Author’s note: Before “biting” into part two of the Seattle Rainiers wiener cards series, I have new information about the Hygrade wieners cards in part one. The Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards stated that only 11 of the 22 cards have ever been cataloged. However, Seattle area collector Charles Kapner informed me that he has 13 different cards and knows of two more. Thus, it is possible that—as the back of each card states—there are really 22 different cards.
Three years after Hygrade wieners were first put on the rotating warmer at the local bowling alley and the cards tossed in the dumpster with the discarded Desenex aerosol cans, Henry House meat products included a new set of Seattle Rainiers cards in their wiener packages.
The 1960 Henry House set is comprised of 18 cards and have several similarities to the Hygrade version from 1957. For instance, the cards are printed with red ink and include a small player photo accompanied by a short biography. This time, though, the cards are vertically oriented and feature a detachable mail in coupon. Kids could send in two coupons plus 25 cents and receive a nifty Rainiers uniform patch.
The cards are “skip numbered” using the players’ uniform numbers. As with the Hygrade cards, the Henry House photos are the same ones found on the popcorn cards.
The 1960 Rainiers were affiliated with the Cincinnati Reds and managed by Dick Sisler. The roster was comprised mostly of veterans with some major league experience. A few prospects were sprinkled in as well. Some of the familiar names include Gordy Coleman, Erv Palica, Dave Stenhouse, Jerry Zimmerman, Ray Ripplemeyer, Charlie Beamon, and Hal Bevan.
Another veteran is Seattle University basketball and baseball legend Johnny O’Brien. The former Pirate and Brave finished up his career with Seattle in 1960.
Don Rudolph, former White Sox pitcher and manager of his exotic dancer wife, shows up in the set as well.
Remember, there is still one more installment to come in this “dog” of a series. Until the next post, I am off to the West Seattle Lanes to eat a Hygrade or Henry House wiener that has been rotating on the warmer for the last 60 years.
Since it has been awhile since I irritated (I mean enlightened) you with a multi-part post, I have decided to ring in the new year with a really “meaty” series. This time I’m offering a “frank” discussion of the three iterations of the Seattle Rainiers’ “wiener” cards.
In 1957, the United States was flexing its muscles on the world stage and producing large amounts of processed foods that would set the “baby boomers” on a lifetime course of obesity and heart disease. The pristine environment of the Pacific Northwest–with its healthy outdoorsy types–was no exception. The Carstens Meat Products company produced Hygrade brand wieners to ensure that all boys and girls literally internalized the patriotic fervor (flavor) of the All-American hot dog.
Of course, hot dogs and baseball are inextricably linked, thus coupling the two in marketing campaigns made perfect sense. So, on a regional basis, major league and minor league players’ picture cards found their way into wiener packages.
If putting cardboard under the juicy, salt and nitrate laden sausage tubes seems counter-intuitive, you are not accounting for good old American ingenuity. Mid-century America was offering up one innovation after another. So, putting a waxed or plastic coating over the photo of baseball players and adding them to meat packaging was just another example of the prevailing “can do” attitude.
But what seems like a good idea doesn’t always stand the test of time or–in this case–briny juice. The cards were often juice stained and bent from the shrink wrapping of the dogs. Therefore, finding cards in excellent condition is rare. You may remember that the most famous wiener cards, Kahn’s, changed tactics and had kids mail order the cards.
The Hygrade cards use the same photos as found on the popcorn cards which were distributed at Sicks’ Stadium inside bags of popcorn. Here are links to my posts on that subject.
Although the back states that there are 22 cards, only 12 have ever been catalogued. The small photo is juxtaposed with biographical information under the banner: “Meet the Rainiers.”
The most interesting feature is “Kewpie’s Korner.” A small drawing of the former player and radio color commentator, “Kewpie” Dick Barrett, accompanies text exhorting the collector to eat plenty of Hygrade wieners.
Barrett was a legend in the Pacific Coast League. Pitching mostly for the Rainiers, Dick amassed 234 PCL wins, as stated on the cards. His major league career took place primarily during the war years. Barrett’s cherubic face resembled a popular doll known as “kewpie,” hence the nickname. The short, roly-poly Barrett did not fit the bill of a star athlete, but he was much beloved by the “Suds” fans.
