In 2023, there are dozens of baseball card sets at every price point. Any major star has thousands of cards available, with hundreds added annually. We can buy most cards we want in just a couple minutes, at a competitive price.
But 50 years ago, there weren’t nearly as many choices for collectors as there are today. There was the Topps set, sometimes a couple Topps inserts and test issues such as Super or Deckle Edge, and a few food issues such as Milk Duds and Kellogg’s. These sets weren’t made for the organized hobby, which was just as well because there really wasn’t much of an organized hobby in the 70’s.
What was the organized hobby in the early-70’s? There were a few thousand adult collectors nationwide. There were a few small card shows in and near major cities, along with a few hobby newspapers. They were invaluable in creating the knowledge base for the hobby. There were a handful of full-time mail-order dealers like Card Collectors Company and Larry Fritsch cards. They advertised through mainstream publications like The Sporting News, and produced their own catalogs that could number up to 100 pages. There were few storefront dealers, and no Internet. The first National Convention would wait until 1979.
TCMA emerged as the first card manufacturer that targeted the organized hobby. TCMA stood for “The Card Memorabilia Associates,” or the initials of the founders, Tom Collier and Mike Aronstein. The company was headquartered in Westchester County, north of New York City .
Their first sets included the SCFC “Sports Cards for Collectors” 1969 Yankees pictures (see Al Downing below) and an Old-Timers set. The latter set included pen drawings not only of Hall of Famers but forgotten players–that is, forgotten by all but SABR members.
1972 saw the first sets issued under TCMA’s name . They released several reprint sets of vintage issues such as 1887 Allen & Ginter and 1922 American Caramel. They also released the first few series of a set that would number over 500 cards featuring players from the 30’s. To cap it off, they produced a set of the Cedar Rapids Reds in the Class-A Midwest League, the first of hundreds of TCMA minor league team sets over the next 16 years.
Though TCMA would become best known for minor-league sets, their sets featuring vintage players deserve examination. They found a market among serious collectors of the time. Many 70’s collectors wrote away to players for autographs. There weren’t a lot of contemporary cards for stars of the 30’s and 40’s, and many collectors were hesitant to send off vintage cards for autographs for fear of losing them.
Enter TCMA—their sets had a clean design conducive to an autograph, and if they weren’t returned with an autograph at least it wasn’t a 1933 DeLong that was lost to the U.S. Mail or to a former player ambivalent to autograph requests. Many of these sets were designed to feature players who signed through the mail, in fact some dealers sent a list of player addresses along with the cards. This explains why many early TCMA cards offered on Ebay are autographed.
TCMA also offered sets that allowed collectors of modest means to own cards of 19th century players, along with 20th century players who didn’t appear on a lot of cards. One great examples are the 1936–39 Yankees Dynasty set, including not only greats like Gehrig and Lazzeri but journeymen like Paul Schreiber, who appeared in 12 major league games over two generations. What a great find for someone like me who has to have all the players, not just the legends! Others include the 1975 1951 New York Giants set and the 1972 The Yawkey Red Sox set. One of the largest early TCMA sets was the “All Time Greats” postcard issue. The set consists of several 24-card series of attractive black and white postcards. It covered virtually everyone in the Hall-of-Fame including executives like Lee MacPhail, Judge Landis and Will Harridge.
In 1975 TCMA expanded their offerings. To promote their retro and minor league sets, they produced their first catalog called “Collector’s Quarterly.” Through this catalog, they marketed their first sets of current major leaguers. Those came out under the SSPC (Sports Stars Publishing Company) label. There was a 1975 set for the Mets and Yankees, and then a 660-card set in 1976.
SSPC’s 1976 set was an attempt to challenge the Topps monopoly. They were sold only as a set and only to the hobby. The fronts had no team name or player name—a “pure card” design perfect for autographs. Topps cards had facsimile autographs many years and nothing is more awkward than an authentic autograph written over a fake one.
Topps took notice and went to court to stop the further release of these sets. TCMA was allowed to sell through their stock, which took several years.
SSPC would be heard from after 1976 though. In 1978, team sets were produced as pages in their magazines for several teams. A set of vintage players even appeared in the 1979 and 1982 Yankees yearbooks.
By the late-70’s, TCMA was becoming better known for minor league sets. TCMA representatives went to minor league general managers with a proposition- TCMA would take pictures of their team, and provide the team sets for sale in their memorabilia stands for free, in exchange for the right to sell team sets in their Collectors Quarterly catalog for $3–3.50 each team. TCMA photographers not only covered players, but sometimes managers, coaches, team executives, trainers, even bat boys and mascots!
By 1979 dozens of teams had TCMA sets, a number that expanded through the 80’s. By the time TCMA stopped production in the late-80’s, virtually every minor league squad had at least one annual team set, some had as many as three.
TCMA didn’t leave the vintage market. In 1978 and 1979, they produced attractive full color sets of players of the 60’s (in 1978) and the 50’s (in 1979). These sets were from 275–300 cards and featured both legends along with players who had never appeared on a card before. They followed up with a second series of 1960’s in 1981. All three sets are collectible today and not expensive.
TCMA also collaborated with large dealer Renata Galasso on several sets. They co-produced the annual 45-card retro sets included as a bonus with every purchase of current year Topps sets from 1977-84. These attractive sets are known as “Galasso Glossy Greats.”
Collectors were discouraged from pursuing TCMA’s sets by the hobby papers of the time. TCMA sets were considered “illegitimate” and “collector’s issues.” They weren’t considered fully collectible because they weren’t released in packs at candy stores, nor as a premium for another product. Most TCMA cards weren’t licensed by Major League Baseball nor the Players Association, or even the players itself. Nevertheless, TCMA thrived in a time where former players hadn’t monetized their career like today.
In the late-1980’s TCMA saw a formidable competitor for its minor-league throne, the Pottstown, Pennsylvania based Pro Cards. TCMA continued to release retro cards, but at a slower pace. At the same time Mike Aronstein, the head of TCMA, was acquiring a huge database of player photos and built a successful business providing 8×10 glossy pictures and other player items such as keychains. The TCMA label morphed into PhotoFile, which still markets licensed items for all major sports.
Aronstein and TCMA were before their time. TCMA cards aren’t always easy to find but are generally affordable considering their age and print run. Their sets are an important part of the history of the hobby. They deserve a look from every vintage collector and every baseball historian.
It seems like an impossible job—condense the history of baseball in the 19th Century to a set of one hundred cards. After all, it took Harold and Dorothy Seymour three hundred pages to cover the same ground in their collaborative volume Baseball: The Early Years. But that was the task undertaken by a small band of researchers in a set titled “The Origins of Baseball 1744—1899.”
Presided over by Jonathan Mork, the team included David Martin for artwork and Mer-Mer Chen for graphic design and photo restoration. Jonathan’s brother Jeremy authored the stories on the back of the cards. Issued by the American Archives Publishing Co. in 1994, the boxed collection logically balances most of its imagery between player and executive portraits, team photographs, playing fields and notable events. The year 1744 in the title refers to the date of an English woodcut of a game of Rounders included as card 3 in the set, below.
