A Tribute to Nate Colbert through Topps Cards

This article was written by Bruce Markusen. You can find Bruce on Twitter at @markusen_s.

There’s little doubt that Nate Colbert enjoyed his 76 years on this earth. Colbert, who died earlier this month, always seemed happy. And he loved to smile. Evidence of that can be found on his 1969 Topps card, where he flashes a full and uncontrolled smile for the cameraman. Although Colbert was still an unproven player at the time the photograph was taken, his card seems to reflect his sheer happiness over simply being in the major leagues.

Aside from his extreme and ever-present smile, something else stands out about Colbert’s 1969 Topps card. He is not wearing a cap, not for the team that first signed him (the St. Louis Cardinals), not for his previous team (the Houston Astros), or his new team (the San Diego Padres). The decision to have players pose capless was a common technique used by Topps at the time. In the event that a player changed teams over the course of the winter or during spring training, the capless photographs maintained a more generic appearance.  With the capless pose, Topps could easily crop the photo so as to eliminate the name or logo of the old team on the jersey. 

In the case of Colbert, other factors were at play. As an expansion team, the Padres had yet to play a game, which would have theoretically limited Topps’ opportunities for an updated photograph showing Colbert wearing his new team’s colors. More pertinently, in a development involving all major league players in 1969, a lingering dispute between Topps and the MLB Players Association caused havoc with the production of baseball cards. Unhappy with the paltry compensation given to players for the rights to use their images on cards, Marvin Miller had instructed players to refuse posing for photographs in 1968, both during spring training and the regular season. That explains why so many of the cards in the 1969 Topps set feature photographs that are two or three years old (or even older). Those photos often depict traded or otherwise relocated players without caps, or sometimes show them from angles that obscure the logos of their old teams.

In contrast, Colbert would appear on Topps cards in his full Padres regalia from 1970 to 1974. By 1970, the union had negotiated a new and far more favorable deal with Topps, allowing the card company to resume its business of taking updated photographs. Of that series of Colbert cards, the most memorable is the 1973 version, which once again gives us a smiling Colbert. Even more noticeable is Colbert’s uniform, the Padres’ all-yellow uniforms that they first introduced in 1972.

Those duds, arguably the gaudiest uniforms of an outlandish era, may have been ugly, but as Colbert pointed out during a 2008 visit to the Hall of Fame, he looked at that uniform with a philosophical approach. “The yellow ones, which were called ‘Mission Gold’—I don’t know where they got that name from—when I first put them on, I felt really embarrassed. But I looked at it like, this is the major leagues; this is the uniform I was required to wear,” said Colbert. “I took a lot of ribbing, especially from the Reds and Pirates players. Even my mother used to tease me. She said I looked like a caution light that was stuck.”

While Colbert would become most associated with the Padres’ yellow-and-brown look, his career path could have gone far differently; he might very well have worn the more conservative cap and uniform of the New York Yankees. As an amateur free agent in 1964, the year before the major league draft came into being, Colbert was pursued aggressively by the Yankees. They had promised to exceed any offers given to him by any other team, but ultimately Colbert chose to go elsewhere.

If the Yankees had signed Colbert, they presumably would have brought him to the majors by the late 1960s. That would have been good timing for a struggling franchise filled with aging players and prospects who were not up the standards of the organization during its glory years. In particular, the Yankees had an unstable situation at first base. The retirement of Mickey Mantle at the start of spring training in 1969 forced the Yankees to switch Joe Pepitone from the outfield to first base. But Pepitone himself would depart after the 1969 season, via a trade with Colbert’s old team, the Astros.

From 1970 to 1973, the Yankees struggled to find anyone capable of giving them the ideal power expected from a first baseman. Role players like Danny Cater, Johnny Ellis, and Mike Hegan, the oft-injured Ron Blomberg, and an aging Felipe Alou took turns playing the position. Blomberg was the best hitter of the group, but injuries curtailed his production, while his poor defensive play made him a better fit at DH starting in 1973. Even if healthy, it’s doubtful that Blomberg would have matched the production of Colbert. A young Colbert would have supplied some much-needed right-handed power to a Yankees lineup that leaned heavily to the left.

But Colbert-to-the-Yankees never happened. He briefly considered the Yankees’ offer before choosing to sign with his hometown team, the St. Louis Cardinals. That was Colbert’s dream; he had always wanted to play for the same team as one of his boyhood heroes, Stan Musial. Unfortunately, the Cardinals did not think Colbert was ready to succeed Bill White at first base and had no room for him in left field (where Lou Brock resided). After the 1965 season, the Cardinals left Colbert unprotected in the Rule Five draft.

The Astros jumped in and picked up Colbert, who by the requirements of Rule Five had to stay on the major league roster the entire season or be offered back to the Cardinals. In the spring of ’66, Colbert made his major league debut. According to Colbert, he became the second member of his family to play in the major leagues, after his father, Nate, Sr. The younger Colbert claimed that his father was a catcher who was a onetime batterymate of the great Satchel Paige, but there is no official record of Nate Colbert, Sr. having appeared in an official Negro Leagues game.  

As for the junior Colbert, he played in only 19 games for the Astros, accumulating a mere seven at-bats without a hit. For some reason, Astros manager Grady Hatton refused to use Colbert in the field, instead giving him only the handful of bats and a few pinch-running appearances. It turned out to be a wasted summer for the 20-year-old Colbert.

By 1967, the Astros were free to send Colbert back to the minor leagues, where he could accrue both actual playing time and badly needed experience. They assigned him to the Amarillo Sonics, their Double-A affiliate in the Texas League. He then returned to the Astros midway through 1968 and was later given a September looksee at first base, but he did not hit well and showed a propensity for striking out. He also clashed with Astros manager Harry Walker, who tried to force Colbert into becoming a contact hitter who hit to all fields. Colbert wanted to pull the ball—and hit with power.

Still, Colbert found his fair share of fun away from the field. Some of that came through sharing a clubhouse with the most colorful teammate of his career. During his visit to Cooperstown in 2008, where he regaled visitors with stories from his major league days, Colbert recalled playing with Doug Rader, the quirky and unpredictable third baseman who was forever playing pranks and testing the limits of sanity. “When we were with the Astros,” Colbert said, “[Rader] and one of the guys, another player on the team, went down to the pet store. That’s when it was legal to own alligators. And they bought three alligators, baby alligators. They waited until we were all in the shower, and they let them loose in the shower, down in Cocoa, Florida. We were trying to climb the walls, these little baby alligators all around us.”

Rader made life in Houston memorable for Colbert, but he longed for an opportunity to do more on the field. A much-needed break would soon come his way. After the 1968 season, the National League added the Padres and the Montreal Expos as expansion franchises. The Astros left Colbert unprotected in the expansion draft, giving the Padres the chance to select his contract. With the 18th pick of the draft, after such obscure selections as infielder Jose Arcia and pitcher Al Santorini, the Padres took Colbert. He would soon become their best player.

After starting the season in a platoon role at first base, Colbert caught the attention of his new manager, Preston Gomez. At first, the Padres planned to platoon Colbert with the lefty-hitting Bill Davis, who was six-feet, seven-inches tall and was known as “The Jolly Green Giant.” Colbert went on a short hot streak, impressing Gomez. The Padres soon traded Davis, clearing the way for Colbert to play every day.

From 1969 to 1972, Colbert put up huge power numbers, twice hitting 38 home runs in a season and twice posting slugging percentages of better than .500. Those numbers become even more impressive given his home ballpark, San Diego Stadium, which featured a distance of 420 feet to center field and outfield walls that stood 17 feet high. In 1972, Colbert’s best year, he collected 111 RBIs, accounting for nearly 23 per cent of the Padres’ run total for the season. That remarkable 23 percent figure remains a major league record.

Colbert was never better than he was on August 1 that season, when the Padres played a doubleheader against the Braves at Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium. Colbert hit two home runs in the first game, one against Ron Schueler and one against Mike McQueen, and then smacked three more in the nightcap, victimizing Pat Jarvis, Jim Hardin, and Cecil Upshaw.

The fifth home run matched the doubleheader record set by his boyhood hero, Musial. (To make the story even better, Colbert claimed that he was one of the fans in attendance at Sportsman’s Park the day that Musial hit his five home runs.) Rather dramatically, Colbert hit the record-tying home run in the ninth inning against Upshaw, a tough right-handed reliever who threw with a submarine delivery. That home run gave Colbert 13 RBIs for the doubleheader, establishing a record for a single day.

