Paul Simon tells the story about how pissed off Joe DiMaggio was at him about “Mrs. Robinson.” Simon says he’d heard that Joltin’ Joe was bothered by the song, maybe even to the point of legal action.
“What I don’t understand,” DiMag said, “is why you ask where I’ve gone? I haven’t gone anywhere.”
Maybe it was that sense of being forgotten, if even symbolically that pushed Joe into hawking product. Nationally, in 1973, The Yankee Clipper became Mr. Coffee.
Locally, the year before, DiMaggio started doing TV for the Bowery Savings Bank in New York City.
Smartly, the Bowery issued a baseball card, just one. Simple front, 1971 Topps knockoff design (in pink!) on the back.
I’d always wanted this card, never got it, forgot about it, but was jolted (yup, I’m using that word) back in time when I saw it at a show last year. Since then I’ve been looking for it. It’s not too hard to find, but the prices run from a reasonable $10ish to unreasonable factors of 10.
At the big Shriner’s Show this past weekend, I was going through a stack of 1955 Bowman Football, and, immediately after paying, saw a scattered stack of cards. There it was! And for $5!
The 1972 DiMaggio Bowery card has always been my favorite bank card. And, while it doesn’t get money, it didn’t take much either.
Last week I received a surprise mailing of pre-war cards from Anson Whaley, the proprietor of prewarcards.com who many of us turn to whenever we have questions an anything pre-war. I treat these mailings as an opportunity to google the subjects of the cards and hopefully come across an interesting Wikipedia page that leads me down a rabbit hole.
In this case, it wasn’t a Wikipedia rabbit hole I fell in to but rather a Google Books one. Anson sent me a dozen 1901–02 Ogden’s Cigarettes General Interest cards. A couple sporting subjects but mostly non-sports miscellany—actors, politicians, ships, etc.
At first I thought this must be a different Richard George Knowles but I figured it was worth flipping through the book just to make sure. Lo and behold on page 65 I found an author photo. To my eyes it looks like the same face (no comment on the hairstyle).
This is pretty cool. My general interest card just turned into a baseball card. So I went back and downloaded the PDF from Google so I could take a deeper look at the book. It’s basically a baseball primer for an English audience more familiar with Rounders and Cricket but is also a great snapshot of the state of the game in the mid-1890s on both sides of the Atlantic.
The player lives in a world limited to three bases, a home plate, and two foul lines, and, for a couple of hours or so, finds relief from business cares, and snatches a holiday for his brain.
The first chapter is about baseball in general. It starts off building baseball up as a game of intelligence where draws are impossible, skills are required in all facets of the game, and failure can be minimized due to the number of repeated chances a batter gets. Much of this reads as an implicit comparison to Cricket which doesn’t feature baserunning and a batter only gets to bat twice a match.
It then goes into describing how to lay out a baseball field. It’s impossible for me to state how much I love this section so I’ll just paste the full text in here in case anyone wants to lay out their own baseball field.
Procure a heavy cord one hundred and eighty feet in length. Tie three knots in it, one at sixty feet five inches, one at ninety feet, and the other at one hundred and twenty-seven feet four inches.
Then, at the outer point of the home plate, drive a peg in the ground, and attach the line to it. Extend the line straight out to the third knot, and at that limit mark the second base. The knot is the centre of the base. Care must be taken that the cord be kept taut, and absolutely straight from the peg at the home plate to the centre of the second base, for the first knot, at sixty feet five inches, must now be taken to indicate the centre of the pitcher’s plate. When this has been duly marked, have one end of the hundred and eighty feet line held at the centre of second base, and keep the other end secured at the home plate as before. Then take hold of the second knot, at ninety feet, which is, of course, in the exact centre of the cord, and walk out with it to the corner of the diamond which is to mark the first base. Keep walking until the line is taut on both sides, and, at that point, mark the first base. Repeat this in the opposite direction, and mark the third base. The diamond is then complete.
That R.G. Knowles goes on to say that when he was a kid he used to carry a ball of string with the requisite knots in it just in case he needed to create a diamond for other kids is just wonderful. Do I think he’s telling the truth? Of course not. (since when have kids cared about proper dimensions when playing a game) But I love the sentiment.
The man who evinces a quick grasp and comprehension of the points of play, and who is also gifted with the capacity of being witty, is a very desirable person for the post.
