In near lockstep with the explosion of legal online sports gambling sites, the card-collecting industry has seen a proliferation of card breakers—parties that buy unopened boxes of sports cards and open them live on social media streams. Hobbyists (a/k/a gamblers) pay for spots in the “break” that will entitle them to keep all the cards in the box or case from a particular team. The outfits publicize their breaks with fantastic claims, “No matter which breaking method you choose, you always have a chance at uncovering the next Holy Grail!”
In most breaks participants pick a team or several teams (typically priced commensurate with the potential values of the most expensive cards for each such team) or a random distribution of teams (usually for a less expensive entry fee that is the same for each participant). The card packs are opened live, and the cards are shown individually so that all viewers can see who gets what.
The main enticement for participants is the hope for a “hit,” a valuable—if not contrived—insert like a 1/1, rare parallel, or autographed card that far exceeds the entry fee. Card breakers profit by charging more for spots than the cost of the unopened box or case. If all of this sounds a bit like gambling, you are probably right.
“While surprise-based products can be sold, they are currently restricted on our platform. This means that sellers who wish to sell or promote such products must abide by our TikTok Shop Gambling, Gifting and Surprise-based Product Control Guidelines.”
Social media giant TikTok announced in early March 2023 that it will no longer allow card breakers to broadcast their videos on its platform because of concerns that the activity may constitute illegal gambling. TikTok’s terms and conditions regarding surprise-based products were updated to specifically include “Surprise Trading Card Packs” and now require any presenter (e.g., card breaker) to sell any baseball cards in “the manufacturer’s original packaging and content without any alterations. All sold product(s) must also be sealed.”
PayPal had previously cracked down on breakers through its gambling prohibition, even when the specific activity was lawful or not legally defined as gambling, including: “Games of chance and games of skill – Includes any activity with an entry fee and a prize, regardless of whether the outcome is determined by chance or skill.”
Although the actual factors vary by state, the elements of gambling typically require (1) consideration [the price charged for entering the break], (2) chance [that the box(es) opened may contain chase cards such as 1/1s, parallels, and autographed cards, or alternatively, that the cards that are worth less than the entry fee] and (3) a prize [the insert cards (“hits”) have significant value on the secondary market].
You may be familiar with the phrase “no purchase necessary” when entering a contest promoted by a reputable company. Offering participants an option to enter a contest for free eliminates the “consideration” requirement—required to deem a contest illegal—even if a particular entrant had paid to purchase a product for entry. Not surprisingly, card breakers rarely allow free entry.
There are dozens of highly regarded card breakers operating now, however, the industry is unregulated and susceptible to issues. In 2022, Backyard Breaks got into some hot water when they decided to keep a Trevor Lawrence “Gold Kaboom” card (they believed to be valued in excess of $15,000) found during a break, instead of sending it on to the person to whom it was originally promised.
Otherwise, a breaker who is adept at slight-of-hand can easily make sure valuable cards are not seen or distributed. In fact, there are articles available to help new breakers appear trustworthy. These recommendations include: keeping both hands on the screen, using multiple cameras, and showing that the box is empty.
Several baseball card manufacturers faced charges of illegal gambling in the 1990s when valuable insert cards first took the hobby by storm. [The card manufacturers ultimately won because a customer’s disappointment from not finding an insert card was not sufficient to establish damages under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.] It seems like it is just a matter of time before a disappointed break participant pursues a similar case against a breaker.
It remains to be seen whether other social media outlets like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitch will follow TikTok’s lead due to the potential that card breaks constitute illegal gambling or if lawmakers will seek to impose any regulations on the booming card breaking business. As for now it is still the Wild West out there for gamblers—caveat emptor.
Author’s Note: Over the last couple years I’ve quietly marveled as fellow collector Christopher Torres worked his way ever closer toward a remarkable Hobby achievement: a complete set of T206 Polar Bear backs. In this interview with SABR Baseball Cards, Chris shares his experiences with our readers.
SABR Baseball Cards: Chris, many of our readers may know you from your excellent real-time documentation of the Topps Project 2020 set. Were you also collecting tobacco cards at that time, or is this a more recent foray for you?
Chris: First off, thank you for your kind words on my Project 2020 work. What a tremendous time that was for us as a country but also for us in the baseball card community. I personal can’t believe we are about to hit three years since I released my first ever P2020 video and to this day I am forever thankful for everyone who followed and watched my Project 2020 series. I credit a lot of my professional success these days to my trial and error with recording those earlier videos.
Now at the time Project 2020 started, I was a collector of tobacco cards but on a very minor scale with no real purpose. I picked up my very first T206 cards at the 2019 National in Chicago as a way to commemorate my first ever trip to the National. I ended up with raw Solly Hofman and an SGC A Frank Chance along with a few T212 Obak Seattle cards. Little did I know then that the $60 Chance purchase would eventually send me off on a three year plus collecting journey for the entire Polar Bear back run set.
SABR Baseball Cards: What drew you to collecting Polar Bear backs in particular? Were there any other finalists in mind as you settled on Polar Bear?
Chris: As I picked up more and more T206 cards through 2020 and the first part of 2021, I found myself at a true crossroads in the set. I knew financially speaking putting together all 520 cards was going to be tough and I also wondered if I could truly appreciate 520 different cards. At times I found myself buying cards just because and never truly enjoying them.
Through that trial and error, the one card back that I truly appreciated was the Polar Bear back. Not only is blue one of my favorite colors (Go UTEP Miners!), the card back was so much more visually appealing than the others. The second part that really struck me was the confidence of their slogan, “Is Now, Always Has Been, Always Will Be” the best scrap tobacco.
About two years after I picked up my first T206 card I sold off every single non-Polar Bear card, minus a few Southern Leaguer Old Mills, and decided to start over. By January 2, 2022, I was at 77 Polar Bears, which was just about 31% of the set’s 250 cards.
SABR Baseball Cards: Let’s dig in to that number a bit more. The Polar Bear subset has 250 different cards, which puts it at about half the cards of the full Monster. Is there anything that distinguishes these 250 cards? For example, do they represent just one of the three years 1909-1911, or are only certain teams represented?
Chris: The print years are the same as the broader T206 set (i.e., 1909-1911), but one very key property of the Polar Bear set is the inclusion of Ray Demmitt and Bill O’Hara in St Louis uniforms. (Editor’s Note: These St. Louis variations are two of the toughest cards in the entire Monster, trailing only the “Big Four” in scarcity.) These variations only occur in Polar Bear, as no other brands chose to update their teams following their trades.
I also personally put Simon Nichols on the same pedestal as Demmitt and O’Hara being that he retired in 1910 and was potentially replaced on the print sheet by Demmitt or O’Hara. However, the secondary market currently says otherwise.
SABR Baseball Cards: Which top-shelf Hall of Famers can be found with Polar Bear backs? For example, are all four Ty Cobb cards in the subset?
Chris: Polar Bear is unique as it only includes 32 Hall of Famers compared to the 74 in the entire 520 card set. In Polar Bear, Ty Cobb only has the “Red Portrait” and “Bat off Shoulder” variations. Walter Johnson has just the “Glove at Chest” variation, no portrait. Same with Christy Mathewson, no portrait in Polar Bear but the “Dark Cap” variation.
This is what makes Polar Bear unique in my mind. You are still getting a taste of all of the Hall of Famers but you aren’t having to buy as many different poses for a complete set. Only Cobb, Hughie Jennings, John McGraw, Joe Tinker and Vic Willis have two Polar Bear poses, and no Hall of Famer has three.
SABR Baseball Cards: What can you tell us about the Polar Bear tobacco brand itself?
Chris: The biggest difference between Polar Bear tobacco and the other tobacco brands represented in T206 (e.g., Piedmont, Sweet Caporal) was that it was sold in loose tobacco pouches versus rolled tobacco form (i.e., cigarettes).
This is also why finding these cards in great condition is so difficult. More than likely you will find them stained from the tobacco that was loose around the card and or with small bits of tobacco still attached to the card. To me those are some of the best Polar Bear cards because that small bit of tobacco harkens back to when it was first pulled out of the pouch in the early 1900s. You can’t replicate that in the modern Hobby.
SABR Baseball Cards: Aside from the T206 set, was Polar Bear involved in any other tobacco issues? For example, can Polar Bear backs be found in T205 or other notable sets?
Chris: As you correctly point out, Polar Bear was one of the 17 brands used in the T205 set but they are most famous for being in the T206 set.
SABR Baseball Cards: Tell us how you are keeping or displaying your collection. Slabs? Binders?
Chris: My original goal was to have a complete binder set as I always valued being able to hold a baseball card that was 110 years old as more important than owning the card itself. I never really valued a card being in a slab before because plastic is not true Americana. However, I had a shift around the 200-card mark to where I had “enough” of the feel game and started to value the look of the cards more than their feel.
Now that I’ve reached the 240+ mark in the set, I have just over 210 raw copies and 30 graded. SGC takes up the majority of the graded group with 21 in a tuxedo. I also find they display a whole lot better than the PSA versions, but you can’t beat a red portrait T206 in a red PSA flip.
SABR Baseball Cards: And what about condition? As tough as this set is to put together, I have to imagine you’ve made room for plenty of lower grade cards.
Chris: The one rule that I have always had with my Polar Bear set was to put together a back run set with very clean backs. I never honestly really cared about what the front looked like! So if you see a badly damaged Polar Bear back on my website, that is because it was obtained before I made the switch in 2021 and just haven’t gone back to upgrade it. I have financially prioritized new pickups versus upgrades the past two years.
SABR Baseball Cards: Knowing you are in the Seattle area, obviously there are no Mariners (or Pilots!) in the set. Have you adopted any particular team from the Monster as your favorite?
Chris: I will always be partial to the Chicago Cubs due to Frank Chance and Solly Hofman and the origin on my T206 collecting journey. Still, to me it was never about the teams; it was always about the back.
SABR Baseball Cards: There are so many beautiful cards in the T206 set. From a purely aesthetic standpoint, do you have a Top 5 among the Polar Bear run?
Chris: Completely ignoring how good the players are, here are my Top 5.
Christy Mathewson – This card is gorgeous to me as it shows potential rubber-band wear and tear and then someone spilled something on it in the past. Or maybe the tobacco package got wet and this is a tobacco stain.
John Titus – Everyone knows, the only man with a moustache in the entire T206 set, not just Polar Bear.
Davy Jones – What a stud in this card. Someone must have liked him as they were making the set.
Del Howard – Very unique background, which is unusual for the T206 set, along with the popped collar and I have visited his grave here in Seattle. That was an interesting moment personally speaking.
Ed Konetchy – Feels like a very 3D image that feels very hard to pull off 110 years ago. This card has always stuck out to me as being very unique versus the other action shots.
SABR Baseball Cards: Earlier, you mentioned two of the Polar Bear set’s rarities: the St. Louis variations of Demmitt and O’Hara. Are these two cards part of your Polar Bear quest, or have you set your sights on a more modest goal of 248?
Chris: I go back and forth on this all the time. When I started this back-run set I knew I was committing myself to spending $1k for the Demmitt and O’Hara cards, and I was completely fine with that. Apart from Ty Cobb, those would be my two significant purchases. However, now that Demmitt and O’Hara are going for four to five times that price, the financial decision becomes much more difficult.