More than twenty-five years after printing, the cards need gentle handling. The black finish of the borders easily flakes.
Images were carefully selected from photographs and other illustrations maintained by the Hall of Fame’s National Baseball Library. The full-length studio photographs are especially striking in the card format. Clockwise from upper left: Jack Chesbro (card 92); Tony Mullane (card 66); Sam Thompson (card 93); and Paul Hines (card 37).
Noted personalities of the game include pioneering sportswriter Henry Chadwick (card 11), the grand old man of the game Connie Mack (card 84), and umpire Tom Connolly (card 72). The surprise is the 17th President of the United States, Andrew Johnson (card 14). Said to be a fan of the game, Johnson is honored for allowing government clerks and staffers to clock out early when the Washington Nationals were scheduled to play an important game.
Team cards are an important part of the set. The collection naturally includes the founding Knickerbockers (card 5) and the undefeated 1869 Red Stockings (card 19).
The three powerful early Brooklyn teams are also pictured: the Atlantics (card 16), the Eckfords (card 9), and the Excelsiors (card 12). The Atlantics virtually monopolized the early championships of the sport. The Eckfords notched a pair of flags themselves. The third and deciding game of the 1860 championship match between the Atlantics and the Excelsiors produced one of the game’s first great controversies. With his team leading 8-6 in the sixth inning, Excelsior captain Joe Leggett pulled his club off the field when gamblers and Atlantic partisans in the crowd shouted one too many insults against his players. The two great teams never faced each other again. Leggett may have been incorruptible on the diamond; off was a different matter. Over the years, his hands found themselves in a number of tills to feed a gambling habit he could not afford. He disappeared in 1877 with $1,000 missing in liquor license fees from the Brooklyn Police Department Excise Bureau.
Teams of the 1880s are well-represented in the set. The Boston Beaneaters (card 98) were the most successful National League team of the 1890s, winning flags in 1891, 1892, 1893, 1897 and 1898. The City of Chicago lent its broad shoulders to the development of baseball behind the likes of National League founder William Hulbert, star pitcher and later sporting goods magnate Albert Spalding, and five-time pennant winner Cap Anson. The 1886 team is pictured on card 45. The 1887 National League Detroit Wolverines (card 51) played a 15-game championship series that year against the American Association St. Louis Browns. Eight of the games were played on neutral grounds. Detroit claimed the flag in Game 11, played in the afternoon in Baltimore after a morning tilt in Washington.
The set doesn’t sugarcoat the game.
Above: Jesse “The Crab” Burkett of the Cleveland Spiders (card 88) earns a spot in the set for his role in a post-game melee in Louisville that saw the entire Cleveland team hauled off to jail. Edwin Bligh (card 31) scandalized the game when he was accused of fathering a child with a 17-year-old girl.
Below: Hard drinking plagued the early years of the sport. A detective once trailed Mike “King” Kelly (card 48) into the early morning hours, reporting the Chicago catcher enjoying a glass of lemonade at 3 a.m. at a local watering hole. Kelly denied the allegation. “The detective is a complete liar. I never drink lemonade at that hour. It was pure whiskey.”
Ed Delahanty’s attraction to the spirits had a grim ending (card 74). The only player to win batting titles in both the American and National Leagues, the outfielder was thrown off a train in 1903 near Niagara Falls by a conductor for being drunk and disorderly. He fell off a bridge into the Niagara River and was swept to his death.
Several cards highlight the playing fields of the day. A diagram of a New England version of the game is shown on card 10:
The decades of the 1850s and the 1860s are summarized on individual cards.
Top: Elysian Fields, the ancestral homeland of the game, is shown card 7. A game between the Brooklyn Atlantics and the Philadelphia Athletics is shown on card 18. Gamblers congregate in the lower left. Seated umpires and the official scorers at their table take up station between home and first base.
Abraham Lincoln is featured on card 13 of the set. Commentary on the back of the card includes an early debunking of the theory that returning Civil War soldiers spread the game to the American South. As the back of the Lincoln card states, an especially robust strain of the game emerged in New Orleans before the Civil War. It sure did.
At least half a dozen baseball clubs were playing regularly by 1859. The Magnolia and Southern clubs squared off in one series; the Empire and the presiding elder Louisiana Base Ball Club played one match series against each other. The Louisiana club didn’t appear to take things as seriously as their younger counterparts. In one game, the patriarchs were forced to start with just eight players present, and in another with just seven. Other nines played side against side. The Orleans Club was active on and off the field of play, leading a political parade on horseback in red velvet caps on one occasion and giving a Mardi Gras masquerade ball on another.
The Magnolia and Southern clubs seemed especially well-suited to each other. After one game, the teams exchanged badges and then marched together to the United States Hotel for a round or two of drinks.
The clubs had trouble finding spaces for their games. The Third District, where many of the teams were located, had only three open fields. One behind Claiborne Circle was the province by seniority of the Black Racket clubs. White Racket clubs claimed the grounds near the Old Paper Mill behind the Pontchartrain Railroad by the same rights of prior occupancy. An open square on Claiborne Street was guarded by neighborhood youths known as the Squatters. When a Les Quatre club tried to use the field one day, the Squatters drew knives and pistols and ran them off.
The New Orleans Crescent described Racket as “the game of all games for the spectator,” a spirited Creole affair of base and ball with a high reputation for entertainment value, played with a short one-handed bat—the racket.
A box for a game between Les Quatre clubs shows a scored and umpired game of runs played in innings with 12 men to a side. By the following spring, the teams were described as baseball clubs.
City newspapers approved of all the play. The Sunday Delta observed:
Lately a furore has been started among us, which, if it only goes on progressing in the same spirit it has commenced, will make cricket and other games of ball as common in this section as they are in England. Whether it continues long or not, it will exercise a good influence as long as it lasts, and we see no reason for its abatement, as the better these games are generally understood, the more popular do they become.
The New Orleans Crescent apologized for not being to attend all the games. “There are now so many Base Ball and Cricket and Racket Clubs, and they play so frequently, appearing in the field nearly every day, up town, down town, and over the river, that we cannot keep the run of them.”
Up and down the great rivers of the United States the game still thrives, from town to town as the Crescent saw so long ago. One hundred cards cannot tell the whole story of the 19th Century game, but each card provides a path to a different chapter in the story. It’s a fine set, worthy of time and study. Listed for $25 or so on eBay, it’s a steal.
Images in this article have been brightened from original scans for presentation purposes. Master heckler William Gleason on card 36 is pictured before (top) and after modification (bottom).
When we moved from Brooklyn to the middle of Long Island in December 1971, it was like landing on the moon. I was nine years old, with long curly hair and a David Crosbyesque fringe jacket. The kids in my school were more Leave It to Beaver than Mod Squad.
