With SABR 49 about to unfold in beautiful San Diego, I offer a look at Padres’ cards from the Pacific Coast League era, which ends with the formation of the Major League Padres in 1969.
The original Hollywood Stars moved to San Diego in 1936. The city fathers constructed a wooden ballpark, Lane Field, near the train station on the water front. From there, the team would move into the Mission Valley in 1958 to play at Westgate Park and, finally, San Diego Stadium in 1968.
According to PCL historian, collector and dealer Mark MacRae, the first set of Padres collectibles were team issued photos in 1947. However, this set does not show up in the Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards. This publicity photo of manager “Ripper” Collins from 1947 may be an example, but I’m by no means certain.
Two years later, Bowman issues a PCL set in the same format as their MLB cards. The small, square cards were issued in packs with a total of 32 in the set. The five Padres players are Xavier Rescigno (pictured), John Jensen, Pete Coscavart, Lee Handley and Tom Seats. The cards were issued as reprint set in 1987 by the Card Collectors Company. The reprints are distinguished by wider, white borders.
Bowman wasn’t the only company to issue PCL cards in 1949. The Hage’s Dairy company begins a three- year run with a 107-card set-with at least 26 different Padres. This initial set and the subsequent issues are filled with variation cards. Some players have up to four different poses. They were distributed in boxes of popcorn at Lane Field. Cards were added or removed when the rosters changed. The 1951 cards come in four different tones: sepia, blue, green and black-and-white. This set includes Luke Easter, manager Bucky Harris and John Ritchey, who broke the PCL color barrier in 1948.
Incidentally, the Bowman cards used many of the same photographs as Hage’s. For example, Bowman simply cropped this photo of John Jensen.
Hage’s comes back in 1950 with a 122-card set that has at least 28 Padres. This time, all the cards are black-and-white. Also, Hage’s ice cream is advertised on the back. This set has manager Jimmy Reese as well as two variations of Orestes “Minnie” Minoso. Among other recognizable names are: Al Smith (famous for having beer poured on his head by fan in ’59 World Series), Harry “Suitcase” Simpson, and Tom Tresh’s dad, Mike.
In 1951, Hage’s produces a much reduced 54-card set, with all but 12 of them being Padres. The other cards are comprised of seven Cleveland Indians and five Hollywood Stars. They were printed in the following tints: blue, green, burgundy, gold, gray and sepia. Harry Malmberg is an example of the many photo variations. The two cards above are both from 1951. Some familiar names in this set are Ray Boone, Luke Easter and “Sad” Sam Jones.
Like an ice cream bar left in the warm California sun, Hage’s Dairy cards melted away in 1952, leaving Globe Printing as the card producer for the Padres. This 18-card, black-and-white set features manager Lefty O’Doul, coach Jimmy Reese, Memo Luna and Herb Gorman. I’m not sure how the cards were distributed.
1952 is a big PCL card year-due to the introduction of the fabulous Mother’s Cookies set. The 64-card set was distributed in packages of cookies on the West Coast. Padres’ manager, Lefty O’Doul, has on a beautiful satin jacket in his photo. Some of the recognizable players include Memo Luna, “Whitey” Wietlemann and “Red” Embree.
Mother’s Cookies returns with a 63-card set in 1954. Of the seven Padres in the set, the most interesting is Tom Alston. He would integrate the St. Louis Cardinals in 1954 after being purchased for $100,000. Unfortunately, mental illness ended his promising career in 1957. Also, Lefty O’Doul is back, and former MLB player Earl Rapp has a card.
I was unable to locate any evidence of Padres cards from 1953-60, but in 1961 the fantastic Union Oil set showed up at West Coast 76 stations. The sepia tone cards measure 3”X 4” and featured 12 Padres. Among the players available are: Herb Score, Harry “Suitcase” Simpson, Mike Hershberger and Dick Lines.
The Major League Padres arrive in 1969, but cards from the PCL era would emerge in retrospective sets. In 1974, PCL historian and fan, Ed Broder, self-produced a 253-card set, modeled after the Seattle Rainiers popcorn cards. He used players from 1957-58. There are 31 Padres cards in the set, including future Seattle Pilot, Gary “Ding Dong” Bell, Bob Dipietro, and Jim “Mudcat” Grant.
Another retro set was produced by TCMA in 1975. The 18-card set has PCL players from the mid-1950s, one of which is Padre Cal McLish. The cards are “tallboy” size-like early 1970s Topps basketball.
In recent years, the late Carl Aldana self-produced several Padres cards in the Mother’s Cookies format. The players he chose are: Ted Williams, Luke Easter, Max West, Al Smith and Jack Graham.
Please let me know if there are other years that PCL Padres cards were produced or if you have a 1947 team issued photo.
SABR convention goers will assemble at glitzy Petco Park for a Padres game against the Cardinals. Not too far away, a humbler structure once stood, Lane Field. Though small and termite infested, it was “big time” to fans in a simpler era with limited entertainment options.
At the game, I plan to buy a box of popcorn to see if a Hage’s Dairy Memo Luna card was magically inserted amongst the kernels.