This is also why I decided to add them to my Polar Bear sleeve tattoo. Getting their cards on my arm was a a tad cheaper than putting down $8k for 2 cards and while some people will view that as “crazy,” you can never tell a Polar Bear story without Demmitt and O’Hara.
SABR Baseball Cards: Wait. What?! Did you say you got those cards on your arm??
SABR Baseball Cards: That is AWESOME! We definitely support your right to Bear arms! So the tattoos will essentially sub for the cards here?
Chris: I’m currently at 244/250 for the set. Once I get to 248, I will take a look at the market and make a decision on those last two. Ultimately, if I am going to have a complete Polar Bear set, I need to have a Demmitt and O’Hara. Maybe I will find a great deal at the 2023 National for one of these cards! You never know. That would be incredible to finish this set at the place where it all began!
SABR Baseball Cards: It’s been amazing to follow your journey. You are truly putting together something that most collectors can only dream about. Thank you so much, Chris, for taking the time to share your story with our readers.
Author’s Note: You can view Chris’ entire Polar Bear set (in progress) on his website. Take a look, it’s awesome!
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.
Any good baseball fan over the age of forty knows the name Boog Powell: Burly, genial redhead. Baltimore Orioles fence-buster and fan favorite. 1970 American League Most Valuable Player. Subject of one of the 1970s’ most-loved Miller Lite punchlines.
Less known is that Boog had a stepbrother in the major leagues from 1968 through 1973: utility man and pinch-hitter Carl Taylor, who spent six seasons in the employ of the Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, and Kansas City Royals. (Topps mentions this on the back of Carl’s 1969 and 1974 cards; on his 1970 card, he is referred to merely as Boog’s “relative.” None of Boog’s cards make mention of a stepbrother.)
After Boog’s mother died during his childhood, his father remarried a woman whose son, Carl Taylor, became Boog’s stepbrother. Two and a half years’ Boog’s junior, Carl possessed the same penchant for mischief as the aptly nicknamed Boog—called so by his father because “booger” was a southern term for a boy who gets into trouble, which was eventually shortened to “Boog” (correctly pronounced like a soft, suthun’ “book”).
Carl also possessed the same penchant for baseball as did his elder stepbrother, which eventually led to their playing on the same little league team. In fact, their Lakeland, Florida, squad made it all the way to the 1954 national championship in Williamsport, Pennsylvania—or as Boog and Carl referred to it, the Fuckin’ Little League World Series Mixer. (Boog also had a biological brother, Charlie, who played on this team and who eventually reached the minor leagues. An injured shoulder suffered in a fall from a treehouse is rumored to have curtailed Charlie’s career.)
Boog and Carl’s early years together are hazy but seem to indicate that they shared a bedroom despite a general unease between them. Eventually, they began to bond through favorite dinosaurs and Carl’s Phil Cavarretta–model Louisville Slugger autographed by fellow Chicago Cub Randy Jackson. (The young Carl had bumped into Jackson several years earlier, and all Carl had on him was the Phil Cavarretta bat—and Carl was not going to not get Randy Jackson’s autograph, right? Boog surely would have done the exact same thing.)
In fact, it seems that Boog and Carl bonded so well that the boys constructed a bunk bed so they would have more room to do activities—although they made the mistake of agreeing on the physically imposing Boog taking the upper bunk, which nearly spelled Carl’s end.
Several years later, the Powell family relocated from Lakeland to Key West. The boys’ disappointment in having to leave behind the treehouse in which Boog had stored his complete collection of the relatively new magazine called Playboy was placated by their exciting new surroundings at the western tip of the Florida archipelago. It was not only here that Boog became a three-sport star at Key West High School but where Carl began to mature as an athlete, himself. Even more significantly, being no more than a mile at any point on the island from the warm waters of the Straits of Florida made every week Shark Week. Boog and Carl could watch this favorite spectacle in-person almost any time of year—at least until Mr. Powell tired of their lackadaisical attitudes and insisted that they get jobs.
Still, they found time to indulge their other shared passion: Boog and Carl would take their father’s 13-foot Feather Craft Topper—usually without his permission—put on their plastic Key West Fire Department helmets, hook up a line to the bilge pump, and spray the shore or other boats with seawater, in a ritual they came to call “boats ‘n hose.” (Scamps that they were, Boog and Carl would sing gleefully from offshore, Boats ‘n hose, boats ‘n hose, I gotta have me my boats ‘n hose…)
This is not to imply that all was rosy between the stepbrothers. Reportedly, they feuded, and on one particularly charged occasion, scuttlebutt has it that Carl—despite extremely emphatic warning from Boog not to touch his marching-band tuba—indeed made contact with the instrument in an unsightly way, which precipitated a horrible brawl.
Soon enough, though, both boys were making waves for their high school team, the Key West Conchs, and attracting the attention of major league scouts. (A 1959 Fort Myers News-Press article garnered Boog attention as he obliterated rival pitching by batting .571 and slugging an ungodly 1.036 over 11 games.) The Conchs won the Florida state championship in 1958, propelled heavily by Boog’s bat, and repeated in ’59. Not long after his graduation, the Baltimore Orioles outbid the St. Louis Cardinals and signed Boog for $25,000. Carl soldiered on with the Conchs, and like his stepbrother, he, too, signed on with a major league organization, the Pittsburgh Pirates, shortly after graduating.
Boog hit like wildfire in the minors and found himself in Orioles duds by the last week of the 1961 season—his major league debut being the game in which Roger Maris tied Babe Ruth’s mark with his 60th homer run of the season. Carl took longer to ripen, beginning his sojourn through the minors in 1962 and finally reaching major league pay dirt in Pittsburgh’s second game of the 1968 campaign.
Shortly before Opening Day, after Carl had officially made the Pirates squad, Pittsburgh and Baltimore coincidentally clashed in a spring-training tilt. When Boog and Carl met on the field during warmups, Carl was heard to quip excitedly, “Did we just become major leaguers?” to which Boog replied ardently, “Yup!” after which, they ran to the bullpen and did karate to limber up.
Although Boog and his 230-lb frame hardly could claim that he hadn’t had a carb since 1964, he’d enjoyed consistent success for the previous five seasons, finishing third in the American League MVP race as he helped the Orioles to a surprise World Series championship in 1966.
Carl’s major league career did not bear immediate fruit. As catcher Jerry May’s backup, Carl got into only 44 games and hit a dismal .211 in 1968. Would he remain in the majors? Carl had worn a tuxedo on the first day of spring training yet managed to impress the coaching staff with his bat, his glove, and a sense of irony that skipper Larry Shepard confessed he hadn’t seen since Dizzy Dean pitched a barnstorming game against Indiana’s Greencastle Galoshes in two-tone wingtips. This ability to think outside the box, coupled with a surprisingly operatic singing voice that endeared him to general manager Joe Brown, kept Carl with the parent club in 1969.
A wise decision it was. Playing first base, the outfield, and coming off the bench, Carl suited up for 104 games and batted a sizzling .348, the highest batting average on the club and .0008 points better than National League batting champion, Pete Rose (albeit in 470 fewer plate appearances).
One would think that an effort like Carl’s 1969 would keep him in Bucs black and white for a while—but convinced of Manny Sanguillén’s and Al Oliver’s future stardom, and well stocked through its rich farm system, Pittsburgh swapped Carl shortly after the season to St. Louis for Dave Giusti and Dave Ricketts. Carl worked another 104 games in 1970, but his batting average tumbled nearly 100 points—and he soon entered the journeyman phase of his career. Dealt to Milwaukee, Carl became a Brewer in name only, as that club packed him off to Kansas City before the new season began.
Batting .189 and unhappy with his lot, United Press International reported on May 23, 1971, that Carl had “burned his uniform and other baseball equipment” (i.e., very possibly his tuxedo) and quit the Royals. Coincidentally—or not—this took place in Baltimore, and Boog tried to talk him out of it after the game. Was there an element of step-sibling rivalry? Boog was the reigning A.L. MVP, owner of two World Series rings, and justifiably earning $70,000 more than Carl. Possibly still smarting from the trade after his .348 season—especially because Pittsburgh became a playoff team the following year—Carl may have been dismayed that, unlike Boog, he wasn’t snappin’ necks and cashin’ checks.
“I wanna make bank, bro!” Carl allegedly complained to Boog. “I wanna get ass. I wanna drive a Hemi ‘Cuda.”
Boog may well have thought that he had a huge doucher for a stepbrother, but whatever plagued Carl didn’t last, so—at least secretly—he wasn’t a doucher. Carl returned to the Royals and appeared in two games for Kansas City before being farmed out to Omaha, where he pummeled American Association pitching for a .362 mark. As luck would have it, Pittsburgh bought his contract for its stretch drive, and Carl found himself on a first-place team. Alas, while the Pirates claimed the National League East, Carl was ineligible for the playoffs, having been acquired three days after the playoff-eligibility deadline. He watched idly as Pittsburgh sliced through San Francisco for the pennant and defeated Boog’s own Orioles in a seven-game cliffhanger to become champions of baseball (although Carl has, at times, augmented his autograph on baseballs with “71 World Champs”).
Likely much to Carl’s surprise, Kansas City bought back Carl shortly before the start of the 1972 season. Carl enjoyed his final two major league campaigns in powder blue, before retiring after the 1973 season. In 411 games, he had accumulated 298 total bases—the same amount Boog amassed in his 1969 season.
Boog’s career continued into summer 1977, first with a trade to the Cleveland Indians in early 1975—where, in the Tribe’s all-maroon road uniforms, he resembled, in his own words, “a massive blood clot”—and then as a pinch-hitter for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who, with a healthy lead in the N.L. West, jettisoned Boog three weeks before clinching a playoff spot.
Boog soon became a favorite pitchman of Miller Lite beer, filming numerous television commercials in the wake of his major league career, several with good-natured former umpire, Jim Honochick (“Hey, you’re Boog Powell!”). These ads, including a few with former Japanese baseball player, Koichi Numazawa, were so well received that Boog enjoyed prestige worldwide.
Riding high, Boog attempted an ambitious start-up company with Carl that would delve into multiple endeavors, including entertainment, management, computers, research & development, and security. They were prepared to put in the man-hours to study the science of what customers need, but, alas, they couldn’t find investors—who could have been possibly you. Later, Boog entered the restaurant industry—and Boog’s BBQ restaurants thrive to this day.
On a sunny afternoon in January 1992, a line of fans stretched from inside the Huntington Beach High School gymnasium, out into the parking lot. That Saturday, the gymnasium was the scene of a sports card show. And though eight-time MLB All-Star and former National League Rookie of the Year, Darryl Strawberry, and the L.A. Raiderettes were on site attracting their own throngs of fans, those standing in the longest line were not waiting to meet them. Instead, their line snaked its way to a table, behind which sat 19-year old Marc Newfield, a baseball player who to that point had never played a game above AA. Newfield was a hometown kid who, just a couple years before, played basketball in this same gymnasium versus rival Huntington Beach High School as a member of the crosstown Marina High School Vikings varsity basketball squad.