The second chapter describes each position, including the “coachers” and umpire. Not much to say about the players except to note that second base is treated as the key position on the diamond. The umpire is similarly familiar in how he’s charged with being in control of the game. The coaches though are specifically the first and third base coaches and get a lot more description than any of the fielders. Aside from coaching the baserunners one of their jobs is to distract the fielders with banter.
Chapter three is the rules of the game. I didn’t read this one thoroughly since it appears to be mostly the same as current rules. I did notice however that things like the 18″ “pine tar” rule as well as the 3-foot running lane to first base already exist.
The next chapter though is great since it’s all about keeping score. Seeing different scoring methods is one of my favorite things and this section’s method is one of the most distinct ones I’ve come across. While it looks superficially like modern scorekeeping it’s vasty different.
To start off, shortstop is position #5 and thirdbase is #6. But everything else is different too. Instead of being a progression around the diamond each square is read left to right.
We also don’t have the now-standard abbreviations that I learned as a kid and which I’ve taught my kids. Take for example the following progression.
This represents a single, stolen base, advancing to third on an error (wild throw), and scoring on a passed ball. The only thing recognizable about this is putting an X or coloring int he diamond when someone scores.
Outs are a lot more familiar. This represents a ground out to the shortstop for the first out of the inning. Aside from the difference in position numbering this is pretty much the same thing I do today.
The rest of the chapter includes a bunch more examples of dealing with other possibilities available during a game. S–O are strikeouts. TI means advancing on a throw. S–H is a sacrifice. FF is a foul out. Very much the same kinds of things that happen in today‘s game and definitely sets baseball apart as a game which has always been obsessed with detail and replaying the events of games past.
The last four chapters of the book discuss the state of the game in 1895. Two chapters each devoted to Baseball in England and Baseball in America.
Among the people present at this christening of the game in London were: Buffalo Bill, General B. Williams (U.S. Army), Colonel Ochiltree, Mrs. Mackay, Mrs. Henry Labouchere, Mrs. T. P. O’Connor, Mrs. Alice Shaw, Dr. Maitland Coffin, Miss Blanche Rooseveldt, Mr. and Mrs. Tyars, Miss Hallett, Miss Helen Dauvray, Mrs. Conover, and Mr. W. Chapman. As a pressman summed it up, it was an audience of society folk, mummers and Mexicans, Cowboys and Cossacks, Gauchos and Indians.
The England chapter starts off listing a few exhibitions by American teams that failed to make any impressions before getting into a description of an exhibition between the Clapham Common nine—a team of Americans living in London who also appear to be members of the London Thespians—and a team of the Cowboys attached to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show at Earl’s Court. The game took place on July 13 1892 and Knowles includes an absolutely wonderful box score.
Where our author is batting third and playing second base in the scorecard, in the box score he’s batting fifth and playing second base (and pitcher) for the London Thespians Club.* This means that not only is my Ogden a card of a baseball writer, it’s of an actual nineteenth-century baseball player. Also the descriptions of the day jobs of the Wild West club players are something I could never in my wildest dreams have dreamed up.
*Especially appropriate given how Knowles is identified on his Ogden as a comedian.
Clearly fielding was not a strong suit for either team though I find it noteworthy that the concept of earned runs is prominent enough to be mentioned as a team stat. I also notice that the Wild West pitcher struck out 14 Thespians and that those putouts appear to be credited to the pitcher instead of the catcher. Oh and despite a cumulative 34 errors the game only lasted just over two hours.
The rest of the England chapters describe the growth of the league over the following years, the difficulty in finding good umpires, additional visits from American teams, hybrid baseball vs cricket exhibitions, and descriptions of a half-dozen baseball grounds.
The following chapter is all biographies of men associated with baseball in England from the President of the London Baseball Association Thomas Dewar to representative English players and representative American players in England.
The greatest interest centres in the professional teams that bear the names of such cities as Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Brooklyn, St. Louis, Washington, Louisville, and Cleveland.
This takes us to the final two chapters which detail the state of baseball in America in 1895. America seems baseball mad with an insatiable appetite for the results of games in progress. The growth of the professional game from individual teams to multiple leagues is markedly different than the amateur struggles Knowles describes in England.
