It Curves, Part 2

In ’78 and ’79, Wiffle issued disc shaped cards in or on their ball boxes.   Since we are discussing Wiffle balls, it’s only appropriate that the actual years of distribution are as “baffling” as a perfectly executed Wiffle curve.  The Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards dates the two sets from ’77 and ’78; however, the Wiffle Corporation states that ’78 and ’79 are the correct years. This is confirmed by promotional documents.  Some dealers have changed the year designations, while other still go with the original years. I will defer to the Wiffle Corporation.

The ’78 disc cards are the standard design issued by MSA (Michael Schechter Associates) except for being smaller in diameter. Most of you are familiar with the black and white, headshots with airbrushed cap emblems, since the photos were only licensed by the Major League Baseball Players Association, and not MLB. The right and left front has color panels with biographical information. The discs were produced as promotions and were customized with advertisements on the back.

The 80-card set was issued as single cards inserted inside the Wiffle ball box. There are six different color panels and each player only comes in one color. 21 future Hall-of-Fame inductees grace the set along with other stars of the era. Mark Fidrych may be the most unique player depicted and Ray Burris the most obscure. For some reason, Ed Kranepool shows up even though he is winding down his career in ’78.


Various Players

In ’79, Wiffle includes five cards printed on the box; two cards facing in and three facing out. Collectors have only identified 12 different boxes, which adds up to 60 cards. However, the display box in stores implored kids to collect all 88 cards. It is generally believed that only 60 were produced.

Munson cut

Each card has a thick, black dotted line around the circumference designed as guide for cutting out the cards. 52 of the players in the ’79 set are repeated from the previous year, all with the same pictures. Eight new players are introduced as well. Once again, each player’s panels are the same color, but the colors differ from ’78. As with most cards designed to be cut, uncut boxes are more valuable. This Thurman Munson is indicative of what can happen when kids use scissors.

Cey-Ryan Header

Finally, Wiffle “floated” a “knuckle curve” by issuing cards on “headers.” These are cardboard sleeves used to hold a bat and ball together for display. 28 different cards with blank backs appear on the sleeves. All cards are folded, due to the packaging technique. 14 were printed in one color panels and 14 with two colors.


60s Header

I neglected to include in part one a similar sleeve in the ‘60s featuring multiple player photos in a star format. Not sure if there are versions with different players.


I hope you are inspired to round up some neighborhood kids for a spirited Wiffle ball game in the backyard. If not, at least head over to eBay and pick up this awesome Wayne Garland with signature “porn stash.”



“Wiffle Ball discs.” Collectors Universe,

“Sales material helps to properly date when Wiffle Ball Discs were released.” Sports Collectors Digest, 13 Dec. 2016,

The Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards






It Curves

It is a safe bet that a majority of this blog’s readers and contributors have spent many hours playing Wiffle ball. Whether you preferred playing with a “naked” ball to get the curving effect or layering on the electrical tape to launch “tape measure” shots, for many of us Wiffle ball was a big part of summer fun.

In part one of a two-part post, I will once again desecrate the definition of baseball cards by examining Wiffle ball boxes with player photos. (In my defense, the boxes are made of card stock and removal of the top flap with the photos would approximate a card.) Part two will look at the Wiffle ball disc cards distributed in the late ‘70s.

Original Box

David Mullany invented the Wiffle ball in 1953 with the intent of preventing broken windows when his son played ball in the back yard with his friends. The final version of the ball curved dramatically, resulting in many “swings and misses” or “whiffs”–hence the name. By the late ‘50s, Mr. Mullany’s ball was sold all over the country. Around this time, many of the boxes containing the balls began to feature photos of Major League players.


I was unable to pin down the exact year that the player endorsements began, but Whitey Ford appears to be the first player. His initial box has a different photo from the one distributed in the ‘60s. This is the only instance of a player who has two different images. By the way, Whitey did a TV commercial for Wiffle Ball in the ‘60s.

                        Junior Rose   Rose Regulation

Rose King

Wiffle balls came in three sizes: Regulation, King (softball) and Junior. The Regulation box had one or two players on an orange background with a large white circle in the middle. King Wiffle balls have one, two or three different players with a white background and an orange circle. The Junior boxes only have one player’s photo inside a white circle surrounded by black. Several of the players appear on all versions as depicted by Pete Rose boxes.

Ford, Matthews, Williams.jpeg    Law and Maris   Whitey Tresh

Some examples of multi-player boxes include Ted Williams, Whitey Ford and Eddie Matthews gracing the top flap of this King box, while Jackie Jensen replaces Ted on another. ‘61 had boxes featuring World Series champion, Vern Law, coupled with AL MVP Roger Maris. In 63, Whitey is teamed with ’62 AL Rookie-of-the-Year, Tom Tresh.


