The American League adopted the Designated Hitter (DH) rule in 1973. Of course, card collectors had to wait for the 1974 set to find cards with the players’ positions “designated” as DH. So, who was the first player to have a card solely labeling him a DH?
The answer is card number 83 in the numerical sequence, the Red Sox Orlando Cepeda. At this point in Cepeda’s career, the DH rule was a godsend. The veteran slugger’s knees would no longer allow him to play in the field. Interestingly, Topps would us “Des.” Hitter as the abbreviation for the position.
Several other gimpy, veteran sluggers show up as Des. Hitters: Tommy Davis , Jim Ray Hart, Tony Oliva, Deron Johnson and “Swingin’” Gates Brown.
Topps produced several cards where the position is a hybrid of DH and either 1B or OF. Sometimes the DH appears first, other times last. I thought this might correlate to the number of games played at each position, but this is not the case. The placement is entirely random. Topps would also toss a curve ball by labeling Harmon Killebrew as a First Base-DH.
The players who have DH-1B as a position are Ron Blomberg—the first player to come to the plate as a DH—and Tony Muser.
The only 1B-DH combo belongs to Gail Hopkins.
Players whose cards show them as DH-OF are Frank Robinson, Bob Coluccio and Alex Johnson, and the ones as OF-DH are Carlos May and Hal McRae.
Mike Lahoud was one of the Brewers DHs along with Ollie Brown. Both players were traded to the Angels prior to 1974. Lahoud’s card mentions his DH position on the back only.
Oscar Gamble was Cleveland’s main DH in 1973, but his card only lists outfield. However, his 1974 Topps stamp includes DH as a position.
I will let you get back to hitting balls off the tee under the stands to keep warm between at bats. I’m sure this DH thing is just a passing fad. Soon you will be flashing leather on the field as God and Abner Doubleday intended.
The 1967 Topps Stand-Up set is one of the several test issues that never found its way into distribution. (Other examples include the 1973 Pin-ups and the 1971 All-Star Rookies.) The Stand-Ups are similar in concept to the 1964 die-cut cards only in a larger format (3-1/8” x 5-1/4”). Another difference is the 1967 version uses floating heads instead of full body photos. Both were designed to have the die-cut portion popped out and placed in a punch-out base to allow the photo to stand up.
Though the set is described in the Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards as being earmarked for distribution in 1967, a 1968 release seems more likely. The first clue is the Jim Hunter card, which shows him on the Oakland A’s. Of course, the A’s moved to Oakland for the 1968 season. Another indication is the fact that Rusty Staub and Jimmy Wynn have their Astros’ cap logos blacked out and no mention of the Astros on the card. The Astros refusal to grant Topps the right to use their logo was only an issue in 1968-69.
Topps may have scrapped the Stand-Ups in favor of a poster set instead. The same 24 players in the Stand-Up set were used in a 1968 poster set.
As with the other never issued sets, the few rare proofs that survive must have been set aside by Topps employees. In the case of the Stand-Ups, there are both proofs printed on thin paper without the die- cuts and die-cut ones on card stock. Only a handful exists and are rarely seen on the market. When cards do emerge, the prices are exorbitant. Mantle’s card in mint condition is valued at $15,500 by the Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards.
The floating head concept always seemed odd and a bit creepy. Yet, Topps used it on cards for league leaders, coaches and rookies. The creepiest card in the Stand-Up set is Orlando Cepeda. His bug-eyed look is disturbing.
Floating heads may not be the best look, but you can’t go wrong with cards of Aaron, Mays, Mantle and Clemente. There are 12 Hall-of-Famers in all along with Rose and Dick Allen.
By the way, Topps didn’t completely give up on this concept. In 1968, they made football Stand-Ups that were inserted in second series packs.
At the tail end of the “junk wax” era in 1995, Upper Deck—in tandem with a company called Metallic Impressions—produced a set that exemplifies the excess and weirdness of the era. Taking advantage of the hoopla surrounding Michael Jordan’s attempt to become a baseball player, Upper Deck released a set of five Jordan “cards” on steel stock. The five-card set is contained in a metal box with a detachable lid.
The “Michael Jordan Tribute Set” is rather conventional in design. Paper fronts and backs are adhered to the gold embossed steel. Action photos grace the fronts, with narratives of Michael’s baseball odyssey contained on the back along with another photo. The cards are numbered MJ1-MJ5.
The first card features a Little League photo of Michael Jordan, with the back providing the inspiration and rationale for retiring from basketball and trying a sport he last played in high school.
