All the ‘Famers

A recent National Pastime Museum article by Scott Ferkovich focused on the Kellogg 3-D sets, including the 15-card 1972 set of Hall-of-Famers who were voted (as Scott notes, in a less-than-representative way) the best at their positions. Scott wondered if this is the only card set that features just Hall-of-Famers. The answer is no, although in 1972, it likely was.

In 1976, the five Shakey’s Pizza Parlors in the Seattle area distributed a 160-card set (156 different images, three variation cards and an un-numbered coupon card) of every member of the Hall of Fame, as of that year — in order of induction. (Full disclosure: I have the top PSA-graded set of these cards on the registry.) The set was created in conjunction with the 1976 convention of the Washington State Sports Collectors Association. The cards were distributed at the convention and at the Shakey’s restaurants in 1976 into 1977.

To include every member, the set had to feature images of 19th century players as well as executives, umpires and Negro League stars. There just aren’t many cards in any sets of some of these guys. Supposedly, up to 2,000 prints of each card were produced. Perhaps two thirds are still around.  Even so, the cards are relatively easy to find on eBay and aren’t expensive in excellent condition.

The cards are standard size and feature black-and-white images with a red, white and blue color scheme on the front. The backs are red and black on white and feature short bios and a few stats. For reasons that aren’t clear, the back of each card identifies the Hall-of-Famers by one of four designations: “Immortals,” “Greatest Players,”  “All-Time Greats” or just “Hall of Fame.” You’d assume the non-players would be among “Baseball’s Immortals,” yet, for example, Morgan Bulkeley, the National League’s first president, and American League founder Ban Johnson are both identified among “Baseball’s Greatest Players.”

The cards with the different designations were distributed at different times, creating in effect four sub-sets: First series cards had the “Hall of Fame” designation, second series had “Greatest Players,” third had “Immortals,” and fourth had “All-Time Greats.” To add to the confusion, Hall-of-Famers from each of the four sub-sets were randomly distributed numerically in the overall set. The first five inductees, although numbered 1 through 5,  have four different designations. None of that matters much to anybody collecting the set today.

The photographs for the cards were provided by late Chicago area photo seller Jim Rowe, according to The Baseball Hobbyist in Edmonds, Wash., a longtime card dealer that often features cards from this set.  Rowe’s collection included many images taken by the Chicago-based photographers George Burke and George Brace.

I’m an East Coast guy, so I didn’t get any of these cards when they were issued. I came across this set about 10 years ago when I started trying to put together a collection of all the Hall of Famers, either with contemporary cards or from sets like the Shakey’s  –  or the ’60 and ’61-’62 Fleers or the TCMAs from the ’70s, for example. It’s a challenge, but that’s part of the fun of collecting. I don’t know if any sets similar to the ’76 Shakey’s have been produced since, but I’m not aware of any. Let me know if any of you know otherwise.

 

 

Author: Andrew Sharp

I'm a retired daily newspaper journalist and life-long baseball fan. All of the post here are by me, unless otherwise attributed. As a SABR member, I write biographers of players when I can -- the Brinkman, McNeely, King, Phillips and Ogden bios here are adapted from my contributions to the SABR Bio Project. Please feel free to offer suggestions for blog post about the Senators and Nationals by emailing me at senators24@yahoo.com.

3 thoughts on “All the ‘Famers”

  1. There were a bunch of all-time greats sets in the 1980s. Not sure if they were exclusively Hall of Famers but between TCMA and the Hygrade sets that came with those baseball card collecting kits I had a lot of product from which I could learn about these players.

    One of the problems withe the current baseball card landscape though is that those kind of sets are few and far between now. I was looking for a similar set for my son (he’s 8, just getting into cards, and loves learning about baseball history) and repeatedly struck out until I came across the 2012 Panini Cooperstown set. From what I can tell it was one of those sets where the base cards were filler for cut autographs or relics or other chase cards but the base set is 150 cards of Hall of Famers with a short bio on the back. Perfect for him. And a super-reasonable price for me.

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  2. In 2001 Upper Deck produced a set called “Upper Deck Hall of Famers.” Quite naturally, it only has players who were in the HOF at the time. The base set is 90 cards, though there is some repetition of players so it is less than 90 total players. There are some Negro League players in the set and all the inserts and autographs and memorabilia cards are of HOFers as well.

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  3. I have apologize for the author note that got picked up on this post. It was not supposed to be there. Goof on my part, I’m sure.

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