Induction Weekend in Cooperstown is the best. If you’ve never been here for it, work on it! Before I moved to Cooperstown I’d never been to Induction. Now, I’d never miss it.
From Friday to Monday, there are events, vendors, signings, player sightings, a baseball fans dream. (Where else can you see Tony Oliva walking down the street, unaccosted?). On Saturday, Main Street is closed and becomes the best baseball block party in the country.
Last month, I worked the Cooperstown Rotary Club tent, selling raffles for an autographed baseball. I loved doing that, standing on Main St., gabbing about baseball with people who do and don’t know me. I have a very small level of fame, so I do get to meet some social media pals in real life. This year, I had an expected treat.
Three men stopped by the tent and one, Angel Colon, was a gift. He’s involved with SABR in Puerto Rico and we talked at length. Angel is involved in many things – using different braches from various trees felled during the devastating hurricane and turning them into baseball bats, creating a book about major leaguers who have played in Puerto Rico –
but the one that grabbed me the most, and fits our little world, is the 40 card set he created of Puerto Rican
With work from the great Gary Cieradkowski, the set is tobacco card sized and portrays Major, Negro and Puerto Rican legends. It’s spectacular. The more we talked about the cards, the book, baseball, and Puerto Rico, the more I realized that Angel needed a bigger audience.
The next day, a few hours after Induction, is our annual Cliff Kachline Chapter meeting. It’s our biggest of the year, bringing in SABR members from all over the country. We had a huge lineup – Jane Leavy, Erik Sherman, Jay Jaffe and….me. I was going to talk about Friends of Doubleday, the 501c3 (I’m President) which raises money for Doubleday Field improvements (contact me for more info. There’s cool stuff happening) and the coming Doubleday renovations. It seemed clear to me that Angel was more interesting. I asked him to speak in my place and, though he’d never spoken to a group in public, he accepted. Of course, he killed.
On top of this, Angel gifted me a copy of the SABR Puerto Rico book and, to my shock and joy, the complete card set! It’s a wondrous series of cards and you should get one too. Angel’s contact info is here. Reach out. You won’t regret it.
With SABR 49 about to unfold in beautiful San Diego, I offer
a look at Padres’ cards from the Pacific Coast League era, which ends with the formation
of the Major League Padres in 1969.
The original Hollywood Stars moved to San Diego in 1936. The
city fathers constructed a wooden ballpark, Lane Field, near the train station
on the water front. From there, the team
would move into the Mission Valley in 1958 to play at Westgate Park and,
finally, San Diego Stadium in 1968.
According to PCL historian, collector and dealer Mark MacRae,
the first set of Padres collectibles were team issued photos in 1947. However, this set does not show up in the Standard
Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards. This
publicity photo of manager “Ripper” Collins from 1947 may be an example, but
I’m by no means certain.
Two years later, Bowman issues a PCL set in the same format
as their MLB cards. The small, square
cards were issued in packs with a total of 32 in the set. The five Padres players are Xavier Rescigno
(pictured), John Jensen, Pete Coscavart, Lee Handley and Tom Seats. The cards were issued as reprint set in 1987
by the Card Collectors Company. The
reprints are distinguished by wider, white borders.
Bowman wasn’t the only company to issue PCL cards in 1949. The Hage’s Dairy company begins a three- year run with a 107-card set-with at least 26 different Padres. This initial set and the subsequent issues are filled with variation cards. Some players have up to four different poses. They were distributed in boxes of popcorn at Lane Field. Cards were added or removed when the rosters changed. The 1951 cards come in four different tones: sepia, blue, green and black-and-white. This set includes Luke Easter, manager Bucky Harris and John Ritchey, who broke the PCL color barrier in 1948.
Incidentally, the Bowman cards used many of the same photographs as Hage’s. For example, Bowman simply cropped this photo of John Jensen.
Hage’s comes back in 1950 with a 122-card set that has at
least 28 Padres. This time, all the cards are black-and-white. Also, Hage’s ice
cream is advertised on the back. This
set has manager Jimmy Reese as well as two variations of Orestes “Minnie”
Minoso. Among other recognizable names
are: Al Smith (famous for having beer poured on his head by fan in ’59 World
Series), Harry “Suitcase” Simpson, and Tom Tresh’s dad, Mike.