The stores were different too. There was a drive through place to get your milk and groceries (Dairy Barn). In Canarsie, we had Bill’s Superette, a truck that would drive down East 82nd Street with similar goods. Instead of the local candy store, there were 7-Eleven Stores. And Slurpees. Many many Slurpees, the official drink of the Gods.
There are few things on Earth as delicious as a Coca Cola Slurpee, but, starting in 1972, the icy drink game was dramatically upped. Slurpee cups had baseball players!
I was going to be drinking a lot of Slurpees anyway, but now there was something new to collect. The players were beautifully, and colorfully, drawn. Well worth keeping after the last straw full. I was so hooked on Slurpee cups that my Grandfather would buy me empty ones. Thanks to the benevolent staff at the Lake Grove store, I was allowed to go behind the counter and go through the sleeve of cups, picking out the ones I needed. I don’t know if they charged less, or the same, for empties, but it worked for my Grandfather, and for me. At a quarter either way, it was manageable.
I’ve transported stacks of Slurpee cups to every place I’ve lived in the last 50 years, but only recently did I come across these lovely photo checklists. Now I can work on these 60 cup sets.
The 1972 cups have back bios set to the left in one solid paragraph. The 1973s have a more centered look. This is important to know since the checklists have a lot of overlap. There are some great distinctions – Willie Mays has Giants (1972) and Mets (1973) versions. Others can only be distinguished by the backs.
The 20 Hall of Famer cups are not as nice. Weird, really. Like the 1963 Bazooka All Time Greats, they portray HOFers when they were old. Nothing more appealing to the kids than a desiccated Lefty Grove. 7-Eleven liked them enough to put out a radio ad.
I’ve learned a few things as I start investing the cups I need. Thankfully, sold listings on eBay indicate that the common guys are pretty cheap, two for a dollar at times. Even big names don’t go for very much.
What I don’t know is whether there’s a lurking short print out there. I tend to think not, but I’d hate to get stuck paying a ton for a 1973 Ellie Rodriguez cup.
This feels like a good project. I never dreamed I’d have complete runs of Slurpee cups, but it seems attainable. Not as much fun as drinking a Slurpee, but close, very close.
In this post I’ll highlight the five most unique pieces in the collection, along with some tips and tricks that might help other player collectors track down tough pieces.
1955 ALL AMERICAN SPORTS CLUB
This “card” is part of a set of 500 subjects across multiple sports, hand-cut from 9″ x 12″ sheets of glossy paper stock. As Hoskins cards go, it has a lot going against it: a low quality image, its small size (similar to a postage stamp), a blank back, and the obscurity of the issue. Still, there are so few playing era cards of Hoskins that I still treat the card as an essential.
I was able to add this card to my collection thanks to a rather broad eBay search I’d set up that was essentially “DAVE HOSKINS -TOPPS.” My goal in this search was to turn up any and all Dave Hoskins collectibles not produced by Topps. (Nothing against Topps here; it’s just that I already had all three of their playing era issues and didn’t want to clutter up my search results with more of the same.)
Lessons for player collectors: Trading Card Database is a great resource for identifying cards you might not know about. If searching on eBay for less common items, use the minus operator to de-clutter search results.
2017 MAGALLANES BASEBALL CLUB CENTENNIAL ISSUE
The same search (“DAVE HOSKINS -TOPPS”) added another card to my collection just last week. It was not only a card I never knew existed but even portrayed Hoskins with a team (and country!) I never knew was part of his résumé.
The card (or sticker, to be precise) was one of 200+ issued by the Magallanes Baseball Club (Venezuela) as part of its 100th anniversary. Other notables in the set include Dave Parker, Barry Bonds, Willie Horton, and local legend Nestor Chavez.
While I am not a “completist” when it comes to post-career issues, I make an exception when there are no playing era cards of a player on a certain team. That, and the fact that I might never see this one again, made the card a must have, even with the price tag being a good ten times what I would have expected.
Side note: This card led me to a very cool site for Venezuelan Winter League stats from which I learned Hoskins played for Magallanes in the 1951-52 season and also the Pampero team during the 1959-60 campaign.
Lesson for player collectors: In this case the card came from a US seller. However, it’s worth knowing that eBay assigns a default location to your searches that may cause you to miss items being sold from other countries. Edit the Item Location option to Worldwide to ensure the most comprehensive search.
1950s NOKONA DAVE HOSKINS MODEL GLOVE
Again that same “HOSKINS -TOPPS” search gets the credit for this rather unexpected find, a Dave Hoskins signature model glove.
Until this item arrived, I suspected it might even be game used, simply because I didn’t imagine Hoskins was a popular enough player to support store models. Once I had it in hand (and on hand!) I decided it was too small to have been sported by the player himself and was in fact a store model sized for kids.
A second surprise came my way after having the item refurbished by Jimmy Lonetti, whose nice work I’d seen several times on Twitter. Unreadable beforehand, the glove bore a name and date stamped into the leather. Some searching turned up a person of that name, unfortunately deceased, whose birthday around age 10 corresponded to the date on the glove. What’s more the person seemed to have grown up around Cleveland when Hoskins was a pitcher for the Indians. His family now has the glove, which makes me very happy.
Lesson for player collectors: If you are open to balls, gloves, bats, and other items appearing in your search results, be sure you haven’t “over-filtered” to where only Trading Cards are shown.
1952 DALLAS EAGLES SIGNED BASEBALL
If there is one item in my entire collection–Dave Hoskins or otherwise–that might belong in a museum, it’s this one: an official Texas League baseball signed by nearly the entire 1952 Dallas Eagles team.
I never would have found this ball using my “HOSKINS -TOPPS” search since the seller didn’t feature Hoskins at all in the listing. Fortunately, I had also set up a 1952 Dallas Eagles search, which generally turns up football items (e.g., Philadelphia Eagles vs Dallas Texans ticket stubs) but at least this one time turned up gold.
Lesson for player collectors: Particularly if the player you collect isn’t a big name, recognize that their name may not appear in item listings/descriptions, which of course eliminates those items from your search results.
1952 GLOBE PRINTING DALLAS EAGLES CARD
The term Holy Grail is probably overused in card collecting, but in the small universe of Dave Hoskins collecting I do believe it’s apt for this particular card.
This article from April 13, 1952, coincidentally the day of Hoskins’ first start, provides some information on the set and seems to indicate that the Hoskins card would have been given out only one night of the year.
A complete checklist for the set remains unknown, though there are currently at least 22 known players.
In the three years I’ve been collecting Dave Hoskins, this is a card I’d never once seen available and was only aware of due to its entry on Trading Card Database where it is one of only five cards from the set with an image uploaded. How the heck did I end up with one then?
A nice feature of Trading Card Database is that each card image includes metadata on who uploaded the scan. Another nice feature is that members can message each other. Well, figuring my chances of success were somewhere south of 1%, I contacted the member who had uploaded the image. As it turned out, he was very open to a deal! He even supplied a bit of provenance:
I got it years ago in a box of old items from a relative here in Dallas back in the 80’s.
