Extra! Extra! Read all about the prehistory of 1981 Donruss!

If you bought packs in 1981 try to remember the first thing about 1981 Donruss that jumped out at you. The paper thin stock? The occasional typo? The cards sticking together? This mismatched uniforms and team names?

Okay, come to think of it those were all salient features of the debut baseball set from Donruss. Still, the one I was hoping you’d say is the multiple cards of can’t-miss Hall of Famers like Pete Rose!

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As a young collector I’d certainly seen multiple cards of the same player before. The Topps Record Breakers  and 1972 Topps “In Action” cards were prime examples. However, what distinguished the Donruss cards was that nearly all of the extras looked just like the base cards, at least from the front.

As I learned more about collecting, thanks to some local shows and my first Sport Americana price guide, I began to realize the Donruss extras had ancestors in the hobby. What follows here are the sets I learned about in the order I learned about them.

1933-1934 Goudey

There are numerous examples in the 1933 set, particularly given the 18 repeated players on the set’s final “World Series” sheet. However, the first one I encountered was the most famous of them all: cards 53, 144, 149, and 181 of the Sultan of Swat.

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It would have been around that same time that I also learned of the two Lou Gehrig cards (37, 61) in Goudey’s 1934 follow-up release.

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My eleven-year-old self resolved almost immediately to eventually owning each of these Ruth and Gehrig cards. (Spoiler alert: 38 years later I’m still at zero.) In the meantime, the multiple cards of Rose, Yaz, Stargell, and others from my 1981 Donruss shoebox would have to do.

1954 Topps

Ever since I got my 1976 Topps “All-Time All-Star” Ted Williams, I decided he was my favorite retired player. As I flipped through my price guide looking for older Ted Williams cards I might be able to afford, I at first thought I found a typo. How could the Splendid Splinter be the first card and the last card in the 1954 Topps set?

There was no internet, and I certainly had no friends with either of these cards. I was simply left to wonder. Were there really two cards? Did they look the same or different? It took visiting a card show to finally learn the answer. Cardboard gold.

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It was much later that I learned Topps had been unable to make cards of the Kid in their 1951-1953 offerings. As such, his Topps debut in 1954 was long overdue and something to be celebrated. Perhaps that’s how he ended up bookending the set on both sides. Or maybe it’s just that he was Ted Freaking Williams.

1909-1911 T206

The tobacco areas of the Sport Americana were a bit intimidating to me as a kid. I recall parenthetical notes next to some of the names (e.g., “bat on shoulder”), but the checklist was dizzying enough that the notes went in one eye and out the other. Again it took a card show for me to see that these cards were my great-grandfather’s Donruss.

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1887 Old Judge

Fast forward about ten years, and I received a gigantic book for my birthday with pictures of thousands of really old cards. It was here that I first learned about “Old Judge” cards, including the fact that some players had more than one card.

Old Judge

As an aside, that second Radbourn card looks more like a crime scene from Clue than an action pose, but okay.

1971 O-Pee-Chee

“1971 OPC? That was unexpected,” you may be saying to yourself. Wouldn’t the OPC cards match the 1971 Topps set, which had no duplicate players at all? I thought the same thing too until I ran across this pair.

Staub

The card on the left, number 289 in the set, is known to high-end collectors as “Staub, bat on shoulder” while the card on the right, number 560, is known as “Staub, bat off shoulder.”

Exhibit postcards

More for convenience than accuracy, I’ll lump various “Exhibits” issues under a single umbrella. Perhaps because these cards were issued across more than four decades and seemingly included zillions of players, it seemed unremarkable to me initially that the same player might have multiple cards in these sets. I’d known this fact for years, but it wasn’t until I reached the “gosh, what am I missing” part of this post that I made the connection between these cards and their Donruss descendants.

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As an aside, I just love that second one of the Splinter. As Anson Whaley notes on his Pre-War Cards site, these sets provide some of the most affordable vintage cards of top-shelf Hall of Famers. On my office wall side-by-side right now are Exhibit cards of Williams and DiMaggio that I paid about $25 apiece for. Along with these Life magazines from 1939 and 1941, the cards really hold the room together.