Colbert’s years with the Padres provided other memorable moments, including the infamous night in April of 1974 when new team owner Ray Kroc took over the public address system on Opening Night at San Diego Stadium. “Well, we had just gotten thumped in LA,” said Colbert, setting the scene. “And we came home… and were getting thumped again [by the Astros]. So I was the hitter, and somebody comes on the mike and says, ‘People of San Diego…’ It scared me, I thought it was God. You know, I thought, oh gosh, the rapture was coming, and I’m not ready. And he said, ‘I want to apologize for such stupid baseball playing.’ So in protest, I said to myself, I’m not swinging.’ I just stood there and I walked… We eventually got a rally going. We scored five runs [actually three runs]. He [Kroc] apologized to us later. And I told him, ‘You own us. You can say what you want!’ ”

That same season, Colbert struggled in making the transition to the outfield. The Padres moved him there to make up for wintertime acquisition Willie McCovey, who took over first base. That was also the summer that Colbert’s chronic and longstanding back problems worsened. Diagnosed with a congenital condition caused by degermation of his vertebrae, Colbert’s hitting mechanics were severely affected by 1974, leaving him with a batting average of .207 and a paltry 14 home runs. That winter, the Padres traded Colbert, sending him to the Detroit Tigers for a package of shortstop Eddie Brinkman, outfielder Dick Sharon, and a minor league pitcher named Bob Strampe.

Colbert would spend an unproductive tenure of two and a half months in Detroit before being sold to the Montreal Expos at the June 15th trading deadline. (That explains why Colbert appeared on only one Topps card as a member of the Tigers. Appropriately, the 1975 card shows him with an upturned cap and another large smile.) He would fare little better with the Expos before being released in June of 1976.

Later that summer, Colbert signed with the Oakland A’s. Although he appeared in only two games and went hitless in five at-bats for the A’s, he enjoyed his time playing for another controversial owner, one who surpassed Ray Kroc for unpredictable behavior. “As far as Charlie Finley, I loved Charlie Finley,” Colbert said. “I thought he was awesome. When he traded for me, he told me that he always wanted me to play for him. He told me couldn’t afford me the next year [1977], but he wanted me to have a good time that year [1976]. He told me if I needed anything, just call him. He treated my wife and I very well.”

Becoming a free agent after the 1976 season, Colbert drew little interest from teams. One team, the expansion Toronto Blue Jays, offered him an invite to spring training as a non-roster player. Colbert took the offer, but his back problems persisted, resulting in his release early in spring camp. The release officially ended his major league career.

It was during his brief tenure in Oakland that Colbert met his wife, Kasey, to whom he remained married for the rest of his life. The couple would have nine children and 22 grandchildren. They both became ministers and co-owners of an organization that provided advice and counseling to amateur athletes considering careers at the professional level.

While Colbert did a lot of good work with kids, his post-baseball life also involved controversy. In 1990, Colbert was indicted on 12 felony counts of fraudulent loan applications. He listed real estate assets that he did not actually own on several loan applications to banks. Under the maximum penalty, he could have faced 40 years in prison, but Colbert eventually pled guilty to only one charge and served six months in a medium-security facility.

After his release from prison, Colbert returned to his ministry and opened up several baseball schools. He also served briefly as a minor league manager in two independent leagues before again returning fulltime to his ministry work.

In more recent years, Colbert hosted a weekly radio show on KBAD Radio, an affiliate of NBC. He also hoped to write a book about his experiences, including his work as a minister, though he never did embark on such a project. But for Colbert, his ministry was clearly his obsession. “I love to pray,” Colbert said during his visit to the Hall of Fame. “And I love to teach. I love the involvement with other people.”

Given the broad smile on his 1969, 1973, and 1975 Topps cards, Nate Colbert’s affinity for people should have come as no surprise. He made life fun for many of his teammates and helped a lot of youngsters along the way. And there’s little doubt that he enjoyed just about every day that he spent playing our game.

Baseball card megaproject

We may have something fun going on where your help would be awesome. Though the final product will likely take the form of a series of nearly 100 blog articles, it’s also fun to think of this as a really long book, one where each page tells the story of a different baseball card and the book, collectively, not only tells the story of baseball cards but baseball itself.

Think of this post as an example of how the book might begin, though your feedback and ideas may well replace the examples here with even better ones. Definitely let us know your thoughts in the comments, and more importantly, add your card ideas to our Google Sheet.

Page 1

When card collectors think of the number “one,” the card they think of may depend on their age and collecting interests. For collectors of 1952 Topps, it’s Andy Pafko. For Goudey collectors, it’s Benny Bengough. For very new collectors, it may well be Shohei Ohtani or Mike Trout. And for just about everyone in between, the answer is Junior.

1989 Upper Deck #1

Ken Griffey, Jr., not only led off Upper Deck’s debut set but did so emphatically. As if the tamper-resistant packs, the hologrammed cards, the color photo backs, and the high sticker price weren’t enough to make the Hobby take notice, the positioning of Junior at the top of the checklist boldly announced that this was the company that loved unproven rookies just as much as you did.

It’s also possible that this “one” impacted all future “ones.” Prior to 1989, the top slot often went to top stars but sometimes went to record breakers, league leaders, and team cards of World Series winners. Post-Griffey, card one is nearly always a stud if not a statement.

Page Two

The number two is largely ubiquitous in baseball: double plays, two-base hits, a number two starter, and of course the doubleheader. As luck would have it, Topps not only issued a second set of cards, Double Headers, as a companion to its 1955 offering, but the set just happened to include the Hall of Famer most synonymous with doubleheaders, Mr. Let’s Play Two himself. (Apologies to the Iron Man McGinnity die-hards out there.)

1955 Topss Double Headers #31/32

The 1955 Topps Double Headers set must have struck young collectors as completely unique and original: a card that could be folded into a different card (not to mention cards that could be arranged with other cards to build ballpark panoramas)! Older collectors, however, may have recognized its origins and inspiration in a set 44 years earlier, the 1911 Mecca Double Folders. (And for the McGinnity fans, yes, he has a card in it!)

Page Three

The number three in baseball is practically synonymous with a certain Yankee slugger, but we’ll go here instead with a Yankee slayer, Lew Burdette.

1960 Nu-Cards Baseball Hi-Lites #35

Burdette famously pitched and won three complete games, the last two by shutout, to defeat the New York Yankees in 1957 and bring Milwaukee fans their first and only World Series title. In burying the Bombers, Burdette became the first pitcher of the live ball era to record three complete game victories in a World Series, a feat since repeated by both Bob Gibson (1967) and Mickey Lolich (1968).

While cards celebrating historical achievement are commonplace in today’s Hobby (e.g., ToppsNow and Topps “Turn Back the Clock”), this was not always the case. However, the period from 1959-62 was something of a golden age for honoring the past. In addition to the Nu-Cards sets of 1960 and 1961, Topps included “Baseball Thrills” subsets in 1959 and 1961. (The 1961 set also honored past MVPs.) Topps followed this with a “Babe Ruth Special” subset in 1962.

Fleer, meanwhile, made its return to baseball in 1959 with an 80-card set celebrating the life and career of Ted Williams, following up in 1960 and 1961-62 with sets of “Baseball Greats.” Golden Press also joined the fun in 1961 with an all-time greats set issued magazine style.

Page Four

With apologies to Mel Ott, Hack Wilson, and Duke Snider, baseball’s iconic number 4 will always be the Iron Horse, Lou Gehrig. Fittingly, Gehrig is also card #4 in the underrated and under-the-radar 1994 Upper Deck All-Time Heroes set.

1994 Upper Deck All-Time Heroes #4

The scene depicted by the card is one that define’s Lou Gehrig’s life and legacy even more than his statistics or famous streak. “…Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

Page 5

The 1970s blessed the Hobby with no small number of amazing catcher cards, cards which by the way hold their own nicely against any of the top cards of the decade. Rather than declare best, we will focus on first. Five cards into the 1971 Topps set, collectors were greeted with cardboard perfection.

1971 Topps #5

Seriously, what’s not to like? The groovy landscape layout, the black borders, the sizeable All-Star Rookie trophy, a head-first and helmet-free Chuck Dobson, the glorious Oakland green and gold…oh, and the great Thurman Munson! This card has it all!

Nobably, the 1971 Topps Thurman Munson also represents a true rarity in the modern Hobby: a second-year card more coveted than the player’s rookie card. (Another good example is Ron Cey, but the reason is very different. Ditto Cey teammate Steve Garvey.)