Lesson for player collectors: Take advantage of Trading Card Database as, among other things, a buy/sell/trade platform. Though I got the card I wanted by contacting the user who uploaded its image, you are also able to bring up a list of ALL users who have cards from a set in their TCDB collection. For instance, here is the complete list of members with 1952 Globe Dallas Eagles cards, including a collector with an impressive 21 of the cards.
I mentioned at the top of this article that my collection is now complete. However, if there’s a lesson from that Magallanes sticker, it’s that I can never rule out the discovery of something new. As such, I definitely won’t be deleting my “saved searches” on eBay just yet.
There are still a handful of items that I consider more bonus than essential. Topping this list is the August 1952 issue of Negro Achievements magazine, which features a familiar photo of Hoskins on the cover.
There have been four eBay sales of this item since 2011, most recently in March 2019. As is often the case for unusual pieces without a lot of comps, prices have varied widely, though condition was certainly also a factor:
May 2011: $127.50
July 2013: $14.37
June 2014: $29.95
March 2019: $48.47
Another “nice to have” is the Dave Hoskins photo from the 1954 Cleveland Indians team issued photo pack.
The final two items on the “maybe someday” list are ticket stubs or game programs from the two Dave Hoskins Nights held in 1952, one in Fort Worth and one in Dallas. The first of these also corresponds to Hoskins’ 20th win of the season and (hopefully) and upcoming SABR Games story.
Lesson for player collectors: Though I don’t have the photo pack card or the ticket stubs I’ve definitely noticed numerous listings, if not the majority, that use non-specific titles like “1950s Cleveland Indians photo pack” or “1950’s Dallas Eagles ticket stubs.” This makes particular sense for the photo packs cards since they are undated and repeat many players/photos across multiple years. Therefore, adding a search for “(1950s, 1950’s) INDIANS PHOTO PACK” may be useful. I’ll also note that sellers with partial sets typically list only the top stars like Feller and Doby, hence fly under the radar of a Dave Hoskins-specific search.
While the Dave Hoskins shelf is now full and includes all the essentials, I’ll keep looking for more cool stuff. If you have any leads, definitely let me know, and whatever you do, don’t outbid me!
Virtually all collectors around my age have vivid (or at least blurry) recollections of 1981 as a watershed year in Hobby history. This was of course the year that Fleer and Donruss crashed the Topps monopoly with full-size baseball card sets featuring active players.
Of the multiple offerings, the Fleer cards were hottest initially, largely due to a ridiculously high number of errors in early print runs. While the cards have cooled off considerably in the time since, I will say Fleer’s Tom Seaver photo is among my favorite and a George Foster card captioned “Slugger” is always welcome in my collection.
Building off their prior success with team stickers, Fleer complemented its baseball card set with a 128-card “Star Stickers” set, which I recall as coming out at least a month or two after the cards.
Even at age 11 I was smart enough to know the dumbest thing in the world would be to peel and stick the stickers as directed. That was for suckers. I had reached the age (thankfully only temporarily) where “protecting my investment” took priority over enjoying my collection.
Kids lucky enough to assemble collections of both the cards and the stickers, whether stuck onto notebooks or preserved for posterity in shoeboxes, likely noticed that some of the photographs used on the stickers matched those of the cards, subject only to minor differences in cropping, brightness, or background clean-up. Cobra presented one such example.
Other times, the Star Sticker offered a genuinely new shot of the player, as was the case with this Don Baylor pair.
Somewhere between these two possibilities were 30 or so stickers that might have been confused for their cardboard counterparts until placed side by side.
In this Cardboard Crosswalk, I’ll do my best to showcase all “near pairs” across the two sets. As you’ll see, some close calls will prevent me from declaring my work definitive.
The first grouping of near-pairs are these 19 players, whose images are nearly identical other than the direction the player is facing (and less interesting differences such as zooming or cropping). Generally, one image will show the player looking directly at the camera while the other will show a three-quarters angle.
This next group of six players trades one pose in for another and includes some of my favorite pairings across the two sets, particularly Dave Kingman and his subtle shift from batter to fielder.
We already saw Bobby Grich go from stoic to smiling. The reverse occurs with Rick Burleson.
This next collection could come straight out of the “Highlights for Children” magazine where the child awaiting dentistry staves off total boredom by attempting to spot all differences between two nearly identical images. In each case, I believe I have found at least one feature that distinguishes source photos across the pair, but you may want to check my work.
Here are three other near pairs that I didn’t think fit neatly into any of the earlier categories.
And finally, here is Richie Zisk. When pulled from the pack, I doubt any collector looked at the sticker and thought, “Hey, this looks familiar.” However, putting the card and sticker side by side suggests photographs taken in close succession.
The 28 pairs shown thus far reflect about 20 percent of the sticker set, which includes 125 numbered cards and three unnumbered checklists. What about the remainder of the set?
Similar to the Don Baylor shown early in the article, about 70 of the stickers offer a completely different look at the player, while about 30 draw from the same source image as the standard baseball card. Part of the reason I say “about” is that I can’t always tell.
Take Rod Carew for example. His card and sticker appear to use the same source photo (though clearly the background has been altered). However, his head may be tilted more on the card than the sticker, meaning we may be looking at neighboring images on the roll. Carew is not unique in this regard as there are numerous card-sticker pairs where I just can’t be certain.
A puzzle of the sticker set, at least to me, is why Fleer introduced new photos for some but not all players. At least to my eye, the sticker photo is neither consistently better nor worse than the card photo, so it doesn’t appear to reflect any desire to improve upon the photo quality of what had been a hastily produced set.
One thought is that whoever was working on the sticker set paid little attention to the card set and simply chose the sticker photo independently from among the options available. That the same photo was chosen about half the time suggests a fairly small pool of photos (or at least photos that someone might choose), which to me works against the overall theory.
Lacking any compelling theory on the above, I’ll simply close out the crosswalk with a few random tidbits about the sticker set.
While the card set is famous for its many errors and variations, the sticker set has no known variations and only one recognized uncorrected error (UER): the misspelling of Davey (or Dave) Lopes as Davy. (The same UER occurs in the card set.)
While a wonderful innovation of the Fleer card sets, not just in 1981 but in subsequent years, was to sequence the cards by team, the numbering of the stickers appears completely random.
Sadly for Jays fans, the sticker set includes no Toronto players despite all 25 other teams being represented.
One of the elements of Topps Heritage that routinely catches my eyes are the Heritage News Flashbacks. For a small insert set which is purportedly about the heritage year’s news highlights, I’ve found it to be an interesting window into what kind of things Topps considers mass-market newsworthy.
Given Topps’s coverage of the 1950s–1970s we have a lot of civil rights firsts,* a lot of space exploration, and a lot of Vietnam War related events. All things which are conceivably politically neutral. In many years though Topps also commemorates legislation and other political achievements. These were clearly highly political at the time but also frequently remain political even today. When I look through the insert checklists it’s these cards that catch my eye in the way that they have one foot in both “this is something worth commemorating” territory and “this is what people say we shouldn’t talk about in the hobby” territory.