Card MJ2 is about the White Sox sending Michael to the Arizona Fall League after the Birmingham Barons AA season ended in September of 1994. By the way, he got off to a fine start at bat and finishing with a respectable .252 average.
The final three cards are devoted to hitting, baserunning and fielding. The text details Jordan’s hard work and continued improvement.
Of course, Jordon decided to end his pursuit of a baseball career in 1995 and the bottom fell out of the baseball card market. The set I have is from the markdown section at Target, where my wife or I purchased it for my son in the late 1990s. Last summer, I rediscovered the set buried within a storage bin.
This set is an example of the prevailing philosophy of the “junk wax” era; throw stuff at the wall and hope something sticks. In the case of the “Michael Jordan Tribute Set,” it fell clanking to the floor.
“You better let Michael out of the can before he suffocates to death!”
In several previous posts (too many for most of you!), I have highlighted Topps’ tendency to recycle photos. The Major League Baseball Players Association boycott of Topps in 1967-68 exacerbated this practice, but earlier examples abound. My latest obsession is focused on the 1960s cards of Juan Marichal.
In either 1960 or 1961, a photo session took place in San Francisco at Candlestick Park, which opened in 1960. The photographer captured three different poses of Marichal. The photos are distinctive due to Juan’s white undershirt.
Since the undergarment does not have a collar, it appears to be a rubberized jacket seen frequently on vintage cards whose photos were taken in spring training. The shirt was designed to help “burn off” fat accumulated over the winter. However, in this instance, the slender Dominican is undoubtedly using it for insulation, to ward off the Arctic like conditions at Candlestick Park. Also, it is a good bet that Marichal was not starting that evening. The white sleeves would have been deceptive to the hitters.
The first use of the white sleeve photos shows up on Juan’s 1962 card. He is shown with his arms above his head. 1963 has Juan in a slightly turned stretch position. The small black and white photo on the 1963 card reuses the 1962 picture.
In 1964, the third pose is used. This straight on shot turns up on Juan’s “Stand Up” card as well. The 1962 image makes a comeback on the Pitching Leaders card, while the 1963 Topps pose is used on the Wheaties Stamp.
Topps was far from done using the photos. The 1964 image turns up on the 1968 checklist as well as Juan’s Bazooka cards from 1965 and 1968. Meanwhile the 1963 Topps pose turns up on the 1967 checklist and 1965 Pitching Leaders card.
We are not done yet. The 1962 photo spans the decades and appears on the 1970 Pitching Leaders card.
Sometime prior to 1965, Topps snapped three additional photos, probably in spring training. Although it is hard to prove definitively, the pictures were probably taken at the same time, due to the mock turtleneck undershirt in all three.
Topps will recycle two of the three portraits. Juan’s partially turned headshot is found on the 1965 card, the 1966 ERA Leaders, the 1967 ERA and Pitching Leaders cards, and the 1967 poster insert. The same image returns on the Deckle Edge insert in 1969.
The second photo, depicting Marichal holding a ball, is used on the 1964 coin insert and the 1966 Bazooka.
The third image may be the best of all. The 1964 “Giant” shows a smiling Juan. I could not find another instance of this one being reused.
Topps put out the recycling again, using a newer photo taken a Candlestick. It is used on the 1967 and 1968 cards, the 1969 Pitching Leaders and the 1969 and 1970 Transogram.
Of course, Juan Marichal is not unique in having reused images. The League Leader cards have many duplicate images of star players. I still find it interesting that an image can show up eight years after it first appeared.
Some of the best and brightest blog contributors have recently commemorated the unfortunate passing of Tom Seaver, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson and Joe Morgan with card retrospectives. Befitting my status, I decided to memorialize the death of a beloved but less famous player. Here is a look at the limited and rather mundane cards of “Sweet” Lou Johnson.
My first card encounter with Lou came in 1968. I must have pulled his card in one the first packs I opened. The odd “whistling” photo intrigued me as an eight-year old. Even at that age, I wondered what was the backstory? We may never know the answer, but Topps gave us another year to contemplate the artistic and existential meaning of Lou’s pursed lips.
The players’ boycott of Topps resulted in the use of the same photo in 1969. Lou was now on the Indians but continued to “whistle while he worked.” This repeat photo card would be last of his career.
Nine years before, “Sweet” Lou received his first Topps card. Though originally signed by the Yankees, he made his major league debut with the Cubs. The 1960 card highlights the fact that Lou had one oddly shaped ear. This fact will forever be remembered by those who are Ball Four “freaks.” The author, Jim Bouton, recalls an interaction between Seattle Pilots manager Joe Schultz and Lou. Upon seeing Lou Joe says: “Hey, what’s new, Half-Ear?”
