Be Sure to Wear … Some Jet Black Caps Over Your Hair

Almost from the moment Charlie Finley purchased the Kansas City Athletics prior to the 1961 season, the Chicago-based insurance magnate sought greener pastures. Like so many other cities in the post-war era, Kansas City experienced “white flight” to the suburbs–meaning that many fans had to drive to the ballpark. Since Municipal Stadium was located in an impoverished part of the city with limited parking, attendance suffered accordingly. Of course, abysmal teams and the pre-Finley perception that the A’s were merely a “farm team” of the Yankees didn’t help. Despite Finley’s promotions and gimmicks, the fan base continued to dwindle.

Finley feuded constantly with government officials over ballpark improvements and ultimately the construction of a new stadium. He threatened a move to Dallas-Ft. Worth, but the scheme was quickly squelched by the American League. In early 1964 Charlie tried to relocate to Louisville, but the AL put the kibosh on this plan as well. With the construction of the Coliseum in Oakland and “Finley fatigue” in KC, Charlie finally found a landing place that was acceptable to the American League. The team moved prior to the ’68 season.

As far as cards are concerned, Topps followed its formula of eliminating the previous city’s insignia from the caps or using bare head shots. A’s cards in the first five series featured caps and helmets with completely “blacked out” crowns, leaving only green on the bill. In the 6th and 7th series, Topps took a different approach, as we shall see.

68 hershberger f

The first Oakland A’s card depicts a bareheaded Mike Hershberger (#18 in the numerical sequence). The design necessitates turning the card over to see that the player is indeed on Oakland.

The ‘68s include Sal Bando’s first solo card and two later Hall-of-Fame inductees: Jim “Catfish” Hunter and Tony LaRussa.

gosger

Jim Gosger — who will later be the opening day center fielder for the 1969 Seattle Pilots — has an intriguing card. The reflection of the obliterated “KC” on the front cap panel can be seen on the green bill.

Perhaps inspired by the psychedelic color explosion of the ‘60s, Topps designers decide to ditch the black and go with green airbrushing for the 6th and 7th series.   This results in a “hypnotic splattered mist” of two-toned green. The bill is left alone but the crown is doctored in a “lighter shade of pale” green. (Pilot-in-waiting) Diego Segui and Lou Krausse model the “mod” lids.

 

69 a's stars

Bay area fans had to wait until ’69 to get the first card of a player with the Oakland lettering on the vest jersey and the old English “A” on the cap. Paul Lindblad has the honor of first representing the new East Bay entry, with card #449 in the 5th series. With the Major League Baseball Players’ Association boycott of Topps no longer in effect, several other A’s had card photos taken at ’69 spring training, including this great shot of three A’s Stars. The boycott had also led Topps to purchase several photos from third parties, including this famous Reggie Jackson rookie card.

Though I may have to down a whole bottle of Zoloft to ward off severe depression, my next installment in this series will look at the first cards of the Brewers- which include some awesome ’70 Pilots spring training photos.

 

To learn more about Charlie Finley and the A’s, I highly recommend Jeff Katz’s book: The Kansas City A’s and the Wrong Half of the Yankees https://www.amazon.com/Kansas-City-Wrong-Half-Yankees/dp/0977743659

 

 

 

Real Ballplayers of Orange County

The early years of the Los Angeles Angels were overshadowed by the glamorous and winning Dodgers. After an inaugural season at Wrigley Field (the previous home of the Pacific Coast League’s Angels), the “Halos” cemented their second fiddle status by becoming tenants at Dodger Stadium in 1962. Fortunately for the Angels, this was a temporary arrangement until the owner, Gene Autry, could secure financing for his own ballpark.

The Angels needed to create a fan base separate from the Dodgers to succeed. After futile efforts in LA and Long Beach, the “Singing Cowboy” lassoed the public funds he needed from the city of Anaheim. The new stadium was ready for opening day in 1966.