Page 6

Many great players have worn the number six, and one top-shelf immortal even carried the nickname Big Six. Still, we’ll go a different direction in selecting a “six” card. Here is Gus Zernial of the Philadephia Athletics seemingly defying the laws of physics with his bat and six baseballs.

1952 Topps #31

The card must have caught the eye of many a young gum chewer in its day, but what does the picture represent? Why six baseballs? Flip the card over and you find the answer: “Gus also tied the major league record for the most home runs in 3 straight games with 6 circuit clouts and hit 7 in 4 straight games to tie the American League mark.”

The year of the record, 1951, was the first of three 30+ home run campaigns for Zernial, his high of 42 coming in 1953. While his 1952 Topps card is more famous today than his stat line, Gus actually retired in 1959 36th on the all-time home run list.

Records aside, the Zernial card stands out in a set filled with portraits and staid baseball poses and offers a “fun factor” that stacks up with even the most whimsical Fleer cards that followed three decades later.

Page 7

Seven can mean many things in baseball: Nolan Ryan’s no-hitters, the number of innings in each half of a Manfred doubleheader, and of course the Mick’s iconic jersey number. Or it can mean a really incredible day at the plate.

1976 Topps #6

Or an amazing run of home run crowns…

1977 Topps #437

Or an amazing run of strikeout crowns!

1973 Fleer Famous Feats #4

Page 8

The number eight in baseball most famously (or infamously!) is associated with scandal: the “Eight Men Out” in the wake of the 1919 World Series. Apart fom later tribute sets, there is no “playing era” set that includes all eight of the Black Sox banned for life. However, the W514 strip card set of 1919-21 comes the closest, offering seven of the eight.

1919-21 W515 cards 3, 15, 31, 35, 82, 91, 105

For readers unfamiliar with strip cards they were, as the name implies, cut from longer strips. In most cases, the cards themselves were not inserted in products the way tobacco and gum cards were. Rather, they were given out to customers as rewards or premiums for buying other things. For example, you might imagine a customer spending a penny on some gumballs and then receiving one of these cards as a token of appreciation for the purchase.

The heyday of strip cards was without a doubt the 1920s, a decade that–along with caramel cards–filled the gap between the tobacco era (1880s-1910s) and the gum era (1930s-1990s). Many collectors find strip cards unappealing due to their hand-cut nature or (often) low quality artwork and printing. If you search the web you will find no shortage of hideous examples. That said, the W514 set is an important one in Hobby history if for nothing else its abundance of Black Sox, and a later strip card set from 1923 is equally notable as it represented the debut of Fleer baseball cards in the Hobby.

Page 9

Nine innings, nine players to a side, and ninety feet between bases…few numbers are more important in baseball than the number nine. Likewise, few players have been as accomplished in baseball as Boston’s number 9, Ted Williams.

1959 Fleer #44

The 1959 Fleer set serves as a cardboard tribute to #9. Its 80 cards chronicle his life and career from boyhood to (then) present day, both on and off the field. At the time it was produced, it was by far the largest single player set to date. (Notable but much smaller sets featured–of course–Babe Ruth and–more surprisingly–Rabbit Maranville.)

Card 44 in the set depicts Williams, still very much in the prime of his career, hanging up his famous jersey as he prepares once more to go off to war. Overall, Williams would miss nearly five full years of baseball in service to his country, and one can only imagine what numbers those five years might have added to his career totals. Fairly conservative estimates might be 170 hits and 30 home runs per year, taking the Splendid Splinter from 2654 hits to around 3500 and from 521 home runs to nearly 700.

Of course, what Ted did do during those five missing seasons mattered too and perhaps added to his legend even more than the extra numbers would have.

Page 10

When modern collectors think “10,” it’s the grade they hope their card receives from popular grading services like PSA, Beckett, or SGC. Where grades are concerned, 10 is synonymous with gem mint, the very top of the scale (ignoring silly modifiers like black diamond elite).

Certainly their thoughts are a million miles away from the obscure ballplayers of more than a century ago who patrolled the outfields of the rainy Pacific Northwest. Or should I say Ten Million miles away?

1909-11 Obak PCL/NWL

The unusually named Ten Million made his only cardboard appearance in the 1909-11 Obak tobacco card set, a set that carried a similar design to the contemporary T206 set of Honus Wagner fame. His card, as you might imagine, represented the largest number (at the time) ever seen on a baseball card, topping the previous record by a factor of a hundred.

Other researchers will have to determine the current record, but we will offer here, perhaps surprisingly, that Ten Million was at least matched a few years later by the 1914 Cracker Jack set.

1914 Cracker Jack Stuffy McInnis

Evidently, before there was junk wax, there were junk jacks!

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

So all of what you just read is the main idea here, but now picture the “pages” extending well beyond 1-10, potentially as high as 792, 793, or even higher. Would there be long stretches of numbers with no interesting cards? Maybe. Would it take forever to finish (or even read!) such a project? Probably! Would readers second-guess many of the cards selected? Definitely!

Well, also in the “definitely” category is that this is way too much work for one or two people to do themselves. Ideally some of you will be interested in–

  • Suggesting cards to feature – add your nominations here!
  • Doing the write-up for a ten-card run, similar to what’s in this sample article
  • Providing some early feedback on what will make this megaproject awesome – feel free to use the Comments area below.

A particular question to consider is whether you’d like to see a strict match between the number we’re writing about and the number on the back of the card, as was the case with Griffey, Gehrig, and Munson above, or if you prefer the variety provided by the Eight Men Out or Ten Million.

2022 Burdick Award Winner

The Jefferson Burdick Award for contributions to the Hobby, now in its third year, is this committee’s most prestigious award. To date, our winners have been Mike Aronstein (2020) and Doug McWilliams (2021). This year, our winner needs little introduction as his very name is synonymous with the rapid growth of card collecting in the 1980s and 1990s. We are pleased to announce that the winner of the 2022 Jefferson Burdick Award is Dr. James Beckett.

For an entire generation of collectors, cracking open the latest Beckett Monthly was a ritual as exciting if not more than ripping actual packs of cards. Which new players made the Hot List? How much did the year’s most expensive rookie cards go up? Can I retire right now off my cardboard or do I really have to finish 9th grade first?! 😊

Instant access to the latest prices, which almost always went up, rarely down, surely had its drawbacks. What collector of a certain age doesn’t regret trading away a prized Sandy Koufax or Henry Aaron for a high numbers Todd Zeile or Donruss Eric Davis rookie? How much extra plastic had to be produced when at least three or four cards per pack went straight into penny sleeves if not screwdowns? And did anyone just collect for fun anymore?!

At the same time, was the Hobby ever more exciting for a greater number of people? In the Beckett’s heyday, not only were cards everywhere but collectors were too. Shows were seemingly every weekend, at least in some parts, and the Hobby was enjoyed by young and old alike. Sure, the very idea of a nine-year old cardboard day trader gave many purists pause, but in hindsight we just didn’t know how good we had it.

Kids everywhere having a blast collecting cards. Forget the why. That’s the Hobby at its best. Oh, and thanks to the Beckett, what mom in her right mind was still throwing away her kids’ collections?

But what of so many young collectors who lost their shirts chasing Kevin Maas and Brien Taylor rookies? Aren’t they bitter?

“My grandmother sent me money for my birthday one year, and I bought a subscription to Beckett,” recalls SABR member and artist Scott Hodges.
“Every month when the new issue came I would read every page and study the prices over and over. Years later, I found out my (then) wife and I were having a girl. I just knew this little girl was going to be my favorite thing in the world, just as my Beckett Monthlies had been as a kid, so there was only one logical name to give her. So yes, our daughter is named after a baseball card price guide, but really she’s named for the joy of being a kid.”

How about collector and author Tanner Jones who amassed the most expansive Jose Canseco collection on the planet? “The Beckett was everything to me back when I was a kid. I lived and died by the up/down arrows and articles. Now that I know Jim personally, I’m proud that my son, Beckett, has his name!”

Of course even before “the Beckett” was a thing or the baby name of choice for a generation of collectors turned parents, Dr. Beckett was already a household name thanks to the annual price guides he created along with co-author Denny Eckes of Den’s Collectors Den fame.

While the primary intent of these books was to attach prices to the cards and sets in our collections and want lists, they did much more than that. In the pre-internet era in which they were produced, they also provided every collector with $6.95 to spare or a birthday coming up with an inventory and checklist for virtually all the major sets in the Hobby. Four different Babe Ruth cards in 1933 Goudey? An entire set of Ted Williams cards in 1959? Cards even older than T206? For many collectors, this was how we learned such things. Jim brought baseball card knowledge and history to the masses.