Lou spent most of the early 1960s in the minors, bouncing between organization. He does not turn up again in a Topps set until 1963. By now Lou is part of the Braves organization, but the photo shows him in a Cubs uniform. The bare head shot appears to be from the same photo session as the 1960 card. This time his “good” ear side is used.
Despite filling in ably for the injured Tommy Davis in 1965 and hitting two home runs in the World Series, Lou did not receive a card in the 1965 set but did in 1966. However, his World Series exploits are not detailed on the back of his card nor did he receive a World Series highlight card. Unfortunately, Topps did not issue cards commemorating the 1965 World Series.
1967 marks the final Dodger card for Lou. Topps is back with another head pose, but at least they finally recognized his 1965 World Series heroics. Also, in 1967, Lou received a nice Dexter Press postcard. This is the best photo of all.
Lou is featured in another “odd ball” set besides Dexter Press. In 1969, he shows up in the “Jack-in-the-Box” California Angels set.
Most of you know that Mr. Johnson’s life spiraled out of control due to substance abuse. He received treatment and went on to a long and fruitful career with the Dodgers community relations department. Additionally, he appeared at card shows and MLB sponsored events, such as the 2001 All-Star game Fanfest in Seattle.
At this Fanfest, my wife obtained two autographs on the same ball. One was from “Sweet” Lou and the other from Lou Brock. Ironically, they died 21 days apart.
Just when you thought you would never have to endure another vintage, minor league set profile, here is yet another gas station sponsored set. This time we are examining the 1961 Union Oil Hawaii Islanders. This set is special in that it chronicles the first year Hawaii was a member of the Pacific Coast League.
On December 17, 1960, a Salt Lake City businessman-Nick Morgan-purchased the bankrupt Sacramento Solons from the Pacific Coast League. Mr. Morgan set up shop 2,500 miles from the nearest opponent at Honolulu Stadium. The park served as a home for amateur baseball and the University of Hawaii football team. College bowl games were played at the facility as well. Known as the “Termite Palace” the ramshackle, wooden structure would serve as the home of the Islanders until Aloha Stadium opened in 1976.
In 1961, Union Oil produced a total of 67 different cards for six of the eight PCL teams (Vancouver and Salt Lake did not participate). Only the cards that corresponded with the team in a team’s area could be found at the Union 76 gas stations. Due to smaller population areas, Hawaii and Spokane cards are considered short prints, making them more valuable and harder to come by.
The set features borderless, sepia-toned photos that measure 3” X 4”. The backs have an advertisement for the radio station that held each club’s broadcast rights. There are 10 Islanders in the set.
The 1961 Islanders were affiliated with the Kansas City Athletics. The bottom dwelling status of the parent club meant that the Hawaii team was not stocked with top prospects. Only a handful of the players had success at the major league level.
Perhaps the best of the lot is Diego Segui, who forged a long and productive career. His card photo-along with all the other Islanders-was shot at Sicks’ Seattle Stadium. Segui had no idea that eight years hence he would be playing in the big leagues with the Pilots in the same stadium.
Rachel Slider shows up in the set. “Rac” never played in the majors, but he was a long-time coach with the Red Sox.
A player who did log major league time was Bill Werle. The hurler was in the Pirates starting rotation in 1949-50.
Another player with a big-time pedigree is Ray Jablonski, who played for the Cardinals, Reds, Giants and A’s. Ray’s poor defense served as a counterweight to his batting prowess, which derailed a promising career after a promising start.
This photo of Dave Thies features a clear look at an advertisement for the 1962 Century 21 Worlds Fair in Seattle. This exposition put Seattle “on the map” and left the city with its signature structure, the Space Needle.
The Islanders wore colorful uniforms, which foreshadowed those adopted by Athletics owner Charlie Finley. The solid green vest uniforms were used on the road and accessorized with yellow undershirt sleeves and caps. The club donned white vests at home with green undershirt sleeves and caps. Perhaps, Finley remember these togs when he shocked the staid baseball world by decking out the A’s in green and gold for the 1963 season.
PCL players would no longer get a paid, week-long vacation in paradise after the 1987 season. Dwindling attendance and rising travel costs forced the Islanders’ relocation to Edmonton. But you can virtually feel the gentle breezes of paradise by collecting this set and downing a few mai tais.