*The number of “first black” or “first woman” events Topps chose to celebrate is both refreshing to see and an indictment of who has been traditionally allowed to succeed in our society.
Not only do these legislative inserts catch my eye but they frequently have an interesting context outside of the just the card. This 2009 card commemorating the 1960 Civil Rights Act for example came out the same year that Barrack Obama became the first Black President and the year that Congress authorized the Civil Rights History project to collect oral histories from people who were active in the struggle during the 1950s and 1960s.
The thing with these news flashbacks cards though is that they also tend to frame history as a series of accomplishments rather than a continuing struggle and discussion. Looking at this card gives the impression that we’ve achieved equality at the polls and that no further work needs to be done to maintain things let alone improve on them further.
In 2010 we have acknowledgment of how Washingon DC residents were disenfranchised through the 1960 election with a card the commemorates the ratification of the 23rd Amendment. It’s definitely a good thing that their presidential votes count now but the struggle for DC statehood and representation continued after this amendment.
In terms of the context of this 2010 card it’s important to mention DC’s statehood has been endorsed by multiple Presidents now and that there was a referendum in 2016 in which 86% of DC voters expressed a desire for statehood.
In 2013 we pick up where 2009 left off with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As with the 2009 card this states plainly that segregation is outlawed as well as discrimination against ethnic, racial, and religious minorities plus women. This card doesn’t note how the Civil Right Act of 1964 is what prompted Southern Democrats to switch parties and drastically rearrange the political geography of the United States.
Coming out in 2013 is kind of some amazing immediate context too. Between the Trayvon Martin murder which spawned the Black Lives Matter movement and the Fisher v U of Texas case that threatened to roll back Affirmative Action the discussion about how relevant the Civil Rights Act of 1964 still was and whether its protections were still needed make this card anything but politically neutral.
The 2014 card which commemorates the Voting Rights act of 1965 is the card which prompted this post. For Topps to publish this the year after Shelby v Holder feels almost like an intentional political comment. With a headline about securing voting equality despite the mechanisms for actually keeping voting equality having just been ripped out of the act this card reads almost as a eulogy for what was rather than a milestone that was reached.
The ensuing decade has confirmed my sense of it being a eulogy as we’ve seen increased attacks on voting access nationwide.
We’ll skip a few more years and land in 2017 with yet another Civil Rights Act, in this case 1968’s, which was in the news a bit that year. This act contains within it the Fair Housing Act which prohibits discrimination in both renting and sales. The list of protected categories started off as including just race, religion, and national origin but has expanded to include sex, disabilities, and children. In 2017 sexual orientation and gender identity were added to this list via the judicial system (but never got anywhere in Congress).
This act also included some anti-riot language which made it a crime to travel between states in order to participate in a riot. It was notably used on the Chicago Seven and came up again in the aftermath of the Unite the Right rally in 2017 in which the courts ruled that its language was over-broad.
While this isn’t a legislative card I’ve included the 2018 card of the 1969 Stonewall Riots because of how much of a lighting rod it would be in today’s political landscape. This is history—both from a Gay Rights point of view and the fact that Marsha P. Johnson was a black transgender woman—which is currently being actively legislated against in multiple states nationwide and Topps just had it as a card only four years ago.
This card also came out in the aftermath of the 2015 Obergefell decision which legalized gay marriage and resulted in years of stories of workers and businesses who refused to acknowledge those rights and insisted that their rights to discriminate were more important.
After having maybe one political card per year, Topps went a bit nuts in 2019 and released four of cards of things the government did in 1970. Some of these like expanding voting access to 18 year olds don’t require much comment. Others like the PBS card are noteworthy in the timing of how free educational television was moving to streaming services with shows like Sesame Street only releasing new episodes through HBO Max.
The Earth Day and creation of the EPA cards though are fascinating to see in an age of runaway climate change, the complete abdication by the US Government to do anything about it, and the shortsighted focus on immediate profits over a sustainable world.
Back to only one card in 2021 but it’s a doozy for a year which was threatening to roll back many of the protections that women fought for in the 1970s as Covid had a greater impact on women’s jobs and abortion is getting outlawed nationwide.
In any case it’s pretty clear at this point that the biggest habitat threat is climate change and while the explicit protections and goals of the Endangered Species Act are laudable a larger, more-global, solution will be required moving forward.
And that’s the list. When looked at together it’s easy to reach a conclusion that Topps thinks that discrimination based on race, nationality, and gender is bad, that protecting the environment is good, and that voting should be accessible to all citizens. But it’s also easy to reach a conclusion that Topps considers that all of that has been accomplished already and something we can look back upon and celebrate much in the same way the Major League Baseball commemorates Jackie Robinson as a way of ignoring its current track record on racial equity.
Author’s Note: This article is part of a larger SABR Century Committee effort commemorating the 75th Anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s historic 1947 season.Head here for the full series.
When Jackie Robinson trotted out to first base on April 15, 1947, his steps were no less historic than those of Neil Armstrong just over two decades later. Baseball’s senseless and shameful Color Barrier had at last been breached and with it the customs and traditions of Jim Crow America itself were on notice. This is not to say equality had come to Baseball. Far from it as even the Dodgers merely tiptoed into integration while several other teams waited a decade or more to add their first Black player. As for managers, eleven more men after Armstrong would leave footprints on the Moon before a single Black man would take the reins of a Major League team.
Even today, as Jackie’s legacy is rightfully celebrated, it’s fair to wonder whether a modern Jackie Robinson would even choose Baseball, just as it’s fair to wonder whether any teams would notice him and sign him if he did. Were he living in the Dominican Republic, absolutely, but in his birthplace of Cairo, Georgia, or his childhood hometown of Pasadena, California, who’s to say? While a modern Jackie could win games for a general manager of any color, there are none in front offices today who look like him.
The same could be said for domestic baseball card issues prior to 1947, only one of which featured a Black player. While it would be easy to discount the utter lack of Black faces as merely reflective of the times, such an explanation fails to account for the many Black boxers who made their way onto trading cards, going back to at least 1909. Ultimately, the whiteness of baseball cards was due solely to the whiteness of what was then perceived (and enforced) as Organized Baseball. Jack Johnson, Joe Jeannette, and Joe Gans were professional boxers. The Philadelphia Stars, Newark Eagles and Homestead Grays meanwhile? These were semi-pro.
Thus the 1947 season brought with it not only the integration of Baseball but (several rungs down the ladder of importance) the opportunity to integrate baseball cards as well. All that was missing were the baseball cards themselves!
While today we take it for granted that a new baseball card set (if not dozens of different ones) will come out every year, such was not the case in the 1940s. Following the three-year run of Gum, Inc., and its Play Ball sets from 1939-41, the War and other national priorities left American baseball without a major set to chronicle its players until 1948, when Gum, Inc., baseball cards returned to shelves, this time under the Bowman name.
In the meantime, where baseball cards were produced at all, they most often took the form of smaller regional issues, often connected to food or other household products, cards that today many collectors classify under the umbrella of “oddball.” As such, this review of Jackie Robinson baseball cards from 1947 will feature bread, slacks, and even cigarettes but not a single stick of gum.