“Kewpie’s Korner” stated that the cards could be traded in for 8” X 10” photos, just like the popcorn cards. However, I was unable to discover where kids made the transaction. The 1957 program has an ad for Hygrade, but it doesn’t mention the cards.
To find a card any condition is extremely rare and very expensive. Poor condition cards go for over $100. I don’t own one but have seen them in the possession of Northwest sports memorabilia collectors. The wiener cards coincided with the only season as Rainiers for legends Maury Wills and manager Lefty O’Doul.
Another notable is Larry Jansen, who was once the ace of the New York Giants staff. He won 23 games in 1951 for the pennant winning Giants.
Also, the first Filipino-American to play Major League Baseball, Bobby Balcena, is in the set.
I will leave you with these sage words: “Hygrade on the package means Quality on the plate.”
While recently looking through my 1975 Topps binder, I was drawn to an “uncommon” common- the one and only Topps card of Bruce Ellingsen. His cherubic face and pompadour do not match the prevailing 1970s style of long, unkept hair, mutton chop sideburns and mustaches-though his sideburns are creeping down. Intrigued by the photo, I was compelled to find out more about Bruce and this ultimate common.
The photo was only three years old when the card was issued. In November of 1971, the Angels plucked Bruce from the Dodgers in the Rule 5 draft. Based on the red and navy jersey piping, he is with the Angels when the photo was taken. In April of 1972, California returned Bruce to the Dodgers-which is required by Rule 5 if the player doesn’t make the major league roster. So, the photo had to be taken in the spring of 1972.
Topps had at least one photo of Ellingsen on the Dodgers in case he ever made his LA debut.
The Dodgers selected Ellingsen in the 1967 amateur draft in the 63rd round. Though he put up some descent numbers, he was apparently blocked by the Dodgers quality, big league staff. After the Angels sent him back to the Dodgers, he toiled for two more years in AAA Albuquerque. For some reason, Bruce did make it to Dodger Stadium and suited up, since there is photographic evidence. Perhaps, it was the annual exhibition series with the Angels.
Bruce’s big break come prior to the 1974 season when the Dodgers shipped him to Cleveland for a raw, untested minor leaguer named Pedro Guerrero. Yes, this is the same Pedro Guerrero who will become an All-Star.
Ellingsen didn’t make the Indians roster out of spring training, so it was back to AAA-this time with the Oklahoma City Eighty-Niners. However, the Tribe made his big-league dream come true with a July call up. Bruce proceeded to post a 1-1 record in 16 games. He was with the Cleveland long enough to get a team issued postcard.
Anticipating a possible long term stay at the “mistake by the lake,” Topps issues Ellingsen’s only card in 1975. Alas, he never saw a big-league mound in 1975 or ever again. Bruce returned to Oklahoma City for two seasons, retiring after the 1976 season in which he went 4-12 with a 6.43 ERA.
If Bruce had stuck with Cleveland beyond 1975, Topps had a photo ready to go for 1976-as this custom card clearly shows.
I discovered a few other things about Mr. Ellingsen. First, his nickname was “Little Pod,” though I’m not sure why. Too bad someone didn’t nickname him Duke, when he played for the Albuquerque Dukes. “Duke Ellingsen” would have been a real “jazzy” nickname. Also, Bruce played winter ball for Hermosillo in the Mexican Pacific League-where he wore the cool jacket in this photo.
Bruce Ellingsen’s card is the epitome of a common. Yet, there is something satisfying about knowing that his dream of playing baseball came true, and he has a card to prove it.
With the festive frivolity of the holiday season upon us, I bring you a post even more frivolous than my usual lightweight offerings. Before reading, I suggest adding a pint of rum to the eggnog-which will ensure that you forget that this blog is connected to an august body like SABR. So, toss on another yule (Blackwell) log on the fire, grab a plate of cookies (Rojas and Lavagetto) and contemplate this ancient carol (Clay) within your decked-out halls (Jimmy and Tom).
A Partridge in a Pear Tree: Jay Partridge was the starting second baseman for Brooklyn in 1927. I could not locate a card from the time, but an auction site did have a small newsprint photo described as a panel. Fortunately, Mr. Partridge has a card in the 1990 Target Dodgers set. If you insist on a card issued while the player was active, this 1977 TCMA of Glenn Partridge falls into that “family.”