Instead of detailing individual games like he does with the England summary, the 1895 season is described as a pennant race where the standing for a given day are reported instead of the game results until Baltimore clinched the pennant for the second year in a row. Burkett, Delehanty, and Keeler are listed as the top batsmen with Hawley, Rusie, and Young being the best pitchers.
Then we have essentially a biography of Harry Wright, the “Father of Professional Baseball,” as written by Henry Chadwick to close out the book. There’s a glossary, some more rules, an index, and a whole bunch of great advertisements which are too good not to share.
Why does the death Ron Fairly warrant a card obit? For starters he was a Major Leaguer for over 2 decades and a semi-star that I remember from my youth.
Secondly he was a SABR member remembered fondly by a couple of our fellow SABR Card Collectors.
Finally as a collector Fairly means something to the staff at Phungo HQ because he is a member of the inaugural Topps Rookie All-Star (TRAS) class. As you may know the Rookie Cup cards are one of my favorite collections and Fairly was one of the outfielders selected for the 1959 season which was honored in 1960 Topps.
There are 10 cards in the original subset which opens with Willie McCovey at #316 and runs through #325 Jim O’Toole. This makes Ron Fairly’s #321 the sixth All-Star Rookie Cup ever produced.
Outside of McCovey the two most notable players on the team are likely Fairly and Jim Perry.
Willie McCovey is on the left followed Pumpsie Green, Jim Baxes, Joe Koppe, Bob Allison, Ron Fairly (directly above Tasby inset) , John Romano and Jim Perry. Willie Tasby and Jim O’Toole who could not make the outing are shown in an inset bottom left.
This is a picture from a New York City banquet Topps held to honor award winners. For a more in depth discussion of the banquet (1963) click here.
The 1959 All-Star Rookie Cup team has had a tough year. Starting with Willie McCovey’s death almost exactly a year ago the class has lost four members in the last 12 months. John Romano (February 2019), Pumpsie Green in July and now Ron Fairly.
This leaves Willie Tasby (86) and Jim Perry who turned 84 the day Fairly passed as the last two living members of the original All-Star Rookie Cup team.
I want to open the discussion of the card back to the Fairly’s vitals at the top of the card. His DOB is listed as July 12 1938. Therefore Ron Fairly was just 20 years old when the 1959 season commenced and 21 when he was named to the rookie cup team.
Moving on to the text, it opens by mentioning Fairly’s election to the TRAS team and rolls into his pre-MLB experience. Then we get to the cartoon.
“Ron Led USC to the National Championship”
Well I checked into it and yes he did. He was a member of the 1958 USC Trojans that won the College World Series. The final game was an 8-7 extra inning victory over the Missouri Tigers.
The 1958 CWS concluded on June 19th, less than three months later Ron Fairly made his major league debut with the LA Dodgers on September 9th.
Ron Fairly can be found in the front row four from the right. Checking the names one can find a Hall of Famer in that back row. Executive HOF Pat Gillick, architect of the 2008 World Championship Phillies. Turns out Gillick was a pitcher for the 1958 Trojans and teammate of today’s card hero Ron Fairly.
“Covering the Bases” is the title I am giving to my columns dedicated to a single card – which is most of my postings. Today’s deep dive is on a recent card that features an image I think we will see a lot this week.
2018 Topps #US79 A Game for Everyone: Altuve & Judge
This picture is one that most baseball fans are familiar with even if they don’t follow the Astros or Yankees. Fortunately for collectors Topps recorded the image on cardboard. I say recorded because for the last 60+ years Topps has served as an unofficial record/history of the game and its players. There are base cards, subsets, inserts, leaders, record breakers, highlights, All-Stars and more. Each card is a photographic record of the game’s history which is accompanied by a back side that contains stats, demographic info, and if we are lucky a fun fact or two.
This is an All-Star card, however I also see it as a Multi-Player. I consider the multi-player cards a “hidden subset”. Lot of sets have them, but they are typically not sequential and rarely listed in any sort of checklist form.
These are nice to showcase any time we find the two players paired for some reason. That is the case this week when Altuve and Judge are featured players on the two teams facing each other in the ALCS.
The Topps copy team also came up with a perfect title for this card “A Game for Everyone.” This is the “size doesn’t matter” card. Baseball-Reference lists Jose Altuve at 5′ 6″ and 165 lbs. while Aaron Judge is at 6’7″ 282 lbs. The difference in height is over a foot, weight over 100 lbs.