In 1951, Hage’s produces a much reduced 54-card set, with
all but 12 of them being Padres. The other cards are comprised of seven
Cleveland Indians and five Hollywood Stars. They were printed in the following
tints: blue, green, burgundy, gold, gray and sepia. Harry Malmberg is an example of the many photo
variations. The two cards above are both
from 1951. Some familiar names in this
set are Ray Boone, Luke Easter and “Sad” Sam Jones.
Like an ice cream bar left in the warm California sun,
Hage’s Dairy cards melted away in 1952, leaving Globe Printing as the card
producer for the Padres. This 18-card,
black-and-white set features manager Lefty O’Doul, coach Jimmy Reese, Memo Luna
and Herb Gorman. I’m not sure how the
cards were distributed.
1952 is a big PCL card year-due to the introduction of the fabulous Mother’s Cookies set. The 64-card set was distributed in packages of cookies on the West Coast. Padres’ manager, Lefty O’Doul, has on a beautiful satin jacket in his photo. Some of the recognizable players include Memo Luna, “Whitey” Wietlemann and “Red” Embree.
Mother’s Cookies returns with a 63-card set in 1954. Of the seven Padres in the set, the most interesting is Tom Alston. He would integrate the St. Louis Cardinals in 1954 after being purchased for $100,000. Unfortunately, mental illness ended his promising career in 1957. Also, Lefty O’Doul is back, and former MLB player Earl Rapp has a card.
I was unable to locate any evidence of Padres cards from 1953-60, but in 1961 the fantastic Union Oil set showed up at West Coast 76 stations. The sepia tone cards measure 3”X 4” and featured 12 Padres. Among the players available are: Herb Score, Harry “Suitcase” Simpson, Mike Hershberger and Dick Lines.
The Major League Padres arrive in 1969, but cards from the PCL era would emerge in retrospective sets. In 1974, PCL historian and fan, Ed Broder, self-produced a 253-card set, modeled after the Seattle Rainiers popcorn cards. He used players from 1957-58. There are 31 Padres cards in the set, including future Seattle Pilot, Gary “Ding Dong” Bell, Bob Dipietro, and Jim “Mudcat” Grant.
Another retro set was produced by TCMA in 1975. The 18-card set has PCL players from the mid-1950s,
one of which is Padre Cal McLish. The cards are “tallboy” size-like early 1970s
In recent years, the late Carl Aldana self-produced several
Padres cards in the Mother’s Cookies format.
The players he chose are: Ted Williams, Luke Easter, Max West, Al Smith
and Jack Graham.
Please let me know if there are other years that PCL Padres
cards were produced or if you have a 1947 team issued photo.
SABR convention goers will assemble at glitzy Petco Park for
a Padres game against the Cardinals. Not too far away, a humbler structure once
stood, Lane Field. Though small and
termite infested, it was “big time” to fans in a simpler era with limited entertainment
At the game, I plan to buy a box of popcorn to see if a Hage’s Dairy Memo Luna card was magically inserted amongst the kernels.
Yes, Shoebox Treasures, the new baseball card exhibit at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, is extraordinary. Yes, I had a lovely talk with Doug McWilliams, the legendary Topps photographer, at Doubleday Field during the Hall of Fame classic. Yes, I’m given special things on the plaque for Shoebox Treasures (and, being named in the Hall of Fame is, in some respects, the same as being in the Hall of Fame, which, taken a step further, is like being a Hall of Famer), but this, and the other things, are not what made this past weekend great.
Starting on Thursday, when my friend Jimmy arrived from Chicago, the weekend was filled with gatherings of friends/collectors. In my living room, or on my front porch, and at Yastrzemski Sports and Baseball Nostalgia, Jimmy, Mark Armour (the new SABR President and co-founder of the SABR Baseball Cards Committee, Mark Hoyle (Red Sox collector extraordinaire) and Jason Schwartz (one of the new co-chairs of the committee) talked baseball, baseball cards, and our collections. It was incredibly fun, incredibly enlightening, and somewhat rare to be surrounded by so many like-minded people.
(L to R, Mark A, Tom, Jimmy, me, Mark H. Jason took the pic.)
On Saturday night, Tom Shieber, senior curator at the Hall and key cog in the cards exhibit, joined us and tossed some 1982 Topps packs our way, resulting in a new, exclusive, club of stickered phones.