Apparently, no players with the surname Pear or Tree ever appeared in a professional game. But Matt Pare shows up on the 2017 San Jose Giants. I had to go the minor league route as well to find a “tree.” Mitch Trees was a catcher for the Billings Mustangs in 2017.
Two Turtle Doves: Spokane Indians assistant coach “Turtle” Thomas has a 2017 card, but I’m going with 1909-11 T206 “Scoops” Carry of the Memphis Turtles. As for Doves, Dennis Dove has several prospect cards, including this 2003 Upper Deck Prospect Premiere. However, this 1909-11 American Caramel card of “Buster” Brown on the Boston Doves wins out. After all, Buster lived in a shoe, and his dog Tike lived in there too.
Three French Hens: For this one, I must go with Jeff Katz’s acquaintance Jim French. The diminutive backstop toiled for the Senators and Rangers. Dave “Hendu” Henderson was the best hen option, outside of any Toledo Mud Hen.
Four Calling Birds: This 1982 Larry Fritsch card of Keith Call on the Madison Muskies certainly “answers the call” for this word. Although, Callix Crabbe is in contention based solely on the awesomeness of his name. For the bird, I heard the call of the “royal parrotfinch” and went with longtime Royals pitcher Doug Bird.
Five Golden Rings: It would be a cardinal sin if I didn’t go with the Cardinals’ Roy Golden on this 1912 T-207 “brown background” card. Phillies pitcher, Jimmy Ring, gets the nod with this 1921 National Carmel issue.
Six Geese a Laying: Since Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat, Rich Gossage would have been a logical choice. But I can’t pass up making Seattle Pilot Greg Goossen my fowl choice. His 1970 card is so amazing that all I can do is “gander” at it. This 2019 card of Jose Layer on the Augusta Greenjackets is the best fit that I could lay my hands on.
Seven Swans a Swimming: After answering a personal ad in a weekly newspaper, I met my future wife for a drink at the Mirabeau Room atop the SeaFirst Building in Seattle on June 9, 1990. That evening, Russ Swan of the Mariners carried a no-hitter into the 8th inning against Detroit. Viewing this mound mastery sealed our lifelong bond, for which the “swan song” is yet to be sung.
I must “take a dive” into the Classic Best 1991 minor league set to find someone who fits “swimmingly.” I ended up somewhere near Salinas and found the Spurs’ Greg Swim.
Eight Maids a Milking: Since no Maids are found on “Baseball Reference” and the players named Maiden don’t have cards, I was “made” to go with Hector Made and his 2004 Bowman Heritage.
This may qualify as “milking” it, but the best fit I could find was the all-time winningest general manager in Seattle Pilots history, Marvin Milkes. This DYI card uses a Pilots team issued photo, which shows off the high-quality wood paneling in Marvin’s Sicks’ Stadium office.
Nine Ladies Dancing: The 1887-90, N172 “Old Judge” card of “Lady” Baldwin and the 1996 Fritsch AAGPBL card of Faye Dancer are a perfect fit.
Ten Lords a Leaping: This wonderful 1911 T205 Bris Lord card coupled with a 1986 Dave Leeper doesn’t require much of a leap to work.
Eleven Pipers Piping: Former Negro Leaguer Piper Davis has a beautiful 1953 Mother’s Cookies card on the PCL Oakland Oaks. In fact, the card is “piping” hot.
Twelve Drummers Drumming: You can’t get much better than this 1911 Obak T212 card of Drummond Brown on the PCL Vernon Tigers. Or, you could “bang the drum slowly” with this specialty card of Brian Pearson (Robert De Niro) from the movie “Bang the Drum Slowly.”
I realize that Santa will fill my stocking with coal and “Krampus” will punish me for having written this, but the spirit of the season will endure. I wish you and all those you hold dear a wonderful holiday season and a prosperous new year.
Recently, a near complete set of 1973 Topps Pin-ups sold at auction for $11,400. Why is this set so rare? Well.. (cue theme music)
Just sit right back and you will read a tale, a tale of a test issue set/ That started from a Brooklyn press, but never would be shipped/ The idea was a mighty bold one. The sales would be great for sure/ Five airbrush artists set to work, for the logos couldn’t show through. For the logos couldn’t show through/ The sales projections started looking rough and the set was nearly tossed/If not for the employees that kept a few, the set would be lost! The set would be lost!