It was pretty easy to find this picture in Getty Images. The information accompanying the photo gives us the date of May 30 2018. A game the Yankees won 5-3, Altuve and Judge each went 2-4, with only Judge factoring in the scoring collecting the go-ahead run in the 5th.
Aaron Judge was on 2nd base twice in the game once in the first and again in the fifth. Judging by the fact that the outfield seating appears pretty filled in, I suspect that this picture was taken in the first.
The Photo was shot by Erick W. Rasco who has done a lot of work for Sports Illustrated including a famous cover of a lot of other “photographers” witnessing the American Pharaoh winning the Triple Crown.
I have tracked a few dozen game dated cards, An index of these cards can be found here.
Recently, a post on Twitter included Willie Montanez’s 1973 Topps card. This “in action” shot taken during the 1972 season has always intrigued me, primarily due to half of the photo being comprised of the Giants’ pitcher’s butt. Inquiring minds want to know whose derriere filled the camera lens. Through the miracle of “Retrosheet” via “Baseball Reference,” I was able to pin down three possibilities, one stronger than the others.
In 1972, the 12-team National League played 18 games against
divisional opponents and 12 against teams from the other division. Thus, the Phillies and the Giants each had
six home games broken into two series. (The work stoppage at the beginning of
1972 season did alter this scheduling formula; however, the Giants versus
Phillies games were not affected.)
During the Phillies’ initial trip to Candlestick in April
1972, the clubs met twice in day games.
However, Willie Montanez was not involved in a play at the plate in
either game. So, his slide into home had
to happen during the second set of games in July.
On Saturday, July 16 and Sunday, July 17 the squads squared off under a bright sun beating down on the rock-hard AstroTurf. Montanez scored a run in the Saturday game after being walked by Don McMahon in the second inning. He moved to second on a single by Don Money and went to third after Oscar Gamble walked. Catcher John Bateman singled, scoring Montanez.
This could be the play at the plate, provided Bateman’s single was of the infield variety or a shallow “Texas Leaguer.” Otherwise, Willie could have walked home on a routine shot to the outfield. The “San Francisco Examiner” sports page for Sunday, July 17, is not helpful. The game summary does state that Montanez scorede, but there is no mention of a play at the plate. Therefore, it is possible that the photo shows the “arse” of the veteran “slabsman” McMahon.
In this same game, Chris Speier of the Giants hit an inside-the-park home run off Steve Carlton. Speier has a 1973 card showing him sliding into home with the Phillies catcher, John Bateman, attempting to tag him. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Montanez’s slide occurred on July 16 since the photographer may have attended both games.
In fact, a more plausible play at home occurred in the next day’s game. In the top of the 4th inning, Montanez singled to center off the Giants’ starter, Jim Barr, and took second on an error by Gary Maddox. He then scored from second on a single by Don Money.
In many instances, scoring from second on a single will draw a throw home, resulting in the runner sliding. Of course, this would mean that Jim Barr is the pitcher whose backside is seen “up close and personal.” Alas, the Monday, July 18 “San Francisco Examiner” offered no supporting evidence, since it failed to mention Willie’s run at all.
Although not definitive proof that the photographer attended
both tilts, the 1973 Topps in game action photos for Phillies pitchers Barry
Lersch and Dick Selma were clearly taken at Candlestick. Lersch pitched on Saturday and Selma on
Sunday. So, the photographer could have
been at both games. But this is not a certainty because both pitchers appeared
at “the Stick” during day games on April 26 (Lersch) and 27 (Selma).
To completely muddy the waters off Candlestick Point, this photo could conceivably be from 1971! In the first game of a double header on June 6, 1971, Montanez doubled to center off Steve Stone in the 6th inning.
He scored from second on a single by the next batter, ironically Ron Stone. On June 7, 1971, “The San Francisco Examiner” stated that Willie “streaked to the plate.” Of course, we still don’t know if there was a throw, necessitating a slide into home. So, Steve Stone’s “bum” could be front and center in the photo.
The odds still favor 1972. Barry Lersch did pitch in the second game of the June 6, 1971 doubleheader, but Dick Selma didn’t pitch at Candlestick during the day in 1971. Photos from two separate years seems unlikely but not impossible.
