Cardboard Typos and Gripe-o’s—Part 1

For nearly 30 years, editing has brought home my bacon. It wasn’t my desired profession; I fell into it like an open manhole—and I’m still trying to climb my way out. The grammatical, punctuational, and syntactic boo-boos I fix have been mostly in the medical and pharmaceutical fields, but they’ve been pretty easy to spot in my spare time as well—which means, to a degree, on the backs, and sometimes fronts, of baseball cards.

Years ago, I began jotting down factual errors and spelling typos (punctuation issues and lack of hyphenation are so rampant that chronicling them would be a never-ending and pointless task). I do not keep abreast of baseball card commentary as vigilantly as I once did, so at least one of the following errors has been posted elsewhere, which means that others—maybe many—in this simple and hardly comprehensive multi-part list might also have been documented in that long interim.

  • Lefty Gomez was born on November 26, 1908. This is according to the Baseball Hall of Fame, his SABR biography, Baseball Reference, and his own daughter, via her excellent biography of Gomez. Yet virtually all of Lefty’s cards, including his 1933 and 1936 Goudey, 1940 and ’41 Play Ball, 1941 Double Play, and 1961 Fleer, denote Lefty’s birthdate as November 26, 1910. Obviously, an erroneous year of birth circulated in an official capacity for a long time.
  • 1952 Topps Mickey Vernon (#106): In the penultimate line of Mickey’s bio, “Assists” is botched as “Asists.” This is especially shoddy work considering that the same word is correctly spelled just three words to the left.
  • 1958 Bob Lemon (#2): The right-hand cartoon states that Bob won “200” games in seven different seasons. Well, I’m pretty certain Bob would not have had to wait 13 years and 14 elections to make the Hall of Fame had he A) won 200 games in a season, and B) racked up more than 1400 victories in his career. (However, just as mathematician Edward Kasner, through his young nephew, gave the world the unit known as the googol (10100), I suggest that Major League Baseball follow Topps’ inadvertent suggestion that a 200-win season be coined a Zeeeeeeeringg!—regardless of today’s reliance on the bullpen.)
  • 1933 Goudey John (Jack) Ogden (#176): Similarly to Lefty Gomez, this card states than Ogden was born November 5, 1898, when, in actuality, Ogden was born on this date in 1897.
  • 1961 Topps Billy Loes (#237): In the cartoon on the right, “Dodgers” is misspelled as “Dogers.” I’ve no idea if this was an extremely early attempt at a crypto-baseball card…
  • 1960 Nu-Card Baseball Scoops Merkle Pulls Boner (#17): This one must be well known—at least it should be thanks to its egregiousness. The year is embarrassingly incorrect in the byline—Fred Merkle’s infamous failure to touch second base in that “semi-fateful” tie between the Giants and Cubs took place in 1908, not 1928. (I say “semi-fateful” because the outcome was blown out of proportion by the media and saddled poor Fred with an unfair albatross for the rest of his life—New York beat Chicago the following day and moved into first place.) Nu-Card does have it correct on the reverse. However, to add insult to injury, it repeated the error on the Merkle card in the 1961 set (#417).
  • 1955 Bowman Jim Piersall (#16): Across the first and second lines, Bowman botched the spelling of “American.” If an American company can’t spell “American,” it’s not going to be around much longer, eh Bowman?

  • 1951 Topps Dom DiMaggio (#20): Dominic’s name incorrectly possesses a “k” at the end. Topps rectified this in 1952.

Where has your “k” gone, Dom DiMaggio

Topps rationed you one, then finally got a clue

Woo, woo, woo

The 1963 Bazooka All-Time Greats set contains its share of miscues.

