The phrase “Alternate Site” has become part of baseball’s vocabulary over the past year, and it will always sound weird. It’s like there’s an alternate universe where everything you know is wrong. It sort of made me think of when a few years back I found a book on the shelf at a used book store – Peter Golenbock’s Forever Boys, where the author spent a year with the St. Petersburg Pelicans of the Senior Professional Baseball Association.
I had NO idea this league even existed! I was 9-10 years old, and surely I’d have had some recollection of this league, but nope. Nothing. It’s as if there’s an alternate history of baseball that I was unaware of. It’s too bad, because if this existed today, I’d be into it for sure. A bunch of players I grew up watching getting together again? Let’s go! Anyway, the book was fantastic. Everything was completely new to me.
Fast-forward another year or so after reading the book, and I discovered that there were Senior League card sets too! Looking at the checklist, I had to have them, and eventually I found a set for sale for five bucks at a card shop.
There were a few sets for sale, and I intended to get the one by a company called T&M Sports. Later, I opened up the box and started looking at the cards and realized that they gave me the Pacific set instead. I’m glad they did.
A simple silver border with 22 stars (I counted) along the top and side, with a logo in the bottom corner next to the player’s name. Not terribly exciting, but not horrible. Mostly posed shots, so you can see some of your favorite players from the 60s 70s & 80s up close some 5-15 years removed from their playing days.
Dock Ellis on the St. Petersburg Pelicans? Yep.
Fergie Jenkins & Spaceman Lee on the Winter Haven Super Sox? You bet.
Luis Tiant managed by Earl Weaver, wearing the blue & orange of the Gold Coast Suns? Why not.
Don’t forget about Amos Otis of the Fort Myers Sun Sox.
And what about the power trio of George Foster, Oscar Gamble (sans afro) & Bobby Bonds of the St. Lucie Legends?
Rollie Fingers clearly broke out the mustache wax before being immortalized in his West Palm Beach Tropics duds. Tom Paciorek is resplendent in his freshly squeezed Orlando Juice uniform.
For those scoring at home, the set features four Hall of Famers: players Fergie Jenkins & Rollie Fingers, and managers Earl Weaver & Dick Williams.
My favorite card, though, is Jim Nettles #126. He was a teammate of his brother, who was a star infielder, much like Billy Ripken. Also like Billy Ripken, he is featured with some colorful language on the knob of his bat.
This set came one year after the infamous 1989 Fleer F-Face fiasco, but as the Senior League was on a much smaller scale than the big leagues, this card flies under the radar.
The 220-card set ends on a pretty cool note: a suit-and-tie card of Commissioner Curt Flood.
It’s too bad the league couldn’t stay afloat; it folded shortly into its second season. It would have been fun to see who else would have given it one last shot. If anything, fans were afforded the opportunity to get one last (okay, two!) Dave Kingman cardboard treasures.
Author’s Note: Pacific also released a 1991 Senior League set (using nearly the same design as its 1991 Football issue).
Editor’s Note: If you’ve never used the Trading Card Database “view checklist by age” feature, these would be the sets for it!
5 thoughts on “Oldies but Goodies”
It’s been a while since I’ve done a “Cardboard Crosswalk” for the blog, but I may just have to crosswalk 1978 Topps and 1990 Pacific. Scanning the Senior League checklist, I feel like I’m going thru my very earliest packs of 1978 Topps.
All the Senior League sets were pretty good.
I don’t think I have any ticket stubs from the games, but I am certain I went to a few St. Lucie Legends games as a young teenager as the stadium was only 3-4 miles from the house. The players were only somewhat meaningful because I had only been interested in baseball for a few years. Now, had Reggie Jackson or Tom Seaver been on a team I probably would have passed out seeing either of them in person, but even someone like Foster, who played for the 86 Mets, wasn’t a really meaningful name to me at the time.
I was going to try to corner the market on Jim Nettles “error” cards but people have already beat me to it looking at the sales prices on eBay. It’s interesting to see what catches the attention of people. In some searches for 1994 Stadium Club cards I came across listings for Frank Thomas and “middle finger.” Yes, one of his middle fingers is extended in a way that looks unacceptable for a photograph, but it’s very clear that he is putting on eye black.
Besides Pacific, Topps and someone called T&M put out sets from this league, too. They’re fun for someone like me who grew up collecting a lot of those guys.