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1952 Wheaties

It’s at this point in the post when I have nothing left in my own head and have to rev up the research engines. Time thumbing through the cards “gallery” of great players is never a waste of time, whether or not I find what I’m looking for, but here is a great pair I ran across in my review of Stan the Man.

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A quick look at the set checklist indicates that not just Musial but all thirty subjects in the series had both a portrait and an action shot. Can you imagine if Donruss had done the same in 1981? Consider the boldness of crashing the baseball card world as an utter newcomer and not just competing with Topps but unleashing a 1,100+ card behemoth of a set with multiple cards of every single player!

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No joke! Many was the day I pulled two Cliff Johnson cards from the same pack, but unfortunately they were the same Cliff Johnson cards. This portrait-action pair, on the other hand, would have taking the situation from blown penny to blown mind!

1922 American Caramel (E121)

Similar to 1952 Wheaties this is another set that features multiple cards of numerous players, such as this Max Carey pair.

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I got a bit of a laugh from Trading Card Database when I saw the names given to each of the variations. The first card, not surprisingly, is referred to to “batting.” The second card is referred to as…so okay, back in high school I was getting ready to take the SAT. I wasn’t much of a reader back then, and I knew the test would include a lot of words I didn’t know. A few evenings before my testing date, I set out to memorize the entire dictionary. Naturally, this proved to be a bigger job than I could really tackle so I finally gave up after the word “akimbo.”

I only once in my life after that–and definitely not on my SAT–encountered the word in print, and I took pride in not having to look it up. And then this morning, more than 30 years after memorizing the dictionary from aardvark to akimbo, here is is again.

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If you don’t know the word perhaps you can guess it from the card: it simply means hands on hips. And for any young readers preparing for their own SATs, nothing helps you remember a word more than having a mnemonic, so here you go: Mutombo akimbo.

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But back to our main topic…

1941 Double Play

A tip of the hat from Red Sox collector extraordinaire Mark Hoyle for sharing this one with me. The 1941 Double Play set includes 150 cards (or 75 if you didn’t rip the pairs apart). Most of the images are portraits, but the set includes 10 (or 20) action shots that provide extra cards in the set for many of the game’s top stars such as Burgess Whitehead–okay, Mel Ott.

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But yes, Whitehead does have two cards as well.

1934-1936 Batter-Up

Thanks again to Mark Hoyle for this one! As this 192-card set was issued over three years, I suspect but don’t know for certain that the repeated players in the set were released at different times. As the two Gehringer cards below show, there are also small differences between the earlier and later cards including where the card number is located and how wide the cards are.

Batter Up

1934-1936 Diamond Stars

I’ll close with one of my favorite sets ever. Perhaps because I never managed to own more than 6-7 cards from this set, I never paid any attention to an oddity of its checklist. The last dozen cards, numbered 97-108, are all repeats of earlier cards in the set. Here is a listing of the players and their card numbers.

Diamond Stars

And here is an example of the cards themselves.

Dickey

The card fronts appear to be identical, while the backs differ in not only the card numbering but also the ink color and the stat line. In particular, the first Dickey card provides his batting average for 1934 and the second provides his average from 1935. (Read this post if you’re interested in more significant variations.)

Wrap-up

Aside from my Dwight Gooden collection, my collection tops out at 1993. However, as I see other collectors show off the more modern stuff, it’s clear that extra cards of star players are practically a fixture in today’s hobby.

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As the examples in this post illustrate, 1981 Donruss was by no means the first set to include extra base cards of star players. However, we can definitely credit Donruss with being the first major modern set to re-introduce this great feature into the hobby. And you thought the only thing that stuck from that set was its cards to each other!

