  1. Great stuff, especially your comment on missing manager cards. When I collected as a kid the first time around I hated manager and coaches cards. Waste of cardboard. Who cared about these old guys when there were so many young guys more deserving of a spot in the current years release. After I got back into collecting as an adult, however, I found myself strangely attracted to them. They were a window into baseball’s past. Now they’re among my favorites. So I’m with you—bring back cards for managers and coaches, too!

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      1. Cool! How about Tony LaRussa? 1964 to 2010. Not known for his playing days like Joe Torre but has a rookie card nonetheless. And then the third part of that HOF trio, Bobby Cox is 1969 to 2010. Beautiful RC with the gigantic All Star Rookie emblem.

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      2. Though come to think of it Bobby Cox comes in just shy of the (admittedly arbitrary) 45-year cut off even if I include his 1967 Venezuelan Topps card.

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  2. I didn’t research it, yet other names that come to mind are Minnie Minoso, Manny Mota, Rick Stelmaszek and Nick Altrock.

    Great article, with the wonderful Jimmie Reese at the top!

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  3. Connie Mack spent a long time in baseball. Beckett shows some Old Judge cards from 1887-1890, and three other cards specifically identified with an 1888 date (August Beck N403, G and B Chewing Gum Co E223, and WG1 Card Game). There’s a 1950 R423 of him, but also a 1953 A’s Team Issue (I can’t find a picture) that looks like it lists him as an owner. It is difficult for me to find pictures of any of these cards, though Beckett has a picture for the 1888 WG1 Card Game. That’s probably because it is the inexpensive card in that trio, with lo book of $1500.

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    1. I remember looking into Mack and getting a bit stumped by his later cards (a lot of those mid-century team issues are listed as trading cards but often feel more like photo packs than trading cards to me). But even if I used his 1940 Play Ball Card that gives him 53 years and I’m not sure why I didn’t include him.

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  4. Vin Scully has a 1959 Dodgers Volpe (or a 1960 Dodgers Union Oil) and a 2013 Panini Cooperstown.

    Red Schoendienst has a 1990 Topps Traded card. His earliest actual card seems to be 1948 Bowman, but there is a 1946 Sears-East St. Louis PC783 listed in Beckett which would put him at 45 years.

    At the 40-year mark, Kiner has a 1947 Tip Top and a 1987 Mets Colla Postcards.

    All depends on what counts. The big issue is that nowadays if they make cards of past players who are in baseball but not actively playing, they typically use a picture of their playing days. So you get someone like Tim McCarver, who has a 1962 Topps card and a 2006 Greats of the Game card, but the 2006 card is of him in his playing days and not as an announcer.

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    1. Yeah I was going with my gut on a lot of these in terms of both what constitutes a baseball card (a topic which would be a great post for this blog) and whether the card accurately reflects his involvement in the game at that time.

      So like with the Don Zimmer example above, even though Archive Fan Favorites is a set of former players and other baseball people, Zimmer’s card is as a current Bench Coach so I increasingly feel like it fits.

      Anyway the wonderful thing with checklists like this is that everyone can kind of go off and make their own version with their own rules. It was just a theme I found interesting and which was fun to discuss on Twitter (and here). And I might need to to do a follow-up post with the additions people have added here.

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      1. This post, like your others, have been pretty fun and thought provoking! Keep em coming!

        One lifer that I didn’t include because of the nature of his latter cards is Jerry Coleman. Does the Hall of Fame have inductee cards? I also couldn’t find a Jim Leyland card for this year’s WBC, but there must be one, although I think he still comes up short of the 45 years. And then the great managers of this era: Bochy, Francona, and Scioscia all come up around 40 years I think. Great rookie cards to go back and find!

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