One of several “test issue” sets Topps produced over the years, the 1973 Pin-ups are like the 1968 3-D cards in that they were never issued or had a very limited release. The product was designed to be a wrapper for a large, rectangular piece of bubble gum. The collectibles are made of thin wax paper with a label on the outer side (with a small photo of Johnny Bench) and a large photo on the interior. There are 24 wrappers in the set, each measuring 3-7/16” x 4-5/8.”
The most unique aspect of the set is the lack of cap insignia, jersey lettering and team names. Vintage collectors know that Topps stopped producing pack inserts in 1972. The change coincided with a new contract with Major League Baseball. Apparently, MLB wanted more money from Topps if they produced additional products beyond the base cards. So, Topps devised a “work around” by airbrushing away all visuals that fell under the purview of MLB Properties.
This technique used in the Pin-ups and Candy Lids foreshadowed the explosion of “logo-less” cards that would crop up in the late 1970s and run through the end of the “junk wax” era. Of course, Panini still cranks out numerous sets with only Major League Players Association authorization.
Each team has a Pin-up and the set includes 15 Hall-of-Fame players-if Joe Torre is included. The non-HOF players are all stars of the era.
1973 is right in the middle of the “mutton chop” sideburns and mustache era. There are some definite “badassery” photos. George “Boomer” Scott, Nate Colbert and Mike “Super Jew” Epstein are prime examples.
The reigning American League MVP, Dick Allen, is his usual cool self. I have yet to see a bad photo of Mr. Allen. His “coolness” factor may never be replicated.
The worst image is that of former Seattle Pilot Mike Marshall. Topps uses the same airbrushed photo as appears on his 1973 base card. The image is from 1967-68 during his Detroit years. The “awesome” paint job qualifies as a “double-airbrush,” since the airbrushed cap emblem is airbrushed over.
Our esteemed co-chair, Jason Schwartz, will undoubtedly want to empty his bank account to add the Aaron to the collection. (Editor’s note: Barring lottery win, this card is firmly planted on the list of Aaron cards I’ll never own.)
Equally esteemed co-chair, Nick Vossbrink, will gladly cash out his children’s college fund to acquire Willie McCovey.
Likewise, the citizens of Red Sox Nation will spare no expense to land a “Caawl” Yastrzemski.
This is the tale of a set nearly cast away/ No one remembered it for a long, long time/ To find an even rarer set, would be an uphill climb/ No creases, no folds, no gum stains not a single deficiency/ Like the T-206 Honus Wagner, it’s rare as can be.
Forty-five years after purchasing a pack, I finally completed the 1974 Fleer “Baseball’s Wildest Days and Plays” set. This is one of several sets in which artist Robert Laughlin used cartoons to illustrate some aspect of baseball history. This set is often listed as having been issued in 1973-which is printed on the backs as the copyright date-but the packs didn’t appear in stores until 1974.
The cards are of the “tall boy” style, measuring 2-1/2” x 4”. The set is comprised of 42 cards, which were distributed five cards to a pack, along with a slab of gum. Interestingly, Laughlin had a mail order business in which he “hawked his wares,” as evidenced by this advertisement in a 1974 “The Trader Speaks.” This ad clearly shows that the “Baseball’s Wildest Days and Plays” cards were new for 1974.
Card #1 in the numerical sequence provides a feel for Laughlin’s concept and art style. A cartoon is used to symbolize the event. The accompanying tagline helps set the stage and provides context. Finally, the narrative on the back fleshes out the whole story. Essentially, each card offers a baseball history lesson.
By all rights, the following confession should get me drummed out of SABR. Until I acquired this card a few weeks ago, I was unaware of the “Unglaub Arc.” In 1907, Red Sox first baseman Bob Unglaub proposed a rule designed to increase scoring. He advocated for an arc to be painted in the outfield 240 feet from home plate. The outfielders had to stay to the infield side of the arc before the ball was hit. Thus, the sluggers of the day would have a better chance of reaching base. Of course, today’s speedy athletes routinely play at a shallow depth and run back once the ball is airborne.