It was during his time at Marina High School that Newfield established himself as a star baseball player, one of the most heavily scouted hitters in the nation. In June 1990, the Mariners selected Newfield in the first round of MLB Amateur Draft. As a 17-year-old, he tore up the Arizona Rookie League, clubbing a mammoth homerun (some said it went nearly 500 feet!) in his first professional game on his way to batting .313/.394/.495 with 6 HRs and being voted the league’s MVP. Then, as an 18-year-old in 1991 in the High-A Cal League, his first full-length season, Newfield continued to flourish. In 125 games, he hit .300/.391/.439 and was named a Cal League All-Star and the MVP of his San Bernardino Spirit.
But at this card show, organizers had hired Newfield to appear and sign autographs. After signing for two straight hours, he paused for a respite, observing “My hand’s killing me. All these people…I never expected anything like this. I don’t know what’s going on.” The painfully humble Newfield was bewildered by the gaggle of grown adults waiting in a lengthy line on a Saturday afternoon for his signature.
Many of the dealers and collectors in attendance that day viewed Newfield as a commodity and believed his early professional success would help them make a buck. One vendor was selling his cards for $1.75 each and explained, “He’s $2.50 according to the book. Somebody else here is selling them for $3.50.” Another vendor was laminating Newfield’s cards, mounting them to small wood plaques, and selling the simple displays for $15. A Huntington Beach card shop proprietor on site that afternoon claimed to have 10,000 Newfield cards stocked away in his inventory, lecturing: “The idea is to buy his card cheap now and sell high when he’s made it.” He then held up a box, “There are 1,000 Marc Newfields in here. Hopefully, someday, this card will be worth $70 [similar in value to a Frank Thomas rookie card at that time], too. That’s $70 times 1,000.”
As demonstrated at the January 1992 card show, Newfield’s first two professional seasons launched him into the stratosphere of the baseball card hobby. Baseball card manufacturers, too, wanted a piece of the teenager. At the end of the 1991 season, Upper Deck had scrambled to send a photographer to San Bernardino’s Fiscalini Field to snap shots of Newfield in a Seattle Mariners uniform in what was described as a “just in case session.” Upper Deck did not want to run into the same issue it had a couple years earlier when it did not have a photo of Ken Griffey, Jr. in a Mariners uniform and was forced to airbrush his San Bernardino Spirit hat a lighter shade of blue in order to include him in its 1989 set. Similarly, here Upper Deck wanted to account for all contingencies in the event that Newfield, like Griffey, leapfrogged higher levels in the Mariners minor league system and reached the big leagues in early 1992.
That August 1991 day at Fiscalini Field, Upper Deck provided Newfield a #24 Mariners jersey to wear during the shoot. At the time, Newfield—who was more focused on his own season than the goings-on at the big-league level—had no idea that this #24 jersey with no name sewn on the back was that of Ken Griffey Jr. Even without the knowledge that this jersey was Griffey’s—and the added sense of pressure that such a comparison would inevitably stir in a teen—the modest Newfield, who at that point had not played higher than Class-A, was already uncomfortable being put on a pedestal. Lacking even the slightest hint of ego, he sheepishly confessed on the day of the Upper Deck shoot that though he was honored to be photographed and presented as a big-league talent, “It’s kind of embarrassing. It just seems like it’s not the right time.”
That whole season, Newfield had done his best to navigate the attention thrown his way. He’d been an attraction at ballparks around the Cal League, signing for young fans. He didn’t mind doing this—it came with the territory. But he admitted getting irritated “when the same people ask for me to sign over and over again. They bring 10 cards one day and five the next.” Though this constant attention might have led some young athletes to develop an attitude or sense of entitlement, Newfield handled it like a professional well beyond his 18 years. Tommy Jones, his manager at San Bernardino, explained in 1991, “He’s handled the off-field pressures of the season very well: baseball-card companies, national magazines, TV, radio, all the media,” adding that Newfield never let the attention affect his play or his relationship with his teammates.
Everybody in the baseball card hobby wanted a piece of Marc Newfield. In January 1992 Baseball Cards magazine named Newfield its “Hot Rookie” in a feature story. The Beckett Focus on Future Stars profiled Newfield twice—in August 1992 and April 1994. And Beckett Baseball Card Monthly showcased the young ballplayer, interviewing him for its April 1994 edition.
I was no different. I had my own Marc Newfield collection. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, and by 1992 I was 7 years old and developing my own interest in baseball cards. When I acquired a Seattle Mariner, I put it in a special binder with other Mariners cards. I recently dug out that old Mariners binder and found six different Marc Newfield cards dating 1991 through 1993.
Two of those cards have always stood out to me, and I’ve long wondered the story of those cards and the player pictured in them. I ran an internet search for Marc Newfield and quickly discovered that since his professional baseball career ended in the late 1990s, the once-shy kid from Huntington Beach has, perhaps unsurprisingly, lived outside the public spotlight.
Fortunately though, after a little effort, I was recently able to track down Newfield and speak to him about his personal and professional journey, and of course, about his baseball cards. Like all of us, he’s grown up in the intervening three decades since these cards were issued. But he maintains a sharp memory of those early days of his pro baseball career. He’s also patient and generous with his time. The humble kid from the early 1990s maintains a low profile these days, and, consistent with the personality he showed as a teenage baseball star, he’s still eager to come through for others. It was a real pleasure discussing his cards, and as a result of those conversations, I’m now a bigger fan of his than when he was a hero of mine as a youngster.
The first card I’ve always loved is the 1991 Topps “#1 Draft Pick” (#529). It shows a 17-year old Newfield in his senior year of high school, wearing his Marina Vikings pinstripes. On one knee in a traditional amateur baseball pose, an aluminum bat leaning into his body, a Mizuno batting glove on his left hand, and stirrups showing from below mid-calf, Newfield displays the widest, most sincere smile ever featured on a professional baseball card. The obvious happiness in his face reminds me of the great joy that baseball has brought so many of us. Newfield told me that, indeed, the most fun he ever had on the diamond occurred, not during his ten professional seasons or when he was in the major leagues, but in high school. He specifically recalls the summer of 1989 following his junior year, when he was learning to play first base on a Mickey Mantle 16U team that won tournaments all over the nation before securing a National Championship at Waterbury, Connecticut. The reverse side of the card lists this accomplishment along with Newfield’s high school offensive statistics and many prep accolades, the sort of eye-popping achievements that explain the swarms of scouts in attendance at his high school games.
As a child, I did not understand why this Seattle Mariners baseball card did not show a player in a Mariners jersey. It made no sense. But it also made the card unique. None of the other cards in my collection had players wearing another team’s uniform. And back then, the card’s uniqueness made it stand out against others.
Perhaps my favorite card, though, is the 1992 Upper Deck Top Prospect (#51) checklist. I liked it for the same reason as the 1991 Topps card: it was unique. Newfield is not even in a baseball uniform, but rather street clothes, looking like a teenager waiting for a bus. And here, the card shows two players, a second unique trait!
Newfield stands with Montreal Expos prospect Rondell White, and each has a team-issued duffel bag slung over his shoulder. Newfield sports a San Bernardino Spirit hat, and his oversized outfielder’s glove pokes out of his unzipped bag. But I’ve wondered: why doesn’t he have a bat in his bag the way White does?
The card shows the two young men standing in grass, seemingly along a road. Newfield pointed out that in the card, he is wearing two different shoes—I’d never observed this detail before. The grey shoe on his left foot is actually a medical boot. Following the 1991 season, he had undergone a surgery to try to correct a foot issue that had been bothering him for years and had become increasingly painful. He was recovering from that surgery when Upper Deck staged this photo. That surgery, however, did not alleviate the pain, and he was forced to undergo a much more invasive foot surgery in 1992 that cut short his season at AA Jacksonville.
White’s right hand rests on Newfield’s left shoulder, like a nurturing big brother. Interestingly, Newfield explained that he and Rondell White had no prior relationship—they were not friends, nor did they enjoy a personal connection. Upper Deck simply paired them together for this card. Nevertheless, the men gaze, together, into the dream-filled distance.
Behind them is a short wire rope fence, and a post rises over their heads with two signs attached. One sign points left toward Seattle; the other right to Montreal—with this signage, the photo should have been taken in central North America at a geographic point between those two big-league cities. But rather, Upper Deck had flown White out to Orange County, California, where Newfield lived in Huntington Beach and was recovering during the offseason. They staged the photo nearby, along California’s iconic Pacific Coast Highway.
Newfield has his own favorite cards from his playing days, though unlike me, he was never much of a baseball card collector growing up. Early in his career, he admitted that seeing himself on baseball cards was exciting and surreal, if not a little odd: “I’ll get a card, or my friends get the cards, and we kind of laugh because we all grew up together. It’s weird that one of us would be on a baseball card.” In 1994 he told Beckett magazine that his favorite of his cards was the 1994 Fleer Major League Prospects (#26), in which he is shown following through on a swing, in front of a Mariners logo.
But these days, his favorite card is the 1996 Select Team Nucleus (#22) that pictures Newfield, with Padres teammates Tony Gwynn and Ken Caminiti. He smiles and suggests how “ridiculous” it was that Select included him on a Team Nucleus card in 1996. After all, the Padres had acquired Newfield from the Mariners at the 1995 trade deadline, and he’d played just 21 games in a Padres uniform by the time the card was produced. But those 21 games represented the first time in Newfield’s young career in which he was afforded the opportunity to play every day and adjust to big league pitching without fear of imminent demotion or losing his place on the lineup card. And Newfield excelled, hitting .309/.333/.491 during that stretch. That late season performance in 1995 landed Newfield on this 1996 Team Nucleus card alongside first-ballot Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn—Mr. Padre himself—and Ken Caminiti, who would win the NL MVP after that 1996 season and eventually land in the Padres Hall of Fame. And though he still thinks the card is ridiculous, Newfield values this card because he was featured alongside two baseball legends. It is also not lost on him that, of the three ballplayers on the card, he’s the lone survivor.
Though the vendors at the January 1992 Huntington Beach card show may be disappointed that Newfield’s cards won’t finance a lush retirement, I still enjoy flipping through my Marc Newfield collection and adding more to my growing set. Each card tells its own story. And now, after I’ve had the good fortune of meeting Marc Newfield and getting to better know the man pictured in the cards, they are more valuable to me than any others in my collection.
 Mike Penner, “Investing in Stars of the Future,” Los Angeles Times (Orange County Edition), February 2, 1992: 1.
 Mike Penner, “Investing in Stars of the Future,” Los Angeles Times (Orange County Edition), February 2, 1992: 1.
 Gregg Patton, “Majors seem in the cards for Newfield,” San Bernardino County Sun, August 23, 1991: C1.
 Gregg Patton, “Majors seem in the cards for Newfield,” San Bernardino County Sun, August 23, 1991: C1.
 Jim Callis, “On the Mark,” Baseball Cards, January 1992: 55.
 Matt Hayes, “Focus on Marc Newfield,” Beckett Focus on Future Stars, April 1994, No. 36: 20.
Keith Hernandez (L) and Frank Thomas (R) – 2022 Mets Old Timers Day
“I’m so thankful that my dad was able to go to Old Timers’ Day. “It meant the world to him to see his old teammates. I was thrilled with how the fans greeted him. I was so happy to see him in uniform again. We will treasure those memories forever.”
Maryanne Pacconi (Frank Thomas’s daughter)
Frank Thomas, who passed away at 93 on Monday, January 16th, was a bright spot on the 1962 Mets team that won only 40 games. Frank had one of his best seasons in 1962 smashing 34 home runs and driving in 94 runs.