In anticipation of the pending move to Orange County, Autry made a “quick draw” and re-christened the Angels “California” on September 2, 1965.  This rebranding necessitated, for the following April, new caps with an interlocking “CA” replacing the “LA.”

For their 1966 set, Topps (per their pattern) did not want to use the old Los Angeles uniforms/hats for the newly branded California Angels, which resulted in the usual assortment of bare head shots, airbrushed logos, upturned faces and “mug shot” profiles. Topps apparently didn’t send a photographer to Holtville or Palm Springs for 1966 spring training so there are no ’66 Angels’ cards with players wearing the “CA” cap, even in the last few series.

fregosi 5fregosi back 5

The first card for the new “Disneyland” entry is the 1966 Jim Fregosi, card #5 in Topps’ numerical sequence. Interestingly, Topps decided to use California for the ’65 statistical line, even though the club was Los Angeles for the first five months of the season.

Several of cards are interesting, despite their generic nature. I like the almost interchangeable profile shots of veterans Jimmy Piersall and “Little” Albie Pearson.

I could no more give up oxygen than to not mention that George Brunet and Merritt Ranew would become Seattle Pilots. Merritt strikes a classic, catchers pose in a Cubs uniform. Topps loved this flattering photo of George so much that they used it in ’65 and again in ’66. The head shot precludes any chance of determining whether he is wearing undershorts.

angels rookies

This photo of Jim McGlothlin — apparently taken at age 12 — on the Angels Rookie Stars card serves as a foreshadowing of the first true California card. But, the young collectors would have to wait until ’67 to purchase packs containing authentic California Angels.

67 mcglothlin 19

Jim McGlothlin’s solo card (#19) in 1967 is the first authentic California Angels card. The promising young hurler is shown with a “CA” on his cap and Angels on his road uniform in a photo taken in Cleveland. By the way, in 1969 Jim was the Angels’ opening day starter versus the Seattle Pilots in their inaugural game.

rudolph red

In a final note, Gene Autry missed out on a great promotion by not signing Don Rudolph and having him “don” a red nose appliqué while pitching.

Though you may hope I’m ambushed along the way, I will be “back in the saddle again,” riding north on El Camino Real to Oakland. Once there, we will “flash back” to ’68-when Topps’ airbrush guys took full advantage of the available “performance enhancers” over in Haight-Ashbury to produce some “far out,” psychedelic A’s’ caps.

 

 

 

 

On That Midnight Train to Georgia

After 13 seasons, the Milwaukee Braves “struck the Wigwam” and headed south to Atlanta for the ’66 season. Lou Perini — who brought the Braves from Boston in ’53 — sold the club to the Chicago based LaSalle Corporation, led by William Bartholomay, in ‘62. Despite phenomenal attendance in the ‘50s and respectable turnstile counts in the ‘60s, the new owners saw no room for economic growth in the “Brew City.”

The new ownership foresaw television as a major revenue stream that would make the franchise profitable. Unfortunately, Milwaukee was doomed to be a small media market in perpetuity. The franchise could not penetrate the Chicago market to the south and the Twins had captured the airways to the west. Thus, the untapped Southeastern market was too alluring to pass up.

cloninger 10cloninger back10

As with the Twins, and the four expansion teams in ’61 and ’62, Topps didn’t create a hypothetical cap emblem for the new Georgia entry. Cards in the first four series consist, mostly, of head shots without caps or blanked out logos. Also, some players are pictured in profile or with upturned heads designed to obscure the Milwaukee “M.” Since the template for the ’66 cards featured only the team nickname, collectors had to turn over card #10 — in the numerical sequence — to see that Tony Cloninger was the first Atlanta Brave.

I found a few of the headshot cards to be interesting. Clay Carroll ignores Satchel Paige’s advice and “looks backward” in this sweaty pose, with his oily pompadour mussed up by a phantom cap. Mack Jones’ profile would have made a nice silhouette for his mother’s broach. Also, Mike de la Hoz sports an Indians vest jersey complete with a “fat-burner” undershirt. By the way, Mike was a speaker on the Cuban Baseball Panel at SABR 46 in Miami. He was kind enough to sign my “Mike de la Hoz” endorsed glove.