Action on the diamond isn’t the only subject matter. Senators catcher Gabby Street’s famous catch of a ball dropped from the Washington Monument in 1908 is an example. After several attempts, Gabby was able to snag a ball dropped from the height of 555 feet. According to the SABR Bio Project piece by Joseph Wancho, the ball fell with 300 pounds of force. Although Street is depicted in uniform, he was in street clothes when he made the “monumental” snag.
The murky legends of baseball get a turn with William “Dummy” Hoy and the origin of umpire signals. According to esteemed SABR researcher Bill Deane in a July 24, 2010 New York Times article, no contemporaneous evidence exists of hand signals being added by umpires to communicate balls and strikes to the deaf Hoy. As with many baseball innovations, the evolution is nuanced and not centered on a definitive moment in history.
My favorite “Wildest Days and Plays” cards use the actual
likenesses instead of just a generic player.
An excellent rendering of Jimmie Foxx is used to tell the story of the
“Beast” being walked six consecutive times in a game. Also, a very recognizable Babe Ruth was drawn
by Laughlin for another card.
The card for the Eddie Gaedel stunt is an excellent example
of Laughlin using imagery to enhance the story.
A little guy perched on a giant baseball automatically conveys Gaedel’ s
Likewise, a towering Jim Thorpe conveys the outsized status
of the great athlete. Besides, hitting
home runs in three different states in the same game is an “outsized”
Even owners show up in this set. Pirates mogul, Barney Dreyfuss, is depicted firing Bill Abstein for striking out 10 times in the 1909 World Series.
I will exit with the card that tells the tale of the rise and fall of Joe Borden. In 1875, Borden (playing under the name Josephs) recorded the first no-hitter in professional baseball history with Philadelphia of the National Association. In 1876 he joined the newly formed National League with Boston where he proceeded to win the first game in league history. Sadly, Joe’s status as a “phenom” came crashing down with each subsequent, poor performance. By the end of 1876 season, Borden was fulfilling his contract by serving as the Red Caps groundskeeper. Charlie Weatherby’s SABR Bio Project entry provides the full scoop on “Flash-in-the-Pan” Borden.
Mark Armour (the “Founding Father” of our illustrious committee) and I recently consummated a transaction in which we exchanged autographed 8” x 10” photos. “Trader Mark” sent George “Boomer” Scott my way in exchange for Lou Brock. Although this trade may seem to be in the same vain as Brock for Broglio, we both had two autographed photos of the players in the trade. Mark tried to get Brock for Lee Stange, but I held out for more.
Acquiring the Scott photo reminded me of the blockbuster
deal that sent “Boomer” to the Brewers from the Red Sox before the 1972
season. Seattle Pilots General Manager,
Marvin Milkes, accompanied the club to Milwaukee in 1970. He was dismissed after the season and
surprisingly replaced by the legendary Frank “Trader” Lane, who lived up to his
In the 1950s, Lane was known for his multi-player trades
which often seemed to be done just to shake things up. Thus, Lane decided to shed some of the last
vestiges of the Pilots to remake the “Brew Crew.”
The trade involved nine major league players and one minor leaguer. The Red Sox sent Scott, Ken Brett, Joe Lahoud, Dan Pavletich, Billy Conigliaro, and Jim Lonborg to the Brewers in return for Tommy Harper, Marty Pattin, Lew Krausse and AAA player Patrick Skrable.
In the 1972 card set, Topps responded to the deal in two ways: upturned head shots and airbrushed logos. Apparently, Topps had a stash of Red Sox photos featuring players looking skyward. Only Jim Lonborg received an airbrushed Brewers cap. On the other hand, the three players sent to Boston have airbrushed cap insignia.
The crack airbrush team at Topps did an excellent job on
Marty Pattin. His cap is either navy
blue or black with the Boston “B” rendered expertly. Of course, you must ignore the royal blue
seats at Tempe Diablo Stadium in the background.
Tommy Harper’s photo, taken at Tiger Stadium, is less convincing. The powder blue uniform and cap just don’t scream Bosox.
Lew Krausse has some strange stuff going on around his
collar. Odds are, he had on a
Pilots/Brewers warm up jacket with gold piping.
Thus, he gets a blue and grey combo to cover up the gold.
Though his 1967 season is immortalized in the hearts and
minds of all Red Sox fans, Jim Lonborg’s 1972 card will not be remember as
fondly. The sideways turn of the head
complicated the formation of the “M” logo.