As Jimmy and I were walking to Main Street on Sunday to meet the guys for some group baseball card buying, which was enormous fun, with everyone now knowing each other’s interests and pointing out their finds, he asked me for my Mission Statement. He loved that Mark Hoyle had a very specific mission – he collects Red Sox cards. Which kind of Red Sox cards? All of them.
I thought I had a pretty good answer. “I collect complete sets and build sets that are of interest to me.” Jimmy wasn’t having it.
“But that doesn’t tell an outsider anything in detail about what you collect.”
“I don’t care what someone outside of me thinks about my collection,” said I.
Still, the question refined and reaffirmed where my head has been at lately. I am a collector of complete sets and I do like to build complete sets. Could be a baseball, other sports, non-sports, whatever. I like the sense and order of completion. In fact, that day I managed to put together a complete 10 card set of 1993 Kellogg’s College Greats from the cheapo bins at Yaz Sports, and bought two cards for the 1971 Kellogg’s Football set I’m working on. I was true to my mission statement. (I did buy one baseball thing – a signed index card and TCMA 1960’s card of Juan Pizarro).
Further, my toe-dipping into selling my pre-war cards has gone full blown. Why? They don’t really fit what I collect and have no emotional ties. They’re cool, some way cool, but that’s doesn’t feel like quite enough. Yesterday I began listing them.
Here are some of the ones I’m moving out:
They’re sweet, and maybe I’ll miss them, but I know if someone wanted to trade a complete 1966 Topps set for a handful of pre-war beauties, I’d make that deal in a heartbeat. A full set that has a direct connection to my early pack buying days for a bunch of random cards?
Author’s note: Along with other members of the SABR Baseball Cards Research Committee, I was in Cooperstown this past weekend for the opening of the Hall of Fame’s “Shoebox Treasures” exhibit. Like a great song or poem, a successful exhibit leaves room for each visitor to develop his own meaning. Here is mine. I encourage each of you to visit and find your own.
When you’re a kid a shoebox can be a lot of things but mostly a safe. In the closet, under the bed, or in some nook a kid imagines a secret, there is a box of his best things. It might start out with some plastic army men or a G.I. Joe, some bottle caps, a few pieces of Halloween candy pilfered from his sister’s trick or treat bag, and some stamps and coins, but as the collection grows all these things give way to the consummate currency of cool: cardboard.
The baseball card collection, guarded more closely than eggs to a hen, was all things at once: encyclopedia of all that matters, marker of status, builder of friendships, beginning of plans and dreams, blank canvas, constant muse, and drawbridge to the bigger and better.
The luckiest kids were born into cardboard royalty through an older brother or cousin, or–if they really hit the jackpot–their dad. I was not. Though my dad grew up during the Golden Age of Baseball and could have acquired countless cards of of Mays, Aaron, and Mantle, he had neither the interest nor the change to spare. His interests as a young boy were astronomy and dinosaurs. He told me why once. They were the things he could think of as far away as possible, in distance and in time.
He had no cards for me, just a similar desire to escape. We both grew up in (and ultimately recreated) houses full of conflict: arguments, yelling, fighting, and ultimately divorce. I expected things to improve when my dad moved out, but my mom’s anger never went away. It only found the closest targets. From the outside our house looked solid. It survived earthquakes and a fire. On the inside it was fragile and falling apart, its only stronghold my growing house of cards.
The kids I grew up with, I think most of them collected to be closer to their heroes. Far fewer collected to be farther from everything else. As adults, however long our hiatus from the Hobby, I suspect the proportion is greater. Our cards help us start over, feel young again, and shield us from what ails us.
As I made the drive from Cooperstown to Albany for my 6 o’clock flight home, I reflected on the unbelievably great time I had all weekend but also how fantastic it would be to get home, to be back with my fiancee, my son, and our dog. (And yes, to add a few new cards to my binders from the local card shops!)
For most of my collecting life, I needed to collect. I don’t anymore. Life is that good finally. But here’s the kicker, brought home 100% at “Shoebox Treasures.” I still love the cards just as much. My shoeboxes are still safes, but now only the cards need protecting. Thanks to the heroes, cardboard and otherwise, who got me here.