Author’s note: I’d love it if you used the Comments area to plug other pre-1981 sets with extra base cards of the big stars. Some categories I’m intentionally ignoring are errors/variations/updates, single player sets (e.g., 1959 Fleer Ted Williams), team issues, and sets focused more on events than players (e.g., 1961 Nu-Card Baseball Scoops). Thanks, Jason

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.

Sources

The Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards

1947 BOND BREAD and its “imposters”….show us your cards ? – Net54baseball.com Forums. (n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2018, from http://www.net54baseball.com/showthread.php?t=92743

1947 Jackie Robinson Bond Bread Baseball Cards History. (2016, April 15). Retrieved January 17, 2018, from https://www.beckett.com/news/1947-jackie-robinson-bond-bread/

Stufflestreet, C. (1970, January 01). 1947 Homogenized Bread. Retrieved January 17, 2018, from http://thevintagesportscards.blogspot.com/2010/05/1947-homogenized-bread.html

 

Lifers

One of the things I enjoy most about collecting cards is putting together checklists of things that interest me. Sometimes these become projects like the action cards or photographer cards that I try and collect. Other times just the exercise of figuring out the checklist and thinking about the theme is enough.

One such checklist I’ve been working on is about baseball lifers and trying to find cards that reflect the longest periods of time in organized baseball. Many of the cards on this list are unobtainable for various reasons but it’s been a fun project to research. I’ve limited to 45 or more years in the game but moving to 40+ would only add a few more guys like Clay Bryant. Also, before anyone questions my math, I’m counting inclusively.

Jimmie Reese

69 years
1925 Zeenut–1993 Mother’s Cookies

It’s fitting that Jimmie Reese’s first and last cards are both regional issues from the West Coast. I remember fascinated by him as the ancient Angels coach in the late 1980s and he was one of the few (if not the only) coaches who occasionally showed up in regular sets as well (he has cards in both 1991 Leaf Studio and 1991 Bowman).

Casey Stengel

56 years
1910 Old Mill Cigarettes–1965 Topps

Stengel was the obvious standout in this department. He benefits from the sheer number of card releases in the pre-World War 1 era. When I was researching this checklist there were a decent number of guys who debuted in pro ball between the wars but who didn’t get cards until after World War 2.

As with Reese, I really enjoy the difference between his first card and his last card. All the pre-war cards just feel like they’re from a completely different world.

Frank Robinson

50 years
1957 Topps–2006 Topps

Compared to Reese and Stengel, Robinson’s cards are much more familiar feeling. If anything, his 1957 card feels much more comfortable to me than that awkward 2006 design.

Felipe Alou

48 years
1959 Topps–2006 Topps

The first pair on this checklist that I can conceivably acquire. While a Frank Robinson rookie is also something that I could get, it’ll always be out of my price range. But these two, as a Giants collector, are pretty much already on my wantlist as it is.

As with the Robinsons, these both feel familiar although I appreciate how both of them are so of their time while also sharing the common Topps DNA.

Del Baker

47 years
1914 B18 Blankets–1960 Topps

Baker is actually the inspiration for this post. I found a 1917 Zeenut card of him at my grandmother’s house and subsequently acquired his 1954 Topps card. When someone else posted about a different 1954 Topps coach card we started talking about baseball lifers, Casey Stengel’s name came up, and then I started thinking about who else should be on the list.

Dusty Baker

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46 years
1971 Topps–2016 Topps Allen & Ginter Skippers minis

Dusty was actually the first name I thought of when the topic of baseball lifers came up. Sadly Topps doesn’t make manager cards in Flagship anymore. Nor do they appear to be in Heritage either. So Dusty’s last card as a manager is part of an Allen & Ginter mini set which is either so rare or so boring that the only images I can find online are the Topps promotional ones.

I miss manager cards and wish Topps would bring them back. Dusty also hasn’t retired yet so there’s a possibility he could move up this list if he gets another gig and Topps produces manager cards again.

Lou Piniella

46 years
1964 Topps–2009 Topps

Because of Ball Four I always associate Piniella as being a rookie in 1969. But as has been pointed out before, he was one of those multi-year rookie stars and his first rookie card from 1964 gets him into this checklist.