One “leg” appears shorter than the other.
As mentioned earlier, the airbrush was put away for the rest
of new Brewers in favor of the “nostril” shot.
George Scott’s gaze into the Winter Haven sun or the Fenway press box is
not a thing of beauty. His cap is tilted
so far back that the #5 inked on to the bill is visible.
Billy Conigliaro and Ken Brett both suffered the misfortune of having brothers who were better players. Billy probably welcomed a chance to shed Tony’s shadow in Boston. This trade would start Brett on a vagabond odyssey that would produce some true airbrushed gems. Here is a link to a previous post on this topic.
With the leather-lined padding exposed under his batting
helmet and a slight smile, Joe Lahoud’s card is a bit more interesting than the
others. Perhaps Joe is smiling over the
prospect of more playing time outside of Beantown.
By far, the worst photo is that of journeyman catcher Don Pavletich. He was apparently very surly at the prospect of another trade, having been dispatched by the Reds to the White Sox in 1969 and on to the Red Sox in 1970.
I would be remiss if I didn’t show a card (postcard with the Reading Phillies) of Patrick Skrable, the veteran minor league player the Brewers tossed into the trade mix. Although Pat never made it to the big leagues, he was a master of placing the “Q” on a triple-letter space.
Which team came out on top of this deal? Harper had good years with Boston, but George Scott developed into one of the most feared power hitters in the American League. Plus, when the Red Sox reacquired him from Milwaukee, they gave up Cecil Cooper. So, advantage Brewers.
Picking up a Street and Smith Yearbook from the newsstand or
drug store was an annual rite of spring for many baseball fans. Since ESPN and the internet were nowhere in
sight, annuals were one way to obtain updated rosters and prognostications for
the upcoming season. Of course, the
information was several months old by the time it reached the magazine rack. However,
those of us in a non-Major League markets or rural areas especially relied on
these publications to set the stage for the season.
In the 1970s, Street and Smith produced regional covers designed to attract fans of the local team. Prior to the Mariners arrival in 1977, Washington State baseball fans received covers featuring California teams. For instance, I bought this 1976 edition with Davey Lopes on the cover. But New England fans would find the same content covered with the photo of 1975 Rookie of the Year and MVP, Fred Lynn.
While looking through both versions, I was drawn to the
advertisements for sports card dealers. Obviously, sports magazines were an
excellent method of reaching the customer base.
The 1976 Street and Smith Yearbook has numerous ads for dealers across
For example, mail order stalwart (still going strong in 2019) Larry Fritsch Cards in Stevens Point, WI, has an ad. The 1976 Fritsch ad is filled with tempting choices including the complete 1976 Topps baseball set for $12.95 plus postage. This is on the expensive side, since most of the other ads offer the set for less. Incidentally, $12.95 in 1976 dollars has the buying power of $58.44 today. Thus, a kid had to mow several lawns or, in my case, return a huge number of beer bottles to the recycler to afford the complete set.
I distinctly remember ordering my 1976 complete set from G. S. Gallery in Coopersburg, PA. The set was $7.95, plus a dollar postage. I remember the postal worker (Mr. Copeland-it’s a small town) at the Selah, WA, post office having to redo the money order after accidentally putting “Cooperstown” on it instead of Coopersburg. By the way, $8.95 has the 2019 buying power of $40.39 when adjusted for inflation.
Two other dealers in the magazine offer examples of the
price range for the complete set. Stan
Martucci of Staten Island-who urges buyers to “Go with Experience” based on his
22 years in the business-priced his set at a whopping $14. Meanwhile, collectors could shell out $9.99
to obtain the same cards from the only West Coast dealer in the magazine, Will
Davis of Fairfield, CA.
In addition to new sets, the dealers offered sets from previous years. Wholesale Cards of Georgetown, CT, offered complete sets from the 1970s in all four major sports. Plus, you could pick up Topps Civil War, 1966 English Soccer or the 1959 Fleer Ted Williams set.
Another merchant with a tantalizing selection of cards was Paul
E. Marchant of Charleston, IL. The 1964 Topps “Giant” set was available for
only $3.00. Also, SSPC sets could be had along with an address list for
This ad uses the card of Glenn Abbott as an example for the
1976 set. An odd choice since Glenn was
just starting out. I must point out that
he would be the “ace” of the original Seattle Mariners in 1977, winning 13
games. At the time, his win total tied
the record for most wins on an expansion team.