Historically, the New York Yankees’ AAA teams were in the East or Midwest. The Newark Bears of the International League were owned by Yankees and played in Ruppert Stadium, named for Yankees owner Colonel Jacob Ruppert. The Kansas City Blues were a Yankees affiliate in the American Association at the time of the Athletics move to Kansas City in 1955. Additionally, Syracuse, Columbus and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre have had long stints as Yankee outposts. But in 1978, the Yankees found themselves affiliated with Tacoma of the Pacific Coast League.
The Bronx Bombers’ stay in the Pacific Northwest was planned from the outset to be for only one season. The Yanks were set to play in Columbus, Ohio, but the ballpark would not be ready until 1979. The Twins pulled out of Tacoma after the 1977 season leaving “The City of Destiny” as the only destination for New York.
This one and done season is commemorated by a 25-card, team-issued set sponsored by Puget Sound National Bank and produced by Cramer Sports Promotions. This is the same Cramer who would go on to form Pacific Trading Cards. I have owned the set for years and always found it intriguing. My favorite aspect of this set is the “TY” logo on the cap, jacket and jersey. It is a great take on the traditional Yankees script.
The 1978 PCL Co-Champion Yankees (Final series against Albuquerque was rained out) were managed by ex-Seattle Pilot, Mike Ferraro. Mike was originally signed by the Yankees as a player and returned to the fold as a minor league skipper. His success in Tacoma may have helped earn him the Indians’ managerial job in 1980.
Like Mike Ferraro, Jerry Narron would go on the be a big-league manager. The career backup catcher would pilot Texas and Cincinnati.
The most interesting card in the set belongs to pitching coach Hoyt Wilhelm. Apparently, The Hall-of-Fame knuckleballer could teach pitching mechanics beyond mastering a knuckleball grip.
In addition to Hoyt’s card, there are several other shots snapped in the Cheney Stadium clubhouse. Since the photos were taken early in the season, inclement weather may have forced the photographer inside. I can attest to the fact that few stadiums are as cold and damp as Cheney in April and May. One such example is this flattering image of Dave Rajsich.
Generally, the photos are of poor quality, with faces obscured by shadows. The low-angle photos coupled with the shadows make it hard to discern faces, rendering some players almost indistinguishable. Domingo Ramos and Damaso Garcia are prime examples.
The card for Tommy Cruz is another example not being able to see facial features. He is the sibling of the great Astro and Cardinal, Jose Cruz, and the uncle of Jose Cruz, Jr.
Another brother of a long-time major league player is Brian Doyle, whose brother Denny toiled with the Phillies, Angels and Red Sox. Brian’s photo is the only one not taken at Cheney Stadium. He is pictured in the road uniform, which features a basic (Tacoma) Yankees away jersey plus a logo patch on the sleeve.
Several other players saw some action with New York and other clubs. Dell Alston had a stint with Oakland, while Kammeyer, Werth and Zeber played in the Bronx.
Also, Mets fans may remember Roy Staiger. The utility man always reminds me of the actor Roy Steiger.
Now that you know more than you ever hoped to know about the 1978 Tacoma Yankees, I am sure you will race over to eBay or COMC to grab your own set. If you are willing to settle for a card or two, I have some duplicates.
“This is a very complicated case Maude. You know, a lotta ins, a lotta outs, lotta what-have-yous.”
In the 1960s, the dudes who ripped wax had to abide by one rule of acquisition, your odds of pulling a Sadowski were very high. The best approach was to remain calm and mellow while adding the cards to the duplicate pile.
Prior to the 1963 Season, infield prospect Bob Sadowski rolled like a tumbling tumbleweed from the White Sox of Chicago to the City of Angels, where he joined the Los Angeles Angels of Chavez Ravine. Topps thought enough of his potential to float his head on a 1962 Rookie Parade card (him and three other guys). When Bob the infielder showed up for spring training, he discovered that the Halos had another Sadowski on the roster.
Catcher Ed Sadowski was selected from the Red Sox organization in the expansion draft prior to the 1961 season. Ed’s weak stick marked his destiny as a backup catcher. He hung on with the Angels in that capacity through 1963, at which point Ed was ordered to stay out of Malibu.
Ed did not receive a solo card after 1963, but was teamed with Bob “Buck” Rogers on the “Angels Backstops” combo card in 1964.
One could hazard a guess that Ed was taken aback by the presence of the new infielder, Bob Sadowski, since he had a younger brother named Bob who was working his way up as a pitcher in the Braves chain. (How ya gonna keep em down on the farm once they’ve seen Karl Hungus?!)