Road Trip to Citi Field
In early July my daughter and I had a wonderful time visiting Frank at his home in Pittsburgh. We talked about his playing days and our families. During the visit several Casey Stengel stories came up during our conversation. One of them was about the time he hit two home runs in three consecutive games during the ’62 season. “When I hit my first home run to start the streak, I was wearing glasses with yellow lenses. It was a twilight game, and the yellow lenses made it look like it was daylight. I circled the bases and then sat back down in the dugout. Casey looked over at me and asked – Where did you get the glasses? I said the trainer gave them to me. Casey said – Tell him to order a gross of ‘em for the other players.”
Towards the end of our visit, Frank mentioned that he was going to be at the Mets Old Timers on August 27th. “It’s probably my last one,” he said. And then a big smile came across his face, and he added – “The Mets called me up and wanted my measurements. They are going to make me a uniform!”
I told Frank that I would be there, and after returning home from Pittsburgh, I bought two tickets for the game. This was going to be the first Mets Old Timers Day since 1994. The game was heavily promoted by the Mets organization and was a sellout.
I went to the Old Timers game with a high school buddy of mine – another baseball fanatic – who also lives near Boston.
We left early in the morning and got to the park in plenty of time to see Frank make his red-carpet entrance into the stadium along with the other former players. He was using his walker but moving at a brisk pace. I am certain that getting to the Old Timers game was a major effort for Frank since he had a bad fall prior to the event.
Howie Rose, longtime radio broadcaster for the Mets, was the master of ceremonies and introduced each player before the game. The pre-game festivities also included retiring Willie Mays’ number 24.
It was obvious that the former players who had come back for the event had a great time. On the field I saw lots of laughing, high fives, hugs, and pictures being taken. The program stated that each Old Timer received a ring with their name on one side and the number 60, representing the team’s 60th anniversary on the other side. That was a nice touch.
Mets Cards of Frank Thomas Issued by Topps
Topps issued cards of Frank for each year he played for the Mets.
The Mets being an expansion team in 1962 created a problem for Topps. They could not get pictures of players in their proper uniforms and meet production schedules. As a result, Topps used a picture of Frank without a cap and wearing a Cubs uniform for his 1962 card – #7. Topps used a similar solution for just about all of the other Mets players with cards in the 1962 set. The exception being the Al Jackson card – #464 – which was a late production run 6th Series card.
1962 Topps Card #7
The 1963 card of Frank – #495 – is my personal favorite. I have always liked the design of these cards and the photographer took a nice color head and shoulders shot of Frank for the main image on the card.
1963 Topps Card #495
The batting stance picture used on his 1964 card – #345 – is similar to the batting stance pictures on his 1957 Topps card – #140 and his 1960 Topps card – #95.
If there was a Hall of Fame for major league ball players that signed Through The Mail (TTM), Frank would be in it.
In his autobiography Frank recalled his youth and stated: “I’d wait outside of the clubhouse after games and try to meet the players and get their autographs. Many guys would walk right by us kids with no acknowledgement whatsoever. It was very disappointing to see. That’s one of the reasons that I made a point to ALWAYS sign autographs as I left the clubhouse. I didn’t want some young fan’s recollection of me to be that I walked right past home as he held out his autograph book for me to sign.”
Since 2019 Frank and I had been communicating on regular basis, primarily by mail. Frank was old school. He did not text and he did not have a computer. I would bang out a letter on my computer, and Frank would respond back with a handwritten letter. He would answer my baseball questions in his letters and give me updates on his health and his children. The nominal fee that he asked for signing baseball cards went to two charities: – Camp Happy Days-Kids Kicking Cancer and Courageous Kidz. I gladly contributed to his charities and sent him cards that spanned his career to sign. I always received the cards back promptly – beautifully signed – along with a thank you note.
Letters from Frank were signed…
The Original One
I always got a kick out of that.
Apparently, anyone that contributed to his charities made the Christmas card mailing list. To my amazement, I received my first custom Christmas card from Frank in 2019.
2022 Christmas Card from Frank Thomas
Through baseball card collecting, I had the opportunity and privilege to become friends with Frank Thomas. I will miss him.
Planning a Return Trip to Citi Field
My two teams have always been the Red Sox and the Pirates; however the whole experience on August 27th really left quite an impression on me and has turned me into a Mets fan too.
This article was written by Bruce Markusen. You can find Bruce on Twitter at @markusen_s.
There’s little doubt that Nate Colbert enjoyed his 76 years on this earth. Colbert, who died earlier this month, always seemed happy. And he loved to smile. Evidence of that can be found on his 1969 Topps card, where he flashes a full and uncontrolled smile for the cameraman. Although Colbert was still an unproven player at the time the photograph was taken, his card seems to reflect his sheer happiness over simply being in the major leagues.
Aside from his extreme and ever-present smile, something else stands out about Colbert’s 1969 Topps card. He is not wearing a cap, not for the team that first signed him (the St. Louis Cardinals), not for his previous team (the Houston Astros), or his new team (the San Diego Padres). The decision to have players pose capless was a common technique used by Topps at the time. In the event that a player changed teams over the course of the winter or during spring training, the capless photographs maintained a more generic appearance. With the capless pose, Topps could easily crop the photo so as to eliminate the name or logo of the old team on the jersey.
In the case of Colbert, other factors were at play. As an expansion team, the Padres had yet to play a game, which would have theoretically limited Topps’ opportunities for an updated photograph showing Colbert wearing his new team’s colors. More pertinently, in a development involving all major league players in 1969, a lingering dispute between Topps and the MLB Players Association caused havoc with the production of baseball cards. Unhappy with the paltry compensation given to players for the rights to use their images on cards, Marvin Miller had instructed players to refuse posing for photographs in 1968, both during spring training and the regular season. That explains why so many of the cards in the 1969 Topps set feature photographs that are two or three years old (or even older). Those photos often depict traded or otherwise relocated players without caps, or sometimes show them from angles that obscure the logos of their old teams.
In contrast, Colbert would appear on Topps cards in his full Padres regalia from 1970 to 1974. By 1970, the union had negotiated a new and far more favorable deal with Topps, allowing the card company to resume its business of taking updated photographs. Of that series of Colbert cards, the most memorable is the 1973 version, which once again gives us a smiling Colbert. Even more noticeable is Colbert’s uniform, the Padres’ all-yellow uniforms that they first introduced in 1972.
Those duds, arguably the gaudiest uniforms of an outlandish era, may have been ugly, but as Colbert pointed out during a 2008 visit to the Hall of Fame, he looked at that uniform with a philosophical approach. “The yellow ones, which were called ‘Mission Gold’—I don’t know where they got that name from—when I first put them on, I felt really embarrassed. But I looked at it like, this is the major leagues; this is the uniform I was required to wear,” said Colbert. “I took a lot of ribbing, especially from the Reds and Pirates players. Even my mother used to tease me. She said I looked like a caution light that was stuck.”
While Colbert would become most associated with the Padres’ yellow-and-brown look, his career path could have gone far differently; he might very well have worn the more conservative cap and uniform of the New York Yankees. As an amateur free agent in 1964, the year before the major league draft came into being, Colbert was pursued aggressively by the Yankees. They had promised to exceed any offers given to him by any other team, but ultimately Colbert chose to go elsewhere.
If the Yankees had signed Colbert, they presumably would have brought him to the majors by the late 1960s. That would have been good timing for a struggling franchise filled with aging players and prospects who were not up the standards of the organization during its glory years. In particular, the Yankees had an unstable situation at first base. The retirement of Mickey Mantle at the start of spring training in 1969 forced the Yankees to switch Joe Pepitone from the outfield to first base. But Pepitone himself would depart after the 1969 season, via a trade with Colbert’s old team, the Astros.
From 1970 to 1973, the Yankees struggled to find anyone capable of giving them the ideal power expected from a first baseman. Role players like Danny Cater, Johnny Ellis, and Mike Hegan, the oft-injured Ron Blomberg, and an aging Felipe Alou took turns playing the position. Blomberg was the best hitter of the group, but injuries curtailed his production, while his poor defensive play made him a better fit at DH starting in 1973. Even if healthy, it’s doubtful that Blomberg would have matched the production of Colbert. A young Colbert would have supplied some much-needed right-handed power to a Yankees lineup that leaned heavily to the left.
But Colbert-to-the-Yankees never happened. He briefly considered the Yankees’ offer before choosing to sign with his hometown team, the St. Louis Cardinals. That was Colbert’s dream; he had always wanted to play for the same team as one of his boyhood heroes, Stan Musial. Unfortunately, the Cardinals did not think Colbert was ready to succeed Bill White at first base and had no room for him in left field (where Lou Brock resided). After the 1965 season, the Cardinals left Colbert unprotected in the Rule Five draft.
The Astros jumped in and picked up Colbert, who by the requirements of Rule Five had to stay on the major league roster the entire season or be offered back to the Cardinals. In the spring of ’66, Colbert made his major league debut. According to Colbert, he became the second member of his family to play in the major leagues, after his father, Nate, Sr. The younger Colbert claimed that his father was a catcher who was a onetime batterymate of the great Satchel Paige, but there is no official record of Nate Colbert, Sr. having appeared in an official Negro Leagues game.
As for the junior Colbert, he played in only 19 games for the Astros, accumulating a mere seven at-bats without a hit. For some reason, Astros manager Grady Hatton refused to use Colbert in the field, instead giving him only the handful of bats and a few pinch-running appearances. It turned out to be a wasted summer for the 20-year-old Colbert.
By 1967, the Astros were free to send Colbert back to the minor leagues, where he could accrue both actual playing time and badly needed experience. They assigned him to the Amarillo Sonics, their Double-A affiliate in the Texas League. He then returned to the Astros midway through 1968 and was later given a September looksee at first base, but he did not hit well and showed a propensity for striking out. He also clashed with Astros manager Harry Walker, who tried to force Colbert into becoming a contact hitter who hit to all fields. Colbert wanted to pull the ball—and hit with power.
Still, Colbert found his fair share of fun away from the field. Some of that came through sharing a clubhouse with the most colorful teammate of his career. During his visit to Cooperstown in 2008, where he regaled visitors with stories from his major league days, Colbert recalled playing with Doug Rader, the quirky and unpredictable third baseman who was forever playing pranks and testing the limits of sanity. “When we were with the Astros,” Colbert said, “[Rader] and one of the guys, another player on the team, went down to the pet store. That’s when it was legal to own alligators. And they bought three alligators, baby alligators. They waited until we were all in the shower, and they let them loose in the shower, down in Cocoa, Florida. We were trying to climb the walls, these little baby alligators all around us.”
Rader made life in Houston memorable for Colbert, but he longed for an opportunity to do more on the field. A much-needed break would soon come his way. After the 1968 season, the National League added the Padres and the Montreal Expos as expansion franchises. The Astros left Colbert unprotected in the expansion draft, giving the Padres the chance to select his contract. With the 18th pick of the draft, after such obscure selections as infielder Jose Arcia and pitcher Al Santorini, the Padres took Colbert. He would soon become their best player.
After starting the season in a platoon role at first base, Colbert caught the attention of his new manager, Preston Gomez. At first, the Padres planned to platoon Colbert with the lefty-hitting Bill Davis, who was six-feet, seven-inches tall and was known as “The Jolly Green Giant.” Colbert went on a short hot streak, impressing Gomez. The Padres soon traded Davis, clearing the way for Colbert to play every day.