If you are still with me, you are probably asking yourself, “who the hell cares about Willie Montanez sliding into home or pitchers’ butts?” Without a doubt, these are valid questions. My retort is this: I used this as a forum to show some of the great “warts and all” action photos from this era. To me, these photos are exponentially better than modern shots. The backgrounds and multiple players provide clues and context lacking with today’s cards. Besides, it’s important to know which long ago Giants hurler left his butt in San Francisco!
I unexpectedly added this 1974 Topps Deckle Edge card of Hank Aaron to my collection last week.
Before getting into my main story I’ll answer a couple quick questions about the card itself.
What is it?
Many collectors are familiar with a Topps Deckle Edge issue from five years earlier, either through the original 1969 set or through more recent Topps Archives reboots.
The 1974 cards, however, are ones that many collectors have never seen, original or otherwise. They were part of a “test issue” limited to the New England area and considerably more scarce than their 1969 predecessors. For example, PSA has graded only 46 Hank Aaron cards from the 1974 set, and even this number is probably inflated by all the “crack and resub” collectors out there.
Where are the deckles?
As the Yaz and Ichiro pics show, a key feature–sorry, THE key feature–of the Deckle Edge cards is…well…deckled edges. Meanwhile, the Aaron pic I showed appears to be perfectly straight. This is the case with the even more scarce proof cards from the set. PSA populations for these proofs range between 1 and 4 per card, and no numerical grades have been issued. As such, were I ever forced to sell my “PSA Authentic” Aaron, I could legitimately do one of those eBay listings that says, “NONE GRADED HIGHER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” right down to the dozens of exclamation marks.
Unlike the 1969 Deckle Edge cards, which have barely more than the player’s name on the back, these 1974 cards really go the extra mile.
From the information on the back we see Aaron was at Candlestick on September 1 to play the Giants. A bit of quick research also tells us Aaron had 706 career home runs at the time, just eight fewer than the Babe. Having averaged a home run every three games thus far (33 HR in the 100 games he’d played), Aaron was on pace to break the record by season’s end, but only on one condition: he play in every one of Atlanta’s 26 remaining games.
The pursuit of Ruth had been excruciating for the Hammer: death threats, sleepless nights, and constant media attention were so great that Aaron simply wanted to be done. He was less after a crown on his head than a weight off his shoulders. When he finally did break the record, the feeling was not elation but relief.
Plenty of familiar names in the line up but no Hammer, not even when the Braves, down by a single run in the ninth, looked to pinch-hit for Niekro. Five more times in that final month the box score would be similar: no Hammer.
Six days in September
In taking the six days off, the die was cast. The record would wait until 1974. With his team 18 games behind the first place Dodgers, I sometimes wonder why Aaron didn’t just push through and play these games. I have to imagine his fans and teammates would have forgiven a little less hustle in the field and on the bases if it meant another 25-30 trips to the plate.
I don’t know the actual circumstances and decision making behind these six missed games, just that they followed a pattern of off days throughout the season. I can only imagine that Aaron didn’t see himself as able to give 100%.
Were you to scan the Braves roster you might quickly conclude that 80% from Hank Aaron would still be better than 110% from anyone on the Atlanta bench, particularly knowing the best manager Eddie Mathews could put out there in his place would be these two players.
So yeah, these numbers might surprise you.
.455 batting average
.520 on-base percentage
.727 slugging percentage
The photograph on the Deckle Edge card shows a man who had a choice. What he would do that day and in all for six fateful days in September would determine whether he would enter a much needed offseason with the crown or let the strain and anguish of the chase drag on him another six months.
That would be an easy choice for most of us, and perhaps it was an easy one for the Hammer as well. Carrying his own burdens, that he could live with. Placing burden on his teammates, that just wasn’t in his DNA.
Though he finished the season with “only” 713 home runs, Topps provided Aaron with an early cardboard coronation. His was a royalty that needed no crown. All hail the Home Run King!
There are nearly to six decades of Topps All-Star Rookie Cup awards which means there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 cards in the history of the subset.
This raises the question why among all these cards does Gary Carter get the honor of his own posting on the SABR Baseball Card Blog. Well there are many reasons, but lets start with he is a Hall of Famer and…..well, I enjoy over-analyzing cards.