Leo Durocher

 

45 years
1929 Exhibits Four-in-One–1973 Topps

I’m glad I found one lifer whose last card is in the 1970s. As I mentioned earlier, the hardest part here is finding rookie cards in the 1920s and 30s. Which is too bad since the way that Topps includes coaches in 1973 and 1974 means that there was a possibility for more lifers to have last cards.

Anyway I’m sure I’ve missed some guys. I don’t have anyone whose last card was in the 1980s. Nor do I have anyone whose career started in the 30s or 40s. So I look forward to being corrected in the comments here.

Its Miller Times Two

There are many players in baseball history who shared the same name. Not quite as common are identically named men being active at the same time. Here is look at some of the “same name” players who, for at least one year, had cards in the same set.

Bob L miller 1Bob G miller 2

Perhaps the most famous example are the two Bob Millers who played for the original ’62 Mets. Bob L. Miller (on the left) was the Mets #1 expansion draft pick from St. Louis. He would play for 10 different teams in a career that stretched into the ‘70s. Bob G. Miller was on the way out when he joined the first year Mets. His stint at the Polo Grounds would mark the end of his mediocre career. Using Retrosheet I was able to find at least three instances where they both pitched in the same game. Incidentally, Bob G. came over from the Reds in a May ‘62 deal for Don Zimmer. This resulted in Don Zimmer’s ’62 card having him pictured as a Met but on the Reds.

geo H Burns 22 BosGeo J Burns 22 Cin

The oldest two-name examples I found were ’22 Exhibit Supply Co. cards for the two George Burns. Both Georges were excellent players in the early 20th Century. First baseman George H. Burns had a stellar 16 year career highlighted by winning the 1926 AL MVP for Cleveland. I found out after reading Joseph Wancho’s SABR BioProject piece that his post-baseball career was sheriff’s deputy for King Country, Washington where I live. George J. Burns played outfield for John McGraw’s Giants from ’11-’16 before being traded to the Reds after the ’22 season. His solid 15 year career included leading the NL in runs scored five times and stolen bases twice. R. J. Lesch’s BioProject entry is very informative. As far as I can determine, neither man had a wife named Gracie Allen.

hal W smith piretshal R smith 1

The fact that both Hal Smiths played catcher undoubtedly led to some confusion. Hal W. Smith played for five teams in a career lasting 10 years. His home run in the 8th inning of the 1960 Worlds Series put the Pirates ahead, only to see the Yankees tie it in the top of the ninth. Hal could have been the hero instead of Mazeroski. Hal R. Smith was mainstay with the Cardinals from ’56-’61. He resurfaced for a few games with the Giants in ’65.

58 Bob G SMith Pit58 Bob W Smith Bos

If that pair of Smiths wasn’t confusing enough, there were two pitchers named Bob Smith in the late ‘50s. Bob G. had a six year career with five teams. Bob W. Smith played for three clubs in the span of his two years in the “bigs.” Coincidently, both broke in with the Red Sox.

Frank Baker Jr.Frank W Baker

1971 saw cards for two Frank Bakers. Outfielder Frank Baker Jr. played for Cleveland in total of 125 games in ’69 and ’71. Infielder Frank W. Baker came up with the Yankees in ’70 and finished up with Baltimore in ’74 having played a total of 146 games.

Dave W. RobertsDave A Roberts

In ‘72 the Padres selected Dave W. Roberts, from the University of Oregon, #1 overall in the amateur draft. He replaced Dave A. Roberts who they traded to Houston after the ’71 season. Dave W. never came close to living up to his lofty draft position. He never developed into a major league catcher and struggled to find a position with three teams. Dave A. Roberts was a decent pitcher for eight teams from ’69-’81. His best year was ‘73 when he won 17 games as an Astro.

81 kevin_J brown Mil.81 Kevin D Brown Pit.