I know some of you are a little bummed to reach the end of this post without seeing a bunch of great cards, especially if you missed the Mantle rookie in one of the pics. In fact the exhibit is loaded with great cards, including what’s probably the nicest T206 Wagner in the world. (Before you go checking some pop report, this one has never been graded!) I have too many pictures to share, and I’d rather you just go see the cards for yourself, but I will leave you with this great pairing.
Just a quick post saying hello as the new co-head of this committee. Jason and I fully intend to keep things keeping on as they’ve been. This blog has become a wonderful community centered on enjoying, appreciating, and using baseball cards and the positivity around this project is a testament to Mark’s skill as a moderator and guide.
One thing I have been changing though is on the backstage side. The articles and content is great. The organization? Let’s just say there was much to be desired. We had a couple dozen categories which felt like they were from the early early days of the blog. I know I struggled with them a bit as an author and I know I’m not the only one since over half of our posts were “uncategorized.” This was not helping us accomplish Mark’s goal for turning this committee and blog into something more concrete under the aegis of SABR.
So I’ve spent the last couple weeks fixing the categories. Skimming and categorizing the uncategorized posts. Looking at the post counts and thinking about where I can create better, more-focused subcategories. Looking at the content on the entire blog to think about what themes come up again and again. It’s been a lot of work. It’s also been a lot of fun as I reacquaint myself with the past three years of posts. We’ve come a long way and gone to some really interesting places on here.
The result is a massively-revamped category pulldown menu on the sidebar as well as a stand-alone page of all the category information. Yes I’ve added more brands than just Topps. Yes I’ve finally periodized things. And yes I’m probably more excited than I should be about doing this and seeing everything we’ve covered.
It’s been great to go through the categories and read a whole bunch of similar posts. A whole different way of looking at this blog and one step closer to having something that feels more permanent.
Where I’m most excited though is in seeing everything we haven’t covered. All those brands with fewer than 10 posts? That we have so few posts covering 1995–2010? Those are cards I’d love to see in new posts. Am I discouraging other content? Absolutely not. But there are whole worlds of cards out there that we haven’t written about yet and those are the posts I’m looking forward to the most.
“The Passage of Power” is the name of the fourth volume (with one more to come, hopefully) of Robert Caro’s brilliant biography of Lyndon Johnson. The book largely concerns the assassination of President Kennedy, and the ups and down of the transition to the Johnson presidency. Its great, I highly recommend the entire series.
In completely unrelated and much less distressing news, I wanted to announce a power transfer occurring closer to home. Chris Dial and I started this illustrious committee, and blog, and twitter community, in late 2016. And it has been, I must say, a rousing success and a lot of fun. Two-and-a-half years later, we are ready to pass the torch.
Your new co-chairs are:
Nick Vossbrink (@vossbrink) and Jason Schwartz (@HeavyJ28).
This is not a dramatic change for the rest of you. Nick and Jason are already large contributors to the blog and to the community. Chris and I are not going anywhere. The most tangible change is that you should contact them if you want to publish a post.
Oh, and the “voice” of the Twitter account will no longer be me. I will let them decide how this shakes out.
One reminder that I need to say while I have the floor. This is a SABR group, and we would appreciate it if you would join SABR. (https://sabr.org/join) A lot of our readers and twitter folk are not SABR members — that’s OK, but understand we will continue to try to change that.
Our thanks to Jason and Nick for all they already do, and for agreeing to step up here. The group is in good hands, and I expect it to just get bigger and better from here.
On Saturday, my family and I will depart for a two week trip to Scotland, England and France. The last time I was on the continent was during the OJ Trial — in fact, I was in Italy when I heard the verdict. Despite the rumored increase in connectivity since 1995, you should go ahead and just expect that I am unavailable for the rest of this month. I have asked a few people — specifically Jeff Katz, Nick Vossbrink and Jason Schwartz — to continue to post as they would have, and also to help the anyone else who wishes to post in my absence. They have, as far as I can tell, complete permissions/powers to do so. So: contact one of them if you wish to post something.
The @sabrbbcards Twitter account will be fairly quiet, so if a new post does come up, please retweet it so that the word can be spread far and wide. When I log on, I will try to do so.
In the mean time, I wish everyone a great rest of March. There will be many regular season games before my return.