  • Nap Lajoie (#8): The final sentence refers to Nap as “the lefty swinger,” even though the famous Frenchman was one of the most celebrated right-handed hitters of his era. As well, his bio fails to mention overtly that Nap’s epochal .422 season in 1901 occurred with the Philadelphia Athletics, not the Phillies. (Additionally, his career totals of batting average and home runs, as well as his 1901 batting mark, are erroneous; however, these stem from his career totals having been revised through extended research since the card’s issuance—an unremarkable fact that likely pertains to many other vintage cards.)
  • Al Simmons (#22): Simmons’ bio opens, “Al played with six different major league ballteams…” and concludes by listing them. Unfortunately, the Bazooka folks failed to count his half-season with the 1939 Boston Bees, making a total of 7 teams on his major league resume. Of course, no one wants their time with the Boston Bees to be remembered, but we’ve got to own up to it…
  • Johnny Evers (#21): That Johnny was a part of “the famous double-play combination of Evers to Tinker to Chance” stands as technically accurate—certainly, many of those celebrated twin-kills went 4-6-3—but this description flies in the face of Franklin P. Adams’ famous poem that made household names of Evers and his Cubs compatriots. Thanks to “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon” (originally published as “That Double Play Again”), the refrain “Tinker to Evers to Chance” literally entered baseball’s lexicon and has always been known in that specific order. Perhaps it’s fortunate that Adams did not live to see his most celebrated work inexplicably altered—not only does “Evers to Tinker to Chance” not possess the geometric simplicity and aesthetic superiority of Adams’ original refrain, but tinkering with classic literature is a no-no of the first magnitude. After all, mighty Casey didn’t pop up…
  • Mel Ott (#36): Okay, this one is very nitpicky—but it’s precisely an editor’s task to split hairs. Mel’s bio states that he “acted as playing-manager from 1942 through 1948.” Although it’s accurate that Ott piloted the Giants from right field beginning in 1942, he last performed this dual role during the 1947 season, as he put in 4 pinch-hitting appearances; Mel was New York’s manager solely from the dugout during the 1948 season (replaced after 75 games by Leo Durocher).
  • Walter Johnson (#12): Many totals of pre-war players have been modified by Major League Baseball over the years, so I have refrained from mentioning totals on older cards that do not jibe with present-day totals. However, Walter Johnson’s shutout record of 110 has long been celebrated and its quantity never really in doubt. Yet his 1963 Bazooka mentions that he threw 114. A shutout is not something readily miscalculated from old days to new. Even if Bazooka was including his post-season shutouts—which upped Walter’s total only to 111—it was still significantly off the mark. 
  • Christy Mathewson (#4): Bazooka boasts that Christy won 374 games and tossed 83 shutouts. Bazooka blundered on both counts. I’m not sure how you can miscount shutouts—a pitcher either pitches the entire game or he doesn’t, and he either permits at least 1 run or he doesn’t. Neither of these conditions is subject to revision at a later date like an RBI total being amended thanks to an overlooked sacrifice fly. So, I must assume that Bazooka was including his World Series work, because Christy hurled 79 shutouts in the regular season—and it’s impossible to imagine that the text’s author was off by 4 shutouts. More significantly, 374 victories is disconcerting statistically because Christy’s official total when he retired was 372. It became a significant issue when Grover Cleveland Alexander surpassed it in August 1929, snatching the all-time National League lead from Christy. During the 1940s, an extra win was discovered that was added to Mathewson’s total, lifting him into a permanent tie with Alexander (to Ol’ Pete’s chagrin). Both have famously remained atop the NL heap ever since, at 373. Bazooka cannot be counting postseason victories here, because Christy won 5 in the Fall Classic, including the 3 shutouts in 1905 that it mentions in his bio—so “374” is pure sloppiness. Would Bazooka include World Series totals for shutouts but not for victories in the same sentence? It’s baffling. Bazooka Joe was not cut out for this job…
  • 1928 W502 Strip Card Paul Waner (#45): I’ve never seen anyone mention this error—but I cannot be the first to realize that the player depicted is irrefutably not “Big Poison”; it’s teammate Clyde Barnhart. This same photo was used for multiple 1928 F50 issues, including Tharp’s Ice Cream, Yuengling’s Ice Cream, Harrington’s Ice Cream, and Sweetman—making the seeming dearth of awareness of this incorrect photo all the more curious.  

  • 1948 Bowman Bobby Thomson (#47): Well before Bobby became a byword for the home run, Bowman was confounding home run totals of Thomson’s former minor league team, the Jersey City Giants. Bobby’s bio declares that his 26 round-trippers in 1946 eclipsed the previous team record of 18, set in 1938. Although Thomson’s mark did, in fact, set a new team record, the mark he broke had not been 18—belted by former major league star Babe Herman that season—but by Herman’s teammate, Tom Winsett, who clubbed 20. (Additionally, Al Glossop poked 19 the following season, making Bowman’s account of the fallen record even “more” false.) Bobby’s 1949 Bowman card (#18) reiterates the same mistake, making it something of a twice-told tale.
  • 1977 TCMA–Renata Galasso Carl Furillo (#11): As any Ebbets field denizen could tell you, the Reading Rifle was a right-handed shot. Carl must have been deliberately trying to fool the photographer, because it’s clearly not a case of the negative being reversed as Carl does his best Koufax.

That’s enough for Part 1. Part 2 will largely target several especially sloppy sets and subsets.