Here at SABR Baseball Cards we tend to avoid the financial or business side of the Hobby. In creating our Burdick Award we were not simply looking to honor the person who amassed the most valuable collection or made the most money in the Hobby. At the same time, success is neither a disqualifier.

In his six decades (and counting) in the Hobby, Dr. James Beckett built what can rightly be called a multisport Hobby empire, one that today includes publications, grading services, livestreams, a marketplace, and a large, vibrant collecting community. The Beckett baseball “hobby talk” forum, for example, has over 800,000 posts! However, Dr. Beckett did not merely build something big. He built something special.

For at least a generation of collectors, Dr. Beckett and his monthly magazines practically were the Hobby. Even as many of the up arrows have turned to down and most of the 1990s hot lists have gone cold, the memories have continued their one-way march toward that rare air once thought only tenable by Gregg Jefferies rookies. That is to say they’ve become priceless. We thought the cards of the that great 1980s and 90s boom would fund our retirements, and we weren’t far off at all. Just take away the “d.”

Congratulations, Dr. Beckett, and thank you to all our readers who submitted a nomination. We’ll be honoring Dr. Beckett this August at the SABR annual convention in Baltimore, and we hope you can join us, either in person or virtually.

Call for Nominations – 2022 Jefferson Burdick Award

Through January 31, the SABR Baseball Cards Research Committee is accepting nominations for the Jefferson Burdick Award for Contributions to the Hobby.

NOMINATION CRITERIA

Nominations should come from active SABR members (click here to join) and honor a living person who has made significant contributions to the hobby of baseball card collecting in such areas as—

  • Research/scholarship
  • Design/production/innovation
  • Collector resources (e.g., publications, websites, communities, events)
  • Expanding access to or enjoyment of the Hobby

In short, we are looking for the individuals who have made baseball card collecting better for the rest of us.

NOMINATION AND AWARD PROCESS

Have someone in mind? Here is what we’d like you to do.

  • No later than January 31, use the Contact form on this website to let us know your nominee(s) along with with a very brief description of their role or contributions. A few sentences is sufficient at this stage in the process.
  • Be available for follow-up in case more information is needed.
  • Publicize this Call for Nominations to other SABR members with an interest in baseball cards.

On our end, we (your committee co-chairs, Nick and Jason) will vet the nominees and then work with our Awards Subcommittee to choose the award winner.

PAST RECIPIENTS

ABOUT JEFFERSON BURDICK

For a wealth of great articles on our award’s namesake, head to the Burdick section of the “Old Baseball Cards” library.

All “sorts” of fun in ’61

Committee note: This piece was submitted by SABR member Jamie Selko.

Back when I first started collecting, I kept my collection rubberbanded in the proverbial shoebox. I even, oh wretched child that I was, fastened some few of them to my bike frame with clothespins so that when the spokes would hit ‘em the bike would “sound” like I was riding a motorcycle. Alas, now that I am an aged and wretched recluse, I realize that even eight flapping baseball cards, while indeed somewhat louder than a non-carded bike (though not anywhere near as loud as a bike armed with fresh playing cards, which kept were much stiffer and kept their integrity much longer) is far (to the eighth order of magnitude) from the real thing (and , if you are riding a Harley, at least two orders of magnitude farther).

    Anyways, like many readers, I was not content to let my cards linger in dark boxy solitude, oh no. I felt a strange compulsion to arrange them into more orderly sets than the seemingly haphazard way they appeared when I opened a nickel pack of these rectangular beauties, and arrange them I did. Or, rather, rearrange them. I mean, sure, you could be content with the staunchly traditional and conservative yet quotidian “numerical order”. Or, you could put them in a much more reasonable, cosmically systematic order based not on a mere, random number, but rather on more rational and compelling qualities, qualities with a more real-world justification.

Cards the author seemingly received in every other pack of the 1961 Topps third series

    So, back when my entire collection amounted to a little more than two hundred cards, I set out to make sense of my new microverse. First, of course, I stacked the cards in teams, the most natural of all rearrangements. Next, also of course, I reorganized them by position, the second most natural of assignments. Then, if I remember correctly, I arranged them by age, then by height, position by height, position by weight, then circled back to position by age.  And I would do this each time I got a new pack of cards. (Of course, the constant reshuffling of my cards meant that they drifted farther and farther away from the now Holy Grail-like “mint”, but I didn’t (and wouldn’t have, even if I knew what was coming) give two hoots about that. Rearranging the cards (and the very cards themselves) filled me with a strange sense of joy and wonder. The joy remained until cards stopped being issued in series (although by then I was a certified baseball nut) but I kept on collecting them, basically because I thought it was somewhat more than a wonder that a 2.5 x 3.5 rectangle could not only tell us a person’s life story in a nutshell, but it also had a photo of the person in question and cartoons to boot.  How cool was that?

Two cards the author NEVER saw in packs and one he landed at least six of. Worked out okay.

    My own life might have been becoming more and more filled with errata, miscues, faux pas, disappointments, false starts, dead ends, passionate but unrequited crushes, insults, injuries and worse, but the cards never let me down. The first crinkle when I opened a fresh pack, the quick punch of the somewhat vaguely sarcophagal yet redolent bouquet of that pink bubble- gumly slab, the piquant, almost stinging taste of the way-too-sweet yet pleasantly biting first  explosive release of the compound sugars on my tongue (unsullied as they were by the later evils of high fructose corn syrup and aspartame) followed by the almost as rapid disappearance of any flavor at all and then the minutes spent working a quickly congealing gob with a consistency somewhere between Silly Putty® and sinusitic mucilage until your jaws got tired . . .  Man, kids of today just don’t know what they’re missin’.

2021 Burdick Award Winner

The Awards Subcommittee thanks everyone who made nominations for this year’s Jefferson Burdick Award. Last year we listed the finalists before announcing the winner. A large part of this was to demonstrate the breadth and variety of nominees. Due to the overlap in nominees between this year and last year as well as the fact that we consider anyone who’s been named a finalist to always be a finalist, we’ve chosen to not feature the finalists this year and just cut straight to the big reveal.

So without any further ado, we are pleased to announce that the 2021 winner for the SABR Baseball Committee’s Jefferson Burdick Award for contributions to the baseball card hobby is photographer Doug McWilliams.

Doug’s work as a baseball card photographer speaks for itself. All of us have seen his work. All of us own his work. He even donated 10,000 negatives to the Hall of Fame,* creating a huge digital collection of color images of all kinds of players from the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

*Why yes, you can search his archives there.

If you’ve ever held a baseball card from the 1970s in your hand, you’ve likely admired the impeccable artistry of Doug McWilliams’s work. His brilliant use of color, unsurpassed mastery of light, and natural rapport with his subjects made for thousands of unforgettable and classic cards, each miniature masterpieces of the genre.

—Tom Shieber, Senior Curator
National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

What makes him award-worthy though is his willingness to pull back the curtain and show us the process of how photographs end up on cards. Doug has been very generous giving interviews to both the Hall of Fame as well as this blog. These interviews are a treasure trove of information about what kinds of photos Topps wanted and the technical requirements that they had.

That cards are essentially cheap, mass-produced photos makes them a visual record of photographic technology. Being able to read about what kind of film, cameras, and lenses he used is invaluable in grounding our understanding of cards as part of that visual record.

Doug’s comments about Topps’s technical requirements on the other hand are a fascinating look at how corporate workflows and standards shape the final products in ways that most of us don’t understand. Much of the Topps “look” that we’re used to is explained by these standards which dictated what kinds of lighting and what kinds of film were to be used.

While there’s a world out there of photographs that he wanted to take but wasn’t allowed to, the photos he did take have formed an indelible part of all of our lives and we’re so much richer for him sharing the process with us. Congratulations and thank you, Doug!

UPDATE: Watch Doug’s award ceremony on YouTube!

Call for Nominations – 2021 Jefferson Burdick Award

The SABR Baseball Cards Research Committee is once again taking nominations for the Jefferson Burdick Award for Contributions to the Hobby. It was an honor and privilege to present the inaugural award to Hobby pioneer and Renaissance man Mike Aronstein of TCMA fame. (Click here for the star-studded, online ceremony.)

And no, your eyes don’t deceive you! Mike’s trophy features the highly coveted Mike Aronstein rookie card designed by Committee co-chair Nick Vossbrink.