1947 BOND BREAD
Bond Bread will feature in this article twice. This first instance is to highlight a 48-card release comprised of four boxers and 44 baseball stars. The selection of baseball stars included Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, and Stan Musial but most notably a baseball card of Brooklyn Dodgers rookie Jackie Robinson.
Cards were packaged in loaves of Bond Bread, and at least one theory for their rounded corners is that the cards were less susceptible to damage that way. Importantly for collectors today, the rounded corners help distinguish these cards from near-identical versions that emerged as a standalone product sold as “Sport Star Subjects” in 1949. The square cornered versions are far less collectible, though widespread misidentification, including by a prominent grading company, has created sufficient confusion to elevate prices among uninformed buyers.
While both the Bond Bread and Sport Star Subjects cards have blank backs, a third version of the Robinson card features a back that’s anything but blank.
“1947” ELGEE PRODUCTS
Precise dating for this issue is unknown and may well be after 1947. A mix of baseball and movie star photos, the baseball images match those of the Bond Bread issue but are easily distinguished in at least two ways. One, they are perforated. Two, their backs include other cards from the set or, in some cases, advertising. The Robinson card, for example, features actor James Cagney on the reverse.
As with the Sport Star Subjects, these cards are also frequently misidentified as Bond Bread cards, even by third party grading companies and auction houses. Post 391 in this Net54 Baseball Forum thread shows the front and back of an uncut sheet, including the ELGEE branding. Post 386 in the same thread provides additional background on the company.
1947-50 BOND BREAD JACKIE ROBINSON
In addition to the 48-card set above, Bond Bread also released a second set of 13 cards dedicated entirely to Jackie Robinson. The set is catalogued as a 1947 issue. However, independent research by collectors Mike Knapp, Shaun Fyffe, and Michael Fried, which I’ll attempt to summarize here, has produced a broader timetable for the cards while also providing information on distribution.
The set began 1947 with a single card featuring a signed portrait of Jackie, a brief bio, and a product testimonial. This card was not distributed in packaged loaves but rather was given out by store owners (with free slices of bread!) to promote Bond Bread among African American consumers. (Post 49 in this Net54 Baseball Forum thread includes an article from the New York Amsterdam News detailing the marketing strategy.)
From there, it’s unclear whether any of the set’s remaining twelve cards dates to 1947. The aforementioned collector-researchers speculate subsequent releases of three or six cards at a time taking place sometime between 1947 and 1950, though I lean more toward the cards being issued one at a time. Either way, a clue that helps group the cards is the advertising on the back.
These six cards, assumed to be the earlier of the twelve, exhort consumers to eat the same bread as Jackie. Fielding poses show a first baseman’s mitt, which Jackie would have used primarily in 1947.
Before proceeding to the second group of six, I want to highlight two photos in particular, one of which may be very familiar to non-collectors. Though the background has been removed and Jackie has even changed teams, the card of Jackie waving with his glove draws its image from this iconic photograph.
A second card among the six does some early “photoshopping” of a Montreal photo as well.
Much later in this article we will see yet another occasion where a Montreal photo is doctored for use on a Brooklyn card. For now, we will return to the other six cards in the set. Note here that all fielding poses show a standard infielder’s glove.
The “smoking gun” that places these cards (or at least one of them) after 1947 comes from the image on the last card, believed to source to a photograph taken just after this one. (Note Jackie’s cap has fallen a bit farther on the card and his body has separated more from his trailing arm.) If so, the card could not have been issued any earlier than July 2, 1949, the date the photograph was taken.
With the set no longer confined entirely to 1947, we arrive at several possibilities for its overall release schedule. Barring further information, I’d be inclined to settle on the first group of six cards coming out across the six months of the 1948 baseball season and the second group of six following suit in 1949.
“1948” OLD GOLD CIGARETTES
The situation with Jackie’s Old Gold cards is precisely the opposite as here collectors regard what may be two cards from 1947 as if they came out the following year.
As Anson Whaley notes in his article for Sports Collectors Daily, two clues on the card backs suggest a 1947 release.
Robinson is listed as 28 year old, which was only his age through January 30, 1948
His 1947 Rookie of the Year Award (announced September 19, 1947) is not listed among his career highlights
Certainly each of these clues could merely point to bios written ahead of time, hence do not point definitively to a 1947 release of the actual cards. Still, absent any information affirming a 1948 release, the clues are at least intriguing.
“1947″ PLEETWOOD SLACKS
Continuing the theme of uncertain dates is this rare 5″ x 8″ promotional issue from Pleetwood Slacks. While catalogued as a 1947 issue, I am unable to find any source that provides independent corroboration. Notably, the Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards indicates that “the  date of issue cited is conjectural.”
When I do find “hits” on Pleetwood Slacks, never mind Jackie, they only come in the Black press of late 1948, specifically October through December. Here is a typical example.
Perhaps information is out there somewhere establishing the Pleetwood Slacks card as a 1947 issue. In the meantime I’d just as soon date it to late 1948 where timing it’s would better match the print advertising campaign for the brand.
1947 CHAMP HATS
Collector and Hobby historian Bob Lemke (1941-2017) featured this 8 x 10 “card” as a new find on his blog in 2015.
As detailed on Bob’s blog, both Bob and the previously mentioned Sean Fyffe regarded 1947 as the most likely year for this piece.
1947 DODGERS TEAM PHOTO PACK
Many teams sold photo packs of their players and other personnel, going back to at least the 1930s. The 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers photo pack consisted of 25 photos, 6” x 9” in size, including this one of Jackie Robinson.
The image is a sharper and cleaner version of the ones used on his Bond and faux Bond issues and a reminder that many cards of the era used photos provided by the teams or their photographers. Furthermore, the presence and identical placement of Jackie’s signature on the Bond and pseudo-Bond cards leads me to wonder if those cards didn’t originate from the original photograph but from this photo pack card. Either way, I suspect the photo pack Jackie is the earliest of his various 1947 issues.
1947-66 EXHIBIT SUPPLY COMPANY
One of the most common and (formerly!) affordable early baseball cards of Jackie Robinson is his 1947-66 Exhibit Supply Company (Chicago, IL) postcard-sized issue. However, despite “1947” right there in the naming of the set, there is no evidence that Jackie’s exhibit cards date back that far.
Rather, the “1947-66” label simply means that the overall set of 300+ different cards spanned 20 years. The presence of later stars such as Aaron, Banks, and Kaline suffice to show that “1947” hardly applies to all players.
The Keyman Collectibles site provides a guide for the precise dating of Exhibit cards. Having reviewed more than a dozen so far, I have not yet run across a Robinson any earlier than 1948.
Side note: A 1948 release would have left plenty of time to find pictures of Jackie as a Dodger. However, the photograph used on the Exhibit card, as was the case with two of the Bond Bread cards, dates to 1946, as evidenced by Jackie’s Montreal uniform.