7 thoughts on “Cardboard Typos and Gripe-o’s—Part 1”

  1. I have a similar story. Slightly off the mark from yours. I have come to the conclusion that I have more baseball collectibles and cards than I have years left. So, I have been selling my old cards on eBay under my member id of “micromos” since my kids don’t have an interest in them.
    As I am listing my cards, I found some interesting things about them and the players. I got a chuckle out of some of them so I thought I would share these insights in case anyone was interested. These are in no particular order. These are listed as:
    1957 #120 Bob Lemon – Cleveland – Pitcher Bob’s card states in 1941 & 1942 he played 3rd base and pinch hit. There are no stats for those years on the back of his card!
    1959 #133 Bob Lillis – Dodgers – shortstop – rookie card – batted .391 but only in 20 games – nice start
    1961 #149 Bob Oldis – Pittsburg – unhappy face
    1968 #571 Tony Larussa – A’s – looks like he could have been part vulcan!
    1959 #329 George Bamberger – Orioles – picked up from the Giants for 1959 – sent to Vancouver before being used only for 6 innings in 2 years for the Giants. Poor George but eventually became a manager years later.
    1965 #207 Pete Rose – cartoon shows him stuffing 63 Rookie of the year trophy into a Volkswagen?
    1956 #165 Red Schoendienst – great photo showing Red sliding into home safely as the ball rolls away!
    1967 #88 Mickey Lolich – card says he had more than 200 strikeouts in the last 3 years – actually he had 192 – 220 – 173.
    1967 #112 Wickersham – 6 years in the minors – before making the majors at age 26 – long road!
    1966 #378 Willie Horton – Tiger team card states Horton had 262 RBI’s in 1965. WOW – he only had 100!
    1967 #192 Fred Gladding – First 6 years he was 20 – 7 with 2.92 era. Finished with 48-34 with 3.13 (13 years) with Detroit he was 26-11 overall!
    1969 #45 Maury Wills – photo – got face bombed
    1959 #527 Solly Hemus – Only official manager card issued that year
    1977 # 89 Butch Hobson – Clell was his unusual first name.
    1965 #26 Knoop – A little gas?
    1955 #109 Lopat – record was 12–4 /3.55 at age 37 – 26 games, 170 innings = 6.54 each – great pitcher!
    1958 cards – best looking card backs
    Donn Ross

    Like

    1. Yes, they did not do their homework. There may be more. I revised the article to include Christy Mathewson’s card, which I was saving for Part 2 but then figured it would be better included with the others. THanks for your comment.

      Like

  2. One aspect of this that I’ve recently developed a lot of experience in is the ages and birthdates on card backs, particularly for 1930s players. I’d estimate about 20% of players had different (recognized) birthdays back then, with the birth year often being 1-3 years later than what we recognize today. The discrepancies didn’t so much originate with the baseball cards as they did propagate onto baseball cards. In that sense, I don’t tend to regard the cards as error cards. Rather I grant license that the resources of the era weren’t as authoritative as they are today.

    As luck would have it, my next two articles for this blog are on exactly this topic.

    Like

    1. I was going to make a similar comment – an error in any reference book would likely carry on for a long time. I don’t think of those as the same type of “error” as the one Donruss kept making with Andy Nezelek. Uncorrected birthdate in 1989 Donruss (birthyear listed as 1985) and in 1990 Donruss made the same error. They finally corrected it in 1990 Donruss factory sets.

      Still, sometimes even in recent years it’s not the card company’s fault. Through 2004, Topps had Adrian Beltre’s birthyear as 1978; in 2005 they had it as 1979. Baseball-reference lists it as 1979, so it seems like Topps made an error for many years (beginning in 1997 with his Bowman card). But then you remember that the Dodgers actually made Beltre older so they could sign him and you realize Topps was just following the official record. Of course, the information about Beltre’s true age seemed to come out in 1999, which makes one wonder why Topps waited so long to correct his birthyear. Fleer and Upper Deck had corrected the birthyear by 2001 (I didn’t look through all their products in 2000, so there may be some that have the updated birthyear), Pacific seemed to not list birthdates on the card back, and Playoff, which started producing MLB cards in 2001, was using 1979.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I would think that players in the more distant past would see it as an advantage to provide birth dates a year or two later than their actual birth year. I’ve run into that on a couple of my SABR bios. For example, the Yankees Duke Maas played two years younger than he actually was. I don’t have any Maas cards, but the ’57 Baseball Register lists him as born in 1931, even though it was 1929.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s