The first to do it was Seattle Pilots hurler, Gene “Lerch” Brabender.
The Sports Hobbyist in Detroit offered a different way for
collectors to obtain a complete set of 660 Topps cards in 1976. For $10, they sent 1,000 cards and guaranteed
that “just about” a complete set could be assembled. A 50-cent coupon was included to purchase up
to 40 cards to help complete the set.
Once a complete set was obtained, the collector needed some
place to store the cards. A nifty tote
box, divided into 26 compartments, was one solution. It was available for a mere $4.00 from ATC
Sports Products of Duluth, MN.
Along the same lines, a Major League Baseball card locker
could be had from the Royal Advertising Corp. for $2.95, plus 36 cents
postage. You could even send cash! Note that Seattle Pilots outfielder Steve
Whitaker’s 1967 card on the Yankees is front and center in the ad.
Although cards are not offered, there is an ad for the hobby
publication, “The Trader Speaks.” I never subscribed to this trade paper but
went with “Sports Collectors’ Digest” instead.
One negative feature of all these offers was the fact you
had to wait four to six weeks to receive the merchandize in 1976. There was no expectation for faster service,
and no reason given for the protracted processing time. My recollection was that it always seemed to take
closer to six weeks than four. This
process explains why I am such a patient man to this day.
I will close with two advertisements that were ubiquitous in magazines of this era: Manny’s Baseball Land and Charles Atlas. Manny’s had the same format for years with many of the same products offered as well. Of course, Charles Atlas offered to “make a man out of Mac” for decades. I’m still trying to get his body building method to work, and I’m damned tired of bullies kicking sand in my face at the beach!
The 2019 Topps Heritage set is based on the 1970 design. As with past sets, there are limited number of bonus products that match the wax pack inserts from the featured year. Thus, collectors might find a poster, a story booklet or a scratch-off, baseball game folio. The “Scratch-Offs” are one of Topps most unique inserts. Since you are itching to find out more, here is the balm for your “Scratch-Off fever.”
The 1970 Scratch-Offs are 2-1/2” × 3-3/8” bi-folds with a small “Team Captain” headshot on the front, 44 black scratch boxes in the middle, and the rules and a scoreboard on the back. When unfolded, the cards measure 3-3/8” × 5”. Teams names were not printed in conjunction with the players’ photos. The fronts were printed in blue, yellow or red, but each player only has one color.
The game is played by scratching off the black surface with
a coin, revealing hits or outs. My
recollection is that you never had enough boxes to complete nine innings.
By 1970, most teams did not designate a player to be the team captain. Therefore, Topps simply selected a player for each of the 24 teams to be the “captain.” By the way, Topps selected a different player for each of its three insert sets, all of which came in sets of 24. (If memory serves me, posters were issued first, Scratch-Offs second, and finally the story books. If this is not the case, please let me know.)
Some of Topps “captain” selections are curious. For example, Richie Allen and Tim McCarver, who were traded for one another prior to the 1969 World Series, show up as captains. Most likely, McCarver was originally selected as the Cardinals representative and Allen as the Phillies. Based on the drama surrounding Richie Allen at the time, there is some irony in labeling him team captain.
The most interesting of the small headshots is that of Boog
Powell. The negative is flipped, which
is made obvious by the comic Oriole emblem facing the opposite direction. Also, the reverse image makes Boog look as if
he is ready to “toss his cookies.”
Most collectors remember that Topps didn’t attempt, even in the later series, to relabel the Seattle Pilots cards as Milwaukee Brewers. The franchise shift (sob!) occurred a week before the season started, meaning that most of the cards, posters etc. were already printed. This means that Mike Hegan is depicted wearing a Pilots cap from spring training of 1969.
Fresh off his American League Rookie of the Year award in 1969, Lou Piniella got the nod to be the Royals team captain. However, Topps didn’t reward him with a new picture. No, “Sweet Lou” is saddled with the same squinty-eyed photo used on his 1968 and 1969 Rookie Stars cards.
Nine Hall of Famers are included in the set: Henry Aaron, Harmon Killebrew, Yastrzemski, Tom Seaver, Luis Aparicio, Juan Marichal, Willie Stargell, Al Kaline, and Tony Perez.
