My Orange Whale in Wally World

69 Bunker

Since I first laid eyes on the 1969 Wally Bunker card, I’ve been mystified by the large, orange object in the background. The blurred image is cylindric with something protruding from the top. Was it a type of promotion, contest or an advertisement?

I have not spent the last 50 years obsessing over this photo, but I’ve never let go of my “orange whale” either. I contacted the Babe Ruth SABR Chapter in Baltimore to see if they knew the story behind the object. No one could shed light on the mystery but some suggested the photo was probably taken in Miami during spring training — it was not. The historian at the Babe Ruth Museum in Baltimore was clueless as well. I emailed the Orioles historian and sent a “tweet” to Jim Palmer but didn’t receive replies.

Furthermore, I “pecked” through the “Bird Seed” notes section in “The Sporting News” weekly Orioles columns in’64 and ’65 without finding a single mention of the object. I had similar luck with the “Baltimore Sun” and “Baltimore Evening Sun” archives.

McNally 66

Memorial S

My quest did highlight one of my favorite aspects of vintage cards: determining the location of the photos. Evidence points to Wally’s photo being taken at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore in ‘65. A Topps photographer did a photo session before a game between the Orioles and the Senators — as evidenced by the numerous ’66 cards with the stadium as the back drop. Memorial Stadium had several visual features (large support pillars, trees beyond the outfield fence, deck configuration and scoreboard) that are evident in the photos.

66 Palmer

The year is confirmed by the presence of Jim Palmer. His rookie card appears in ’66 and he didn’t play for the Orioles prior to ‘65.

Both the ’66 and ’67 Bunker cards appear to be from this photo session, which increases the probability that the ’69 card is as well. Additionally, the soft, early evening lighting present in all the photos adds further credence to my supposition.

There are at least ten Senators and six Orioles ’66 cards taken on the same day in Baltimore. Ironically, Woodie Held was on the Senators when the photo was taken in ‘65, but was traded to the Orioles in off season. The ’66 and ’67 Frank Howard cards — as well as the ’67 poster — are also probably at Memorial Stadium.

Please respond if you can identify the “oatmeal box” shaped object. I don’t want to go to my grave with this highly profound and important mystery as my last thought.





Author: Tim Jenkins

Sports memorablilia collector with Seattle teams emphasis. HOF autographs, baseball cards and much more. Teacher for over 30 years. Attended games at 35 different MLB parks.

15 thoughts on “My Orange Whale in Wally World”

  1. I’m not certain but I have a feeling that it might have been a beer advertisement next to the scoreboard. The Orioles were then owned by Jerry Hoffberger who also owned the National Bohemian brewery.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Beer can advertisement was my first thought, but it doesn’t seem to match the National Bohemian can of the era. Also, there appears to be a “straw” on top. I’m sure a few people have drunk beer through a straw but probably not something to feature on an advertisement. Hoffberger owned National. The McNally card almost shows the National ad on the scoreboard. The green team slash covers it up.


  2. Several theories: indeed it’s the right field scoreboard but it was either Gunther or Schaefer at that time, NOT Natty Boh. The appearance of the object being ‘cylindric’ is an illusion–it’s really the scoreboard. But the colors don’t quite match the original beer ad, plus the design is wrong–one ad showed a bottle of Gunther. It’s possible what we’re seeing is something placed inadvertently in the background and blocking part of the scoreboard. It also appears as if the flagpole (to the right, above object in question) is in the wrong place. It wouldn’t have been blocked by the scoreboard as it is here because it was in center field. It’s possible that it was a temporary ad placed after the Gunther bottle was removed. Toughy!


    1. Not Miami! Palm trees beyond the outfield. I would stake my entire memorabilia collection on this photo being at Memorial.


  3. Check out this pic. Its not the same exact thing but does show that it could have been an ad on the left side of the scoreboard.


  4. Confirmation about Bethlehem Steel Family Night: Here is a description from the Baltimore Sun about Bethlehem Steel night in 1966: “On June 14, the Orioles took the AL lead for keeps, defeating New York, 2-1, before a festive Bethlehem Steel Family Night gathering of 37,891. As a 30-foot tin can belched smoke and balloons, the home team rallied, scoring both runs in the eighth inning before what would be the largest crowd of the regular season.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great! You solved it!! My life is now complete! Would the can have been there for Bethlehem night in ’65? Didn’t Johnny Unitas work at Bethlehem Steel during the off season? Thank you for clearing this up. If I were close by, I’d buy you a case of Natty Bo. Oh Boy! What a Beer!


  5. Baltimore Sun description of 1964 Bethlehem Steel Family Night: “A silver baby blimp hovered above centerfield, and a nearby king-size orange and white tin can with a peppermint straw periodically belched plumes of white smoke, helium balloons and tooted its ear-splitting fog horn in the hope of stirring up a rally.”

    Liked by 1 person

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