Over-Analysis Part 1: the Card
1976 Topps #441 Gary Carter
We have a fine photo of young Gary Carter in a classic baseball card pose. The distinctive characteristic of 1976 Topps is the position illustration seen here on the bottom left. It is a nice accent to the sets otherwise minimalist approach. On the cards other lower corner we find the reason we are here, the All-Star Rookie Cup icon. This is the second iteration of the cup, just a cup, no top hat and no batter atop that hat.
As we look a little closer the card there are a few other things I found interesting.
2) Game Dated Card?
Yes I think we have enough info here to give a time & place for this photo.
Fortunately for us the Expos wore their numbers on the front of their uniform in this era. Notice that Carter is not wearing the familiar #8, which he donned for most of his career and was later retired by the Expos/Nationals. According to Baseball-Ref for a brief period as a September call up in 1974 Gary Carter wore #57 – which looks to be the number we have here. Looking at the background on the photo it appears we are at Wrigley Field.
Turning to Carter’s 1974 Game Logs we find that he played three games across two days in Chicago. There first was the latter game of a double header on September 24th which the Expos won 11-2. The following day featured yet another double header which the Expos swept 7-1, 3-2. There is plenty of fascinating things to find in those boxes but for our limited time and space it is most important that we note that our hero went 4 for 11 with a triple and 3 RBIs in the three victories. In the last game Carter made one of his 132 appearances in Right Field (who knew). Across both double headers the 90+ Loss 1974 Cubs would draw less than 5000 fans COMBINED.
I have one dilemma with the game dating. The field is set up for batting practice. I can’t imagine the Expos had BP on the day of a double header. Perhaps these pictures are from Monday September 23 prior to a postponed game that lead to the consecutive double headers. Regardless the evidence points to one of three dates for the Photo September 23, 24 or 25 of 1974.
3) The Trophy
By Trophy I mean the real trophy not the icon on the card
Yep thanks to Heritage Auctions we have an image of a real life Topps All-Star Rookie Cup Trophy. To me this is a big deal outside of Carter’s trophy, I have only seen images of a few others Dick Allen, Tony Oliva, and Tommy Harper. Never seen one in the wild.
The Gary Carter Cup sold in November of 2016 for just under $1,800. According to the Heritage Auction website the owner of the trophy is entertaining offers for the trophy.
3b) But wait there is another Trophy!!
Topps also gives out a AAA version of the award.
And in 1974 Gary Carter won that award as well.
No over-analysis of a card is complete without flipping the card over.
Check the cartoon here which discusses the defense of the 1964 Orioles. Apparently this is a positive superlative. I was to lazy to confirm that the 95 errors was a record for fewest by at team (at the time), However I will note that in 1964 the second best team was the Yankees who committed 109.
This leads us to a brief point about baseball changing. In 2018 the MLB average for errors for a team was 93. That is 2 miscues less than the number that Orioles led the league with in 1964. The league average was 142 in 1964.
5) Gary Carter the collector
Finally one of my favorite fun facts about Gary Carter is he was also a card collector. As fans we learned this from a different card:
Check out the latter cartoon. I am thinking of putting this in the banner to my Twitter Feed.
If you don’t believe Topps we also have this photographic evidence.
Check out all those binders!!
And yes He is holding the card that is the subject of our posting:
If you came here for information on the Pokemon cards of Meloetta, click here. If you came here for information on the Indiana town of Mellott, click here. This article is about the retired baseball player Mel Ott (disambiguation).
While my “modern collection” consists solely of a Dwight Gooden binder and about 10 other cards, I was thrilled to add this to my collection. Not having actively collected or even really looked much at Heritage or Archives, the anachronisms of the concept still mess with me in a fun way.
When I look at the photograph I don’t see 2019. I see 1929.
When I look at the card design (but not too closely) I don’t see 2019. I see 1975.
Then again, the last line of stats is from 1947, which better suggests a 1948 issue than a 2019. (And yes, there is such a thing as 1948 Topps.)
Finally, take a look at the trivia question and you’d have to date the card sometime after September 3, 2000. (By the way, someone needs to write a SABR Games Project article on this game!)
I haven’t looked at any other Archives cards of all-time greats, but I hope they’re all this chronologically ambiguous. Part 1929, part 1948, part 1975, part 2001, but ultimately 2019…
This Mel Ott is hard to date!
But is that all I got? Just another run-of-the-Mel “new cards are confusing” article? What every reader Ott to know by now is that is that it ain’t over ’til I run out of bad puns. Seriously. Would a “groan man” kid? By the time I’m done here there will be so much melottery tomfoolery you’ll feel like you won the #MELottery!