Strangely, Topps reissued the same 24 Scratch-Off cards in 1971 but with a significant difference; the scratch off sections are printed in red instead of white. They were distributed with the later series after the coin inserts. Thus, the Mike Hegan Scratch-Off means the Pilots lasted in “Topps World” until 1971. Also, Richie Allen was traded to the Dodgers, resulting in a dual captainship with Claude Osteen and no Cardinals captain.
Checklists and dealer offerings don’t always make a distinction between the two issues. Completing sets can be difficult if the description does not include the booklet’s interior color.
Surprisingly, to me at least, the Scratch-Offs were also
issued in packs as a stand-alone product at the end of year in 1970 and 1971 in
order to get rid of excess inventory. I
couldn’t find information on the number of cards per pack, price or
So, if you get the itch to scratch off a game, pick up a Mack
Jones, grab a penny and go to it. This
game was cutting edge technology back in “my day.” We didn’t need no stinkin’
Starting in the late 1980s, I can no longer remember the year of Topps base card sets from simply eyeballing the design. For the most part, I can only give you a ballpark estimation of the year based on the player. This stems from buying the factory sets, sorting, putting them in binders, and immediately archiving them in the card closet.
Contributing to this “one and done” approach to collecting
modern cards is my curmudgeonly insistence that current designs are either lame
or too similar from one year to the next.
To try and break from my “old school” mindset, I took a fresh look at
each of the sets from the first decade of the 2000s. What follows is one old curmudgeon’s ranking
of the cards based solely on design.
Bringing up the rear of the decade rankings is 2007. This one falls in my pet peeve wheelhouse by using foil lettering. The letters are very difficult to read, due to insufficient contrast, which renders the whole purpose of identifying players and teams moot. Also, what is with the corner dots? They remind me of the test pattern from the field of vision test I routinely take as part of my glaucoma treatment. The black borders are acceptable but not the “day-glow” green statistics box on the back. The entirety of design is a complete “excrement show.”
2001 falls into awful category as well. First off, this is the 50th Anniversary year for Topps. A design that paid homage to Topps past glories seems like a logical approach. Instead we get teal borders and gold foil lettering! Teal? You’ve got to be kidding me! Sy Berger would have turned over in his grave had he been dead at the time.
At number eight I present 2002 in all its “puke” gold glory. This is not an attractive color. It reminds me of the color of my first car, a 1972 four-door Plymouth Valiant with a black vinyl top. Also, are the ribbons supposed to be “gonfalons” floating in the stadium breeze? Well, the gonfalon bubble burst, and the design is weighty with nothing but trouble. “Stinky (Davis)-to-Stanky-to-Sauer”
2000 and 2006 both suffer from the foil legibility issue,
but 2006 gets props for including a cartoon on the back instead of a
photo. Do we really need photos on the
back? This generally means fewer
statistics and limited or no biographical information. How are kids supposed to who led the Sally
League in triples in 1998?
Topps stepped up its game in 2005 by introducing white borders and team names, utilizing team word marks. But, why did they put only the player’s last name in bold letters at the top? The vertical placement of the players position is weird as well. Kudos for having lengthy biographical material.
2009 has some positive elements such white borders and logo placement, but the hard to read foil “foils” the overall aesthetic.
Because it harkens back to past sets, I like the 2003 set
with the picture-in-picture look. If
only Topps had used black and white photos with poorly airbrushed logos like
1963, it would be the winner. The back
has most of the good elements, apart from a cartoon.
I must admit that 2004 is a great look. The team name in foil is very visible against
the white background. I love the drawing
of a player representing the position of the person on the card.
As nice as the design is in 2004, it must take runner up status to the “Curmudgeon Cup” winning 2008 design. The alternating color balls at the top-forming the team name-is simultaneously innovative and retro. The white borders help draw the eye to the team name as well. Also, the facsimile signature warms the soil of the vintage collector. The biggest downside is the lack of the player’s position on the front.
Before you fill up the comments section with vitriol and torch me on Twitter, there is a strong “tongue-in-check” element to this post. I am not inclined to defend my choices, since I have no strong attachment to this era’s cards. I will leave you with this though: “Get off my lawn, Topps, and bring back burlap and wood paneled borders!”