Bob Sadowski the pitcher (the other Bob Sadowski) was called up to Milwaukee in 1963 resulting in two Bob Sadowskis being active on major league rosters. You can imagine their first meeting—”Okay sir, you’re a Sadowski, I’m a Sadowski. That’s terrific, but I’m very busy, as I can imagine you are. What can I do for you sir?”
Brother Bob had enough stuff to hang with the Braves through 1965 before he was peddled to Boston, where in 1966 he traded his spikes in for a pair of bowling shoes. Strong men also cry.
But, my friends, this is not the end of the Sadowski saga. In 1961, Topps issued a card for the third Sadowski brother, Ted. (Ahh, separate incidents). The Twins prospect received the rookie “star” on his one and only card. Not exactly a lightweight, Dude. Like his brother Bob, Ted was a thrower of rocks. He made 43 appearances with the Senators/Twins between 1960 and 1962.
Incidentally, on May 27, 1962 (the day after Shabbos) Ted faced Bob the infielder (no relation) in a league game (Smokey) between the Twins and White Sox. This Sadowski showdown resulted in Bob collecting two singles with two RBI in two plate appearances. Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes… well, he eats you. And sometimes the bear’s name is Bob Sadowski, who would henceforth be referred to by all other Sadowskis as His Dudeness (or Duder, or El Duderino, if you’re not into the whole brevity thing).
If you are still with me, you are undoubtedly hoping I will wrap it up soon. “Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.” For I happen to know there was another little Sadowski on the way.
Jim Sadowski, nephew of the three Sadowski brothers, surfaces with the Pirates in 1974, pitching in four games before returning to the minors. Topps did not issue a card for Jim, but we got some leads about a publicity still and a Venezuelan Winter League sticker that exist. We’ve been working in shifts to find them.
The non-related Bob hung on in the minor leagues though 1969, which netted him a Seattle Angels popcorn card in 1966. “Did you ever hear of the Seattle Angels? That was me… and twenty four other guys.”
And finally, like a rug can really tie a room together, I will wrap a bow on this post by showing you a page I have from a San Francisco Seals autograph book signed by Ed Sadowski. With that, I bid you farewell. I’m going to go see if they got any of that good sarsaparilla.
Editor’s note: Thanks to guest editor, good friend, and Big Lebowski scholar, Russ, for his help with this piece. He’s a good man…and thorough.
Last year, I purchased the 1981 and 1982 Fleer sets for essentially the shipping cost. Both sets were in binders, but the pocket pages were the old PVC type with the cards inserted two to a pocket. I “freed” the 1981 set last year and finally did the same for 1982 recently. This re-paging task allowed me to closely examine the 1982 cards-which left me astonished at the poor quality of photos, bad lighting and odd poses. There are a few positive aspects, but one must dig deeply.
Since 1982 was Fleer’s second go-round, one would assume that they would strive to produce a quality product to make up for the mistake-laden inaugural 1981 set. Instead, consistently murky images make season two a step back in quality.
1982 National League MVP Dale Murphy is an example of badly blurred image. You would think that an in focus shot of a player posing with a bat could be executed properly. Of course, the fuzzy images may have been the result printing issues. But if this were the case, why didn’t Fleer fix the issue once they saw the proofs?
Both Cal Ripken and teammate Lynn Sakata are typical examples of the “Fleer fuzz,” and Jack Clark shows blurred action.
“Big Daddy” Rick Reuschel is viewed through a camera darkly. Most of his card is black. The low light for Gary Allenson is a typical shot of a stationary figure in the daytime that still comes out dark and out of focus.
If poor photo quality wasn’t enough, many of poses are head scratchers. Brian Kingman is a good example of the fixation on photographing left-handed pitchers from behind. There are way too many shots of players’ backs.
Another overused pose is to have players seated alone in the dugout. It was as if Fleer was anticipating social distancing requirements 38 years ago.
Photos taken around the batting cage were common for decades. But Fleer takes it to a new level by photographing players in the cage. A few players taking batting practice might work as a fresh angle, but they took this idea and ran it into the ground.
And, what is with the pose used for Jack Morris? He is barely in the frame. Also, there may be a UFO in the background.
Now that I have ranted and raved, let’s look at some of the good aspects of the set. I like the Fernando Valenzuela shot showing him looking to the sky. Also, you must appreciate Manny Trillo’s World Champions jacket. Steve Stone in front of the helmet rack is another excellent shot.