Looking ahead to our 2021 award, here are the criteria we’d like you to consider in your nominations.

Award criteria

Yes, we are looking for YOU to nominate a worthy recipient who has made significant contributions to the hobby in such areas as–

  • Baseball card research/scholarship
  • Baseball card creation/production/innovation
  • Developing/maintaining resources (e.g., publications, websites, communities, events) for collectors
  • Increasing access, knowledge, or enjoyment

In short, we are looking for the individuals who have made baseball card collecting a better hobby for the rest of us. (Click here to see profiles of last year’s finalists.)

Award process

Have someone in mind? Here is what we’d like you to do.

  • No later than January 31, use the Contact form on this website to let us know your nominee(s) along with with a very brief description of their role or contributions. A few sentences is sufficient at this stage in the process.
  • Be available for follow-up in case more information is needed.
  • Publicize this Call for Nominations to other SABR members with an interest in cards.

On our end, we (your committee co-chairs, Nick and Jason) will vet the nominees and then work with our Awards Subcommittee* to choose the award winner.

*Subject to availability, those committee members who contributed at least 10 posts to the SABR Baseball Cards blog in the preceding year.

Award rules

A couple quick notes before closing this post and putting the ball in your court:

  • Nominees should be living at the time of nomination (and we’ll hope for their sake still alive by SABR 51!)
  • You must be a SABR member to participate in the nomination process. If you are not yet a member, please join!
  • The nomination deadline is January 31, 2021.

More about the award’s namesake

Finally, for a wealth of great articles on Jefferson Burdick himself, head to the Burdick section of the “Old Baseball Cards” library.

50 at 50

Sending out an alert for anyone who follows this blog but isn’t on Twitter or Facebook. SABR has been celebrating its upcoming 50th anniversary by having each committee contribute a 50 at 50 article on the SABR website. The Baseball Cards Committee’s contribution went up today.

Rather than making it a top-50 list or some other ranking, we decided to go a different direction and treat baseball cards as timeline that they are with a post of 50 cards for 50 years.

Baseball cards aren’t just something to collect. They mark the seasons and document the game as it happens. Looking back at them shows us the history of the game. Who played. What was important. What happened. How we analyzed things. Cards may fall under the category of “ephemera” but the ephemeral nature of what they record is what makes them such an important chronicle of the game.

Our list is not intended to be definitive or authoritative. Both the history of the hobby and the history of the game are way too interesting for each year to be able to be summed up in a single card. Instead we look forward to the discussion and critiques that always follow such lists.

While Jason and Nick are credited with compiling the contents, we wish to thank the multiple other experts who allowed us to pick their brains and challenged our choices.

The T206 photo project

Editor’s note: For the #StayHomeWithSABR video presentation of this article, click here!

The SABR Baseball Cards Research Committee is working with tobacco card enthusiast Matt Haynes of Alton, IL, to assemble the most complete
(virtual) collection of T206 source images available.

A graphic designer by trade, Matt’s inspiration in beginning this project was the simple beauty and artistry of the T206 cards themselves. Like many of our readers, Matt was an avid collector in his youth but took a long hiatus from the Hobby when “real life” took over. It was the proximity of a local card shop to a new job that lured Matt back into collecting, first focusing on top-shelf superstars of the 1950s but now exclusively on the 524-card set known as the Monster.

Starting from more than 40 images already cataloged at the T206 Resource photo gallery, adding the finds of several other hobbyists from card forums such as Net54 Baseball and Tobacco Row, and adding images from his own research, Matt was able to assemble 86 card-image pairs for this initial post, already the most available anywhere on the Web. Now we are asking you, our readers, for your help in finding more. (See contact info at end of post.)

Please excuse some wonky formatting as Jason makes updates to the table, including the addition of more unmatched T206 cards to speed up your photo hunts.