From 1969 to 1972, Colbert put up huge power numbers, twice hitting 38 home runs in a season and twice posting slugging percentages of better than .500. Those numbers become even more impressive given his home ballpark, San Diego Stadium, which featured a distance of 420 feet to center field and outfield walls that stood 17 feet high. In 1972, Colbert’s best year, he collected 111 RBIs, accounting for nearly 23 per cent of the Padres’ run total for the season. That remarkable 23 percent figure remains a major league record.
Colbert was never better than he was on August 1 that season, when the Padres played a doubleheader against the Braves at Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium. Colbert hit two home runs in the first game, one against Ron Schueler and one against Mike McQueen, and then smacked three more in the nightcap, victimizing Pat Jarvis, Jim Hardin, and Cecil Upshaw.
The fifth home run matched the doubleheader record set by his boyhood hero, Musial. (To make the story even better, Colbert claimed that he was one of the fans in attendance at Sportsman’s Park the day that Musial hit his five home runs.) Rather dramatically, Colbert hit the record-tying home run in the ninth inning against Upshaw, a tough right-handed reliever who threw with a submarine delivery. That home run gave Colbert 13 RBIs for the doubleheader, establishing a record for a single day.
Colbert’s years with the Padres provided other memorable moments, including the infamous night in April of 1974 when new team owner Ray Kroc took over the public address system on Opening Night at San Diego Stadium. “Well, we had just gotten thumped in LA,” said Colbert, setting the scene. “And we came home… and were getting thumped again [by the Astros]. So I was the hitter, and somebody comes on the mike and says, ‘People of San Diego…’ It scared me, I thought it was God. You know, I thought, oh gosh, the rapture was coming, and I’m not ready. And he said, ‘I want to apologize for such stupid baseball playing.’ So in protest, I said to myself, I’m not swinging.’ I just stood there and I walked… We eventually got a rally going. We scored five runs [actually three runs]. He [Kroc] apologized to us later. And I told him, ‘You own us. You can say what you want!’ ”
That same season, Colbert struggled in making the transition to the outfield. The Padres moved him there to make up for wintertime acquisition Willie McCovey, who took over first base. That was also the summer that Colbert’s chronic and longstanding back problems worsened. Diagnosed with a congenital condition caused by degermation of his vertebrae, Colbert’s hitting mechanics were severely affected by 1974, leaving him with a batting average of .207 and a paltry 14 home runs. That winter, the Padres traded Colbert, sending him to the Detroit Tigers for a package of shortstop Eddie Brinkman, outfielder Dick Sharon, and a minor league pitcher named Bob Strampe.
Colbert would spend an unproductive tenure of two and a half months in Detroit before being sold to the Montreal Expos at the June 15th trading deadline. (That explains why Colbert appeared on only one Topps card as a member of the Tigers. Appropriately, the 1975 card shows him with an upturned cap and another large smile.) He would fare little better with the Expos before being released in June of 1976.
Later that summer, Colbert signed with the Oakland A’s. Although he appeared in only two games and went hitless in five at-bats for the A’s, he enjoyed his time playing for another controversial owner, one who surpassed Ray Kroc for unpredictable behavior. “As far as Charlie Finley, I loved Charlie Finley,” Colbert said. “I thought he was awesome. When he traded for me, he told me that he always wanted me to play for him. He told me couldn’t afford me the next year , but he wanted me to have a good time that year . He told me if I needed anything, just call him. He treated my wife and I very well.”
Becoming a free agent after the 1976 season, Colbert drew little interest from teams. One team, the expansion Toronto Blue Jays, offered him an invite to spring training as a non-roster player. Colbert took the offer, but his back problems persisted, resulting in his release early in spring camp. The release officially ended his major league career.
It was during his brief tenure in Oakland that Colbert met his wife, Kasey, to whom he remained married for the rest of his life. The couple would have nine children and 22 grandchildren. They both became ministers and co-owners of an organization that provided advice and counseling to amateur athletes considering careers at the professional level.
While Colbert did a lot of good work with kids, his post-baseball life also involved controversy. In 1990, Colbert was indicted on 12 felony counts of fraudulent loan applications. He listed real estate assets that he did not actually own on several loan applications to banks. Under the maximum penalty, he could have faced 40 years in prison, but Colbert eventually pled guilty to only one charge and served six months in a medium-security facility.
After his release from prison, Colbert returned to his ministry and opened up several baseball schools. He also served briefly as a minor league manager in two independent leagues before again returning fulltime to his ministry work.
In more recent years, Colbert hosted a weekly radio show on KBAD Radio, an affiliate of NBC. He also hoped to write a book about his experiences, including his work as a minister, though he never did embark on such a project. But for Colbert, his ministry was clearly his obsession. “I love to pray,” Colbert said during his visit to the Hall of Fame. “And I love to teach. I love the involvement with other people.”
Given the broad smile on his 1969, 1973, and 1975 Topps cards, Nate Colbert’s affinity for people should have come as no surprise. He made life fun for many of his teammates and helped a lot of youngsters along the way. And there’s little doubt that he enjoyed just about every day that he spent playing our game.
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).
There’s been a lot of baseball parks in Chicago. Before there was Wrigley, there was Comiskey. Before Comiskey, there was the West Side Grounds, and before that, Brotherhood Park, and Southside Park, and Lakefront Park, and others, all the way back to Dexter Park.
Located just south of the Chicago Stockyards between 43rd and 47th and Halsted Streets, Dexter Park was the Windy City’s foremost ball ground in the mid-1860s. It hosted the 1867 tournament that saw Rockford’s Forest City Base Ball Club shock the previously undefeated Washington Nationals, 29 to 23, on July 25. The Nationals avenged the loss two days later by hammering the Chicago Excelsiors 49 to 7, and then giving the same treatment to the home-ground Chicago Atlantics after another two-day break, 78 to 17.
With the amateur game giving way to the professional version, the Chicago White Stockings claimed the park in time for the 1870 season. Twenty-thousand fans are said to have witnessed the home team defeat the visiting Cincinnati Red Stockings in mid-October, 16 to 13.
But before there was Dexter Park, there was Dexter himself. Described as “high-spirited, nervous, wide-awake and intelligent,” Dexter was America’s most famous horse during his short career. Racing from 1863 until he pulled up lame in 1867, years before he would’ve reached his prime, Dexter ran 55 times and won 50. He was Inducted as an Immortal to the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 1956.
Dexter beat all of the other famous flyers of the time—Stonewall Jackson, George M. Patchen, Jr., General Butler, Commodore Vanderbilt, Toronto Chief, Lady Thorne and others. Along the way, the equine powerhouse set speed records for the day in mile heats, best three-out-of-five heats, two miles, three miles, in harness, saddle and wagon.
In 1866, Dexter was stabled in Chicago and owned by George Trussell, a notorious Windy City gambler. One of Dexter’s most-anticipated races was scheduled to be held at the Chicago Driving Park Association grounds on September 4. Trussell expected a big day. But torrential rain soaked the Windy City that morning and a three-way $5,000 match against Patchen and General Butler was postponed. It still turned out to be a big day for Trussell, when Mollie Cosgriff shot him dead.
Trussell spent the last afternoon of his life at the Driving Park, drinking and gambling with friends despite the race postponement. The party moved downtown in the evening with a tour of bars. It was said that Trussell had a strong attraction to the spirits of the time, and so it wasn’t a surprise when he drifted into Seneca Wright’s tavern on Randolph for a nightcap and a song toward the 11 o’clock hour.
What was a surprise, was when Mollie Cosgriff showed up at the saloon, wanting a word or two with George. She looked, according to one newspaper, as if she had just come from a dancing party, wearing a striking white moire dress to the occasion, a shawl draped over her shoulders, drunk, and carrying a revolver in a pocket.
Mollie was no stranger to the tavern side of life. She ran a well-known house of ill-repute on Fourth Avenue.
George and Mollie were no strangers to each other. Mollie had fallen into the demi-monde in Chicago after moving to the city from her home in Ohio. Her attractive figure and alluring beauty naturally gained the temporary attention if not the permanent affection of Chicago’s fast young men, of whom George was no exception. An affair evolved, and a son by Mollie’s calculation, and the couple drifted apart, but Mollie never lost her devotion to the man.
The lingering feelings were not reciprocal. George didn’t feel much like talking with Mollie that night, and he tried to usher her out the front door of Wright’s place. There was some pushing and shoving at the entrance. Seneca stepped from behind the bar, separated the two quarrelers, and then went back to his duties. The former lovers continued to scuffle. One witness said that George struck Mollie. Others said he didn’t. Mollie pulled her gun and shot him in the side.
George careened back toward the center of the saloon. Mollie followed, and fired again, the bullet striking him in the back. George stumbled toward a side door. Mollie shot him a third time. He staggered out the door, into the entrance of Price’s livery stable, and collapsed.
As if just coming out of a trance, Mollie raced out of the saloon and fell on his body, shrieking frantically, “O my George! My George! He is dead.”
A notorious gambler and owner of a famous horse, killed in his prime. A jilted lover, a keeper of a lewd house, a drunken murderess. Newspapers across the Northeast quarter of the country followed the story with salacious glee. It was a sensation, pure and simple, and it seemed like it would be a tough act to follow. But Chicago was a tough town, and racing soon resumed.
“There is great excitement in sporting circles,” the Chicago Tribune declared on Friday morning, September 21, 1866, “about the great race…between General Butler and Cooley, for a purse of five thousand dollars a side, and set for tomorrow on the track of the Chicago Driving Park Association.”
General Butler was a popular harness horse whose career overlapped the Civil War. His likeness circulated on Currier & Ives and other lithographs.
Cooley was a black gelding and a favorite on Chicago race tracks. Locally owned, the fast trotter was described as “a big little horse” with “an eye full of intelligence and kindness.”
Heavy betting underscored the excitement for the sulky race between the horses. “The knowing ones seem to be about equally divided in opinion as far as odds are concerned,” the Tribune computed, “though the majority seem to think the General stands the best chance.”
The match between the horses was also a match between the drivers of the sulkies they pulled. Manager Bill Riley drove Cooley. Two men would steer General Butler that afternoon—jockey Samuel Crooks for the first two races, and quarter-owner William McKeever the remainder of the way.
McKeever was a cool customer, and a good enough athlete to have played for two of New York City’s premier baseball clubs. He began as an infielder with the Gotham club in 1859 before taking on pitching duties for the rough and tumble Mutual club in 1863.
In 1861, McKeever pitched for New York against Brooklyn and the great Jim Creighton in the famous New York Clipper Silver Ball Match. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle called McKeever “the most effective medium-paced pitcher in the country.” Creighton outpitched McKeever that day in Hoboken, but Creighton isn’t called great without a reason.
Now nearing 30, McKeever had traded away the mound work for the less taxing pursuits of harness racing and gambling. A half-hour delay after the scheduled start of the Driving Park match drew the disapproval of the crowd of thousands in attendance. Odds favored Cooley 25 to 10 when the match finally began at 3:30 p.m.
General Butler pulled ahead in the first heat, building a five-length lead at the half-mile post but the horses were equal at the final turn. A late surge by Cooley earned the win by a neck.