Kevin D Brown   Kevin J. Brown

These two 1991 Donruss cards proves the existence of another pitcher named Kevin Brown. Kevin D. Brown pitched for three teams from ’90-92 racking up three victories. Kevin J. Brown was one of the most prominent pitchers of the ‘90s totaling 211 career wins. He was a key part of the ’97 Florida Marlins championship and helped San Diego reach the World Series in ’98.

Greg A Harris Red SoxGreg W Harris Padres

Greg A. Harris and Greg W. Harris are pictured here in ’90. Greg A. had a 15 year stint in the majors with eight teams winning 74 games. Greg W. pitched for eight years primarily with San Diego notching 45 victories.

M. G Brown Red Sox 84M.C Brown Angels 84

Mike G. Brown was part of a trade deadline deal in 1986 between Seattle and Boston which sent Dave Henderson east. Red Sox fans fondly remember “Hendu’s” post-season heroics that year. Mike G. didn’t fare so well in Seattle closing out his career in ’87 with a total of 12 MLB wins. Outfielder Mike C. Brown had a similarly lackluster career with the Pirates and Angels form ’83-’86.

pat kelly o's1980- D Pat Kelly BJ

The two Pat Kelly’s had cards in 1980. Outfielder Pat Kelly had a 15 year career and was an original KC Royal in ‘69. His speed on the base paths made him a valuable asset to the White Sox and Orioles as well. He is the brother of ‘60s-‘70s Cleveland Browns running back Leroy Kelly. Dale Patrick “Pat” Kelly had a “cup of coffee” with the Blue Jays in 1980. He appeared in only three games before becoming a long tenured, minor league manager.

Brian R Hunter Sea.Brian L Hunter

Personally, the two most confusing “same name” players are the Brian Hunters. Both players’ careers spanned roughly the same era and each had a stint the Mariners, my home team, in the ‘90s. Brian R. started with the Braves in ’91 and then bounced around for the better part of a decade playing outfield and first base for six different teams. Brian L. was a speedy outfielder for seven teams between ’94 and ’03.

Penas

The great Pirates catcher Tony Pena’s son Tony F. Pena Jr. was a shortstop for Boston and KC from ’06-’09. He was the Royals starter in ’07 but didn’t see sustained success. Breaking in the same years was Ramon Antonio Pena a pitcher. This Tony started with Arizona and “hung them up” after the’11 season with the White Sox.

Darrell David Carp.david carpenter 1

Darrell David “Dave” Carpenter and Dave L. Carpenter experienced mediocre pitching careers. David L. achieved one win in 4 seasons from ’12-’15 while Darrell “Dave” won 11 times from ’11-‘15.

Chris R Young P 14C B Young Out.

A basketball player at Princeton, 6’10’ Chris R. Young chose baseball and has put together a 12 year career with five teams. He won 12 games twice and has total of 79 from ’04-’16. Chris B. Young has played for five teams as well from ’06-’16. As a starter for Arizona in ‘10, he had 91 RBI. According to Baseball Reference, the two have never faced each other.

bobby J Jonesbobby M. Jones

Bobby J. Jones was a serviceable pitcher from ’93-’02 amassing 97 wins. Bobby M. Jones played from ’97-’05 with middling results.

Pedro A martinezPedro Martinez HOF

To say the career of Pedro (Aquino) Martinez’s career was over-shadowed is a gross understatement. He toiled for 4 teams from ’93-’97 accruing seven wins. Hall-of-Famer Pedro Martinez finished with 219 wins.

Alex Gonzalez Marlins    Alex S. Gon

Playing primarily with the Marlins, shortstop Alex Gonzales was a solid performer for 16 seasons from ’98-’14. He was an All-Star in ’99 and finished with lifetime average of .290. His contemporary, Alex S. Gonzalez played from ’94-’06 with six teams.

MayMaye

ServaisService

I will conclude with players with the same pronunciation of their names but different spellings. Scott Servais and Scott Service played concurrently as did Lee May and Lee Maye.

If you know of other cards, please let us know in the comments or on Twitter.