CURRENT COUNT: 213/524

240240ImagePlayerTeamSource
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Ed Abbaticchio FrontAbbaticchio, Ed
(Blue Sleeves)
PIT
undefinedAbbaticchio, Ed
(Brown Sleeves)
PIT
Abbott, FredTOL1903 Carl Horner portrait
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Bill Abstein FrontAbstein, BillPIT
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Doc Adkins FrontAdkins, DocBAL
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Whitey Alperman FrontAlperman, WhiteyBRO
Ames, Red
(Hands At Chest)
NY
(NL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Red Ames FrontAmes, Red
(Hands Above Head)
NY
(NL)
undefinedAmes, Red
(Portrait)
NY
(NL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO John Anderson FrontAnderson, JohnPRO
Arellanes, FrankBOS
(AL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Harry Armbruster FrontArmbruster, HermanSTP
Arndt, HarryPRO
Atz, JakeCHI
(AL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Home Run Baker FrontBaker, FrankPHI
(AL)
Ball, Neal
(CLE)
CLE
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Neal Ball FrontBall, Neal
(NY)
NY
(AL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Jap Barbeau FrontBarbeau, JapSTL
(NL)
Barger, CyROC
Barry, JackPHI
(AL)
Barry, ShadMIL
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Jack Bastian FrontBastian, JackSAT
Batch, EmilROC
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Johnny Bates FrontBates, JohnnyBOS
(NL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Harry Bay FrontBay, HarryNAS
Beaumont, GingerBOS
(NL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Fred Beck FrontBeck, FredBOS
(NL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Beals Becker FrontBecker, BealsBOS
(NL)
Beckley, JakeKC
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO George Bell FrontBell, George
(Hands Above Head)
BRO
undefinedBell, George
(Follow Thru)
BRO
undefinedBender, Chief
(No Trees)
PHI
(AL)
Bender, Chief
(With Trees)
PHI
(AL)
Bender, Chief
(Portrait)
PHI
(AL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Bill Bergen FrontBergen, Bill
(Catching)
BRO
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Bill Bergen FrontBergen, Bill
(Batting)
BRO
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Heinie Berger FrontBerger, HeinieCLE
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Bill Bernhard FrontBernhard, BillNAS
Bescher, Bob
(Hands In Air)
CIN
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Bob Bescher FrontBescher, Bob
(Portrait)
CIN
undefinedBirmingham, JoeCLE
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Lena Blackburne FrontBlackburne, LenaPRO
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Jack Bliss FrontBliss, JackSTL
(NL)
Bowerman, FrankBOS
(NL)
Bradley, Bill
(Portrait)
CLE
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Bill Bradley FrontBradley, Bill
(With Bat)
CLE
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Dave Brain FrontBrain, DaveBUF
Bransfield, KittyPHI
(NL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Roy Brashear FrontBrashear, RoyKC
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Ted Breitenstein FrontBreitenstein, TedNOLA
undefinedBresnahan, Roger
(Batting)
STL
(NL)
undefinedBresnahan, Roger
(Portrait)
STL
(NL)
Bridwell, Al
(Portrait – No Cap)
NY
(NL)
Bridwell, Al
(Portrait – With Cap)
NY
(NL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO George Browne FrontBrown, George
(CHI)
CHI
(NL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO George Browne FrontBrown, George
(WAS)
WAS
Brown, Mordecai
(Chi On Shirt)
CHI
(NL)
Brown, Mordecai
(Cubs On Shirt)
CHI
(NL)
Brown, Mordecai
(Portrait)
CHI
(NL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Al Burch FrontBurch, Al
(Batting)
BRO
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Al Burch FrontBurch, Al
(Fielding)
BRO
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Fred Burchell FrontBurchell, FredBUF
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Jimmy Burke FrontBurke, JimmyIND
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Bill Burns FrontBurns, BillCHI
(AL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Donie Bush FrontBush, DonieDET
Butler, JohnROC
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Bobby Byrne FrontByrne, BobbySTL
(NL)
Camnitz, Howie
(Arms Folded)
PIT
undefinedCamnitz, Howie
(Arm At Side)
PIT
Camnitz, Howie
(Hands Above Head)
PIT
Campbell, BillyCIN
Carey, ScoopsMEM
Carr, CharleyIND
Carrigan, BillBOS
(AL)
Casey, DocMON
Cassidy, PeterBAL
undefinedChance, Frank
(Batting)
CHI
(NL)
Chance, Frank
(Portrait – Red)
CHI
(NL)
Chance, Frank
(Portrait – Yellow)
CHI
(NL)
Chappelle, BillROC
Charles, ChappieSTL
(NL)
Chase, Hal
(Holding Trophy)
NY
(AL)
Chase, Hal
(Portrait – Blue)
NY
(AL)
undefinedChase, Hal
(Portrait – Pink)
NY
(AL)
Chase, Hal
(Black Cap)
NY
(AL)
Chase, Hal
(White Cap)
NY
(AL)
Chesbro, Jack NY
(AL)
Cicotte, EdBOS
(AL)
Clancy, BillBUF
Clark, JoshCOL
Clarke, Fred
(Batting)
PIT
Clarke, Fred
(Portrait)
PIT
Clarke, J.J.CLE
Clymer, BillCOL
Cobb, Ty
(Portrait – Green)
DET
Cobb, Ty
(Portrait – Red)
DET
Cobb, Ty
(Bat Off Shoulder)
DET
Cobb, Ty
(Bat On Shoulder)
DET
Coles, Cad AUG
Collins, EddiePHI
(AL)
Collins, JimmyMIN
Congalton, BunkCOL
Conroy, Wid
(Fielding)
WAS
Conroy, Wid
(With Bat)
WAS
Covaleski, HarryPHI
(NL)
undefinedCrandall, Doc
(Portrait No Cap)
NY
(NL)
Crandall, Doc
(Portrait With Cap)
NY
(NL)
Cranston, BillMEM
Cravath, GavvyMIN
Crawford, Sam
(Throwing)
DET
Crawford, Sam
(With Bat)
DET
Cree, BirdieNY
(AL)
Criger, LouSTL
(AL)
Criss, DodeSTL
(AL)
Cross, MonteIND
Dahlen, Bill
(BOS)
BOS
(NL)
Dahlen, Bill
(BRO)
BRO
Davidson, PaulIND
Davis, GeorgeCHI
(AL)
Davis, Harry
(Davis On Front)
PHI
(AL)
Davis, Harry
(H. Davis On Front)
PHI
(AL)
Delehanty, FrankLOU
Delehanty, JimWAS
Demmitt, Ray
(NY)
NY
(AL)
Demmitt, Ray
(STL, AL)
STL
(AL)
Dessau, RubeBAL
Devlin, ArtNY
(NL)
undefinedDeVore, JoshNY
(NL)
Dineen, BillSTL
(AL)
Donlin, Mike
(Fielding)
NY
(NL)
Donlin, Mike
(Seated)
NY
(NL)
Donlin, Mike
(With Bat)
NY
(NL)
Donohue, JiggsCHI
(AL)
Donovan, Wild Bill
(Portrait)
DET
Donovan, Wild Bill
(Throwing)
DET
Dooin, RedPHI
(NL)
Doolan, Mickey
(Batting)
PHI
(NL)
Doolan, Mickey
(Fielding)
PHI
(NL)
Doolin, MickeyPHI
(NL)
Dorner, GusKC
Dougherty, Patsy
(Arm In Air)
CHI
(AL)
Dougherty, Patsy
(Portrait)
CHI
(AL)
Downey, Tom
(Batting)
CIN
Downey, Tom
(Fielding)
CIN
Downs, JerryMIN
Doyle, Joe
(N.Y. Nat’l)
NY
(NL)
Doyle, Joe
(N.Y.)
NY
(AL)
Doyle, Larry
(Portrait)
NY
(NL)
Doyle, Larry
(Throwing)
NY
(NL)
Doyle, Larry
(With Bat)
NY
(NL)
Dubuc, JeanCIN
undefinedDuffy, HughCHI
(AL)
Chicago Daily News, 1910
Dunn, JackBAL
Dunn, JoeBRO
undefinedDurham, BullNY
(NL)
Dygert, JimmyPHI
(AL)
Easterly, TedCLE
Egan, DickCIN
Elberfeld, Kid
(Portrait – NY)
NY
(AL)
Elberfeld, Kid
(Portrait – WAS)
WAS
Elberfeld, Kid
(Fielding)
WAS
Ellam, RoyNAS
Engle, ClydeNY
(AL)
Evans, SteveSTL
(NL)
Evers, Johnny
(Portrait)
CHI
(NL)
Evers, Johnny
(CHI On Shirt – Yellow Sky)
CHI
(NL)
Evers, Johnny
(Cubs On Shirt – Blue Sky)
CHI
(NL)
Ewing, BobCIN
Ferguson, CecilBOS
(NL)
Ferris, HobeSTL
(AL)
Fiene, Lou
(Portrait)
CHI
(AL)
Fiene, Lou
(Throwing)
CHI
(AL)
Flanagan, SteamerBUF
Fletcher, ArtNY
(NL)
Flick, ElmerCLE
Ford, RussNY
(AL)
Foster, EdCHA
Freeman, JerryTOL
Frill, JohnNY
(AL)
Fritz, CharlieNOLA
Fromme, ArtCIN
Gandil, ChickCHI
(AL)
Ganley, BobWAS
Ganzel, JohnROC
Gasper, HarryCIN
Geyer, RubeSTL
(NL)
Gibson, GeorgePIT
Gilbert, BillySTL
(NL)
Goode, WilburCLE
Graham, BillSTL
(AL)
Graham, PeachesBOS
(NL)
Gray, DollyWAS
Greminger, EdMTGM
Griffith, Clark
(Batting)
CIN
Griffith, Clark
(Portrait)
CIN
Grimshaw, MooseTOR
Groom, BobWAS
Guiheen, TomPOR
Hahn, EdCHI
(AL)
Hall, BobBAL
Hallman, BillKC
Hannifan, JackJC
Hart, BillLR
Hart, JimmyMTGM
Hartsel, TopsyPHI
(AL)
Hayden, JackIND
Helm, J. RossCOL
Hemphill, CharlieNY
(AL)
Herzog, Buck
(BOS)
BOS
(NL)
Herzog, Buck
(NY)
NY
(NL)
Hickman, GordonMOB
Hinchman, BillCLE
Hinchman, HarryTOL
Hoblitzell, DickCIN
Hoffman, DannySTL
(AL)
Hoffman, IzzyPRO