Cooley won the second heat by 15 lengths. Bettors on General Butler, suspicious of the slow times turned in by Crooks and on the verge of seeing their wagers wiped out, begged McKeever to make a switch. As the odds climbed to 100 to 25 on Cooley, McKeever took the lines for the third heat. The move paid off with a win by 20 lengths for General Butler and the odds reversed themselves.
Trouble began in the fourth heat. A half-an-hour was lost in fits and starts and ill-words between the drivers. With darkness rapidly falling, the heat finally reached its start. Two hundred yards into the race, McKeever suddenly swerved in front of Riley’s buggy, scraping Cooley’s nose. General Butler won the race by a half-length. Many in the crowd argued that the foul should have resulted in a dead heat, or the award of the race to Cooley. Disarray prevailed when the track judges stuck with the win for General Butler.
By the time order was resolved, night had fully fallen and only moonlight illuminated the racing grounds for the fifth and final match. More argument ensued, with half the crowd for the race to be called off due to darkness, and the other half demanding it continue. A start was made despite the conditions. General Butler broke in front along the rail as the horses disappeared in the darkness.
In due course, Cooley returned to view, heading down the home stretch toward the winning line. General Butler careened behind, without a driver. A search quickly located McKeever, bloody and unconscious, face down in the cinders on the back stretch. He was quickly carried to the home of J. R. Gore, a physician who lived nearby on Michigan Avenue.
Examination revealed extensive fractures to McKeever’s skull, with particular injury to the left temple, as if McKeever had been struck in the head by a hard object. Gore extracted three broken pieces of the cranium. Hopes were raised that the procedure would relieve pressure on the brain and allow McKeever to regain consciousness. It soon became apparent that the patient could not recover from the injury.
With foul play evident, police launched an investigation. After taking Riley into custody, suspicion fell on Peter and Tom Hickey, brothers who owned a tavern near the race track. Police arrived at the saloon at two a.m. Sunday morning and arrested the two after a desperate fight that left the officers and suspects bitten, battered, billy-clubbed and pistol-whipped.
McKeever died Sunday afternoon without ever coming out of his coma. His body was returned to his brother’s care in New York and internment at Greenwood Cemetery, final resting place of so many of the game’s pioneers. Remembering their former pitcher, the entire Mutual Base Ball Club attended McKeever’s funeral.
Back in Illinois, the Cook County Coroner opened an inquest on McKeever’s death. Chicago’s sporting crowd packed the Central Police Station to view the proceedings. A string of witnesses testified. Two said they saw Peter Hickey on the track between the fourth and fifth heat. There were other figures in the shadows. Tom Hickey denied any knowledge of the events surrounding McKeever’s death. Bill Riley testified he didn’t have anything to do with it, either. He closed with one admission. “I did say, ‘If I could win the race, I would.’”
The coroner’s jury returned its verdict on October without charges, finding only that a plot existed among unnamed friends of Cooley to prevent General Butler from winning the match, and that the result of this plot caused McKeever’s death. A later history of the Chicago Police Department named Tom Hickey as the killer.
Mollie Cosgriff went on trial that same month for the Trussell killing. The charge was manslaughter, for which a sentence of up to life could be applied. There was no argument that Cosgriff killed Trussell. The only argument was whether she was justified in pulling the trigger, in fear for her own life when Trussell tried to push her out of Seneca Wright’s tavern. The jury didn’t buy the entire bill of goods, but came close. After deliberating just over three hours, the jury returned with a guilty verdict and the minimum sentence allowable, a year in the penitentiary.
It might be expected that a woman of Mollie’s notoriety and profession would have some connections. In prison, she was given a private cell and allowed to receive visitors and wear her own clothes, but that was just a nickel ante in a smaller game. Mollie had bigger cards to play: she was pardoned by Illinois Governor Richard J. Oglesby after serving just a month of her sentence.
The Driving Park Association did not survive McKeever’s death. With its reputation completely ruined by the autumn’s gruesome murders, the grounds were sold at auction in December of 1866 and soon demolished. Dexter Park, specifically named after the trotter, opened in July of 1867 to replace the disgraced track. The spacious infield of the racing oval contained the baseball diamond.
A tobacco card celebrates Dexter
The horse Dexter had a short career. So did the park named after him. It burned to the ground in 1871, a victim of the Great Chicago Fire.
William McKeever has never appeared on a baseball card.
Author’s Note: This is the third in a multi-part series that explores the legal backstories that have shaped (and continue to shape) the baseball card industry.
You may recall that Fleer and Donruss entered the baseball card market in 1981 after a Pennsylvania district court found that Topps and the Major League Baseball Players Association (“MLBPA”) had illegally restrained trade in the baseball card market. The court voided Topps’ player contract exclusivity clause and the MLBPA was ordered to enter into at least one additional licensing agreement “to market a pocket-size baseball card product, to be sold alone or in combination with a low-cost premium.” This freewheeling baseball card market was short-lived, however, once the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the Pennsylvania district court’s order on August 25, 1981 and held the exclusive rights in Topps’ player contracts were legal and enforceable.
Ultimately victorious, Topps filed separate matters in Delaware (seeking to disgorge Fleer of its 1981 profits) and New York (seeking to recover Fleer’s profits for 1982/1983 claiming that Fleer’s team logo sticker was a “sham product”). Both cases were settled on confidential terms, though with a provision that allowed Fleer to continue selling baseball cards with team logo stickers.
The MLBPA Turns the Screws on Topps
Despite settlement between Topps and Fleer in the Delaware and New York matters, the case continued as to the counterclaim by the MLBPA against Topps, which the court astutely observed had likely been filed “in order to exert some pressure on Topps to abandon or at least modify the breadth of its interpretation of its player contracts.” Specifically, the MLBPA sought declaration that the word “alone” in Topps’ contracts did not include “low-cost non-confectionary items like Fleer’s team logo sticker.”
Marvin Miller, however, had admitted under oath in the prior Pennsylvania matter that Topps’ rights would be infringed by the sale of cards with a “completely valueless item” and that the MLBPA would have denied any proposal for baseball cards to be sold with a “trivial product.” Additionally, the court took issue with the absence of evidence regarding how much it cost to produce the stickers or “the extent, if any, to which the sticker motivates purchases” of Fleer wax packs. Topps argued the only way for Fleer to avoid an infringement claim would be to “make sure that the production cost of the [logo sticker] at least equal[ed] the production cost of the cards in the package.”
However, the settlement of the underlying case between Topps and Fleer had altered the nature of the contract issue that the MLBPA wished to litigate. Although the precise terms were confidential, the settlement agreement required Fleer to increase the production cost of the logo sticker compared to the cost of the cards in each pack and specified that the logo sticker needed to be featured prominently on packaging and advertisement for the product.
Because Topps was satisfied that Fleer’s logo stickers no longer infringed on their rights to market cards alone, the court held that the MLBPA was seeking remedy for a package of cards (containing a “sham” sticker) that was no longer being marketed and that the MLBPA’s claim was nonjusticiable—it simply did not present an active controversy over which the court could preside. Accordingly, the matter was dismissed on August 25, 1986.
Turnabout is Fair Play
Separate litigation continued between Topps and MLBPA in New York. There, Topps alleged that the MLBPA had instigated a group player boycott; had attempted to monopolize Major League Baseball players’ publicity rights in violation of the Sherman Act; and had tortiously interfered with Topps contractual relationships with the players.
The compensation Topps offered for player contracts had remained unchanged since 1975—players received $5 upon signing the initial contract and received a $250 advance against his pro rata share of a royalty pool for every season he was a member of a major league club (and Topps used his picture on a card). All-Star pitcher Jim Kern described the deal with Topps rather pithily, “you get $250 from Topps, hell or high water, if your face is on a card.”
Marvin Miller had repeatedly attempted to negotiate better terms, but Topps ignored all demands—mainly because Topps’ individual contracting system left the MLBPA with little bargaining power. In fact, Topps had offered a lower royalty rate for exclusive rights than Fleer and Donruss had for non-exclusive rights prior to the 1982 season.
In an effort to increase their bargaining power, the board recommended that no player enter into or renew an agreement with Topps. Executive board member Buck Martinez acknowledged the MLBPA “simply wanted to negotiate a new contract with Topps.” The matter came to a head in January 1986, when Miller and Don Fehr distributed a memo that declared “the Executive Board has determined that it cannot, and will not recommend that any player enter into a new agreement with Topps, or renew or extend any existing agreement with Topps, pending the outcome of the discussions between the association and Topps.” Accordingly, few players signed renewals with Topps. The MLBPA thereafter presented Topps with a licensing offer of “commercially reasonable terms.”
Topps’ player contracts were set to expire with approximately 100 individual Major League players (a group that included most of the players deemed “superstars”) on December 31, 1986. Topps complained that it would be unable to produce a complete set of cards for 1987 if those contracts were allowed to expire.
In its opinion issued on August 1, 1986, the court found questions of fact regarding whether the MLBPA intended to obtain monopoly power. However, denial of Topps’ request for a preliminary injunction was a monumental win for the MLBPA, “Topps can easily avoid the irreparable harm it claims it will suffer by accepting the offer the MLBPA has made.” In other words, Topps could simply pay for the rights to renew those 100 players with expiring contracts, however unpalatable it was to Topps. Forced into the corner, a deal was struck that allowed Topps to market a full set in 1987 and beyond.
Though card manufacturers like Topps generally kept production numbers private, “one trade magazine estimated the tally at 81 billion trading cards per year in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, or more than 300 cards for every American annually.”
In Re: Nolan Ryan Rookie Card
In April 1990, a 12-year-old collector walked out of the Ball-Mart card shop in Addison, Illinois with a beautiful 1968 Topps Nolan Ryan card. The owner of the shop, Joe Irmen, had been in the baseball card business for just a few weeks and had marked the card “1200” without a dollar sign, comma, or decimal point ($1200 was essentially top dollar for the card at the time). During a blitz of customers at the card shop, Irmen asked a clerk from his next-door jewelry store to help out. Unfortunately, that clerk had no knowledge about the value of the card and mistakenly sold it for $12.
After being inundated with requests for cheap Ryan rookie cards, Irmen discovered the $1200 card in his case had been sold at a steep discount—the receipt on file clearly showed the $12 purchase price.
Irmen initiated a manhunt and posted a sign in his store offering a $100 reward for information about the person who had purchased the card. Once the buyer (a minor) was identified, Irmen went to the child’s house, but no one answered the door. Thereafter unable to negotiate its return, Irmen filed a lawsuit in an effort to recover the card. The family, who felt the card was purchased fairly, filed a $60,000 counterclaim for defamation.
The matter was set for trial on March 5, 1991 in front of DuPage County Judge Ann Jorgensen. Before the proceedings began, it was revealed that a trade had been made the night before in which the 1968 Ryan card had been exchanged for a 1965 Joe Namath rookie and 1967 Tom Seaver rookie. The bombshell revelation resulted in a shouting match between the attorneys. Bailiffs had to clear the courtroom.
Once order was restored, the case was continued and eventually settled by way of the parties agreeing to have the card auctioned off for charity. On June 21, 1991 the card was sold for $5000, and the proceeds split between the parties to be donated to charities of their choice.