The second half of our story comes from a practice I recommend highly to any collector wanting to turn a few moments appreciation of a card into the destruction of an entire weekend. Yes, I’m talking about tracking down the source image in print.
Getty dated the photograph as from March 1, 1929, and included a caption that was either psychic or not used until several months later. (Also see RMY Auction archive for same result.)
“The Giants’ baby home run slugger…Here is another new photograph of Melvin Ott, 20-year-old outfielder of the N.Y. Giants, who has stepped to the fore as one of the leading home run busters of the National League. On July 15th, Chuck Klein took the lead leadership at 25, by hitting three over the fence, but Ott is right behind him with 25 to his credit.”
Now this is exactly what I bought my newspapers.com subscription for. Could I find the home run buster’s baseball card photo in an actual newspaper? As it turns out, I could not. Still, I found some pretty good stuff.
In the days after Chuck Klein put three over the fence in a doubleheader, no fewer than 43 sports pages from around the country sought to reassure readers that the Giants wunderkind in pursuit of the Philadelphia slugger did indeed like women!
This lengthy caption was provided along with the headline and non sequitur photo collage…
While some papers, but not all, included an actual article, in which Ott proclaimed himself 100% masher, 0% mashee.
Ott’s first person protests aside, the article would have us believe that Master Melvin is “misunderstood girl-wise,” “flees at the sight of a girl,” and “is afraid of women.” In other words, he was me in high school but handsome and good at sports.
Like I said, this Mel Ott is hard to date!
Lest you wonder if the mash notes simply piled up in vain, this October 23, 1930, article from The Town Talk (Alexandria, LA) should settle the matter.
So there you have it: the bashful young slugger is now married–and to a playmate no less! I have to imagine this Mel Ott would have been really hard to date!
extra for experts
I know among our readership we have some historians and SABR high rollers who are no doubt aware that Master Melvin died at the age of 49 following injuries from a car accident. If you find yourself in the New Orleans area, his memorial at Metairie Cemetery is hard to miss and is even visible from the interstate. Here is a pic I took on my first trip home with my fiancee.
So yes, our handsome slugger has gone from just under six feet to just six feet under, and I know some of you are just waiting for me to go there…
But is this Mel Ott hard to date? Common sense, if not common decency, would dictate so, but I checked the internet site “Who’s Dating Who?” (sorry, English teachers) just to be certain.
We started this post trying to figure out what the hell year it was. Well now, if bot-generated personal ads for dead guys ain’t peak 2019, I don’t know what is!
Just so everybody here doesn’t think that as a defender of card grading, I’m a shill for PSA, I’ll share a weird experience I had a few years ago with an amazing goof on a card I sent to be graded.
I needed a graded card of Hall of Fame umpire Hank O’Day to add to my “unrestricted” set of Hall of Fame cards. “Unrestricted” means any card of any year, even if it’s long after a person played or lived, including graded Hall of Fame plaque postcards or Dick Perez portrait postcards. Generally, people create such sets with cards they already have from other more standard issues, but obviously folks like me buy other PSA graded cards to fill holes in these kind of sets. To each, his own. It’s how collecting works.
Yes, I know. I don’t consider these postcards really standard baseball cards but – rationalization here – some HoF members have very few real cards, and the one or two that exist are outrageously expensive in any form. So sometimes, I have settle for HOF postcards (which, proudly, I bought at the HOF gift shop in Cooperstown. The clerk was interested to know why I was buying these obscure players’ and execs’ postcards.)
Well, I sent PSA a Conlon card (early 1990s. obviously) of Hank O’Day to be graded. Silly me, I thought it looked pretty good and might rate a PSA 7 grade. Duh. It came back as a 5.5; pretty much worthless in graded form for a card from this set. (I eventually added it anyway as a Conlon to my set.)
Remarkably, PSA had somehow encapsulated this Conlon card as an 1887 N172 Old Judge. Gosh, I wish that had been what it really was! At that point, it was in the PSA registry as if the company had graded a 1887 Old Judge 5.5, which would be quite a find.
