I’ve shared pieces of my Aaron collection here before. It includes bobbleheads, magazines, milestone home run “I was there” certificates, postcards, and of course the obvious: baseball cards.
For the most part, the collection had felt complete (or at least done) over the last year or so given that the only items on my checklist are way out of my price range. A typical example is Aaron’s 1972 Topps Cloth Sticker test issue, a recent copy of which just sold for about $600.
Of course that was before I came across a Brewers Spring Training program from 1975.
In truth, I tend to limit my magazine/program collecting tends to what Mark Armour would call “primary subject” covers. With this particular program, taxonomy is a bit complicated in that Aaron is the only named player but his image is much smaller than that of the batter and catcher shown, to whom we’ll now turn our attention.
At first glance these two players appear to be generic ballplayers reminiscent of the generic athletes that donned our ubiquitous Pee Chee (not to be confused with O-Pee-Chee) folders in elementary school.
However, there was no question who served as the model for at least the catcher.
It would be fair to ask if the similarity here is simply coincidental or if the match is exact. For this it is useful to overlay the two images. Rather than use the Bowman card, which crops away portions of Campy I’ll use the original photo upon which the Bowman image was based.
Since I am not only an Aaron collector but a Campanella collector as well, this discovery promoted the program from mere curiosity to must have, particularly given the very reasonable $5 price tag involved.
Through no lack of attempts I was ultimately unable to determine who the program’s batter (“Bento”) might have been. The name and uniform number made me think of Johnny Bench, though the handedness was a problem.
Perusing Getty Images I found shots of Rose, Maris, Yaz, and others that were similar but never exact. Still, as they say on the “X Files,” I do suspect the truth is out there.
Barring a miracle find from one of our readers, the one person who does (probably) know is the artist, whose last name is clearly Broadway but whose first name is less evident (Lonn? Ronn? Tom?).
Leaving the mystery of the batter unsolved for the moment, we can at last turn our attention to the Home Run King.
A keen-eyed Twitter user had no trouble finding the source photograph for Aaron himself.
From there it’s easy to imagine the graphic designer (perhaps Mr. Broadway himself) cutting out a Brewers hat logo (or just a capital M) from another photograph and gluing it over the Braves logo. One source I can rule out is the 1974 Topps Brewers team set where the closest match would require reversing the image of Bobby Mitchell’s card 497.
Is the result rather amateur? Absolutely, but in fairness there may not have been any photographs of Aaron in a Brewers cap at the time the program went to press, right? Oh but wait, what’s this on page 6 of this very program?!
Aaron is also featured (but with no photo) in the brief 1975 season preview on page 4 of the program. As the writer notes–
The addition of the all-time home run king Hank Aaron fills the designated hitter spot of the Brewers, a spot that last year produced only 14 home runs, 62 runs batted in, and a .222 batting average.
Almost on cue, Aaron’s 1975 slash line was .234/12/60.
Were I to rank my Top 100 Henry Aaron collectibles, this Spring Training program would fall far below even the bottom of the list. At the same time, were I to rank them by their oddity or mystery it probably makes the top five. After all, even if you solve the riddle of Bento, I now challenge you to identify the players on page 16…
And most importantly…what the heck is going on with dad’s hair on page 5? All I’ve been able to figure out so far is that the artist went on to work for Fleer in 1989. 😊
ANSWERS TO PICTURE CHALLENGES
Congratulations to Don Sherman who was the first to identify the page 16 artwork as coming from the 1946 National League playoff between the Dodgers and Cardinals.
Umpire is Babe Pinelli, catcher is Bruce Edwards, and batter is Red Schoendienst.
Multiple readers correctly identified the two most prominent figures on page 19 as Yogi Berra and Don Larsen following the final out of Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series. However, the jury is still out on which other players are “going for the gusto” in the image.