Cutting Cards: A Cautionary Tale
In what may qualify as the original “cart art,” Dad’s Kid Corporation produced a set of “Tri Cards” in 1992 that were assembled using three identical baseball cards issued by Donruss, Fleer, Score, or Upper Deck. The top two cards were die-cut such that only the body of player remained. Those two pieces were then stacked and glued atop an uncut card to create a neat 3-D effect. Each card was encased in a plastic box and sold individually or in a two-pack, packaged such that each card was visible to potential buyers.
The owner of Dad’s Kid Corporation, Christopher Kamar, had struck deals with Toys R Us, F.A.O. Schwartz, Spencer Gifts, and other retailers to sell his Tri Cards. Almost immediately, the Tri Cards were so popular that Dad’s Kid had to run three shifts of 100 assemblers per shift just to meet demand. In fact, its initial shipment to Toys R Us was so successful, Dad’s Kid had a reorder on the table worth upwards of $20 million when Upper Deck, Score, Leaf, and the MLBPA filed coordinated lawsuits in New York and California seeking to stop Dad’s Kid from selling its Tri Card products. The respective lawsuits alleged that any modification of existing baseball cards, without prior written permission, violated trademark and copyright law.
For its part, Dad’s Kid had undertaken a thorough legal analysis before it began the manufacturing process and was operating under a good-faith belief it was not infringing on any rights; it was simply using cards purchased legally on the secondary market. Moreover, the company posted an explicit disclaimer on each box alerting consumers it was not claiming any rights with respect to the cards and was otherwise not affiliated with any of the card manufacturers, MLB, or the MLBPA.
In the New York case, the MLBPA moved for an injunction asking the court to stop Dad’s Kid from selling Tri Card products. The district court refused, citing the “first-sale doctrine” in a ruling issued on November 12, 1992:
“The fact that an enormous secondary market exists for baseball cards and baseball card derivative works leads me to conclude on this record that baseball players have little if any continuing publicity rights with respect to the use and reuse of their pictures on cards by subsequent purchasers and sellers of duly licensed baseball cards following a perfectly proper first sale into commerce for which the players get a royalty.” Effectively, the players did not have the right to control what was done with the cards after the initial sale and had no claim for any additional compensation. On the heels of this victory, Dad’s Kid announced its Tri Cards would be back in 1993.
The lawsuits rolled on, however, and in April 1993 the New York case was consolidated with the California matters to continue there. Unfortunately for Dad’s Kid, the California district court did not agree with (and was not bound by) the New York first-sale ruling and instead issued a permanent injunction on August 12, 1994 that prohibited Dad’s Kid from producing any further Tri Cards. The court further ordered that Dad’s Kid reimburse the plaintiff card manufacturers and MLBPA over $1 million collectively in attorneys’ fees and costs.
Dad’s Kid appealed and the case was eventually dismissed on March 8, 1996, pursuant to a confidential settlement.
Johnny Bench Hit by his Own Pitch
Sports cards and memorabilia sales continued to soar in the 1990s and quickly became a fixture on shop-at-home television stations. This format often preyed on those unfamiliar with the actual value of items and otherwise created an environment where even sophisticated collectors might get caught up in the frenzied sales tactics.
Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench appeared on the Home Shopping Network on August 5, 1993 to hawk baseballs he had signed. In typical shop-at home fashion, viewers were initially told the autographed balls were worth $129. They claimed the baseballs would sell out at $99.95. Finally, the Bench-signed baseballs were dropped to the low, low price of $49.95.
Unfortunately for the Home Shopping Network and Bench, however, the New York Department of Consumer Affairs had started to monitor the values claimed for sports card and memorabilia. With the help of a trusted price guide, they determined that an autographed Johnny Bench baseball was worth $35, only 70% of its final “sensational” sales price.
The first celebrity endorser to face such charges in New York, Bench was personally cited for misrepresenting the value of his own signature on a ball. Bench was hit with a $5000 fine in December and Home Shopping Network was ordered to pay $30,000.
Poking the Bear
Seeking to “put the fun back in baseball card collecting,” Cardtoons readied a 1993 release of parody baseball cards intended to poke fun at the egos and greed in the game (and the world) with an issue that was equal parts Wacky Packages, Garbage Pail Kids, and traditional trading cards. The set of 130 cards lampooned current players, retired legends, Michael Jordan (the baseball player) and political figures like Bill Clinton.
Cardtoons tapped free agent sportswriter Mike Sowell to create the players’ alter egos and write the card backs. Caricatures by Dayne Dudley and Dave Simpson were deftly rendered so that each individual was recognizable without including team logos that might run afoul of MLB’s rights. In fact, even the team names were changed to cheeky monikers (e.g., Orioles/Bore-Ioles and Cubs/Scrubs). The glossy cards were distributed in foil packs along with chase cards, foil versions, insert sets, puzzles, and redemption cards intended to skewer the baseball card industry, itself. Cardtoons’ initial run called for some 13 million cards to be printed.
Cardtoons first advertised their cards in the May 14, 1993 issue of Sports Collector Digest. This caught the attention of the MLBPA (who had not issued a license to Cardtoons to use the likenesses of the players depicted). The MLBPA sent Cardtoons a letter on June 18 asserting that its product violated the “valuable property rights of MLBPA and the players” and threatened legal action if any cards of active baseball players were sold. A similar letter was sent to the printing company, who immediately halted production.
Just days after receipt of the cease-and-desist letter, Cardtoons filed a lawsuit against MLBPA seeking a declaration that it could sell parody baseball cards without license from the MLBPA pursuant to First Amendment protection. At a subsequent evidentiary hearing, Cardtoons revealed it was sitting on nearly 4000 cases of product ready to ship. The MLBPA claimed it would never have licensed a parody set that poked fun at individual players (and also admitted to a “glut” in the market for baseball cards!).
The district court considered that parodies (such as political cartoons) were generally protected by the First Amendment and “deserving of substantial freedom—both as entertainment and as a form of social and literary criticism.” The issue the court wrangled with, however, was whether “one can sell a parody” and ultimately decided that Cardtoons could not profit from the players’ likenesses and fame. An order was entered that prohibited Cardtoons from selling cards containing the likenesses of active Major League ballplayers (101 of the 130 cards in the set). Damages were denied because none of the cards had actually been sold at the time the decision was rendered on November 23, 1993.
The Cardtoons set eventually saw the light of day, however, because raunchy rap group 2 Live Crew sampled a Roy Orbison song without permission. In a case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, 2 Live Crew prevailed in a ruling handed down on March 7, 1994 in which it was held that a commercial (i.e., made specifically for sale) parody song could constitute fair use.
Cardtoons sought reconsideration in light of the 2 Live Crew ruling and on October 25, 1994, the district court reversed its prior decision, this time finding it reasonable that Cardtoons would seek compensation for its efforts and recognized that “parodists will seldom get permission from those whose works are parodied. Self-esteem is seldom strong enough to permit the granting of permission even in exchange for a reasonable fee.” The court ultimately ruled that that right of publicity did not “confer a shield to ward off caricature, parody and satire” and that the Cardtoons cards were protected by the First Amendment, regardless of their commercial nature.
Finally clear to distribute their cards, Cardtoons released the set in 1995—the product’s overarching message elegantly punctuated by intervening strike and cancellation of the 1994 World Series. While the original version of cards was set to be “90 percent positive in the way they portrayed players,” Sowell’s opinion soured as the court battle raged. He decided there was “no need to be nice” and satirized the players as he saw fit.
The appeal filed by MLBPA was denied in 1996, the Tenth Circuit ruling succinctly that “the last thing we need, the last thing the First Amendment will tolerate, is a law that lets public figures keep people from mocking them.” But for the protracted lawsuit, Cardtoons had plans to issue card sets for other sports.
Mickey Mantle v. Upper Deck
On February 1, 1993 Mickey Mantle entered a three-year contract that gave Upper Deck “exclusive worldwide rights to use and reuse. . .Mantle’s name (as well as any nicknames), image, likeness, artists’ portrayal of image or likeness, visual representation, signature (or facsimile thereof), photograph, voice, biography, statistics and endorsements” for baseball cards and associated promotional materials. Upper Deck’s 1993 Mantle issues were relatively modest, including several “All-Time Heroes” multiplayer cards and a “Then and Now” card featuring a young Mantle aside a holographic image an older Mantle wearing an Upper Deck jersey.
In 1994, Upper Deck produced a slew of Mantle cards, including one that was personally signed by both Mantle and Ken Griffey Jr. That year, Topps also issued a Mantle card as part of its Archive set, styled as a 1954 Topps card and clearly indicating on the reverse that it had rights to issue the card per an agreement with Upper Deck. (Mantle was signed with Bowman exclusively in 1954 and 1955 and Topps had not issued Mantle cards those seasons.)
Despite Upper Deck wholeheartedly issuing a multitude of Mantle cards in 1994, the company reportedly soured on the deal after Mantle publicly admitted he had undergone alcohol rehabilitation. Mantle filed a lawsuit late in the year claiming that Upper Deck had threatened to rescind the contract unless he agreed to take a pay cut. Upper Deck admitted, “discussions regarding restructuring Mr. Mantle’s contract were the product of his disability and other performance-related concerns.” Upper Deck claimed Mantle had “failed to live up to his commitments as effective spokesperson for the company.”
In February 1995 the parties agreed to participate in arbitration (an alternative dispute resolution process in which three arbitrators—not a jury or judge—decide the case and amount of damages, if any). Despite the ongoing dispute, Upper Deck went ahead and issued a set of metallic Mickey Mantle baseball cards in 1995.
Somewhat ironically, Upper Deck sued several parties in a separate action on February 14, 1995 claiming that those companies could not sell items autographed by Mantle during the term of Upper Deck’s exclusive contract with Mantle. One of those companies, Score Board, prevailed because its contract with Mantle specifically provided it could sell off remaining merchandise after that contract expired on January 31, 1993. At the same time, Score Board had separately sued Upper Deck in New Jersey claiming that Upper Deck was improperly selling autographed Ken Griffey Jr. signatures that Score Board had exclusive right to sell.
On May 28, 1995, Mantle was hospitalized and underwent a liver transplant on June 8. After Mantle passed away on August 13, 1995, collectors scrambled to acquire Mantle items and Upper Deck, alone, sold more than $500,000 worth of Mantle memorabilia on the heels of his death. Mantle’s (estranged) widow Merlyn and personal attorney Roy True continued to prosecute the Upper Deck case on behalf of Mantle’s estate.
On May 22, 1996 the arbitration panel awarded the estate nearly $5 million (approximately $9.7 million in today’s dollars), which included actual damages for having sold Mantle merchandise without a license to do so, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees. Upper Deck sought to have the award vacated, but their efforts failed, and the lawsuit was closed in April 1997.
Orel Hershiser Adds Another Shutout
Orel Hershiser is probably best known for his amazing 1988 pitching performance in which he tossed 59 consecutive shutout innings. A decade later, Hershiser sued Vintage Sports Plaques (“Vintage”) for infringement of licensing and publicity rights after learning that Vintage was selling Hershiser’s baseball cards affixed to wooden plaques and labeled with his name. (Deluxe plaques included a “clock with a sports motif.”) The Hershiser cards used by Vintage were purchased from licensed manufacturers and framed without alteration. Vintage, itself, had no licensing agreements with any parties.