I posted this card for sale with the scanned image on eBay, clearly pointing out that it was NOT an 1887 Old Judge. Since I had another raw O’Day card, I was hoping to recoup the grading cost and mailing fee (both quite steep, as those who submit cards to PSA know well). Normally when I list a nice card on Ebay, I might get half a dozen bids and maybe two dozen page views. If I recall, this card got more than 15,000 views in a day.
Immediately, the administrative assistant to PSA’s CEO contacted me, asking that I take down the listing and send the card back to be re-slabbed. Well, I wasn’t born yesterday (literally). PSA does correct what it calls mechanical errors free of charge, and I have taken advantage of this a couple of times, much to my benefit. Player’s names or years sometimes are incorrect on PSA cards out there. Mistakes happen.
But this Old Judge snafu seemed especially egregious, and I wasn’t inclined to send this card back to PSA just to get something pretty much worthless in return. I asked for a couple of free gradings, which were agreed to (though l still had to pay shipping) in addition to the corrected holder for my 5.5 Conlon card back. I probably could have driven a better deal, but I wasn’t looking to cheat or hurt anyone.
I do not share this experience to knock PSA. I understand the grading critieria. I pay to be a Collectors Club member, and I enjoy reading the monthly magazine articles about different sets, many of which are written by SABR member Kevin Glew, a journalist who is a major Canadian baseball authority (and who I have encouraged to post here). I enjoy and appreciate the Set Registry, which is free to participate in.
PSA told me the mistake happened after the card itself was graded. I accept that, but my gosh, I hope a better final checking process is now in place. I’m sure thousands of images of this card were downloaded when it was up for sale on Ebay, so I don’t hesitate to post it here.
Looking through an album of Cubs teams sets recently, I came across the Topps cloth stickers of Bill Madlock and Jose Cardenal. As you may know, Topps issued a test set of these stickers with the same front design as their regular set in 1977. The disposable peel-off backs of the cards were different than the regular issue, however, swapping a full complement of statistics for select career highlights for each of the 55 players featured in the selective set. One of those sticker-back highlights on Madlock’s cloth card conceals a pretty cool story.
Following the action on Saturday, October 2, 1976 Reds right fielder Ken Griffey was atop the NL leaderboard with a .338 batting average, poised to win his first batting title. After an oh-for-four on October 2, Bill Madlock was sitting at .333.
On the final day of that Bicentennial season, October 3, Madlock started at third base for the Cubs at Wrigley Field in a game against the Montreal Expos. “Mad Dog” would knock singles in the first, third, fourth and sixth innings, off of three different pitchers, driving his season batting average up to .3385—just enough to eclipse Griffey when rounded up to .339. When Madlock’s spot in the order came up in the bottom the eighth, he was lifted for pinch hitter Rob Sperring (who also singled).
Meanwhile in Cincinnati, Mike Lum started in right field in place of Griffey, as the Reds played their final regular season game against the Braves. This was a meaningless contest in that Cincinnati had cruised to the NL West division championship, with the team looking ahead to facing Philadelphia in the NLCS.
Presumably after getting word that Madlock had just done the unthinkable in Chicago—raising his average six points in a single game!—Griffey entered the game in Cincinnati as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning. After a Pete Rose single, Griffey struck out. Uh-oh. Griffey’s average had just dropped to .337.
By the bottom the eighth inning, the Reds were leading 4-0 and Griffey was due up sixth, in need of a miracle. Even if Griffey were to hit safely in this at-bat, his average would still fall short of Madlock’s .339. But…if he were to get a hit and the Braves forced extras, it would still be possible for Griffey to tie Madlock with a 2-for-3.
In that eighth, Lum singled, Dave Concepcion singled, Doug Flynn singled, Bob Bailey singled and Rose walked. Ken Griffey got to the plate in the eighth, but whiffed. The dream was over for Griffey, as the Reds tacked on seven runs in the bottom of the eighth to put the game out of reach for the Braves.
Griffey would go on to win his second consecutive championship with the Big Red Machine in 1976, but that season’s NL batting title race was one for the ages.
1977 Topps Sticker Front
Cloth Sticker Back
The back of the cloth Bill Madlock boasts that he went 4-for-4 on the final day of the 1976 season to lead the NL in batting. True, but this tidbit obfuscates the absolute badassery Bill Madlock displayed on October 3, 1976 to take his second consecutive batting crown.
Madlock was featured in the 1977 Topps cloth sticker set, Ken Griffey was not.