SUMMARY: THE JACKIE ROBINSON CARDS OF 1947
All told I’ve reviewed 22 different Jackie Robinson cards correctly or incorrectly associated with his Barrier Breaking debut season in Brooklyn. From this number, there are only three where I believe the 1947 dating is firmly established:
1947 Bond Bread multi-player set
1947 Bond Bread Jackie Robinson set – portrait with facsimile autograph
1947 Brooklyn Dodgers photo pack
For the reader only reasonably acquainted with the world of collectibles, it might seem a tame question to then ask which of these cards is Jackie Robinson’s rookie card. Could it really be that the answer is none of them!
EPILOGUE: JACKIE’S ROOKIE CARD
Modern collectors focus heavily (if not obsessively!) over the notion of a rookie card, particularly when the player concerned is a Hall of Famer. In a simpler world, a player would have one card for each year of his career, and the first such card would be his rookie card. In the real world, however, the situation is far murkier, complicated by any number of wrinkles, depending on the collector.
For example, any of the following may be treated as a disqualifying when it comes to rookie card status.
cards that pre-date a player’s major league status (e.g., a minor league card)
cards from minor, regional, unlicensed, or non-US releases
cards that aren’t really baseball cards (e.g., a postcard, mini-poster, or bobblehead)
cards with uncertain release dates
In the case of Jackie Robinson, all four of these come into play. While I did not feature it in this article due to its 1946 issue date, there is a highly sought after Parade Sportive newspaper insert featuring Jackie Robinson, which checks off each of the first three bullets above.
As for Jackie’s Bond Bread cards, many collectors regard the releases as too minor to warrant rookie card status. Add to that for many of them an uncertain release date as well. Ditto for Elgee Products, Old Gold Cigarettes, Pleetwood Slacks, and Champs Hats, with the latter two having only questionable baseball card status as well.
The Brooklyn photo pack card, which may well be first of Jackie as a Dodger, also challenges the most rigid definitions of “baseball card” while adding the potential disqualifier of a regional release. Finally, the Exhibit card is not quite a real baseball card to many collectors while also carrying uncertainty as to dating.
Also lacking card status to most collectors are the various Jackie Robinson buttons and pins that were popular among fans in the late 1940s. I omitted lengthier treatment in this article but will show six of them here.
The result of all this is that many collectors would not consider any of the Jackie Robinson cards profiled so far to be Jackie’s rookie card. Instead, the coveted label is most often applied to Jackie’s card from the set known popularly in the Hobby as 1948 Leaf.
“This is the only true rookie card of baseball’s first African-American representative and hero to all,” according to PSA, the Hobby’s largest grader and authenticator of trading cards.
Though my revenue, Hobby or otherwise, is a far cry from that of PSA, I nonetheless challenge this assertion. For one thing, despite the typical designation of the set as “1948 Leaf” (or sometimes 1948-49 Leaf), there are compelling reasons to believe the Robinson card (if not the entire set) dates to 1949.
1949 copyright date on the back of the card
Reference to Jackie’s 1948 statistics as “last season” on the back of the card
Standard Catalog entry indicating the set was “produced by Chicago’s Leaf Gum Co. for issue in 1949”
Hall of Fame and Beckett cataloguing of card as 1949
Erroneous dating aside, I’ll also note that the Leaf cards, at least of some players, were unlicensed, which can often be a rookie card disqualifier. That said, collectors tend to give the set a free pass on this point.
At any rate, if we regard the Leaf card as a rookie card, we should then confer rookie status on Jackie’s other significant release of the same year, issued as part of the 1949 Bowman set of 240 cards.
Alternatively, we might turn our attention to a card that genuinely does date to 1948, Jackie’s Sport Thrills card from Swell Bubble Gum.
From a rookie card perspective, this card beats Leaf and Bowman by a year, has unambiguous baseball card status as opposed to some of the other 1947-48 contenders, and originates from a more major release than its contemporaries and predecessors. At the same time, not all collectors treat the Sport Thrills set as major enough, and its focus on highlights rather than players equally reduces the appeal.
Ultimately, the question of Jackie’s true rookie card is a complicated one, confounded by the uncertain or erroneous dating of his early cardboard and curiously subjective notions like “major release” and “baseball card.” On one hand the lack of a definitive rookie card opens the door for individual collectors to apply their own criteria and judgment. On the other hand, the same fuzziness creates opportunities, intentional or accidental, to misrepresent and misinform. In the end, perhaps the only truism when it comes to Jackie’s rookie cards is this: If you have to ask, you can’t afford it!
I’ve had a running joke on Twitter about how “when I was your age rainbows looked like this” where “this” refers to the multiple different colors of the late 80s and early 90s Donruss releases. From 1985 to 1992 Donruss released smaller—often 56-card—box sets around certain themes like Highlights, Rookies, Opening Day, All Stars, or the more-generic “Baseball’s Best.”
These sets are fun both because they’re often super-focused thematically and because they always presented a color variation on the base Donruss design. Highlights were orange in 1985 and 1986. Rookies were green from 1987–1992 except in 1991. The other themes had no consistent colors.
Occasionally players would appear in all the different sets in a year. The result of this is that you can collect something that appears similar to the modern parallel rainbow collecting where you can see what the base design looks like with different border colors. The only one of these I have in my collection is Pete Stanicek’s 1988 rainbow* but it occurred to me that it would be fun to go through and see how many guys had a proper rainbow each year.
*Yeah he’s one of my PC guys.
For the purposes of this post I’m only looking a years where there are at least three different sets available. This rules out 1985, 1991, and 1992 since 1985 only has a set of Highlights while 1991 and 1992 only have a Rookies set. I’m also not counting small sets like the Grand Slammers or any of the inserted bonus cards. Nor am I looking at sets which use a different design whether it’s the oversized Action All Stars or the close-but-not-quite 1988 All Stars.
There aren’t a lot of rookies in the Highlights set but since two of the Highlights cards each year are the Rookie of the Year winners, those are the two most-likely ones to have rainbows. In 1986 both of these winners also had cards in the base Donruss set (and Worrell even had two Highlights to choose from).
I actually really like the Highlights set concept with all the monthly and yearly awards, other records broken or unique achievements reached, and Hall of Fame inductees. Is a very nice quick summary of that season of baseball and I really wish it had lasted more than just from 1985–1987.
Just a single rainbow available. With four sets in 1987 I wasn’t sure there’d even be one. As it is, Kevin Seitzer is in all three box sets but for some reason doesn’t have a base Donruss card and Mark McGwire apparently wasn’t an Opening Day Starter.
It’s worth noting here that while in 1985 Donruss kept the black borders and changed the red stripe to be orange for highlights, in 1987 Donruss is doing the full border color swap.
Opening Day is one of my favorite sets of all time. The idea of having a set of just the Opening Day starting lineups is absolutely wonderful. It bookends highlights as a “state of the league in the beginning of the season” marker and is the kind of hyper-specific checklist which I’d love to see more of.