I still have a Munson Junior box and a Piniella King I bought in the ‘70s.   I have five total in my collection, having lost several Pete Rose boxes from childhood.

As far as I can determine, the following is a chronological list of players who appear on the boxes: Whitey Ford; Ted Williams; Jackie Jensen, Eddie Mathews, Roger Maris, Vern Law, Tom Tresh, Pete Rose, Ron Swoboda, Tim McCarver, Jerry Koosman, Thurman Munson, Lou Piniella, Mike Scott and Scott McGregor.

After I “snap off” a few “Uncle Charlies” in the backyard, I will present some actual cards in part-two.


Tom Terrific and Ted Who?

68 Wrapper
1968 Wax Pack

The splendor of baseball card collecting was germinated 50 years ago when I opened my first “wax pack.” I distinctly remember two of the cards I pulled that day: Tom Seaver and Ted Kubiak.

IMG_20180201_20045267 Seaver

The Seaver card-which is pictured above- is pressed in my memory, mostly due to my brother’s attempts to take it away from me. This is Tom’s first solo card after being paired with Bill Denehy on what has become a rare and extremely pricey ‘67 Rookie Stars card (also pictured). My brother must have known that Seaver was an up-and-coming star. I only knew that he wanted it, so I was not about to give it up easily.

68 Seaver Back

Tom’s card is a classic portrait coupled with the Topps ’67 All-Star Rookie trophy. The card back informs us that: “The young righthander is the most exciting young pitcher to ever wear a New York Met uniform.” Of course this statement turned out to be extremely accurate, but it didn’t take much to be the best young player in Mets history in ’68.


The Seaver card is memorable for a variety of reasons. But Ted Kubiak? The wisp of silver hair sticking out from Ted’s slicked back locks has stuck with me from first sight. The close- cropped head shot was used on many A’s cards in ’68, since that was the year Charlie Finley moved the A’s to Oakland from Kansas City. Players depicted wearing caps had the “KC” airbrushed away.

Ted was a classic “good glove, bad bat” guy. The back of his card essentially predicts his career arc: “Ted is capable of playing several infield positons. Ted is a great defensive player.” His one opportunity as an everyday player came in 1970 with the Brewers, where split time between 2nd and shortstop. Of course, he would have been a regular for the Pilots if they had still existed in ’70. Incidentally, Kubiak was one of many players traded away by Finley, only to be reacquired later.  Ted was on all three of the A’s championship teams of the ‘70s, primarily as a utility man.

Ted’s card suffered water damage from a sprinkler when I left it on the porch railing. I may have disposed of the card, since it wasn’t with my other ’68 duplicates.

Although I’m not 100% certain they were in the first pack, Tom Tresh and Al Downing cards were contained in my first few packs.

Anyone else remember a specific card pulled from the first pack?


Card Play

Although this may elicit a groan or a “here he goes again,” I offer another profile of an obscure collectible whose inclusion in the baseball card category is dubious.  This time, I’m “shuffling the deck” and “dealing” the details on the 1953 Brown and Bigelow Baseball Playing Cards.

Cobb 2

Several years ago, I bought a single playing card with Ty Cobb on the back at an antique shop for a few dollars. The illustration features Cobb apparently dispensing base running advice to a stereotypical ‘50s boy, who is sliding into a base. The background has a “ghostly” newspaper with a headline about Cobb. At the bottom is a printed advertisement for a casement company in San Francisco.

The Brown and Bigelow printing company — which still exists — specialized in the production of promotional items. In the ‘50s, they employed many prominent illustrators such as Norman Rockwell and William Medcalf, who created the baseball illustrations. At the time, their main business was producing calendars but they also turned out other promotions such as playing cards.

In addition to Cobb, Medcalf produced images for Wagner and Mack which depicts them as they appeared in ’53, since all three were still living. Conversely, the deceased Ruth, Gehrig and McGraw have “ethereal” images. The illustrations are well done, but-in my humble opinion- they are “cheesy” or to be more charitable, “saccharine.”

Diamond Kings

Below the art work on the standard Bridge sized (2-1/4 X 3-1/2) card is where the advertisement is found. Since the cards were purchased by businesses across the US and Canada, the number of variations is unknown. Of course, since these are playing cards, each player technically has 52 different cards plus two jokers. Some merchants gave away a box set of two different decks labeled “The Kings of the Diamond.”

The Metcalf artwork was used on calendars as well. In fact, Brown and Bigelow produced baseball player calendars for years, featuring such players as Foxx, Hornsby, DiMaggio and many more. Since calendars were tossed out at the end of the year, they are much rarer than the playing cards.

Poker Dogs

In closing, I must mention that the Brown and Bigelow printed promotional materials featuring Cassius Coolidge’s 16 different “Dogs Playing Poker” paintings. Since they were widely distributed, the “gambling canines” became a familiar piece of Americana for people of a certain age. Of course, I have a large print over my living room couch.