Hofman, SollyCHI
(NL)
Hooker, BockLYN
Howard, DelCHI
(NL)
Howard, ErnieSAV
Howell, Harry
(Hand At Waist)
STL
(AL)
Howell, Harry
(Portrait)
STL
(AL)
Huggins, Miller
(Hands At Mouth)
CIN
Huggins, Miller
(Portrait)
CIN
Hulswitt, RudySTL
(NL)
Hummel, JohnBRO
Hunter, GeorgeBRO
Isbell, FrankCHI
(AL)
Jacklitsch, FredPHI
(NL)
Jackson, JimmyBAL
Jennings, Hughie
(One Hand Showing)
DET
Jennings, Hughie
(Two Hands Showing)
DET
Jennings, Hughie
(Portrait)
DET
Johnson, Walter
(Glove At Chest)
WAS
undefinedJohnson, Walter
(Portrait)
WAS
Jones, Fielder
(Hands At Hips)
CHI
(AL)
undefinedJones, Fielder
(Portrait)
CHI
(AL)
undefinedJones, DavyDET
Jones, TomSTL
(AL)
Jordan, DutchATL
Jordan, Tim
(Batting)
BRO
Jordan, Tim
(Portrait)
BRO
Joss, Addie
(Hands At Chest)
CLE
Joss, Addie
(Portrait)
CLE
Karger, EdCIN
Keeler, Willie
(Portrait)
NY
(AL)
Keeler, Willie
(With Bat)
NY
(AL)
Kelley, JoeTOR
Kiernan, J.F.COL
Killian, Ed
(Hands At Chest)
DET
Killian, Ed
(Portrait)
DET
King, FrankDAN
Kisinger, RubeBUF
Kleinow, Red
(BOS – Catching)
BOS
(AL)
Kleinow, Red
(NY – Catching)
NY
(AL)
Kleinow, Red
(NY – With Bat)
NY
(AL)
Kling, JohnnyCHI
(NL)
Knabe, OttoPHI
(NL)
Knight, Jack
(Portrait)
NY
(AL)
Knight, Jack
(With Bat)
NY
(AL)
Konetchy, Ed
(Glove Above Head)
STL
(NL)
Konetchy, Ed
(Glove Near Ground)
STL
(NL)
Krause, Harry
(Pitching)
PHI
(AL)
Krause, Harry
(Portrait)
PHI
(AL)
Kroh, RubeCHI
(NL)
Kruger, OttoCOL
Lafitte, JamesMAC
Lajoie, Nap
(Portrait)
CLE
Lajoie, Nap
(Throwing)
CLE
undefinedLajoie, Nap
(With Bat)
CLE
Lake, Joe
(NY)
NY
(AL)
Lake, Joe
(STL – Ball In Hand)
STL
(AL)
Lake, Joe
(STL – No Ball)
STL
(AL)
LaPorte, FrankNY
(AL)
Latham, ArlieNY
(NL)
Lattimore, BillTOL
Lavender, JimmyPRO
Leach, Tommy
(Bending Over)
PIT
Leach, Tommy
(Portrait)
PIT
Leifield, Lefty
(Batting)
PIT
Leifield, Lefty
(Pitching)
PIT
Lennox, EdBRO
Lentz, HarryLR
Liebhardt, GlennCLE
Lindaman, ViveBOS
(NL)
undefinedLipe, PerryRIC
Livingstone, PaddyPHI
(AL)
undefinedLobert, HansCIN
Lord, HarryBOS
(AL)
Lumley, HarryBRO
undefinedLundgren, Carl
(CHI)
CHI
(NL)
undefinedLundgren, Carl
(KC)
KC
Maddox, NickPIT
Magie, SherryPHI
(NL)
Magee, Sherry
(Portrait)
PHI
(NL)
undefinedMagee, Sherry
(With Bat)
PHI
(NL)
Malarkey, BillBUF
Maloney, BillyROC
Manion, GeorgeCOL
Manning, Rube
(Batting)
NY
(AL)
Manning, Rube
(Pitching)
NY
(AL)
Marquard, Rube
(Hands At Side)
NY
(NL)
Marquard, Rube
(Pitching)
NY
(NL)
undefinedMarquard, Rube
(Portrait)
NY
(NL)
Marshall, DocBRO
Mathewson, Christy
(Dark Cap)
NY
(NL)
undefinedMathewson, Christy
(Portrait)
NY
(NL)
Mathewson, Christy
(White Cap)
NY
(NL)
Mattern, AlBOS
(NL)
McAleese, JohnSTL
(AL)
McBride, GeorgeWAS
McCauley, PatPOR
McCormick, MooseNY
(NL)
McElveen, PryorBRO
undefinedMcGann, DanMIL
McGinley, JimTOR
McGinnity, JoeNWK
McGlynn, StoneyMIL
undefinedMcGraw, John
(Finger In Air)
NY
(NL)
undefinedMcGraw, John
(Glove At Hip)
NY
(NL)
undefinedMcGraw, John
(Portrait – No Cap)
NY
(NL)
undefinedMcGraw, John
(Portrait – With Cap)
NY
(NL)
McIntyre, Harry
(BRO)
BRO
undefinedMcIntyre, Harry
(BRO & CHI)
BRO/CHI
McIntyre, MattyDET
McLean, LarryCIN
McQuillan, George
(Ball In Hand)
PHI
(NL)
McQuillan, George
(With Bat)
PHI
(NL)
undefinedMerkle, Fred
(Portrait)
NY
(NL)
Merkle, Fred
(Throwing)
NY
(NL)
Merritt, GeorgeJC
Meyers, ChiefNY
(NL)
Milan, ClydeWAS
Miller, DotsPIT
Miller, MollyDAL
Milligan, BillJC
Mitchell, FredTOR
Mitchell, MikeCIN
Moeller, DanJC
Molesworth, CarltonBIR
Moran, HerbiePRO
Moran, PatCHI
(NL)
Moriarty, GeorgeDET
Mowrey, MikeCIN
Mullaney, DomJAX
Mullin
(UER Mullen), George
(Portrait)
DET
Mullin, George
(Throwing)
DET
undefinedMullin, George
(With Bat)
DET
Murphy, Danny
(Batting)
PHI
(AL)
Murphy, Danny
(Throwing)
PHI
(AL)
Murray, Red
(Batting)
NY
(NL)
Murray, Red
(Portrait)
NY
(NL)
Myers, Chief
(Batting)
NY
(NL)
Myers, Chief
(Fielding)
NY
(NL)
Nattress, BillyBUF
Needham, TomCHI
(NL)
Nicholls, Simon
(Hands On Knees)
PHI
(AL)
Nichols, Simon
(Batting)
PHI
(AL)
Niles, HarryBOS
(AL)
Oakes, RebelCIN
Oberlin, FrankMIN
O’Brien, PeterSTP
O’Hara, Bill
(NY)
NY
(NL)
O’Hara, Bill
(STL)
STL
(NL)
Oldring, Rube
(Batting)
PHI
(AL)
Oldring, Rube
(Fielding)
PHI
(AL)
undefinedO’Leary, Charley
(Hands On Knees)
DET
O’Leary, Charley
(Portrait)
DET
O’Neil, William J.MIN
Orth, AlLYN
Otey, WilliamNOR
Overall, Orval
(Hand At Face Level)
CHI
(NL)
Overall, Orval
(Hands Waist Level)
CHI
(NL)
Overall, Orval
(Portrait)
CHI
(NL)
Owen, FrankCHI
(AL)
Paige, GeorgeCHA
undefinedParent, FredCHI
(AL)
Paskert, DodeCIN
Pastorius, JimBRO
Pattee, HarryBRO
undefinedPayne, FredCHI
(AL)
Chicago Daily News, 1909
Pelty, Barney
(Horizontal)
STL
(AL)
Pelty, Barney
(Vertical)
STL
(AL)
Perdue, HubNAS
Perring, GeorgeCLE
Persons, ArchMTGM
Pfeffer, FrancisCHI
(NL)
Pfeister, Jake
(Seated)
CHI
(NL)
Pfeister, Jake
(Throwing)
CHI
(NL)
Phelan, JimmyPRO
Phelps, EddieSTL
(NL)
Phillippe, DeaconPIT
Pickering, OllieMIN
Plank, EddiePHI
(AL)
Poland, PhilBAL
Powell, JackSTL
(AL)
Powers, MikePHI
(AL)
Purtell, BillyCHI
(AL)
Puttman, AmbroseLOU
Quillen, LeeMIN
Quinn, JackNY
(AL)
Randall, NewtMIL
Raymond, BugsNY
(NL)
Reagan, EdNOLA
Reulbach, Ed
(Glove Showing)
CHI
(NL)
Reulbach, Ed
(No Glove Showing)
CHI
(NL)
Revelle, DutchRIC
Rhoades, Bob
(Hands At Chest)
CLE
Rhoades, Bob
(Right Arm Extended)
CLE
Rhodes, CharlieSTL
(NL)
Ritchey, ClaudeBOS
(NL)
Ritter, LouKC
Rockenfeld, IkeMTGM
Rossman, ClaudeDET
Rucker, Nap
(Portrait)
BRO
Rucker, Nap
(Throwing)
BRO
Rudolph, DickTOR
Ryan, RayROA
Schaefer, Germany
(DET)
DET
Schaefer, Germany
(WAS)
WAS
Schirm, GeorgeBUF
Schlafly, LarryNWK
Schlei, Admiral
(Batting)
NY
(NL)
Schlei, Admiral
(Catching)
NY
(NL)
Schlei, Admiral
(Portrait)
NY
(NL)
Schmidt, Boss
(Portrait)
DET
Schmidt, Boss
(Throwing)
DET
Schreck, OsseeCOL
undefinedSchulte, Wildfire
(Back View)
CHI
(NL)
Schulte, Wildfire
(Front View)
CHI
(NL)
Scott, JimCHI
(AL)
Seitz, CharlesNOR
Seymour, Cy
(Batting)
NY
(NL)
Seymour, Cy
(Portrait)
NY
(NL)
Seymour, Cy
(Throwing)
NY
(NL)
Shannon, SpikeKC
Sharpe, BudNWK
undefinedShaughnessy, ShagROA
Shaw, AlSTL
(NL)
Shaw, HunkyPRO
Sheckard, Jimmy
(Glove Showing)
CHI
(NL)
Sheckard, Jimmy
(No Glove Showing)
CHI
(NL)
Shipke, BillWAS
Slagle, JimmyBAL
Smith, CarlosSHRV
undefinedSmith, Frank
(F. Smith)
CHI
(AL)
Smith, Frank
(White Cap)
CHI
(AL)
Smith, Frank
(CHI & BOS)
CHI/BOS
Smith, HappyBRO
Smith, HeinieBUF
Smith, SidATL
Snodgrass, Fred
(Batting)
NY
(NL)
Snodgrass, Fred
(Catching)
NY
(NL)
Spade, BobCIN
undefinedSpeaker, TrisBOS
(AL)
Spencer, TubbyBOS
(AL)
Stahl, Jake
(Glove Shows)
BOS
(AL)
undefinedStahl, Jake
(No Glove Shows)
BOS
(AL)
Stanage, OscarDET
Stark, DollySAT
Starr, CharlieBOS
(NL)
Steinfeldt, Harry
(Portrait)
CHI
(NL)
Steinfeldt, Harry
(With Bat)
CHI
(NL)
Stephens, JimSTL
(AL)
Stone, GeorgeSTL
(AL)
Stovall, George
(Batting)
CLE
Stovall, George
(Portrait)
CLE
Strang, SamBAL
Street, Gabby
(Catching)
WAS
Street, Gabby
(Portrait)
WAS
Sullivan, BillyCHI
(AL)
Summers, EdDET
Sweeney, BillBOS
(NL)
Sweeney, JeffNY
(AL)
Tannehill, JesseWAS
Tannehill, Lee
(L. Tannehill On Front)
CHI
(AL)
Tannehill, Lee
(Tannehill On Front)
CHI
(AL)
undefinedTaylor, DummyBUF
undefinedTenney, FredNY
(NL)
Thebo, TonyWAC
Thielman, JakeLOU
Thomas, IraPHI
(AL)
Thornton, WoodieMOB
Tinker, Joe
(Bat Off Shoulder)
CHI
(NL)
Tinker, Joe
(Bat On Shoulder)
CHI
(NL)
Tinker, Joe
(Hands On Knees)
CHI
(NL)
Tinker, Joe
(Portrait)
CHI
(NL)
Titus, JohnPHI
(NL)
Turner, TerryCLE
Unglaub, BobWAS
Violat, JuanJAX
Waddell, Rube
(Portrait)
STL
(AL)
Waddell, Rube
(Throwing)
STL
(AL)
Wagner, Heinie
(Bat On Left Shoulder)
BOS
(AL)
Wagner, Heinie
(Bat On Right Shoulder)
BOS
(AL)
Wagner, HonusPIT
Wallace, BobbySTL
(AL)
Walsh, EdCHI
(AL)
Warhop, JackNY
(AL)
Weimer, JakeNY
(NL)
Westlake, JamesDAN
Wheat, ZackBRO
White, Doc
(Pitching)
CHI
(AL)
undefinedWhite, Doc
(Portrait)
CHI
(AL)
White, FoleyHOU
White, JackBUF
Wilhelm, Kaiser
(Hands At Chest)
BRO
Wilhelm, Kaiser
(With Bat)
BRO
Willett, EdDET
Willetts, Ed
(UER)
DET
Williams, JimmySTL
(AL)
Willis, Vic
(Portrait)
PIT
Willis, Vic
(Batting)
STL
(NL)
Willis, Vic
(Throwing)
STL
(NL)
Wilson, OwenPIT
undefinedWiltse, Hooks
(Pitching)
NY
(NL)
Harwell Collection (1904)
undefinedWiltse, Hooks
(Portrait – No Cap)
NY
(NL)
Wiltse, Hooks
(Portrait – With Cap)
NY
(NL)
Wright, LuckyTOL
Young, Cy
(With Glove)
CLE
Young, Cy
(Bare Hand)
CLE
Young, Cy
(Portrait)
CLE
Young, IrvMIN
Zimmerman, HeinieCHI
(NL)
Checklist based on T206Resource.com and unmatched card images from Trading Card Database