If you are one of the hardy few who have read my other “first card” posts, you know that Topps was determined not to show the logo of the teams’ previous cities. I assume they didn’t want to confuse the young collectors. However, Topps sent mixed signals when it came to the League Leaders cards in ’66. Tony Cloninger and Hank Aaron maintain the Milwaukee “M” on their caps, but the team name is shown as Atlanta.

ken johnson 466

It was probably May or June before a “Hotlanta” youth “ripped wax” to find a true Atlanta major leaguer. Ken Johnson (#466) show ups in the fifth series wearing the script “A” on his cap. Other players with spring training photos depicting the “A” include: manager Bobby Bragan, Gene Oliver, Chi Chi Olivo and the Braves Rookie Stars (immortals Herb Hippauf and Arnie Umbach).

aaron

Fortunately, Topps waited until the sixth series to issue the Henry Aaron card (#500). “Hammerin’ Hank” was spared the indignity of being airbrushed or depicted sans cap.

rookie stars

Another Atlanta player shows up on Topps Rookie Stars card in the final series. The Braves’ Pat Garrett (who should have been paired with Angels’ rookie Billy “The Kid” Kelso#) is teamed with the Angels’ Jackie Warner.

This coupling provides a perfect segue to my next installment, which looks at the first cards for the ’66 California Angels. Coincidentally, Topps introduced the “team color” accents (same color for a team in each league) in ’66. Lavender was the color used for both the “new’ teams.

Sources:

Lou PeriniSaul Wisnia, SABR’s Bio Project.

Trading Card Database

 

# I made up “The Kid” as a nickname for Bill Kelso.

 

From the Land of Sky Blue Waters

As with the previous franchise shifts in 1950’s, the Washington Senators’ move to Minnesota prior to the 1961 season was driven by socio-economic forces, shifting demographics and an outmoded ballpark.  The owner, Calvin Griffith, wanted to move earlier than ’61 but was blocked by the American League owners, who didn’t want to leave the nation’s capital without the “national pastime” and risk the wrath of Congress. 

The AL solved this conundrum by creating two new franchises.  Griffith was granted permission to relocate to the “Land of Ten Thousand Lakes,” and a new Senators expansion franchise would fill the void in DC.   The Los Angeles Angels were born in ’61 as well, which gave the AL an even ten teams.

To avoid slighting either Minneapolis or St. Paul, the transplanted squad was christened Minnesota.  Plus, Metropolitan Stadium was not located in either city but in the suburb of Bloomington. Thus,  baseball’s first team representing a whole state joined the junior circuit.  The club adopted a “TC” emblem for the caps to recognize the “Twin Cities.”

Unlike the other transplanted teams of the ‘50s, Topps didn’t try to guess as to the uniform design or cap emblem.  The Twins cards in the first four series all feature players without caps or with the cap logo airbrushed over.  For example, Harmon Killebrew shows off the effects of “male pattern baldness” and future Seattle Pilot Don Mincher appears to wonder what happened to his cap emblem. 

The first Twin shows up early in the first series at card #4 in the numerical sequence.  A bare headed Lenny Green appears to be “dazed and confused” at the prospect of no longer calling DC home.

 

But, the “real” first Twin on a card is Italian born and Canadian bred Reno Bertoia. with card #392 in the fifth series.  This is obviously an authentic “TC” emblem from a photo taken in spring training in 1961.  Other players wearing real caps are: Billy Consolo, Ralph Lumenti and Jose Valdivelso.

My favorite 1961 Twins card is the Earl Battey All-Star card, in the sixth and final series.  The card back states that Earl was a participant in the first of the two All-Star games in ‘61. However, Earl wasn’t on the roster for either game. His first AS appearance didn’t happen until ’62. Topps must have guessed Earl would be selected, based on his good first-half of the season.  This is the only 1961 card that shows the Twins’ new uniform.