Vintage argued that the “first-sale doctrine” was a complete defense to the publicity claims. The first-sale doctrine provides that “once the holder of an intellectual property right consents to the sale of particular copies. . .of his work, he may not thereafter exercise the distribution right with respect to such copies.” The court rightly recognized that its failure to apply the first-sale doctrine in the Hershiser case would “render tortious the resale of sports trading cards and memorabilia” and would have a chilling effect on the secondary market for trading cards. In fact, refusing to apply the first-sale doctrine here would essentially make it impossible for a child to sell a baseball card to a friend.
Ultimately, the court found that Vintage was merely reselling cards that it had lawfully obtained. “This is more appropriately classified as a case of an entrepreneur repackaging or displaying the trading cards in a more attractive way to consumers rather than a case of an opportunist using Plaintiffs’ names and likenesses to sell frames and clocks.” The appellate court affirmed and the plaintiff’s declined to pursue any further appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Hershiser was shutout.
An Ocean of Cards
Although the MLBPA had long been involved in baseball card-related disputes and litigation, the owners of the ballclubs had not been quite so active, perhaps because collecting money for the use of their trademarked logos and uniforms, while very lucrative, was not the lifeblood that licensing revenue represented for the MLBPA.
This changed in 1998, however, when Major League Baseball Properties, Inc. (“MLB”) learned that Pacific Trading Cards was in the process of manufacturing and distributing cards that depicted players in their MLB uniforms, despite MLB having refused to grant a license to Pacific for the current set. (MLB had authorized previous Pacific issues).
Pacific was fully licensed by the MLBPA and went forward with manufacture “either believing mistakenly that it would receive a license from MLB or not caring whether it would.” The MLB sued to stop Pacific from distributing their cards. The MLB’s request for a preliminary injunction was denied, inter alia, because the court felt that the inclusion of the logos or trademarks were only incidental to the depiction of the player and did not imply any sponsorship by MLB for the card.
An appeal followed by MLB and Pacific implored the court for permission to ship their cards immediately or the results would be financially ruinous. Ultimately, MLB and Pacific were able to reach a settlement and Pacific continued to issue sets of baseball cards through 2001.
Throughout the 1990s, card companies, like Pacific, continued to churn out nearly innumerable piles of cards. An exclusive license for Topps was on the horizon, but the fighting would continue in nearly every corner of the hobby.
To be continued…
Fleer Corp. v. Topps Chewing Gum, Inc., 501 F.Supp. 485 (E.D. Pa. 1980). The only trading card product ever to outsell baseball cards was Wacky Packages in 1973-74. The court noted that the slab of gum weighed “4.30 grams” in 1978. Fleer had a net operating loss in 1978 and its net income (loss) was as follows: 1977—$346,621; 1976—$502,257; 1975—$720,274; 1974—($309,261); 1973—$382,354; 1972—$268,926; 1971—$148,494; 1970—($200,016). Roughly two thirds of baseball cards purchased are purchased by “heavy” buyers (i.e., those who purchase more than 200 cards per year.)
Fleer Corp. v. Topps Chewing Gum, Inc., 658 F.2d 139, 658 F.2d 139 (3rd Cir. 1981). The number of players included in each licensing agreement varied. Some contracts, like those with Coca-Cola and Kellogg’s covered all the players, while others included “not less than 72, and not more than 300.”
Fleer Corp. v. Topps Chewing Gum, Inc., cert. denied, 455 U.S. 1019 (1982).
Topps Chewing Gum, Inc. v. Fleer Corp., 547 F.Supp. 102 (D. Del. 1982).
Tetley, Inc. v. Topps Chewing Gum, Inc., 556 F.Supp. 785 (E.D.N.Y. 1983). Tetley Tea manufacturer sued Topps for including “Petley Flea Bags” in its Wacky Packages release. Approximately 200,000 of the sticker was issued between 1975 and 1977 and Topps had produced approximately 400,000 more of the sticker for its 1982 release. Topps agreed to discontinue distribution of the offending sticker once the printed run was fully depleted.
Topps Chewing Gum, Inc. v. Major League Baseball Players Association, 641 F.Supp. 1179 (S.D. N.Y. 1986) Topps paid royalties to the MLBPA computed at 8% of Topps’ first $4 million in net sales and 10% of Topps’ net sales in excess of $4 million.
Topps Chewing Gum, Inc. v. Fleer Corp., 799 F.2d 851 (2nd Cir. 1986). The MLBPA was granted intervention as a defendant in Topps case against Fleer; Topps had not sued the MLBPA directly in this action. The matter was remanded to the district court to be dismissed without prejudice, which would have allowed the MLBPA to have filed a new lawsuit against Topps, if they desired. No such suit was filed.
Original Appalachian Artworks, Inc. v. Topps Chewing Gum, Inc., 642 F.Supp. 1031 (N.D. Ga. 1986). The makers of Cabbage Patch Kids sued Topps for copyright and trademark infringement caused by the sale of its Garbage Pail Kids stickers. Between May 1985 and August 1986, Topps had sold more than 800 million stickers. Before issuing the Garbage Pail Kids product, Topps had unsuccessfully tried to obtain a license for Cabbage Patch Kids. Topps eventually agreed to a confidential cash settlement and design changes to the cards. “Cabbage Patch Dolls are Victorious Over Garbage Pail Kids.” The Columbus (Georgia) Ledger, February 4, 1987: 8.
Fleer Corp. v. Topps Chewing Gum, Inc. 539 A.2d 1060 (Del., 1988). “Restitution serves to ‘deprive the defendant of benefits that in equity and good conscience he ought not to keep, even though he may have received those benefits honestly in the first instance, and even though the plaintiff may have suffered no demonstrable losses.’”
Cardtoons v. Major League Baseball Players Ass’n, 838 F. Supp. 1501 (N.D. Okla. 1993). The six companies with MLBPA licenses to sell baseball cards at the time were producing an estimated $1.3 billion in annual sales. Caricature was defined as “the deliberate distorted picturing or imitating of a person, literary style, etc. by exaggerating features or mannerisms for satirical effect.”
Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc., 510 U.S. 569 (1994). The District Court had granted summary judgment for 2 Live Crew, holding that its song “Pretty Woman” was a parody that made fair use of the original Roy Orbison song “Oh, Pretty Woman.” The appellate court reversed because they felt 2 Live Crew had “taken too much” of the original for their own use and that the song constituted a commercial use. The Supreme Court subsequently reversed and remanded holding that 2 Live Crew’s commercial parody might qualify as fair use.
Cardtoons v. Major League Baseball Players Ass’n, 868 F. Supp. 1266 (N.D. Okla. 1994).
Cardtoons, L.C. v. Major League Baseball Players Ass’n, 95 F.3d 959, 39 USPQ2d 1865 (10th Cir. 1996). “Because Cardtoons’ First Amendment right to free expression outweighs MLBPA’s proprietary right of publicity, we affirm.” The court noted that royalties from baseball cards generated over 70 percent of the MLBPA’s licensing revenue.
Mantle v. Upper Deck Co., 956 F.Supp. 719 (N.D. Texas, 1997). Mantle sued The Upper Deck Company and Upper Deck Authenticated, Ltd. These related companies are referred to collectively as “Upper Deck” for the reader’s benefit. Judgment confirmed for Estate of Mickey Mantle against defendants in the principal amount of $2,725,258.00, exemplary damages in the amount of $1,000,000.00, attorney’s fees in amount of $1,241,628.00, prejudgment interest at 10% per year from the date of the award until the date of judgment, and post-judgment interest at 5.81% per year.
Upper Deck Authenticated, Ltd. v. CPG Direct, 971 F.Supp. 1337 (S.D. Cal. 1997). Defendants included Shop at Home, Inc., CPG Direct, B&J Collectibles, William Rodman, Kenneth Goldin, Classic Games, Inc., Catch a Star Collectibles, Inc., The Score Board, Inc., Score Board Retail Corporation, The Score Board Holding Corporation.
The Score Board, Inc. v. Upper Deck Co., 959 F.Supp. 234 (D. N.J. 1997).
Allison v. Vintage Sports Plaques, 136 F.3d 1443 (11th Cir. 1998). Hershiser had otherwise earned $230,000 from licensing and endorsement deals from 1993 through 1996. Stockcar driver Cliff Allison’s widow Elisa was also a plaintiff in the case.
Major League Baseball Properties, Inc. v. Pacific Trading Cards, Inc., 1998 WL 241904 (S.D. N.Y. 1998).
Major League Baseball Properties, Inc. v. Pacific Trading Cards, Inc., No. 98-7700 (2nd Cir. 1998).
Cardtoons v. Major League Baseball Players Ass’n, 182 F.3d 1132 (10th Cir. 1999); Cardtoons v. Major League Baseball Players Ass’n, 208 F.3d 885 (10th Cir. 2000); Cardtoons v. Major League Baseball Players Ass’n, 335 F.3d 1161 (10th Cir. 2003). Cardtoons tried, and failed, to collect monetary damages from the MLBPA.
Paul Lomartire, “Baseball Cards and the Snaps of Spring,” The Tampa Tribune, April 4, 1982: 133.
John Leptich, “Boy sued over baseball card,” Chicago Tribune, November 10, 1990: 1.
“Nolan Ryan rookie card snafu headed to court,” The Tribune (Scranton, Pennsylvania), March 6, 1991: 12.
John Leptich, “Baseball card returns, trial goes on,” Chicago Tribune, March 8, 1991: 49.
John Leptich, “Charity delivers winning pitch in baseball card suit,” Chicago Tribune, April 23, 1991: 47.
John Leptich, “Ryan card brings $5000 and another flap,” Chicago Tribune, June 22, 1991: 41.
“Upper Deck Sues Rival Card Firm; Claims Trademark Infringement,” North County Times (Oceanside, California), August 2, 1992: 31.
Anne Michaud, “Small Baseball Card Firm Takes Hit from Big Leagues,” Los Angeles Times, October 22, 1992: 265.
“For the Record,” Los Angeles Times, October 23, 1992: 195. Dad’s Kid filed a counterclaim for $955 million.
Jim Bullard, “More than kids’ stuff,” Tampa Bay Times, January 1, 1993: 96.
Owen Canfield, “ML Players Association not amused by ‘Cardtoons,’” Central New Jersey Home News (New Brunswick, New Jersey), July 9, 1993: 24.
“Bench’s ink pitch draws ire,” Herald and Review (Decatur, Illinois), October 8, 1993: 30.
“Mantle files lawsuit against Upper Deck on contract balk,” Logansport (Indiana) Pharos-Tribune, November 4, 1994: 12.
Jay D. Preble, “Leagues fighting unlicensed cards,” Tampa Tribune, November 12, 1994: 24.
Gene Collier, “How do you spell egomaniacal?,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette February 12, 1995: 25.
John Mabry, “Satire cards aren’t a hit with big-league players, Kansas City Star, April 16, 1995: 44.
Christopher Kamar, telephone interview with author, October 21, 2022.
Michael Sowell, telephone interview with author, November 5, 2022.
Special thanks to Jason Schwartz for reviewing this article and offering helpful suggestions.
Tri Cards Checklist (Cards are not identified with a Tri Cards set number or date of issue by Dad’s Kid Corp. Cards are individually numbered to 50,000. Production was halted before 50,000 of any card was manufactured and no records remain regarding the actual number produced of each Tri Card. Additionally, no checklist of Tri Cards manufactured exists, so the following list may be incomplete.)