REA’s Blockbuster Spring Auction – Robert Edward Auctions.,5069.1.

1953 Brown and Bigelow,

“New Mexico: “Ban the Box”.” New Mexico: “Ban the Box”Pardon Power,




Holy Cow: Bread Bedlam!


For under $5.00, I purchased what was purported to be a 1947 Bond Bread Phil Rizzuto card. I was vaguely aware that cards had variations which affected the value, but the cheap price made me skeptical of the authenticity. To determine if I was truly hornswoggled, I decided to research the history of this card set(s). I discovered much confusion, misidentification and perhaps subterfuge. To be clear, much of the information in this piece is based on supposition by collectors, since source material is scarce or hasn’t been found.

Firstly, identifying all the cards as “Bond Bread” is not accurate. Only 13 different cards-all featuring Jackie Robinson-were distributed in “Bond” brand bread. The Robinson images have rounded corners within a white outside border with square corners. They are slightly smaller than today’s standard cards. Each card has an advertisement for the bread and a message from Jackie on the back. The Robinson set is a fascinating topic. I highly recommend reading the “Beckett” article linked in the sources.

The confusion starts with the release of a rounded corner bread set in ’47 at the same time as the Robinson set. This 48-card set of 2-1/4” X 3-1/2” could be obtained in loaves of Bond’s “Homogenized” Bread. Many collectors have erroneously merged the separate issues. The format–minus the white border–and facsimile autographs are identical to the Bond Robinson cards, leaving little doubt that both were printed by the same company. Also, The Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards states that the cards were issued in 12 card sets by the Aarco Playing Card company. This could be a clue that Aarco was the manufacturer of all the sets.

Now, here is where it gets strange. In ’47 another set is produced containing 24 of the baseball players found in the Homogenized Bread set, plus four boxers. The cards have square corners and are printed on thinner stock. Distribution details are far from certain, but some collectors speculate that they were dispensed in arcades, similarly to exhibit cards of the era. Of course, these cards have ended up being lumped in with the previous sets under the Bond Bread label.

But the saga doesn’t end here. In the ‘80s, a flood of the ’47 square edge cards mysteriously entered the collectors’ market. Supposedly, a stash of uncut sheets was unearthed in a warehouse. These are often deemed “impostors,” since they may have been printed in ‘47 but cut into individual cards in the ‘80s. Interestingly, a Harry Brecheen card turned up in this lot but not in the other ’47 iterations.

To further cloud the issue, some unscrupulous dealers reprinted the “found” cards and sold them as high grade originals. This means that if the “warehouse” cards were counterfeited-as some collectors speculate-then these are “fake” fakes.

To top it off, there are two larger format sets of the ’47 Homogenized Bread cards. The first one is known as Bond Bread “Premium,” since it may have been a premium offered by the company to bread buyers. The cards are 6-5/8” X 9” with white boarders. Another 3-3/8” X5-5/8” version was probably produced for arcade distribution. This set contains Walker Cooper, which is not in the base set.

So, what about my “Scooter” card? I’m hoping it is from the ’47 square corner set or even an ‘80s “warehouse” cut. But more likely, it is a fake. Buying it out of the trunk of a Buick behind Vito’s Bar and Grill should have been a dead giveaway.

In closing, the vintage “odd ball” sets are sorely lacking documentation. Over the years, collectors and dealers have done their best to patch together printing, distribution and marketing information. This is an area crying out for research.

Please chime in with any additional information or corrections. This subject was — as my students say– “hella” confusing.


The Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards

1947 BOND BREAD and its “imposters”….show us your cards ? – Forums. (n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2018, from

1947 Jackie Robinson Bond Bread Baseball Cards History. (2016, April 15). Retrieved January 17, 2018, from

Stufflestreet, C. (1970, January 01). 1947 Homogenized Bread. Retrieved January 17, 2018, from


The Gas Station Gang (Part 2)

This is the second part of my series on Signal Oil cards.  Read yesterday’s entry.


Signal oil upped the octane level significantly by pumping out a fully leaded set of cards that were the equivalent of introducing fuel injection in a carburetor era.  Using post card printing techniques, the ’48 Oakland Oaks cards are believed to be the first color photography used for baseball cards. Furthermore, Signal didn’t issue standard cards for Hollywood and Los Angeles. Instead, they produced color slides and a viewer. As the Signal Oil slogan implored, we will now “go farther.”