If you have additions to the project, please let us know in the comments. You can also use our Contact form or tag us on Twitter @sabrbbcards. Finally, for related card-photo matching projects see–

Burdick Award finalists

The Awards Subcommittee of the SABR Baseball Cards Research Committee is appreciative of the many nominations from membership. At this time we are pleased to announce the five finalists for our inaugural Jefferson Burdick Award for Contributions to the Hobby and particularly gratified to see that the process resulted in such a broad range of nominations.

The Award was not designed to honor the biggest or best collection or the person who made the most money through the hobby—not that either of those things would be disqualifying. Rather, it was simply created to recognize individuals who in any variety of ways have made the Hobby better for the rest of us.

Dr. Robert Fitts

Our first finalist is Robert Fitts. Dr. Fitts, our committee’s featured speaker at #SABR49, boasts an impressive resume of accomplishments and scholarship including the 2006 Sporting News-SABR Research Award, the 2012 Doug Pappas Award for best oral research, the 2013 Seymour Medal for Best Baseball Book of 2012, and the 2019 McFarland-SABR Baseball Research Award.

He is best known in the Hobby for his unmatched expertise and research in the area of Japanese baseball cards. While this committee has primarily focused on U.S. card releases, Fitts’s expertise and enthusiasm for Japanese cards and the way they interact with the hobby in the U.S. expands our understanding of what cards can be. This is not just a US-centered thing and baseball is a worldwide game.

Bert Blyleven and Mike Noren

Our second finalist is Mike Noren, the artist behind Gummy Arts and Cecil Cooperstown. Mike’s whimsical baseball card creations are currently featured in the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s “Shoebox Treasures” exhibit, and his set of 1919 White Sox strip cards were a crowd favorite at SABR’s Black Sox Scandal Centennial Symposium.

Mike’s cards have inspired many collectors to reconnect with the Hobby, and his daily posts to social media platforms have inspired numerous other baseball card artists. He references designs from the entire history of baseball cards and in so doing, transforms old designs into wholly new and modern creations. Meanwhile his pop-culture creations hint at the long history of collecting photos and cards and confirm how the concept of a Baseball Card™ transcends the sport.

Dr. James Beckett

Our third finalist, Dr. James Beckett, has a name nearly synonymous with the unprecedented growth of the Hobby in the 1980s and 1990s, though his continuing contributions to the Hobby span nearly half a century. In the tradition of our award’s namesake, Dr. Beckett has contributed to the identification and cataloging of numerous sets, and his publications such as the Sport Americana Baseball Card Price Guide (with Dennis Eckes) and the Beckett Monthly brought both checklists and price guides to the mainstream of the Hobby.

For the generation of collectors who came of age in the 1980s, Beckett is their Burdick. It is impossible to imagine the hobby without him and his publications were not merely price guides but captured the zeitgeist of an entire collecting generation.

Keith Olbermann

Our fourth finalist is broadcasting legend Keith Olbermann, whose contributions to the Hobby began while he was still in high school as an editor for “Collectors Quarterly” and the writer for the card backs of the 1975 Sports Stars Publishing Company (SSPC) baseball set. He would go on to contribute photos to 1981 Donruss while amassing a world class collection of cards and memorabilia.

Keith has used his collection as reference material for his encyclopedic knowledge of the Hobby, which he frequently shares in articles and social media posts. Whenever we have a question about the Topps photo archive or who produced a set of cards, he is our resident expert. Keith was our committee’s featured speaker at #SABR47 and represents how baseball cards can turn someone into a baseball fan.

Mike Aronstein with son Andrew

Our last finalist and the winner of the 2020 Jefferson Burdick Award for Contributions to the Hobby is Michael Aronstein. Best known as the “MA” in TCMA, the company he co-founded with Tom (the “TC” half) Collier in 1972, Mike’s Hobby resume also includes:

  • Card show pioneer, having arranged and hosted (in his basement!) one of the very first “conventions” in 1970 and having gone on to co-organize the biannual American Sports Card Collectors Association shows in New York City;
  • Publisher of Collectors Quarterly magazine;
  • One of the Hobby’s first full-time dealers, providing collectors with alternatives to mainstream sets along with collecting supplies such as plastic sheets before they were widely available anywhere else;
  • Producer of hundreds of minor league team sets, including the “pre-rookie cards” of Rickey Henderson, Cal Ripken, Jr., and Wade Boggs, and re-launching the minor league card industry in the process;
  • Challenger of the Topps monopoly with his Sports Stars Publishing Company (SSPC) 660-card set consisting almost entirely of current players;
  • Exclusive distributor of the 1981 Donruss set (but we won’t hold that against him!);
  • Founder of Photo File, supplying the Hobby with high quality 8×10 photos to be signed by athletes.

More importantly, TCMA cards were touchstone for many, if not all, of us as the only cards we could find/afford of baseball legends. In a way that no book can touch, TCMA cards taught kids about baseball: who the legends were and why, what they looked like, etc. If Topps is the card of record representing which players were relevant for the current season, TCMA were the cards of history and how we learned about baseball itself.

We look forward to honoring Mike at our national convention, SABR 50, in Baltimore. We hope you’ll make plans to join us as we celebrate Mike’s lifetime of contributions to the Hobby. Over the next couple months we’ll share more information about this and other baseball card happenings planned for SABR 50.