In 1988 Donruss stopped making a Highlights set and switched to a larger, 336-card set called “Baseball’s Best.” This was more of a star-based set and the larger checklist combined with the looser specification meant that instead of looking for the on or two rainbows we have fifteen of them. This is more than 25% of the Rookies checklist. Heck, almost half of these guys didn’t even qualify as Rated Rookies.
Like 1987, 1989 features three extra sets in the same design as the base cards. With the rainbow already existing as part of the base design it would’ve been unlikely to be able to build a real rainbow of parallels. The All Star design however did use a completely different color scheme compared to the base cards (not so much Baseball’s Best or The Rookies). Unfortunately there are no Rookies in he All Star set and so there’s no possibility for a proper rainbow.*
*It is however worth noting that every card in the Grand Slammers set this year comes in all five color options available in the base set.
This is the last year where a rainbow is possible and is very much the same as 1988. Twelve of the Rookies are also in one of the two Best sets* though at least most of them are Rated this year.
*For the purposes of this post I’m combining “Best of the AL” and “Best of the NL” into one set since hey share the same color and by being league-specific have no overlap.
One of the fun things about looking at the Donruss rainbows is how they reveal different directions the base design could have gone. A lot of base Donruss designs are very much things you either love or hate and the color choice is a huge part of that reaction. I’m not going to pass judgement on any of the options other than to say that as a Giants fan I prefer the orange versions of 1986 and 1988.
Sometime last year I picked up the last card I needed for my 1980 Topps set, placed it into its nine-pocket, and then took my well earned victory flip through the binder of majestic completed pages…only to find a page with a missing card. Dewey defeats Truman. Defeat from the jaws of victory. Bird steals the inbound pass.
Completing a set without actually completing a set is just one of the many cardboard errors I’ve made lately. Here are three more.
My largest player collection (by about 600) is the 700+ playing era cards I have of Dwight Gooden. For whatever reason, I decided a couple years back that the card at the very top of my Dr. K want list was Doc’s 1986 Meadow Gold milk carton “sketch” card.
I’d seen the card on eBay in the $10 range for a while, but you don’t amass 700+ cards of a guy by paying $10 each. At last one turned up for more like $3 and I couldn’t hit “Buy It Now” fast enough. When the card arrived I was genuinely excited to add it to my binder, only to find…
…I already had the card!
Just two weeks later, I “doubled” down by adding a card I thought I needed for my 1972 Fleer Laughlin Famous Feats set.
On the bright side, it’s not like these cards cost me real money. I’d never make the same mistake adding this Kaiser Wilhelm to my T206 Brooklyn team set, right?
Oops. Think again.
Of course what Hobbyist hasn’t accidentally added the occasional double or two…or three? Probably most, but how many could pull off the feat three times in one month?
In the corporate world, bosses would be calling for a root cause analysis and demanding corrective action. Am I simply getting old? Do I have too many different collections going? Have I gotten lazy at updating my want lists? In truth, probably yes to all three.
As a kid, and I think this was true of most die-hard collectors, I could open a pack and instantly know which cards I needed and which were doubles. I could do the same at card shows, looking through a dealer binder or display case. When it came to cards I had total recall. Evidently such cardboard lucidity is long gone, and it’s probably not a stretch to assume the same degradations have spread to various areas of adulting.
On the other hand, it’s also true that my purchases had much more riding on them back then. For one thing, every nickel, dime, and quarter were precious. Spending $0.50 on a 1963 Topps Ernie Banks (ah, the good old days!) when your entire card show budget (i.e., life savings) was $3.80 “borrowed” from various sources around the house was high finance. Add to that baseball cards being the only thing I thought or cared about, and it makes sense that I always batted a thousand.
An eternal optimist, it’s just not my nature to brand my “triple double” as what some collectors might bill a #HobbyFail. Rather, I’ll take solace in the adage errare humanum est and remember that it’s not the mistakes we make but how we respond to them that defines our true character. As a kid I would have sulked for weeks having committed even one of these blunders. Today I can laugh (and write) about them. Call these senior moments if you will, but isn’t”growing up” just a bit more pleasing to the ear?
Now does anyone wanna trade me a T205 Wilhelm for a T206?
UPDATE: The Wilhelm is no longer available for trade! About an hour after publishing this post the seller contacted me to let me know he’d accidentally sold it to someone else already. I guess I’m not the only one losing track of his cards these days! 😊
In this edition of Covering The Bases (CTB) we are discussing one of the few cards that have been produced of Toni Stone, subject of the February 9th Google Doodle.
1994 Ted Williams #112 Toni Stone
There are not many Toni Stone Cards, This is from the 1994 Ted Williams Set. The picture is one of the most commonly used photos of Stone, and also serves as the anchor image for the Google doodle.
The photo overlays another image of Toni Stone – this one is a 1954 publicity photo of her with the Kansas City Monarchs.
Likely an appeal to show the feminine side of Toni Stone, the Monarchs photographed her applying makeup.
The flipside of the card gives a synopsis of Stone’s career concluding with a line summarizing her NAL stats.
1994 Ted Williams
The 1994 Ted Williams is a 162 historical card set largely composed of Hall of Famers and prospects, including a minor league Derek Jeter.
In a nod to Williams Hall of Fame speech advocating for the induction of Negro League players the set contains a 17-card subset of Negro Leaguers, produced with the assistance of noted author and historian Phil Dixon:
While all the players listed are highlights of the set, some names that jump out at me beyond Stone include Bud Fowler, Double Duty Radcliffe, and Leon Day.
Cards On Stage
in 2019 Team Phungo got to see the stage play “Toni Stone” loosely based on the life of Stone. There was a small but well curated exhibit in the lobby, among the items displayed was today’s card:
It was displayed in a glass case like a T206 Wagner. All cards should get this treatment!!
Here is an installation view of the case with a couple of pennants that represent Stone’s Career.
Baseball Cards also factored into the script of “Toni Stone.”
I believe the card Stone (portrayed by April Matthis) is looking at is 1934 Goudey #61 Lou Gehrig – although I am guessing this is a reprint or prop card.
I have no guesses on the other cards. If there is a card sleuth out there they can try and see more in this montage from the play – The cards show up shortly after the 35 second mark.
Editor’s note: Also shown are 1941 Play Ball cards of Arky Vaughan and Mel Ott as well as a 1935 Diamond Stars Hank Greenberg.
There you go, Today’s covering the bases takes us from Toni Stone to Ted Williams to Lou Gehrig.
Google documents background on many of their doodles which includes information on the artist. The Toni Stone doodle was created by illustrator/ animator Monique Wray.
In the interview Wray had a couple of key observations:
Q. Why was this topic meaningful to you personally?
A: Toni was a trailblazer, a Black woman doing things she’s not expected to do, whether the world likes it or not, speaks to me.
Q. What message do you hope people take away from your Doodle?
A: Inspiration to persevere. Toni played with men, a lot of whom did not want her there. But almost every photo I see of her, she has a massive smile. She lived her life through adversity and did what she wanted to do.
The interview also contains a display of Wrays sketches for the doodle.