As with the players’ cards, Topps didn’t try to make the ’60 Senators appear as Twins on the team picture card.  It is noted on the front that these are the former Senators.

Interestingly, Topps couldn’t settle on whether to abbreviate “Minnesota” on the card backs or even which abbreviation to use.  There are three variations:  Minnesota Twins, Minn. Twins or Min. Twins.  Interestingly, it doesn’t always appear to be related to the length of the players name. The font size should allow for Minnesota to be printed on all the cards.  

Even though it evokes “Grinch-like” responses from readers of this blog, I will soon gift you with another installment of the “first card” for transplanted teams series.  But first, I’m going to leave this “Cookie” for Santa.

Nuts! Optioned to Modesto

Lewis Nuts

Recently, I archived in pocket pages the five 2018 Seattle Mariners’ minor league card sets. I have team sets for each of Seattle’s minor league affiliates starting 1991-with the exception of the ’97 Memphis Chicks. In addition, I have many sets prior to ’91.

Vogel-Werth

The cards tend to use contemporary designs but occasionally feature a toned down, retro look. Since I don’t collect cards from other teams, I’m not sure how many different companies print minor league cards. “Choice Marketing” and “Grandstand” are the two companies used by the Mariners’ affiliates. With the proliferation of card template software, some teams may produce their own.

Amaral

Card backs have the usual stats, biographical information and pictures. Frequently, advertisements are included, as teams seek out sponsors to defray the cost of production. A pet peeve is the lack of sequential numbering. Many of the sets use uniform numbers instead.

Mixed amongst the players, coaches and managers are oddball cards. Trainers are almost always pictured, and mascots show up in many sets. Also, I’ve encountered owners, general managers, teachers-of-the-year, military personnel and others. Check lists are common, with a team picture or logo on the flip side.

Hutchison

Since players move up and down within the organization during the season, it is not unusual to get the same player on two or more teams.

Everett set

The average price for a set is around $12. I order from STB Sports in Mount Vernon, WA. https://stbsports.com/ To save on postage, I have the cards sent all at once in August, even though some sets may have been released earlier in the season. Using STB saves having to order from individual teams, and they offer pre-season discounts.

Mascots

I present this as a public service announcement, since I know all of you need new card collecting categories.

 

Walter Moved Quick and Horace Jumped to Candlestick

The New York Giants’ and Brooklyn Dodgers’ franchise shifts to the West Coast for the 1958 season is well chronicled. “White flight” to the suburbs, aging ballparks, and lack of parking all factored into Giants’ President Horace Stoneham, and Dodgers’ “Prexy” Walter O’Malley decamping to sunny California. Of course, the prospect of huge, untapped markets and new stadiums warmed the “cockles” of the two moguls as well.

The National League officially approved the franchise shifts on August 19, 1957. Topps-though probably bummed that their prime locations for NL photos (Ebbets Field and Polo Grounds) were gone-had plenty of lead time to produce ’58 cards for San Francisco and Los Angeles.

58 Mays

In the spring of ’58, young San Franciscans jumped on the nearest cable car and headed for Woolworth’s, Newberry’s or the candy store to buy wax packs in hope of finding cards embossed with “San Fran. Giants.” The youngsters received a real “San Francisco treat” when they discovered that Willie Mays was the first card Topps produced for the transplanted club (#5 in the set’s numerical sequence).

58 Kirkland

Obviously, Mays’s cap has an airbrushed interlocking “SF.” The artist probably made an educated guess on the emblem’s appearance by using the PCL Seals cap logo as a source. The airbrushed “SF” is found on the majority of the ‘58 cards and fluctuates in size and thickness.

Most likely, the first card with an authentic “SF” is that of pitcher Paul Giel (#308). The emblem is the right font and size. Plus, this ’58 Jay Publishing photo-taken in spring training- appears to be from the same session.