Two players with same name are found in this set: former Seattle Pilot Mike Marshall and the Dodger outfielder with the identical moniker. I didn’t include this in a previous post on players with the same name, since I only looked at Topps.
Speaking of ex-Seattle Pilots, you will find Fred “Chicken” Stanley on the A’s. He is the last Pilot to be in a base set as a player (1983).
There are several great “hair” cards. John Lowenstein sheds his cap to show off an impressive perm. Danny Darwin offers up an excellent example of “helmet” hair.
Finally, Fleer provides Carlton Fisk fans with three different cards. He is shown with the Red Sox on Rich Dauer’s card, with the White Sox on his regular card and with his namesake, Steve Carlton, on a multi-player card.
Fleer saw through a glass, darkly. The result was a most ungodly, photographic apocalypse.
Perhaps the most mysterious and rare post-World War II set was issued by Bowman in 1949. The Philadelphia-based company produced a 36-card set featuring Pacific Coast League players in the same style as their major league cards. Strangely, Bowman only in distributed the cards in Portland (Oregon), Seattle and Philadelphia. Thus, only a small number of cards ever made it into circulation. Only around 2000 cards are known to be in collections.
My “go to” source for information on vintage PCL collectibles is Mark Macrae, who is a collector, dealer and historian. Mark kindly sent me an article he co-authored with Ted Zanidakis titled, “1949 Bowman Pacific Coast League Set.” The article was published in the March/April 1997 edition of the “Vintage & Classic Baseball Collector.” Most of the information in this piece is derived from the article. By the way, Mark has a complete set of the Bowman PCL cards.
The limited distribution of the product is hard to understand. Bowman went to the trouble of designing and printing the cards only to limit their distribution on the West Coast to the Pacific Northwest. The Los Angeles area had two teams, as did the Bay Area. Why not introduce the cards in an area containing significantly more potential buyers? Additionally, its hard to see the logic behind distributing PCL cards in Philadelphia, even if it was Bowman’s home base.
Speaking of which, the cards released in the Philadelphia area were included in the major league Bowman packs. Based on the print font on the back and the use of pastel background colors, the PCL cards were most likely mixed in with the big leaguers in the middle series. Original collections of Bowman cards from the Philadelphia area average around 3-5% PCL cards.
The aforementioned article discusses the recollections of a Seattle collector named Frank Caruso. He remembers purchasing the cards in 5-card packs for a nickel. Mr. Caruso didn’t remember any special wrapper or promotional materials at the stores. The cards may have used the same wrapper as the major league Bowman cards but contained only PCL players.
Mr. Caruso’s recollection puts into doubt a long-held belief that the cards were never distributed in packs on the West Coast. The PCL cards from Portland and Seattle often appear to be hand cut, leading to the assumption that the cards were issued in uncut sheets. Indeed, some uncut sheets turned up in the Portland area in the 1980s. However, Bowman was known to send uncut sheets of major league cards to candy distributors for promotional displays, so this practice may have been replicated with the PCL version.
So, why do many of the PCL cards appear to be miscut? One explanation offered by Mr. Macrae is that Bowman was very lax with quality control. Collectors of the Major League cards have often noted the propensity for Bowman cards to be poorly cut.
As with the regular Bowman cards, the PCL backs included two premiums. Twenty-five cents and five wrappers got you a baseball game and bank. Three wrappers and fifteen cents resulted in a ring. Apparently, only rings for Seattle and Los Angeles have surfaced. The rings are as rare as the cards.
Bowman’s rationale for selecting which PCL players would be included is murky. They left out many of the star players from 1948. For example, Gus Zernial of Hollywood had 237 hits and 156 RBI but didn’t make the cut. Also, Gene Woodling didn’t get a card and he hit .385 for San Francisco! The availability of photos may have been the deciding factor in who got a card.
There are some familiar names in the PCL set-at least to most readers of this blog. Here is a sampling: Joyner “Jo-Jo” White, Charles “Red” Adams, Pete “Inky” Coscarart, Mickey Grasso, Jack “Suds” Brewer and Herman Besse.
Currently, the least expensive card on eBay is $149 in fair condition, but you can own the entire 1987 reprint set for $39.99.
In 1949, major league baseball was still nine years away from moving the Giants and Dodgers to the West Coast. Television was just starting to make have a negative impact on the attendance figures of minor league baseball. The PCL was “major league” to the fans in the eight member cities. Bowman’s half-hearted foray into the PCL market seems like a mistake. Most likely, the cards would have sold well if offered to kids in all the franchise locations.