As most of you are aware, card producers used various colorization techniques to transform black and white photos into “living color.” Bowman was the first major company to use actual color photos when they created the wonderful ’53 MLB set. However, Signal’s ’48 Oaks pioneered the color photo process. PCL historian and collector, Mark Macrae, provided the following details: “The 1948 Oakland Oaks cards were produced by Mike Roberts Studios in Berkeley. Less than a decade earlier Roberts had introduced what we now refer to as “Chrome” postcards at the 1939 Golden Gate Exposition. This same color technology was used by Roberts to produce the Oaks set, essentially the first American issued color photo baseball cards.” Incidentally, Roberts was known as the “post card king.” His colorized postcards included the phrase, “Wish You Were Here,” and could be found wherever Americans traveled.

Speer Stamped

There are 25 Oaks cards that measure approximately 2-1/2” X 3-1/2” and are printed on a thicker stock than the flimsy ‘47s. Once again, the cards could be acquired at Bay Area stations. As in ’47, the cards are not numbered and backs feature a biographical narrative and advertisements for the team’s radio station and Signal gas. Also, some of the stations would stamp their information over the bio.

Signal Stengel


48lombardi2-1 (1)

The ’48 Oaks won the PCL championship with Casey Stengel at the helm and his protégé Billy Martin anchoring second base. Their cards are in the set along with Hall-of-Famer Ernie Lombardi and Dodger legend Cookie Lavagetto. All the photos appear to be taken at Oaks Park in Emeryville.

Zernial slide

Malone slide

Signal mixed things up in the greater Los Angeles area in ’48 by issuing five color slides for both the Angels and Stars in a set accompanied by a baseball-shaped viewer. The 2” x 3-3/4” slides have a color transparency on one end a short biography on the other. A very rare slide featuring a group of Hollywood players exists as well. The viewer and slides were available for purchase at Signal outlets.

Signal Station Then

Signal station Seattle Now

In closing, repurposed Signal stations can still be found. Here is a “now and then” look at one on old highway 99 in Seattle. There might be a moldering, ’47 “Kewpie” Dick Barrett tucked away in a storage closet.



McCrae, Mark. Signal Oil Baseball Cards. 9-11, Jan.2018. Email Interview

Wilson, Arnie. “Wish You Were Here…Mike Roberts: The Life & Times of America’s Postcard King.” The Huffington Post,, 26 July 2015,,

Jrsherrard. “Seattle Now & Then: Signal Station on Aurora.” DorpatSherrardLomont, 16 Mar. 2013,

Trading Card Data Base

The Gas Station Gang (Part 1)



At a recent card show, I added another 1947 Signal Oil card-Sig Jakucki-to my Seattle Rainiers collection. The Pacific Coast League cards were produced as a premium available at Signal gas stations in the late ‘40s. Signal Oil was a California based company that had stations in seven western states, until merging with another company in the ‘50s and ceasing operation. This installment will feature the ‘47s exclusively.


PCL historian, collector and memorabilia dealer Mark Macrae kindly consented to an email interview filled in major gaps in my knowledge. However, he emphasized that most of the information has been put together by collectors over the years, since no records are known to exist from the Signal company.


Although there were eight PCL teams in the late ‘40s, Signal only produced cards for five clubs-Hollywood, LA, Oakland, Sacramento and Seattle. Per Mr. Macrae, the supposition is that Signal could not come to contract terms with San Diego, San Francisco and Portland.

Zernialnovikoff signal

The 3-1/2” x 5-1/2” black and white cards were printed on thin stock with the front having illustrated headshots of the players, along with cartoons depicting highlights or hobbies. Many of the cards feature cartoons highlighting a players’ musical ability. Note that some of the cards feature names in script instead of the more common block letters. Interestingly, the illustrator was former Major League pitcher Al Demaree, whose signature appears on the front.



The card backs have a detailed narrative along with an advertisement highlighted the radio announcer and station call letters. For example, the “voice” of Hollywood was Fred Haney and Leo Lassen was the Seattle “spieler.”


The 89 cards were offered at stations free of charge, with a new card distributed each week during the baseball season. Since the Bay Area and Los Angeles had more stations, due to their large population base, Stars, Angels and Oaks cards are more common today than the Rainiers or Solons. It is not known if the LA area stations gave away both Angels and Stars cards. As with any vintage cards, prices vary depending on condition. All the cards I’ve seen have “yellowed” with time.


Some familiar players with MLB experience in the set include: Casey Stengal, Vince DiMaggio, Gus “Dutch” Zernial, Jim Delsing, Jimmy Dykes, Jo Jo White, “Cotton” Pippen and “Kewpie” Dick Barrett.



If I can keep my “signals” straight, I will exam the truly groundbreaking ’48 Signal cards in part two. But now I’m off to fill up with “high test” and hopefully pick up a “Dizz” Duzabou from my friendly Signal dealer.


Macrae, Mark. Signal Oil Baseball Cards. 9, Jan.2018. Email Interview

Your Information Resource for Vintage Baseball Cards eNews,

Trading Card Data Base