 

If you are skeptical of Giel’s photo being the “real McCovey,” there is no doubt the Orlando Cepeda (#343) is authentic. As you can see, the accompanying photo-taken during ’58 spring training-is identical to the card photo.

Other “real” San Francisco Giants are Jim Davenport (#413) and Ray Monzant (#447). By the way, Monzant actually has two cards in the ’58 set, since Mike McCormick’s card features Ray’s photo.

58 Neal

The first Dodgers card Angelino youngsters may have pulled from their packs was Charlie Neal (#16). Not quite as awe inspiring as Mays but a major leaguer, nonetheless. The airbrushed “LA” is a decent approximation of the real one but doesn’t quite match. As with the Giants, the artist may have been using the PCL Angels emblem as a guide. 

Collectors had to settle for airbrushed “LAs” on Drysdale, Reese, Hodges, Snyder and other familiar names before finding the first actual Los Angeles cap on the noggin of Danny McDevitt (#357). The emblem has the correct length of the horizontal part of the “L,” and the flourish on the tip is correct. The photo is almost identical to one taken in spring training for a team set by Dodgers concessionaire, Danny Goodman.

Pignatano

Joe Pignatano (#373) appears to be the only other Dodger with an authentic “LA” on the cap. The photo is also nearly identical to the one used for the Goodman set.

If you believe my conclusions are pure “California dreamin’,” let me know. I would rather be corrected than “stuck in Lodi, again,” with wrong suppositions.

 

 

 

 

Proof(s) of the Mythical Rookies

71 all star bowa fixed

The number of Topps’ test issues and prototypes that didn’t see production in the ‘60s and ‘70s never ceases to amaze me.  Recently, I stumbled across an image of a Larry Bowa from a set that may be one of the rarest of the post-war era.  At first, I thought this was a “do-it-yourself” card, but a little research revealed the it to be mysterious and highly coveted collectible.

In ’71, a Topps’ designer created 10 artist’s proofs for a set called All-Star Rookies.  Apparently, only one set of 10 prototypes were produced.  The players featured earned the Rookie Star designation for the ’70 season and, thus, have a trophy on their base cards in ‘71.  The set was probably intended for the annual Topps Rookie Stars banquet.  Paul Ember had an excellent three-part post on this topic.

71 all star munson fixed

For over 30 years, only a black and white image of Thurman Munson’s card existed as proof of the mythical set.  This image was used to illustrate the set in The Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards.  Collectors theorized that a collector acquired the cards in the ‘70s and kept them under wraps.

71 all star carbo fixed

Then, in 2011, Topps historian David Hornish posted photos of all 10 cards on the Topps Archives website.  Later, the Bowa and Carbo cards were made available at an auction.

In the conventional sense, these are not truly cards.  The proofs consist of a standard card glued to a thick piece of artist’s board measuring 9-1/2 X 6-1/2.  The disembodied head shots are Kodachrome photos pasted on the card background.  Photos would have been taken to produce the image used on actual cards.

The photos appear to be unique to the set apart from John Ellis. The open mouth shot is the same as the photo on the 1970 Yankees Rookie Stars card.

Gio's Stickers.jpg

Incidentally, Gio (@wthballs), who mans the fantastic blog “When Topps Had Balls,” creates great retro-card sets.  His wonderful “gelatin” set-which paid tribute to the ‘60s cards on the back of Jell-O packages-contained bonus stickers inspired by the ’71 Topps Rookie Stars set.

I’m sure the Red Sox collectors amongst us are willing to mortgage their houses if the Billy Conigliaro and Bernie Carbo cards ever surface at an auction.   I don’t think I’ll be “able” to go after Cain, however.

 

Sources

Robert Edward Auctions | Circa 1920s Leather Football Helmet Signed by Jim Thorpe and Red Grange, www.robertedwardauctions.com/auction/2015/spring/690/extremely-rare-1971-topps-all-star-rookie-artists-proofs-larry-bowa/.

The Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards